Both Lisbon and Copenhagen are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is a wealth of information about both cities, but little stating which is the better destination and more suited for your trip.
This website will provide our unbiased opinions, and hopefully help you to choose the best city to visit. The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the underlined links:
1) Introductions -
2) City scores -
3) Which one should I, friends, or family visit? -
4) When to visit and weather -
5) Who is the city suited for? -
6) The perfect 48hours (with map) -
7) Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
Lisbon is a progressive and liberal city, which still retains its rich seafaring history and distinctive Portuguese heritage. The city effortlessly blends history, vibrant culture and exciting nightlife into one charismatic tourist destination.
Lisbon is a city of compact variety; you can get lost in the maze of narrow streets in the Alfama district, be wowed by the grandeur of the plazas in Baixa or join the hipsters and fashionistas in the Principe Real. Close to the city are glorious sandy beaches, and Lisbon boasts one of the finest climates in Europe. This is an amazing city, which you must visit.
Which city would I go to? Lisbon (really tough decision)
Which one would I recommend to my parents? Lisbon
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin? Lisbon(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.
Lisbon is a varied and fascinating city, which takes three days to fully explore. Often, people like to visit Sintra as part of their stay, but at a minimum, we recommend you dedicate two days to Lisbon itself.
For a longer stay, there are many enjoyable day trips, all of which can be reached via the inexpensive public transport. These include, the palaces of Sintra, the beach resorts of Cascais and Sesimbra and the historic towns of Obidos and Evora. In the summer, a holiday to Lisbon can also include visiting the beautiful beaches along the Estoril or Costa Caparica coastlines.
Related articles: 3 days in Lisbon – 48 hours in Lisbon
Copenhagen can be seen in two days of sightseeing. 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. Copenhagen is a very endearing city where staying longer is very tempting…
A popular day trip is to visit the castles of Frederiksborg and Kronborg. Malmö is on the opposite side of the Sound Estuary (the Öresund) and can also be visited as a day trip.
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.
The recommended time to visit Lisbon is in the late spring and early autumn, when the city is sunny and warm, but without the summertime crowds. Lisbon is subject to the pressures of over-tourism at times, most notably being incredibly crowded during the summer months in the popular tourist areas, such as the Belem district and Sintra.
Due to the increased popularity of Lisbon, it is becoming a year-round destination, however, be warned that the winter months can be wet and chilly. Our favourite time of year to visit Lisbon is during the first two weeks of June, when the whole city celebrates the Santos Populares festivals with street parties and traditional dances.
Lisbon has a wide appeal; there are cultural sights, a buzzing nightlife and a blossoming artisan scene. The city will appeal to young or old, either for a cultural trip or as a fun weekend away.
In the summer (May-Sep) the beaches make for a really good extension to your trip and are easily accessible from the city. There is little to fault Lisbon and most visitors leave with fond memories of the city.
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.
There’s a lot to squeeze in for 48 hours in Lisbon.
Below is an interactive map for what we recommend doing in a 48 hour tripto the city; day 1is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow, with optional sights in grey.
Most tours begin in the Baixa district with its grand avenues and magnificent plazas, such as the Praça do Comércio and Rossio. In the later part of the day, start to climb the hills into the Alfama district which is a maze of medieval streets leading up to the castle. Take in one of the viewpoints close to the castle for a romantic sunset and then ride the quaint number 28 tram as it rattles through the city.
For dinner, head into the Baixa district and then for a night out, head to Barrio Alto, with its funky bars and social scene which fills the streets.
The Torre de Belem once guarded the Tejo Estuary and Lisbon
For the second day, head to the scenic Belem district, which contains the Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, and Torre de Belem, along with views across the Tejo Estuary.
For the second part of the day discover the stylish Príncipe Real and Avenida da Liberdade districts or visit the ultra-modern side of Lisbon, the Parque das Nações.
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.
Begin the first day in the Rådhuspladsen, and wander up the Strøget, a bustling shopping street, to the Latina Quarter. Next is the Nyhavn district, with its 17th-century canals and traditionally painted houses, a favourite with tourists. Departing from the docks in Nyhavn are canal boat tours.
For lunch head to the Bridge Street Kitchen for a popular street food market. Christiania is a unique bohemian commune which is worth visiting, but pushy drug dealers and influx of tourists slightly detracts from the original ideals. Afterwards, head to the Vor Frelsers Kirke church, the Christiansborg Slot palace and the Slotsholmen island district.
Tivoli park is one of the world’s oldest amusement parks, and an enjoyable location for early evening. For the later night spend time in the trendy Vesterbro district.
The side streets of the Latin Quarter (Latinerkvarteret) are a joy to explore
Start the second day in the magnificent Rosenborg Slot palace, which can easily take a couple of hours to explore. Crossing the river leads to the diverse Nørrebro district with the uber-cool Superkilen Park - great for your Instagram posts. For lunch, visit the Torvehallerne street food market.
In the afternoon head into the historic Frederiksstaden district, with the Amalienborg Palace, and the Frederiks Kirke church both beautiful examples of grand Rococo style.For a cultural end to the day visit the SMK museum (the Danish National Gallery) or the Nationalmuseet Museum.
When exploring the city, all of the main tourist areas are centrally located and can be reached on foot,he only exception is the Belem district, to the west. There are a lot of steep hills in Lisbon, and sightseeing can be very draining in the intense summer sun.
The “Indre By” area of Copenhagen is the best location to be based in due to its central positioning, but it does sell out. The Vesterbro district is an up and coming area, which is trendy and a touch edgy. Frederiksstaden is a more refined area of the city and contains many of the smarter hotels. For a lively trip be based close to the Latin quarter.
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.