Located on the west coast of Portugal, Porto makes for a quieter holiday destination than the beaches and towns of the Algarve. Here, you can easily find a little slice of paradise to make all your own, whether that means a beach, secluded bay, or cafe where the only voices you’ll hear are Portuguese speaking ones.
Why hire a car at Porto Airport?
Portugal’s west coast has 500 miles of scenic drives, bays, fine sand beaches and craggy cliffs to explore, not to mention the towns, villages and cities further inland. Buses are available, but they can only get you so far. Take the limits off your holiday and rent a car.
That all-important first mile -
driving out of Porto airport:
When you leave the airport, turn left onto the IC24 highway to explore inland Portugal, or turn right to head towards the coast.
"We're the stylish, scenic city that hustles and bustles along the banks of the river Douro and brings it to life."
The riverside setting and old-style industrial backdrop lend the city a unique Dickensian charm.
Tourists go to Lisbon to party and Porto to relax. Expect the atmosphere here to be an informal, laid-back one.
Porto is used to receiving visitors; pull up a seat in any street café and enjoy the hospitality.
As with all European countries, the further north you venture the more layers you'll need. Add to that a nippy Atlantic breeze and you'll be reaching for your scarf and gloves outside of summer. Britons will feel at home.
Porto's speciality is tripe. And that's no insult - the city's most popular cuisine is cow intestines cooked every which way. For the faint hearted there's the 'Frenchy', a cheese-covered meat sandwich.
Porto is the birthplace of various Portuguese personalities from prime ministers to Olympic athletes. It is also the place JK Rowling once called home.
The city’s medieval centre is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site with a history dating back as far as the 4th century.
“As the provincial capital and university seat, Porto has its own artistic treasures -the city beats with a sense of industriousness.” – Frommer’s
You can collect your car keys from the Porto Airport car hire desks located on the ground floor in the main terminal.
Once you’ve checked in and arrived in the departure lounge, pick up a mini Barcelos Rooster, it is one of the emblems of Portugal and makes a colourful fridge decoration to remind you of your stay.
You’ll find cash machines throughout the airport and a bank for currency exchange too.
There’s plenty of choice for places to eat at Porto airport including snacks, hearty meals and a self-service buffet.
Porto is known locally as a town for quality food but be careful what you order, the Tripas à moda do Porto is a traditional and very popular tripe dish. If you fancy something a little less controversial, try the Francesinha, a stacked sandwich of meats and cheese which has been ranked as one of the best in the world.
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Visit this bustling city for a taste of both modern and historical Portugal. The cathedral, palace, and walled remnants of 15th Century life are recognised as World Heritage Sites, while the arts galleries, music venues and trendy restaurants are cultural markers of a very modern city.
If what you need on holiday is the chance to escape the rat race then head straight here. Put your camping gear and walking boots in the hire car and drive out to the only national park in Portugal for some peace and quiet. There are six campsites and plenty of varied hiking trails which will take you along paths of varying difficulty, past ancient farmhouses, waterfalls and woodlands.
If the beaches and national parks become tiresome, take a break and head out onto the Aveiro Lagoon. This is one of the last remaining coastal marshes in Europe and attracts exotic birds like pink flamingos to its shores. Leave the rental car in town, rent a boat or canoe and spend the day on calm waters.
This 18th-century baroque tower is one of the oldest of its type in the country. Climb its 225 steps for a good workout and a breathtaking view of the city.
There's street parking next to the tower at the junction of Rua Sao Felipe de Neri and Rua Dr Ferreira da Silva. You can also park at Praca Carlos Alberto, a square a few streets away.
This grandiose Gothic structure was built by the Fransiscan monks in the 1300s. The historic brotherhood was founded in Porto and their place of worship remains pretty much untouched.
There's an underground car park at Praca do Infante called Estacionamento do Infante.
Porto's Crystal Palace is surrounded by fountains and roaming peacocks. You're more likely to catch a concert in the glass pavilion than witness any botany but the park boasts some of the best views of the city.
Use the Crystal Palace car park on Rua Dom Manuel II.
Inside this rambling 19th-century stock exchange building there's a wealth of paintings, sculptures and furnishings well worth a peek. But the piece de resistance is the Arabian Room - a regal reception hall used for state visits.
You can leave your car at the Parque da Alfandega car park on Rua Alfandega.
This bustling suburb of Vila Nova da Gaia is on the outskirts of the city, just a short hop over the river and is well worth a visit.
You can park your car on Avenida Republica, in the centre of Vila Nova de Gaia, for around 1 euro.
Just under an hour's drive from Porto, on the estuary of the River Vouga, is the quaint town of Aveiro. With its canals, bridges, coffee shops and cheerful whitewashed houses, it is dubbed the Venice of Portugal.
Head south on the A1 then take the IP5 west to Aveiro. It's just under 50 miles.
A short drive north of Portugal is the lovely seaside town of Vila do Conde. Check out the old town with its lively Friday market, atmospheric medieval quarter and active fishing port, then head for the nearby golden beaches of Guia and Forno.
It's a half hour trip north of Porto on the IC1.
Take a drive out of the city and any quality cuisine in any of the riverside eateries in this pretty town on the banks of the river Tamega.
Head east on the A4 for 37 miles.
With its high concentration of churches and sanctuaries, the ancient city of Braga, a 40-minute drive north of Porto, is considered the most religious city in Portugal. Once one of the most important Catholic cities in Europe, it is still home to the Portuguese Archbishop.
It's a 35-mile drive north on the A3.
" There are many different villages, resorts and towns in the immediate vicinity of Porto, so driving is the perfect way to get about and see the sights. Avoid the city centre, as you'll end up getting stuck in traffic. The best thing to do is park you car at Casa da Musica metro station and go by train to the center. You can buy one ticket that covers both your parking and your travel on the train. "