The trip from Porto to Lisbon is one of the most popular in Portugal. Lisbon is the biggest city, the capital, a major tourist destination, and the most common gateway to Portugal. While Porto is the largest city in the north, its center is a UNESCO Heritage Site and one of the most visited cities in Portugal. It is expected and even desirable to use Porto as a base to visit beautiful northern Portugal, from the Douro valley to Guimarães and Peneda Gerês National Park.
This article will explore everything you need to know about going from Porto to Lisbon. Initially, we will talk about the routes to follow by car and what you can see along the way, but we will also explore the best alternatives – tours, private transport, public transportation, and who they are for.
From Porto to Lisbon by Car
The most flexible way to explore Portugal is by car. It allows us to stay as long as we want in each destination, stop where we want, and even go to lesser-known places. But it also allows us to travel quickly and depart whenever we want. In a word, it’s convenient.
Renting a car in Portugal is not very expensive, but if you are just going from Porto to Lisbon (or vice versa), it may not be worth it as there are much cheaper alternatives. However, if you have time, we strongly advise you to take at least one day to make the trip from Porto to Lisbon and take the opportunity to visit 2 or 3 places along the way. Central Portugal has many attractions.
Routes to go from Porto to Lisbon by car
In general, the roads in Portugal are pretty good, so any car easily makes the trip. There are practically no potholes (especially on the highways), and the route is relatively flat.
Driving in Portugal isn’t too complicated either, and the rules aren’t too different from the rest of Europe. The Portuguese also drive much better and safer than a few decades ago; consequently, the number of accidents and deaths also decreased considerably.
One thing to remember is that nearly all motorways in Portugal are paid, and there are two types of payment. Some highways have tolls, while others are only paid electronically, so cars must have a reader.
Two parallel highways connect Porto to Lisbon and a national road. Each has its advantages and disadvantages:
- A1 – Older motorway with a route a bit further inland
- IC1 – A recent motorway with a route more along the coast
- EN1 – National Road, without tolls
Porto to Lisbon – via the A1
The A1 is the fastest route from Porto to Lisbon by car, as the 301 km motorway takes just under 3 hours at the cost of 22.40 Euros (2022). It’s always a trip on the highway, with service stations with a bar, cafe, and restaurant along it. Anything you need beyond that always has to get off the highway.
This is the most popular route among the Portuguese as it is slightly shorter and cheaper. In our experience, there is also less traffic in Lisbon and Porto metro areas, especially during rush hour.
The route also passes through several tourist attractions, landmarks, and other possible stopping points for those who are not in a hurry. So, along the A1, or very close, you will find (from north to south):
- Aveiro – the city of canals, art deco, and soft eggs. It is also the most accessible beach destination for those traveling on the A1.
- Mealhada – an almost obligatory stop for Portuguese foodies as it is the city of the famous leitão “roasted suckling pig.”
- Coimbra – historically the third Portuguese city. Famous for its university, but there is much more to visit. See our Guide to Coimbra for more information.
- Leiria – a historic city with a beautiful castle.
- Batalha – One of the most accessible stops as the Monastery of Batalha is right by the highway. It is one of the most significant Portuguese landmarks and a UNESCO world heritage site.
- Alcobaça – It is a little further from the highway, but if you stop in Batalha, you can also go to Alcobaça. It’s an equally impressive monument and UNESCO heritage.
- Fatima – The Sanctuary of Fátima is Portugal’s most significant religious destination. It is very close to Alcobaça.
- Santarém – A lovely city with many fascinating monuments and a charming historic center, but it is perhaps the least known destination on this list.
Note: It is impossible to make all these stops in just one day. If you want to do this, you will probably need at least three days. In one day, we advise you to choose two or three of the above suggestions. Our main suggestion would be to stop in Coimbra and visit the city and the university. Have lunch in Coimbra, and later in the afternoon, visit Batalha and Alcobaça if you have time. The whole course on this highway can be paid for by cash or electronically.
From Porto to Lisbon – via the coastal highway
The coastal highway (IC1) is slightly longer (308km) and usually takes more time (3h30) than the A1. In our experience, there is also a little more traffic on this route near Porto and Lisbon at rush hour.
The coastal highway is actually the set of three highways that together allow you to go from Porto to Lisbon, always relatively close to the coast. This way you can go to some of the best beaches in Portugal, namely those in the central area.
This route is advantageous for tourists, especially those looking to explore the beaches. But we must mention that it also lets you visit many monuments and beautiful cities. The big disadvantage is that going to Coimbra involves a very long detour.
From north to south, along this route, we will find:
- Aveiro – It’s even closer than the A1 – again, it has the city of canals, art-deco, and soft eggs.
- Mira – One of the best beaches in the center of Portugal, it also has a beautiful freshwater lagoon.
- Figueira da Foz – One of the main beach towns in Portugal, it has immense sand and waves suitable for surfing.
- Leiria – It is between the two highways, so it is accessible from both.
- Nazaré – A mandatory stop to see the giant waves (in winter) or the spectacular view from the viewpoint at Sítio, where you can see the vast sandy beach and the historic center.
- Alcobaça – Very close to Nazaré, it is perfectly possible to visit both in one stop.
- Óbidos – Historical town with a walled center and excellently preserved castle.
- Peniche – Another fishing town, well known for its excellent surfing and beautiful beaches. Those who have time (an extra day) can try to go to the spectacular Berlengas Islands – One of the most beautiful places in Portugal.
As we mentioned in the previous route, it is impossible to visit all the destinations mentioned in one day. We suggest you choose 2 or 3 that most interest you. If we had to choose, it would be Aveiro in the morning, and Nazaré + Batalha in the afternoon, or alternatively Óbidos and Peniche. If you have one more day, it’s well worth trying to go to the Berlengas. On this highway, you will find some parts that can only be paid for electronically.
National Highway 1
The National Road 1 is the road that officially connects Porto and Lisbon. Since it is not a motorway, you will not pay tolls, which is the main advantage; however, it will take you much longer to travel.
Note that although it is not a highway, it is not a scenic route either. Yet, it’s still better than the highways. Much of the journey is between towns and cities, many without much tourist interest. It is not a pleasant trip as it takes a long time, without significant advantages, but it is a possibility.
When driving the N1, it’s easy to stop in multiple places, many of which have already been mentioned. This route goes inland and, therefore, is more similar to the A1. However, we only advise you to go here if you have several days and really don’t want to go on the highway.
From Porto to Lisbon by train
There are many options for those who want to go from Porto to Lisbon (or vice versa) and don’t want to drive. In our opinion, the best is to use the train. The train offers an excellent mix of low prices, velocity, plenty of timetables, and comfort.
The trains between Lisbon and Porto are of good quality, with marked and comfortable seats. We usually even have WIFI access, allowing us to travel relaxed while seeing the landscape, reading, working, etc. There are 15 to 20 trains spread throughout the day, from morning to night. See timetables and prices on the CP website.
The journey is usually quite convenient and quick – the fastest trains take about 3 hours, but there are slower trains (up to 5 hours travel time) that stop in most cities. Although it is not as easy as by car, whoever takes this trip by train can consider stopping in Coimbra or Aveiro, as they stop in these cities and access is relatively easy.
Both in Lisbon and Porto there are two stations where you can take the train. In Lisbon, you can take it from Santa Apolónia and Oriente, while in Porto, you can take it from São Bento and Campanhã. São Bento is exceptionally well located as it is right in the center of Porto, next to the most touristy area of the city.
From Porto to Lisbon by bus
The bus is also a good alternative for those traveling from Porto to Lisbon.
It has some characteristics quite similar to the train, but:
- It takes a little longer than direct trains, but much faster than the others.
- It is slightly less comfortable, but both Rede Expresso and Flixbus have WIFI and charging points. Buses are good; It’s just that traveling by train is better than taking a bus.
- It’s cheaper than a train, with prices sometimes below 10 Euros per person per trip.
Bus journeys take between 3 hours and 15 minutes and 3 hours and 45 minutes, and although they are not as good as trains, the buses are comfortable, and the prices are usually very affordable. Especially if purchased a few days in advance.
One of the most significant differences is that it is not possible to stop in the middle of the trip to visit a destination, such as Coimbra or Aveiro. But you can, for example, buy a trip to Coimbra, spend the night and then continue the journey to Porto.
From Porto to Lisbon by Plane
In theory, this is the fastest way to travel from Porto to Lisbon as the flight takes only about 50 minutes. There are also several TAP flights during the day, so it won’t be difficult to find a flight that suits your needs.
Prices are not too high either, sometimes costing only 40-50 Euros if purchased in advance.
The biggest problem is everything flying implicates, as the whole process takes much longer than any other alternative. The flight implies going to the airports, doing the check-in, the security queues, arriving sometime before departure… All of this adds up to make the trip more stressful without actual time gains.
Fortunately, both Lisbon and Porto airports are located very close to the centers and have excellent access to the metro. But it still takes about 30 minutes just to get to/from the airport. In our opinion, it doesn’t pay off, because if we want a quick trip, we have the train, and if we want an unbeatable price, we have the bus.
From Porto to Lisbon – Private Transfer
There are so many different options for public transport and car travel that private transfers are not very popular between Porto and Lisbon. In fact, most people won’t see substantial advantages in using a private transfer for this trip as the price is much higher and you don’t gain much travel time.
The great benefits of using a private transfer are the comfort and the fact that they will pick you up where you want and drop you off at your destination. In the case of a group, the high price is also diluted a little.
After some research, we found this service with an excellent rating on the site, but we have never used it. The service seems to be of good quality. If a group of 4 people hires it, it ends up being less than 100 Euros per person. See more information.