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Porto or Lisbon for Erasmus: Which city suits whom?

Portugal, the country on the Atlantic, makes the hearts of students beat faster and for good reason: the blazing sun, the wide beaches and the warm culture make the perfect mix for your stay abroad during your studies. Portugal is also a great winter destination to escape the cold season.

Porto or Lisbon for Erasmus and what you need to know

Once you’ve been convinced by our Erasmus Guide, all you have to do is decide on the best place for your semester abroad. Should it be Portugal? Then the question is whether you would prefer to study in Lisbon or complete your Erasmus programme in Porto.

Both cities have their own special advantages, which is why they are equally popular with students. One thing is certain: You’re spoilt for choice and we’ll help you make the right decision for your semester abroad.

Porto or Lisbon: The Question of Size

Porto and Lisbon are not metropolises with millions of inhabitants, which has many advantages. You can look forward to fairly short distances and will find your way around both cities after a short time. The infrastructure and public transport connections are also well developed. There is an airport close to the city not only in Lisbon, but also in Porto, making it easy to organise your journey. In addition, both cities are internationally oriented. Students from all over the world come to Porto and Lisbon, which is why you will quickly make contact with others and improve your English skills in both places. The first thing we have to say is this: It’s definitely not boring in either city and new contacts are quickly made.

Nevertheless, you should ask yourself at the beginning whether you prefer the offerings of a big city or whether you prefer something more tranquil. Lisbon has around half a million inhabitants. Porto is the second largest city in Portugal. With 230,000 inhabitants, Porto has a considerable size and can certainly keep up with its big brother.

Universities in Porto and Lisbon for your Erasmus programme

A semester abroad gives you unique experiences that you will remember for the rest of your life. But in addition to gaining maturity and new cultural skills, you should also use the Erasmus programme for professional development. When choosing a host university, look at the courses offered and whether they are taught in English or Portuguese. If you want to improve your Portuguese or learn the language, simply attend a language course. These are offered directly by the university.

In Lisbon, the Universidade de Lisboa and the Universidade Nova de Lisboa are among the most important contact points for international students. In Porto, it is the Universidade do Porto that immediately catches the eye for a stay abroad. But there are also other universities that have qualified for the Erasmus programme.

Students’ experiences show that the universities in Porto and Lisbon themselves meet high standards. The practical part is not neglected either. The Learning Agreement with your host university can usually be adapted flexibly in the first few weeks – find out right at the beginning which deadlines apply.

You can’t go wrong with your studies in either city. However, the more specialised your field of study, the more flexible you will have to be in your choice.

Living in Porto and Lisbon: Your accommodation during your semester abroad

In both cities, you can find everything your heart desires in terms of student accommodation – from a classic shared flat to a temporary flat. As different as the living comforts are, so are the prices, and this applies to both cities. However, for a short stay like the Erasmus programme, it is not advisable to take any risks. After all, you don’t want to waste your time looking for accommodation, do you? If you choose a student residence that you can visit and book from the comfort of your own home, you are well advised to do so.

If you book your own flat at MILESTONE Carcavelos Nova, you’ll be living right on the campus of NOVA University in Lisbon. From the MILESTONE Carcavelos Lombos student residence, it’s only a 10-minute walk to the university. After class, a quick trip to the beach to surf and soak up the sun? That’s possible at both locations. Carcavelos Beach is only a few minutes’ walk away. If that isn’t the dream of all students.
Porto also scores in this respect. In the MILESTONE Porto Asprela student residence, you will live in the direct vicinity of numerous faculties of the University of Porto. Thanks to the metro station right outside your door, you can be in the city centre in just a few minutes. If you prefer a more leisurely pace, head to Matoshinos beach and enjoy the warmth of the evening sun.

Food: How to enjoy your semester abroad in Porto and Lisbon

Porto and Lisbon are also on a par in terms of cuisine. Both cities are right by the sea, which means one thing above all: fresh fish and seafood. Not from the freezer, but straight from the Atlantic.

In Lisbon, you can’t miss the popular sardines, which are offered on almost every corner. Otherwise, you’ll find just about everything a capital city has to offer and your wallet will allow: from the indoor street food market Merdaco da Ribeira to upscale or international cuisine. Everywhere you go, there are restaurants waiting to be discovered. But one sweet dish is definitely on your to-do list: Pastéis de Nata. You can traditionally get these little tarts with custard filling at the Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon.

If your mouth is already watering, you should definitely read on. Because in Porto, your palate will be equally spoilt. The city on the Douro is not only known for its tasty port wine, but also for a very tempting delicacy called Francesinha. However, you should not be misled by the cute name. It’s a real calorie bomb made of lots of meat, spicy cheese and hearty beer sauce. The whole thing is packed between two sandwich slices and served with chips. Add a beer, the evening sun on your face and the day is perfect!

Fancy a taste of Portugal? Then explore our wide selection of typical Portuguese dishes and food you shouldn’t miss now.

Partying and going out in Porto and Lisbon

Let’s get one thing straight: You can enjoy the nightlife in both cities every day without exception. After all, there are plenty of party-hungry students in Porto and Lisbon who love to flirt, drink and dance. After all, having fun is part and parcel of a semester abroad.

While Lisbon, typically the capital, has a wide range of activities on offer, Porto scores points above all for its informal atmosphere, which certainly doesn’t get in the way of the party mood. After lectures, many students meet in the pubs, bars and restaurants near the Universidade do Porto to turn night into day. People know each other and party in the clubs no less than in the capital. Cheap wine is part of the deal, of course. In Lisbon, much of the evening and nightlife takes place in the Bairro Alto bar district or in the bars of Pink Street. If you can hold out until after midnight, you can move on to one of the city’s many clubs.

Culture and leisure: what Lisbon and Porto have to offer

There is a lot to do in both cities, which is why one semester is hardly enough time to really get to know the place: Starting with the sights of the respective city to the varied excursions in the surrounding countryside. In addition, you can look forward to lots of leisure activities that you might not find in your home country.

If you live in Lisbon, you must at least once attend a fado performance and see the city’s landmark. The Torre de Belém is a reminder of the history of the former seafaring nation. Other sights are the Castelo de São Jorge or the historic city centre of Alfama, where time has stood still. If you have had enough of the many romantic viewpoints and sightseeing, simply go surfing or swimming at one of the many beaches.

You can also enjoy swimming and surfing while studying in Porto – thanks to the many beaches, which you can reach quickly by public transport or by bike. There is also plenty of history to discover in Porto. But we don’t want to give too much away. For a special kind of city exploration, we recommend our ultimate insider tips for Porto. And what you shouldn’t miss: the tradition of the famous port wine in the nearby Douro Valley. Find out how to get there and which other tours should be on your list in our article Day trips from Porto.

Conclusion: Study in Porto or Lisbon? It depends!

The question of the right place for your semester abroad depends mainly on your needs and preferences. Lisbon is definitely the right place if you love the hustle and bustle of the big city, need the internationality and want to breathe in the flair of a capital city. If you like it more manageable, but more personal, Porto is probably higher up the list. But no matter what you decide in the end: Both cities are worth a visit and an absolute highlight when you study in Portugal.



Nikolina is our Sales and Marketing Intern. She´s an old soul who spends her free time listening to Sinatra and watching old movies. Her dream is to move to New York and make a career in show business.

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