Struggling making a decision between Porto or Lisbon for your upcoming trip? In this article I’m comparing them and highlighting the main differences so that you can make such an important life decision!

I’ve lived in both these cities so they hold a special place in my heart. This also gives me the power of comparing them through the eyes of a local.

So how do they actually compare as a travel destination?

Let’s get this sorted once and for all!

Sights & Things To Do

Despite the hills, downtown Lisbon is walkable and with many interesting sights within short distance. Whether is the downtown – the Baixa district – or the charming Alfama neighborhood or the unique experience of riding the tram 28, there’s a lot going on. Plus, the district of Belém has enough points of interest to keep you busy for a full day!

Porto is a smaller city and thus the sights are not as many. A visit to the wine cellars of Gaia a great opportunity to educate yourself more about wine.

Yet, the magnificent Ribeira area – one of the most impressive urban landscapes I’ve seen – overshadows a bit the rest of the attractions. It’s definitely one of the highlights of Porto!

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The iconic houses of Ribeira @ Porto.

I’m afraid Lisbon wins this one. 0-1.

Food

Honestly I think both Lisbon and Porto are an absolute paradise for foodies. Heck, the entire country is! Portuguese food is the true comfort food. Eating in any small restaurant is like going to eat at your mom’s! Don’t miss the codfish dishes – the best in the world – and all the pastry section, including the world famous pastéis de nata!

One thing I’ll say though is that dishes in Porto feel a tiny bit superior in seasoning to me. Somehow they have that extra rush of flavour in your tastebuds.

Porto also has extra points because of the wine (obviously) and the one of the most caloric dishes that exist in this planet: Francesinha!

It’s a close call, but I’ll go for Porto on this one. 1-1.

porto or lisbon food portugal francesinha
O. M. G.

Accommodation

Places to stay in both these cities pop up like mushrooms. Everyone and their mother owns a hostel or an apartment to rent.

In Porto, all the years Porto has been numb for tourism have taken a toll in the accommodation offers. While you can get cheap dorm beds from as low as 10EUR per night, overall some guesthouses and cheap hotels still feel a bit old and lack in some infrastructure.

In comparison, Lisbon the offer is bigger in quantity and quality. It is now in the point where people are questioning the long-term benefit of opening up so many hotels and hostels. Most of times, taking away housing opportunities for locals.

In this particularly area, I think Porto is going through what Lisbon went through… years ago. The capital has the advantage on this one. 1-2.

porto or lisbon baixa downtown lisbon rossio
Overlooking Rossio square @ downtown Lisbon.

Accommodation in Porto

Check this list of the best accommodation in Porto I’ve put together to get you started. All of these are located in very heart of the city, have WiFi and a rating of 8 or more!

Or just go with my top suggestion:

Rivoli Cinema Hostel
 
Decorated with a cinema theme, this hotel is located on a 1930’s art-deco building very close to the main square of Porto, Aliados. Amazing value for money!
Book now

Accommodation in Lisbon

Use this list of quality hotels and guesthouses in Lisbon I’ve put together to get you started. All of these are located in the heart of the city, with WiFi and a rating of 8 or higher!

Or just go with my top suggestion:

Hotel HF Fenix Music
 
Charmingly music-themed hotel, super close to the center. Oh it comes with this stunning rooftop swimming pool.
Book now

People

There’s no denying portuguese people are in general very welcoming and warming. IMO this is one of the main reasons to visit Portugal, if you haven’t already. Most of them can even address you in good English which drops the communication barrier even more!

Still, it is pretty much accepted throughout the country that people from the North are more friendly (the same happens in Game of Thrones, this must be a thing).

Whether was during the months I lived there or in all my trips afterwards, Porto always made me feel at home. Even strangers are able to speak to you like they’ve known you all your life. That is definitely something in the crazy world of today.

Porto definitely wins this one. 2-2.

porto or lisbon porto sé  rooftops
The iconic Sé cathedral of Porto dominating the cityscape.

Overall prices

Prices of food and goods in Portugal are the lowest in Western Europe, so it’s far from being a tough place to travel on a budget.

As the capital, Lisbon is the most expensive place in Portugal with consumer prices around 10% higher than Porto.

To give you a better idea of the prices we are talking about, take a look at the table below. It contains the average prices of some items, as per 2016. These aren’t result of any in-depth statistical analysis. They’re just my personal experience!

ItemPortoLisbon
Lunch menu (inexpensive restaurant)From 6€From 7,50€
Espresso coffeeFrom 0,50€From 0,60€
Bottle of local beer (inexpensive bar)From 1€From 1€
Metro ticket (Center Zone)1,20€1,40€
Private Double Room (per night)From 30€From 35€

As you can see, Porto has the upper hand here again. 3-2.

porto or lisbon rio douro river ribeira
Douro river. A hell of a sight @ Porto.

Day trips

Porto is very close to some other worthy-to-see cities in Northern Portugal. The historical cities of Braga and Guimarães are easily reachable by train or bus.

But the most spectacular attraction near Porto is the Douro Valley, where wine has been produced for centuries. Considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the best way to enjoy its scenic views is by taking one of the many daily river cruises.

Lisbon is not inferior in terms of daytrips. If you’re a beach person, there are a ton of quality beaches near the capital to work on your tan.

Sintra is also a fantastic getaway. You can find many palaces, castles and other historic monuments around the town centre. The green hills around add to the charming and quaint atmosphere of it all. It’s truly a fairytale place!

Other possible destinations around Lisbon are the fancy town of Cascais and the medieval village of Óbidos.

This is probably the hardest one to decide because it’s highly dependent on your own travel persona. Still if someone pointed a gun to my head and made me choose, I’d go for Lisbon. 3-3.

porto or lisbon daytrip sintra palace
Pena National Palace, at the top of one of the hills at Sintra. How surreal is this place?!

Porto or Lisbon: Where To Go After All?

Lisbon and Porto are contrasting cities in many ways. In an ideal world, you’d go for both. It would give you a better grasp of the different traits of Portuguese culture.

However if you less than one week available, you’ll have to make a decision. And now you might ask: how in the hell is someone supposed to choose WHEN THIS VERY ARTICLE ENDED UP IN A 3-3 TIE?!

Well let’s put the arguments of both sides in the table. It might shed some light from another perspective.

Why to choose Lisbon over Porto

As the capital, Lisbon feels much more busy, with a lot more happening than Porto. The tourism infrastructure is more mature and the opportunities for sights, tours and experiences are in higher number (and quality?). Defining Lisbon in one word: trendy.

If you are looking for a eclectic and sunny place to keep you entertained for some days or you’re just seeking some quality beach time too, there’s no better choice than Lisbon.

Why to choose Porto over Lisbon

On the other hand, Porto has awaken for tourism much later and it shows. And that’s OK! The Portuguese essence is much more conveyed here, whether is it in the people, the food or in the lifestyle. Porto definitely feels more authentic. It’s the sort of place where hidden gems are pretty much everywhere. Defining Porto in one word: traditional.

If you are more of the exploring type with a thing for the hip and alternative I’d go for Porto. The same if you a wine enthusiast!

That’s a wrap, hope you’ve made a decision by now. If note, here are some more articles to inspire you:

porto or lisbon background
Porto or Lisbon. What’s your choice?

Hope this article helped to make your decision! Are you more keen on Porto or Lisbon?
Would love to hear where your vote goes to!

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14 comments

  1. I’m going to Portugal for one month for an internship. I’ll be doing some weekend trips so I’ll see both cities but which one should I choose to live in? I like the “hip and alternative”, laid-back description of Porto, but I also like the idea of busy and beachy Lisbon. I can’t choose, my head is gonna explode soon!

    1. Haha touch choice. I can’t decide that for you, but I’ve lived in both and for me and that time, Lisbon made more sense. Maybe today I’d choose Porto though, much more relaxed.

      In your case, Lisbon has the geographical advantage as it’s in the middle of the country. A weekend trip from Porto to the south might be more tiring, but you also have Ryanair….

      Really though one. Let me know what you decide in the end! 😛

  2. A week in Portugal, we are not a beach goer but love history, culture, old town and countryside. Which do you suggest or should we do 4 nights in Lisbon and 4 nights in Porto? We can’t drive so got to rely on bus / train. Is there a must visit in Portugal?

  3. Thanks for your informative article!
    We are going to Spain, Portugal and Morocco in May/June.
    We currently have 8 nights in Portugal. I had originally wanted to travel to Porto, Lisbon and The Algarve coast, however now I am thinking that it might be better to cut it down to two destinations.
    Do you have any suggestions? I was thinking Lisbon and The Algarve? But Porto also looks so wonderful..
    Thank you!
    Carly

    1. It all depends on what you want to do. If you’re into beaches, Lisbon and Algarve is a good choice. However if you’re going to beaches in Spain already, it might be better to stick to Lisbon and Porto.

  4. We’re flying into Lisbon next month, spending 4 nights there then getting the train to Porto for another 3 nights. Is it worth going to Aveiro/Costa Nova as well? They look pretty instagrammable but not sure if they’re worth the detour. Thanks!

    1. Never been to Costa Nova. Aveiro is not a very big city and the main points of interest are seen quite quickly.

      Can’t say whether it’s a worthwhile detour to you, but I personally think Nazaré/Óbidos, a day trip to Douro Valley in Porto or Sintra in Lisbon are more interesting options.