Lisbon or Porto? Which Portuguese city should be your next destination? Both are widely known as great destinations, but is one better than the other? Here, we will explain everything you need to know before choosing your next city break in Portugal.
Both cities offer a wide range of things to do, have a nice vibe, nearby beaches, and great food making the travel experience very gratifying. We will compare Porto and Lisbon in terms of:
- Sights, things to do and tourist attractions;
- General Beauty
- Day trips;
- The people;
- Food scene;
- Tourists & Crowds
Porto vs Lisbon showdown
Both Porto and Lisbon are cities with an excellent travel vibe. They are relaxed, safe and vibrant with plenty of things happening. Yet, they are somewhat different. We are giving it a tie here, as we believe they cities are just different, not better or worse on this aspect.
Lisbon is much bigger, shinier, busier, and more cosmopolitan. It’s also more touristy, as it’s a tourist destination for many years now and receives far more travelers than Porto, though still much less than other popular European Capitals.
Porto is popular for its authentic, down to earth and casual vibe. Tourism is rather recent in Porto, which has received a huge boom in the last 10 years. Historically Porto is much more a workers town and that vibe is really visible as the town and its population aren’t bleached and sugar-coated for tourism.
Sights, things to do, and tourist attractions of Porto and Lisbon
As we said above, Lisbon is bigger and been on the tourism radar much longer than Porto. Lisbon is also the capital and historically has received much more investment. Naturally, it has more tourist attractions and things to do.
Lisbon’s most famous attractions include:
- Tower of Belém
- Jeronimos Monastery
- S. Jorge Castle
- All Alfama neighborhood
- Bairro Alto
- The expo area
- Lisbon Cathedral
- Ruins of Carmo Convent
- And its many many museums.
While in Porto you have:
- Ribeira neighborhood
- Clerigos Tower
- Porto Cathedral
- Stock market palace
- House of music
- And many beautiful churches and the Cathedral
I believe Lisbon wins this one, it simply has a wider range of attractions and can keep you entertained for much longer. Though if you are planning a short escape, I think Porto is the best option. You can easily visit Porto’s downtown in a weekend but you’ll need at least 3 full days in Lisbon.
Lisbon vs Porto – General beauty
In General, I would say that Lisbon is prettier than Porto, with bigger monuments and grand avenues. Though Alfama with its small alleys and cobblestones is one of the most popular areas for tourists. However, you should note that Porto’s riverside is more beautiful than Lisbon’s, mostly because the city and the river feel so connected. Ribeira is really an enchanting neighborhood.
Porto’s best lookout is Serra do Pilar in Gaia, or in D. Luis Bridge, where you can see the river and the city. In Lisbon, we need to mention Miradouro de Santa Luzia looking down at Alfama and Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcântara.
Day trips from Porto and Lisbon
A great thing about Portugal is that it’s a very small country packed with things to see and do. Fortunately for you, both Porto and Lisbon have many easy day trips available for you.
Porto has some nice urban day trips like Guimarães, Braga, Aveiro, and Coimbra, all easily reachable by train or bus. You may also travel to some nice beaches like Vila do Conde, Espinho, Aveiro, and even Viana do Castelo. On the other hand, you have also Portugal’s only National Park, a true natural wonderland, Peneda-Geres National Park.
Finally, we have the Douro Valley, probably the best and most visited day trip from Porto. This UNESCO World Heritage site is best visited through one of the many boat tours available.
Lisbon is equally well located for day trips and it isn’t worse than Porto in this regard. Sintra is probably the most famous day trip from Porto, with Pena Palace, the Moors Castle and other historic sites around the village.
However, if you like beaches, you have Cascais, Peniche, Nazaré and even Costa da Caparica and Setubal to the South. Óbidos, Tomar and Alcobaça are other historic and cultural sites that you can easily visit from Lisbon to make a very nice day trip.
All in all, I think we will have to make this one a tie… It really depends on what you like and what you want, but one thing is for certain, you can easily spend 4 or 5 days only doing day trips both from Lisbon or Porto.
Who has better beaches? Porto or Lisbon?
Neither Porto or Lisbon has really nice beaches within the city limits, but both have very good beaches very close by. Nevertheless, Lisbon is a better beach destination. The climate is better, with more sunshine hours and the seawater is also warmer.
Don’t get us wrong, there are a few nice beaches close to Porto! You have Vila do Conde and Povoa do Varzim, which are reachable by metro and Espinho, Ovar, and Aveiro to the south. The downside to these beaches is that the water is cold and sometimes it becomes very windy.
The beaches around Lisbon, on the other and, are generally warmer, and less windy. Very close to Lisbon you have Cascais and a bit further you have Guincho and then Peniche and Nazaré (both great surfers beaches).
However, the best beaches close to Lisbon are the ones in the South. There you’ll find Costa da Caparica, Sesimbra and the beaches of Serra da Arrábida, probably our favorites in Portugal.
Lisbon clearly wins this one!
Which has friendlier locals, Lisbon or Porto?
We are from Porto, so naturally, Porto wins this one! Easily… Oh, you need more info?
In General people in Portugal are very nice, warm and welcoming, which is another great reason to visit Portugal. However, in Porto that is magnified, the tripeiros (trip eater – local slang name for the people from Porto) are very down to earth, real people who love to talk with foreigners and typically accept them very well.
In Lisbon, there’s a bigger distance between people, probably because the city is bigger and more cosmopolitan, as we said above.
So, as we said, Porto wins this one!
Accommodation in Porto and Lisbon
Porto has evolved very much in this regard in the last 10 years. Many fancy hotels, cheap hostels, and guest houses have opened and now the city has a wide range of accommodation offers. Yet, Lisbon is in the business for much longer, and still has the best hotels and so many other hostels, hotels, guest houses, air BnB and so on!
Lisbon wins this one, it simply has more and better hotels! Anyway, keep in mind that both towns are very popular, and you really should book in advance in either city.
Which is the best shopping town, Lisbon or Porto?
As you might expect from the capital and bigger city Lisbon wins this one. Lisbon is also fancier and more cosmopolitan, with all the major stores and everything you expect to find in the big European Capital. Though, it’s much cheaper than all the other western European capitals.
Porto has been receiving lots of investment lately, and if you love to shop you won’t get bored in Porto. There are plenty of shops and shopping streets in Porto, but it’s still behind Lisbon.
Where’s the best nightlife – Porto vs Lisbon
This is another clear win for Lisbon. Lisbon’s nightlife is wilder and has a huge range of things to do and places to go. Bairro Alto is easily the center on Lisbon’s nightlife, but it comes to life very late, at about 2 a.m., but the area is full of bars, restaurants, live music and people to party with. Cais de Sodre, close to the river, is also a popular spot.
Porto has a much smaller nightlife and in the last years has been concentrated around Rua das Galerias de Paris, in downtown Porto. There, you’ll also find plenty of people, bars and many restaurants.
Best city for food lovers – Porto or Lisbon
Portuguese food is very underrated and most people who haven’t been to Portugal don’t really realize it. Traditional Portuguese food is real, hearty food with heavy Mediterranean influences. I would say that typical Portuguese food is the ultimate comfort food and the best place to eat it is in the north, so Porto clearly wins this one.
Porto is the best place to try Portuguese food, with plenty of traditional local dishes, like feijoada, tripas, and francesinha. Francesinha has become a symbol of the city and something that true foodies must try when visiting. One of the best things about Porto is the amount and variety of great small, family and cheap restaurants it has. Even downtown, you can easily find delicious, food for less than 10 Euros.
Lisbon, on the other hand, has fewer remarkable local dishes but has a big variety of restaurants with quality food. But it isn’t Porto! The most well-known dish from Lisbon is clearly the Pastel de Belém (the original Portuguese custard tart), which you can’t miss when visiting Jerónimos monastery. On the other hand, if you don’t, you can easily find custard tarts in every Portuguese pastry shop.
Who has the best weather?
This is also an easy one! Lisbon wins this, in every way you look at it. Lisbon is sunnier, warmer, less windy, brighter and it rains much less than in Porto. Porto’s weather isn’t that bad, especially compared to northern and central Europe, but Lisbon’s climate is simply nicer in every way…
Are Porto or Lisbon unsafe?
No, not really. There are a few bad small neighborhoods in its vicinity but it’s highly improbable that you’ll go there. There’s absolutely no reason for a tourist to go there… In the tourist areas, you should be aware of your belongings as in any other country, because these areas are always prone to pickpocketing.
That being said, Portugal is one f the safest places to travel in the world. I would say that Porto is safer that Lisbon, but both are very very safe cities.
Which is cheaper? Lisbon or Porto?
In general, Porto is clearly cheaper than Lisbon. Lisbon is richer, more developed, has more tourism and with that comes higher prices. I would expect everything to be 15-25% cheaper in Porto than in Lisbon.
Again, please note that Portugal (even Lisbon) is generally a cheap country when compared with other developed nations. It shouldn’t be hard to find meals under 10 euros, and cheap accommodations under 50 Euros, less if it’s out of the peak season.
Finally, which is more crowded?
After all, we said above, we can easily infer that Lisbon has more tourists than Porto. Porto has been growing very fast in the last years, but Lisbon had a bid head start and is also expanding its tourism offers.
Despite, what you might have read, I don’t think either Porto or Lisbon is overcrowded! Obviously, in high season, in important landmarks, you have many tourists, but who would expect otherwise?
Moreover, we believe that tourism is important for both cities and it has had a very positive impact on them. This is very obvious in Porto, where old buildings and neglected streets have been renovated mostly due to tourism!
Anyway, Porto wins this one as it clearly has fewer tourists and feels less touristy.
Porto or Lisbon, who’s the winner?
Well, the point wasn’t really saying that one was better than the other, but to highlight the differences between Porto and Lisbon, and explain what to expect from the two most important Portuguese cities.
Why is Porto better than Lisbon?
Porto is smaller (thus easier and faster to visit), cheaper, less touristy, has better food, warmer people (but worse weather), and a very peculiar but charming city vibe.
Why is Lisbon better than Porto?
Lisbon has better weather, bigger monuments and more things to do, better nightlife, more shopping opportunities and a wider range of accommodations but it also comes with more tourists…
Both cities are generally pretty (though Lisbon probably prettier), very safe and offer really good day trip options! Thus, it really depends on what you want and how much time you have! If you have time for both, by all means, visit them both!