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Porto vs Lisbon

Porto vs Lisbon: Summer Holidays in Portugal

When it comes to traveling, summer holidays in Portugal come down to choosing between two cities, with the warmer months certainly being one of the best times to visit Europe. Less than three hours away from each other by train, “Porto or Lisbon?” is often a question asked by those visiting. Bordering the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal boasts beautiful castles and stunning beaches. You truly can’t go wrong in either city, but as we examine visiting Porto vs Lisbon, the real question turns out to be, “quaint history or youthful cosmopolitan?”

Porto, Portugal


Beautiful painted houses line the streets of Porto, Portugal.

Beautiful painted houses line the streets of Porto, Portugal.

Perhaps the most underrated European city out there, Porto is as beautiful as it is eccentric. From being the town that gave the country (and port wine) its very name, Porto is Portugal’s second-largest metropolis right after Lisbon. Sometimes called Oporto, it’s an age-old city that now is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. São Francisco church is a main attraction, as is the Ponte de D. Louis Bridge that arches over the water giving a spectacular view of the cathedral. Along with multiple wildlife tours and nature walks, Porto has a venue of interest for everyone traveling. There are very few cities that can embody the old and the new, what with Porto’s historic center in the Ribeira district, the rustic villages with laundry lines drying in the wind, and the abundance of cellars and wine rooms; you’ll feel as if you are traveling through a storybook.

The banks of the Douro River, snaking through Porto.

The banks of the Douro River, snaking through Porto.

Although there aren’t many beach spots in the area, locals find themselves walking throughout the town checking out the new eateries that are always popping up. Freshly baked bread, olives, cheese, red wine, or crisp vinho verde, chargrilled fish, cataplana (seafood stew), smoked meats; the Portuguese have perfected the art of cooking simple yet delicious meals. When people compare Porto vs Lisbon, many take in the fact that some of the best foods and restaurants are found here. To not stop in at the iconic Majestic Café would be a sin, or get some dessert at the Chocolataria das Flores. As for summer holidays in Portugal, it’s hard to go wrong in Porto where the people are friendly, lively, and dreaming of the future.

Lisbon, Portugal


Stunning Lisbon city-scape

Stunning Lisbon city-scape

Whether you go for the cobblestone art, the classic beach vacation, or the vibrant nightlife; many side with Lisbon in the Porto vs Lisbon debate. With bright yellow trams winding their way through curvy tree-lined streets, Lisboêtas stroll through the old quarters, much as they’ve done for centuries. There is a togetherness throughout Lisbon that visitors feel right away, the spirit of the city being undeniably youthful. As Portugal’s capital, there is much to see. The historic and seashell white Mosteiro dos Jeronimos monastery, the red roofed Alfama neighborhood, elite shopping in Chiado, and the National Tile Museum all add to an interesting, never dull day. Stroll through the Pombaline grid of streets in the Baixa district that opens on to the Tagus in Praça do Comércio, then follow the river to discover some of Lisbon’s most beautiful areas.

View of the River Tagus from a scenic vista in Lisbon, Portugal.

View of the River Tagus from a scenic vista in Lisbon, Portugal.

Taking a city tour with your car rental in Lisbon, may be the easiest way to go in order to reach all of the cultural attractions. Much busier than Porto, the crowds add to the energetic and colorful city. The Lisbon Zoo is an inexpensive place to visit, and afterwards, stop for food at Taberna Tusca (yummy tapas in a historical building). Festivals pack Portugal’s calendar, especially in Lisbon. Drink, dance and feast your way through all-night revelries like Lisbon’s Festa de Santo António or Porto’s Festa de São João. Nightclubs scattered all over town make fine use of old spaces, whether on riverside docks or tucked away in 18th-century mansions. Summer holidays in Portugal are easily spent in this upbeat and scenic city.

The Beautiful Common Ground

It’s difficult and almost impossible to pick a winner when choosing Porto or Lisbon for your vacation. Each destination has its unique qualities and both are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The Porto experience brings palaces set above mist-covered woodlands, craggy clifftop castles, and stunningly preserved medieval town centers that can be explored all day on a road trip through Portugal. On the other hand, the Lisbon experience encompasses so many things, from enjoying a fresh pastry and bica (espresso) on a petite sunny plaza to window-shopping downtown. It’s mingling with Lisboêtas at a neighborhood festival or watching the sunset from the old Moorish castle that may steer you in that direction. Regardless of which you choose, however, both cities boast a temptingly balmy climate that makes the sunny summer months the best time to visit Portugal.

What are You Waiting For?

Porto vs Lisbon may always be a debate when taking off for summer holidays in Portugal, but we promise that you will be impressed by both places. Whether you explore the cities by foot, train, or rent a car for the day; the wide variety of landscapes and heritage is always close by, whether you go to the north or south of the capital. With beaches, natural parks, cultural routes, and accommodation for all tastes, it is hard to escape Porto or Lisbon when on a visit to Portugal.

When you’re ready to set off in search of the ultimate vacation in Porto, Lisbon, or a multi-day, multi-stop road trip through Portugal, Auto Europe can get you there. From luxury car rentals in Portugal, to hotel accommodations and international airfare, Auto Europe does it all, bringing you our best rate guarantee, and award-winning customer service.

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