Arouca Bridge in Portugal: 7 Things to Know Before You Go
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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01- 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 surpassed by the Sky Bridge in the Czech Republic, which is 721 meters long.
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 from all sides as you walk across the bridge, including even below your feet if you dare to look.
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 the bridge
02- Areinho vs. Alvarenga Entrance
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.
#1- COMBINE 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
See the map below for orientation.
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
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
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
03- Time it Takes to Cross the Arouca Bridge
We booked the 11:30 am time slot. A guide then gave a brief introduction highlighting the Arouca Bridge infrastructure and rules in both Portuguese and English. The talk lasted about 20 minutes.
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 as seen from the Paiva Walkways
04- 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.
05- Where to Park to Access the Arouca Bridge
The Arouca Bridge official website gives exact GPS locations of 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
MAP OF ALVARENGA ENTRANCE PARKING
GPS Coordinates: 40°58’11.1″N 8°09’26.1″W
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 in 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
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
06- Day Trip from Porto or 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.
If you do not have a car, you could join a highly-rated group tour.
Alternatively, you could also make this outdoor adventure part of a road trip around northern Portugal as 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.
07- Arouca Bridge + Paiva Walkways Tour vs. DIY
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 with 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.
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 Pinterest Video
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Questions on planning your visit to the Arouca Bridge?
Let me know in the comments below!
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?
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!
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.
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.
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!
I appreciate the positive feedback. So glad to hear the guide helped. Enjoy your trip!
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
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.
Hi there and thanks for this valuable information.
I have read that it is nicer to do the walkway starting in Areinho as you are following the river downstream, i.e, gradually going downhill all the way, as opposed to starting at Alvarenga (after doing the bridge) and ending in Areinho, which would be all uphill!
My idea is the park at where you suggest, walk the bridge, walk back across the bridge, back to the car and then drive to the trailhead at Areinho and do the 5 miles all going downhill. Do you think that would work, considering our already booked bridge slot is 1.30pm? Many thanks in advance!
You are absolutely right. In my opinion, hiking the Paiva Walkways from Areinho to Espiunca is an easier slightly downhill hike. We hiked it in this direction as well and loved it!
There are 4 ways you could hike the Paiva Walkways in the direction from Areinho to Espiunca if you are trying to include the Arouca Bridge:
1. Park at the Areinho designated parking. Hike uphill for the first 60 minutes (according to the official Arouca Bridge website) to the Areinho entrance to the bridge, walk across the bridge to the Alvarenga side, walk back across the bridge again, and then continue on slightly downhill to Espiunca (one of the ending points of the Paiva Walkways). If you hike it one-way, you need a taxi at Espiunca to drive you back to your car at the Areinho parking lot.
2. Same as above but instead of taking a taxi at Espiunca back to Areinho, you hike it in both directions and end back at your car in Areinho.
3. Park your car at Espiunca, take a taxi to the Alvarenga trailhead, hike 15-20 minutes to the Alvarenga entrance to the bridge, walk across the bridge to the Areinho side, and then continue slightly downhill to Espiunca on the Paiva Walkways. When you do it this way, you skip that initial “uphill” 60 minute section from the Areinho parking lot to the Areinho entrance to the bridge. It’s basically all downhill when you do it this way. ** This is what we did.
4. This is the route you are proposing. Park at the Alvarenga parking lot, hike 15-20 minutes to the Alvarenga entrance of the bridge, walk across the bridge to the Areinho side and then walk back again, hike 15-20 minutes back to the Alvaregna parking lot, drive to the Areinho parking lot, then start your hike on the Paiva Walkways to Espiunca (which will initially include that uphill ~ 60 minute section) to the bridge before you start going downhill to Espiunca. Then you need a taxi back from Espiunca to the Areinho parking lot. You could certainly hike it this way, but we were trying to avoid any backtracking and skip that initial uphill section.
Hope this makes sense.