Car hire in Porto
Hiring a car in Porto
Known to many as the birthplace of the fortified wine port, Porto has so much to offer visitors to the north-west of Portugal. With the River Douro flowing right through its heart, it’s unsurprising the city is home to some incredible bridges and a bustling riverside district that is as entertaining as it is historic. Discover its cobblestone lanes, merchants’ houses and grand palaces during your stay. Arrive at Porto International Airport (OPO) and travel just 11 kilometres in your hire car along National Highway 107 to arrive at the city centre.
What you need to know
You can pick up your hire car from Porto Airport, the Campanha Railway Station or the city centre. The biggest choice of hire car companies is at the airport, where there are more than 20 options at your disposal. Use the Holiday Autos website to ensure you get the best deal to suit your needs. Both Avis and Budget can supply hire cars to you if you’re travelling to Porto by train. Alternatively, these two suppliers, as well as a number of others, such as Europcar, Thrifty and Hertz also offer city centre pick-up.
Where to pick up your car
Firms, such as Sixt and Avis allow you to pick your hire car up from inside the terminal, whereas the likes of drive4less and Guerin Car Rental Solutions provide a free shuttle bus to the car hire desk. Hire cars can be picked up right outside the station for those arriving by train. The various city centre locations of the pick-up points offered by the different companies is another element to consider when booking your car hire. Choosing a convenient place can help to keep holiday stress to a minimum.
“The pick-up was easy, it took 5 minutes from arriving at the desk to driving out the car, and the return took even less time.”
Where to go
Driving around Porto you will be overwhelmed by all the sights on offer. It has a bustling riverside area that is beautifully lit at night, but the piece de resistance is the Dom Luis I Bridge, created by none other than Gustave Eiffel (of the tower fame). Make sure some of Porto’s stunning churches are also on your schedule, most notably the 12th-century cathedral and Clerigos church, which boasts a monumental baroque tower in a warm terracotta hue. Another must-see if the Stock Exchange Palace, which despite its original commercial purpose was constructed in a Neoclassical style in the 19th century. It has gone on to be recognised by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.
Take the A3 and A7 roads for around 55 kilometres to get out of Porto and visit Guimaraes. The route will take you through the beautiful Peneda-Geres National Park and onto the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Guimaraes has been given such recognition due to its architecture and monuments, many of which date back to the Middle Ages. While there is much to see in the town, the 12th-century castle is a definite highlight.
If you’re looking for a road trip that is all about the drive then opt for one that is strangely intuitive. Take the N-108 road and follow it as it twists and turns along the banks of the Douro River. You’ll pass through vineyards and forests and see colourful houses and small communities along the way. There are a number of look-out points where you can stop and simply take in the views. Drive to Regua or all the way to Pinhao depending on how epic you want your road trip to be.
Meanwhile, the pilgrimage site of Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain lies tantalisingly close to Porto. Drive along the AP-9 and A3 roads for around 233 kms to find yourself at the end of the world-famous Camino de Santiago trail. See the pilgrims, complete with their scallop shells arriving at the grand cathedral, which has been welcoming believers since 1211. There’s also a traditional almond cake associated with the city, so try some of this local delicacy during your stay.
Top attractions in Porto
Porto is oozing with gothic charm but also has a sporting side and a uniquely modern live music venue. Be sure to check out each of these elements during your stay to get a well-rounded view of this wonderful city.
This stunning bookshop is more like a work of art than a simple retail venue. Lovers of the written word can soak up the atmosphere for hours, but even those who aren’t voracious readers will find it hard not to be taken in by the neo-gothic façade and Xavier Esteves-designed interior. It was opened in 1906 and has welcomed famous writers and tourists to its booked-lined walls ever since. The central staircase in an organic curve is the focal point, drawing visitors deeper inside this temple of literature.
Sports fans will know Porto for another reason and that’s its top-flight football club. Its impressive Dragon Stadium is not just where the home team play, but has hosted international tournaments, such as Euro 2004. If Porto are playing while you’re in town, then you’re bound to want to get a ticket for the match, but even if they’re not, it’s worth visiting the stadium, as it’s atmosphere is still present even when it’s empty. A tour of the stadium lasts around 45 minutes and includes the presidential box, changing rooms and dugouts.
Casa du Musica
Looking like an ultra-modern box that has dropped from space, this contemporary music venue looks somewhat out of place in classic Porto. This couldn't be further from the truth, however, as it has been embraced by locals and provides incredible acoustics for performing artists. The architects created shapes that were far better for sound than traditional concert halls. See a show there or go on a guided tour to find out more about the background of this astonishing place.