Lisbon and Porto are the two main cities in Portugal. Both of these Portuguese cities offer to their visitors wonderful architecture, marvellous views, great food and reasonable prices compared to most other cities in Western Europe. Which one should you pick? The best and most obvious answer would be both of them, but if you don’t know any of them yet, and you want to choose your next destination, we will give you some reasons for both of them.
Visit Oporto or Lisbon
Before sharing the arguments for and against either of the two cities, we tell you what they both have in common:
- We already told you in the introduction that both cities are not only attractive, but also budget destinations. Prices are considerably lower than in neighboring Spain, not to mention any other Western European countries.
- Both cities have very similar geography. They both have hilly parts from where you can enjoy some fascinating views. In addition, both cities have a river that plays an important role in the city’s life: the Tagus in Lisbon and the Duro in Porto. Moreover, both cities are very close to the Atlantic coast.
- You are in either Porto or Lisbon, you will eat some great food for little money.
- Both cities have a somewhat decadent atmosphere with many aspects that transport you to the remote past. One of the symbols of this are the old trams that give a vintage feel to both cities.
If you want to visit a city hat has a rather small town vibe, Porto should be your first pick. To visit the essential things to see in Porto, you won’t need public transport since either the Ribera or the Old Town can be walked without any effort. It’s a more compact city than Lisbon, therefore if you want a more comprehensive experience in only a couple of days, you should probably visit Porto.
From our point of view Porto also offers more romantic activities, such as this lovely boat trip below 6 of the bridges in the Duro River in a typical local ship called rabelo, which is much more charming the boat excursions you can do in Lisbon.
Porto has another special thing. since it’s the main city of one of the world’s most famous wine regions. Therefore, during your visit you can do some wine-tasting in town or in the surrounding villages. The best way to do that is to take this wine tasting tour in the Duro Valley.
Day trip to Guimaraes and Braga
Excursion to Aveiro and the Costa Nova
Day trip to Fátima and Coímbra
If you love finding impressive monuments on your travels, in Porto you will find much less of them than in Lisbon. In Porto there’s the Don Luis Bridge, many beautiful churches, but monumental architecture and large imperial squares are much more common in Lisbon.
The cultural palette is considerably less varied in Porto than in Lisbon, and finding authentic fado performances is also much easier in the capital.
Where to stay in Porto
For budget travelers we can recommend either the Gallery Hostel or the TATTVA Design Hostel. The ROSA ET AL Townhouse and the Castello Santa Catarina are both great intermediate options. If you are looking for a great luxury stay, our pick is the Pestana Porto Hotel with simply amazing views.
Lisbon at first might not have the glamour of the most famous European cities such as Rome, Paris or Barcelona, but in contrast to Porto, Lisbon is a big city. It has large squares, many neighborhoods with very different character and also offers a much more complete cultural experience than Porto.
For people like us who enjoy so much great views, although the view from the Don Luis Bridge in Porto are also fabulous, we were more amazed by the quantity of amazing viewpoints in Lisbon. There are different kinds of viewpoints that let you appreciate both the beauty and the dimensions of the city.
We already told you that you can have great food either in Lisbon or in Porto. Only the variety of dishes prepared from codfish will keep your palate busy for a while with delicious flavours. While in Porto wine is most famous, in Lisbon the sweets are the most amazing, especially the Belem Pastries. Nightlife is also more colorful in Lisbon than in Porto. There are dozens of great fado places and cocktail bars in the Zona Alta, where you can have a night out that will be everything but boring.
Trying to visit even the most essential things to see in Lisbon during a weekend is quite challenging, since some of the important neighborhoods such as Belém for instance, are pretty far from the city center. Therefore you will probably need more time or leave certain things for a next visit. In Lisbon it’s also unavoidable to use the public transport.
Where to stay in Lisbon
If you travel on a tight budget, the Artbeat Rooms in the city center or the Hotel Convento do Salvador are both great options, whereas the Hall Chiado in the center and the Santa Luzia B&B in Alfama are good intermediate choices. There are no lack of luxury hotels in Lisbon either, the Pousada de Lisboa and the Hotel O Artista are wonderful picks for a memorable luxurious stay.
As you could see, we weren’t able to find any negatives for either of these cities, therefore visiting Lisbon or Porto will depend on your personal taste. In addition, the two cities are not so far from each other, therefore if you have more days in hand, you can visit both of them on the same trip.