From their super fresh seafood dishes, delicious wines, sun-kissed beaches, clear blue waters, graceful architecture, love of soccer, and proud maritime history, it may be convenient to assume that the neighboring countries of Spain and Portugal have lots in common. True to a certain extent, but there are a lot more factors that make these countries truly distinctive. If you’re thinking about holidaying in the Iberian Penninsula and are torn between which of the two countries to visit, we can help you decide. Read on to find out which country is a better fit for you and the perfect destination to spend your precious, hard-earned vacation time, and remember to fill our poll right at the end of this post. Trust us, you’ll be saying gracias or obrigado to us at the end of your holiday!
Choose Spain if…
You appreciate great art and architecture
Spain has plenty of bragging rights in terms of being the birthplace of some of history’s most brilliant creative minds. If you love boundary-pushing art and architecture, you’ll enjoy ogling at Pablo Picasso’s Guernica or any number of Salvador Dali creations at Madrid’s Reina Sofia modern art museum, or if you find yourself in Barcelona, you won’t be able to resist snapping away at the Gothic and Art Nouveau forms of the city’s iconic unfinished La Sagrada Familia basilica and the colorful sculptures at Park Güell, both creations of the world-famous architect Antoni Gaudi.
You’re a wine connoisseur
While Portugal also has some brilliant wines, you’ll be spoiled for choice in Spain. From full-bodied reds from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions, to hearty sherries from Jerez de la Frontera, there’ll be plenty to savor for those in love with great wine and the process in which they are brought to life.
You love your finger food
The Spanish small-plate art of tapas is a great representation of local cheeses, meats, and vegetables — all enjoyed with a nice bottle of wine and among good company. It’s almost a national past time that’s a great way to make new friends when you visit. Whether you’re chowing down in Seville or enjoying the culinary treats of Barcelona, be sure to partake in some traditional patatas brava, diced up and fried potatoes served with a spicy tomato sauce, or gambas al ajillo, a delicious garlic shrimp preparation.
You don’t mind some amazing beaches…and the crowds that come with them
Spain has some amazingly large beaches that attract sun worshippers from around the world. From the energetic nightlife hub of Ibiza to the beautiful coastlines of San Sebastian, you’ll find plenty of gorgeous places to lay down and catch some sun. But beware: there are thousands of other visitors who also have the same idea, so you might find yourself sunning along with tons of tourists.
Choose Portugal if…
You’re a total history buff
Portuguese explorers and traders ventured as far as India and the Far East in the hopes of creating business ties and importing spices and other rare materials back to Europe. The story of Portugal’s maritime past can be experienced when you visit the Belém district of Lisbon, where you can see the Monument to the Discoveries, a structure that highlights key adventurers and travelers, as well as the Belém Tower, a defensive structure that stands as a symbol of the Age of Discovery in the 15th and 16th centuries. Also, don’t forget to check out the iconic Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, a monastery built to commemorate Vasco da Gama’s route to India, and which is also the final resting place of the famed mariner.
You prefer quieter beaches
While crowds throng to Spain’s Costa del Sol, the vibe along Portugal’s famed Algarve coastline is more in line with quaint little fishing villages. Yes, you will find a lot of tourists during the peak season, but you’ll also find more people who come for the surfing than the lounging out. Remember that Portugal’s Atlantic waters are a few degrees cooler than Spain’s, but this doesn’t make it any less fun for water sports and other activities.
You don’t mind salted cod…lots of it
An iconic ingredient of Portuguese cooking, you’ll find Bacalhau — a dried, salted cod — quite frequently in your journey through the country. There’s even a saying that there are 365 ways to cook Bacalhau, one for every day of the year!
You’re on a tighter budget
While Spain is also considered one of the European countries with cheaper living expenses, Portugal can edge it out by a bit. Your major expense would be in finding flights to Lisbon, which are not as frequent or as cheap as flights into Spain’s big cities. However, once you are in Portugal, the food, drink, and accommodation can save you quite a bit. In the end it all adds up!