City Battles: Lisbon vs Porto - Where Should You Visit?
Portugal is easily one of Europe's most beautiful countries. Whether your visiting the mainland, Madeira or even the Azores you will be welcomed by picturesque natural beauty.
Often deciding on where to visit in Portugal can be hard and this normally creates a bit of a predicament - should you visit the capital Lisbon, or its neighbour Porto? Today, I hope to make that decision a little easier for you as we look into the pros and cons of both.
A quick overview of both cities to give you a little background on each.
Capital of Portugal
Second Largest City in Portugal
Population of 550,000
Population of 250,000
Famous for amazing food and art
Famous for port wine and historic bridges
Recommended stay: 3-4 days
Recommended stay: 3-4 days
One of Europe's oldest cities! (205 BC)
Portugal gets its name from Porto
The capital is truly something special and completely unique to its Spanish cousin Madrid, British cousin London and French cousin Paris. As I mentioned before, its also very historic and both of these reasons combined are just great examples of why you have to visit the city known by native speakers as 'Lisboa'.
The city is very steep (quite literally named the city of seven hills) which makes for steady walking both uphill and down, therefore you must make sure that you bring suitable footwear - stilettos are a huge NO NO! If you want to take advantage of the hills, however, visit the 11th-century Castelo de São Jorge (Saint George's Castle) which illuminates at night and can only be described as a real beauty!
If you didn't know already, Lisbon is actually very affordable which is one of the main pros for going. You can eat for under €10 in plenty of restaurants and coffee shops all across the capital. Expect to find cheap beers as well, some bars even offering pints for as low as €2. Whilst it is basically a tradition to drink Super Bock in Portugal - try some of the city's other local beers such as Sagres and my personal favourite Cerveja Letra.
Lisbon has a bit of everything - sun (depending on when you visit), beaches, a huge variety of shops, historic buildings and museums and is sooo affordable - what's not to love!?
How Long Should Your Trip to Lisbon Be?
You really should give yourselves good time to be able to explore a load of what Lisbon has to offer. Obviously, going for 24 hours will give you a moderate amount of time to see some parts of Lisbon, but to truly take in the culture, environment and the best bits of the capital you will need around 3-4 days.
For those of you that don't have this long, please do not worry. Make full use of the wonderful public transport infrastructure that the city has, such as its wonderful-looking trams and its metro, trains and taxis. Bolt tends to be a lot cheaper than Uber in Lisbon which is a handy little tip to remember during your stay.
The best time to visit is always going to be during the summertime, as this allows you to feel more relaxed and you can even enjoy a nice beer on the beachfront. Summer is very busy and overcrowded, however, and is certainly something to keep in mind. A great alternative is to visit in October during the off-peak season and allows you to see Lisbon without having to dodge past oncoming tourists. Although, it is slightly colder, the wonderful autumnal scenery transforms Lisbon into a different type of beauty.
As I referred to earlier, the country of Portugal actually gets its name from Porto which is largely thanks to the Roman empire who took control of the region in the 4th century. When they took charge they added a new port which was known as "Portus Cale". Portus Cale or Porto largely influenced the country's name, rather than it being the other way around!
Unlike Lisbon the city is very walkable and using public transport isn't as much a necessity. Like Lisbon, though, it is very hilly and if you really can't be bothered to keep walking up and down tiresome hills, once again I would advise you to utilize the public transport. If you can find the time and energy to explore the city on foot, though, it is a really great way to get around. This way you are able to really consume the culture and surroundings around you, and you may even end up stumbling into some really cool places.
The city is very accessible for foreign tourists with daily flights coming from most major European airports. To look for the best and cheapest times to fly to Porto take a look at Skyscanner and filter by month.
What Must You See in Porto?
The city certainly doesn't have as many attractions as Lisbon but it offers a completely different vibe to the capital. It has loads of quaint shops and cafés, plenty of port bars and 'York Shamblesesque' cobbled streets. It is certainly a perfect city break destination and somewhere where you can relax, casually stroll around and take in some incredible surroundings.
If you are visiting Porto you will be wanting to visit attractions and take on experiences that really emulate the city (bridges, museums and port houses). To make it easier for you I will break down each of these with my personal favourite.
There's certainly no competition as to what the best and most iconic bridge is in Porto - Ponte de Dom Luis I. Rated as the #1 best thing to do in Porto by TripAdvisor users, this double-decker bridge is over 130 years old and connects the city over the Douro River. Whilst it isn't the biggest bridge in the city, it is by far the most notable and it's central location is really helpful for exploring each side of the city.
Porto is an extremely old city, over 3000 years in fact, and deservedly has many, many museums around the city to showcase this. My favourite museum has to be Casa do Infante which I think perfectly demonstrates Porto's history the best. You also have the Military Museum, Pharmaceutical Museum and Transport Museum which look further into their subjects for those of you particularly interested in this.
Argubaly the city's most important export is Port wine and as you might expect, there are loads of port houses all over the city offering unique tasting experiences. Where you decide to go will probably be based on what type of port you prefer to drink. If you don't really have a preference and would like a recommendation on which to visit then I suggest going to Wine Quay Bar. As any wine bar, if you aren't sure which to drink just ask a friendly member of staff who are experts in pairing. Wine Quay Bar has superb riverside views which is great as even if you don't like the wine, you won't feel that it was a wasted trip!
Who's the Winner?
For a long time the answer to this question would have clearly been Lisbon, after all, Porto was long known as being Lisbon's ugly sister. Nowadays, Porto has really become one of Europe's most popular destinations and has began to close that gap massively. In ten years time or potentially even less, I may have come back to this post and award the title to Porto - but for now I will stick with Lisbon.
Which two cities do you want us to look at next? Let us know in the comment section below!
If you would like to see another post from this series why not check out City Battles: Málaga vs Seville - The Clash of Andalusia. Also, don't forget to follow us on Instagram below, to keep up to date with our latest blogs and social posts!