Spain and Portugal are both countries in Southwestern Europe. They border each other. In fact, Spain is Portugal’s only neighboring country.
During my visit to Spain, I also crossed to Portugal and spent a few days. They are both amazing countries to visit.
However, comparatively, I would rate Spain as the supreme country for reasons I will disclose in this article.
While the two countries are literally next to each other, their ways of life couldn’t be more different.
For one, Spain’s culture is not all that homogenous. It depends on the part of Spain you are in. I found that there are variations as you move from Northern Spain to Southern Spain.
Also, Spaniards are comparatively friendlier and more outgoing. The men here greet each other by happily shaking hands. As for women, kissing both cheeks for greetings is the order of the day.
In Spain, kissing is from right to left. Portuguese women also kiss the same way, but from the left cheek to the right one.
The Portuguese are more reserved and a bit more sensitive during interactions. They are also quite formal, and professional titles are a big deal.
For instance, a doctor will be referred to as Mr. Doctor, the same as an engineer.
Spaniards don’t care that much about titles – informality is the order of the day. As a laid-back person myself, I find Spain more easygoing.
One thing that I found intriguing about the Spaniard way of life is how late they have their meals:
- Breakfast is served at 8 a.m.
- lunch at 3 p.m.
- and a light dinner past 10 p.m.
Restaurants do not even open for lunch until late in the afternoon, so you would have to be prepared for that.
Food is a very crucial aspect of traveling. You want to be satiated when exploring a new region. Inherently, part of the exploration includes trying out the new place’s cuisines.
Both Spain and Portugal have tantalizing foods, albeit with different touches and tastes.
Seafood is quite common in both countries, which is no surprise as they are both bordering the Mediterranean. I could argue that seafood is a staple in southern Spain.
While Tapas might not be the most famous food in Spain, I must say they were my favorite.
They are everywhere, and they taste so good! They are small savory dishes, and there are different types of them.
Tapas are accompanied by almost all foods. My favorite bit is that when you order a drink in most bars, the waiters bring you free tapas to enjoy as you sip away.
Rice is also a common dish in Spain. Paella is particularly delicious and most consumed in Valencia.
It is a rice dish that is cooked in a broth that consists of either chicken or seafood, beans, and saffron.
Other foods that I enjoyed in Spain include:
- Tortilla Espanola
The only concern I have with Spanish food is that there are hardly any veggies during meals, which might explain why weight-related issues are more rampant in Spain than in Portugal.
If you are a fan of red wine, then you will have a superb time in Spain, as the country is known for producing some of the best red wine in the region. Portugal predominantly deals in dry whites.
Portuguese food is quite spicy. Black pepper, cinnamon, and peri peri are used in most dishes. If you’re into garlic like me, you are likely to enjoy Portuguese foods.
The most popular food in Portugal is the Bacalhau, which is a type of cod served with potatoes.
Other delicious dishes you will find in Portugal include:
- Cozido a Portuguese
- Posta Mirandesa
As a coffee person myself, I enjoyed coffee in Portugal more than I did in Spain. It is stronger and easily available.
The average Portuguese person will take 3 to 4 shots of espresso throughout the day. In Spain, coffee is not as revered.
Soccer is a big deal in both Spain and Portugal. Both countries have produced some of the greatest footballers in the world.
For instance, Cristiano Ronaldo, who hails from Portugal, is a household name not only in Portugal but worldwide. The Portuguese are particularly fond of him and will never tire of talking about him.
Spain is home to one of the biggest leagues in the football world, La Liga.
There are two major teams in the league- Real Madrid and Barcelona. There is an almost even divide between the two teams in Spain and all over the world.
Being a Barcelona fan myself, I had to visit Camp Nou and watch a game between FC Barcelona and Real Madrid. This was probably one of the most exhilarating games I have ever watched.
Both Portugal and Spain have made it to the World Cup competitions. While Portugal has never won the world cup, Spain has a World Cup Championship in their name. They won the world cup in South Africa in 2010.
European countries are known for their exciting nightlife. I can confidently say that I was not disappointed at all.
The people in these two countries love partying. Madrid, Barcelona, and Lisbon are specifically impressive when it comes to bars and clubs.
That said, I will be a bit biased.
While in Portugal, I never got the opportunity to experience its nightlife there in all its glory fully. The party life starts a little later in Lisbon than in Spanish cities.
So, if you want to have a good time at the club, it is advisable to get there past midnight. During the weekends, do not go to the club before 2 a.m., or you may get bored.
However, while in Madrid, The Principal club stood out for me. The vibes are immaculate in this rooftop joint. Malaga’s nightlife scene is more sophisticated.
If you want to have wine poured straight from the barrel, go to the Antigua Casa de Guardia, which has been doing this since the 1840s.
Both Spain and Portugal are quite developed when it comes to infrastructure. However, Spain boasts better and safer roads than Portugal.
I had an easier time driving around Spanish cities than in Portugal. Also, Portugal does not have the shiniest reputation regarding road safety.
There are large train networks in both Spain and Portugal, which, in my opinion, are the most convenient way to get around.
The Spanish AVE Alta Velocidad, specifically, is a high-speed train network that operates in all the major cities in the country.
Language can be quite a barrier when traveling to non-anglophone countries. As expected, the Spaniards speak Spanish, and the Portuguese speak Portuguese.
If you are traveling from North America, chances are high that your first language is English. If you are multilingual, lucky for you. Most bilingual and multilingual Americans speak Spanish.
Spanish and Portuguese have somewhat common ancestry; they are both Romantic languages.
However, they are not similar at all. So, if you speak Spanish, it is not a guarantee that you will understand Portuguese.
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The two languages share some words, but the meanings are entirely different.
For instance, I learned that the word ‘espanstosa,’ which means ‘dreadful’ in Spanish, actually has a positive meaning in Portuguese.
Note that the dialect of Spanish depends on which part of the country you are in. Thus, there are five dialects:
I found that the Catalan dialect was the closest to general Spanish. Also, Catalonia is the region with the most English speakers.
Comparatively, though, the Portuguese speak better English than the Spaniards. The main reason for this is that in Portugal, shows that are in English tend to have Portuguese subtitles.
So, the people pick up on the accent and intonation. However, in Spain, shows and movies done in English tend to be dubbed into Spanish.
Even though Spain has a higher GDP than Portugal, the latter is more affordable, especially for travelers.
For starters, accommodation is cheaper in Portugal than in Spain. Even so, food and drinks in Spain cost less.
Note that while Portugal is more affordable, Spain is not overly expensive. If anything, it is one of the more affordable countries among western European countries.
Both Portugal and Spain are rich in historical and cultural icons.
The countries have existed for centuries and have a long history, so of course, there are plenty of landmarks to show for it.
Some of the amazing landmarks you will run into while in Portugal include:
- The Belem Tower
- Sao Jorge Castle
- The Jeronimos Monastery in Lisbon
The Romanticist building in Sintra is also quite a beauty to behold. I loved the sight of the Dom Luis Bridge, which stands on the Douro River between Vila Nova de Gaia and Porto.
Spain has some pretty cool landmarks as well. The Aqueduct of Segovia is one of them. It holds the title of being the best-preserved Roman aqueduct in the world.
Other incredible landmarks in Spain include the Moorish city of Cuenca, the Mezquita of Cordoba, and the Alhambra, which was built in 889 AD.
Why Spain Is Better Than Portugal (Personal Opinion)
Both Spain and Portugal are interesting countries to visit. You are guaranteed to have an amazing time.
However, personally, I rate Spain as the supreme of the two countries for various reasons.
- First, Spaniards are comparatively friendlier and warmer. While the Portuguese are friendly people, they are quite reserved, and it may be harder to approach them than the Spanish.
- Spain also has better infrastructure. Moving from one place to another is smoother compared to Portugal.
- Also, you get free tapas in Spanish bars and clubs when you order drinks. In Portugal, tapas served are included in the final bill.
- Additionally, Spain has a more successful football heritage. Even though Portugal boasts one of the best footballers in history, Spain has a stronger football culture and a World Cup championship title.
One thing that Portugal has over Spain is affordability. And even then, the difference is not that big, and generally, Spain is one of the more affordable Western European countries.
However, these two countries still have a lot in common. For instance, they both have coastlines on the Mediterranean Sea. As such, their climates are also somewhat similar.
Spain assumes easy superiority over Portugal for various reasons. It is geographically bigger with a more developed economy, health system, and infrastructure. While both countries are interesting tourist destinations, Spain has significantly more to offer, in my opinion.