See the best of Spain and Portugal, and live la buena vida, with our curated guide of the best things to do on the Iberian Peninsula. Explore castles as old as memory. Dine on artisanal cheeses in bustling markets. Marvel at masterpieces from Europe’s greatest artists. And unwind at the end of a hard day’s travel with a glass of cava (Spanish sparkling wine) or vinho verde (Portuguese white wine region) in hand.
The best of Spain begins with the capital, Madrid, a melting pot of history and culture. From the shops of the bustling Gran Via to the artworks of the Prado Museum, there is something for everyone. Explore at a leisurely pace to soak up the sights of grand architecture and rub elbows with the welcoming locals.
Visit one of the most spectacular palaces in Europe, the Royal Palace of Madrid. The regal facade and lavish interior of this estate will transport you to centuries past. Afterwards, spend a few hours exploring the grand central square, Plaza Mayor. This expansive plaza has a history of Bullfights hidden behind its ochre-hued walls. Absorb the plaza’s past over drinks and tapas in any of the alfresco restaurants lining the square.
BE INSPIRED: 9 UNESCO World Heritage Sites to see in Spain
Find surprise at every turn along Lisbon’s labyrinthine of streets. Make your way to Torre de Belém as acoustic notes of Fado float through the air. Originally a 16th-century fort, this structure is famous for its ornate Manueline architecture. Whilst in Belem, it would be remiss not to sample a flakey, creamy egg custard tart at Pasteis de Belem. One of the best of Portugal, this cafe uses a secret recipe, unchanged since the tart’s creation in 1837. With your sweet tooth satisfied, we recommend a tour of the UNESCO-listed Hieronymite Monastery. The architectural complexities built into every aspect of this landmark are a feast for the eyes.
Enjoy Spain and Portugal travel with Trafalgar on the ‘Treasures of Spain and Portugal’ tour.
Best places for food
Top off a day spent amongst the wonders of Valencia with Paella. Local to the sunny Valencian region, this hearty peasant dish uses traditional tender rabbit instead of the more common seafood. Don’t be afraid to tuck in the traditional way, with a wooden spoon scooped directly into the cooking pan. Savour the rich and meaty flavours of this authentic paella alongside a glass of local wine.
The Alentejo Region of Portugal is described as the country’s breadbasket. The small town of Evora is the ideal place to experience the rich flavours of this cuisine. A must-try is the renowned porto preto, also known as black pig. Farmers make this delicacy by allowing Iberico pigs to roam free across the countryside. The pigs eat acorns from wild oak trees, which imparts an intense and nutty flavour in their meat. Enjoy porto preto ham direct from a butcher paired with a loaf of dense and crispy Alentejano bread.
Best places for adventure
Adventure in Granada comes in all shapes and forms. Discover a centuries-old history in the Alhambra, a walled city of blended Islamic and Western architecture. Inside, find elaborate carved archways and columns clad in patterned tiles. Outside, wander through the fresh air of sculpted gardens and orange trees.
If you prefer to live life on the wild side, look no further than the Sierra Nevada. Located outside of Granada, this mountain range offers panoramic views of snow-capped peaks. Hike to Mirador Ahi De Cara, the best vantage point above the sea of tumbling mountains and towns dotted below.
Explorers can run wild in the Algarve coastal region. Which would you like to do first? Swim to the hidden cave beach of Benagil, traverse the endless Praia du Vau cliff line, or stand on the edge of the continent at Cape St Vincent? Perhaps you would prefer to take it all in from above. On a romantic hot air balloon ride, soar over the sweeping landscape of clifftops, almond trees and beaches all at once.
Experience the magic of the Algarve and the rest of Portugal with Trafalgar on the ‘Best of Portugal’ tour.
Best places for history and culture
A favourite city amongst travellers, Barcelona is unmissable on any Portugal and Spain tour. The work of Antoni Gaudi, pioneer architect behind the most famous structures in Barcelona, makes this seaside city unique. Top priority should be the famously unfinished la Sagrada Familia. This towering basilica is a dream come to life with its intricate facades and colour-splashed hall. But, there’s more to experience in Barcelona than just this hundred-year-old masterpiece. Get lost amongst the winding alleys of the Gothic Quarter, taste authentic manchego in the buzzing la Boqueria market, and admire the sunset from the top of Montjuic.
Most travellers visit Seville to see the elaborate Plaza de Espana and the monumental Seville Cathedral. Some often stay for the exquisite tapas. But the greatest part of Seville lies in its fiery flamenco culture. Seville is packed with tablaos (Flamenco theatres) showcasing this passionate and dramatic UNESCO-protected art form. This lively, costumed dance performed to folkloric guitar music will have you dancing in your seat. Why not take a flamenco lesson while you’re here? Hailing from the local Andalusian region, Flamenco in Seville is genuinely the best of Spain.
The best way to see Porto is on foot. Meander down cobblestone lanes past tiled churches, art museums and stylish cafes. These atmospheric streets are home to the Gothic Church of St. Francis and the Arabian-inspired Stock Exchange Palace, best explored with a Local Specialist. The greatest part of the history of Porto, however, does not lie in a single building. Port production has been a mainstay of the region for centuries. This traditional wine with musky berry notes can be enjoyed in one of many wine cellars along the Duoro River.
For a Portugal and Spain tour that captures the vibrancy of the Iberian Peninsular, join Trafalgar on the ‘Highlights of Spain and Portugal’ trip.
Best places for Some R’n’R
Costa del Sol
Take a break from the big cities on the sun-drenched Costa del Sol (‘Coast of the Sun’). Enjoy the whitewashed buildings of Mijas; dine on fresh seafood in Torremolinos; or stroll through the orange blossoms of Marbella Old Town. Find true relaxation on one of the many golden beaches that stretch along the coastline. Burriana Beach in Nerja is a top pick for its azure waters and buzzy promenade.
Have you travelled to Spain and Portugal and visited any of these unmissable destinations? Or, are you hoping to in the near future? Let us know in the comments below! Or, head to our website so you can read more about how you can discover the best of Spain and Portugal with Trafalgar.