Portugal's second city stands on the Douro River in the north of the country. The centre of Porto – or Oporto as it used to be called in the English-speaking world – is to the north of the river, just at its mouth. Hiring a car in Oporto will better allow you explore the area, and you'll find that driving around the city is helped by an inner and outer ring-road. There's also an efficient network of motorway links to other parts of Portugal. You may also have the thrill of driving across one of the distinctive high bridges across the Douro. The international airport is nine miles to the northwest of the city.
The famous panorama of Oporto is from the south bank of the Douro, looking across to the white-washed houses and terracotta roofs perched on the steep banks opposite. It's a colourful mix of church towers, baroque villas, peeling shutters and waterfront cafes. If you're hiring a car in Oporto, it's worth driving across one of the bridges to see that view. When you're back on the north bank, you'll soon be immersed in the narrow alleys and winding staircases. Concentrate on this Ribeira district, the historic old town that is a World Heritage Site. It's an appealing maze of tiny plazas, crumbling buildings, traditional shop fronts and pretty town houses. One of the highlights is the 12th-century Porto Cathedral, looking more like a fort with its two undecorated square stone towers. Inside, however you'll find ornate carvings and pretty gothic cloisters. Visit the baroque Episcopal Palace nearby to see the monumental stairway inside. Other landmarks of the Old Town include the lavish neoclassical the Palácio da Bolsa, the tile-covered São Bento station and the inspiring open space of Liberdade Square, lined by trees and elegant period buildings. Finally, for a break with the past, relax with some modern art at the minimalist new Museum of Contemporary Art and its pink art deco mansion next door.
Opening hours: Mo-Su 0600-2400
Address: Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport
Opening hours: Mo-Fr 0800-1900, Sa 0900-1300 1500-1900, Su closed
Address: Rua de Santa Catarina 899