The original, independent guide to Lisbon
Both capitals of the Iberian Peninsula are fantastic city breaks and it is very difficult to choose between Madrid or Lisbon. Madrid is the more popular tourist destination but Lisbon has many varied sights and activities. Lisbon offers stunning beaches only a short train ride away while Madrid's nightlife is unbeatable. This guide will provide a comparison of both cities and help you decide between Lisbon or Madrid for a short break holiday.
Madrid is polished and carefully maintained while Lisbon feels a bit rugged around the edges but this simply adds to the charm of the city. The architecture and history of Madrid is relatively recent with wide boulevards and grand 19th century buildings. Lisbon on the opposite hand is an ancient seafaring city with its history stretching back beyond the Roman era and many of the important monuments pre-the 16th century.
The magnificent Praça do Comércio, in Lisbon
Many years ago Lisbon was significantly cheaper than Madrid but with the introduction of the Euro and the collapse of both economies both Madrid and Lisbon are of comparable prices to visit. Madrid and Lisbon both have a major international airport that is served by multiple airlines including the budget airline. Travelling to each city will not be a deciding factor in choosing between Lisbon or Madrid.
Madrid has very hot intense summers and for the whole month of August the capital shuts down. Lisbon has good beaches within the city vicinity and is significantly cooler than Madrid. So purely based on weather considerations Lisbon is the better choice during the summer months.
The royal palace of Madrid
Spring and autumn are both ideal times to visit both cities while the winter produces unpredictable weather for both destinations. Madrid in August is like a ghost town, as the entire population heads of the beaches all the tourist attractions are open but most restaurants, bars and family run shops will be shut.
If museums and art are the interests of you than Madrid is the choice for you, Madrid offers the stunning Museo del Prado, the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen-Bornemisza. Madrid has a vibrant and energetic nightlife, Lisbon's is good but cannot simply compete with Madrid. If you are looking for a holiday of partying and wild nights then Madrid is the destination for you. Madrid also edges in front for cuisine restaurants and food. Lisbon's cuisine is hearty seafood-based dishes but no real comparison to delights of Madrid tapas eating.
The central square of Lisbon
Lisbon simply has more things to see and do than Madrid. To fully explore the city three pack days are required but a further three days are needed to discover the surrounding region and historic town of Sintra or beach resort of Cascais. Madrid does have good monuments but there were less than historic Lisbon.
Lisbon and Madrid are both great cities to visit as short city breaks and the main way to clearly distinguish between them is if you wish vibrant nightlife. To party head to Madrid, outside of summer, or for sights beaches and scenery head to Lisbon.