Madrid vs Lisbon: Where Should I Go on a Vacation in 2023?

Planning your next trip and wondering which is better among these two, Madrid vs Lisbon?

Madrid and Lisbon are both beautiful cities and capitals on the Iberian peninsula that often confuse people because they can’t just decide which to visit! 

Specifically, as the capitals of neighboring countries, most people consider them similar, making their decision even harder. However, each city has its own unique charm and attractions. 

So, in this article, you can discover all their differences to help you decide which city is the best for your 2023 vacation. 

View of Madrid from a rooftop.

Table of Contents

Madrid vs Lisbon: Overview

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ What is Madrid best known for?

Madrid, Spain’s capital, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, with a long history and diverse culture.

But specifically, it is mostly known for its artistic roots, which you can discover through various worldwide-famous art museums and galleries.

Furthermore, it is known for many festivals, including bullfighting, and exciting activities and events, like football and Fashion Week.

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ What is Lisbon best known for?

Lisbon, Portugal’s capital, is one of the oldest cities in Europe, making it a top destination for history lovers.

Furthermore, it is known for its charming streets, colorful buildings, and stunning views of the Tagus River.

The city is also famous for its delicious seafood and lively music scene.

So, it’s a city full of culture, history, and beauty, attracting travelers of different interests and ages. 

View of the Gloria Funicular in Lisbon.
Gloria Funicular in Lisbon

Madrid vs Lisbon: Weather & Best Time to Visit

πŸ‘πŸ» Where should I go during summer?

Deciding between Madrid and Lisbon for a summer vacation can be a tough choice.

Both cities have a Mediterranean climate, with sunny and dry weather.

So, travelers can easily explore all the attractions and enjoy lively nightlife in both cities. 

Frankly, deciding where to go for a summer vacation is up to your preferences.

For instance, if you prefer a summery and relaxing experience by the beach, then Lisbon should definitely be your choice.

Otherwise, if you are looking for a city with a lively atmosphere and bustling nightlife, Madrid is the place to be. 

πŸ‘πŸ» Where should I go during winter?

When it comes to deciding between Madrid and Lisbon for a winter vacation, there are a few things to consider.

Madrid can get quite chilly during the winter months. But it also offers a range of indoor activities, such as museums, galleries, and cozy cafes.

Lisbon, on the other hand, has a milder climate and offers plenty of outdoor activities such as hiking, surfing, and exploring the city’s historic neighborhoods. 

So, if you are looking for a winter vacation with a festive atmosphere, Madrid is the place to be due to its beautiful Christmas markets and holiday lights.

However, Lisbon is the perfect destination for those seeking a more laid-back winter vacation with outdoor adventures. 

View of a cafe in Historical Center in Madrid
Historical Center in Madrid

πŸ‘πŸ» Where should I go during spring?

Spring is a wonderful time to visit both cities since the weather is mild and pleasant.

Madrid offers plenty of beautiful outdoor spaces like Retiro Park and boasts many events and festivals.

Similarly, Lisbon is known for its stunning gardens and parks, such as the famous Jardim de Estrela.

Furthermore, Lisbon’s historic neighborhoods come alive in the spring with colorful flowers and lively street festivals. 

Therefore, springtime is definitely a fantastic period to experience both cities’ fun and relaxing culture, meaning your decision may come down to personal preference and which city’s attractions appeal more to you.

πŸ‘πŸ» Where should I go during autumn?

Autumn is a great time to visit both Madrid and Lisbon, as the weather is cooler and the crowds smaller.

Madrid offers a range of cultural events during this season, including the Madrid International Film Festival and the Autumn Festival of Madrid.

Furthermore, the city’s parks and gardens offer beautiful autumn foliage.

Lisbon, on the other hand, has a mild climate making it a great destination for outdoor activities, such as hiking and cycling, or even swimming on its gorgeous beaches.

So, Lisbon is a fantastic autumn destination if you still want to have a beach holiday but avoid the big crowds, while Madrid is perfect for those who love festivals and exciting events.

View of the Rossio Square in Lisbon under the blue sky.
Rossio Square in Lisbon

Madrid vs Lisbon: Cost of Travel

πŸ’° Range of Cost of Accommodation

Both Madrid and Lisbon offer a wide range of accommodation options to suit different budgets and preferences. 

In Madrid, visitors can choose from luxurious hotels, boutique guesthouses, and budget-friendly hostels.

Furthermore, many of these options feature traditional Spanish decor and architecture, adding a cozier and lovelier ambiance. 

Similarly, Lisbon features historic hotels, charming guesthouses, and modern apartments.

Many of these accommodations offer traditional Portuguese design elements like colorful tiles and ornate balconies, creating an elegant and classic ambiance. 

Generally, Madrid tends to be slightly more expensive than Lisbon, especially when it comes to luxury hotels and high-end apartments.

The average cost for one person in Madrid per night is about €75, while in Lisbon, it is around €55.

However, both cities offer budget-friendly accommodation between €15 to €35 per night.

πŸ’° Range of Cost of Food

Both cities offer different culinary experiences at varying price points. 

Generally, Madrid is known for its high-end restaurants. But they can be quite expensive.

Still, you can still find plenty of affordable options, such as tapas bars for those on a budget.

Lisbon’s cost of food is generally lower than in Madrid, with several affordable options available throughout the city.

For instance, a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant in Madrid is about €40, while in Lisbon, it can be up to €50.

πŸ’° Range of Cost of Transportation

Madrid and Lisbon offer different options and prices for transportation means. 

For instance, Madrid has an extensive metro system, which is affordable and efficient, with a minimum fare of €1,50 for up to 5 stations.

Still, buses, taxis, and ride-sharing services are also available. 

Lisbon also has a metro system, but it is not as extensive as Madrid’s.

However, Lisbon has a well-developed tram system, which is a popular way to get around the city.

The cost of transportation in Lisbon is generally more affordable than in Madrid, starting with a metro and tram ticket at €1,65, valid for an hour. 

View of the yellow tram in Lisbon and a church.
Busy streets in Lisbon

If you are considering moving to one of those countries and want to know the differences you may want to check out this post about Living in Portugal vs Living in Spain.

Madrid vs Lisbon: Attractions

πŸ† Top Attractions in Madrid

Madrid is a city full of history, culture, and art.

Some of the top attractions include the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace of Madrid, the Retiro Park, and the Puerta del Sol.

The city also has a vibrant food scene, with delicious tapas and traditional Spanish cuisine. 

πŸ† Top Attractions in Lisbon

Lisbon is a lovely city with a mix of old-world charm and modern amenities.

Some of the top attractions include the historic Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery, the Castle of Sao Jorge, and the colorful Alfama neighborhood.

The city also boasts delicious seafood, lively nightlife, and stunning views from its many hills and viewpoints.

View from Four Season Hotel's rooftop and the city from its window.
Four Season Hotel’s rooftop

Madrid vs Lisbon: Things to Do & Activities

Both Madrid and Lisbon feature unique and gorgeous architectural buildings, world-class museums, and delicious food.

The best way to explore all these is through guided tours.

So, let’s see some of the best things and activities to do in Madrid and Lisbon.

πŸ₯‡ Top Tours and Activities in Madrid

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Avila and Segovia Full-Day Tour

5.0 ⭐ 2,620 Reviews

Take a full-day tour from Madrid to two of Spain’s oldest cities, Avila and Segovia.

It provides a guide to give visitors a historical background of the cities and includes walking tours and entry fees to attractions like Avila’s Cathedral and Basilica and Alcazar and Roman aqueduct in Segovia. 

Well planned and well paced walking tour with logical breaks. Oscar & Rodrigo our guides in English & Spanish made sure we understood the most important history of some 3000 years πŸ˜€

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Sanjeev, May 2023
View of Madrid from Riu rooftop under the blue sky.

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Madrid Tapas and Wine Tasting Tour

5.0 ⭐1,640 Reviews

Join this tapas and wine tour to experience Madrid’s vibrant culinary scene.

You will get to stroll through the city’s evening-lit streets and sample delicious tapas dishes at popular restaurants.

Furthermore, you can learn more about the local ingredients used in the dishes with the help of an expert guide.

Also, you’ll have the chance to taste Spanish wines that complement the tapas dishes, which include Iberian ham, salted cod, rich chickpea stew, and more. 

Took a tour with a few strangers. After three hours of eating and drinking, we all felt like we were friends. Manfred was an excellent tour leader. The food and wine were terrific. It was just a really good time. I would recommend it.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Lawrence_W, May 2023

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Discover Medieval Spain 

4.5 ⭐ 1,570 Reviews

Take a full-day tour from Madrid to the medieval cities of Toledo and Segovia.

Both cities are UNESCO-listed sites with historical monuments and fascinating historical facts.

The tour is guided by a knowledgeable guide who will help you witness the stunning landmarks of each city, including the Primada Cathedral in Toledo and the Regal Alcazar in Segovia.  

Ava was the best tour guide ever! Her love for history and culture was so apparent for her country and these 3 amazing cities! Thank you so much, Ava!

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ gillian_c, May 2023
View of the busy roads in Madrid.

πŸ₯‡ Top Tours and Activities in Lisbon

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Sintra and Cascais Day Trip

4.5 ⭐ 2,988 Reviews

Take a guided tour to see Portugal’s natural and architectural wonders in Sintra and Cascais.

The tour starts with a visit to Sintra Natural Park and the immaculate Pena National Palace.

After exploring the palace, you will drive along the Atlantic Coast to Cascais to enjoy scenic beaches.

Furthermore, the guide will provide valuable insight into the history and culture of the region. 

Everything was super. Guide, villages experience. Diego was excellent. I would highly recommend him.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ Diana_H, May 2023
Sintra, View of the well in Portugal.
Sintra, Madrid

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Fatima, Nazare, and Obidos Day Trip

4.5 ⭐ 1,736 Reviews

Take this guided day trip to Fatima, Obidos, and Nazare to experience Portugal’s rich heritage and stunning countryside.

The tour starts with a visit to Fatima, one of the Christian religion’s most significant pilgrimage sites.

Then, it continues to the small medieval town of Obidos, which features charming streets and architecture, and lastly, you can visit the seaside village of Nazare to get a glimpse into a fisherman’s life.

Overall the tour offers spectacular landscapes of the Atlantic Ocean and lush verdant hills.

Excellent and informative tour. Our guide Paolo was very knowledgeable and approachable. The tour was exactly to the description in Viator.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ MauraG, May 2023
View of the Medieval Town of Obidos, Portugal.
Obidos, Portugal

πŸ‘‰πŸ» Lisbon Sightseeing Tour

5.0 ⭐ 1,020 Reviews

With this tour, you can explore Lisbon by electric tuk-tuk, an eco-friendly mode of transportation that allows visitors to travel easily through the city’s narrow streets on this day trip.

The tour is led by a knowledgeable guide who will take you through historic neighborhoods and the most prominent attractions.

The last stops are the Belem Tower and Jeronimos Monastery, which are both must-visit spots. 

The ride and Nuno Miranda, our guide, is great, amazing and took us took us to the historical place that we requested and knowledgeable about it’s history.

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ MariaIsabel_D, May 2023
View of a yellow electric tuk-tuk in Lisbon.

Madrid vs Lisbon: Food

Frankly, both Madrid and Lisbon are heavenly destinations for foodies.

Still, even though they are famous for their delicious cuisines, they differ in their specialties.

Madrid is famous for its tapas, small plates of food that are perfect for sharing with friends.

Some of the must-try dishes in Madrid include patatas bravas, croquetas, and jamon iberico. 

On the other hand, Lisbon is known for its seafood, particularly grilled sardines and octopus.

Furthermore, the city is famous for its pastel de nata, a sweet custard tart that is a must-try for anyone with a sweet tooth.

Still, whether you prefer savory or sweet, both Madrid and Lisbon offer a unique culinary experience that is sure to leave you satisfied. 

View of the historical center building under a cloudy sky.
Historical Center in Madrid

Madrid vs Lisbon: Culture

Undoubtedly, both cities offer marvelous and unforgettable cultural experiences that can satisfy a wanderer’s and a wonderer’s heart. 

Madrid is known for its art museums, such as the Prado Museum and the Reina Sofia Museum, which house some of the world’s most famous artworks.

Also, the city has a lively nightlife with flamenco dancing performances as the most popular act.

Lisbon, on the other hand, is known for its historic neighborhoods, such as Alfama and Bairro Alto, where you can find traditional fado music and charming cafes.

The city is also home to the iconic Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, both of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

View of the beautiful colorful buildings in Lisbon.

Madrid vs Lisbon: Nightlife

Both Madrid and Lisbon have a vibrant and exciting nightlife scene, as well as a more laid-back vibe, satisfying everyone’s preferences and tastes. 

For instance, Madrid is known for its lively atmosphere and endless options for entertainment, with numerous bars, clubs, and restaurants open until the early hours of the morning.

The city’s neighborhoods of Malasana and Chueca are particularly popular for their trendy bars and clubs.

Similarly, Lisbon offers a great nightlife experience, with a mix of traditional and modern options.

The Bairro Alto neighborhood is known for its lively bars and street parties, while the Docas area offers a more upscale experience with waterfront bars and clubs.

View of the plaza in Madrid filled with people.
Plaza in Madrid

Madrid vs Lisbon: Shopping

Madrid and Lisbon are both great destinations for shopping enthusiasts.

Madrid is home to some of the most exclusive and high-end shopping districts in Europe, such as the Gran Bia and the Salamanca neighborhood.

These areas offer a wide range of luxury brands, designer boutiques, and department stores.

Lisbon, on the other hand, is known for its charming and traditional shopping districts, such as neighborhoods such as the Baixa and Chiado areas.

These neighborhoods are filled with local shops, markets, and artisanal stores, offering a unique shopping experience.

Both cities also have a variety of street markets and flea markets, where you can find everything from vintage to handmade crafts. 

View of the Arch of Augusta in Lisbon under the clear night sky.
Arch of Augusta in Lisbon

Madrid vs Lisbon: Transportation

One important aspect when planning a trip and choosing between two destinations is transportation. So, let’s see and compare the best transportation options in both cities.

βœ” Renting Cars or Shuttles

When it comes to renting a car, Madrid and Lisbon have their own advantages and disadvantages. 

Madrid has a wider range of car rental options and better road infrastructure, but parking can be a challenge.

Lisbon has a more compact city center and easier parking, but driving can be a challenge due to narrow streets and steep hills. 

View of the Metro Station entrance in Madrid.
Metro Station entrance in Madrid

βœ” Public Transportation

Public transportation in Madrid and Lisbon is efficient and affordable.

Madrid has an extensive metro system, buses, and trains that connect the city with nearby towns. 

Lisbon has a metro system, buses, and trams that cover the city center and surrounding areas.

Furthermore, both cities offer tourist passes that provide unlimited access to public transportation.

βœ” Is it cheaper to fly to Madrid or Lisbon?

The cost of flying into Madrid or Lisbon depends on various factors, such as the time of the year, airline, and departure location.

Generally, flights to Lisbon tend to be slightly cheaper than flights to Madrid.

However, it’s always a good idea to compare prices and book in advance to get the best deal.

Additionally, consider other factors like transportation costs from the airport to your destination. 

View of Downtown in Lisbon with colorful buildings and a castle on top of the mountain.
Downtown Lisbon

βœ” Which city is more walkable?

Both Madrid and Lisbon are walkable cities, but Lisbon is generally considered to be more walkable due to its compact size and hilly terrain.

Madrid, on the other hand, is a larger city with wider streets and more spread-out neighborhoods. 

Madrid vs Lisbon: Where to Stay

πŸ‘‰ Best areas to stay in Madrid

βœ” Centro (Puerta del Sol & Gran VΓ­a)

The Centro area is the city’s historical and cultural heart.

It is home to many of Madrid’s most famous landmarks, including the Puerta del Sol, Plaza Mayor, and the Royal Palace.

The area is also known for its lively atmosphere, with many shops, restaurants, and bars lining its streets.

So, it is the perfect location for those who want to be near the city’s major attractions, nightlife scene, and shipping district.

View of Centro Cultural Fernan Gomez with high ceiling.
Centro Cultural Fernan Gomez in Madrid

βœ” La Latina

La Latina is a vibrant neighborhood known for its narrow streets, traditional architecture, and lively atmosphere.

It is famous for its Sunday morning flea market, El Rastro, and its many tapas bars and restaurants.

The area is popular with locals and tourists alike, so it is the ideal area to stay for anyone looking to experience the authentic side of Madrid. 

βœ” MalasaΓ±a

Malasana is a trendy neighborhood known for its alternative culture, street art, and vintage shops.

It is a popular destination for young people and artists, with a lively nightlife scene and a variety of bars and restaurants.

Therefore, if you are seeking a location in Madrid’s nightlife scene, Malasana should be your destination. 

View of Bairro Alto and buildings under a clear sky.
Bairro Alto, Lisbon

πŸ‘‰ Best areas to stay in Lisbon

βœ” Baixa

Baixa is the heart of Lisbon. It is a bustling area with a blend of historical and modern architecture, including the iconic Praca do Comercio.

Furthermore, Baixa is known for its vibrant atmosphere, shopping streets, and traditional Portuguese cafes and restaurants, making it the ideal area for travelers who want to be near the city’s major tourist attractions.

βœ” Bairro Alto

Bairro Alto is the trendiest area in Lisbon, with a vibrant nightlife scene.

It is filled with stylish bars, restaurants, and music venues, making it ideal for those seeking an exciting area to stay.

Furthermore, during the day, Bairro Alto offers a relaxed atmosphere with boutique shops and cafes.

View of the buildings in Madrid under the sky.

βœ” Avenida da Liberdade

Avenida de Liberdade is a grand boulevard in central Lisbon known for its luxury shopping and high-end hotels.

The tree-lined avenue is home to designer stores, such as Gucci and Louis Vuitton, as well as historical landmarks, like the Monument to the Restorers.

It is a great area for those who desire a more luxurious destination.

Madrid vs Lisbon: Which is Better for every traveler?

πŸ’‘ Which is better for solo female travelers?

Both Madrid and Lisbon are safe destinations for solo female travelers.

Yet Lisbon is often considered a more laid-back and affordable option.

Lisbon’s compact size and efficient public transportation make it easy to navigate, while Madrid’s vibrant nightlife and cultural attractions offer plenty to see and do.

Therefore, the choice between the two cities will depend on personal preferences and interests.

View of the fountain in Rossio Square in Lisbon.
Rossio Square in Lisbon

πŸ’‘ Which is better for backpackers or budget travelers?

Lisbon is generally considered a more budget-friendly destination for backpackers and budget travelers, with affordable hostels, food, and attractions.

Madrid can be slightly more expensive. But still offers plenty of budget options, especially in terms of food and drinks.

Both cities also have affordable public transportation systems, making them easy to get around without breaking the bank. 

πŸ’‘ Which is better for couples?

Both Madrid and Lisbon offer plenty of romantic opportunities for couples, from strolling through charming neighborhoods to enjoying delicious cuisine and wine.

Madrid has a more cosmopolitan vibe, with upscale restaurants and designer boutiques, while Lisbon has a more laid-back, bohemian feel, with stunning views and historic sites.

So, it is up to your preferences to decide the best option for a romantic getaway. 

View of a couple sitting at the botanical garden in Madrid.
Botanical Garden in Madrid

πŸ’‘ Which is better for families?

Both cities offer numerous family-friendly activities, from museums and parks to cultural experiences and delicious food.

Madrid has a more urban feel, with worldwide-famous museums and a bustling city center, while Lisbon has a more relaxed atmosphere, with beaches and historical sites nearby.

So, the choice between the two is up to each family’s interests and preferences. 

Madrid vs Lisbon: Which city is safer?

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Is Madrid safer than Lisbon at night?

Both Madrid and Lisbon are generally safe cities at night, but Madrid tends to have a higher crime rate than Lisbon.

Still, both cities have a strong police presence and are considered safe. 

Furthermore, since both cities have an almost never-ending nightlife scene, there are always people on the streets, making the cities feel safe to walk.

Additionally, there are many night buses and taxis for safer transportation options.

View of Lisbon at night.

πŸ‘‰πŸΌ Is Madrid safer than Lisbon for tourists?

Both cities are safe for tourists, with low rates of violent crimes.

However, Madrid has a higher crime rate than Lisbon, with petty crimes such as pickpocketing and theft the most common.

So, it is essential to take precautions such as keeping your valuables close and being aware of your surroundings.

But overall, both cities are considered safe for visitors.

Madrid vs Lisbon: Length of Stay

Madrid is a larger city with more attractions and bustling nightlife, so you may want to stay at least 3 to 4 days to see all the highlights. 

Lisbon is a smaller city with a more relaxed pace, so you could see the main sights in 2 to 3 days.

However, if you want to explore the surrounding areas like Sintra and Cascais, you may want to stay in Lisbon for a week or more.

So, the length of stay for both cities should depend on your travel style and how much time you have available.

View of the Parque El Retiro in Madrid filled with beautiful flowers.
Parque El Retiro in Mardrid

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Lisbon or Madrid better?

Generally, Madrid is more popular than Lisbon, but only because it is a larger city with more things to do and see.

But Lisbon has its own charm and attractions that can surely satisfy every travel style.

So, the choice depends on each individual’s preference.

Do you need more days in Lisbon or Madrid?

Ideally, you should spend more time in Madrid since it generally has more things to experience.

However, travelers tend to have a longer stay in Lisbon due to the many places you can visit nearby Lisbon, such as Sintra and Cascais.Β 

View of Lisbon's Rossio Square.
Rossio Square in Lisbon

Which city is bigger, Lisbon or Madrid?

Madrid is six times bigger than Lisbon.

Is Lisbon cheaper than Madrid?

Generally, Lisbon is slightly cheaper than Madrid.Β 

View of the Mercado La Paz in Madrid and nearby restaurants.
Mercado La Paz in Madrid

Is Madrid one of the best cities in the world?

Madrid is undoubtedly one of the top destinations in the world, especially regarding fashion and food.

Is Lisbon the most beautiful city in Europe?

Lisbon is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, filled with unique and gorgeous architecture and attractions.

Overview of Lisbon on a cloudy day.

Why is Lisbon so popular now?

Lisbon has recently become one of the most popular cities in Europe due to its impressive architecture, vibrant culture, lively nightlife, and tasty food.

View of Madrid from a rooftop and clear sky - still wondering which is better Madrid vs Lisbon?

Final Thoughts on Madrid vs Lisbon: Where Should I Go on a Vacation?

In conclusion, both Madrid and Lisbon are fantastic destinations to consider for your vacation in 2023.

Madrid offers a vibrant city atmosphere, while Lisbon provides a more relaxed and charming experience. 

So, whether you choose Madrid or Lisbon, you’re sure to have an unforgettable experience filled with delicious food, beautiful sites, and friendly locals.

So start planning your trip today and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime!