Lisbon or Porto – Which is best for you?

Lisbon or Porto? Porto or Lisbon? That’s a question many visitors to Portugal have. This article aims to help you choose between traveling to Lisbon or Porto. Despite being both amazing and popular destinations, each city has its culture and attractions. So, we will explain everything you need to know before choosing your next city break in Portugal.

Portugal is a small country, so Porto and Lisbon aren’t too far away. It takes about 3 hours to travel from one to the other, so it’s essential to establish that you only have to choose if you have little time in Portugal. If you have more than a few days, we strongly advise you to visit both cities!

Porto and Lisbon offer a wide range of things to do, have a friendly vibe, nearby beaches, and great food, making the travel experience very gratifying. We will compare them in terms of:

  • City vibe;
  • Sights, things to do, and tourist attractions;
  • General Beauty;
  • Day trips;
  • Beaches;
  • The people;
  • Accommodation;
  • Shopping;
  • Nightlife;
  • Food scene;
  • Weather;
  • Safety;
  • Costs;
  • Tourists & Crowds

Porto vs. Lisbon – travel

City Vibe

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.

Lisbon is much bigger, shinier, busier, and more cosmopolitan. It’s also more touristy, as it’s been 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 relatively recent in Porto, which has received a massive boom in the last ten years. Historically Porto is much more a workers’ town, and that vibe is visible as the town, and its population isn’t bleached and sugar-coated for tourism.

We are giving it a tie here, as we believe the cities are just different, not better or worse.

Travel to Lisbon or Porto
View of downtown Lisbon and Saint Jorge Castle

Sights, things to do, and tourist attractions of Porto vs. Lisbon

As we said above, Lisbon is bigger and has been on the tourism radar much longer than Porto. It 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 and landmarks include:

  • Belém Tower
  • Jeronimos Monastery
  • Baixa Pombalina
  • S. Jorge Castle
  • Alfama neighborhood
  • Bairro Alto
  • Lisbon Cathedral
  • Ruins of Carmo Convent
  • And its many, many museums.
Porto vs. Lisbon - travel
Belém Tower in Lisbon

While in Porto, you have:

  • Ribeira neighborhood
  • D. Luis Bridge
  • Clerigos Tower
  • Porto Cathedral
  • Stock market palace
  • House of Music;
  • Many beautiful churches and the Cathedral
Which is best for you Porto or Lisbon
D. Luis Bridge in Porto

Lisbon wins this one; it simply has a broader range of attractions and can keep you entertained for much longer. If you plan a short escape, Porto is the best option. You can easily visit Porto’s downtown on the weekend, but you’ll need at least three full days in Lisbon.

Lisbon vs. Porto – General beauty

With bigger monuments and grand avenues, Lisbon is prettier than Porto. Yet, it also has neighborhoods like Alfama and Moruraria with small alleys and cobblestones streets. Alfama is one of the most popular areas for tourists. However, you should note that Porto’s riverside is more beautiful than Lisbon’s, mainly because the city and the river feel so connected. Ribeira is 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 Santa Luzia’s viewpoint looking down at Alfama and São Pedro de Alcântara lookout.

Lisbon vs. Porto - General beauty
View of the city of Porto from Serra do Pilar in Gaia lookout

Day trips from Porto and Lisbon

A significant advantage of traveling to Portugal is that it’s a tiny country packed with things to see and do. Fortunately for you, both Porto and Lisbon have many easy day trips available.

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 lovely beaches like Vila do Conde, Espinho, Aveiro, and even Viana do Castelo. On the other hand, you also have Portugal’s only National Park, about one hour away, 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 Lisbon, with Pena Palace, the Moors Castle, and other historic sites around the village.

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 historical and cultural sites you can easily visit from Lisbon to make a nice day trip.

All in all, I think we will have to make this one a tie… It depends on what you like and want, but one thing is for sure: you can easily spend 4 or 5 days only on day trips from Lisbon or Porto.

Day trips from Porto and Lisbon
The beautiful Pena Palace near lisbon

Who has better beaches? Porto or Lisbon?

Neither Porto nor Lisbon has lovely beaches within the city limits, but both have magnificent beaches nearby. Nevertheless, Lisbon is a better beach destination. The climate is better, with more sunshine hours, and the seawater is also a bit warmer.

Don’t get us wrong. There are a few nice beaches close to Porto! To the north 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.

On the other hand, the beaches around Lisbon are generally warmer and less windy. Very close to Lisbon, you have Cascais; a bit further, you have Guincho and Ericeira. Even further away, there’s 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 wins this one!

Who has better beaches? Porto or Lisbon?
The beach of Ericeira, 50 km from Lisbon

Which has friendlier locals, Lisbon or Porto?

We are from Porto, so naturally, Porto wins this one! Easily…

In general, people in Portugal are friendly, warm, and welcoming, which is another excellent 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, honest 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. People are still nice and welcoming, just not as much as Porto.

So, as we said, Porto wins this one!

Which has friendlier locals, Lisbon or Porto?
View of downtown Porto

Accommodation in Porto and Lisbon

Porto has evolved very much in this regard in the last ten years. Many fancy hotels, cheap hostels, and guest houses have opened, and now the city offers a wide range of accommodation. Yet, Lisbon has been in the business for much longer and still has the best hotels and many other hostels, guest houses, air BnB and so on!

Lisbon wins this one; it simply has more and better hotels! Anyway, remember that both towns are trendy, and you should book in advance in either city.

Accommodation in Porto and Lisbon
Bridge 25 de Abril in Lisbon

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 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. Porto has plenty of shops and shopping streets, but it’s still behind Lisbon.

Which is the best shopping town, Lisbon or Porto
Comercio Plaza, and Rossio in Lisbon

Where’s the best nightlife – Porto vs. Lisbon

This is another clear win for Lisbon. Lisbon’s nightlife is wilder and has a massive range of things to do and places to go. Bairro Alto is easily the center of 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. You’ll also find plenty of people, bars and many restaurants there.

Where's the best nightlife - Porto vs. Lisbon
Nightlife in Bairo Alto in Lisbon

Best city for food lovers – Porto or Lisbon

Portuguese food is very underrated, and most people who haven’t been to Portugal don’t realize it. Traditional Portuguese food is authentic, hearty food with heavy Mediterranean influences.

I could argue 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, something true foodies must try when visiting. One of the best things about Porto is the quantity and diversity of great small, family, and cheap restaurants it has. Even downtown, you can still find delicious dishes for less than 10 Euros.

On the other hand, Lisbon has fewer unique local dishes but a wide variety of restaurants with quality food. But it isn’t Porto! Lisbon’s most well-known dish is 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.

Lisbon also has more and arguably better gourmet and fine dining restaurants. So, if you prefer that kind of food, Lisbon will probably fit you better. Yet, Porto also has a few great ones.

Best city for food lovers - Porto or Lisbon
Typical Pasteis de Nata in Lisbon

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, and brighter; it also rains much less than Porto.

Porto’s weather isn’t that bad, especially if compared to northern and central Europe, but Lisbon’s climate is nicer in every way… It’s one of the sunniest capital cities in Europe!

Both Porto and Lisbon have their best weather in summer, with higher temperatures and less rain, while winters are wetter and colder.

Best city Porto vs Lisbon
View of the city of Lisbon

Are Porto or Lisbon unsafe? Which is safer?

No, not really. There are a few bad small neighborhoods in the vicinity of either city, but it’s highly improbable that you’ll ever go there. There’s absolutely no reason for a tourist to go to those neighborhoods… You should be aware of your belongings and the typical tourist scams in tourist areas as in any other country or city because these places are always prone to pickpocketing.

That being said, Portugal is one of the safest places to travel. I would say that Porto is safer and less scammier than Lisbon, but both are very, very safe cities.

Which is cheaper? Lisbon or Porto?

In general, Porto is cheaper than Lisbon. Lisbon is more prosperous, more developed, and has more tourism, and with that comes higher prices. You should expect everything to be 15-25% cheaper in Porto than in Lisbon.

Yet again, please note that Portugal (even Lisbon) is generally a cheaper country than most other developed nations. It shouldn’t be hard to find meals under 10 euros and affordable accommodations under 50 Euros, less if it’s out of the peak season.

Which is cheaper? Lisbon or Porto?
Clerigos Tower in Porto

Finally, which is more crowded? Lisbon or Porto?

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 few years, but Lisbon had a big head start and is also expanding its tourism offers.

Despite, what you might have read, I don’t think either Porto or Lisbon are overcrowded! Obviously, in high season, the famous landmarks have many tourists, but who would expect otherwise?

Moreover, we believe that tourism is vital for both cities and has positively impacted them. This is obvious in Porto, where old buildings and neglected streets have been renovated primarily due to tourism! In hindsight, they have a lot of people but aren’t overcrowded.

Porto wins this one because it clearly has fewer tourists and feels less touristy.

Visit Porto or Lisbon
The river Douro and its bridges in Porto

Porto or Lisbon to visit

Well, the point wasn’t really saying that one was better than the other, but highlighting the differences between Porto and Lisbon and explaining 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 has a very peculiar but charming city vibe. Porto is exceptional for a long weekend getaway or a short vacation.

Why is Lisbon better than Porto?

Lisbon has better weather, bigger monuments, and more things to do as it’s more popular and has better nightlife, shopping opportunities, and a more comprehensive range of accommodations. Lisbon is centrally located and allows you to visit a big part of the country from it. It’s also bigger and can keep you entertained for more time. Finally, it’s much closer to the Algarve and its beaches.

Both cities are generally pretty (though Lisbon is probably prettier), very safe, and offer good day trip options! Thus, it depends on what you want and how much time you have! If you have time for both, by all means, visit them both!

Best city Lisbon or Porto
Famous lisbon Tram

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