Copenhagen or Porto; a city comparison and tourism travel guide

Porto is the surprise of western Europe. This hardworking and unassuming city seems to have stumbled into tourism without even realising its own potential. The variety of historic sights, personable atmosphere, along with a glass of sweet Port wine, creates a wonderful tourist destination.

Porto may be comparatively small and virtually unknown, but it can rival any of the more established destinations. The unique appeal of Porto is that it is not swamped by tourists in the summer season, and is ideal for a summertime city break.

About this guide: We understand that selecting a destination is challenging and sometimes overwhelming, especially when every web guide or travel book makes each city seems so incredible and memorable.

Choosing a destination is not just about the famed sights of the city, it is also the ambience of the city, the suitability of the weather and if it aligns with your passions and interests.

High-level summary

Which city would I go to? Copenhagen
Which one would I recommend to my parents? Copenhagen
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Porto (Copenhagen is too expensive for him!)
Which for my food obsessed friend? Copenhagen
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)

The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map). The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city. We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip.

Destination details

How long to spend in the city?

Copenhagen can be seen in two days of sightseeing, while a third day provides time for a slower pace (and flexibility to avoid rain) along with a chance to explore the artisan districts (Vesterbro, Latin Quarter and Nørrebro) in great depth. A popular day trip is to visit the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. It is very tempting to stay longer but often, the depleting budget is the real reason to leave.

Porto is a compact city, and if rushed, all of the major tourist areas could be seen in a single day of sightseeing. Typically, we would recommend two days, which could also include a short cruise along the Douro River and time for port tasting. If you wished to extend a stay by a further two days, there are enjoyable day trips to the historic towns of Guimarães and Braga.

When to visit?

Porto is one of the best European cities for a summer (and August) city break. While the rest of southern Europe swelters under the unbearable summer heat, Porto experiences pleasant weather and not completely overrun by tourists.

Winters are mild, but very wet, and there is a high chance of rain from October through to May. During the middle two weeks of June are the Santos Populares festivals and this is a great time to visit the city.

Copenhagen’s weather is not as dismal as most visitors initially presume, and not cold as the other Scandinavian countries it is often mentally lumped with. The summer will always provide the best weather, and this aligns with the peak season, late spring and autumn can also offer decent sightseeing weather. The winters are cool and wet, but as many of the city’s sights are indoors, it is still possible for a better value (relatively!) city-break.

Is it for me?

There is a lot to love about Copenhagen, there are funky art installations, wonderful tourist attractions and a great vibe about the city. Copenhagen is a tolerant and inclusive city, which is popular with all ages, diversities and tourist types.

The main consideration is the astronomical price of everything. For context, the price of a glass of large beer in a touristy bar, is around 60kr (€8/$9), is the same you could pay for a lunch in southern Europe. If you have the money or can budget well, you will adore Copenhagen.

The characteristics of Porto traditional appealed to the older visitor; it is very safe and there is pleasant unhurried ambience, with a slightly conservative attitude. This mature opinion of Porto is often compounded by the most popular activities; Douro River cruises and Port tasting (which is great fun!).

This demographic of visitor to Porto is rapidly evolving, as modern travellers realise it is actually a progressive city, with a lot to see and do. Porto will appeal to travellers looking for somewhere slightly different, but want a hassle free trip with decent tourist facilities. Being one of the safest cities in Europe makes it ideal for solo/female travellers.

The perfect 48hours

Porto: Considering the size of Porto there is a lot to see, and will provide an enjoyable 48 hours.
Below is an interactive map of this tour - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow, with optional sights and section in grey.

A tour of Porto typically starts in the Se district, with the gothic cathedral and ancient city walls. Next is the Baixa district, where is found the Avenida dos Aliados, and the view from top of the Clérigos Tower.

For the latter part of the day and evening visit the ancient Ribeira district, which lines the banks of the Douro River. For the evening join one of the boat cruises along the river or to party head to the Vitória district.

porto Avenida dos Aliados

The Avenida dos Aliados is the grand plaza of central Porto

The morning of the second day, ride the traditional tram to the Foz district, which is positioned at the mouth of the Douro River and extends along a rocky coastline to the beach of Matosinhos.

The afternoon, and highlight of Porto, are the tours of the Port cellars and Port tasting. Lining the southern banks of the Douro River are eight of the major Port producers, each with their vast cellars and tasting tours. You’ll happily leave Porto a Port connoisseur and a little tipsy…

Copenhagen offers so much for a fun-packed 48 hours. Below is an interactive tour map - day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow.

Being in the Rådhuspladsen, main plaza of Copenhagen, and wander up the primary shopping street the Strøget. This leading into the Latin Quarter, and a highlight is the Rundertaarn (Round tower) and view. Nyhavn is the 17th-century canal district with traditional painted houses, and a favourite with tourists. Departing from the docks are canal boat tours and are an enjoyable way to experience the waterways and view the overrated Mermaid Statue.

For lunch cross the canal to the Bridge Street Kitchen for a popular street food market, and relaxed location for lunch. Next is Christiania, a once bohemian commune, but pushy drug dealers and influx of tourists slightly detracts from the original ideals. The tower of the Vor Frelsers Kirke church provides some of the best views of Copenhagen. Next visit the Christiansborg Slot palace on the pretty island of Slotsholmen. For the evening return to the Rådhuspladsen and visit the Tivoli amusement park, which is characterful and charming in the evening. For the evening find a funky restaurant in the Vesterbro district.

Latin Quarter Copenhagen

The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore

Start the second day by visiting the magnificent Rosenborg Slot palace, where it is easy to spend a couple of hours exploring. Nørrebro is a diverse community with Assistens Kirkegård park and at the far end is the Superkilen Park great for your Instagram posts. For lunch, visit the Torvehallerne street food market.

In the afternoon head into the Frederiksstaden district, with the Amalienborg Palace, where the Danish royal family reside, and the Frederiks Kirke church beautiful examples of grand Rococo style. If you insist on visiting the Den Lille Havfrue (Mermaid Statue), continue northwards past the Kastellet fort. For a more cultural end to the day vis the SNK museum (the Danish national gallery) or the Nationalmuseet Museum.

Tourism Practicalities

Always book accommodation in advance. When considering where to be based anywhere within the Indre By (the central location) is great. Vesterbro is an up and coming area which is trendy and touch edgy, Frederiksstaden is a bit more refined and Latin quarter is a lively. If you are further away, try to be close to a metro station.

There is excellent public transport but often hiring a bike is the easiest way to ravel around, as there are extensive cycle paths and the city is flat.
The currency used is the krone (dkk), which is pegged to the euro at €1=7.46dkk. You must exchange to krone, as Euro is rarely accepted, except in the airport.

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