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Exploring on a Porto Bus Tour is a great way to discover and get an overview of this gorgeous Portuguese World Heritage city. Save your legs (especially from the hills and steps), relax on the top deck and use the wheels on the bus to show off the city’s true highlights.
Question is, with currently three different Hop On, Hop Off Porto Bus Tours available (in 2023), which one should you choose? The Yellow Bus? The Blue Porto Sightseeing Bus? Or the famous Red City Sightseeing Bus that you see in cities all over the world? With mixed reviews often posted about all three, here’s what I thought and which one I would recommend if you are visiting Porto for the first time.
After spending a week in Porto, I learnt that it takes some impressive driving skills to navigate down Porto’s narrow streets with constant hazards (namely people)! Each coloured bus has its own dedicated route, with each bus stop numbered to its corresponding route on their map. Sometimes you will see two bus stops for the same number? Was this a mistake, and someone couldn’t count? It’s actually for different ticket types. Pre-purchased only bus stops will allow you to jump on board quickly, and the driver can pull off from a narrower part of the street without causing too much trouble. However, other bus stops are wider, and allow the bus to remain idle whilst you purchase a ticket onboard, which can take considerably longer.
Bus Tour Routes and Commentary
The main starting point for each tour is the Number 1 Cathedral / Sao Bento stop. You can’t miss the line up on buses often found along this part of the main road towards the Dom Luis Bridge. The commentary on each tour can take a while to get going from this stop, almost making you think it’s not working! Free headphones are available as you board, with multiple major languages to plug into. As you travel along, the information is little nuggets, so don’t expect a full history lesson!
This information also doubles up. Not just on each different tour, but on each different route for the same company! However, it is interesting, with knowledgeable facts about Porto’s many famous bridges and its local cuisine. Great look out spots are also highlighted as you bimble along. If you buy combo tickets, such as a Porto Bus Tour with a Boat Cruise or Wine Cellar Tour, both the provided map and commentary will tell you where to hop off to make the most of this experience. Maps are often available as you board or from the many tourist information points scattered around the city.
Where to get on the bus
If you are wanting a good seat, or your own choice of seat, jump on a Bus Stop Number 1 at the Cathedral / Sao Bento. During summer and peak times, try to get to the front of the line! As the bus travels through stops 2, 3, 4, 5, etc. it does get busier, but after that, few people hop on and off. Many people get on at Bus Stop 1, travelling the entire circuit in one go. From here, you can transfer to the alternative route to see a different part of Porto, or continue exploring on foot.
For each operator, the route that takes you around the historic part of the city and over to Vila Nova de Gaia is stunning. It really highlights the city, and if you were to only do one route, it should definitely be this one. Hop on and off to see the main attractions, and make sure you have your camera ready for the many look out points. The views of the city and over the river are magnificent. Don’t miss the stop near the Jardins do Palacio de Cristal for some tranquil, panoramic views over the city and river. Heading over to Vila Nova de Gaia shows quite a different side to Porto. You can tell instantly it is the newer side of the city, growing up in Porto’s shadow but has its own character and personality. It’s more funky than its older sibling, definitely marking its own mark.
The other route takes you around the outskirts of the city centre and shows more of Porto’s current lifestyle, including its sandy and rocky beaches as well as along much of the riverbanks. You’ll travel along the long stretch of tree-lined Avenida da Boavista with its grand buildings mixed with modern architecture and striking sculptures.
It is worth noting that the timings of buses will depend on the congestion and traffic around the city. I didn’t visit Porto in the height of summer and it was already pretty slow both morning and afternoon!
Getting value for money from your bus tour
With two tour routes available from each bus tour operator, you do feel you are getting better value for money. Hop On, Hop Off tourist bus tickets aren’t known for being cheap, so it’s good to get as much out of them as possible. Purchasing a 48 hour ticket is considerably cheaper per day, than 24 hours on its own (normally only a few Euros extra), so if you do have the time, it’s worth exploring over two days.
Tip: If you have plenty of time, get your money’s worth from the bus tour and go round again on the same route! This time sit on a different side of the bus and you’ll get a completely different perspective at many points. As the rain wasn’t stopping, this is exactly what I did!
All buses claim to have free Wi-fi on board, but I couldn’t find a single signal to connect to!
Whether you are looking for value for money, or more buses to ensure you are not standing around, here are the pros and cons of each Porto Tourist Bus operator:
Yellow Bus Tour
***My Top Pick***
The Yellow Bus has two different routes: Historical Porto and Porto Castles.
- Historical Porto: The route through the city centre of Porto takes one hour and 50 minutes and you can hop off at any of its 33 stops. In winter and summer, a tour departs every 30 minutes.
- Porto Castles: This itinerary includes the riverside road of Porto to Foz do Douro and Matosinhos. The full route lasts one hour and 50 minutes with 32 stops. Throughout the year, a tour departs every 60 minutes.
- Yellow Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Porto Bus Tour, River Cruise & Port Cellar Tour
- Yellow Bus Hop-On Hop-Off Porto Bus Tour, Tram & Funicular Ticket
- Cheaper tickets, more value for money
- More combo ticket options, the more you buy, the cheaper each experience becomes
- The purple Porto Castles Bus Route travels north of the coastline, allowing you to discover Matosinhos’s beautiful beach and surrounding streets.
- The most bus stops and longest tours
- Great website and leaflet (digital version available) with lots of information and ideas about Porto, including many other tours and discounts (not related to bus tours, but still within Porto)
- Bus Tour timetable available on their website
- These Porto Tourist Buses are busier due to their cheaper prices
- Fewer buses in operation compared to the Red City Sightseeing buses, so you may be waiting a while at stops. The bus also hangs around Stops 1 and 3 for longer
- A number of headphone jacks weren’t working in comparison to other bus operators
Blue Porto Sightseeing Bus Tour
- Blue Line: The route includes 15 stops and takes one hour and 40 minutes to complete.
- Orange Line: The route includes 14 stops and takes one hour and 40 minutes to complete.
- Blue Bus 24-Hour or 48-Hour Porto Sightseeing Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Experience with optional River Cruise and Wine Cellar Tour
- Not as busy as the other two bus tour operators
- Blue Line route goes right up to Matosinhos Beach
- App available for live bus tracking with timetable available on their website
- Least number of bus stops available
- More expensive than the Yellow Bus option, which offers longer tours
- Not as many buses are in operation compared to the Red City Sightseeing Bus
- A few headphone jacks not working
Red Porto City Sightseeing Bus
- Red Line: The route includes 33 stops and takes one hour and 50 minutes to complete.
- Blue Line: The route includes 24 stops and takes one hour and 15 minutes to complete.
- More buses in operation, so less waiting time at bus stops
- A higher price means more space and seats available on the buses!
- During summer months, a tour guide is available on selected routes
- Worldwide reputation
- Currently only bookable from tourist information points in Porto, or directly with the driver (2023) – not available to book online
- Tour does not go all the way up to Matosinhos Beach
- Most expensive Porto Bus Tour option
Why was the Yellow Bus my top pick? It offers the most value for money, and when I’m out and about exploring, I want to go as far as possible, to see as much as possible. The Yellow Buses are driven well, are professional, offer the best combo ticket deals and have further discounts available. If it was the height of summer though, and I needed a back up option as the Yellow Bus was super busy, I would choose the Red City Seesighting Bus as the next best option.
Whichever Porto Tourist Bus you choose, I’m sure you’ll have a great time exploring the city that you’ll very soon fall in love with. Look down the side streets for some incredible views of Porto life – especially ones that stretch into the distance down its steep descent. It’s quite a view. And, of course, take in the water vibes of the river that runs through the veins of this gorgeous, calming city.
Stop. Relax. Enjoy the moment and soak in some Water Wellness in this stunning part of the world.
Have you been on a Porto Tour Bus before? Which one would you recommend? I’d love to know in the comments below.
Inspirational content to spend more time outdoors, in blue spaces and experiencing Water Wellness.