Many tourists travelling to Portugal for the first time face the dilemma: which city, Lisbon or Porto, is more worthwhile visiting?
Lisbon, the country’s capital located centrally and the largest city of the Portuguese northern region, Porto, both bear very distinct characteristics and are separated by a roughly 320 km/200 miles distance.
Lisbon quickly absorbs new trends, also in the tourist sector.
Unwary of the historic and cultural rivalry between the inhabitants of the two cities, foreign visitors have been flocking to both Lisbon and Porto in large numbers in the recent years.
The very successful Porto urban removal carried out in the last decade and the modernization of the transport infrastructures has boosted the city’s tourist potential and made it a worthy competitor to the Portuguese capital in the quest for profits from the travel industry.
Porto is said to have more of an authentic feel than the the trendy Lisbon.
Thanks to the rapidly growing offer of budget airlines at both Lisbon and Porto airports it is possible to fly low-cost to either of the cities on a number of European flights. If you are on just a short city break in Portugal, it is probably preferable to focus on one location at time. The tourist offer of either Lisbon or Porto will easily fill in a few days of sightseeing.
During a longer stay, however, the visit to both of these marvelous cities can, easily, be combined as the transportation options are plentiful. See below the most common alternatives for traveling between Porto and Lisbon.
If commodity is your priority, travelling by air is by far the most comfortable solution.
The flight between Lisbon and Porto takes only about 5 minutes. Compared to the average 3 hours needed to drive between the two cities, it seems, indeed very little, however one should count in also the time needed to get to (and from) the airport and the airport formalities. All in all, you will probably not save time flying compared to driving between Lisbon and Porto, especially if luggage is being checked in, the journey, however, will be fairly effortless.
Currently (summer 2017) there are two airlines operating daily flights Porto-Lisbon. The flag carrier TAP and its subsidiary TAP Express fly between the two cities 12 to 15 times per day (!), depending on the day of the week. The prices vary a lot. By booking in advance you can sometimes find offers from around 40 EUR one way (including all taxes and 1 item of registered luggage). In the high season, however, prices in the region of 110-150 EUR on the same route are not unusual.
Real bargains on Porto-Lisbon flights, check out Ryanair’s offer. Europe’s largest budget carrier connects the two cities 7 days a week, offering three flights per day. The prices can go from the unbeatable 5-10 EUR per flight, to a 100 EUR and more. The extra cheap offer become less appealing if you check the luggage. Count on at least 10 EUR increase in price (on each flight) when checking luggage up to 15 kg. As a tourist on a long holiday in Portugal you are likely to have more luggage though (yes, the Port wine bottles can turn out to be a rather expensive souvenir if you are to transport them with a low-cost airline).
There are several railway services operating between Lisbon and Porto, depending on your priorities as far as the budget and the travel time are concerned. The modern and fast trains only take 2.5 hours but are more expensive, at around 42 EUR per trip in the 1st class and 30 EUR in the 2nd class. You can save some money by opting for a slower train (and with more sops along the way) which will cost from 35.90 EUR/24 EUR in the 1st/2nd class, accordingly.
The advantage of a train trip is that it takes you closer to the city centre than in case of air travelling: the major train stations both in Lisbon and Porto are located fairly centrally and with good access to remaining public transportation network.
Additionally, travelling by train allows you to relax and sleep or, if there’s such a need, to catch up with work as most trains offer free Wi-Fi connection.
The majority of long-distance trains in Lisbon leaves from Gare do Oriente station in the EXPO district. In Porto they usually arrive at the Campanha station and require a transfer to the Sao Bento station located in the very city centre.
Porto-Lisbon by bus
Rede Nacional Espresso, the national bus operator offers frequent daily connections between the two largest Portuguese cities. The tickets cost from 19.99 EUR, the trip, however, is long and takes about 3.5 hours.
Drive from Porto to Lisbon
Those with their own means of transportation in Portugal – a private or a hire car – may prefer to use Portugal’s efficient motorway system to travel between Porto and Lisbon. Tolls on this route are not cheap. In mid-2017 you are likely to pay about 21 EUR, depending on the point of entry the motorway network. Added the cost of fuel, traveling by car between the two cities becomes fairly expensive, if the costs are not divided by more people.
A1 motorway, which is a part of the European Route E1 is the main (and the quickest) Porto-Lisbon toll road. It often allows for covering the total distance in around 2.5 h. Be aware, though, that speeding may turn out costly as road police patrols (also in unmarked cars) are frequent on the motorways in Portugal, especially in the high season.
The national, no toll road N1/IC2 running parallel to the A1 along most distance is a solutions for very patient drivers. You will save money, but surely not time. The road is favourite with truck drivers and you risk to find dragging yourself behind a lorry for hours.
Read more about Driving between Porto and Lisbon.