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This week’s big game gets the competition off to a sizzling start, no matter what the British weather forecast may say!
The long-standing rivalry between these two great European nations isn’t just on the pitch – understandably so, since both Spain and Portugal have plenty to boast about. But if you’re trying to decide which to visit, here we break down some of the similarities – and differences – between the two.
Should I visit Spain or Portugal?
Coast to Coast
Spain may be well-loved as a flop and drop sunbathing destination, but we think the crown has to go to Portugal for this one.
This is a country defined by its coastline, where surfers skim the Atlantic spray as the breakers crash towards the shore. It’s a shore that’s known for its dramatic cliffs, wheeling birds and surprising wildness – you’re unlikely to find neat rows of sunbathers on these sands, which makes time spent here all the more special.
It’s 1-0 to Portugal.
Park Guell, Barcelona
Portugal undoubtedly has some stunning buildings – the graceful Palace of Sintra and imposing Belem Tower just outside of Lisbon immediately spring to mind – but Spain is the clear winner here.
It’s a powerful team they’ve got, with such star players as Antoni Gaudi, whose fantastical creations dominate beautiful Barcelona, from the kaleidoscopic colours of Parc Guell, numerous eccentric casas and, of course, the unfinished masterpiece of the Sagrada Familia.
Then there’s the Alhambra Palace in Seville, one of the most interesting palaces with its medieval masonry and intricate Islamic tiling, making it one of the most beautiful fortresses in the world.
Finally we had to honour futuristic Bilbao for its sleek, space-age chrome and glass structures, bringing the score up to an even 1- 1.
Flamenco or Fado, that is the question. They’re so different – flamenco is a flamboyant explosion of colour and passion that is as visual as it is auditory, with the famous dancers often overshadowing the music in cultural perception.
But a traditional flamenco is based on ancient Spanish folklore, and certainly worthy of your attention. Fado is the slow, yearning Portuguese songs that are often described as being mournful or lamenting, but really just try to capture that feeling of longing.
Its traditional roots lie in the port towns of the coast, where sailors would drop anchor and pass the time between voyages. Today you’ll find fado in the watering holes of any of Portugal’s famous port cities, where the tradition of live music is alive and well.
Our money is on Flamenco, for the celebration. 2-1 to Spain.
Both nations have a score of fascinating islands under their belt but for us, it all comes down to the slightly unusual La Palma and the Azores.
La Palma is a Spanish island so far removed from the beaches of Tenerife and Lanzarote, but with stunning national parks and intriguing volcanic scenery. Here the black volcanic earth is rich and fertile and makes for some otherworldly hiking.
As for the Azores, its more reminiscent of sub-tropical New Zealand than what you’d expect of an island in the Atlantic – expect warm temperatures, towering palm trees over glistening lakes and offshore, whales swimming in the deep.
This is a tricky one to score, and we can’t help but give them a goal apiece, bringing the final score to 3-2 to Spain.
But don’t just take our word for it, browse our trips below, visit one of these incredible destinations and decide for yourself!