Coastal Walk: Porto - Foz - Matosinhos

Most people visit the coastal city of Matosinhos by taking the scenic route Tram No. 1 or Bus 500 from Porto along the water front. Instead of that we decided to walk from Porto city center to Matosinhos via Foz and then take the metro back to Porto.

We had no idea what the walk will be like - would the footpath be wide enough? Since the whole river leg is alongside the road, would there be too much traffic noise?Would there be any toilets available on the way? And since it's a coastal walk, would we actually have good views or just see break walls?

With those unanswered questions, we headed out on a very foggy morning for what was forecast to be the first cooler day since we arrived in Porto a week ago.

At 9am, Porto was blanked by a very heavy fog and felt rather cool (20 degrees Celsius). From our AirBnb apartment in Cedofeita, we walked down to the bank of the Douro River via the vertical garden of Jardim do Virtudes. We had previously walked along the first part of river bank with the colourful houses of Miragaia on the right and planned to stop at the supermarket Continente for our first toilet break. Tram No. 1 depot was not far from the supermarket - we saw a few of those old charming trams parked in their garage.

After Continente it was all new territory for us. To our surprise, the footpath widened out and once you got past Ouro and became a nicely paved open space along the river. Except for a few locals running and walking, we were the only ones on the footpath. Traffic was very light and far away enough that we didn't even notice any noise.

It was the first time since we left Split that we smelled the salty sea air again! The air felt very refreshing and clean - a nice change from the dusty city air in Porto where on-going construction is ubiquitous. With the heavy fog still hanging around, we could barely see the buildings across the river and behind us, but the fresh cool air was wonderful.

From Continente, it was 4km to reach Foz do Douro (or just Foz), the affluent seafront area known for its sandy beaches. The footpath was wide and the views of rocky and sandy beaches were lovely. We passed a few waterfront cafes and restaurants and a lush park on the other side of street. Also a number of public toilets were along the beach, well maintained and very clean! Funnily enough, they all had an attendant working in the Gents and Ladies, telling us to put face masks on when we walked in.

Unfortunately we couldn't get out onto the break wall of Farolins da Barra do Douro as there was, you guessed it, construction work going on. But we were still afforded a nice view across the mouth of the Douro river, out to the Atlantic, and up the coast towards Matosinhos.

From Foz to Matosinhos it was another 5km of sandy beaches, wide footpath and lovely views. We were really taken by the mix of sandy beaches with rocky outcrops and the greenery coming right down to the edge of the beach. In some sections you could walk in the shade of trees and vines right next to the beach.

On a headland at the edge of the Matosinhos beach stands a picturesque 17th century fort, Fort of Saint Francis Xavier (frequently shortened as Castle of the Cheese), which was a wonderful sight as we rounded a corner and appeared right in front of us. We could also see the enormous Porto's cruise terminal building in the distance through the fog.

As we neared Matosinhos we took the opportunity to pop into Parque da Cidade do Porto (Porto's city park) to check it out. It is the largest urban park in Portugal and certainly a place to relax. We will take some time to go and explore the park on another cool day.

Matosinhos is famous for its long sandy beach and seafood. The beach is about 1.5 kms long, is quite wide, and has a really fine light coloured sand making it a perfect locals and holiday destination beach. As we strolled the huge promenade we saw a lot of surfers out in the sea chasing waves while a lot of seagulls sat on the beach resting and watching the world around them. The large fishing net sculpture was high in the air in front of some apartment buildings.

By the time we had walked the beach front we had done about 12 kms of walking, the sun had burned through all the fog and was beating down on us, and it had just gone past midday. Hungry and little weary we headed off to a local seafood restaurant and had some tasty grilled squid and sardines paired with some local Vino Verde - it was perfect!

After the satisfactory lunch, we wandered through Matosinhos heading to the handsome Paroquial do Senhor Bom Jesus de Matosinhos church. The church was not open, but we walked around the lovely ground with large trees, a small cemetery and a museum.

The Matosinhos metro station was not far from the church. We topped up our Andante cards and hopped on the metro to head back home.

All up we did about 15 kms of walking and were out for about 5.5 hours. One thing that really impressed us was the fact that once we crossed the road in Porto to be walking along the side of the Douro, we actually didn't need to cross another road until we got to the end of Matosinhos beach - that was about 10 kms of continuous river and ocean front walking without crossing a street.

Although it started out foggy it turned out to be a very nice day and we had a really good time. We got a fix of a nature walk, fresh sea air and also had some great seafood!

We would definitely recommend this coastal walk to anyone who is up to stretch their legs and take in some fresh sea air.