The Best Spain and Portugal Itinerary to Take Now!

a quick guide to sintra including can


Visiting Spain and Portugal: An Itinerary for First Timers


Last updated February 2018

Planning a trip always takes the longest. Where to go, how long to stay, should I do this city or that one? I decided to do a Spain getaway at the last minute and then added on Portugal at even later minute and found it helpful to read Rick Steves, Lonely Planet, forums and blogs to ultimately decide which cities to linger in and which to skip altogether.

I’m now back from my trip to Spain and Portugal and thought I’d share a summary of my itinerary. My trip covered the two large cities of Madrid and Barcelona and explored Southern Spain in the Andalusian cities before heading west for a taste of Portugal.

First, I flew directly into Madrid, then took the high speed rail down to Andalusia to experience the warm sunny cities and Moorish influence of Cordoba, Seville and Granada, and then flew up northeast to Barcelona. After a couple days exploring (with day trips to Montserrat and Girona for a view of the Game of Thrones set) I hopped on a flight to neighboring Portugal to quickly visit Lisbon and Sintra.

Below is my day by day itinerary featuring Instagram photos from the trip! You can check out the whole photo series by exploring the hashtag #shershegoes_spain



Spain and Portugal Itinerary

Here’s a summary of the Spain and Portugal itinerary that I did. I would recommend 2 weeks if you want to visit both Spain and Portugal. If you have less time, say 10 days in Spain then concentrate on Madrid and Barcelona!

Days City Overnight
Days 1 – 3 Madrid Catalonia Plaza Mayor
Day 4 Cordoba Eurostars Palace Hotel
Day 5-6 Seville Hotel Alfonso XIII
Days 7-8 Granada Anacapri Granada
Days 9-12 Barcelona Royal Ramblas
Day 13-14 Lisbon Hotel Santa Justa

Keep reading below for a day by day city itinerary of must-see sights, things to eat and where to stay! I’ve also included day trip suggestions below.


Days 1-2: Madrid

quick guide to spain madrid itinerary
quick guide to spain madrid itinerary

I arrived first in Madrid, Spain’s capital city. The streets are narrow, the apartments all have beautiful shuttered balconies and the charm is everywhere. We settled in for a couple days of sightseeing, healthy doses of tapas and rioja and laid back nights that ended with churros con chocolate.

Main Attractions: Royal Palace, Museo del Prado, Retiro Park

Don’t Miss: a night hopping from bar to bar sampling tapas and pinchos.

Recommended dishes:

  • gambas al ajillo (shrimp in hot garlic and oil)
  • jamon iberico bellota (fancy coldcuts of iberico pigs fed on acorns)
  • calamares a la romana (fried squid rings)
  • my special favorite, patatas bravas (fried potato wedges served with a mayo aioli)!

Where to Stay in Madrid: I recommend 2 days, 3 nights. Perhaps the best neighborhood to stay in Madrid would be the Centro district, to stay centrally located near the main sights and attractions. Other solid neighborhoods: La Latina, Chueca and Barrio de las Letras.

Overnight: Catalonia Plaza Mayor – Centrally located and affordable, Catalonia Plaza Mayor is located in the heart of old Madrid.

 Compare current room rates on:  Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline

 Read reviews:  TripAdvisor reviews


Note: When searching for hotels, I like to compare across all the hotel aggregation sites as they seem to bid competitively to offer the cheapest rate. I’ve found that these hotel OTA sites can often have better pricing than the direct hotel site.

My usual go to is Booking.com for Europe and Agoda for Asia, as these two generally offer the best rates and have a very flexible cancellation policy, usually something like the week of travel. 



Madrid Day Trips

We stayed in Madrid an extra couple nights in order to do some day trips to some notable cities in Castille La Mancha. I couldn’t decide on one, so we visited a couple (images below from left to right). Here are the best day trips from Madrid that I’d recommend!

  • Segovia | an ancient town notable for still standing Roman aqueduct ruins
  • Toledo | a medieval city
  • El Escorial | a monastery and entombment for ancient Spanish kings



Day 4: Cordoba

quick guide to cordoba spain and portugal two week itinerary

Having thoroughly explored Spain’s capital, we headed south for a loop through Andalusia. I was most excited to see Cordoba, as we were in town for the local patio festival when the locals proudly come out to show off their flower bedecked courtyards to visitors.

Cordoba was once a regional capital for the Roman and Moorish empires and bears characteristics of each. It’s a small, easily walk able town and were it not for the festival, I think a day is more than enough to see the main sights.

Main Attractions: Mezquita-Cathedral, Palacio de los Reyes Cristianos, Roman Bridge

Don’t Miss: a visit in Spring, when this beautiful town comes alive with flowers. The Patio Festival is an opportunity for proud locals to exhibit their version of ‘Best Lawn’ and visitors can see traditional Moorish style patios decorated with a profusion of beautiful pink, red and green blooms.

Stay: 1 days, 1 night – unless you’re in town for the Cordoba Patio Festival when you won’t be able to get enough with even two or three days!

Where to stay in Cordoba: Eurostars Palace Hotel – this hotel has a gorgeous inner courtyard and gives travelers a true feel for Cordoba’s patios, which are usually hidden to outsiders except during the festival.

Check rates on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline or Read reviews on TripAdvisor


Read more:



Days 5-6: Seville

a quick guide to seville including can

From Cordoba, we hopped back on the high speed train for Seville. Flamboyent Seville is home to the fiery flamenco, stadium roaring bull fights and the most delicious tapas bars of my entire trip! We did a bit more sightseeing, although by this point I was thoroughly wow’ed by the cathedrals and had pretty much reached my limit.

Main Attractions: Cathedral, Alcázar, Barrio Santa Cruz

Don’t Miss: the gardens in the Alcázar are breathtaking…and one you might recognize as Dorne from Game of Thrones!

Stay: 2 days, 2 nights to eat all the affordable and tasty tapas you can find.

Where to stay in Seville: Hotel Alfonso XIII – indulge in this luxurious property featuring gorgeous Moorish architecture and every comfort imaginable. Hotel Alfonso is located in a prime spot next to Seville’s Real Alcazares.

Check rates on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline or Read reviews on TripAdvisor


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Days 7-8: Granada

After thoroughly exploring Seville, we hopped on a (10 euro!) bus to explore Granada, once the Moorish stronghold of the west. Today the city retains much of its North African flavor and is an absolute must see on any southern trip through Spain.

The main attraction in Granada is the breathtaking Alhambra, an old fortress and palace with extensive gardens. Tickets sell out quite fast so you’ll need to book this in advance. You can read about everything you need to know regarding Alhambra tickets in this post here or skip the mess entirely and take a guided tour that bypasses the queue altogether here.

I ended up extending our Granada stay for an extra half day so that I could grab the only ticket option remaining during my trip.

Main Attractions: the Alhambra!

Don’t Miss: a relaxing retreat at the Arabian baths, or Hammam Al Andalus. The current baths are built over the ancient bath site and gorgeously decorated.

There are a number of different pools at different temperatures as well as some fun massage options. I loved how relaxing this experience was! Budget around 3 hours to fully enjoy the experience.

Stay: 2 days, 2 nights in order to fully explore, with a full 1/2 day devoted to the Alhambra.

Where to stay in Granada: Anacapri Granada – affordable, clean and walking distance from the Alhambra. The Anacapri Granada is located in the heart of Old Town and also conveniently near the local bus stop, should you wish to explore Granada’s farther sights.

Check rates on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline or Read reviews on TripAdvisor


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Days 9-12: Barcelona

From Granada, there are a couple ways to get to Barcelona including via car, high speed rail or plane. We decided to fly after hearing unimpressed reviews of the overnight train service.

Barcelona was by far one of the highlights of my trip – I enjoyed it a lot more than Madrid! The city is cosmopolitan, proudly Catalan and lively with some of the most impressive and unique sights in Spain.

After almost two weeks of sightseeing, lots of churches and an abundance of small town charm, the genius works of architect Antoni Gaudí were so distinctive and colossal that I couldn’t help but be awed.

Main Attractions: La Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, Casa Milà (aka La Pedrera), Park Güell

Don’t Miss: a full day dedicated to Gaudi’s works: the modernist mansion Casa Batlló and the still under construction Sagrada Familia church.

Barcelona had some of the most innovative tapas bars that I tried in Spain – don’t miss a good evening out trying various Spanish small plates or try a cooking class.

Die hard soccer / football fans will want to see FC Barcelona’s stadium and perhaps grab a match or two.

Stay: 3 days, 3 nights minimum! There is so much to see in Barcelona and the city makes a great base for nearby day trips in Catalonia.

Where to stay in Barcelona: Royal Ramblas hotel to stay right on the main shopping and pedestrian road, Las Ramblas.

Check rates on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline or Read reviews on TripAdvisor reviews



Barcelona Day Trips

Near Barcelona are a couple cities worth visiting. Montserrat is a religious pilgrimage site for many Catalans and a breathtaking change of scenery for tourists – the monastery is actually high up in the mountains!

Also within an easy day trip from the city are Girona, a walkable old city famous for its historic Jewish quarter of narrow cobblestone streets, and Figueres, where Salvador Dali built his museum and personal shrine.

Trains connect all three towns within easy access of Barcelona Sants rail station. We decided to do the first two and left Figueres for another trip simply because the train schedules weren’t as convenient.

  • Montserrat | a dramatic mountaintop monastery where the Black Madonna was discovered
  • Girona | a quaint medieval town very similar to Dubrovnik and currently the set of King’s Landing for the Game of Thrones series



Days 13-14: Lisbon

Portugal’s capital Lisbon feels a lot like San Francisco. Both have rolling hills, quaint trolleys and well worn cobblestone streets. Lisbon has some amazing seafood spots and charm, but also a sad air of neglect to the magnificent tiled apartment buildings.

I first visited Lisbon on a fun long weekend trip in college, where we spent the days sipping on Sangria and the nights partying in Chiado and Bairro Alto.. with nightly stops at McDonalds in Rossio Square for CBO sandwiches and McFlurrys.

This time, I focused a bit more on sightseeing and managed to fit in a wonderful day trip to nearby Sintra.

Main Attractions: São Jorge Castle, Alfama walk (medieval district) and Baixa walk (downtown with major squares)

Don’t Miss: dinner at Cervejaria Ramiro, a local favorite of Anthony Bourdain that completely lived up to my seafood heavy anticipation. Get the garlic shrimp in olive oil and large grilled prawns and wash it all down with beer and buttery garlic bread.

Stay: 2 days, 2 nights plus an extra day to check out the wacky, beautiful mansions at nearby Sintra!

Where to stay in Lisbon:  Hotel Santa Justa is an affordable luxury hotel with an amazing location right by the famous lift.

Check rates on Booking.com | Hotels.com | Expedia | Priceline or Read reviews on TripAdvisor




a quick guide to sintra including can

A couple friends recommended Sintra as a must do while in Lisbon. After a major earthquake and tsunami hit Lisbon in 1755, Portuguese royalty permanently left the city in favor of this mountain retreat.

On a day trip, you can explore the national palace, Pena palace and a number of extravagant private mansions. It’s a unique town and ended up being my favorite day trip of the entire trip!

Main Attractions: National Palace, Quinta da Regaleira, Palace of Queluz, Arab Walls

Don’t Miss: the Pena Palace, which inspired Walt Disney’s vision of Cinderella Castle!

Stay: 1 days, 1 night to see the highlights, a 2nd day if you want to see the exotic mansions like Montserrate Mansion that are farther from the town square.

And there you go! My trip report after visiting Spain and Portugal for the first time. I hope my 2 week itinerary was helpful! If you have less time, say 10 days or 1 week, I would cut out Southern Spain. You could save Andalusia for a separate trip entirely as there’s lots to see!

Are you planning a trip to Spain, Portugal or both? Let me know any questions in the comments below!


Visiting Spain – Travel Checklist

  • Check for flight deals to Spain here
  • Check accommodation availability and pricing on Booking.com
  • Book train tickets via Rail Europe
  • Be sure to visit Spain with travel insurance. Whether you get injured and need to be hospitalized, or your phone gets stolen, or an injury forces you to cancel all or part of your vacation, travel insurance will help when you need it most. I use and recommend World Nomads travel insurance.
  • Stay connected on the go with data & free WhatsApp calls with KnowRoaming’s global SIM card. I love their service because the 1 sim card works globally and their phone app allows you to prepay credit and manage usage transparently, on the go.
  • My readers can get 50% off the purchase price of a KnowRoaming SIM card or SIM sticker plus an extra $5 account credit with code ‘SHERSAVE50


 You Might Also Enjoy: 


Spain Vacation Planning Articles

Our trip report: Exploring Spain & Portugal in 2 Weeks

Headed to Andalusia? Check out this 7-day Southern Spain travel guide

How We Spent 3 Incredible Days in Granada

The Best Things to Do in Seville

Spain’s Hidden Gem: The Quaint Town of Cordoba


Spanish Sights, Activities & Tours We Especially Enjoyed:

Insider Tips for Visiting the Alhambra Palace

A Spain Food Guide: Important Tapas + Food Names in Spanish!

Don’t Miss Cordoba’s Patio Festival! Here’s Why


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JoyceJune 1, 2016 - 12:33 pm

Cordoba and Grenada look gorgeous. I love all the flower shots in Cordoba, what a great time to go! I love all your pictures & travel style too! I might be planning a Spain trip for this summer, I’ll bookmark this and avidly follow all your recommendations haha

AmandaJune 1, 2016 - 8:13 pm

Gah you’re making me so jealous, girl!!!! I studied abroad in Salamanca in high school and spent a lot of time in Barcelona and Madrid, but I haven’t been back since. I desperately want to go back and go down to Granada to see the Alhambra!

Adaleta AvdicJune 1, 2016 - 10:14 pm

Wow, so much information & this is so detailed! I may be going to Lisbon in November, so this is cool to know it’s like San Fran. I have my list of must-sees made after reading this post!

She JohJune 1, 2016 - 10:55 pm

Wow, what an incredible trip and your pictures are absolutely stunning! I want to go now!

CoryJune 1, 2016 - 11:34 pm

Nice tips! I will going to Spain later in the summer, so this will help a lot.

EliseJune 1, 2016 - 11:42 pm

Your photos are stunning! Now I want to visit :)

ColbyJune 2, 2016 - 12:12 am

Your photos are absolutely stunning! I’ll be moving to Spain in the fall and will definitely refer back to this.

SherJune 2, 2016 - 12:24 am

Aw, thanks for the kind words Colby!

MelissaJune 2, 2016 - 12:37 am

Your vacation looks AH-Mazing!!! And the photos!!! Makes me want to book a trip asap!

aicha robertsonJune 2, 2016 - 1:43 am

Wow I can’t wait to visit Spain someday, what a great post! Thanks for sharing x

Trang DoJune 2, 2016 - 1:49 am

Great pictures!! Amazing photos!!!

JulianJune 2, 2016 - 8:50 am

Excellent review and nicely planned trip. Pictures of Granada and Cordoba look very nice. Too bad you didnt see Porto, such a nice city as well. Many thanks for the inspiration.

SherJune 2, 2016 - 2:33 pm

Thanks Julian! Yea – I keep seeing Porto all over now. Wish I had gone but it was nearing 3 weeks at that point and I had to get back to work! If only haha.

SherJune 2, 2016 - 2:34 pm

Thanks Melissa! It was an amazing trip, I hope you have a great summer!

SherJune 2, 2016 - 2:34 pm

Thank you Trang!

SherJune 2, 2016 - 2:35 pm

Yes, Spain is amazing! Hope you visit soon. xoxo

AmyJune 2, 2016 - 3:58 pm

Fantastic and comprehensive post! I always appreciate a post catering to first timers, as that is quite often what I am, myself! Beautiful photos, thanks for the insight into such spectacular places!

MaggieJune 2, 2016 - 5:17 pm

Your photos are simply stunning!! Awesome trip!

Leslie Rossi | alifewellconsumedJune 2, 2016 - 10:40 pm

i did portugal a couple of years ago! i loved it, sintra was unreal.

Alexandra A.June 4, 2016 - 3:52 pm

All these places are amazing,I definitely have to visit them someday!

[…] just got back from a fabulous trip to Spain and Portugal and for the first time used Airbnb for a significant portion of my trip! For some reason I thought […]

Carmen's Luxury TravelJune 25, 2016 - 2:11 am

I am absolutely in love with Spain and Portugal but haven’t visited all of these places you’ve listed. This is a beautiful and helpful guide. Thanks so much for sharing and happy travels :)

AndraJune 25, 2016 - 11:53 am

Love your list! And what amazing photos. I just googled the Patio Festival in Cordoba and it looks so nice! The houses look amazing then. Nice tip

Long NguyenJune 25, 2016 - 1:50 pm

A very well arranged guide for the travel you have experienced. I found this clear and easy to understand with structure of information and pictures coming along with. I have printed it for the trip to Spain in next two years. Thanks.

NatashaJune 25, 2016 - 6:56 pm

First of all I have to say I LOVE your photos and the way they are set up in this post. Haven’t been to all these places in Spain but definitely have to get back so I can visit more.

SherJune 25, 2016 - 7:02 pm

Hey Andra! Yes the patio festival is amazing. I recently posted about it with tons of photos, have a look! :)

SherJune 25, 2016 - 7:03 pm

Hi Natasha! Thanks so much for the kind words. xx Sher

JoannaJune 26, 2016 - 2:20 pm

I will be going to Granada in autumn for 5 night and I am very looking forward to it. Thank you for the tickets tip, I will keep it in mind and book them at least 2 months in advance. :)

Renne SimpsonJune 30, 2016 - 2:11 am

Wowwww I’m just in love with Sintra because of your photos <3 I have a thing for colorful cities. Beautiful….

SherJune 30, 2016 - 2:13 am

Thank you Renne! Yes I’m so glad I took a detour to Sintra on this Portugal trip, it was a really fun day trip and actually 2 days would have been better!

ShobhaJune 30, 2016 - 5:29 pm

Love the itinerary and the photos! I’ve been to all these cities and I can say that you pretty much covered everything for a first time trip.

Stephanie LangletJuly 1, 2016 - 2:02 pm

I’m also more a fan of Barcelona than Madrid. In the highlights there, I would add the palace of the Catalan Music – one of my favourite places with the Sagrada Familia – and la Boqueria, the market on the Ramblas.
Great guide!

SherJuly 2, 2016 - 4:10 pm

Yes! I loved La Boqueria too – had a great seafood brunch there. Can’t believe I forgot to add that, thanks for the note Stephanie!

LiaJuly 4, 2016 - 12:28 am

I love this :) I did this trip exactly back in 2012 with the addition of Porto. Your photos are beautiful!

AmiJuly 5, 2016 - 10:18 am

That is a concise and well planned itinerary. Very useful and am bookmarking it for my future trip.

Rob TaylorJuly 6, 2016 - 12:56 am

All of these places are must-visits, especially Sintra… and Grenada… and Madrid… I think adding the day trip to Segovia is brilliant.

FabioRosadoJuly 12, 2016 - 6:08 am

I really enjoyed your post and the pictures look amazing.
Lisbon has a lot to do and see, 2 days might not be enough if you want to visit Sintra as well, but that’s my opinion :)

Did you enjoy Belem as well? I can see that you went there because of the picture of the famous Pasteis de Belem :D

SherJuly 12, 2016 - 6:23 pm

Yes! I wish I had spent an extra day in Sintra – there was a lot more to see than I had realized!

[…] Evening: Grab one last bite of tapas and pack up to depart Granada for the next stop on your tour. I recommend flying to Madrid or Barcelona and starting my Essential Spain itinerary. […]

TaraJanuary 1, 2017 - 10:21 pm

Hi! I am planning an 8 day trip to Europe in April and am torn between two different itineraries:
1. Fly into Barcelona, explore Barcelona, and do monterassat, and then take a flight to Lisbon and explore Porto and sintra


2. Fly into Madrid, do Sevilla and Granada with day trips to Córdoba and Sevilla

Any insight you have would be wonderful!!

SherJanuary 1, 2017 - 10:30 pm

Hi Tara – either itinerary would be amazing, it really depends on what you’re looking to do on your trip? Between Madrid & Barcelona, I liked Barcelona a lot more (personally) as it’s a larger, vibrant city with amazing restaurants, lots of sights (mostly of Gaudi’s works) and Montserrat was very different.

Madrid is more historic and I really loved South Spain. Andalusia has Moorish history so there’s lots of beautiful arabic-influenced sights like the Alhambra. Tapas are really good in Sevilla! Cordoba really comes alive in early May for the flower festival.. Either way there’s lots to see in both options you outlined! Maybe you can extend your trip for 2 weeks?? :)

[…] Spain and Portugal Itinerary Advice for 10 Days […]

sheenaJanuary 27, 2017 - 10:02 pm

Hi Sher! Im in love with your photos! Im also planning a same trip for July. I just want to ask a few questions , I hope you don’t mind. your first stop was Madrid right? then from barcelona did you fly to lisbon? And was it easy to travel via trains also? I don’t drive so I’ll probably be commuting my entire trip. Im already thinking of flying to Madrid from Singapore(where i come from) and do the same itinerary as yours then go back to Singapore either from Barcelona or Lisbon( I cant decide yet). Thanks for reading my comment . Any advice is a great help thanks;)

SherJanuary 27, 2017 - 10:32 pm

Hi Sheena, aw thank you! Happy to help. Yes I flew in to Madrid and yes also flew from Barcelona to Lisbon. In between I took trains from Madrid down south to Seville/Cordoba/Granada. All of those train rides are very doable and you can find the train schedule on renfe.com The site doesn’t fully translate from Spanish to English but the time schedules are easy enough to read. To actually book the tickets I used rail europe (i have a link to that in the post) because it’s easier to pay – with renfe you pretty much need a spanish credit card or it won’t work.

I didn’t rent a car so to get from city to city I took the train or flew. I felt like walking in any of the Spanish cities was very doable and walked pretty much everywhere! Even 30 minutes in some cases but I also don’t mind to walk. There are local buses and taxis to get around too so no need for a car!

I definitely really liked Lisbon but I went with family and they were kind of tired after 10 days in spain, so if you decide to go home after Barcelona that could be fine too. Lisbon is very hilly (kind of like San Francisco if you have been there?) and you mostly have to walk around for sights and such but there’s also the trolley to take which is fun. If you do go to Lisbon, I highly recommend Sintra! There are some colorful palaces and mansions there which are really unique.

Let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for reading :)

[…] Spain and Portugal Itinerary Advice for 10 Days […]

JeanneMarch 6, 2017 - 3:02 am

We’re planning to go visiting Spain and Portugal departing from the UK for 13 days, wondering what would be the best itinerary be for our first time visit on these both countries and we need to head back to Hong Kong after, need your suggestion to see if we’re able to fly direct either from those countries or get back to the UK first. FYI, we don’t drive.

Many thanks for your help in advance.

Tanya GomezMarch 17, 2017 - 5:42 am

Wow! your itinerary is perfect! ;) Great choice of places and I also loved your pictures.

Sara BunchMarch 18, 2017 - 5:37 pm

Love this itinerary! I’m planning a trip now hoping to hit most of these places, but I only have about 14 days. How many days total was your trip?

SherMarch 19, 2017 - 2:59 am

Hey Sara! Glad you like it :) I took about 2 weeks so it sounds like you have plenty of time. With shorter time the day trips from Madrid are probably easy to cut and maybe less time in Cordoba if the patio festival isnt going on

AngieMarch 31, 2017 - 6:12 am

Hi Sher,
I love everything you posted here, especially the itinerary and the photos. its so easy to understand and the photos are all amazing. I’ll be doing Spain and Portugal trip for 16 days this May, adding few days to spend in Porto and Barcelona. Im planning to do the whole exact thing as yours, I can’t wait to visit Cordoba for the flower festival and Sintra! Thank you so much for your itineraries :)

NamrataApril 8, 2017 - 10:04 pm

Hi Sher your blog was really insightful! I have a question. I’m planning to buy train tickets in advance (traveling to Spain and Portugal) but since my itenerary is not finalized so how do I go about making reservations? Is it hard to make same day /2dayreservations in advance for train seat reservation? Thanks for your help!

SherApril 8, 2017 - 10:10 pm

Hi Namrata, glad my posts were helpful! Hm, it depends. When are you planning to go?

If spring/summer I would recommend you finalize your itinerary and buy the tickets online before you go. Spain gets quite crowded as early as May and certain popular places will sell out. For example, the Madrid day trip to Toledo is strangely very popular!

I booked all of my trains ahead of time, except my Portugal day trip to Sintra. the line at the train station was very, very long the day of. In hindsight I would have bought it ahead of time to save time.

If you are visiting in the fall/winter its probably less important to book ahead.

For the Alhambra you absolutely need to buy a ticket ahead of time (I have a whole post on that). In general the high speed train runs pretty frequently, you just might not the time or seat you want if you buy the day of. Hope that helps!

MonicaMay 29, 2017 - 7:37 pm

Hi Sher
Your website is so informative and I;m glad that you’re doing well because of it. We are planning a 11 day trip, flying into Barcelona on Aug 10 and flying out of Lisbon on Aug 21st. We are currently scheduled to fly out of Barcelona on Aug 16th and spend 1 night in Seville, and the remaining time in Lisbon. We are a relaxed family (2 adults, 2 teens 13-15) who like to soak it all in and enjoy nights out exploring the town etc. Would you recommend that we cut 1 day short in Barcelona and spend 2 nights in Seville ?

Thank you..

SherMay 29, 2017 - 8:25 pm

Hi Monica, thanks for the sweet words! Hm it sounds like you have 6 days planned for Barcelona and 1 for Seville. In that case because you have so much time in Barcelona, I would recommend an extra day in Seville, just to get an extra taste for south spain (which is quite different from the two big cities up north)

There’s lots to see, do and eat in Barcelona. You mentioned your family likes to go out and explore at night, I think you’ll really love Barcelona for that.

Seville is much quieter and smaller, but there’s enough to fill 2 days. The tapas bars were my favorite – they have some very authentic “stand at the bar and order” type of tapas bars and more modern, fancier tapas restaurants so you could easily spend the full 2 days eating! If you get bored (which i dont think you would, but just if, Cordoba is a very cute small town only a quick day trip train ride away) that I really loved. Hope that helps and have a fantastic trip!

ReginaJuly 15, 2017 - 3:38 am

Hi! Sher,
I’m so glad I spotted your travel blog. It has been very helpful so far, very detailed and organized. I was wondering if you could help me plan a better itinerary for a trip my husband and I are planning. It will cover Southern Spain (Andalusia: Seville, Córdoba, Granada, Malaga) to Tangier, Morocco then to Portugal (Lisbon, Fatima, Sintra, maybe Porto) then back to California. This will be for Sept 25-Oct 18.
My plan is to fly into Seville first (4 nights) then take the train to Córdoba (2 nights), Granada (3 nights), Malaga (2 nights), ferry to Tangier (2 nights), back to Seville to fly to Lisbon. We have no specific itinerary for Portugal yet except to be in Fatima by Oct 11-14 for the Fatima Centennial events.
We plan to take the train between cities in Spain. Do you have a better suggestion in which order should we visit the 4 cities in Andalusia? I’m stuck with the train routes. There’s no direct train route to Granada from the other 3 cities, so we’ll have to keep on backtracking to Córdoba or Seville to get to Granada and Malaga which will be a waste of time. any thoughts? Thank you.

SherJuly 15, 2017 - 10:09 am

Hi Regina – thanks for the kind words! Hm.. I see what you mean. Granada has an airport as well, which might be convenient if you haven’t already booked your flights.

The train routes in Spain are set, so like you said you sometimes have to backtrack. There is a very affordable and comfortable bus between Seville + Granada. Book through the company Alsa and if you book enough in advance, it’s only 10-15 euro per person.

Perhaps you might split up your time in Seville into 2 night, then Cordoba for 2 nights, then back to Seville for 2 nights so that it’s a more comfortable journey. Sometimes I do that and pick a different neighborhood / hotel to stay at and find that I get a completely different experience! Or you might want to visit Cordoba on a day trip when you’re in Seville. Some people feel Cordoba is small and that the highlights can be seen in a day trip.

KJBJuly 31, 2017 - 3:15 pm

I am currently researching and planning a trip to both Portugal and Spain and found your information helpful. Thank you!

SarahAugust 23, 2017 - 1:09 pm

Hi Sher,

Thanks for this incredible detail – it’s amazing. I’m planning a 11-day trip to Spain and, possibly, Portugal. I’d love your input on a planning dilemma I’m having.

We are SUPER adventurous and active, but really want to take in each city.

Ideally, I’d do 4-5 days in Barcelona, then 2 days in each of Granada, Seville, and Lisbon (with the Sintra day trip). It feels like too much. If you had to choose between Granada, Seville, and Lisbon – which would you choose? What about between just Granada and Seville? There’s not enough time for all the things!! :-)

Thanks in advance for your input.

SherAugust 23, 2017 - 1:40 pm

Hi Sarah – I know what you mean! It’s always a challenge between seeing as much as possible and soaking it in. I would recommend cutting out lisbon. I’m not sure of the route you’re taking but flying to Portugal from Spain usually involves flights out of Barcelona, so you would go Barca > Andalusia > back to Barca just to get to Lisbon, which adds extra time.

I liked the small town feel of Seville more and the excellent local tapas scene, but Granada has more sights so usually people do at least 2 days in seville and 3 in Granada. Out of them all, I loved Barcelona – I’m definitely a city person – so I would do 5 days in Barcelona if you have time. There’s lots of sights and then fun nearby day trips to take advantage of. Hope that helps!

SarahAugust 23, 2017 - 2:06 pm

That’s extremely helpful. Thank you – I think you just helped make my decision!

[…] Exploring the Best of Spain & Portugal […]

[…] obviously need to start doing more research (this is the only thing I’ve read so far) but would also love to get some initial recommendations […]

JanaDecember 26, 2017 - 12:29 pm

Hi Sher – In the Sintra section of this post, where was your 1st and 4th photo posted above taken? Is this a specific palace in Sintra? Thanks! :) (P.s. super helpful blog post!!!)

[…]  Read more: : How to Visit the Best of Spain & Portugal […]

MarcieDecember 28, 2017 - 1:02 pm

I love your blog! I am planning at trip to Spain (Barcelona, Madrid, and Lisbon) for my birthday in April. I’m a bit overwhelmed with the planning. How long did it take you to plan this trip?

SherDecember 28, 2017 - 1:06 pm

Hi Marcie! So glad you like it :) What a great birthday trip!! You’ll love Spain.

I know what you mean, it takes a loooong time to plan because I like to customize my itinerary to things I like to do, plan the transportation myself and also keep things within budget! What I find helpful is to get a guidebook first, like Rick Steves or Fodors for europe, scan it through to get a general outline and then read blogs and forums for the details.

In the beginning it was really hard and there wasn’t much info out there so I started writing these posts to help other people who like to plan their own trips too!

Jessica M OlexaJanuary 2, 2018 - 9:47 pm

This is wonderful. Curious for your trip, what was your budget? In planning stages so trying to get a sense. Also are you able to “beach” it anywhere along these stops?

SherJanuary 3, 2018 - 5:51 pm

Hi Jessica, Hm I don’t remember exactly what we spent but what I usually do is book the flights, hotels & transportation first – those are usually the bulk of the trip cost. If you’re booking in advance things are much much cheaper, especially flights and trains. In the larger cities hotels are more expensive so you can look into AirBnB for a more budget friendly option.

For sights – Barcelona has some really great sights but the tickets can be expensive if you see them all. The nice thing is you can buy them online in advance and get a sense of budget. I booked those last minute the day of and I think if you book earlier, it is cheaper.

Food in Spain is average priced (compared to New York). Lisbon is budget friendly but again, just depends how you travel. I spent all my time/money at the bars when I was younger but re-visiting Lisbon this time, I spent more on sights and food. So, it really depends!

There are beaches in Barcelona! I’ve heard great things about Portugal’s beaches but haven’t personally been.

DinaJanuary 5, 2018 - 4:38 am

Hey Sher, loved your pics and your details so useful. I need an advice. i am planning for a trip on the end of January(16 days).First i will be with prepaid guided tour France-Switzerland-Italy(6 days) and back to Paris, but instead of going back to Paris i was thinking of traveling from Avignon to Barcelona. I was this close to cancel Barcelona and go straight to Madrid then Andalusia then Portugal than after reading your post , i think i can do it. what do you suggest?! What is the best way to manage my time and to see all these cities!

SherJanuary 5, 2018 - 9:31 am

Sounds like an amazing European tour! Not sure how much time you have but if you can fit it all in then great!

MayJanuary 12, 2018 - 8:41 am

Hey there thanks for the awesome guide! Can you share approx how much you spent for the two weeks. I’m trying to plan a budget and I have no clue how much to plan for

SherJanuary 12, 2018 - 11:07 am

Hi May – glad it was helpful! Since it’s not a packaged tour, the trip cost will depend on what you want to do! Hotels, restaurants, flights, sights etc – it just depends how luxury or budget you go :) You can get an idea upfront by booking your flights and hotels first. Some of the more famous sites in Spain can be booked online in advance too.

SejalJanuary 19, 2018 - 2:42 pm

Hi Sher! Great pics!! I am planning to do Spain/Portugal in May for 7 days. We were thinking of staying in Barcelona for 4 nights and then heading out to Libson. I also wanted to check out Sintra(day trip). Do you think three nights will be enough in Libson? Unfortunately, I already booked my tickets from/to Barcelona.


Ann OngJanuary 27, 2018 - 11:19 pm

Hello Sher!
Thank you for a very detailed post- very useful for our Spain Portugal trip in late May!

I might follow your itinerary too :)

I was planning to make Cordoba only a day trip from Madrid (or Seville?) so we wont be dragging our luggage behind. What can you suggest?

I noticed that you don’t have separate posts for Madrid and Barcelona unlike the 3 Andalusia cities which you discussed very thoroughly (you even included day to day itineraries!).

Can you suggest links For Madrid and Barcelona very similar to your Andalusia posts?

Can we travel Madrid-Cordoba-Seville-Granada-Lisbon-Barcelona?

What routes are better traveled by train and those by plane?

Thank you for your help.

With best regards,

SherJanuary 28, 2018 - 2:58 pm

Hi Ann – glad you found the posts helpful! I covered transportation in my posts but for specific detailed advice, I highly recommend Rick Steves’ Spain book – relied on it heavily to plan my own trip – or a travel agent to plan all the little details!

NaomiJanuary 31, 2018 - 6:41 pm

This is an amazing itinerary! I’m doing one similar to it when I go to Portugal and Spain in October. I’m doing Spain for five days, Madrid for four days and Seville for three…then an extra day in Lisbon on my way home. Did you fly to a majority of the places? Like Madrid to Cordoba? I’m worried about feeling rushed lol

SherJanuary 31, 2018 - 6:48 pm

Thanks! We did a mix of flights and trains – you can see the specific breakdown in my individual spain posts! In general train is easier :)

TimFebruary 17, 2018 - 2:30 am

A couple of points. Citing $300 a night hotels as ‘affordable’ is not something most people would consider a reasonable statement. Only other point is with your assertion that the Pena Palace inspired Disney’s Cinderella Castle. That is incorrect. The inspiration was Neuschwanstein castle in Germany.

SherFebruary 17, 2018 - 10:19 am

Hi Tim – The hotels I mentioned are recommendations based on my trip. Keep in mind that rates fluctuate dramatically depending on the time of year that you’re searching for.

Pena Palace is widely believed to have inspired Disney – in addition to Neuschwanstein.

PiaFebruary 19, 2018 - 1:35 pm

I am so glad that I encounter your website, your photos are all beautiful, your itinerary is very detailed and very helpful that I will consider following some of it and add 2 things:
1st, From Barcelona – I will avail the “Three Countries in One Day: France, Andorra and Spain”
2nd, I am also keen to include “Morocco Day Trip” either from Seville or from Granada going to Malaga or Costa del Sol as there are 2 options
a) Morocco Day Trip from Malaga to Tangier
b) Morocco Day Trip from Costa del Sol to Tangier
what do you think about the possibility of this?

My other question are:
1.How did you travel from Madrid to Cordoba? By bus, I guess?
2.How about BUS from Cordoba to Seville?
3.How did you travel from Barcelona to Lisbon? By plane, I guess?

Awaiting for your replies…
Thank you in advance.

SherFebruary 19, 2018 - 1:58 pm

Hi Pia – glad you found the post helpful! The 3 countries in one day tour sounds incredible as does the Morocco day trip. It’s up to you, whichever tour best fits your schedule (malaga or costa del sol)

From Madrid, I took the high speed train down to Cordoba and then again the train from Cordoba to Seville. I didn’t take the bus but you can check the Spain bus website if you prefer to take the bus. It will be much slower.

Yes I took a flight from Barcelona to Lisbon. I think that is the easiest way. Even though Spain and Portugal are neighbors, it’s not the easiest to get from one to the other. I heard once that it’s because of mountains.. but I’m not sure. Flight is easiest.

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