Porto Or Lisbon: Pros, Cons and Differences

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Struggling making a decision between Porto or Lisbon for your upcoming trip? 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 a short distance.

Whether is the downtown – including the Baixa district or the charming Alfama neighborhood there’s a lot going on. Plus, the district of Belém has enough highlights 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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Food

Quit frankly, 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 flavor in your taste buds.

Porto also has extra points because of the wine (obviously) and one of the most caloric dishes that exist on 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. Prices are rising as much as 20% per year (!) and most of the times, it’s taking away housing opportunities for locals.

In this particular area, I think Porto is going through what Lisbon went through… years ago. The capital has the advantage on this one, just because the offer is bigger. 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 the very heart of the city, have WiFi and a rating of 8 or more!

Or just go with my top suggestion:

porto city guide travel hotel accommodation value for money
Image source: Booking.com
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!

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:

road trip portugal lisbon - Hotel HF Fenix Music best hotel lisbon swimming pool rooftop
Image source: Booking.com
Hotel HF Fenix Music

Charmingly music-themed hotel, super close to the center. Oh it comes with this stunning rooftop swimming pool.

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 afterward, 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.

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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 a 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.

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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 center. 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 posh town of Cascais or 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.

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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 have 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?!

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

Why 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 an 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.

Booking.com

Why choose Porto over Lisbon

Porto has awakened 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!

Booking.com

How to get to Lisbon or Porto

The best way is by air. Lisbon and Porto are very well served by airline connections from all over Europe and also from the U.S., South America, and Africa.

Where to stay in Portugal

To make your life easier, start your search with my pre-selection of the best hostels/hotels/guesthouses/villas:

These include only accommodations with great-to-excellent rating and a good free WiFi . You can’t go wrong with these.

Best time to go to Portugal

While summers are long in Portugal and you can expect good weather anywhere between May and October, make sure you avoid August. Unless you have a thing for packed beaches!

Best travel resources from Porto and Lisbon

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

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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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40 comments 💬

  1. Hey, Diego Pietruszka. Can you please be polite and do not write obscene foul language? Please be polite and considerate. Thank you.

  2. Interesting, but it would have been easier to read if the writer’s first language was English. While the information may have been correct, the writing was not always clear. I give the writer an A for effort.

    1. That is what can be defined as a shitty comment!
      Don’t like his english, just don’t read it, move on and you will save everybody from having to read your stupidity.

  3. Maybe it’s time to look at other places in Portugal as both Lisbon and Porto are expensive and packed with tourists these days. I would rent a car and drive along the stunning coast of Portugal.

  4. Hi, Great site, Just found this one, have to say one of the best and easiest to read and use. We are wondering if you could help with this question. We are two artists retiring from the US to Portugal this spring and are overwhelmed as where to go, Oporto areas or Lisboa areas. We have visited before and loved to many areas. Cost is a factor of course. I have written to many site regarding artists and sadly have not heard from anyone, so here’s hoping you can help, any ideas are helpful. We don’t want to be in an expat community per se as we love culture and diversity. Thank you in advance and keep up the great work. (apologies that this is not in Portuguese as we are just learning) Obrigada

    1. I’m unsure here: what is the question? If it’s Lisbon vs Porto this article should provide some help!

  5. I’m a very big fan of yours. I followed your Azores itinerary to a t and it didn’t disappoint and I came back to see if you have a road trip itinerary from Porto – Algarve. Do you have one or do you think this plan will be way too packed? We are planning a trip in April 19-28 and will be flying to Porto and leaving from Porto. We live in NYC so we are looking for a laid back, traditional and child friendly experience. From my initial research the must see places are Porto and the surrounding areas, Sintra and Algarve region (Lisboa as well but not sure how we can squeeze it in). It will be a big bonus if we can also find places to swim during this time of year. Any feedback will be appreciated. Thanks

  6. What a brilliant website! Thank you for an articulate and well written review of the options. Most informative and it has definitely helped me decided on … Lisbon AND Porto!

  7. I”m considering retiring to Portugal, making my first visit to Lisbon next month. Not really a city person but want cultural stimulation. Also like to walk the beach. I initially was thinking Silver Coast but now am wondering if I should look Aveiro and north, especially as I love gardening and trees. DOn’t love high rise buildings on the beach. Thoughts?

    1. Yes if you don’t like rise buildings on the beach, I’d stick to the northern or central regions.

  8. Thanks, great read, I’m actually going to do both as well as azores as have 16 nights. But on a shorter time scale I think I would have to choose Lisbon from what you have wrote 🙂

  9. this was awsome answered all my questions and made my choice of the 2 cities easier

  10. Your article was the first to pop-up when I googled with keywords “Porto or Lisbon better”.
    Thank you for writing this comprehensive article! We will be traveling with two kids ages 5 and 9. At the moment, we are definitely leaning toward spending more time in Porto than Lisbon, judging from your description. The good food, laid-back atmosphere and small city feels very inviting. The winery is a great idea! Would you happen to have a list or bookmarks on a map of your favorite spots for coffee, bakeries, and/or restaurants in either or both cities that you can easily share? Again, thanks for taking the time to write it!

    1. Not at the moment, but I will probably create a list on Foursquare. Send me an email and I can send it to you!

  11. This was very helpful. My husband and I are going to Portugal for one week in early to mid December. Which destination makes the most sense for this time of year?

  12. Thanks for posting this. This post gives me idea on what to expect from each city. If you have a layover, which city is easier to navigate in short time period?

    1. Both are reachable by metro. On a short time period (e.g. 1 day) you can see more of Porto than Lisbon.

  13. Thanks so much for the article. Wow! What a tough decision. It’s my honeymoon and I need to choose.
    Which would you go for? We’re Londoners looking to relax and explore. But then we’d love to visit, theatre’s, cinemas and other forms of entertainment in the night. Does the nightlife in Porto support this?

    1. There is definitely a decent nightlife infrastructure in Porto – maybe smaller than Lisbon and more focused on weekends but still good stuff. It also depends on where you’re going. If it is September I recommend Douro Valley, great romantic getaway from Porto.

  14. Thank you! We are trying to plan a trip through Azores getaways but we missed out on the Lisbon/Algrave deal. Porto was next up.
    Now I’m not sure which way to go!!!
    What a dilemma!!!!

    1. Fear of missing out? 🙂

      Choose whatever your curiosity wants, you’ll have a great time nevertheless!

  15. 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! 😛

    1. Thanks for sharing, Porto definitely feels more laid back. Lisbon more and more has more people and more things happening!

  16. 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?

  17. 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.

  18. 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.

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