Spain vs. Portugal: Which one is a better destination?

At first sight, Spain and Portugal seem to be like twins, especially since they both share the beautiful Iberian Peninsula. They both got amazing cuisine, the best beaches in the world, charming characters, and rich history behind them. But which one is a better destination? Spain or Portugal? It depends on your preferences.

Keep reading this post as we’ll check eight different factors that would determine which one is a better destination, Spain, or Portugal?

Language

People in both countries speak (at least) intermediate English in big cities that would almost solve the problem, but when it comes to the local language, they have some differences.

Spain

Although Spanish is the official language of Spain as a whole, since Spain is a big country, there are a lot of different dialects and even languages like Catalan. You can see Spanish being spoken and written in most parts, but sometimes you’d be in a situation where most people only speak another language like in Valencia where most people are Catalan.

Portugal

Since Portugal is a small country compared to Spain, almost all parts of the country speak the same language, Portuguese.

Winner: If you speak Spanish, both countries are good options since Portuguese is very similar to Spanish, but for simplicity’s sake, Portugal is the winner in language.

Food

Both Spanish and Portuguese cuisine offer exceptional seafood dishes, as well as a lot of Chorizo, tomato, potato, and onion. They both also have a passion for adding olive oil and garlic to almost all their dishes, but they have some differences as well.

Spain

Since Spain is relatively bigger than Portugal, each region has its own signature dish like paella in Valencia or shellfish such as razor clams and barnacles in Galicia. In general, Spanish cuisine consists of a lot of rice, egg, and pork, and the national sweet treat is warm churros dipped in a cup of melted chocolate.

Portugal

Portuguese people are kind of obsessed with Bacalhau, a dried, salted cod that is eaten everywhere in the country. There’s even a saying that there are 365 ways to cook Bacalhau, one for every day of the year! Portuguese dishes are very rich in protein. I mean, that Bifana sandwich can’t go wrong, right?

Winner: This one is hard because Spanish and Portuguese cuisine are very similar. price-wise, Portugal would be more affordable because Portuguese cuisine is still not as known as Spanish cuisine. While Spain is a slightly better destination for vegetarians.

Wine

Spain

After Italy and France, Spain is the largest wine producer in the world. Go to the Rioja region for bold, fruity Tempranillos, Penedes for sparkling cava, and Jerez for bright Sherries.

Portugal

Portugal is an amazing place for white wine lovers. Head to Porto, take a river cruise through the Duoro Valley, and sample ruby, rose, and white port.

Winner: If you’re a red wine drinker, Spain. If you’re a white wine drinker or into fortified wines, it’s Portugal.

Key Destinations

Spain

It’s hard to choose between the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of Madrid with its world-class museums, and imperial palaces, and funky Gaudi architecture Barcelona with wide-open avenues, and plenty of delicious food.

Travel south to Andalusia to fall in love with Spanish architecture in Granada’s famous Alhambra. Or head north to Pamplona to make the pilgrimage by foot on the Camino del Santiago to the Santiago de Compostela, or watch the running of the bulls.

If you need to relax, Spain has about 5,000 km of coastline to give you enough options on beaches to choose from. From nightlife centers like Ibiza or Mallorca to the fishing town of Cadiz.

Portugal

Portugal’s capital, Lisbon is a charming city, covered with tiles and full of palm trees. You’ll find a laid-back cafe culture all around the city which makes it look even cuter.

Just 45 minutes away from Lisbon, you’ll find Sintra with a lot of castles and palaces that seem to be popped out of a fairy tale!

Once visiting the first one, you can’t help yourself but visiting all of the small towns across the country, especially Cascais, Sortelha, and Amarante.

Plus in the whole Mediterranean region, you can’t find beaches as empty as Portugal’s Algarve region beaches.

Winner: It depends. If you are a fan of lazy beaches and charming cities, Portugal, but if you are an architecture lover or an outdoor enthusiast, Spain is the way to go.

Cost of Travel

In general, the cost of travel varies by a lot of factors such as if you’re visiting Spain or Portugal during the peak season or not and if you’re staying in metropolitan areas or less crowded towns and villages.

For simplicity’s sake, we’ll only compare Barcelona and Lisbon with each other since these two cities are the most popular tourist destinations in Spain and Portugal.

Spain

If you’re staying in Barcelona, a decent hotel room would cost you about $200 a night and a museum ticket would be about $20. Also, If you want to dine out in Barcelona, you’re looking at $25 to $35.

Portugal

If you’re going to stay in Lisbon, a decent hotel room would cost you about $130 a night and a museum ticket would be around $7. And if you’re dining out in Lisbon, your bill would be around $10 to $20.

Winner: If you’re a budget traveler, Portugal is the absolute winner as no other European country in the same league would be able to compete against it. But keep in mind that Spain is still more affordable than a lot of other European countries.

History and Culture

When it comes to history, Spain and Portugal have a lot in common. Both countries were a part of the Roman empire, the Goth, and were being ruled by Umayyad Caliphate at some point. during the Age of Discovery, both Spain and Portugal were among the world leaders in expanding their borders overseas. With such rich, yet similar backgrounds, these two countries have a lot in common but they also have some major differences.

Spain

Besides the general background of Spaniards, each region in Spain has its own touch in history which makes regionalism a thing in this country. And in some cases, it is too strong that leads people towards independence like Catalans.

In general, Spaniards are very proud of their food, football, and art. I mean, when they got artists like Antoni Gaudi, Pablo Picasso, and Miguel de Cervantes, who doesn’t like to be proud?

In restaurants don’t expect your server to be around and ready like in North America. They get paid enough for living and don’t rely on tips. Then just be more patient and enjoy your meal!

Also don’t expect catering based on your schedule. In Spain, breakfast is at 8 am, lunch at 3 pm, and dinner at about 10 pm.

Portugal

Portugal is a relaxed country with laid-back people. Surfers are almost on every beach, and people aren’t in rush at all. They are chill and everything until you mention Cristiano Ronaldo! Then you see them becoming passionate enough to talk about Christiano’s great personality and the fact that they might win the next world cup!

Don’t expect to get much done on Sundays as the whole country’s almost chilling! In general, if you’re in rush, Portugal is a big no-no!

People would love to help you and treat you as well as a dear old friend (Great attitude to win travelers’ hearts!) even if they don’t speak English which is not uncommon!

And similar to Spain, don’t expect to receive top-notch service from your server as they’re not going to give you a fake smile for your tip! Despite in North America, servers’ wage is good enough for a normal lifestyle in Portugal.

Winner: If you’re interested in seeing more famous artworks and experiencing the more influential culture, Spain probably edges Portugal out by its size. But Portugal’s not going to disappoint you either.

Infrastructure

Both countries are well-developed as fas as Infrastructure goes, but they are not at the same level as France or Germany.

Spain

Spain is well connected thru a high-speed train network, the AVE Alta Velocidad that connects big cities. However, the gap between the major cities gets filled by smaller public transit systems, like trains or buses.

Spain has a few options when it comes to international airports which makes it relatively easy for booking flight tickets from North America to Spain.

Portugal

Similar to Spain, Portugal is connected thru a railroad system called Infraestruturas de Portugal, but double-check the public transit’s schedule on Sundays in general as they offer less service on Sundays and during stat holidays.

Portugal is infamous for its road safety. Although in recent years there have been some improvements, Portugal is still a dangerous country for traveling by car, especially if you’re not familiar with the condition of the roads in different parts of the country.

Lisbon Portela Airport, is the only option you got for international airports in Portugal if you’re booking your flight from North America to Portugal.

Winner: If traveling by train, both countries are good but Spain is the winner of traveling by car and plane.

Safety 

Both Spain and Portugal are very safe with a low to non-existent rate of violent crimes. But similar to anywhere else in the world, you want to take care of your wallet and don’t showcase your precious belongings. Although Portugal has poor road conditions compared to Spain, Spain is known for its car scammers. You want to be aware of the things going on around you and not to get distracted too much by a conversation or help offer.

Winner: Although Portugal isn’t as safe as Spain in its road conditions, it’s generally a safer country, both for its residents and visitors.

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13 thoughts on “Spain vs. Portugal: Which one is a better destination?

  1. Been a while since I last stopped here and I’ll like to choose Spain. I studied some of Gaudi’s architecture a while back and they were mesmerising.

    Great work! But how bad are the roads in Portugal? Is it just potholes or they aren’t wide enough?

    Liked by 1 person

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