This blog post was updated on March 6, 2020.
Sun-drenched beaches, bustling cities, soccer fans galore, stunning architecture and deliciously fresh seafood dishes: Portugal and Spain both have a lot to offer when it comes to vacationing. Although they have lots in common, there are actually many elements to each of these countries that make them truly different from one another. If you’re dreaming about soaking up the sun in one of these Iberian paradises but are torn between which one of the two you should visit, we’re here to help you! We’ve got the lowdown on both these destinations so you can decide on which country is a perfect fit for you — seja bem-vindo or de nada… since we know you’ll be thanking us after your getaway, we’re saying you’re welcome!
Choose Portugal if…
You love all things historical
Portugal’s rich maritime past is reason alone for any history buff to fall in love with this destination. Venturing out as far as India, Portuguese explorers and merchants went on many quests to find and import the riches of the East. Along the way they created strong business ties with many distant nations, enabling them to bring rare materials and goods back to Europe. The Belém district of Lisbon is home to the Monument to the Discoveries, a structure that highlights key adventurers and travelers, and the Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site 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 enjoy tranquil beaches
Spain’s Costa del Sol boasts some of the world’s sunniest and, also, some of the continent’s busiest beaches. So, if you’re trying to avoid large crowds, partiers and hoards of vacationers from near and far, you’ll love the vibe along Portugal’s famed Algarve coastline dotted with quaint little fishing villages, or the Azores — a chain of nine volcanic islands with hot springs, lava fields, and some of the best whale watching in the world! Although we can’t promise a totally tourist-free scene during the peak summer season, we can assure you that the crowds you’ll find here are likely people who come for the surfing rather than partying or lounging out.
You really love seafood…especially Cod
Though seafood plays a strong role in both countries, cod plays a particularly central role in Portuguese cuisine. An iconic ingredient in many meals, Bacalhau is a dried, salted cod dish that you’ll find on almost every menu from Michelin star restaurants to mom and pop shops. The people here even have a saying that there are 365 ways to cook Bacalhau — one for every day of the year!
You’re on a tighter budget
From accommodation to entertainment, although Spain is also considered one of the European countries with cheaper living expenses, Portugal still has it beat when it comes to affordability. The most expensive part of your trip to Portugal will be your flight since flights here are not as frequent as flights into Spain. However, once you are in Portugal, the food, drink, and cost of your stay will be much less than it would be in Spain, so you can wine and dine like a queen (or king) without breaking the bank!
Choose Spain if…
You all about art-tastic architecture
Spain is the birthplace of some of history’s most brilliant creative minds. From the boundary-pushing works of Pablo Picasso’s and Salvador Dali creations at Madrid’s Reina Sofia modern art museum, to the Gothic and Art Nouveau forms Barcelona’s iconic unfinished La Sagrada Familia basilica and Antoni Gaudi’s colorful sculptures at Park Güell, the art and architecture in Spain is unparalleled so get ready to ogle your heart out art-lover!
You’re a wine-0
While Portugal Ports are incomparably delicious, the sheer amount of choice you’ll have of wines in Spain will make your head spin (even before the intoxication sets in). From full-bodied reds from the Priorat region to crisp, flavorful white wines from the Rueda region of Spain is the home to vibing and imbibing and there’ll be plenty to savor for you wine connoisseurs out there.
You live for finger food
The creators and master of the art of tapas (small plates), for a taste of cheese, meats, and vegetable heaven Spain is where you need to be. Pair your tapas with a nice bottle of wine and some great company and you’ll be in foodie paradise with every bite. Be sure to sample some classics like chorizo al vino — small chorizo sausage links cooked in red wine, or chipirones — small, whole grilled or fried squids!
You like your beaches like you like your bars…hip, crowded and fun
Spain boasts some stunning, large beaches that attract beach bums from across the globe. If you’re ready to sunbathe and get your party pants on, you’ll love the beaches here that are home to energetic nightlife hubs like Ibiza to the beautiful coastlines of Playa Blanca. As long you’re down to catch some sun and waves next to thousands of tourists, you won’t find a shortage of things to do along the Spain coasts!