Apart from the obvious connections with port production in the region, the most resounding mental image of Porto is out of the huge Luis I double deck bridge which spans the river Duoro.
The city of Porto (with substantial external help) has recently invested heavily in its transport network, and this includes a massively upgraded tram network with a tunnel under the city centre, as well as a new airport terminal. Local trains are certainly good enough heading along the coast, and Portugal also has modern high-speed trains heading south to Lisbon and then on to Faro, although they are still using old conventional tracks, so don’t be fooled into thinking you will get anything like the same speed as on the new fast lines in neighbouring Spain.
Yet a hire car is still going to be useful for heading inland, and if you’d rather tour around lots of different locations along the coast instead of just visiting a few major ones by train, then a hire car will still be useful to.
There’s no doubt that Portugal has some great driving roads, and that a road trip started in Porto could quite nicely continue down to the capital Lisbon or even onto the Algarve – just check carefully about one-way rental charges. In particular, it might well be cheaper to hire in Faro and then work your way up from there, as Faro car hire prices tend to be more competitive than elsewhere in Portugal, but this isn’t always the case.
However we also think that Porto is enough of a city to enjoy in its own right, and if you are going to combine it with a short break featuring Lisbon at the same time, then this really can all be done perfectly well using intercity trains and local public transport.
It’s also well worth researching the different prices for Porto airport car hire for the whole duration of your stay and comparing this with just picking up a car in the city centre for a day or two’s usage beyond. As with elsewhere in Portugal, the prices for car hire in Porto can vary considerably, from ridiculously cheap longer term airport rates for economy hatchbacks, going up to much more expensive peak season rates. During these popular holiday periods we tend to find that the (proportional) difference between city and airport car hire rates is not so substantial.
Remember to check the fuel policy before confirming any Porto car hire deals.
Needless to say, if you are coming here for the love of the production and consumption of port, then there’s more than enough to see, quite literally by sticking around the city of port.
Plenty of tours of vineyards around Porto are available by bus from major hotels in the city.
- Generally useful for exploring well outside the city.
- The Duoro valley is still very rural once outside Porto (other than the single rail line) – a car is far more flexible.
- Trains generally only serve the city of Porto, north-south routes near the coast,
- Porto has a truly outstanding range of public transport – from streetcars to funiculars to a modern light rail metro system.
- The most iconic bridge – the Luis I bridge, can only be fully appreciated on foot – but you can also cross the top deck by tram.
- Porto is often overlooked in the rush to the sunny Algarve – step back, put on a good pair of walking shoes, and enjoy it!
Should you hire a car in Porto?