Wed. May 29th, 2024
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Are you asking yourself if you can do a day trip from Lisbon to Porto? I have asked myself that a hundred times. Plus, friends and readers have asked me a hundred more. After lots of research and a good deal of traveling around in Portugal, here’s my answer.

While it is definitely possible to do a Lisbon to Porto day trip (total travel time = 6-7 hours), it is absolutely not worth it, in my honest opinion. I am going to reason that out in this post where you will learn.

  • 5 different reasons why you should not be doing a day trip from Lisbon to Porto.
  • All the different ways you can travel to Porto from Lisbon and why none of them gives you ample time to explore the city.
  • What you should be doing instead with that extra day in Lisbon.

Lisbon is a beautiful city with tons of interesting things to do. It also functions as an amazing base if you decide to do some fun day trips from Lisbon. Though a day trip to Porto should never be on any Lisbon itinerary. Read along to find out why.

Lisbon to Porto day trip – Can you do it?

Yes, you can. A day trip from Lisbon to Porto is certainly doable. Distance between Lisbon and Porto is nearly 200 miles (314km) and there are various ways you can travel to Porto from Lisbon. Let’s evaluate some of the most popular options here.

Lisbon to Porto day trip by train

Probably the easiest way to travel to Porto from Lisbon is by train. The train ride from Lisbon to Porto is 3 hour long. Sometimes even longer.

If you board one of the fastest trains, also known as the Alfa Pendular (AP) Service in Portugal, you will get to Porto in just under 3 hours. If you take one of the intercity ones or the Intercidades (IC), it will take you 3hrs 30minutes.

Porto trains from Lisbon start from Lisboa-Santa Apolonia and arrive at Porto Campanha station. They also stop at Lisboa-Oriente if you wish to board from there. You can check for schedules and prices on the official website of Comboios de Portugal.

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Lisbon to Porto by car and bus

Car and bus are two other viable options for traveling from Lisbon to Porto.

A car journey takes around the same time as the train – 3hours. However, the overwhelming advice that I have received from fellow travelers and local experts is to take a slow road trip between Lisbon and Porto. Make at least 2-3 stops (suggestions – Sintra | Obidos | Tomar) in between because there’s lots to see.

Check out this town-hopping transfer between Lisbon and Porto that shows a bit of Fatima and Coimbra too.

Buses from Lisbon to Porto take about 3hrs 30minutes or more depending on the number of stops/detours they make. Rede Expressos buses run from the Sete Rios terminal and Oriente station in Lisbon.

Lisbon to Porto by guided tour

If you are planning to do a guided tour from Lisbon to Porto, it is essential to do some research beforehand and of course, look at reviews. That’s because many of them are usually transfer services and barely show anything apart from glimpses.

Here’s one highly-rated private Porto day trip from Lisbon that shows considerably more than the others. And you get a sneak peak into many of Porto’s highlights.

We can see that a Lisbon to Porto day trip by train, car, and bus is certainly doable given the 6-7 hours of total journey time. However, what we need to evaluate is whether we gain much out of this longish day trip. Or can we spend that time in better ways in and around Lisbon by traveling far less and seeing far more?

5 reasons you should not do the day trip from Lisbon to Porto

We traveled in Portugal for 10 days the last time we were here. What we essentially did was traverse the length of Portugal between Porto and Lisbon in those 10 days while stopping and seeing whatever the country had to offer in between.

Apart from spending some quality time in both Porto (3 days) and Lisbon (4 days), we also converted these cities into exciting day trip bases. That way, we could see a lot more of both North and South Portugal.

Here’s my take on why a Lisbon to Porto day trip does not cut it when it comes to seeing and appreciating the beauty and history of Portugal. Have a look.

Long train journey from Lisbon to Porto and back

The earliest that you can leave Lisbon for a day trip to Porto is at 6:30am on an IC train (arrive at 9:53am) or at 8am on an AP train (arrive at 11:05am). The last IC train from Porto to Lisbon leaves at 7:37pm.

That leaves you with roughly 8 hours to explore the city. Not to mention that you will already be tired by waking early and traveling for 3 long hours. It does not seem to be a great deal, does it?

There’s just so much to see in Porto.

Porto is Portugal’s 2nd largest city. Also a UNESCO World Heritage Site and more recently a European Capital of Culture.

No doubt, there’s tons of things to do in Porto including a trip to the magnificent Bolsa Palace, a walk down the Ribeira, appreciating Porto’s numerous Azulejo panels, and visiting Livraria Lello – the Harry Potter bookstore. A few hours in the city is not sufficient to see them all.

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You will miss out on some amazing day trips from Porto.

This is yet another reason why I am so against having Porto as a day trip option from Lisbon. Porto is a such a good day trip base in itself.

There are wonderful small towns in and around Porto that you can easily visit by train. All under a couple of hours. Take the case of historical Braga and Guimaraes. Or the Portuguese canal town of Aveiro and the historic Alto Douro Wine Region. You would not want to miss the scenic train journey from Porto to Douro Valley for sure.

There’s so much to see en-route Lisbon to Porto.

Apart from the destination itself, there is so much to see on your way from Lisbon to Porto.

Some of the most beautiful places that come to my mind are the University town of Coimbra, the Roman ruins of Conimbriga, and the monasteries of Batalha and Alcobaca. Portugal is literally sprinkled with UNESCO heritage sites throughout its length.

If you look at our 10-day Portugal itinerary, you will notice that as we traveled from north to south, we made stops at many places and took day trips to several others. Sometimes, I felt that even 10 days were not sufficient. I could have easily done more.

That is why, I feel that the perfect way to travel from Lisbon to Porto (or vice versa) is to make multiple stops in between. You can do this either by train or car. But it is definitely more restful and allows you to see more and better.

You will miss getting great pictures of this beautiful city.

Now, this is the last reason on my list but an important one. I mean who does not want good pictures from their travels!

Arriving in any place on a day trip usually means missing out on the early rays of the sun and the golden hue that they cast on every other object. I usually find myself staring at overexposed surfaces on all my day trips even the short commute ones.

A day trip from Lisbon to Porto by train or car lands you in Porto in the middle of the day – not the best time to take pictures of the magnificent Dom Luis Bridge, the Ribeira, or the magnificent azulejo panels. So, if you are serious about photographs, this day trip does not help at all.

What to do in Lisbon instead of a day trip to Porto?

If you are short on time and cannot spend at least a couple of days in Porto, I would highly recommend spending all your time in Lisbon exploring in around the city and more of southern Portugal. Here are my two cents on how you can do that.

Do more of shorter day trips from Lisbon

There are so many amazing places to visit near Lisbon like really next door. It is quite easy to do some fantastic day trips from Lisbon by train – all less than 1.5hours of travel time. Some of my favorite ones include:

  • Sintra of course, if you haven’t thought of it already. The eccentric and magical castles of Sintra are a draw for every tourist that visits Portugal. Plus, you cannot miss Sintra’s travesseiros, a unique Portuguese dessert.
  • Belem is another favorite. It is so easy to get to (check out our detailed Lisbon to Belem travel guide). And there are so many wonderful monuments in Belem including the two most famous landmarks of Portugal, Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery.
  • The medieval town of Obidos with its picturesque lanes and wonderfully convivial atmosphere is a great option. You will love every bit of your time here.

Check out our post on quick, cheap, and easy Lisbon day trips for more options and planning tips.

Explore the hidden gems of Lisbon

It is true that Lisbon has been on the tourist radar for a while now. The city is filled with popular sights and tourist attractions. And crowds, no doubt.

Yet, there is a hidden face of Lisbon that not many people see. Take a tour of some of the most unusual attractions in Lisbon. Walk on an aqueduct and be rewarded with stunning views. Try ethnic cuisines from erstwhile Portuguese colonies in Africa. Explore an underground art gallery of Portuguese azulejos. And much more!

Read our Lisbon off-the-beaten-path guide to plan your unusual day in Lisbon.

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By Lala