Spain and Portugal road trip - Spain and Portugal road trip -

Spain and Portugal Road trip planner

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The Roadtrip in a nutshell

Enjoy northern Spain. This part of Spain offers fantastic, yet affordable accommodation and amazing local cuisine. This road trip itinerary guide for northern Spain provides lots of hints and recommendations to discover the north of Spain by visiting elegant cities such as San Sebastian, Santander, and Oviedo, and small fishing villages, all with their traditional architecture. You will also discover amazing mountain landscapes, fantastic beaches, and welcoming local people…This road trip itinerary has been selected as one of Spain’s best holidays by The Times

Spain and Portugal road trip map

MADRID
RIBERA DEL DUERO
SEGOVIA
AVILA-SALAMANCA
PORTO
BRAGA
BAIONA - RIAS BAIXAS
SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

10 to 12 nights to get the most out of it. One of the best options with this road trip is to spend time at smaller towns and villages that are trued hidden gems

End of March, April, May, June and first 2 weeks of July. September and october are also good months.

Time. Portugal is 1 hour behind Spain time, so remember to change your time once in Portugal and when you go back to Spain.

Language. Both Portuguese and Spanish come from Latin, but they are different languages. Do not worry about your Portuguese because, unlike in Spain, in Portugal, almost everyone speaks English.

List of recommended hotels for this roadtrip

Detailed road trip planner day by day

Bilbao or San Sebastian to Santiago de Compostela

Top stops to enjoy in this roadtrip

MADRID

2 days recommended

Capital of Spain and Europe´s capital city with more trees!  Madrid is a city full of contrasts in which everybody feels welcomed. Exciting nightlife co-exists with top art galleries and romantic parks. If this is your first time in Madrid, you will want to see the Palacio Real, Plaza Mayor, Gran Vía, Puerta del Sol, and at least one of Madrid´s most famous art museums (Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, or the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum).

Some recommendations in Madrid

  • Visit the rooftop of the Círculo de Bellas Artes for an afternoon drink and some of the best views of Madrid.
  • If the world of sports is of interest to you, then Real Madrid´s stadium is a must. Do the stadium tour and afterward, have a drink or a meal at the Real Café Bernabeu with views of the field.
  • Visit El Retiro park for a relaxing stroll and a break from the busy Madrid streets. Pick a spot underneath a shady tree, see the Palacio de Cristal, and if you´re up for it, take the rowboats for a spin.
  • The Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple in the center of Madrid. Best visited around sunset in which you can also enjoy the views of the Royal Palace and Casa de Campo.

FREE WALKING TOUR

Enjoy a free tour with a great itinerary in Madrid and its old districts. Best enjoyed on your arrival day to apply all recommendations
FREE

Prado museum guided tour

One fo the most demanded tours in Madrid. El Prado is an amazing art gallery, best visited with a local art expert

Bernabeu Stadium

Real Madrid is the most awarded team in the world. This tour is a must for any sports fan and an activity not to be missed in Madrid if you travel with children

Madrid tapas walking tour

A great way to enjoy Madrid like locals do whilst you discover its top highlights and have a fun and tasteful evening in Madrid

RIBERA DEL DUERO

1 day or 2 in case you are a wine lover

Drive to Ribera del Duero from Madrid using the Ap1 motorway. You should leave the motorway at Aranda de Duero and from there drive towards Peñafiel (or Roa de Duero first if you want to enjoy vineyard landscapes) 

Top attractions in Ribera del Duero

  • Castillo de Peñafiel. The castle holds a museum dedicated to wine. It opens from 16:00 till 20:00.
  • Plaza Viejo Coso. A good example of a Castilian square. Pay attention to the small doors. This square is used today still as a bullfighting ring.
  • Near Peñafiel you have the Monastery of Valbuena. It is said that is the first place in Ribera del Duero area producing wine. Nowadays it is a hotel, but you have the possibility to visit the exhibition «Las Edades del Hombre»
  • Ribera del Duero Golden Mile is part of the road from Peñafiel to Valladolid where we find the most famous wineries in Ribera del Duero such as Vega Sicilia, Dominio de Pingus, Abadía de Retuerta, Aalto and Finca Villacreces.

SEGOVIA

1 day for Segovia or 2 days to explore Avila, La Granja and Pedraza

Best way to get to Segovia from Madrid

  • The quickest route is taking the AP-6 and AP-61 though you will miss interesting landscapes and attractions
  • The other (recommended) route is a bit longer but you can make a stop to see the Royal Palace and gardens of La Granja (the Spanish version of Versailles) and drive through the National Park of Sierra de Guadarrama. Take the AP-6 to the M-601 at Collado Villalba (Exit 39). (More turns on this road. Not recommended for people who get car sick.) You can also decide to enjoy a detour and visit the Monastery of El Escorial and the valley of the Fallen. 

Top attractions in Segovia

Before stopping in Segovia, we recommend you take the panoramic route around the city. Take the street called Paseo Conde de Sepúlveda and continue on this road for spectacular views of the Cathedral, the Alcázar and the Roman aqueduct. We recommend this post with more information.

You can park on Av. la Vía Roma (paid public parking) near the aqueduct or walk from your hotel. The typical walking route starts from the aqueduct to the Plaza Mayor and the Alcázar. The tourist information office is next to the aqueduct.

SALAMANCA

2 days recommended

On the way to Salamanca, we recommend you make a stop in the walled city of Ávila. Explore the medieval wall and the city center with amazing monuments such as the cathedral or the gothic palaces inside the walls. For the best photo opportunity, go to Cuatro postes view Point. Ávila is known for its egg yolk sweets (Yemas de Santa Teresa).

Salamanca is one of the most important university cities in Spain with its University being the oldest in Spain. Its University buildings, constructed in a blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles, are valuable architectural gems. Much like Oxford or Cambridge in the UK, Salamanca is a stunning example of a Christian University town in the medieval world. It is the University city most cited in local historical literature, such as in the books ´The student of Salamanca´ and ´La Celestina´.
The city is also famous for having one of the most beautiful main squares in Spain, which is spectacularly illuminated at night, and for boasting not one, but two fantastic cathedrals.

Top attracions in Salamanca

The Cathedral with the Plateresco style is also one of the most impressive churches in Spain. If you have time, try to find the astronaut on one of the cathedral’s walls (strange but true).

Casa de las Conchas Try to count all of the scallop shells at Casa de las Conchas (Gothic palace and currently the public library).

Visit the Huerto of Calixto & Melibea (our Spanish Romeo and Juliet) and have a nice drink at Plaza Mayor while being watched by the statues of the most important people who were born or lived in Spain (writers, kings, soldiers, scientists…).

 

PORTO

2 days to ensure you enjoy the time on the road from Salamanca

Things to enjoy on your way to Porto from Salamanca

On your way to Porto, we suggest making 1 or 2 stops. The first stop will be Ciudad Rodrigo, in the Salamanca region, where you can discover its amazing castle in the city center. We highly recommend you to go to the Castle (now a Parador hotel) and have a coffee or just wander in the public areas. The cathedral is one of the most important monuments in the city. Do not lose the chance to check out its different architectonic styles (Romanesque, Gothic, Reinassance). There are several palaces to discover while walking around the city.

Once you cross the border to Portugal, remember to change the time one hour behind. On the road to Porto you can make a stop at Guarda, another medieval city. Places like the Cathedral or Praça de Guarda (the main square) are some of the most beautiful places to visit.

Did you know that the name of the city Porto means literally Port/Harbour? Once you cross the river Douro (Duero in Spanish) you will see ships and wineries. This amazing city has history, good gastronomy, good wine and culture in every stone.

Top attractions in Porto

Torre Dos Clerigos From the tower of this church, you have one of the best views of the city of Porto.
Livraria Lello. One of the most beautifil book shops in the world. This shop inspired J.K. Rowling while writing Harry Potter. It is worth having a look and maybe to buy a book. The entrance ticket can be bought next door. Make sure to go with plenty of time because it is almost certain that there will be a line to get in.
Train Station San Bento. We recommend visiting this train station to admire the incredible interior walls that depict the history of Portugal.
Avenida Dos Aliados. This is the business area in Porto, where the banks and insurance companies had the headquarters. You have to imagine how rich was Porto with all the wine industry, and that wealth can be seen in the buildings on this street.
Vila Nova de Gaia. On one side of the river is Porto, and on the other side, Vila Nova de Gaia, where the wineries had all the cellars. You can get here by foot by crossing the lower part or upper part of the Ponte Luis I bridge. The upper part has the best views but is not recommended if you are scared of heights.
Cathedral. This building was built in the XII century and you can visit it.

Restaurants in Porto

Restaurants in Portugal usually start serving you kinds of tapas like olives, butter, cheese, ham. Be careful because these are not usually free. If you eat any bit of it, you will see it on your bill. If you are served something that you didn’t order and you don’t want, make sure to let them know that you don´t want it (just to avoid any surprises on your bill later).

The following are restaurants we like in Porto:

Porto is well known for Portuguese tapas called Petiscos. In the city, there are some Petiscarias where to enjoy this experience.

Santo Antonio. This petiscaria is one of the most fun experiences in Porto. They ask what you like and start serving petiscos until you say stop! Address: Rua da Fábrica 72-90, Porto

Voltaria. One of the trendy places in Porto for Petiscos. Address: R. Afonso Martins Alho 109, Porto

Flor Dos Congregados. This small restaurant has high-quality cuisine. Local products ad Portuguese dishes. We recommend making a reservation beforehand. Address: Tv. dos Congregados 11, 4000-114 Porto

Franzesinha. The most local sandwich in Porto. A mix of meats, cheese, and port sauce. Really good fast food. The best in Porto are at Brasao Cervejaria, Cafe Santiago, Lado B or A Regaleira.

PORTUGAL ON THE ROAD TO SPAIN

2 days to ensure you enjoy the time on stops on the road

Things to enjoy on your way to Baiona in Spain from Porto

On your way to Spain you can stop in very different places to explore before arriving at Baiona. In Portugal, there are a couple of places worth visiting such as Guimaraes or Braga.

Guimaraes is considered the city from which the Portuguese identity started. Here was born king Alfonso Henriques who reconquered the land from the Muslims in the XII century. We recommend you visit the old part of the city and the Castle. The city is World Heritage by the UNESCO. it is also worth visiting the Palacio dos Duques de Bragança.

North of Guimaraes we have the 3rd biggest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto, Braga. The historic site where we can see the oldest church in Portugal, the Cathedral. Nice place to have a coffee or some lunch. We highly recommend also having a look to Bom Monde de Jesus, a church on the top of a hill and destination to hundreds of pilgrims every year. 

The last city in Portugal before crossing the border to Spain again is Valença do Minho. This city is anice place to make a stop (Be careful! The nice part is inside the castle, so you have to drive to the Castle to see it, if not you will see just ugly buildings and you will think that we are crazy for suggesting this place). Once you cross the border, remember to put your time one hour ahead.

If you want, we suggest taking the road from A Guarda to Bainoa. It is a very picturesque road going parallel to the Atlantic Ocean.

Near A Guarda there was an old Celtic settlement and you can now visit the old village, Santa Tecla (see map). In Baiona, we recommend visiting the little port where there is a replica of a caravel that went to America on the first trip by Christopher Colombus.

Things to enjoy on your way to Santiago de Compostela from Baiona in Spain

Today you can stop in very different places to explore before arriving at Baiona. In Portugal, there are a couple of places worth visiting such as Guimaraes or Braga.

Guimaraes is considered the city from which the Portuguese identity started. Here was born king Alfonso Henriques who reconquered the land from the Muslims in the XII century. We recommend you visit the old part of the city and the Castle. The city is World Heritage by the UNESCO. it is also worth visiting the Palacio dos Duques de Bragança.

North of Guimaraes we have the 3rd biggest city in Portugal after Lisbon and Porto, Braga. The historic site where we can see the oldest church in Portugal, the Cathedral. Nice place to have a coffee or some lunch. We highly recommend also having a look to Bom Monde de Jesus, a church on the top of a hill and destination to hundreds of pilgrims every year. 

The last city in Portugal before crossing the border to Spain again is Valença do Minho. This city is anice place to make a stop (Be careful! The nice part is inside the castle, so you have to drive to the Castle to see it, if not you will see just ugly buildings and you will think that we are crazy for suggesting this place). Once you cross the border, remember to put your time one hour ahead.

If you want, we suggest taking the road from A Guarda to Bainoa. It is a very picturesque road going parallel to the Atlantic Ocean.

Near A Guarda there was an old Celtic settlement and you can now visit the old village, Santa Tecla (see map). In Baiona, we recommend visiting the little port where there is a replica of a caravel that went to America on the first trip by Chistopher Colombus.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

1 day and at least 2 to 4 days if you want to enjoy el Camino, Rias Baixas or even Northern Portugal

Things to enjoy on your way to Santiago de Compostela from Lugo on this road trip

This route from Lugo to Santiago is one of the final stages in the Camino de Santiago. We recommend you profit from this by either walking or enjoying some of the interesting villages on the way.

This route runs through towns that make up the 3 final stages of the Camino de Santiago (stages 32, 33 and 34). Among them, the highlight is probably Palas de Rey, at the end of stage 32. We recommend 2 brief detours: from Palas de Rey to Pambre to enjoy its beautiful castle, and also from Palas de Rey to Puertomarín, end of stage 31 of the Camino de Santiago and known for its beautiful Romanesque church. We recommend enjoying a drink at El Mirador de Portomarin. Good views and a good quality menu.

Santiago is famous not only as being the destination for the Camino but also by its culture and universal history. The Obradorio Square and Cathedral are must-sees, as well as a stroll in the food market because of the vibrant colors of their local seafood-filled stalls.

Top attractions in Santiago de Compostela

  • Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela.. Undoubtedly one of the most important cathedrals of Christianity and the most important point of pilgrimage in Europe. A shell and an arrow indicate the Camino de Santiago that ends at the Cathedral. The mass for pilgrims is celebrated every day at 12:00. The “Botafumeiro” is the most unique element of the cathedral. A giant censer that can carry 40 kilograms of incense as it swings across the cathedral (its original purpose was to eliminate the odors that the pilgrims brought in).
  • Cathedral rooftops. . We recommend the visit to the Cathedral rooftops. It is necessary to book at least one day in advance.
  • The Squares.. The “Plaza del Obradoiro” is the most famous being in front of the Cathedral. Do not miss visiting the others that surround the Cathedral: Plaza de la Quintana, Plaza de la Inmaculada (Azabachería) and Inmaculada Plaza de Platerías.
  • Mercado de Abastos. . The Galician people boast of having the best seafood in Europe. Where better to buy it than here? A beautiful market that is best to go to early to enjoy all its liveliness. One of the bars of the market, Marisco Manía, lets you eat and enjoy the seafood purchased at the market there (paying for the preparation of the food and drinks).
  • Parque de la Alameda. A lovely park just next to the center of the city (take the Rua do Franco from the Cathedral – we do not recommend eating at one of the restaurants on this street). The Alameda Park has fantastic views of the city and the Cathedral.

Things to enjoy near Santiago de Compostela

  • Rias Baixas and albariño wine country If you are interested in discovering the wines of Galicia, you may be interested in a day trip to Rías Baixas wine region of Galicia, just one hour drive from Santiago de Compostela.
  • Cambados is the capital of albariño wine and there are wineries nearby that you can visit with a previous reservation. We can recommend Bodegas Martín Códax, Agro de Bazán and Paco y Lola.
  • A Coruña Santiago is famous not only as being the destination for the Camino, but also for its culture and universal history. The Obradorio Square and Cathedral are must-sees, as well as a stroll in the food market because of the vibrant colors of their local seafood-filled stalls.
  • Combarro. a Typical and very famous village with the best example of horreo architecture in Spain
  • Islas Cies. This natural park offers the best beaches in Spain. Tours depart from Vigo.

FREE WALKING TOUR OF SANTIAGO

Discover some of the top sites and highlights in Santiago with this high-quality free tour of the city
FREE

CATHEDRAL OF SANTIAGO TICKETS AND TOUR

The cathedral is the end of El Camino, Santiago´s top attraction and one of the top things to visit also in Spain

Rias Baixas tour from Santiago

We love this itinerary with Pontevedra, Combarro and cambados. Cambados is home to the famous Alabariño wine

Rias Baixas boat tour

Enjoy a very affordable tour of Rias Baixas with wine and mussels tasting on board. Cambados, Combarro and Pontevedra.
Top Value

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