According to a Portuguese proverb, Porto works while Lisbon plays. In terms of visitor appeal, both cities have their fans, either as short-break destinations, or as gateways to their coastal regions.
For those who can’t decide, suggest a twin-centre break – the Porto-Lisbon train ride only takes a couple of hours.
Spanning the River Douro on Portugal’s north Atlantic coast, Porto is a working city that retains its Old World charm.
In recent years, stylish new bars, restaurants and boutiques have been opening by the month, and the club scene has always been lively.
Temperatures in Porto are less oppressive in the height of summer than in Lisbon, and two of the nicest times to be in Porto are the shoulder seasons (May-June and September-October).
The city is also one of the most affordable in Western Europe – a three-day public transport pass only costs €11.
What to do
Half-day and ‘Porto by night’ city tours are a good way for clients to find their bearings. When the going gets hot, it is best to take a tram or a taxi to the Atlantic beaches.
Otherwise, the Baixa (downtown) district has most of the architectural highlights and some good hotels, while the riverside district of Ribeira is the place to head for bars and nightlife.
Nobody should leave Porto without taking a boat trip to see the city from the river. Other must-see highlights include the port wine cellars of Vila Nova da Gaia (for tours and tastings), and the Serralves Foundation for its superb collection of contemporary art.
Alternatively, take a tour of the former Stock Exchange building or visit the city’s latest attraction, The Sea World aquarium. Refuel at the art deco Cafe Majestic.
Porto is also a good base from which to explore the green, unspoilt region of northern Portugal, including the heritage cities of Guimarães, Barcelos and Braga. Another popular option, especially with port drinkers, is a river cruise up the Douro to the vineyards at Regua and Pinhão.
With its blend of history and 21st century design, the Portuguese capital on the River Tagus is one of Europe’s loveliest cities, and due to its climate, Lisbon is worth a visit at any time of year.
Most visitors enjoy exploring the city by public transport, especially the wonderful trams. Lisbon also offers a full range of nightlife and some of the best gourmet or fusion restaurants in Portugal.
What to do
Everyone should explore the Alfama, the former Moorish district that stretches from the São Jorge Castle down to the river, while the streets and squares of the central Baixa district are the place for cafes and shopping.
Just west of the city, the cultural area of Belém is worth a full day’s exploration. The Metro is efficient and the trams are great, but the latest way to see Lisbon is in a GPS-guided, talking tour car called GoCar. Options include tours of Belém (£47), and the West City and East City (both £26 per car), bookable through Attraction World.
Nobody should leave Lisbon without seeing the São Jorge Castle or touring the bar and restaurant hub of Bairro Alto by night.
Other highlights are the Gulbenkian Art Museum and the Feira da Ladra flea market, held every Tuesday and Saturday in Alfama. The exquisite Jeronimos Monastery in Belém is the last resting place of the explorer Vasco da Gama.
Popular local destinations include the palaces and castle at Sintra, the trendy beach resorts of Cascais and Estoril, and the walled town of Obidos.
Destination Portugal offers 10 nights at Lisbon’s three-star Hotel Eduardo VII this October from £460 per person based on two sharing a twin or double room. The price covers bed and breakfast – transfers and flights can be added on request. destination-portugal.co.uk, 01993 773269
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