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Spending 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal might just be my highlight of 2019! It was our big trip this year – a delayed honeymoon!
Although we got married in 2018, we decided to delay our honeymoon, because 2018 was a very expensive year! 2018 included a 5-day wedding fiesta and a new condo.
So, we decided to take some time off to recover before we went off on our honeymoon.
After much deliberation, we finally settled on a 3 week trip to Spain and Portugal. Both of these countries are places, neither my husband nor I had seen before this trip.
We’d heard raving reviews of both places, and I won’t lie that my Instagram feed might be to blame. It was filled with gorgeous photos from both Spain and Portugal throughout the year enticing us to pick Spain and Portugal as our destination.
Of course, Spain and Portugal both provide a balance between history, culture, nature and great food and drink!
You may not know this about me, but planning the trip is my favorite part of a trip! I enjoy it every bit as much, as the actual travel!
Piecing together which cities/towns to visit, how to figure out the logistics of the travel, which attractions to hit, and of course what food to indulge in! I love planning all of it.
In the end, over the 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal, we visited 8 cities across the two countries, all of which are covered in this travel guide.
Overall, this seemed like enough time to cover enough ground in Spain and Portugal, to get a good sense of what both countries has to offer. Although there was so much more to do! We would have loved to see other cities, or spend a bit more time in a few of the places. But overall the 3 weeks we spent in Spain and Portugal felt like we had done our trip justice.
We started our trip in Portugal, on the northern side of the country in Porto, made our way to Lisbon, then down to the Portuguese coast, and over to Southern Spain, exploring some Andulasian cities, and then north to Madrid, and finally capping off our trip in Barcelona.
How to spend 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal
|Days 1 – 2||Porto, Portugal|
|Days 3 – 5||Lisbon, Portugal|
|Days 6 – 8||Albufeira, Portugal|
|Days 9 – 11||Seville, Spain|
|Days 12 – 13||Granda, Spain|
|Day 14||Ronda, Spain|
|Day 15 – 17||Madrid, Spain|
|Days 18 – 21||Barcelona, Spain|
We started our trip in Portugal, traveled down the coast, and into Spain.
Porto is the gateway city to the Portuguese wine region in the Duoro Valley but the city itself has a lot of history as well! It is the second largest city in Portugal.
We stayed in Gaia, a town adjacent to Porto, connected by a beautiful bridge. It is also the home to all the port wine cellars!
What to see: Sao Bento Train station, Livraria Lello, port wine cellars on the Gaia side, have coffee or a drink by the Ribera on both the Porto and Gaia sides.
Best way to explore: on foot; walk around as much as you can to explore!
Best thing to eat: Francesinha: A meat filled sandwich, that is fried, then topped with an egg. It served with a sauce, and fries to dip! Best food to indulge in after all the walking!
Don’t miss: the view from the top of the Ponte de Luis (the main bridge that connects Porto to Gaia) and take in the view from there!
Lisbon is the capital of Portugal and it’s the commercial hub of Portugal. It’s undoubtedly the most popular destination in Portugal because there is so much to explore.
The husband’s favorite part was the fresh seafood available in Lisbon!
What to see: walk around the Alfama district, Castelo Sao Jorge, Santa Justa Miraduoro, Porta de Sol
Best way to explore: on foot, public transit but take at least one ride on the tram to experience it
Best thing to eat: Pateis de Nata – the trek to Belem is worth is for the orginal at Pateis de Belem. We did find that the natas from Manteigaria (pictured above) in Lisbon in were a close second!
Don’t miss: views of the city from the various Miraduoras (aka viewpoint), each view was magnificent in it’s own way
Albufeira in the Algarve region
This is the beach area of Portugal, where the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Sea meet.
The area is expansive, with many secluded beaches that can only be accessed by boats. The coast line has a lot of spots to be explored, and it would be easy to spend 10 days just exploring the coast.
There are a lot of options for resorts and cute beach villas to stay right by the water.
We stayed in Albufeira because we traveled by train. To explore the area, we took a boat excursion for the day to explore the coast with AlgarExperience, which we booked on Viator.
What to see: the many beaches, explore old town Albufeira, Benagil Caves
Best way to explore: some towns are easily accessible by train, but if you want to explore more of the Algarve region and other cities, renting a car would be ideal.
Don’t miss: Benagil caves, and views by the beach at sunrise and sunsets
We start our trip to Spain along the southern coast, and then travelled North to Madrid, and capped off our time in Barcelona.
One of the best things about Spain was the food! In fact, I wrote about all the food you have to try in Spain on a separate post!
This was my favorite city to explore! We stayed in the Santa Cruz area, and it was filled with small alleys waiting to be discovered, filled with history, small bars and artisan stores!
What to see: get lost in the alleyways of barrio Santa Cruz, Real Alcázar of Seville, Plaza de Espana.
Best way to explore: on foot, public transit – the main attractions are all easily accessible.
Best thing to eat: Tapas, tapas, tapas – The tapas served in Seville had more of a flair, compared to other parts of Spain. Also, fresh orange juice was sweet and refreshing!
Don’t miss: Watch a flamenco show in one of the small theatres in the Santa Cruz area!
Granada’s biggest attraction is the Alhambra palace, which does not disappoint!
What to see: Alhambra (including the Nasrid Palaces), Alcaiceria market
Best way to explore: bus, and on foot.
Best thing to eat: Another great city for tapas! The tapas experience in Granada was unique, as we always got a sizeable tapa for free with an order of drinks. Don’t miss the churros at the Alhambra cafeteria!
Don’t miss: Alhambra was worth all the hype we heard! Make sure to get a ticket that allows you to explore the Nasrid Palaces, it well worth it!
This was a short one night stop for us, but it was one of my favorite destinations. It is in Southern Spain, in the Malaga region. And a popular destination for Spanish travellers.
What to see: El Tajo Gorge, and Puente Nuevo
Best way to explore: on foot, the main attractions are close by.
Best thing to eat: We ate at La Taberna, a tapas place. The wait was over an hour, but the food was well worth it – might even have been my favorite meal of the trip!
Don’t miss: the view of the El Tajo Gorge!
The capital and commercial hub of Spain. I think we ate the most here. Madrid has a big city, a cosmopolitan vibe. The food selection was great, indulging in tapas, pinchitos, paella, and churros.
What to see: Santiago Bernabéu Stadium , Museo del Prado, Retiro Park, Templo de Deblod.
Best way to explore: Metro, and on foot.
Best thing to eat: Churros at San Gines, the dipping chocolate was divine!
Don’t miss: the food market in Madrid
Barcelona has a very different vibe than the other cities we visited in Spain. Thankfully, since it was a bit North, it was a little cooler, compared to Southern Spanish region. The city also feels newer when compared to the other cities we saw in Spain. Many of the sites in Barcelona were built or influenced by Antoni Gaudi, a famous architect whose plans are still being utilized to build the Sagrada Familia.
What to see: Gothic Quarter, market at the Bouqeria, watch a football match at Camp Nou, Sagrada Familia, and the many other masterpieces by Antoni Gaudi in the city!
Best way to explore: Metro, bus, and on foot.
Best thing to eat: Paella
Don’t miss: the Sagrada Familia, if that’s the one thing you see in Barcelona
It was definitely not difficult to spend three weeks in Spain and Portugal. We had to pick and choose and prioritize the cities we visited, but there was so much more to see and do!
We flew into Lisbon, and actually spent our first night in Lisbon before heading off to Porto. I would recommend flying into Porto, or heading straight to Porto once you land in Lisbon if at all possible.
We took trains throughout Portugal, Porto to Lisbon, Lisbon to Albufeira.
The quickest way from Albufeira/Algarve to Spain was to take the bus to Seville.
We chose to stay at least one night in all the cities, but there are several day trips possible if you base yourself in Seville, or Madrid, or another city in Southern Spain.
Spain is quite large, and flying is also a great option depending on your budget and time. We found that the high speed trains between Southern Spain and Madrid, and Madrid to Barcelona worked out well!
We then flew out of Barcelona, on our way back.
Tips for a 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal:
- The high-speed trains can get booked up pretty fast. Make reservations as soon as possible. Tickets can be book online, on the CP app in Portugal and Renfe app for Spain
- Attractions can get busy! If you plan on going to Granada to visit the Alhambra palace or the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona make sure to book them as soon as you know your dates!
- Keep open time in your itinerary. There is so much to discover in all these cities, that you can only find when you’re walking around often aimlessly!
- Public transportation or walking will be your best bet at getting around! Uber was available in most of the cities, except for Granada and Barcelona, but taxicabs are widely available.
- In Portugal, make sure to see all the Miraduoras, that means viewpoint, make sure to check this out!
- As North Americans, we found it odd that Yelp wasn’t very popular in Spain and Portugal. Thankfully, tourists do use Tripadvisor!
- If you only learn a few words in Spanish or Portuguese, make sure to know what foods to get on a menu.
- Eating tapas is an experience on its own, this was definitely a highlight of our trip!
And there it is! A long post recapping our 3 weeks in Spain and Portugal. Thanks for reading along!
Are you planning a trip to Spain or Portugal?
Let me know if you have any questions or comments on this itinerary!