Lisbon VS Oporto. Which is better?

By NH Hotels | 17:07

New York City vs. Los Angeles. Madrid vs. Barcelona. Shanghai vs. Beijing. Throughout the world, there are countless famous rivalries between the most popular cities of a country, and Portugal is no different. Lisbon and Oporto are both vying for the title of Portugal’s best city – so which is better?


Look and feel: Portugal’s capital city is the country’s cultural and cosmopolitan heart. Among it’s cobblestone streets and beautifully graffitied walls, you’ll find some of the best museums, restaurants, and shops in all of Europe. Lisbon is a city built upon seven hills, meaning there are endless cool neighbourhoods to explore, like the Alfama old town and bohemian Barrio Alto. As you wander, you’ll also notice the city’s famed tiled buildings, a signature of Portuguese design. All in all, Lisbon is a city of contrasts: it is nostalgic yet modern, grungy yet polished, calm yet full of movement.

The people: Being the capital, Lisbon is definitely the country’s most diverse city. Portugal’s former empire spanned 5 continents in its time, a history that the blend of cultures and ethnicities in Lisbon bears witness to. People here generally speak English and are very welcoming to foreigners and tourists. In the past few years, Lisbon has transformed into a start-up hub, so many entrepreneurs have been enticed by the city.

To see/do:  In downtown Lisbon, you can enjoy world-class museums like the Azulejo Museum (tile & ceramics) and the Museum of Ancient Art (Portuguese art and national treasures). Just a short tram ride away, you’ll find Belém Tower, a 16th century defence tower built to guard the Tajo river. Great food and drink can be found everywhere in the city, and if it’s a night out you’re looking for the best places are to be found in Barrio Alto, the riverfront, and on the docks. In mid-June, Lisbon celebrates the patron saint, St. Anthony, with a sardine festival that puts the entire city on hold for days. And, of course, a trip to the capital isn’t complete without the hike up to St. George’s castle.

City connections: Sintra’s red and yellow castle, with its sprawling woods and gardens, is a great escape for nature lovers. Travel as far west as you can go and you’ll discover Cabo da Roca, the western-most point of Portugal (and thus, Europe). Of course, who can forget about the beaches? The region of Cascais has a number of world-class beaches and surfers flock to the Caparica coast, which hosts numerous surfing competitions throughout the year. In Cascais, you’ll also find Estoril and its famed casino, said to have inspired the James Bond novel, Casino Royale.


Look and feel: In the past, Oporto was known solely as an industrial port bolstered by British trade. These days, its cafés, trams, and colourful facades mark it as a modern, romantic city. It has a more provincial feel than Lisbon, and you’ll encounter less tourists, more quiet but perhaps more quirk. It’s been steadily growing in visibility since 2001, when it was honoured with the title of European Culture Capital. Oporto also boasts two bridges built by Gustav Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame). And of course, the sweet, red wine Port originates from this city, making it a staple in the city’s bars and restaurants.

The people: The people of Oporto consider themselves to embody the true sense of Portugal. They are known as the warm and simple counterparts to the more sophisticated, “elite” Lisboans. Their nickname is “Tripeiros,” which means animal guts and has an interesting tale to its origins. It is said that during the 15th century, the city of Oporto gave all of their supplies to famous explorer, Henry the Navigator, leaving them with nothing but animal guts to eat.

To see/do: With the much loved tipple Port hailing from this city, there are more wine cellar tours than you’ll ever have time for. Down by the Douro river, hop on a river cruise or gondola for a picturesque ride. While there, stroll through Ribera neighbourhood and dine at one of its many cafés and restaurants. For panoramic views of the city, climb the Tower of Clerics, the highest tower in Portugal and one of the symbols of Oporto. You can also take in a bit of pop culture while in the city – its ornate Lello Bookstore is said to be the inspiration for Flourish and Blotts bookstore in the Harry Potter series. And if you go in late June, you’ll catch Oporto’s festival of St. John, where the city takes part in a variety of strange nightly traditions.

City Connections: If you haven’t had enough wine in Oporto itself, explore the terraced vineyards and rolling hills of the Douro valley. Head to Braga to see the Bom Jesus do Monte church and its baroque white staircase, the Raio palace, and Portugal’s oldest cathedral. Experience the “Venice of Portugal” with Aveiro, a fishing town full of gondola-riddled canals and Art Nouveau buildings. And since it’s Portugal, there’s always a beach nearby. Popular spots include Espinho beach and Esposende beach and dunes.

So which is better: Lisbon or Oporto? Depending on your preferences you may love one and hate the other. For first-timers, Lisbon is the obvious choice. But for people on a second or third trip to Portugal, Oporto cannot be missed.





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