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.
Which city would I go to? Seville
Which one would I recommend to my parents? Porto
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Porto
Which for my food obsessed friend? Seville
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.
Seville is a city not to rush, but to embrace the relaxed pace of life and tapas culture. For sightseeing, two days are sufficient to explore the entire city.
It is possible to see Seville in a single day, but this involves a lot of sightseeing, walking and this rushed approach misses the allure of the city.
If you visit during the summer, be aware of the extreme weather, sightseeing will be at a much slower pace, and should start early in the day.
Popular day trips from Seville include historic Cordoba and the coastal city of Cadiz. The Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) are dramatic, but a rental car (or guided tour) are needed as public transport is limited. Granada is a wonderful tourist destination, but we feel it is too far for a day trip from Seville. Combining Seville, Granada and Málaga is a great itinerary for a week holiday.
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.
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.
The best time of year to visit Seville is during the two festivals periods of Semana Santa (held in the week before Easter) and the Feria de Abril (starting two weeks after Easter).
For a regular trip, late autumn and early spring are the best seasons, as during the long summer (June-September) the city is oppressively hot. Winter provides good value and fewer tourists but there is always the potential for rain.
Seville is a pleasure to visit, so long as you can either handle (or avoid) the extreme heat. This is a city for a slower pace trip, to enjoy time in the open-air cafes and to embrace the culture of Andalusia. This makes the city ideal for a break from a stressful lifestyle or work.
This ambience typically appeals to a slightly older visitor, but assuming Seville is a mature destination is completely wrong. There are exciting tourist attractions, colourful nightlife and a social atmosphere. One of the appeals of Seville, is that it is not a common city break and few of your friends would have been here.
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.
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.
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…
Seville 48 hours Begin the day in the atmospheric Santa Cruz district, with it’s colourful houses and narrow cobblestone streets, which follow the old medieval layout of the city. Afterwards visit the impressive Catedral de Sevilla, and climb to the top of the La Giralda bell tower for a wonderful viewpoint.
For the afternoon visit the grand Plaza de España and Parque de Maria Luisa. For dinner cross the Guadalquivir River to the Triana district for an authentic meal of Tapas. This district is also the where Flamenco dancing originated, and one of the bars may have an impromptu flamenco dance.
The gardens of the Real Alcázar palace
For the second day start by visiting the Real Alcázar palace, the finest example Mudéjar architecture, a fusion of Arabic designs and Christian ideals. For the middle of the day wander the popular shopping streets around Calle Sierpes, and see the Ayuntamiento de Sevilla and Plaza Nueva before visiting the Setas De Sevilla, a vast wooden structure and viewpoint.
At the end of the day either join a cruise along the Guadalquivir River or head into the Triana district to explore it by day.
Porto has somehow managed to slip under the radar of most travellers and tourists, and this is a good thing. Few people even consider Porto, and consequently is hardly a bucket list location.
Seville score 4/5 - Porto Score 2/5
Porto may be the second city of Portugal but still boasts a couple of interesting museums. The Museu Serralves is a contemporary art museum, with the art extending to the tranquil gardens. Museu Nacional de Soares dos Reis exhibits Portuguese art of the 19th and 20th centuries and is housed in an elegant palace. The Museu da Misericórdia do Porto, has a wide selection of religious art.
Porto score 2/5 - Seville score 5/5
Porto could be so budget-friendly if only there were more suitable accommodation options. Public transport and meal cost are some of the cheapest in western Europe cities.
Porto is one of the safest large cities in Europe. With its personable atmosphere and compact centre make it great for solo travellers. Porto may not attract the diversity and number of solo travellers as other destinations, but the safe setting makes it ideal as a trail for solo travel. Eating out along in a quiet restaurant, will often end up listening to tales and advice from the waiter or owner.
Porto score 5/5 - Seville score 3/5