A Travel Price Comparison for Families, Couples, and Backpackers Spain vs. Portugal for Resorts, Beaches, Hiking, and Families

Should you visit Spain or Portugal?

Which is cheaper to visit? Which is more expensive for vacation?

Should I visit Spain or Portugal? This is a common question asked by many travelers. By figuring out which country has activities that align with your interests along with knowing which is more affordable, you'll understand where you can get more bang for your buck. So, let's dive into the details and the data, which all comes from actual travelers.

We'll start with a quick overview, and below we will go into all of the details.


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Spain and Portugal are not just neighbors, they share a similar culture, history, and geography. Over the centuries they have evolved separately, yet together, as western European nations. Even though many visitors will say that they both have amazing beaches, stunning architecture, delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and warm weather, the discerning visitor will easily see the differences.

Spain is around five times the size of Portugal. So, it's often not fair to compare the two nations from a tourism perspective. Spain has more large cities, mountains, national parks, museums, and historical attractions. Spain also has more routes of the famous Camino de Santiago, more coastline, more tomato-throwing festivals, and more bulls that run after you. But when we take the overall influence that a country has on its visitors, Portugal represents itself well, too. With the charming culture found in the cities of Lisbon and Porto, along with the popular cultural regions of the Algarve and Alentejo, every type of traveler can find a place to explore and relax in this smaller country

Portugal is tied to the sea much more than Spain. As most of Portugal's country is close to the coastline, while Spain has more inland areas, Portugal has traditionally been a seafaring nation. For the modern traveler, this is most noticeably reflected in its cuisine which consists of plenty of seafood. Spain, on the other hand, has more land and agricultural-based food options. The two countries also share similar histories as they were once part of the Roman Empire and then experienced a strong Islamic influence from the Moors, only to be then re-taken by Catholic monarchies with a focus on exploration and imperialistic expansion. All of these cultural influences have left their mark in similar ways on the architecture, cuisine

PortoPorto, Portugal
Portugal also has an abundance of beaches. Some of the coastline is dramatic and rocky, while other areas are flat and smooth leading to sandy beaches that are great for sunbathing. However, we can't avoid the beaches of Spain, either. The southern coast is known to travelers the world over as a great destination. From Malaga up the coast to Valencia and on to Barcelona, Spain offers plenty of Mediterranean beach towns. Some are party destinations, while others are centered around luxury resorts. The northern coast is also popular, and offers an entirely different cultural atmosphere (such as in the Basque). And of course, don't forget about Mallorca and the other Balears Islands.

So, which country should you choose, Portugal or Spain? Well, why not both?

It might be easier to look at the practical side of travel to both of these countries to help you make a decision. Flights into Spain might be easier and cheaper simply because there are more options to choose from. Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Malaga, Valencia, and Bilbao all have major airports with flights that connect to the rest of Europe, the U.S., and other regions of the world. On the other hand, Lisbon and Porto are not as well connected depending on where you live.

Once you're in Spain or Portugal, it's quite easy to get to the other country, too. Buses, trains, and flights from Lisbon to Madrid and back are quick and often very affordable. Flights between the two cities costs around $50 on a budget airline. Buses take around 12 hours, and also cost around the same price as a budget airline. The train can usually be cheaper (around $30), and takes about 10 hours. Keep in mind that if you have a rail pass, the prices for trains can be much cheaper, too.

Furthermore, many tour companies include Spain and Portugal together on their trips, if only because the two countries are next to each other. Many tour companies can give you a full overview of both countries in a week or two. Also, some companies offer specific types of tours, such as adventure tours, tours for those under 35, or culinary and food-focused tours.

G Adventures offers a tour that covers both Spain and Portugal at an affordable price over 10 days, plus longer tours, too.

Contiki specializes in tours for those under 35, and has a tour of both countries for 12 days, as well as other tours that also include Morocco and other European destinations.

If you must choose only one...

If you want a beach vacation where you can explore a small area, then Portugal is probably best for you. However, if you're looking to explore multiple large cities with historical attractions, then Spain might be more of your style. That being said, Spain has plenty of beaches, too. And Portugal has a few large urban areas with plenty of charm. While it's tough to make a final decision, perhaps price out a few options before deciding.

As one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe, Spain has no shortage of places to explore and comfortable amenities for travelers. It's relatively affordable by Western European standards, but it is more expensive than nearby Portugal. Traveling around Spain is easy and efficient, particularly if you're traveling between major cities. There are train networks with high speed trains that connect most major cities in Spain, so despite it's large size, transportation is usually not a problem.

Spain is also an interesting country to visit because it's not hard to see the Arabic influence in the region. This is unique for a European country. Spain also has a vibrant nightlife scene and many lively festivals. Whether you're looking for a beautiful coastline, a historic town, or a cosmopolitan city with a vibrant nightlife, Spain really has it all.

Portugal is also easy to navigate for travelers. It has grown in popularity and has become a major tourist destination in Europe. The country is slightly more affordable than Spain, and it has a lot to offer all types of travelers. Portugal has a very diverse landscape that includes mountains, beaches, and desert-like settings. The country has vibrant cities like Lisbon and Porto, plus natural areas where you can enjoy a more peaceful setting. Portugal has a lot to offer, whether you're interested in hanging out on the beach, sipping some wine, or playing golf.

Spain

Mojacar Village, Almeria, Spain Mojacar Village, Almeria, Spain

Spain is a diverse, historic, and proud country. You'll find world class beauty here as well. Other popular activities here include museums, theater, adventure travel, and national parks.

From the popular coastlines to the rugged interior, Spain is full of history, natural beauty, vibrant people, amazing cities, unique cuisines, and gorgeous views. While Madrid is the capital, it's by no means the main attraction of a country full of beaches, ancient castles, and cultural diversity. Barcelona is the hub of the Catalan region with its own unique culture, and the southern areas have a deep historic relationship with Moorish culture, too. Visitors will also find epic hikes, world-class food, vineyards and wineries, epic nightlife, famous art, natural wildlife, multiple coastlines, cultural dances and music, friendly smiles, and affordable prices.

Portugal

Peniche, Portugal Peniche, Portugal

Portugal is a coastal, vibrant, and charming country. You'll find world class beauty here as well. Other popular activities here include museums, theater, adventure travel, and history and culture.

At the western end of Europe, Portugal has a long history of exploration as well as beautiful countryside, gorgeous beaches, and fun cities. Lisbon and Porto are thriving cities with an active nightlife scene, museums, historic cathedrals, and terrific cuisine. And don't forget about the wine which you can enjoy in both the cities as well as in the vineyards of the countryside. In the south, the beautiful Algarve region has a unique coastal landscape with a mix of small towns and resort areas. Inland you'll find beautiful national parks with hiking, camping, and bicycling opportunities. And all along the coastline are small fishing villages along with larger towns rich in history and culture.

Spain and Portugal: Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Great culture, history, and arts
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Good for hiking
  • Beautiful national parks
  • Adventure!
  • Great road trips
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Pros
  • Popular museums and historical sights
  • Great culture, history, and arts
  • Good scuba and snorkeling destination
  • Popular beach
  • Adventure!
  • Great road trips
  • Family-friendly
  • Good for couples and romance
  • Good for backpackers and budget travelers
  • Impressive beauty
Cons
  • Less hiking options
  • Not as many national parks


Santillana, Spain Santillana, Spain

How is Spain different from Portugal?

Which is Better for a Holiday?

Below we will examine the differences and similarities between Spain and Portugal. With this information, you can decide for yourself which place is better for your next trip.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Museums and Historical Sights?

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For an educational experience, head to a museum or a notable sight in either Spain or Portugal.

Spain offers many unique museums, sights, and landmarks that will make for a memorable trip. The major cities of Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, and others all have world-class museums that cover a variety of topics from history to art to science. Many of them are also family-friendly. In Barcelona, don't miss the Picasso museum dedicated to the famous artist. Casa Batllo is one of Gaudi's famous buildings and worth a tour along with Casa Vicens, too. MNAC is a great place to learn about the local Catalan art and history. And the Joan Miro museum is dedicated to the work and life of this famous artist. In Madrid, you can find plenty of historical places such as the Royal Palace and the National Archaeology Museum. If it's art you seek, make sure to visit the Prado, the Queen Sofia Arts Center, or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, all of which have world-class art from Spain and Europe. In Valencia, kids will love the Oceanografic aquarium and the Bioparc zoo. In Seville, the Real Alcazar has fascinating architecture. and the Flemenco museum showcases Spain's most famous dance. This is just a small sample, as you'll find even more museums in Bilbao, Malaga, Granada, and other cities around the country, too.

Barcelona: Architecture and history all contribute to the city's impressive sights and museums. Famous landmarks include the Basílica de la Sagrada Família, Casa Milà, and the Palace of Catalan Music.

Cadiz: As the oldest city in Europe, there are countless historic sights and monuments to see. Some of the most interesting historic sights include Catedral Nueva, the Arcos de los Blancos, Torre Tavira, and Museo de Cádiz.

See also Barcelona: The Ultimate Travel Planning Guide.

Many visitors head to Portugal specifically to visit some of its top-rated museums and other sights. The big cities and smaller towns both offer plenty of museums of all types, from art and history to science and family-friendly museums. In Lisbon, don't miss the National Azulejo Museum to see the history and art of these unique glazed tiles. MUDE teaches visitors all about design, while MAAT covers art, architecture, and technology in a way that feels like a modern art museum mixed with modern science. For a local musical experience, check out the Fado Museum, or for international history don't miss the Maritime Museum which is dedicated to the famous Portuguese explorers who set sail across the oceans. Dozens more are found around the city, too. In Porto, don't miss the Serralves Contemporary Art Museum, the Museum of the Holocaust, the Tram Museum, and the World of Wine. This last one is actually 5 different museums focusing on not just wine, but also the agricultural production of wine, cork, and chocolate and their impacts on Portuguese society and history. The Pink Palace is fun for kids and adults alike, as the theme is Rose Wine with a variety of humorous selfie spots. The Chocolate Museum is always a favorite, too. Finally, a variety of port and wine cellars are found on the riverfront which offer museum-like tour experiences to see where and how the wines are made. Elsewhere in Portugal, you should see the astronomical observatory near Monsaraz, the Universo de Memorias Joao Carlos Abreu in Funchal, and the Museu de Portimao.

Lisbon: World renowned landmarks include St. George's Castle, Jerónimos monastery, the Belém Tower, Santa Justa Lift, and countless world class museums.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for Culture, Arts, and History?

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Both Spain and Portugal offer similar levels of history and culture when visiting.

Spain has many famous historic and cultural sights and attractions worth visiting, and is one of the main reasons why poeple come here. The blending of cultures in this region of Europe along with the accessibility of historic sights and cultural traditions make this country an obvious place to visit for history lovers. A long period of Spain's history was influenced by the Moors from the south, and you can see it in the architecture, art, cuisine, and music. Furthermore, the Catalan region in the east has it's own cultural differences. The Roman empire also left its mark, as did visitors from the rest of Europe and northern Africa. Some of the best historic places to see in Spain include the Alhambra palace and fortress in Granada, the huge cathedrals of Seville, Barcelona, and Madrid, El Escorial palace outside of Madrid, Montserrat Monastery near Barcelona, amongst others. Some of the best historical sites are actually the smaller castles and fortresses that are left from the long conflict between the Spanish and Moors that dot the countryside in the southern regions. Furthermore, Spain has made unique contributions of music, theater, and culture to the world stage. Flamenco dancing and Paso Double are just two of the musical art forms that are worth seeing on a smaller, intimate stage during a visit. And don't miss the world-class cuisine, too.

See also Barcelona: Activities, Tickets, and Things to Do, Things to Do in Madrid, and Cheap Tours and Activities in Granada, Spain.

Portugal is a terrific destination to visit for history, arts, and culture, as it has many sights worth visiting. You can see the deep and rich history around every corner, especially along the coastline where historic fishing villages, castles, and famous cities are found. Lisbon and Porto might be the largest cities with museums, fortresses, and historic homes, but plenty of other smaller towns have long history and unique culture, too. Sintra has a gorgeous castle, the Pena National Palace. Coimbra's historic library and university leaves visitors in awe. In Lisbon, check out Belem Tower and St. George’s Castle before wandering the old historic streets of the old town, dotted with churches and quaint viewpoints. Carmo Convent and Jeronimos Monastery are also two very popular sites that draw large crowds because of their beauty and rich history. In Porto, the Luis I bridge provides a great overview of everything before you visit the historic wine cellars, Porto Cathedral, and the narrow, weaving alleyways through the historic city center.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Big City Activities?

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You'll find a similar number of big city activities in both Spain and Portugal.

As Spain has many big cities, visitors will find plenty to do. Madrid and Barcelona are the two largest cities and most popular places to visit. Both have world-class museums, historical attractions, cathedrals, parks, shopping, restaurants and cafes, markets, and unique culture. Some of the other cities in Spain should not be overlooked either, as they also offer plenty of big city activities, museums, and culture. Valencia, Seville, Alicante, and Cadiz are also large and full of terrific activities.

Since Portugal has large cities, you'll find plenty of things to do. Lisbon and Porto are the largest cities in Portugal, and they each offer a unique atmosphere and vibe. Lisbon was built on seven hills, and you can find one of them topped with a castle overlooking the surrounding area. Much of the old town area is a winding path of streets made out of steps. Cathedrals, museums, restaurants, and a great transportation network are also mixed in. Porto is the wine capital and straddles the river Douro with high bridges and colorful houses. Check out the wine cellars and wine museums along with the historical sights.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Small Towns and Villages?

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Portugal

You'll find a similar number of small towns and villages to explore in both Spain and Portugal.

Because Spain offers so many small towns with a variety of charming activities, it attracts plenty of visitors for a good reason. A few of the most popular small towns to visit include Ronda with its dramatic cliffs, Besalu and it's bridge and castle-like gate, Cudillero on the northern coast, and Morella with its castle. All around Spain visitors can find small towns that once contained fortified cities, fishing villages, monasteries, and more. Bunol, near Valencia, is the location of the famous annual tomato fight. And Pamplona is home to the running of the bulls every year. Benasque in the Pyrenees sits in a valley and offers plenty of outdoor activities. And don't miss the famous hanging houses of Cuenca. Frigiliana is full of white-washed Andalucian houses, along with other nearby towns worth visiting. Every region of Spain offers something unique and special, so make sure you add some of these places to your itinerary.

Portugal is a great destination to visit small towns and villages just waiting to be explored. In addition to the charming towns inland, almost the entire coastline is dotted with charming small towns, many of which were fishing villages in the past. While some of these costal towns have grown into modern beach resorts, others still have their historical charm with nearby churches, castles, and harbors. Many inland towns in the hills still retain their charm, especially those located in beautiful mountain areas. Some of the best places to visit are Sintra with its castle, Marvão in the Alentejo, Amarante in the north, Monsanto with its castle ruins, and Pinhão in the Douro River valley surrounded by vineyards.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Theater?

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Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer theater options for visitors.

Spain offers a number of shows and performances. In Madrid, you can see plays and musicals at the Theatro Real Theatre and from the National Classical Theatre Company or the National Drama Centre. The Spanish National Ballet and the National Dance Company provide terrific opportunities to see world-class dance productions. Also, you can see Flamenco shows at small, intimate venues around Madrid and other cities, too. For example, in Barcelona you should try to catch a Flemenco show at Tablao Flamenco Cordobes which is one of the best venues in the country. Also in Barcelona, the Gran Teatre del Liceu is a large historic venue with a gorgeous interior that hosts a variety of productions. And don't miss the Palace of Catalan Music where you can listed to music from the region. Many other cities host terrific theater productions from the local culture as well as touring shows.

You'll find a nice selection of shows in Portugal. In Lisbon, visitors can see popular Broadway-style plays, operas, musicals, concerts, and more. The most famous theaters include Campo Pequeno, Teatro Nacional Dona Maria II, Teatro Sao Charlos, and Teatro Maria Vitoria, among others. In Porto, you can take in a show or concert at the Casa da Musica and the Theatro Sa da Bandeira. Opera, orchestra concerts, ballet performances, and musicals are some of the most popular shows here, too.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for Food?

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Portugal

There are opportunities to sample the local cuisine at great restaurants in both Spain and Portugal.

Dining out in Spain is an experience not to be missed. Tapas are perhaps the most famous Spanish culinary export. These small sharable dishes started as something to snack on while drinking, and have transformed into a style of meal all their own. Typical tapas dishes include potatoes, sausages, stewed meats, calamari, olives, cheese, and more. But tapas are not the only local foods you should try. Chirizo is a special type of smoked sausage, and jamón Iberico is a smoked ham with tons of flavor. Calamares (rings of squid) are also popular around the costal areas, and are cooked with a variety methods. Anchovies and other seafood are popular, too. Paella is also famous. The name comes from the wide pan that the rice dish is served in, usually with seafood or meat and a variety of spices for flavoring. Finally, while in Spain, taste the local olives, bread, cheese, and fruit as they are all usually fresh and delicious.

Madrid: The city has a mix of flavors that come from all of Spain. Local favorites include roast suckling pig, Spanish omelette, and meat and chickpea stew.

Barcelona: With easy access to fresh produce, there are many food markets around town. You'll also find great fresh local dishes at the many restaurants. Make sure you try the paella, croquettes, and Jamon Iberico.

Valencia: The city is famous as the birthplace of paella, which is one of Spain's most famous dishes. Beyond the paella, there are a number of other amazing traditional dishes. Fideuà is similar to paella but made with noodles instead of rice. All i pebre is an eel and potato dish and clóchinas are tiny local mussels. For dessert make sure you try the flan de calabaza, which is pumpkin flavored.

Almeria: The food is focused on local, fresh ingredients with many traditional recipes that have been passed down for centuries. Popular dishes change with the seasons because they rely so heavily on local produce. Particularly during the winter months you'll find hearty stews like patatas en ajopollo and gurullos con conejo, which is prepared with rabbit. Sardines are also popular year round.

See also Food and Dining in Madrid, Delicious Tapas Tours in Madrid, and The Best Cheap Food Tours in Madrid.

The food selection at local restaurants is excellent in Portugal. As a coastal nation, seafood here is fantastic, but it's not the only type of cuisine available. Popular traditional dishes begin with the small but famous custard tart known as Pastel de Nata. It's easy to get them at bakeries and street vendors. If fish is what you're after, try the bacalhau (salted cod), or any of the other terrific cod dishes such as a bras where it is mixed in with potatoes and eggs in a casserole. It's also popular to have cod (or other fish) fried, sautéed, or boiled along with potatoes and other veggies. Octopus is another favorite which you should try, as it's usually boiled or steamed and served with olive oil and potatoes. If you seek land food, try the Iberian black pork, the duck rice, or the Francesinha, which is a meat and cheese sandwich with an interesting variety of ham and pork. In addition to the traditional dishes, you'll find plenty of other European cuisines in restaurants around the nation, as well as global dishes. So, there's something for everyone. The local breads and cheeses are terrific, and it's quite easy to grab a breakfast at a local bakery or sit down for an affordable, casual, and delicious meal almost anywhere in Portugal.

Lisbon: There are many local restaurants as well as food tours and cooking classes that you can enjoy. Make sure you try the local favorites like bacalhau à brás, frango no churrasco, and pastel de nata.

Porto: The area's cuisine combines the ocean setting with the agriculture of the surrounding area, so you'll enjoy both seafood dishes as well as fresh meats and vegetables. The area is also famous for its Port wines and red wines.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Nightlife?

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Both Spain and Portugal are comparable when it comes to partying.

Spain offers plenty to do in the evening. Barcelona, Madrid, Granada, Seville, Malaga, Valencia, and many other beach resort towns all have active nightlife scenes, each with their own personality. Barcelona is very popular with all types of bars and dance clubs for locals and travelers alike. Sidecar, Opium, and Pacha are some of the most popular places, and many more can be found in Raval, El Born, and the Gothic Quarter. In Madrid, check out Kapital, Barbara Ann, or Ochoymedio. Along the coast, the nightlife varies from family-friendly restaurants and theaters to more active dance clubs, pubs, and bars for singles and younger couples.

Madrid: Many tourists and international students hang out in the Huertas area, while Malasaña has a bohemian, hipster vibe with small clubs that play indie music. Chueca is a fun area that's known for being gay-friendly with many good bars. Finally, you'll find that the area around Avenida de Brasil is where famous DJs often perform.

Barcelona: The city offers an amazing nightlife at a much more affordable price than many places in Europe. There are beach parties, boat parties, and bars that stay packed late into the night. The city also hosts many street fiestas and music festivals.

Valencia: Dinner starts late, so you can expect the nightlife to pick up even later. During the summer there are all night terrace parties and year round you'll find nightclubs filled from evening to dawn. If all night raves aren't really your thing, you'll also find plenty of local bars where you can hang out with friends in a more relaxed setting. The nightlife scene really is varied enough that there's something for everyone.

Malaga: The city has some of the most active nightlife in Europe. There are plenty of opportunities to party in Malaga and you'll find the most vibrant nightlife in the Centro Historico.

Palma de Mallorca: Head to Magaluf and Palma for the most popular places.

See also Barcelona Nightlife, The Best Nightlife in Madrid, and Party Hostels in Barcelona.

Portugal has a large number of nightlife venues. Lisbon and Porto both have very active nightlife scenes. In Lisbon, the city center is full of bars and nightclubs that come alive after the crowds enjoy dinner at a variety of restaurants and cafes. Theater productions are also popular in Lisbon. In Porto, you'll find plenty of activities centered around wine and port, naturally. Also, the city center here has a large number of bars and dance clubs. The downtown area of Porto has seen a significant resurgence of bars and clubs at night in recent years. Other smaller cities, especially around resort areas, can have a vibrant nightlife scene, especially during the busy summer months.

Lisbon: It is a bustling city with a lot of energy late into the night. There are countless bars, clubs, and music venues that cater to every personality type and style.

Albufeira: It's probably the most infamous party destination in the Algarve and it won't disappoint. During the peak summer months you'll find the streets around the popular "Strip" filled with tourists and party-goers. There are hen and stag parties, backpackers, and drunken travelers out for a good time. The Strip has become so popular that there are now bars and clubs on the adjacent streets as well. If you're not staying in the area, you'll likely want to take a taxi, as it's a couple kilometers outside of the town center.

See also Lisbon Party Hostels, Beach & Party Hostels in Albufeira, Portugal, and Party Hostels in Peniche, Portugal near the Beach.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Resorts?

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Portugal

Spain and Portugal offer a relatively similar set of luxury resort options.

For the ultimate resort vacation, Spain is a great choice. A holiday trip to Spain for many means a trip to one of the beach resorts along the southern coast, or in Ibiza or Majorca. Marbella, Cadiz, Valencia, Sitges, Alicante, and even Barcelona are all popular destinations with a variety of luxury hotels and resorts. Many are very family-friendly, and some are all-inclusive. Generically, the resorts offer terrific beaches and many are close to nearby towns, as well as some historical and cultural attractions. But no matter where you choose to go, the beach resorts in Spain are world-class and draw plenty of visitors every year. Also, keep in mind that Spain offers a handful of ski resorts open in the winter months, as well as some relaxing inland retreats outside of major cities and historical areas.

Almeria: Stretched along the coastline you'll find many high end resorts with pools and nice atmospheres. There are all inclusive resorts as well as family-friendly and romantic options to choose from.

Marbella: From luxury to family-friendly, this area has plenty of resorts to choose from. Popular resorts in the area include Marbella Club Hotel, Puente Romano Marbella, and Don Carlos Resort and Spa.

Vacationers can choose from a number of terrific resorts in Portugal. With such a long stretch of coastline, beach resorts are very common. Towns in the Algarve such as Portimao and Albufiera have smaller hotels, but if you travel out of the towns along the coastline you'll find larger beach resorts, some of which are all-inclusive. The same can be said for the smaller towns on the Atlantic coast, where historic fishing villages are mingled with larger resort properties. While some of these larger resorts are adult-only, most are family-friendly, and a range of prices and luxury is offered.

Faro: Popular resorts include Vila Vita Parc Resort and Spa, Conrad Algarve, and Tivoli Carvoeiro.

Portimao: The area has all types of resorts, from all-inclusive options to luxury or more family-friendly. Many of the resorts are surprisingly affordable and offer easy access to the beach.

Lagos: As a resort town, you'll find no shortage of places to stay in the area. If you don't have a car, your best options are in the historic center. If transportation isn't a concern, then you'll find plenty of great resorts in the Marina, Meia Praia, Dona Ana Beach, Camilo Beach, and Porto de Mós Beach.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Scuba Diving and Snorkeling?

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Portugal

There's scuba diving or snorkeling available in both Spain and Portugal.

Spain has a few good snorkeling spots. While the southern coast of the mainland provides plenty of great dive spots with clear waters and a good selection of marine life, the crown jewels of diving are in the Canary Islands, and the Balearic Islands. Here you'll find even better opportunities to see marine wildlife in more ideal conditions. You can see barracuda, octopus, moray, a variety of large fish species, and more. Also, diving in the Canary islands can be done year-round, where as in the Mediterranean, only during the warmer months. If you're looking for a quicker trip, it's also possible to dive or snorkel off the Costa Brava coastline near Barcelona where a variety of interesting species can be found in the usually clear waters.

Marbella: There are more than 100 dive sights and endless snorkeling opportunities in the area. There are deep offshore reefs that you can explore as well as shallower wrecks and caves.

It's worth going snorkeling or scuba diving in Portugal. The Azores are an island chain to the west of Portugal in the Atlantic, and here visitors will have much better diving and snorkeling experiences. This is generally considered to be one of the best diving regions of Europe. Near Santa Maria Island, for example, divers can see manta rays, tuna, barracudas, and amberjack. The waters are clear and provide excellent visibility. Also, the Madeira Islands are part of Portugal and can be found to the west of Morocco. A number of terrific dive locations can be found here, too, such as those near Funchal. The Algarve coastline offers pretty good visibility in its clear waters, and a variety of dive shops provide boat trips out into the waters during the warmer months. Many spots have wrecks which are worth visiting, too. Some fish and wildlife can be seen in the shallower areas located a bit off of the shoreline. The cities of Lagos, Portimao, and Albufiera have dive centers.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for Beaches?

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Portugal

For a relaxing beach holiday, both Spain and Portugal are good choices.

Travelers come from around the world to visit the beaches in Spain. The beaches in Spain are world-class, popular, and extensive. With a huge stretch of coastline on the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, as well as famous islands such as Ibiza and Mallorca. The coastline of Andalusia and Valencia are perhaps the most visited, as tourists from all of Europe, and all of the world, come here for holiday beach vacations in Spain. Good food, sunny warm weather, wide sandy beaches, and family-friendly amenities are found up and down the coast. Some areas are more party-oriented, while others offer a calm, relaxing vibe, or family-friendly activities. Some of the best and most popular beach destinations in southern Spain include Tossa de Mar in Costa Brava, Puerto Banus near Marbella, Bogatell in Barcelona, Almunecar in Costa Tropical, and the beaches of Cadiz, amongst others. You can't go wrong with any of them.

Barcelona: The city features long sandy beaches where you can soak up the Mediterranean sun right in the heart of town. Popular beaches include Bogatell Beach, Barceloneta Beach, and Nova Icària.

Valencia: The city is surrounded by some of the best beaches in Spain. They're accessible but still largely undeveloped. They also have long stretches of sand and although they can get crowded during the summer months, they still have plenty of space. La Malvarrosa Beach is one of the most popular because of its proximity to the city. El Saler Beach is further out and popular with the locals and Port Saplaya is a colorful area with shopping and beaches.

Palma de Mallorca: The island is lined with sandy beaches and rocky coves, which have contributed to it becoming one of Europe's most popular beach destinations.

Almeria: Outside of town you'll find kilometers of stunning coastline and beaches. There are pristine natural beaches that still feel undiscovered with beautiful long stretches of sand. One of the biggest resort areas is Roquetas de Mar.

Marbella: The area boasts some of the best beaches in Europe. They are hubs of activity with lots of energy, and there are more than 18 miles of sandy beach in the area. Popular options include Guadalmina Beach, San Pedro de Alcántara Beach, and Nueva Andalucía Beach.

With world-famous beaches, Portugal is a very popular vacation destination. With a huge stretch of coastline, you'll find plenty of fantastic beaches both on the Atlantic coast and the southern Algarve coast. Furthermore, the Azores and Madeira Islands are part Portugal, too, and offer even more terrific beach resort areas. The coastal landscapes are diverse and beautiful. The southern coast around Lagos, Portimao, and Albufiera has beautiful sea cliffs with unique beach coves. Along the Atlantic coast you'll find rocky hills and wide sandy beaches, such as in Praia da Adraga near Sintra or Praia de São Bernardino in Peniche. This seafaring nation has so many great beaches and something for everyone.

Portimao: The stunning beaches are a major draw to the area. They are sandy and feature a backdrop of dramatic red cliffs. The most popular beach in town is Praia da Rocha, which can get crowded during the summer months, but it is quite large so you should still be able to find a spot. The strip behind the beach is lined with shops, bars, restaurants, and a casino. If you want to avoid some of the crowds you can make the walk down to Praia do Vau. Families often enjoy Praia de Alvor, which has a boardwalk that leads to Ria de Alvor nature reserve.

Lagos: The beaches are long, flat and sandy with beautifully dramatic rock formations. The largest beach in the area is Meia Praia and arguably one of the best beaches is Praia Dona Ana. For convenience, Praia da Batata is the closest beach to town. Praia de Porto de Mós is one of the more quiet beaches, but it's still along a bus line. For beautiful nature head to either Praia dos Estudantes or Praia dos Pinheiros.

Albufeira: With their golden sands and blue waters, the beaches are world class. The area also has a diversity of beaches that are perfect for all types of vacationers. For water sports, head to Praia dos Alemaes but for relaxation and catching some rays check out Praia da Falesia. You'll find some interesting rock formations at Praia dos Olhos de Agua. One of the most convenient beaches to town is Praia dos Pescadores. For nightlife you'll want to head to Praia da Oura.

See also The 10 Best Algarve Beaches.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Shopping?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal are good shopping destinations.

Many visitors go to Spain to go shopping. In Barcelona, visitors can find plenty of great areas with fashion boutiques, local arts and crafts, and souvenirs. Check out Portal De L'Angel in the Gothic Quarter, Paseo de Gràcia with its high-end stores, Avenida Diagonal for its diversity of shops, and the famous Boqueria Market where you'll find fresh food and other surprises. In Madrid, don't miss Gran Via, Calle Preciados, Calle de Fuencarral, or the historic El Rastro flea market where you can find plenty of hidden gems. Elsewhere in Spain, most beach resort areas have shopping streets, and the larger towns such as Valencia, Malaga, and Marbella have multiple shopping neighborhoods. In Granada and Seville, it's also possible to find those special local arts and craft shops for the perfect gift or souvenir.

Madrid: Gran Vía is a main thoroughfare in Madrid that is also popular for shopping. Calle Fuencarral is where you'll find the fashion shops and Calle Preciados is a fun pedestrian area to explore.

Barcelona: Head to Portal De L’Angel, Rambla de Catalunya, or Passeig De Gracia for some of the city's best shopping districts.

Marbella: This area attracts vacationers from around Europe and the shopping is some of the best in Europe.

Plenty of visitors enjoy shopping while in Portugal. Lisbon and Porto both have a variety of shopping neighborhoods as well as malls and street markets. In Lisbon, you can find plenty of shops on the Avenida da Liberdade and the Chiado area. The Feira da Ladra is the best antique and flea market in the city, and is worth browsing through even if you're not planning to buy anything. In Porto, you'll find plenty of shopping along the streets in the historic center and downtown streets on the north side of the river, and more touristy shops on the south side of the river near the wine cellars. Rua de Santa Catarina has plenty of fashion boutiques, while the Mercado do Bolhão has a mix of food, souviniers, crafts, and more. Elsewhere in Portugal, smaller cities and towns will often have main shopping streets, and the beach resort cities will sometimes have fashion boutiques and local craft shops.

Lisbon: For high end shopping, head to The Avenida da Liberdade. It's lined with designer brands and luxury boutiques.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Hiking?

Spain
Portugal

While Portugal and Spain both have hiking trails, overall Spain is more well-known.

Known for its hiking, Spain draws a crowd to experience the nature and the trails. The Camino de Santiago is Spain's most famous hiking route. Also known as the Way of St. James, this historic 500 mile-long pilgrimage route stretches across the entire width of Spain and also has numerous secondary paths. Hikers come from around the world to trek the entire length or just a small portion of the trail which ends at the cathedral in Santiago de Compostela in the northwest. Additionally, you'll find plenty of other hiking opportunities in the Pyrenees mountains, the various national parks, or even in the Canary islands or Mallorca. Also, the Caminito del Rey has amazing trails along cliffs near Malaga. From Barcelona, it's easy to reach the base of Montserrat, where you can hike up to the monastery instead of taking the cable car, or hike on the higher up trails as well. Sierra Nevada national park, near Granada, also offers plenty of hiking trails that are close to a major city. And in the Costa Brava region up the coast from Barcelona, even more gorgeous trails have great views of the landscapes and Mediterranean Sea. Generally, no matter where you visit in this country, you can find some great trails.

Many people include a hike when visiting Portugal. Hiking trails are found all over the country, along the coastline and in the mountains in the interior. Hiking along the coast in the Algarve is a unique experience, especially along the Seven Hanging Valleys trail where you'll take on the sea cliffs, caves, and the small coves. Near Lisbon in Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, you can't miss the trail from Cabo da Roca to Azenhas do Mar where you'll see gorgeous beaches, old houses on the hills, and beautiful landscapes. The Serra do Topo trail in the Azores takes you through steep green hills overlooking the ocean, and it's breathtaking. Inland, the Covao dos Conchos trail is found in Serra da Estrela natural park, and here you'll experience scenic mountain vistas.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for National Parks?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal are good destinations for visiting national parks.

Many visitors go to Spain to see the national parks. With sixteen national parks and a variety of other natural parks and wilderness protection areas, visitors are offered a diverse set of natural destinations to explore. Some are in the mountains, some at the coast, and others are found in unique ecosystems. Some of the most popular include Cabañeros in the mountains of Toledo, Guadarrama near Madrid, and Illas Atlánticas de Galicia near A Coruna on the northern coast. Several national parks are found on the Canary Islands and make the trip there even more interesting if you have the time. In many of Spain's national parks, you'll find hiking, camping, horseback riding, adventure sports, and beautiful views.

Portugal is a good destination to visit the national parks. While it technically has only one national park, Portugal has a large number of Natural and Nature parks to protect scenic areas and native wildlife. Douro International Natural Park, at the border with Spain, has epic mountainous landscapes as the winding river cuts through deep canyons. On the other hand Ria Formosa Natural Park offers a wide stretch of beautiful coastline to explore. Serra da Estrela is in the mountains, and has hiking trails and great views over the stunning landscapes. Southwest Alentejo and Vicenti Coast is part of the Algarve. It has stunning cliffs, nice beaches, and plenty of outdoor activities. Peneda-Geres National Park is another mountainous park with hiking trails and a unique ecosystem.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for Adventure Travel?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer adventure travel opportunities for visitors.

Spain is an extremely popular destination for those interested in wildlife safaris and animal watching. From the mountains to the coastline, visitors can experience bungee jumping, mountain biking, paragliding, zip-lines, ropes courses, rock climbing, canyoning, whitewater rafting, and more. The coast also offers surfing, kite surfing, wind surfing, scuba diving, and boating. It's possible to find these activities all around the country, usually in the countryside not far from major cities.

Adventure travel experiences in Portugal are quite popular with travelers. Along the coast, surfing is very popular, as some areas of the Atlantic coast have massive waves. Kite surfing and wind surfing are also popular in many areas, too. Inland, you can find mountain biking trails, zip lines and ropes courses, bungee jumping from high bridges, kayaking in the rivers and along the coast, just to name a few. Rock climbing and canyoning area also popular as the landscape offers plenty of great opportunities. Horseback riding along the coast or in the mountains is also a popular way to see the gorgeous landscapes, too. Adventure seekers can find exciting activities almost anywhere in Portugal.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Visiting the Mountains?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer an similar amount of mountain activities for visitors.

Spain is a great destination for visiting the mountains. The Pyrenees are the largest mountain chain in the country, making a divide between Spain and France. Here you'll find epic views, hiking, camping, wildlife viewing, mountain biking, ski resorts, and more. Elsewhere in Spain you can find plenty of other mountains, as the inland is quite varied. The Sierra Nevada mountains in the south are some of the most beautiful, and are also easily accessible. Across northern Andalusia, you can find even more mountains north of Seville and Cordoba, with several national parks and wilderness areas. In all of these places you'll find natural beauty, wildlife, horseback riding, hiking, camping, and even paragliding. And don't miss the Canary Islands, where you'll find even more great activities. Tenerife is the largest island and offers gorgeous mountain views, native wildlife, and an exotic, tropical atmosphere. Spain absolutely has some gorgeous mountains worth visiting.

Visiting the mountains in Portugal is a very popular activity. The interior of the country has plenty of mountain ranges for those looking to explore. Many of the natural park areas are found in the mountains as well, and offer hiking, camping, horseback riding, cozy cabins, and more. The Serra da Estrela range is where you'll find the nation's highest peak as well as a unique ecosystem, a large network of trails (Trilhos Verdes), and beautiful valleys. You'll also find quaint mountain villages with hotels and restaurants where you can relax. Other mountain ranges worth visiting include the Montanhas Magicas (Magic Mountains), the Serra da Freita, and the Montemuro range.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Watersports?

Spain
Portugal

You can find a fairly equal amount of watersports in both Spain and Portugal.

Spain is an extremely popular destination for those interested in watersports. With a huge length of coastline both on the southern Mediterranean shore and the northern Atlantic shore, water sports in all forms can be found here. Surfing is very popular on both coasts, as wake boarding, kite surfing, and wind surfing. It's also easy to rent kayaks or canoes both on the coastline or in the rivers and lakes of the interior. Scuba diving and snorkeling are popular along the coast, as well as in the Canary Islands and around Ibiza and Majorca. The beaches and clear waters of these island paradises attract plenty of water bound tourists for a good reason. If you're interested in doing more at the beach than just laying on the sand, Spain is the place for you.

Portugal is famous for its exciting and thrilling watersports activities. Surfing is very popular all along the coast. In some areas of the Atlantic coast, you can find some of the largest waves in the world. Kite surfing and wind surfing are also popular, as is kayaking, canoeing, and boating both on the coast and inland on the rivers. The Algarve region in the south is especially popular with kayakers who wish to explore the unique sea caves and cliffs, such as those at Benegil. Scuba diving and snorkeling is also popular in some areas along the southern coast, too.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Outdoor Activities?

Spain
Portugal

You can find a fairly equal amount of outdoor activities in both Spain and Portugal.

Spain is an extremely popular destination for those interested in outdoor activities. Popular outdoor activities here include camping, hiking, horseback riding, rock climbing, mountain biking, and more. Canyoning is popular, especially in the Pyrenees. The Sierra de Guara is one of the most popular spots for this, located outside of Zaragoza. Or, try rock climbing in Andalucía where you'll find a variety of spots not far from Malaga, Cordoba, and Granada. For those looking for a hike, trails are everywhere and not just in the national parks. Of course, there's always the famous Camino de Santiago if you're looking for an adventure.

Portugal is famous for its exciting and adventurous outdoor activities. With a mix of coastline and mountains, visitors will find a diverse array of options here. Hiking and camping in the natural parks is very popular because the mountains offer great views, river valleys, and unique ecosystems. Zip-lining and ropes courses are found throughout the country, and rock climbing or bouldering are commonplace, too. Horseback riding through the mountains or on the beach is also a fun activity, especially for couples. For those looking for something more relaxed, you can take a walk through the vineyards or a jeep tour around the mountain regions.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for a Road Trip?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer plenty of great road trip opportunities.

Taking a road trip through Spain is very good way to see the countryside and smaller destinations. The roads in Spain are efficient, quick, and well-maintained, making it easy to get around. If you don't have a car, it's also easy and often affordable to rent or hire one at the airport upon arrival. Many visitors take a road trip along the coastlines. The northern coastline in particular is very scenic with epic views and small towns The southern coastline is lined with beaches, more small towns, and larger cities. The Catalan coast north of Barcelona is especially beautiful with small towns, cliffs along the sea, and historical sites. The interior shouldn't be missed either, as you'll find national parks, castles and fortresses, and beautiful cities such as Granada, Ronda, Seville, and Toledo. And since Spain is not too large, the drives won't be too long between destinations.

Portugal is a great place to take a road trip. With a long coastline and gorgeous mountain ranges, plenty of opportunities for road trips can be found here. Take a drive from Porto south along the coast to Lisbon, then keep heading south all the way to the Algarve. Or, just focus on one particular stretch of coastline such as the dramatic cliffs along the southern coastline, or the historic towns and castles on the Atlantic. Inland you'll find natural park areas, mountain ranges, small villages, vineyards and wineries, ancient ruins, adventure sports, and cozy cottages.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Families?

Spain
Portugal

Kids will enjoy a visit to either Spain or Portugal.

As it has a large number of activities for kids, Spain is a very family-friendly destination. Beach vacations are one of the first things that come to mind for a family holiday or vacation to Spain. The Mediterranean coast has multiple beach resort towns such as those in Valencia or around Malaga and Marbella. Even Costa Brava and the areas around Barcelona are popular beach spots, too. But don't assume that the beaches are the only thing to see for families, as the big cities and mountains have plenty of activities as well. Madrid has kids tours of the Prado museum, the Mercado de San Miguel, a great zoo, the Warner Brothers Park, a railway museum, and a fantastic natural sciences museum. Barcelona offers the CosmoCaixa science museum, Montjuic and it's fun gondolas, the chocolate museum, a terrific aquarium, and plenty of interesting architecture. Kids also love all of the old castles and fortresses that dot the countryside, especially the Alhambra, the Castillo de Peñíscola, and the Royal Palace of Olite. Furthermore, plenty of cities have a mix of cultural and historical sites combined with modern family attractions such as amusement parks, water parks, and natural park areas. The mountains also have national parks with wide open spaces which are great for family hikes, bike rides, camping, and road trips. You can't go wrong with a family trip to Spain, as there's just so much to do.

See also The Ultimate Guide to Madrid.

Portugal is one of the most popular family destinations. Just to get started, you'll have a combination of amazing beaches, historical cities, castles, national parks, mountains, and more. Family-friendly beach resorts in the Algarve offer more than just a beach vacation, as you can also explore the cliffs and sea caves as well as old fishing villages, and even take a dolphin watching cruise. Up the Atlantic coast are more beach towns such as Praia da Costa Nova, Figueira da Foz, or Peniche, all with rich cultural and outdoor experiences. Sintra has castles to explore and public gardens, and the big cities of Lisbon and Porto offer family friendly museums, amazing viewpoints, fun trams, tuk tuk tours, and yummy foods. The interior of the country is home to fun national park and wildlife areas with camping, hiking, and scenic viewpoints. You can also tour monasteries, uncover ancient ruins, and explore old castles that dot the landscape. Kids will love every bit of it.

Portimao: Kids will love the wide range of activities available near Portimao. They can kayak through caves, see an underwater world snorkeling, learn to surf, visit waterparks, explore nature parks, and more. There are activities that the whole family can enjoy, making this stretch of coastline the perfect option for those traveling with kids.

Lagos: You can spend days hanging out on the beautiful beaches, but there are so many other activities that the whole family will enjoy. Explore the caves in kayaks, take surfing lessons, head for the zoo, or go dolphin watching. There are also plenty of playgrounds and kid-friendly restaurants around town.

See also Top 10 Kid-friendly things to do in the Algarve.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Couples?

Spain
Portugal

With fun activities for couples, both Spain and Portugal make for a good place to visit.

Spain makes for a terrific place to visit as a couple. In addition to the historical centers of Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, and Valencia which contain plenty of romantic attractions, couples and honeymooners also love Majorca and Ibiza for it's epic beaches, the southern coast of Spain for the beach resorts, and Costa Brava for its charming small towns with fantastic cuisine. Honeymooners could stay in one spot for a week, or spend their entire trip touring the highlights. Or, if you're just looking for a quick weekend getaway, any of the major cities or smaller towns offers plenty of charming activities. Andalucía is a popular destination because it combines the beaches with historic towns, mountain retreats, and fantastic food. The Asturias region on the northern coast is popular for many of the same reasons. No matter where you visit, it's easy to combine all of the best features of Spain into one terrific and romantic trip.

Marbella: The area has luxury resorts, nice beaches, water sports, golf, and water activities that are perfect for a honeymoon or a romantic weekend or a honeymoon.

See also Hostels for Solo Travellers, Female Travellers, & Couples in Madrid, Hostels & Campgrounds in Ibiza for Solo Travellers, Couples, and Groups, and Hostels in Pamplona for Backpackers, Solo Travellers, and Couples.

For those traveling as a couple, Portugal has plenty to offer. Whether it's a honeymoon or just a weekend getaway, this country offers so many diverse opportunities for a couple's trip. The beach is always an obvious choice for a romantic destination, and you'll find plenty here. The Algarve region in the south has stunning landscapes along the coast with cliffs forming intimate beach coves, as well as hiking trails, fishing villages, and boat rides. Up the Atlantic coast you'll find more beaches with castles, historic towns to explore such as Sintra and Praia da Costa Nova, along with the cultural centers of Lisbon and Porto. These large cities offer amazing food, nightlife, historical tours, old cathedrals, museums, and epic views. Plenty of luxurious romantic hotels and fine dining options await, as does the fantastic local wine selection. More gorgeous inland areas should also be on a romantic itinerary such as Coimbra, the vineyards of the Douro Valley in the north, the mountains of Serra da Estrela Natural Park, and the Valley of Guadiana. It's hard to find such diverse romantic attractions packed into a small country anywhere else in the world.

Portimao: This beautiful stretch of coastline offers unique beaches and stunning outdoor activities. It makes a wonderful honeymoon destination for couples who enjoy adventure, pampering, and romantic resorts. There are great restaurants as well as places to relax or activities for thrill seekers.

Lagos: The beaches and hotels in the area offer a truly romantic setting for couples, whether you're on a honeymoon or a couple's weekend getaway. Spend some time on the beach or go kayaking through the caves. Get a spa treatment at a luxury hotel or go wine tasting through the countryside. You can also enjoy the beautiful sunsets on a sunset boat cruise while sipping a glass of local wine.

Albufeira: For an active honeymoon or couple's retreat, this resort town has it all. Beautiful beaches, adventure-filled activities, a wild nightlife scene, and excellent resorts and restaurants all make for a memorable couple's getaway.

Is Spain or Portugal Better for Backpackers and Budget Travelers?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal are popular destinations for backpackers.

Spain is a very popular country for backpackers and budget travelers. Affordable prices, easy transportation, and a wide array of budget accommodation make this country extremely popular for backpackers and budget travelers. Barcelona, Madrid, the costal cities, and small towns all have plenty of hostels, pensions, and guest houses. Barcelona is also known for its nightlife, attracting younger travelers on a budget, and plenty of places cater to them with low-cost accommodations with a party vibe. Also, a huge number of museums and cultural attractions have low-cost or free entry tickets, or provide discounts for anyone under 25. Affordable food is also found everywhere, whether at local restaurants, street vendors, or markets. Transportation is also easy, cheap, and efficient, and serves the entire country. Overall, prices in most spots in Spain tend to be a little more affordable than in the rest of Europe.

Madrid: The many hostels around town make it easy for backpackers to find affordable accommodation while also meeting other travelers.

Barcelona: There are many hostels around town, each with its own personality. Many of the hostels also organize activities or dinners for guests so it's easy to meet other travelers.

Malaga: From an endless supply of hostels to plenty of opportunities to meet other backpackers, this is a very backpacker friendly area.

See also The Best Hostels in Seville, Party Hostels in Barcelona, and Partying at Hostels in Madrid.

Portugal is very popular with the backpacker crowd. Fairly affordable by European standards, budget travelers will find plenty of opportunities here to explore the cities and countryside without breaking the bank. Hostels and budget-friendly hotels can be found in the major cities, at the beaches, and in smaller towns. Lisbon and Porto offer plenty of low cost attractions, affordable street food, and cheap transit. The national transportation system makes getting around easy and affordable, too. While some of the attractions have high entry fees, and some of the beach areas have expensive resorts, plenty of alternatives are available if certain spots are beyond your budget.

Lisbon: Hostels are abundant, and you'll have no trouble finding other backpackers to hang out with. Many hostels even organize activities and group meals for travelers.

Porto: By combining world-class activities with affordability, this city has become a popular stop off for backpackers in the area.

Lagos: The area is a favorite for backpackers who come to hang out on the beaches during the day or party late into the night after the sun goes down. There are plenty of hostels around town and many offer a social vibe where it's easy to meet other travelers.

See also Affordable, Quiet, and Safe Hostels in Lisbon, Portugal, Lisbon Party Hostels, and Lisbon Hostels Near the Train Station.


Is Spain or Portugal Better for Students?

Spain
Portugal

Spain and Portugal are both good destinations for students and younger travelers.

Spain is a good country to visit for students. Other than Barcelona and Madrid, the most popular cities for students include Granada, Seville, Valencia, and Bilbao. Here, you'll find large universities surrounded by student-friendly neighborhoods. Nightlife, bars, affordable restaurants, and fun activities can be found in all of these cities which cater to budget travelers and locals alike. Spain is a popular destination overall for study-abroad students and younger travelers.

Madrid: With several great universities, this city is popular with international and study abroad students. The city also has a diverse population and an active nightlife that appeals to students.

Barcelona: This is a popular study abroad destination and you'll find international students from around the world. It's a beautiful city with plenty to see and do.

Valencia: The city is young and vibrant with a lot of culture and beautiful neighborhoods. It's also well connected to the rest of Spain with a convenient central train station.

See also Hostels in Bilbao, Spain for Groups, Students, or Solo Travellers.

Plenty of students visit Portugal. The larger cities of Lisbon and Porto are great for students, as they have major universities along with affordable travel accommodations, an active nightlife scene, and low cost food options. Other smaller university towns include Coimbra, Braga, Aveiro, and Faro. All of these towns are within easy reach to other major destinations in Portugal such as the beaches, big cities, castles, national parks, and more. They also offer nightlife and fun student activities for visitors and locals alike.

See also Hostels in Portugal for Students and Backpackers.

Is Spain or Portugal easier for Transportation?

Spain
Portugal

Both Spain and Portugal offer a very good transportation system.

Spain has a great public transit system. High speed trains as well as local trains take visitors and residents around all of the cities in Spain fairly quickly. Once in a city, the local transit systems are excellent at reaching most places quickly. And if you choose to drive, you'll find a quality and efficient highway system, too. Buses can fill in the spots where trains don't go, and sometimes buses are a cheaper alternative to trains or flights between cities as well. The most popular airport connections are found in Madrid and Barcelona.

Is it easy to travel around Spain?

  • It's very easy and convenient to travel by train.
  • It's fairly easy to travel by bus.
  • Traveling on cruise ships and excursions is extremely popular.
  • It's quite common to get around if you join an organized tour.
  • It's quite common to travel by car.
  • It's possible to travel by airplane.

Visitors to Portugal can move around easily with public transportation. Since Portugal is not too large, getting around is fairly easy. The train system is very effecient and convenient, and connects major cities such as Lisbon and Porto to smaller towns and coastal resort areas on the Algarve coast and elsewhere. The highway system is also terrific, and long distance bus companies can get you to most places in half a day or so. When in cities and larger towns, the public buses and trams are clean, safe, and affordable, too. Getting around this country without a car is quite easy, although you might want your own vehicle if you're planning to visit some of the natural areas in the interior.

Is it easy to travel around Portugal?

  • Traveling by train is very common and fairly easy.
  • It's fairly easy to travel by bus.
  • Traveling on cruise ships and excursions is very common and fairly easy.
  • It's possible to travel with an organized tour.
  • It's quite common to travel by car.
  • It's possible to travel by airplane.

Is Spain or Portugal more Comfortable for a Trip?

Spain and Portugal are both modern and comfortable places to visit.

Spain is extremely comfortable for travelers as it is a modern destination with plenty of amenities. Luxury beach vacations and historical attractions in famous cities usually come to mind when people think of Spain. Rightly so, because this country is modern and offers a wide array of comfortable modes of travel and vacationing. It's easy to find budget-friendly accommodation, but even at the lowest prices, guests can still expect to find modern and comfortable amenities. The roads, trains, and public transit are also clean, safe, and can get visitors anywhere. The tourist infrastructure here is extensive, and anyone can travel comfortably here no matter their budget or price range.

Portugal is a very comfortable and luxurious destination with plenty of hotels, restaurants, and activities. As a modern and developed European country, it's very easy to find comfortable places to stay along with easy means to travel around. At any price range visitors will have modern comforts, clean and healthy food, affordable and efficient public transit, and more. While luxury hotels are available which provide every comfort available, even the budget-friendly options have modern conveniences that are expected in a developed nation.

Is Spain or Portugal more Touristy?

Spain and Portugal are both quite touristy, seeing a large number of visitors every year.

Spain is very touristy. While Madrid and Barcelona are the most popular cities to visit, the beach resort areas in Andalucía and Valencia can also get touristy, especially in the busy summer months. Additionally, other cities such as Toledo, the towns in Catalonia, Granada, and Seville attract many visitors. The summer months are the most busy, and you can expect larger crowds in these destinations as well as at major tourist sites. In some places, entrance queues for museums or attractions can get quite long. The most popular places to visit in Madrid include the Prado museum, the Royal Palace, the Crystal Palace in Retiro park, and sometimes the football museum at the Real Madrid football stadium. In Barcelona, you can expect crowds at the Sagrada Família cathedral, Park Güell, the Magic Fountain of Montjuïc at night when it's lit up, and in the streets of the Gothic Quarter. Despite the crowds, it's never too chaotic or unmanageable, and Spain is absolutely worth the trip in any case.

Portugal is somewhat touristy. Some of the most popular places for tourists can attract large crowds, especially the major sites in Lisbon and Porto, as well as some of the more popular beach resort areas along the coast. Otherwise, most of Portugal is easily visited without dealing with large hordes of other travelers, making it quite enjoyable. In Lisbon, you can often expect large crowds at the castle, in the winding stairs through the old town, and at the museums in Belem. In Portugal, the riverfront area and its wineries can get quite busy as the crowds gather for wine tours, visit the shops, and eat at the restaurants along the riverfront. In the Algarve, some of the town centers can be very busy in the summer months, especially Lagos and Albufeira. However, it's easy to find less crowded beach areas along the coastline. Generally, summer is the busy travel season for the entire country, and visiting in the off-season will let you avoid the crowds, and uncover lower prices, too.


Braga, Portugal Braga, Portugal

Should I spend more time in Portugal or Spain?

How long in Spain or Portugal?

Spain and Portugal both offer a nice selection of activities for visitors. Many people usually spend more of their time in Spain than Portugal.

The ideal length of time for a trip to Spain is 7-21 days, and the ideal length of time for a trip to Portugal is 3-14 days.


  • How many days in Spain or Portugal? Ideal Length of Stay
    Spain 7-21 
    Portugal 3-14

A weekend in Spain or Portugal?

Spain is a popular place that is full of things to see and experience. Many visitors spend time at the beach while visiting the area. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than a weekend exploring. Take your pick from the many activities offered here.

It's hard to know how much time to spend in Portugal. It's a great spot for a beach vacation. A weekend is usually not enough time for a trip here as there is plenty to do. The length of your ideal trip is an individual decision.

Five days in Spain or Portugal?

Spain is a popular choice for travelers. But since there are so many activities, you'll likely want to spend more than five days exploring. The entire region has so many activities, and you'll want time to do everything.

Portugal is a fun place to experience. In Portugal, many people enjoy the museums, theater, and adventure travel that this destination offers. You'll find plenty of activities on the beach. This would be the perfect place to spend five days, as it has just the right amount of activities.

A week in Spain or Portugal?

Spain is a great place to explore. It is common to spend one week here. It's also known for its adventure travel activities. One week is a great amount of time to relax and see the many things that Spain has to offer. This country offers something for everyone.

In Portugal, many people enjoy the theater, adventure travel, and history and culture that this charming destination offers. Plenty of people spend one week in the area when traveling. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. One week is often enough time to do most activities.

Two weeks in Spain or Portugal?

Spain is a great place to explore. It is common to spend two weeks here. It's also a great beach destination, too. While some people choose to spend more or less time in Spain, two weeks is sufficent for most. This country offers something for everyone.

In Portugal, many people enjoy the theater, adventure travel, and history and culture that this coastal destination offers. Plenty of people spend two weeks in the area when traveling. Most people come for the beaches. Take your pick from the many activities offered here. This would be the perfect place to spend two weeks, as it has just the right amount of activities.

Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, Spain

Which country is cheaper, Portugal or Spain?

These are the overall average travel costs for the two destinations.

The average daily cost (per person) in Spain is €119, while the average daily cost in Portugal is €109. These costs include accommodation (assuming double occupancy, so the traveler is sharing the room), food, transportation, and entertainment. While every person is different, these costs are an average of past travelers in each country. What follows is a categorical breakdown of travel costs for Spain and Portugal in more detail.



Accommodation
  • Accommodation Hotel or hostel for one person
    Spain 53
    Portugal 47
  • Accommodation Typical double-occupancy room
    Spain 106
    Portugal 94
Compare Hotels in Spain and Portugal

Looking for a hotel in Spain or Portugal? Prices vary by location, date, season, and the level of luxury. See below for options and compare which is best for your budget and travel style.

Hotels in Spain


Hotels in Portugal


Kayak helps you find the best prices for hotels, flights, and rental cars for destinations around the world. Compare prices for multiple destinations when planning your next trip.


Our Analysis
We've analyzed the average and typical hotel prices based on guest reviews, star ratings, and hotel amenities here: Spain Hotel Prices and Portugal Hotel Prices.

Local Transportation
  • Local Transportation Taxis, local buses, subway, etc.
    Spain 22
    Portugal 21
Typical Local Transportation prices in Spain

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Spain:


  • Taxi Ride
    26
  • 10 Trip Metro Ticket
    7.80
  • Airport Bus
    5.00
  • Bus Ride
    3.50
  • Taxi Ride
    6.80
  • Bus Ride
    1.25
  • Metro from Airport
    2.90
  • 7 Trip Bus Pass
    5.00
  • Metro
    2.10

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Spain

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Spain:

  • From Corralejo: Round-Trip Ferry Transfer to Lobos Island: $17
  • Granada: Private Luxury Airport Transfer: $25
  • El Torcal de Antequera Hike with Transfer: $28
  • Antequera: Dolmens and El Torcal Tour with Transfer: $28
  • Lanzarote: Roundtrip Ferry Transfer to La Graciosa: $29
  • Barcelona: Private Transfer to/from Barcelona Airport (BCN): $30
  • Madrid Airport to City Private 1-Way or Round-Trip Transfer: $33
  • Costa del Sol: Private 1-Way Transfer to/from Malaga Airport: $33
  • Barcelona Airport: Shared Transfer to/from Costa Brava: $34
  • Almería Airport: Private Transfer To/From Almería: $36
  • Barcelona: Private Airport Transfer to/from Barcelona: $36
  • Málaga: Private Transfer to/from Málaga Airport (AGP): $37

Typical Local Transportation prices in Portugal

Here are some examples of typical transportation prices from actual travelers in Portugal:


  • Taxi Ride
    6.50

Hired Cars and Shuttles in Portugal

Some specific examples of transportation prices in Portugal:

  • Lisbon Shared Transfer: To or From the Airport: $9.58
  • From Lisbon: Freeport Shopping Experience with Transfers: $11
  • Porto Airport: Shared One-Way Arrival or Departure Transfer: $11
  • Lisbon: Shared Transfer Between Airport and City Hotels: $11
  • Madeira: 1-Way or Round-Trip Shared Airport Transfer: $14
  • Matosinhos Private Transfer:To/From the Oporto Airport: $15
  • Terceira Island Airport Transfer: $16
  • Lisbon: Private Transfer to/from Lisbon Airport: $18
  • Gaia Private Transfer:To/From the Oporto Airport: $18
  • Cascais/Estoril: Shared Transfer to/ from the Airport: $20
  • Lisbon Transfer: To or From the Airport: $20
  • Lisbon Airport: Private Transfer To/From Lisbon: $23

Is it cheaper to fly into Spain or Spain?

Prices for flights to both Portugal and Spain change regularly based on dates and travel demand. We suggest you find the best prices for your next trip on Kayak, because you can compare the cost of flights across multiple airlines for your prefered dates.





Food
  • Food Meals for one day
    Spain 32
    Portugal 32
Typical Food prices in Spain

Some typical examples of dining costs in Spain are as follows:


  • Hot Cocoa & Churro
    4.15
  • Sandwich
    1.70
  • Baguette & Horchata
    3.80
  • Coffee
    2.00
  • Lunch
    14
  • Fiesta Paella
    8.00
  • Soda
    2.50
  • Sangria
    2.50
  • Sandwich to go
    3.00
  • Bocadillo & Drink
    6.25
  • Lunch
    9.50
  • Ice Cream
    2.30

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Spain

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Spain.

  • Seville: Flamenco Show with Optional Andalusian Dinner: $23
  • Jerez: Live Flamenco Show with Optional Dinner: $34
  • Seville: Paella Cooking Experience on a Rooftop Terrace: $48
  • Barcelona: Paella Cooking Experience + Boqueria Market Tour: $48
  • Flamenco Show at El Palacio Andaluz with Optional Dinner: $50
  • Madrid: Murder Mystery Dinner Experience: $50
  • Madrid: Flamenco Workshop and Show with Dinner and Drinks: $51
  • Puerto del Carmen: Music Hall Tavern Comedy Drag Dinner Show: $55
  • Tenerife: Music Hall Tavern Comedy Drag Show Ticket & Dinner: $56
  • Madrid: Opera and Zarzuela Show and Dinner: $60
  • Seville: Spanish Cooking Class with Dinner: $62
  • Valencia: Flamenco Show with Dinner at La Bulería: $63

Typical Food prices in Portugal

Some typical examples of dining costs in Portugal are as follows:


  • Pizzaria Lunch (for 2)
    15
  • Coffee
    1.40
  • Coffee
    2.50
  • Lunch for Two
    13

Food Tours and Cooking Classes in Portugal

Also, here are some specific examples of food and dining related activities in Portugal.

  • Porto: Pastel de Nata Cooking Class with Grandma's Recipe: $23
  • Madeira: Folklore Show Tickets with Dinner and Drinks: $42
  • Lisbon: Live Fado & Alfama Tour with Traditional Dinner: $44
  • Lisbon: 2-Hour Pastel de Nata Cooking Class: $51
  • Porto: 3-Hour Food Tour: $56
  • Lisbon: 2.5-Hour Food Tour by Segway: $56
  • Lisbon: Pastel de Nata Cooking Class with Local Baker: $57
  • Lisbon Old Town Food Tour by Sitway: $63
  • Porto: Private Family Friendly Food Tour: $64
  • Porto: Private Food Tour – 10 Tastings with Locals: $65
  • Porto: Half-Day Food Tour: $68
  • Furnas Hot Springs Night Tour with Dinner: $72

Entertainment
  • Entertainment Entrance tickets, shows, etc.
    Spain 22
    Portugal 17
Typical Entertainment prices in Spain

Some typical examples of activities, tours, and entrance ticket prices in Spain are as follows:


  • Picasso Walking Tour and Museum Pass
    42
  • Souvenir Gaudi Book
    8.55
  • Snorkel
    5.00
  • Flamenco Tour
    16
  • Entrance to Cathedral
    8.00
  • Garden Entrance Fee
    6.00
  • Admission to Museo Picasso
    6.00
  • Entrance to Castillos
    7.10
  • Concert
    31
  • Cadiz Sightseeing Tour
    15
  • Tower of Hercules
    3.00
  • Valle de los Caídos Monument
    6.00

Tours and Activities in Spain

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Spain are as follows:

  • Segovia Cathedral Entrance Ticket: $3.40
  • Madrid: Prado Museum Self-Guided Audio Tour App: $3.97
  • Malaga: Picasso’s Birthplace Museum Entrance Ticket: $4.53
  • Sacromonte Caves Museum Admission Ticket: $5.65
  • Bilbao: Guided Tour of the Arriaga Theater: $5.66
  • San Sebastian: Hop-On Hop-Off City Tour Train: $5.66
  • Icod de los Vinos: Dragon Tree & Botanical Garden Ticket: $5.66
  • Tenerife: La Casa de Los Balcones Entrance Ticket: $5.66
  • Madrid: Self-Guided Tour with Over 100 Sights: $5.67
  • Barcelona: Self-Guided Tour with Over 100 Sights: $5.67
  • Tarragona: Cathedral Entry Ticket: $5.68
  • Valencia: Smartphone Self-Guided Audio Tour App: $5.70

Tours and Activities in Portugal

Some specific costs of activities, tours, and entrance tickets for Portugal are as follows:

  • Lisbon: Rua Augusta Arch Admission Ticket: $3.42
  • Sintra Myths and Legends Interpretative Center Entry Ticket: $3.99
  • Braga Cathedral Entry Ticket: $5.67
  • Lisbon: Museu Coleção Berardo Entrance Ticket: $5.70
  • Lisbon: Pillar 7 Bridge Experience Ticket: $5.70
  • Porto: Torre dos Clerigos Entrance Ticket: $6.81
  • Lisbon: Belém Tower Entrance Ticket: $6.84
  • Faro: Hop On Hop Off City Tour by Tourist Train: $6.84
  • Lisboa Story Centre: 1-Day Admission Ticket: $7.41
  • Porto: Casa São Roque Direct Entry Ticket: $7.94
  • Aveiro: Tuka-Tuka Tourist Sightseeing Train: $7.95
  • Aveiro: Guided Tuk Tuk City Tour: $9.08

Alcohol
  • Alcohol Drinks for one day
    Spain 15
    Portugal 13
Typical Alcohol prices in Spain

Below are a few samples from actual travelers for alcohol and nightlife costs in Spain:


  • Beer
    5.00
  • A Sangria & a Beer
    6.50
  • Bottle of Wine
    5.00
  • Wine in Front of Cathedral
    4.00
  • Beer
    3.00
  • Bottle of Wine
    1.65
  • Beer
    1.20
  • Celebratory Shots
    5.00
  • Beer
    2.80
  • 1 Pint Beer
    2.00
  • Drinks and Tapas (for 2)
    13
  • Coffee
    3.10

Sample the Local Flavors in Spain

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Spain:

  • Barcelona: Pub Crawl with Shots and Cocktail: $5.67
  • Barcelona: Estrella Damm Brewery Guided Tour with Tasting: $9.08
  • Granbazán Winery: Guided Tour and Wine Tasting: $16
  • Rioja Alavesa: Wine Tasting in a Tradicional Winery: $17
  • Barcelona: Estrella Damm Old Brewery Tour with Tasting: $17
  • Valencia: Pub Crawl: $17
  • Lanzarote: Wine Tour and Tasting under the Volcano: $22
  • Córdoba: Local Wine Tasting Evening: $27
  • Barcelona Wine Tasting: Catalan and Spanish Wines: $34
  • Timanfaya National Park and La Geria Wine Tasting: $37
  • Valencia: Surprise Winery Visit with Wine Tasting: $40
  • Madrid: Wine Tasting Experience: $43

Sample the Local Flavors in Portugal

Here are a few nightlife and alcohol tours and activities from local tour providers in Portugal:

  • Loulé: Quinta da Tôr Winery Tour with Wine Tastings: $11
  • Porto: Magic Train Tour and Port Wine Tastings: $14
  • Coimbra: Live Fado Show with Port Wine Tasting: $14
  • Porto: Cálem Cellar Tour, Interactive Museum & Wine Tasting: $16
  • Porto: Graham's Port Lodge Guided Tour and Wine Tasting: $19
  • Lisbon 4-Hour Pub Crawl: $21
  • Lisbon: 1-Hour Portuguese Wine Tasting Session: $22
  • Porto: Cálem Cellar Tour, Fado Show & Wine Tasting: $26
  • Lagoa: Vineyard Tour and Wine Tasting: $29
  • Lisbon: 3-Hour Portuguese History & Flavors Food & Wine Tour: $30
  • Porto: Wine Tour: $31
  • Porto Half-Day Historical Tour & Port Wine Tasting: $34


When comparing the travel costs between Spain and Portugal, we can see that Spain is more expensive. However, the two cities are actually relatively comparable in price, as the difference is somewhat minimal. Generally, this means that you could travel with generally the same travel style and level of luxury in each place. Since both cities are in Europe, it's no surprise that their costs are relatively close, as many destinations here have somewhat similar travel prices overall.

Funchal, Portugal Funchal, Portugal

Why is Spain more expensive than Portugal?

Spain and Portugal are generally comparable in price, but Spain tends to be slightly more expensive. The countries have a lower cost of living than some Western European countries, and this translates into slightly more affordable travel costs for visitors. Even so, Spain is a top tourist destination, so don't expect it to be super cheap. Portugal continues to grow in popularity as well, and you can expect prices to go up as this trend continues. If you're traveling on a particularly tight budget, you'll find plenty of budget accommodation options around such as hostels, and affordable guesthouses.

What are the most expensive and cheapest cities and regions in Spain and Portugal?

In general, the most popular tourist destinations tend to also be the most expensive. In Spain, coastal cities and towns can actually be a bit more expensive to visit than the larger cities. The high demand for accommodation drive prices up, particularly during the peak times when most visitors arrive.

In Portugal, Lisbon and the coastal towns are usually the most expensive places to visit.

In both Spain and Portugal, prices are very dependent on the season, so if you're traveling during the peak summer months you'll likely to pay significantly more for a room.

How can you save money while visiting Spain and Portugal?

Prices in both Spain and Portugal are very dependent on the time of year. Travel during the slightly off peak times. Prices inevitably climb during the peak summer months so make sure you visit when the crowds are less during the fall or spring seasons.

Stay flexible. Be willing to change your plans if things aren't going as you expected and don't be afraid to leave a place early or stay longer if you're having a particularly good time.

Spend time just exploring the town you're in. Take at least a day and just let yourself get lost. Don't worry about seeing the specific sights and attractions, but instead soak up the atmosphere and culture of the city.

Buses are almost always cheaper than trains, so look into all of your transportation options before buying tickets.

Eat local. Find the local restaurants that are popular with the residents of the town. Avoid the tourist traps and you're likely to have the best food for a fraction of the cost.

Move slowly. Don't be afraid to slow your travel speed down. Spend more time in less places, and your transportation costs will go down significantly. You'll also experience each location on a whole new level.

Budget Your Trip

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Spain vs. Portugal Travel Comparison

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