Can’t decide between Porto and Lisbon? I can’t blame you – it’s an impossible dilemma unless you have all the facts about the two cities. That’s exactly where we come in, with this detailed comparison of the two Portuguese cities!
A bustling capital city or a smaller town right next to the sea? It really is a hard decision, especially with all the wonderful things both cities have to offer to first-time visitors. Read on to learn more about Porto vs Lisbon, and all the fun things you can do in each city, so you can decide which is ultimately the better Portugal destination for you!
Both cities are gorgeous and worth your time, so it really depends on what you want to do and see. Lisbon is the bigger and busier city, and the better option for travelers who want to see fascinating historic landmarks, explore museums relating to Portuguese culture and history and go on an endless culinary tour of the city.
Porto is more relaxed and slower-paced than Lisbon, but with a plethora of exciting things to do and see. Travel to Porto if you enjoy being close to the beach and natural attractions, but also like to explore museums and cultural landmarks.
The most notable difference between the two cities is size. Lisbon is bigger, both by area size and population. It occupies an area of some 39 square miles, while Porto only occupies about 19 square miles. Porto has around 250 thousand residents, while Lisbon boasts a population of a little more than half a million.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see how Porto might be perceived as the slower-paced out of the two cities. Although it’s still a busy metropolis, it’s not quite as hectic as Lisbon. On the other hand, people who come from bustling metropolises with millions of residents might find both these cities slow. In that case, Lisbon will be the more familiar out of the two.
Lisbon and Porto are both good cities for travelers on a budget. They’re not exactly cheap, but they’re not insanely expensive either. Lisbon is the more expensive out of the two, which makes sense considering it’s the bigger, busier, and more developed city.
The price differences are most evident when it comes to rent and accommodation, so if you’re thinking of staying in Portugal for a longer period, it will be more affordable to find a place in Porto. Restaurants and bars are also pricier in Lisbon, but the differences aren’t that drastic.
It’s also worth noting that Lisbon boasts a slightly higher standard of living, and in case you’re trying to find a job in Portugal, it will be easier to find something in Lisbon simply because there are more opportunities.
If you’re thinking of permanently moving to one of these two cities, you should consider a few more things. Porto is the better option if you want to live in a city that has spectacular beaches and offers a plethora of opportunities for exploring nature. It’s also cheaper, smaller and less populated, so I would recommend Porto to everyone who wants to live in a rather peaceful city without huge crowds.
But if you want to be in the center of the action, look for a place in Lisbon. It’s the bigger and busier city, and it should be because it’s the capital of Portugal. Lisbon is also the better option for people who are relocating from very big cities because it will feel more like home, whereas Porto might at times feel like you’ve just relocated to a ghost town.
There are a lot of fun and exciting things to do and see in both Lisbon and Porto, but the nature of the attractions is very different. Lisbon has all the historic attractions you’d expect to see in a capital city, including famous museums, important historic buildings, and countless famous landmarks.
It’s situated on the bank of the Tagus River, and it’s known as the city of seven hills because there are seven hills throughout Lisbon. They offer amazing panoramic views from the top, and a lot of them are home to some of the city’s best-known attractions and landmarks.
The nature of attractions in Porto is slightly different. There’s still a lot of things to do and see, but instead of exploring palace ruins and museums, you’ll be climbing bridges, visiting churches, and spending your time in charming public parks.
Scenic views, fascinating historic landmarks, and vast city parks are just a few of Porto’s most famous attractions. Read on to see all the top things to do in this seaside city, and figure out whether it’s the better option for you!
Livrarira Lello is a historic bookstore in Portugal best-known for its winding wooden staircase that’s thought to be the inspiration behind the interior of Hogwarts in the Harry Potter movies.
The lavish interior decorations are nothing compared to the Art Nouveau exterior, which is the main reason why thousands of people, both local and foreign, come to this bookstore every day. It’s a fascinating building, but the large interest does make it almost impossible to enjoy your time here, simply because it gets too crowded.
Luís I Bridge is one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal, so you can imagine just how significant it is for the city of Porto. The famous arched bridge was constructed in the late 19th century, and it took about five years to build the entire bridge. It was used to carry road traffic on both decks for more than a century, and only in 2003 was the upper deck adapted to carry the metro line.
The famous bridge connects the city of Porto with Villa Nova de Gaia, and it features a metro line, a low-level road, and a pedestrian walkway. Try to cross the bridge on foot if you can, because the views of the Douro River from the Luís I Bridge are out of this world.
Bolsa Palace is a vast 19th-century landmark building popular for its Neoclassical architecture. It features a restaurant, rooms for private events, and daily guided tours for visitors who would like to know more about this Porto landmark. It’s worth noting that only guided tours of the building are available, and it’s not possible to explore the Bolsa Palace on your own.
Jardins do Palácio de Cristal are landscaped Victorian gardens popular for walking paths, fountains, and stunning scenic views. Designed in the 19th century, this is one of Porto’s most beautiful public parks and a must for anyone who truly wants to see all the best this city has to offer.
Walk along the paths between landscaped plots to see all the different plants, sculptures, and the occasional animal. Come to the park in the summer to find shelter from the Porto heat under one of the many tall trees, and admire the scenic views of the Douro River.
Monument Church of St. Francis is a 14th-century Franciscan church in Porto. It’s famous for its incredible Gothic exterior and stunning Baroque interior, with lots of carved wood and rib vaulted ceilings.
The church is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in the heart of Porto’s historic center, and it’s an attraction you can’t miss on any proper tour of the city. Admire the fascinating exterior and don’t miss out on a chance to tour the inside of the church, since its interior is incredibly stunning as well.
Igreja dos Clérigos is a Baroque church with a 75-meter bell tower that’s one of the most famous attractions in Porto. The church is also known for its marble altarpiece and gold decorations, so it’s definitely worth your time to tour its interior.
The bell tower features a spiral staircase to the top, and you should climb it if you’d like to see some of the best panoramic views in Porto. There is a lift that can take you about a third of the way, but for the most part, you’ll be climbing with your own feet. It is a challenging climb, but the spectacular views make all the effort worth it.
The Porto Cathedral is a 12th-century cathedral built atop a hill in the city’s historic center. It’s one of the oldest monuments in Porto, as well as one of the most important Romanesque landmarks in this city.
Although the construction of the cathedral began in the early 12th century, the entire building wasn’t completed until the 18th century. That’s also the reason why the cathedral boasts several Baroque and Gothic elements, even if the Romanesque style is the most dominant one.
Porto City Park is one of the largest public parks in northern Portugal, so it’s definitely worth your time. Even though it’s situated between two busy roads, the park is incredibly quiet and peaceful, and it really feels like you’ve left the city to spend some time in the great outdoors.
Porto City Park features ponds, animals, walking paths, sports courts, and even a few restaurants, so there’s always something fun to do at the park.
Casa da Música is Porto’s iconic concert hall designed by Rem Koolhaas. It was completed in 2005, and since then it has hosted countless concerts and events. Go on a guided tour of the place to see why it’s so popular with both tourists and locals, and stop by the top-floor restaurants to admire some beautiful scenic views of Porto.
Hills, towers, monasteries, and Fado are a few of the things that make Lisbon popular with tourists. Below is a list of all the top things to do in Lisbon, including all the best historic and cultural landmarks in the city!
Alfama is one of the oldest Lisbon neighborhoods, best known for the abundance of cafes and restaurants where you can listen to live Fado music. The steep streets of Alfama are home to countless shops, cafes, and restaurants, as well as lots of fascinating historical landmarks.
Get on the no. 28 tram to explore the winding streets of the neighborhood, and eventually, you’ll make it all the way to São Jorge Castle, another famous Lisbon attraction.
São Jorge Castle is an 11th-century Moorish castle popular for palace ruins, scenic views, and an archeological museum. It’s best to visit the castle in the late afternoon so you can spend the final hours of sunlight walking along the grounds, and then admire an epic sunset behind the Lisbon skyline.
Grab a taxi if you can, or ride the public transport as far as it will get you, just don’t walk all the way from the city center to the castle. The stairs to the top are quite steep, and you might be too tired to properly admire the fascinating palace grounds.
Belem Tower is a medieval defense tower and one of the most famous landmarks in Portugal. It sits on a tiny river island on the Tagus River, and the entire place is incredibly picturesque. Lisbon’s most iconic tower boasts a rooftop terrace that offers stunning panoramic views of the city, and you can also see several interesting sculptures in the Belem Tower Garden.
It’s also worth noting that you can admire the views of this famous landmark from one of the many nearby bars/restaurants. There are several locales that offer awesome views of the tower, and there’s even one right next to Belem Tower.
Jerónimos Monastery is one of the most popular landmarks in Lisbon, as well as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The monastery is considered one of the best examples of late Gothic and Manueline architectural styles in Lisbon, and the fascinating architecture is one of the key reasons for its huge popularity with tourists.
It’s also worth noting that there are two museums you can tour in the monastery – the National Archeology Museum and the Maritime Museum.
Eduardo VII Park is a vast public park in the center of Lisbon with a greenhouse full of various exotic plants. The scenic park is sloped, and it features walking paths lined with trees, distant water views, sculptures, and manicured lawns. Also, there’s an observation deck right at the entrance to the park, which offers a spectacular view of the entire park grounds.
Praça do Comércio is a large public square in Lisbon, situated right at the bank of River Tagus. It boasts a size of 30,600 m², which makes it one of the largest city plazas in the entire country. Also, this public square was classified as a National Monument of Portugal in the 20th century, which should give you an idea of its significance.
The vast square is also home to several notable sculptures, so you can see more than one famous Lisbon landmark in this area. Arco da Rua Augusta is perhaps the most famous attraction here – the ornate arch dominates the square entrance and offers breathtaking views from its observation platform. There’s also the statue of King D. José that sits at the center of the square.
Santa Justa Lift is an early 20th-century cast-iron elevator that links the low-level streets of Lisbon with Carmo Square. It’s a very popular tourist attraction, mostly because it eliminated the need to walk up steep hills and countless flights of stairs. The panoramic views of Lisbon’s rooftops from the top level are iconic, and certainly reason enough to go for a ride in this landmark Portuguese lift.
Lisbon Cathedral is one of the city’s most important historic landmarks. It’s also the seat of the Patriarchate of Lisbon, as well as the oldest church in Portugal’s capital city. It was originally built in the early 12th century, but it has been rebuilt many times after, which is why several distinct architectural styles are noticeable in the building.
The original cathedral was predominantly Romanesque in style, while the Gothic and Baroque elements were added only in the later renovations. There are even examples of neoclassical and Rococo elements in the church, but they’re not as abundant as they used to be.
A lot of the neoclassical decorations were removed in the 20th century, in order to give the building an appearance that’s more medieval and in line with its original look.
Sanctuary of Christ the King is a famous statue in Almeda. It’s technically not in Lisbon, but the statue faces Portugal’s capital city and offers some of the best panoramic views you can experience.
The massive landmark was inspired by the Christ the Redeemer statue in Rio de Janeiro, which is evident in both its size and design. There’s an elevator that you can take to get to the foot of the statue, where you’ll experience mesmerizing panoramic views of Lisbon and the Golden Gate-inspired bridge over the Tagus river.
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Anna is the co-owner of expert world travel and can't wait to share her travel experience with the world. With over 54 countries under her belt she has a lot to write about! Including those insane encounters with black bears in Canada.