Tourism Abroad - Disabled Accessibility

Porto, Portugal - October 2023

Day One

Gatwick Airport North Terminal was all accessible and we entered the airport via a travelator heading up. Check-in was self-service, however we were lucky to find a member of staff to assist us. Security queue was skipped and they were very disability aware; they offered me their hand as I stepped through the detector.


We had breakfast at The Breakfast Club (classic movie!) which was very pleasant; the lighting was very good here too. After breakfast, we attempted to use the disabled lift but unfortunately it didn’t work.


We boarded Easyjet via a walkway and were escorted to the front of the queue by a member of staff. Cabin crew on the flight gave their health and safety procedures and it was right where I was seated, but my communicator guide interpreted for me.


After a smooth 1 hour and 53 minutes flight, we landed in Porto with steps to disembark the plane. There was a special assistance minibus that took my comm guide and me to the terminal. The driver escorted us through passport control and we then proceeded to collect the luggage. Porto Airport was all fully accessible throughout.


We left the airport via a revolving door and right outside there was a long queue for the taxis, but a taxi driver kindly offered to take us. The taxis charged 40 euros from the airport to the hotel which was around a fifteen minutes’ drive.


Our hotel, The Crowne Plaza, was accessible with a flat, but sloping entrance to enter the hotel with electric doors. There was a very welcoming reception with a nice bar area and a large restaurant which served breakfast, lunch and dinner; breakfast was included in our booking.


There was a disabled toilet on the ground floor. There were three lifts going up to fourteen floors and both our rooms were allocated on the twelfth floor.


A key card was used to enter the room and once in the room you had to enter it in a slot which was a bit fiddly for me. The room was spacious with a large double bed which was at a reasonable height. The room was equipped with amenities such as air conditioning, a kettle with tea, coffee and milk, a flat screen TV and a mini bar. There was also a desk and two comfy single sofas.


The bathroom had a bath and a shower in one with adequate lighting. There was a grab rail on the wall to assist getting into the bathtub, but when in the shower area there wasn’t anything to hold on to. The reception offered me a chair for the bath but I didn’t find it slippery. There was also a bidet in the bathroom.


There was a gym and spa on the lower level of the hotel. We checked them both out and they were well equipped and maintained, but unfortunately we didn’t have time to use them as we had a busy schedule.


There wasn’t much to do in the surrounding area of where the hotel was located as it was about a forty-five minute walk to the heart of Porto, so we decided to use the hotel restaurant for an exquisite lunch and dinner instead of taxiing out back and forth. The restaurant was very large, with an extensive menu, with good lighting and had a great selection of dishes. Staff were extremely helpful and we enjoyed a salad for lunch followed by a fish meal in the evening (Fish Friday!) I also had a few glasses of the famous Port in the bar between meals.


The bar was another fabulous addition to the hotel which had tables well-spaced out and a large flat screen TV on the wall which showed the sporting events. The bar was quite dimly lit at night and it took me awhile to adjust. I enjoyed having a few drinks here on most evenings, before heading off to the land of nod.


Day Two

The hotel provided us with a lovely buffet breakfast, consisting of cooked, traditional English breakfast items, continental breakfast, fruits, cereals and croissants, oh and coffee!


We asked reception to book us a taxi which picked us up at the main entrance and took us to the heart of Porto, close to the Douro River and Luis Bridge which was about a fifteen minute drive. The cost was ten euros.


There was a market for souvenir shopping too which sold traditional items made from Cork. Along the Douro River there was a very good selection of cafes and restaurants. However, on occasion the ground was quite uneven at times, due to the age of the city and its cobbled pavements. Porto is very hilly, and some areas are quite steep, which was a challenge to conquer! But we managed it with techniques of holding onto the wall as well as my comm guides arm.


We attempted to visit Bolsa Palace, which was situated at the top of concrete steps; however there was a fairly long queue. When we researched this, Google advised to book online but we chanced it. As we entered in to the ticket area, we were told that it was reserved for pre booked tours, whereas I just wanted to see it and not be part of a tour.


We had lunch at River Douro 21, Venha Conhecer O Melhor, which was located in an alleyway, serving authentic Portuguese dishes. I had the Octopus which was delicious.


This restaurant had a step up to enter and a staff member assisted me. All members of staff were very attentive and accommodated me well. It was quite narrow inside and there was no disabled toilet only a normal toilet, which was all on one level.


We had to cross the famous Luis Bridge as we had booked a port tour at the famous Cockburn Port Caves situated on the other side of the Douro River. The pavement across the bridge was quite narrow and it was a bit windy as we were up high.


On arrival at Cockburns, after walking up a very steep hill, we entered the attraction, where the ground was very uneven. Inside it was flat with a spacious reception area; there was also a disabled toilet and there were sofas for people to sit and wait.


I had booked a 1.5-hour tour at the port caves. With my walking condition, I struggled with parts as it was very uneven. Some guests of the tour offered me assistance, which I politely accepted, but I felt that the staff should have offered me assistance, not the paying guests who were there to experience the caves and port.


The group tour consisted of about fifteen people and I had my communicator guide interpreting the information for me. Due to the tour not being well lit in some places and tiring out easily, I missed a lot of the information as it moved on quickly along the route. As part of the tour, we had tastings of different Ports and chocolate, yum!


After the tour, we asked reception to book us a taxi which brought us back to the hotel. Later that evening, we met for dinner in the hotel restaurant before crashing out.


Day Three

After a nice hearty breakfast in the hotel, we were fuelled up for a day of sightseeing. We asked reception to book us a taxi to the cathedral in Porto. There was no admission fee to enter into the cathedral and we arrived in time for Sunday mass!


The cathedral had large concrete steps and an uneven walkway to navigate, due to the age and historic construction of the beautiful building, which dates back to 1110AD! We managed to climb halfway up the tower in the cathedral via large, wide concrete steps.


After leaving the cathedral, we jumped into a Tuk-Tuk to take us to Clerigos Tower.  We didn’t attempt to climb the narrow tall tower which had 240 steps!


After a quick coffee in Starbucks, we walked down the steep uneven hill back into the heart of Porto, where we had a very posh lunch opposite Bolsa Palace.


The beautiful traditional Portuguese restaurant, named Restaurante 1894, which was adorned with crystal chandeliers and red velvet comfy chairs, was where we had a delightful lunch. Due to the age and nature of the building, it had a small step to enter, but consisted of adequate lighting once inside. However, the tables were a bit too close to each other and the toilets were downstairs. The food was delicious and I had a delightful duck salad. Considering the restaurants stature and its location, it was very keenly priced.


We were on the lookout for a Port Museum and Google Maps identified it as nearby. After walking around in circles for a while, we entered where we were being directed to and were told that the Port exhibition wasn’t on at the moment, it was a local art exhibit instead.  They were extremely helpful and explained that we could take the lift to the lower floor for a Port or coffee.  We were able to go down to the bar via a lift, past an accessible disabled toilet. I enjoyed some Port, coffee and meeting a very nice Portuguese Querida!


Later that afternoon, we headed back to the hotel by taxi for a rest, before meeting for dinner in the hotel bar, and more Port for me!


Day Four

As it was our last full day in Porto, it was decided that we would spend the whole day taking in as much as we possible. So after breakfast, we headed off on foot to Casa Da Musica, which was a concert hall. The walk was mostly flat and there weren't many cobbles; it was around a mile from the hotel.


This modern building consisted of very interesting architecture; most was constructed from metal, and was opened in 2005. You could compare it to a smaller version of the Sydney Opera House with its modern design. There was a flat entrance with lifts taking you up to the higher floor levels. On the ground floor there was a spacious coffee shop with a disabled toilet. The coffee was very reasonable here.


The next attraction we visited, we caught a taxi to the Gardens of the Crystal Palace (not the football club!), which was a beautiful woodland area with lots of Peacocks, Cockerels and ponds.


This naturalist attraction consisted of flat pathways which were very easy to roam, but it had been raining earlier, therefore it was quite muddy in some parts. The ground was a bit grainy which could pose as a slip hazard to those with walking conditions.


After a bit of grub in a café nearby, we caught a taxi to the Luis Bridge. On arrival, we headed to the Luis Bridge where we crossed the Douro River on the footbridge.


We then went straightaway to book a fifty-minute river cruise along the river. There were no concessions offered so I paid full price for myself and my comm guide. There was a step to enter the ticket office.


The 4pm river cruise was booked and as we had more than an hour, we walked down along the riverbank to book a ride on the cable car. Again, there was no concession offered, but it was worth the money. There was a disabled toilet within this attraction but we had to ask staff for a key. We then headed up to the cable car platform via a lift.


Entering the cable car was flat, however the cable cars were on a continuous loop, so didn’t stop moving, hence we had to enter the pod quickly. There was only the two of us in the cable car pod, but there was enough room for four adults. As it was a clear afternoon, this attraction offered panoramic views of the city. The ride lasted for around fifteen minutes.


Afterwards, we went for a nice refreshing soft drink and then headed back to the dock for our river cruise. The path leading towards the dock was quite rough and uneven. When we got closer to the dock there was a very steep wooden platform going down. My comm guide asked the ticket man for assistance and he kindly helped me down. At the bottom, the dock was then completely flat, and there were three steps up and three down onto the boat. Fortunately, there was a handrail to hold on to.


We sat down outside on the boat and when everyone was on-board; we were off down the Douro River. The cruise was very smooth and there was commentary in Portuguese, English and French, which my comm guide interpreted for me.


Back at the dock, we disembarked the boat and the same man came to assist me up the steep slope. We headed over to the other side of the river via the Luis Bridge and proceeded to get a table at one of the riverfront restaurants. As it was a sunny evening, it was very busy therefore this was very challenging finding a table. People were flocking in all directions and it was getting too much. Eventually, we found a restaurant with space for seating, phew! However, this restaurant was very touristy, serving Pastas, Pizzas, Burgers and Salads.


After an early dinner, we went to River Douro 21 for some cake, coffee and Port. The waiters were very happy to see us again and kindly assisted myself up the high step to enter inside. This restaurant proceeded to get busy quickly and we both felt we should have eaten here, compared to the touristy place.


We then headed back to the hotel by taxi then off to the bar for me to have another few glasses of Port, making the most of the last evening, before I headed off to bed.


Day Five


After our last breakfast, we went to pack our suitcases and get freshened up. Check out time was at noon and our flight wasn’t departing until 20.30, so we had half a day to say our goodbyes to a fantastic city.


The weather wasn’t very pleasant as it was raining, probably Porto’s way of showing its sadness for our departure!


After checking out, the hotel staff portage stored our luggage and booked a taxi to take us to the Luis Bridge. On arrival, it was still raining heavily and we got rather wet; the wind by the river did not help! We had to be extra careful as the cobbled pavements were now slippery.


We took shelter in a riverfront hotel for a coffee to try and dry off. Afterwards, we went to the souvenir shop opposite to buy some gifts.


We decided to go back to Restaurante 1894 for lunch as this was very nice. However, this meant conquering the steep hill again which was rather wet and slippery. The restaurant was quite busy but we were able to get a table as they recognised us from previously. I pondered the menu and decided on Octopus which was spectacular.


Eventually the rain stopped, therefore we were able to head off back to The Port Museum café to say farewell to Bruna, the Portuguese querida. I chatted independently with her and had a good conversation. I gave her my business card for further correspondence. After a coffee and my last two glasses of port in Porto, we headed back to the hotel in a taxi.


The hotel was accommodating in sourcing another taxi to Porto Airport known locally as Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport.


On arrival at the airport, we entered the terminal with ease; very flat with electronic doors. We arrived a bit too early for our flight, with check-in not opening for another hour! So we sat and waited in the special assistance area.


After waiting for around forty-five minutes, I thought we should queue up for check-in so off to the check-in desk we went. Here we waited for another twenty minutes where special assistance greeted me with a wheelchair. I sat in the chair and was wheeled to the front of the queue for us to be checked-in.


However, I was more than happy to walk through security to duty free and then on to the gate. Porto Airport is quite small, but was all accessible with flat walkways, lifts and disabled toilets.


When we arrived at the gate, the special assistant staff advised that using the bus to the plane wouldn’t be safe due to my mobility issues. We were escorted with other passengers with mobility difficulties, onto a special truck which drove us to the plane which lifted us up onto the airplane, adjacent to entry door, straight into the plane.


The flight in which we boarded was Finnair and the cabin staffs were very helpful. The air steward assisted me immediately with finding my seat and made sure that I was safe and secure.


When in-flight we were served with complimentary drinks and pretzels. It was a two hour flight to Heathrow, London.


On arrival at Heathrow, Terminal Five, therefore the Skytrain was required to enter the luggage and customs area.We were met by special assistance in the walkway as we disembarked the plane. This was appreciated as it was a long walk to baggage claim and late at night. I was assisted until I had gone through customs control without having to queue.


Upon exit a pre-booked taxi awaited. I would recommend booking a taxi to collect you as there is no waiting allowed at Heathrow now.