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Spain and Portugal gastronomy road trip

Map with recommended roadtrip itinerary

If you want to visit both Spain and Portugal and get to know hidden gems in Spain and Portugal you can decide to enjoy a road trip and drive to connect Spain´s capital with Santiago de Compostela via Portugal.  Save this url in your favorites list. Our team of local experts have put great care on the preparation of this itinerary. This is a free travel guide.

This free travel guide includes some links to websites where you will be able to book services we recommend. Our team appreciates if you decide to book using those links. This will help us in our  effort to continue providing excellent road trip recommendations.

This itinerary is built to be enjoyed in 7 days. It can easily be extended easily and include more time at any of the towns or cities included, or by extending your trip to include a stop in Lisbon, or a relaxing stop in Galicia to enjoy the spa treatments of La Toja and the fantastic beaches near Sanxenxo

Madrid to Portugal and Santiago de Compostela roadtrip - Top recommendations

THIS ITINERARY WORKS WITH A START FROM EITHER MADRID OR SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA

Madrid – Segovia – Avila – Salamanca- Porto- Guimaraes – Braga- Valença do Minho- Baiona- La Toja – Cambados- Santiago de Compostela

AMAZING HOTELS TO ENJOY THE ROAD TRIP

More recommendations are provided in the detailed itinerary

MADRID – PALACIO DEL RETIRO, AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION. This is with no doubt one of our favorite hotels in Madrid. Despite it is not a «bargain» the hotel offers real value for money when compared to other hotes in Madrid.  It is located in front of the Retiro Park. This implies being at 5 minutes walk from the center of the city but in a calm area where it is easy to relax. The setting could not be better: an amazing palace that thanks to its recent renovation has brought all of today´s comforts. See more HERE

SEGOVIA –  SAN ANTONIO EL REAL. This hotel is located at a monastery that is a classified monument. The hotel went through a careful renovation and offers free parking and an excellent restaurant where you will be able to enjoy excellent local gastronomy. The hotel is not at the heart of the city center but you could still decide to walk, take a taxi or drive and park next to the aqueduct (public parking available right next to the aqueduct)  The hotel offers fantastic value for money. See more details HERE

 

RECOMMENDED TRIP DURATION

7  nights to get the most out of it. Since this itinerary involves visiting wineries and tasting wine it will not be very simple to reduce the number of nights unless one of the persons in your group will drive and not drink each day.

Best months to visit? September and the first part of October are fantastic months to enjoy wine country in both Ribera del Duero and Rioja. End of March, April, May, June and first 2 weeks of July. 

TOP HIGHLIGHTS

Madrid to Barcelona via wine country roadtrip
  • Discover Madrid's world-class art and vibrant nightlife. Enjoy its parks and romantic spots like the views from the Templo de Debod (egyptian temple) in Madrid
  • The Spanish Versailles: A stop in La Granja de San Ildefonso on your way to Segovia wher you will discover the best preserved Roman Aqueduct in the world.
  • The fascinating walls of Avila

HIDDEN GEMS

  • Enjoy Madrid and taste the best the city has to offer!Discover the hidden gems of Madrid, away from the tourist routes
  • Segovia and the most impressive Roman aqueduct in the worldExperience the fascinating Roman aqueduct in Segovia, a UNESCO World Heritage site and also the best place to try traditional roast pork

TOP ACTIVITIES AT THE MAIN STOPS OF THE ROAD TRIP

Many more tour ideas are provided in the itinerary details below

DETAILED ROADTRIP PLANNER DAY BY DAY

Madrid to Portugal Santiago de Compostela road trip - Click on each tab to see the detailed information
MADRID
2 or 3 days - Click on each tab to read our recommendations. IMPORTANT: Madrid is not just Madrid! At less than 1 hour from Madrid you will find fantastic places (6 Unesco heritage sites) worth visiting. Bear this in mind when you plan your stay. The itinerary we recommend includes already one of these sites: Segovia and you could actually detour on your way and visit also Avila or El Escorial. Toledo is not included in the itinerary though

1Madrid in a nutshell

Madrid offers a lot to any visitor. Home to some of the best art galleries in the world, the capital of Spain is Europe´s capital city with more trees and some of its parks, like the famous Retiro, are among its top attractions. The endless number of quality tapas and wine bars, a high-quality shopping district, beautiful squares or the Bernabeu soccer stadium make of Madrid a city that has something to offer to any type of visitor.
MADRID FREE TOUR This is a good option to enjoy a quick introduction to the city

2Top attractions in Madrid

You can find here the top attractions in Madrid and recommended tours to enjoy these. For more detailed information we recommend you our
THINGS TO DO IN MADRID GUIDE with more insights on top sights and activities in Spain´s capital

BERNABEU STADIUM . One of the top attractions in Spain, Real Madrid´s stadium offers a very interesting visit to get to know the history of the club, visit the training rooms, and much more. – BEST OFFER FOR SKIP THE LINE TICKETS
RETIRO PARK This park is the most important one in Madrid. Its location near the city center makes El Retiro the perfect place to enjoy a break from the city. This is not just a park, but one with many attractions inside. Among the many things to see in El Retiro park you will find the crystal palace, the pond, where you will be able to hire a boat or the statue of the fallen angel.
TEMPLO DE DEBOD if you want to enjoy the best views of Madrid we recommend you a visit to this egyptian temple. 15 minutes walk from the Royal Palace. Best visited at sunset!
PRADO MUSEUM This is the most famous art gallery in Madrid though not the only one you may want to enjoy (the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen are amongst the top museums in Madrid too) El Prado boasts a fantastic collection and it is located next to the botanical gardens and also the Retiro park. Prado Museum site BEST RATEs FOR SKIP THE LINE GUIDED TOUR
ROYAL PALACE One of the top visits in Madrid for sure. Best if visited early in the morning to avoid crowds
BEST RATEs ROYAL PALACE TICKETS TOUR

3Recommended hotels in Madrid

– PALACIO DEL RETIRO, AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION. Luxury & traditional. Great location and lots of charm. HERE
– HOTEL URBAN. Luxury & trendy. Avantgarde architecture and one of the best terraces in Madrid. HERE
– HOSTAL GALA. Great location, fantastic value for money. HERE
– LA NAVE HOSTEL. Good location, cool and relaxed atmosphere. HERE

4Recommended restaurants in Madrid

It is not easy to recommend just a few tapas bars and quality restaurants in a city like Madrid! This is the good news. If there is just one recommendation you should follow is this one: please do not enter places that advertise paella with low-quality images at bargain price!

– FLAMENCO AND DINNER: Many people look for this sort of option. The food is not always great. Probably the best mix of quality food and good flamenco is found at Corral de la Moreria. BOOK IT AT BEST RATES
– TRADITIONAL RESTAURANTS. There are some restaurants that have been opened for over 100 years and that continue to serve today’s top traditional gastronomy and the same atmosphere! If you do not want to end your day at a «fusion» style restaurant and enjoy real madrileñan food, these are the best options: Casa Ciriaco, Sobrino de Botin, Posada de la Villa, Lardhy, and Malacatin (these 2 last names specialize in Cocido madrileño, the city´s most typical dish) .
Dinner at Lardhy can be booked online at a very interesting price in this HERELink.

– BEST WINE BARS. There many wine and tapas bars in Madrid as you probably rightly guess. Among our top 3 favorites these ones: tempranillo in La Latina, Stop Madrid in Chueca, and Laredo in Retiro. we have put together a list of our favorite wine bars in Madrid that you can find in this link with also a Map with tapas bars in MadridLink.
– HIGH-END RESTAURANTS: Diverxo from famous Dabid Muñoz offers a real gastronomy adventure. Another Michelin starred option (on more classical grounds) is Club Allard. A third, less conventional option with lots of personality is Viridiana.

BEST AREAS FOR TAPAS
There are many areas in Madrid to enjoy tapas. Most tourists go to Huertas (Plaza Santa Ana). You can find some good options near Huertas despite it being a bit too touristic. Another options very much enjoyed by tourists is La Latina (Cava Baja and cava Alta streets) A good number of bars, many frequented by locals. If you want to get to areas where locals go you should visit el Retiro (Calle Menorca and nearby streets), and the area of «Ponzano» after the street with the same name.

5Possible day tours from Madrid

There are 6 Unesco heritage sites at less than 1 one from Madrid. Besides this, you will be able to visit also small charming villages

– SEGOVIA . This fantastic town is included already in this road trip itinerary. There are very interesting things near Segovia.
– AVILA. Avila is a walled city (one of the best-preserved walls in the world) You can visit Avila on your way to Segovia
– TOLEDO. Toledo is an amazing town and a must-visit if you are interested in culture. Toledo can be reached with the high-speed train from Atocha station. The highway route takes 45 minutes. There are also a good number of daily day tours by bus. These are the 2 best options to visit Toledo with a day tour in our view:
PREMIUM TOLEDO TOUR WITH WINERY VISIT
TOLEDO VALUE FOR MONEY TOUR

Other interesting day tours include El Escorial monastery (a unesco heritage site) where the Spanish kings are buried. Aranjuez and its royal palace and gardens are also an interesting excursion from Madrid. Chinchon, not fat from Aranjuez, is also an interesting village worth visiting.

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

1Things to enjoy on your way to Segovia from Madrid

1- The quickest route is taking the AP-6 and AP-61 though you will miss interesting landscapes and attractions
2- 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.)

2SEGOVIA

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.

3- AVILAStop in Avila to enjoy the best views of its walls

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
1 day recommended (2 nights if you arrive late from Avila or Segovia)

1Salamanca in a nutshell

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.

2Top attractions 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…).

3Recommended hotels

4Recommended restaurants

San Sebastian holds more Michelin starred restaurants than any other city in the world. Expensive tasting menus… but sometimes a life time experience.
Nineu. Located at the beautiful Kursal building, Nineu is not a Michelin starred restaurant and your wallet will not get empty here. You can, however, enjoy high-quality gastronomy in a chic atmosphere.
Restaurante Kokotxa – Fantastic tasting menus and top quality since it got its 1st star in 2007.
Mirador de Ulía –innovative cuisine with a nod to its Basque roots. Its terrace offers a great atmosphere, especially during summer.
Arzak – A legend and the name behind a real revolution in Basque gastronomy
Akelarre –3 stars like Arzak. Located just 10 minutes from the center and with amazing views

5Things to do on your way to Porto

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 reccomend 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.

PORTO
2 days. 3 days if you are a wine lover

Some general tips about your days in Portugal

Restaurants. Restaurants in Portugal usually start serving you kind 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).

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.

1Porto in a nutshell

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.

2Top 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.

3Gastronomy and restaurants in Porto. Recomendations

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.

FROM PORTO TO BAIONA
From 1 to 3 days depending on how much time you can dedicate to the North of Portugal

Things to do and see on your way to Baiona (Spain) from Porto

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.

FROM BAIONA TO SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
From 1 to 3 days depending on how much time you can dedicate to Rias Baixas. If you enjoy white wines and seafood you should stay longer! The beaches near La Toja are fantastic and you may also decide to relax a few days at one of the resorts in the area

On this part of your roadtrip you will cross through Rias Baixas Appellation, one of the most famous wine regions in Spain and famous for its albariño wines. On the way to Santiago, there are several places worth visiting and making a stop.

Pontevedra. The small charming city where you can stroll on the cobblestone streets. We recommend the Basilica of Santa María (Gothic and Baroque style), Iglesia San Francisco (Romanesque style), Pazo de Murgategui, or the main square.

Combarro. Famous for the Hórreos. An Hórreo is an old construction made in wood or stone to keep the food (grain, vegetables) dry and away from animals. Combarro is known for its «horreos», many of them located next to the ría.

Sanxenxo. This is one of the most famous beach towns in Galicia and northern Spain. Sanxenxo is the best place to have a stroll on the promenade and a nice place to have some food.

Toxa Island. Joined to O´Grove with a bridge, this place is really famous for the spa you can find.

Cambados. One of the most beautiful villages in Rias Baixas, Cambados is a must in your trip. There are dozens of Pazo (old palaces) that you can visit or at least have a look at from the outside (Fefiñanes, Bazan or Montesacro). The Tower of Homenaxe or Casa de las Cunchas (House of the shells) are some of the most picturesque places to see here.

If you want you, can also cross to the island of Sadurniño or visit the ruins of the old church Santa Mariña de Dozo.

SANTIAGO DE COMPOSTELA
One or two days

1Santiago de Compostela in a nutshell

2Top 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 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.

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