The Arouca Bridge in Portugal

Arouca Bridge in Portugal: 7 Things to Know Before You Go 

Last updated Sep 9, 2022 | Outdoor, Portugal

Love adrenaline rushes and hiking to beautiful destinations? Then you are going to love a visit to the impressive engineering marvel, the Arouca Bridge in Portugal! It is the second longest pedestrian suspension bridge in the WORLD. Spanning a length of 516 meters and suspended by multiple steel cables, it is not for the faint of heart. The views are breathtaking and at the end you can combine it with a visit to another incredible outdoor adventure, the Paiva Walkways. Here are a few helpful planning tips to make the most of your bridge experience. 

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To Do the 516 Arouca Bridge or Not

Yes! Do it. 

Some say it’s just a tourist trap, but I think it’s incredible. Inspired by Inca bridges, the Arouca suspension bridge is 516 meters in length and 175 meters high. It was considered the longest pedestrian suspension in the WORLD. However, it just got beat out by the Sky Bridge in the Czech Republic, which is 721 meters long. 

Arouca Suspension Bridge in Portugal

Arouca Suspension Bridge in Portugal

Nonetheless, the Arouca Bridge offers breathtaking views over the Paiva River and the valley below. You can take in this view on all sides as you walk across the bridge, including even below your feet if you dare to look. 

Seeing straight down below your feet on the Arouca Bridge in Portugal

Seeing straight down below my feet on the Arouca Bridge in Portugal

If you are scared of heights though, skip it. The bridge does sway a little bit as you walk across, but you can hold on to the rails with both hands to steady your balance if you need it. 

Walking across Arouca Bridge in Portugal

Walking across the bridge

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Areinho vs. Alvarenga: Which Entrance to Choose

You can access the bridge in two locations: Areinho or Alvarenga. Is one better than another? 

Depends on what you want to do. If you are looking to include the Paiva Walkways, I would strongly suggest booking the Alvarenga entrance. 

Why? 

2 reasons 

#1 COMBINING THE BRIDGE WITH PAIVA WALKWAYS

The Paiva Walkways start on the Areinho side of the bridge. If you want to do the Arouca Bridge + Paiva Walkways, you should start on the Alvarenga side, walk across the suspension bridge to the Areinho side, and then immediately access one of the best day hikes in Portugal … the Paiva Walkways! 

If you are including the Paiva Walkways, don’t miss my ultimate hiking guide below.

Walking on the Paiva Walkways in Portugal

Walking on the Paiva Walkways in Portugal

See the map below for orientation. 

Map of Arouca Bridge in Portugal

Map of Arouca Bridge in Portugal

#2 EASIER HIKE TO THE ALVARENGA ENTRANCE

One important thing to know is you do not drive right up to the Arouca Bridge. You park offsite and then do a small hike to one of the two entrances of the bridge. 

If you park on the Areinho side, it will require climbing UPHILL about 500 steps to get to the entrance. The official Arouca website states to estimate up to 60 minutes to get to the Areinho entrance. 

In contrast, it’s only an easy 15-20 minute hike to the start of the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge.  That way you can conserve your energy before you start the 5.5 mile one-way hike on the Paiva Walkways. 

Baby hike to the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge

Baby hike to the Alvarenga entrance to the Arouca Bridge

The trail to the Alvarenga entrance starts to the right of the cemetery as seen below. GPS coordinates of the starting point: 40°58’09.7″N 8°09’47.6″W

Trailhead to Alvarenga entrance of Arouca Bridge

Trailhead to Alvarenga entrance of Arouca Bridge

There are clear well-marked signs that state “Ponte Suspensa.” You can’t miss them. Follow them to the bridge. 

Trail to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge

Trail to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge

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How Long Does It Take To Cross the Arouca Bridge

We booked the 11:30 am time slot. A guide then gave a brief introduction of the Arouca Bridge infrastructure and rules in both Portuguese and English. The talk lasted about 20 minutes. 

Briefing before walking across the Arouca Bridge in Portugal

Briefing before walking across 

We started our walk across the suspension bridge at 11:50 am and were across by 12:05 pm. It took us 15 minutes to cross one way, which included multiple photo and video stops. 

By the way, after you reach the end, you can walk back across the bridge to your starting location. 

Arouca Bridge seen from the Paiva Walkways in Portugal

Arouca Bridge as seen from the Paiva Walkways

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What Time Slot is Best

You must purchase a ticket online BEFORE your visit, and you have to select a SPECIFIC time slot. Only 35 tickets are available for each time slot at each entrance. 

If you are including the Paiva Walkways, the earlier the better. We picked the 11:30 am time slot since we were driving from the Douro valley. I strongly suggest starting with the bridge first, which will make the Paiva Walkways hike relaxed and not rushed. 

If you start with the Paiva Walkways and end with the Arouca Bridge, you are on a time clock to ensure you make it to your selected time slot for the bridge. I have no idea what happens if you are late. I imagine you get shifted to the next time slot IF there’s availability. If not, you are probably out of luck. 

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Where to Park to Access the Arouca Bridge

The Arouca Bridge official website gives exact GPS locations on where to park for each of the two entrances: Areinho and Alvarenga. 

MAP OF AREINHO ENTRANCE PARKING 

GPS Coordinates: 40°57’10.2″N 8°10’35.1″W

Areinho Parking for Arouca Bridge

Areinho Parking

MAP OF ALVARENGA ENTRANCE PARKING

GPS Coordinates: 40°58’11.1″N 8°09’26.1″W

Alvarenga parking for Arouca Bridge

Alvarenga parking

ALTERNATIVE PARKING

My husband and I are always looking for the best way to do things. Instead of using the suggested parking lots, we parked in a town called Espiunca. Espiunca marks one of the two ending points of Paiva Walkways. The other ending point is Areinho. 

We then took an open-air jeep from Espiunca to the trailhead of the 15-20 minute hike to get to the Alvarenga entrance of the bridge. The cost was 15 euros total for both of us. Normally, there are plenty of taxis and jeeps lined up at both Areinho and Espiunca taking tourists back and forth since most people hike Paiva Walkways only one way. 

Taking an open air jeep to Arouca Bridge

Taking an open-air jeep 

Once we finished up our day hike on Paiva Walkways in Espiunca, our car was right there waiting for us. Seamless. 

Confused? See the map below. 

Map of Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways

Map of Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways

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Day Trip from Porto or Road Trip from Douro Valley

A lot of people enjoy the Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways as a day trip from Porto, which takes anywhere from 1.5-2 hours depending on the day and time you leave. 

Alternately, you could also make this outdoor adventure part of a road trip around northern Portugal like we did. We landed in Porto and drove straight out to Douro Valley and enjoyed 4 lovely nights in the heart of wine country. Then on our drive back to Porto, we made a detour to the Arouca Bridge and Paiva Walkways. 

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Arouca Bridge + Paiva Walkways Tour vs. No Tour

If you have a car, you do not need a tour. If you follow my planning tips, you can easily explore the bridge and do the Paiva Walkways on your own. 

Now, if you don’t have a car, that’s a different story. There’s no great way to do all of this using public transportation. Without a set of wheels, you are going to need to book a small group tour as a day trip from Porto. 

Get Your Guide is always a great resource that offers reputable tour options.

Final Thoughts 

We do so much research for all of our travel experiences to make our valuable vacation time smooth and seamless. Hopefully, these 7 tips help you as you plan out your visit to the incredible Arouca Bridge. We loved the experience because we could also combine it with one of Portugal’s best day hikes, the Paiva Walkways. However, I would not suggest a visit to the Arouca Bridge alone because of the time it involves just to get there. 

Arouca Bridge seen from the Areinho entrance

Arouca Bridge seen from the Areinho entrance

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Questions on planning your visit to the Arouca Bridge? 

Let me know in the comments below!

8 Comments

  1. Mike Watson

    Do you climb the long steps regardless of which side you enter?

    I need to know the walk from parking to reaching the bridge on the Alvarenga side?

    Thanks!
    Mike

    Homeswithwatson@sbcglobal.net

    Reply
    • Nichole

      We didn’t personally park in the designated parking lot for the Alvarenga entrance but instead parked in Espiunca and took a taxi to the Alvarenga trailhead.
      The official Arouca Bridge website states the GPS coordinates for the Alvarenga parking are 40°58’11.1″N 8°09’26.1″W. GoogleMaps has it listed as “Estacionamento 516 Arouca Albisqueiros.”
      The GPS coordinates to the start of the hike to the Alvarenga entrance are 40°58’09.7″N 8°09’47.6”W (right next to the cemetery). GoogleMaps estimates it is a 9-minute walk to get from the parking lot to the start of the hike on the Alvarenga side. If you put GoogleMaps in street view, you’ll see that the 9-minute walk is on sidewalks.
      You only climb uphill on all those steps if you park at the Areinho parking lot. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  2. Lisa

    Is it possible to drive closer to the bridge on the Alvarenga side?
    That would be to drop someone off who’s less good at long walks, and then go back to the designated parking lot.

    Reply
    • Nichole

      You could drop someone off at the trailhead instead of starting from the parking lot, which will shave off several minutes. That’s the closest you can get. It is an easy 15-20 minute hike/walk to the Alvarenga entrance.

      Reply
  3. Kellie

    Brilliant post! My husband and I are headed there in a few weeks, and I’ve been so confused on how to organize where to park, where to begin the hike, how to time the bridge, etc. etc. Your post lays out an awesome plan. Thank you so much!

    Reply
    • Nichole

      I appreciate the positive feedback. So glad to hear the guide helped. Enjoy your trip!

      Reply
  4. Claire

    Hi looking to do the bridge next month with others. One of the party is not doing it due to fear of heights. Is their a cafe bar or an area close by you can recommend for him to wait?thanks

    Reply
    • Nichole

      The two entrances of the Arouca Bridge do not have any cafes/bars. However, there are a few restaurants near the cemetery, which is the starting point of the “short hike” to get to the Alvarenga entrance of the Arouca Bridge.

      These are the Google ratings for the nearby restaurants:
      – Casa dos Bifes Silva (4.3)
      – Casa dos Bifes Caetano (4.0)
      – O Decio (4.5)
      – Ze Mota (4.5)

      I can’t vouch for them since we have not been there, but they could be an option.

      After we crossed the bridge and hiked the Paiva Walkways to Espiunca, we enjoyed a bifana sandwich and a sangria at a little restaurant called Recanto do Paiva. It has a very picturesque location right on the river with plenty of picnic benches. However, it would require your friend to drive 15 minutes on a curvy road from the Alvarenga trailhead.

      Also, be aware English may not be spoken the further you get from the “touristy” areas. Our server at Recanto do Paiva did not speak English, but we got along fine with smiles, pointing to what we wanted, and some “obrigadas.” Also, that restaurant was cash only.

      Hope this helps.

      Reply

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