Porto's public transport was until recently rather run down, but in recent years a lot of money has been put into transport links in and around Porto. This has meant that Porto's Francisco Sa Carneiro International Airport has had a complete overhaul and the new Porto Metro not only connects you through to most parts of the city centre but also journeys through to the suburbs of Porto including Maia, Matosinhos, Pvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Buses run services all over the city and again its suburbs. The STCP website is exceedingly helpful in planning journeys and they even run a text service so you can find out when buses are arriving at a particular stop.
The Porto Metro is a light rail network that runs underground in central Porto and overground in the city s suburbs. It has only been in operation over recent years so is still pretty new. The first services ran in 2002 and it cost 1.3 billion Euros to install.
The lines are colour coded and named Line A, B, C, etc. The Metro's website (in English and Portuguese) has a downloadable map of the network with the station stops listed. The network has five independent lines travelling to six municipalities within the Porto area: Porto, Maia, Matosinhos, Pvoa de Varzim, Vila do Conde and Vila Nova de Gaia. Povoa de Varzim and Vila do Conde are right on the coast so this could be a good way to get out of the city centre to sun yourself on the gorgeous Atlantic coast.
Line A, the blue line (Linha Azul) runs from FC Porto's stadium Estadio do Dragao to Senhor do Matosinhos. Line B, the red line, runs from Estadio do Dragao to Povoa de Varzim. Line C, the green line, runs from Estadio do Dragao to ISMAI in the centre of Maia. Line D, the yellow line, (Linhe Amarela) runs from Hospital de Sao Joao to Joao de Deus in Vila Nova de Gaia and Line E, the Violet Line (Linhe Violeta), runs from Estadio do Dragao to Porto Airport. From Estadio do Dragao the Metro connects to all other stations on the Metro network. It also stops at Campanha rail station. The journey from the airport to the city centre takes just 25 minutes.
Tickets relate to what zone you're travelling ie: a Z2 ticket is valid for journeys within one zone from which you start. A Z3 ticket is valid for journeys from one zone to the next adjacent one and a Z4 covers you for travelling in all zones.
Porto has no central bus station as such. The main bus stop points are at Praca da Liberdade at the bottom of Avenida dos Aliados and Jardim da Cordoaria a kilometre west . The big roundabout at Boavista (Rotunda da Boavista) is a main junction point for changing buses if going west. STCP who run the trams also run the bus network with green credentials they have the second largest fleet in Europe running on LPG gas. They also run a text service where you can find out when the next bus is due to arrive by sending a text with the bus stop code (visible on the right by the logo SMS BUS) in the message and send to 3001. You will receive a reply with the arrival times of the next five buses for that bus stop.
Buses usually run from 6 am to 9 pm. There is a special timetable for nightclub runs. There is an airport shuttle bus that leaves every 15 minutes. This leaves from near the taxi rank just outside the airport. It takes about thirty minutes to get into Porto ending on Avenida dos Aliados in the centre of Porto. The STCP website is an excellent information source and has links for bus, metro and rail travel so you can link up your journeys.
You can even hire a vintage open-top-bus for sightseeing around Porto. It can carry 20 people on the lower floor and 45 people on the top. The trip takes about 2 hours. Check the STCP website for more details or contact the following: Tel: 351 22 507 1077. Fax: 22 507 1150. Email: email@example.com. Other sightseeing tours can be organised through Porto Tours who are a local authority booking agency with information on all recommended tour operators for different trips and tours around Porto, whether it be by foot, bus, boat, taxi or even helicopter - saves you having to traipse around all the different tour providers yourself. Diana Tours is a Porto based agency who offer a range of sightseeing tours in taxis, bus and boat.
See the weblinks right for more information. Also check the Porto Tours page for details on river cruises.
Porto is the main rail hub for northern Portugal. Long distance journeys depart from Campanha station. Most of the regional and interregional trains start from the gorgeous Sao Bento station though they also pass through Campanha. The suburbano trains run frequently on the Braga, Guimaraes or Aveiro lines or along the Douro valley.
The state run CP trains website is a good starting point for all information to with travelling around Porto and beyond. The website is also in English and has timetables, ticket prices and downloadable maps as well as downloadable timetables for mobiles and PDAs.
Porto once had an extensive tram network throughout the city. The old wood-panelled street trams that are left now only run two routes in Porto every thirty minutes, Mon-Sat 8.30 am-7.30 pm. Both run along the river for 4 kilometres or so just west of Ribeira to Passeio Alegre in Foz do Douro to the west of the town centre.
Linhe 1E leaves runs from Rua do Infante Dom Henrique near the Sao Francisco Church, to Matosinhos, 8 kilometres northwest of the city.
Linha 18 runs along a loop from Hospital de Santo Antonio along the river to Foz do Douro up the coast to the Castelo de Quejo (yes that's right the cheese castle, so named because of its shape) and then back inland along Avenida Boavista.
To get a good view over the Ribeira try the Elevador da Lada (also called the Funicular dos Guindais). It runs daily from 8am-10pm at the eastern end of the Cais de Ribeira near the Ponte de Dom Luis. It's a funicular type of lift that climbs up to the top of the Bairro da Se.
Driving and parking in Porto can be difficult. Getting into the city isn't too bad as there are main roads like Avenida de Boavista that take right into the centre. The nearer the city you get the more likely you'll find one-way systems that might be misleading. Places are generally well signposted and hotels are invariably signed with blue signs with the hotel name on them. Once you get into the narrow streets and one-way systems it can be very disorientating and street parking is much sought after so you could end up driving around a long time before finding anything.
There are some pay and display car parks within the city centre but these can be a bit pricey than the usual car parking fees. Some of these are controlled by barriers and the attendant usually notes when you arrive and when you leave to calculate the parking fee. If you're leaving for a short time and returning the same day make sure the attendant is aware so he doesn't charge you for two full days.
Hotels often have their own parking associated with the hotel and charges will differ depending on the hotel.
Once you're in Porto it's easier to walk and take public transport than drive and it's certainly less stressful!