Porto or Lisbon? Which city should I choose?

I’ve lived short term in both of these Portuguese cities – a year in Lisbon (on and off) and a couple of months in Porto. As I love them both, it is quite difficult to choose! Let’s take a deep dive into what these cities can offer and weigh up the pros and cons. So, which city are you going to choose – Porto or Lisbon?

Site seeing and Tourism

Both cities are amazing to travel and enjoy – full of history and beautiful Churches! If you are heading to Portugal and only have time to see one city out of either Porto or Lisbon then I would recommend that you go with Lisbon as the capital due to the sites of Castelo Sao Jorge, Praca da Commercio and Jeronimos Monastery. Spend at least 3-4 days enjoying the city.

However, if you are looking for a place to enjoy Port wine then go to Porto! Porto really is the city for gastronomy and wine drinkers. You can take a day trip from Porto to the Duoro valley to see the vinyards and enjoy Port from the source.

What to do in Lisbon
Beautiful Lisbon

Overall Verdict – Lisbon

Accessibility

If you want to know which is the best city to get to and get around, you won’t really find an answer. Both Porto and Lisbon have an airport that is accessible by the metro, a good bus and train system and trams. If you want a city that is more walkable then go for Porto – you will probably find that you spend less on the Metrolink there. However, both of these cities are equally accessible so I’m going to call it a draw on this one.

Overall Verdict – draw

Studying

Both cities have excellent universities. The University of Lisbon is ranked #197 in the world and Porto #225 on the global rankings so you really can’t go wrong. The Times higher education ranking this year (2022) was 401 for the University of Porto and 501 for the University of Lisbon. The University of Lisbon is a bit bigger than Porto – Porto is the second largest Portuguese university by number of enrolled students, after the University of Lisbon. Porto also has one of the most noted research outputs in Portugal.

However, one of the added advantages of Porto is that it does have a slightly lower cost of living, especially on rent. This is why I’m going to choose Porto as the favourite for studying. Oh, and also the Port haha!

Overall Verdict – Porto

Food and Drink

Lisbon has some fantastic places to eat out including the fish restaurants of Belem and the Time out Market. However, for food and drink I feel that Porto tops the list again! Grab a Francescina, the traditional Porto sandwich with a sauce and egg on top! Or pop over to Gaia to the port wine cellars for wine tours – there are over 40 of them! The Lisbonites call people from Porto ‘Tripeiros’ which actually means tripe eaters! So you see that you can get some even more interesting dishes here in Porto!

Brunch in Porto
Food and drink in Porto

Overall Verdict – Porto

Social Life, Nightlife and Bars

Some people argue that the nightlife of Porto is even better than that of Lisbon. I have had some great nights out in both cities, but have to go for Lisbon on this one. Lisbon is a very happening city – as the capital you won’t be disappointed on a night out. Head to Bairro Alto and Pink Street!

You will be pleased to know that it’s very easy to meet people in both cities. There are plenty of Meet Ups and Facebook groups for both locals and expats.

Overall Verdict – Lisbon

Accommodation

There are some fantastic places in both cities especially if you have money to spend. The rich tend to gravitate towards the coast in both cities – Cascais in Lisbon and Foz in Porto. If you are looking for cheaper areas, of course head slightly out of the city, but if you are in Lisbon I would not recommend Amadora or Loures.

Cost of living in Porto
Ribeira in Porto along the river front

I would say that Porto has relatively few ‘bad areas’ compared to Lisbon where there are certainly districts you will want to avoid. You also get more for your money in Porto, so I’m going to give the point to Porto on this one!

Overall Verdict – Porto

Value for Money

You will probably notice a different of at least 10% on prices for shopping, food and drink – Porto being the much cheaper option. However, as mentioned in the previous paragraph, where you will really notice the difference in price will be in rent. Avoid the main busy areas and you will start to get to know the local eateries and cheapest shops.

Overall Verdict – Porto

What about you? Which city do you prefer – Porto or Lisbon? I’d love to hear your comments on my blog!

You might also like to read about living in Porto as an expat and FC Porto Stadium Tour

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