One of southern Europe's hippest destinations for nightlife and general cultural flair is Porto, Portugal's magnificent second city.
Located at the mouth of the Douro River in the north of the country, it is a place that has gained a lot of popularity in recent years for its unique history and vibrant food scene.
Nowadays, its narrow, medieval streets attract large groups of fun-seeking revelers, locals and expats, while friends and family accompany the soon-to-be weds on their respective stag and hen nights.
More and more wine aficionados from around the world are making a beeline for Porto thanks to its high-quality vinho do porto
Affectionately known as the City of Granite, Porto is equally renowned for its lively club scene , with many of the top venues located in and around the city centre, most notably Ribeira , Foz , Galerias de Paris and the more recent Zona Industrial .
The old and the new
A thriving industrial city with a 21st century modern twist, Porto offers visitors a trip down memory lane, especially in the ancient thoroughfares of its historic centre. Classified as a World Heritage Site in 1996, the historic center includes the Serra Pilar Monastery which overlooks the city and the impressive two-level Luís I bridge inaugurated in 1886.
Described by UNESCO as “an exceptional cityscape with a 2,000-year history, the medieval core of the city is a maze of cobbled streets and alleyways lined with traditional shops and family-run restaurants known locally as tasquinhas ” .
But Porto has been extensively revitalized and refreshed over the past three decades, with the emphasis on increasing the number of tourist attractions both in the city center and in the suburbs, most notably Sea Life Porto (one of the largest aquariums in Southern Europe) and the World of Discoveries based on Portugal's intrepid seafaring conquests in the 15th and 16th centuries.
Porto is so much more than a nightlife city, it's the center of an entire region just waiting to be explored, and there's no cheaper or better way to get around than with an Auto Europe .
With Auto Europe you have all the freedom and flexibility you need to explore this wonderful city and its surroundings, with a great choice of vehicles, suppliers and convenient pick-up points in Porto available to suit all budgets.
There's so much you can do with a cheap car hire in Porto , like heading north to the lush, verdant Minho region, a land of lush vineyards famous for the sparkling vinho verde , one of Portugal's most famous wines. .
Along with an abundance of pretty towns and villages to explore, such as Arcos de Valdavez, Viana do Castelo and Ponte de Lima to name a few, Minho also boasts a long stretch of Atlantic coastline with many excellent beaches.
Driving along the Douro
One of the world's most enchanting wine regions is the Douro Valley , another of Portugal's UNESCO World Heritage Sites, easily accessible from Porto. Here you can stop the car to visit a vineyard or two on a whim and taste/purchase top quality wines produced on the estate itself.
This is the land of port wine, where many of the industry's most recognizable brands are based. The region also produces some of Portugal's most famous table wines, many of which are the top choice in restaurants up and down the country.
Exploring the Douro by car is an absolute delight at any time of year, with a succession of breathtaking sights to admire and photograph along the way. Highlights include the beautiful Baroque city of Lamego (an important episcopal center in the past) and Pinhão, a charming little town nestling right next to the river in the heart of the port wine region.
Trás-os-Montes region , which loosely translates as "Beyond the Mountains." This lesser-known but wonderfully scenic part of northern Portugal is easily accessible by road from the city and well worth visiting with a Porto car hire .
Remote by nature, this region remains one of the more traditional parts of the country with many of the local people's customs and festivals dating back to pre-Christian times. It is also blessed with many natural spas such as Chaves, Pedras Salgadas and Vidago where visitors can pamper themselves with first class spa treatments at a very reasonable price.
Trás-os-Montes is particularly notable for its culinary delights, including a mouthwatering range of locally produced smoked sausages (try the alheira, chouriço and salpicão), along with all types of smoked hams known as supposed, all of which are best washed down with a glass or two of the region's delicious wine.
Safe travels, but whatever you do, don't drink and drive!