Porto is Portugal’s second largest city and Europe’s cultural capital. Fly in to the city and hire a car at Porto Airport to make your trip a comfortable experiance. In the heart of the city you’ll see the wide Liberdade Square guarded by the statue of King Peter IV on a horse. The alleys in the centre are woven in history and charm, and the restaurants and cafés make Porto a very tasty travel destination. Head over to the most visited museum in Portugal, the Contemporary Art Museum and the curvy House of Music, the only concert hall in the world with two walls made entirely of glass.
Exploring the core of the city is done best on foot, but if you seek to venture farther afield, hiring a car can prove to be essential. Hiring a car in Porto is easy and allows the freedom to drive to other beautiful places nearby.
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Basic info and car hire in Porto
- Location: Northern Portugal.
- Population: 237,600. (2011)
- Official language: Portuguese and Mirandese.
- Currency: Euro (€).
- Weather: Mediterranean climate. Warm summers (19°C / 66°F), mild, rainy winters (10°C / 50°F) and pleasant spring (13°C / 55 °F) and autumn (16°C / 61°F). Read more »
- Holidays in Porto: For public holidays in Portugal click here»
- Internet coverage: Hotels, bars, restaurants and cafés offer Wi-Fi.
- Road conditions: Major roads are in good condition, while some secondary roads are worse for wear.
- Car hire in Porto: The most common vehicle collection hub is the Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport or simply Porto Airport. The average daily price for hiring a car in Porto is 9.4£ / 11€ in summer, 8.6£ / 10€ in spring, 6.8£ / 8€ in autumn and 6£ / 7€ in winter. Please note that prices vary frequently. It’s best to make a car booking 3 to 8 weeks prior to your desired pick-up date – this way you ensure the lowest car hire price. Alternatively, it is possible to find a great last minute car hire deal. Find the best car hire deal in Porto!
Driving in Porto
There are two toll systems in Portugal. The traditional toll road is called Via Verde (Green Lane). These toll lanes are marked with green V signs. In order to use a Via Verde lane, you must buy or rent an electronic transponder or vignette at any CTT Post Office and Via Verde stores. In this way, you can pay with cash, credit cards or prepaid cards as you go. Don't use the Via Verde lanes if you don't have the Via Verde Transponder. Other roads use only electronic tolls, meaning there are no toll booths and you can't pay as you go. Instead, devices placed at the beginning of these highways detect the passing vehicles. These toll roads are marked with a black car and three expanding beams. The majority of car hire agencies in Portugal have Via Verde transponders installed in their vehicles,, but if you'll be hiring a car in Portugal, it's a good idea to ask the company how their system works with both toll systems.
Driving in Porto can be challenging and drivers can be impatient. Keep in mind that the maximum BAC level for drivers is 0.05%. There is a Zero Tolerance Law for novice drivers who have held a driver's licence less than two years and for young drivers under the age of 21.
The best time to visit Porto (weather-wise) is October, after the summer heat has subsided or if you don't mind the heat and the hordes of tourists, visit in the summer.
- Age limits: 21 (Minimum age may vary according to car hire companies. A Young Driver fee will apply to drivers under 25 years of age. In order to hire a car, it is required that a driver has held a licence for more than one year).
- International Driving Permit: Yes, if you are a non-EU licence holder.
- Additional papers: Identification(passport), a valid driving licence and a valid proof of insurance. (It is advisable to buy insurance at the car hire agency in case your policy doesn't cover you while driving in Portugal).
- Additional requirements: Warning triangles, reflective vests, spare wheel, spare light bulbs are required as well as a hands-free equipment with hearing aids are required when talking on the phone while driving.
- Children in the car: All car occupants must wear a seat belt. Children under the age of twelve, or shorter than 4ft 11in / 1.50 meters, may travel in the front passenger seat, if they are in a secured, rear-facing children’s seat.
- Driving side of the road: Right.
- Lights: Headlights are turned on while in a tunnel or during conditions of poor visibility.
- General speed limits: 75 mph / 120 kph on motorways, 55 mph / 90 kph outside cities and 30 mph / 50 kph in residential areas.
- Parking suggestions: Although there are many parking garages and on-street parking available, finding a vacant spot can be time consuming. We suggest parking on Avenida dos Aliados (a 10-minute walk to the centre) or around Metro Station Carolina Michaelis (a 15-minute walk to the centre).
What to see in Porto
There is much to see and do in Porto! Witness how Romanesque, Baroque and Gothic styles intertwine perfectly in the design of the magnificent Porto Cathedral. Join the hustle and bustle on the Avenue of the Allies – a street full of cafés and shops! Walk on the banks of the Douro River and stroll through the Ribeira District, lined with old buildings. The view of Vila Nova de Gaia across the Douro River is absolutely stunning. If you want to see this city up close, walk or drive across the iconic, double-decked Dom Luis I Bridge.
Our favourite spots
Church of Santa Clara
This Gothic church appears modest from the outside, but step inside and be amazed by its elaborate decoration.
Parking is available two minutes away on Rua de Arnaldo Gama.
More parking suggestions here »
Church of São Francisco
Another beautiful churchwith gilt wood interior is found in the historic centre.
Parking is available one minute away on Praça Do Infante D. Henrique.
More parking suggestions here »
Lello & Irmão Bookstore
Visit the most emblematic bookshop in the country! The façade is a great example of Neo-Gothic style and the interior is filled with architectural details.
Park your vehicle on Praça de Gomes Teixeira only two minutes away.
Drive your rental car around Porto
Porto is a stunning city, but it's also close to other destinations that could make your vacation even more unforgettable. There are many worthwhile destinations that can easily be reached by car, so if you haven't hired a vehicle yet, you might want to reconsider.
A short ride from Porto (only 3mi / 6 km west) is the district of Foz. Known for its beach, ocean front bars, restaurants and clubs, this is a great little trip! While in Foz, you can take a lazy beach stroll to the Castelo do Queijo fortress. Drive about 15 minutes north of Foz and reach Matosinhos, another great location for swimming and dining. If you haven't had your fill of sea and sand, head to Espinho, less than 12 mi / 20 km south of Porto. Make it to Espihno on a Monday and you can visit the amazing outdoor market, Feira de Espinho..
Braga and its biggest attraction Bom Jesus Sanctuary is roughly 30 mi / 50 km north of Porto. Travelling 18 mi / 30 km east of Braga, you'll discover the medieval city of Guimarães where you can explore the old centre and visit its castle and palace. West of Braga (about 37 mi / 60 km) is the authentic and charming city of Viana do Castelo. And lastly, the picturesque Vila Real, and its beautiful Mateus Palace is only 101 mi / 164 km beyond Viana do Castelo.
Where to eat, drink and party in Porto
Porto's cuisine consists of fish, seafood, soups, meat and dried bean dishes. The sardines are always fresh, and the grilled octopus is heavenly. Meat lovers will absolutely love the many pork meals. If you'd prefer a lighter option, sample the caldo verde, a soup of cabbage, onions, potatoes and chouriço. Taste something sweet, like like Requeijão com doce de abóbora, made with Ricotta cheese and pumpkin jam. Also worth trying is the rich cheese called Queijo da Serra da. Enjoy a glass of Mateus rosé or some of the famous Port wine – the flavours of Port wines range from extremely fruity to intensely tangy.
Here's a short list of recommendations: