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  • Writer's pictureCarlos

Exploring the Best of Portugal and Spain: Lisbon, Andaluzia, Madrid, and Porto Travel Guide


Introduction to Road Trips in Spain and Portugal

As a travel enthusiast, I have always found road trips to be the perfect way to explore new destinations.

There is something magical about driving through picturesque landscapes, stopping at charming towns along the way, and immersing yourself in the local culture.

One of the most unforgettable road trip experiences I have had was in Spain and Portugal. The Iberian Peninsula is a treasure trove of history, beauty, and delicious cuisine.

In this article, I will take you on a journey through Lisbon, Andaluzia, Madrid, and Porto, sharing my favorite experiences and must-visit places along the way.



Planning Your Road Trip Itinerary

Before embarking on any road trip, it is crucial to plan your itinerary to make the most of your time and ensure a smooth journey.

Start by deciding how many days you have for your road trip and the cities or regions you want to visit.

For our Iberian adventure, we decided to spend three weeks exploring Lisbon, Andaluzia, Madrid, and Porto, since that the distance is about 2000 Kms.

Once you have a rough idea of your destinations, it's time to plan the route. Take into consideration the distance between each city, the driving time, and any must-see attractions along the way.

We used online maps and travel guides to map out our route, making sure to include scenic drives and detours to hidden gems.

The best time to travel to Portugal and Spain is during the shoulder seasons of spring (April to June) and autumn (September to October).

During these months, the weather is pleasantly warm, the crowds are thinner, and accommodation prices are more affordable compared to the peak summer months.

Spring is particularly beautiful in both countries as the countryside blooms with colorful flowers, and the temperatures are mild, making it ideal for sightseeing and outdoor activities.

Autumn brings comfortable temperatures for exploring cities and coastal regions, and it's also the time for grape harvest and festivals in wine-producing regions. Overall, the shoulder seasons offer a perfect balance of favorable weather and fewer tourists, allowing visitors to fully immerse themselves in the rich culture and stunning landscapes of Portugal and Spain.

Lastly, make sure to book your accommodations in advance, especially during peak travel seasons. Look for hotels or guesthouses that are conveniently located and offer parking facilities.

Consider staying in the city center to easily explore the main attractions on foot. Additionally, research the local cuisine and make a list of restaurants or cafes you would like to try along the way.

Now that the preparations are complete, let's dive into the first stop of our road trip - Lisbon.



Exploring Lisbon: A City of History and Charm

Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is a vibrant mix of history, culture, and stunning architecture.

It is a city that offers a plethora of experiences for every type of traveler. To truly immerse yourself in the charm of Lisbon, begin your exploration in the historic district of Alfama. As you navigate through its narrow cobblestone streets, you will find yourself transported back in time.

The steep hills and maze-like alleys create an enchanting atmosphere, where you can stumble upon colorful houses, quaint cafes, and traditional Fado music venues.

The soulful melodies of Fado, a genre of Portuguese music, will tug at your heartstrings and leave you with a deeper appreciation for the city's cultural heritage.

One of the highlights of Alfama is São Jorge Castle, perched on a hilltop. This medieval fortress offers panoramic views of the city and the Tagus River, allowing you to marvel at Lisbon's beauty from above.

The castle's imposing walls and towers stand as a testament to the city's rich history.

After soaking in the atmosphere of Alfama, it's time to explore the neighborhood of Belém.

This area is renowned for its iconic landmarks that showcase Portugal's maritime past. The Belém Tower, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, stands proudly on the banks of the Tagus River.

Its intricate architecture and strategic location make it a symbol of the country's exploration and conquests. Just a short walk away is the Jerónimos Monastery, a masterpiece of Manueline architecture. Its ornate details and grandeur will leave you in awe.

While in Belém, don't forget to indulge in a pastel de nata, a delicious custard tart that originated in this very neighborhood. The creamy filling and flaky crust of this traditional Portuguese pastry will tantalize your taste buds and provide a sweet ending to your visit.

To experience the modern side of Lisbon, head to the bustling district of Baixa. Here, you'll find elegant squares, shopping streets, and grand boulevards.

The wide avenues are lined with shops, cafes, and restaurants, inviting you to explore and indulge in the city's vibrant atmosphere. A ride on one of Lisbon's iconic yellow trams is a must-do, as it takes you through the heart of the city, allowing you to soak in the sights and sounds of Lisbon.

For a taste of Lisbon's artistic and bohemian side, venture into the trendy neighborhoods of Bairro Alto and Chiado.

These areas are known for their vibrant nightlife, with numerous bars, clubs, and live music venues. The streets come alive with the sounds of laughter, music, and conversation as locals and tourists alike gather to enjoy the city's energetic ambiance.

Lisbon is a city that seamlessly blends its rich history with a modern and vibrant atmosphere. From the historic district of Alfama to the iconic landmarks of Belém and the bustling streets of Baixa, there is something for everyone to enjoy in this captivating city.


Exploring the Alentejo: Évora, Estremoz, and Elvas

Leaving Lisbon behind, we embarked on an exciting road trip to the Alentejo region, a captivating destination renowned for its picturesque rolling plains, sprawling vineyards, and enchanting historic towns.


Our first eagerly anticipated stop was the captivating city of Évora, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Portugal's most exceptionally preserved medieval gems. As we meandered through the narrow, winding streets, we were captivated by the sight of charming whitewashed houses that exuded an air of timeless beauty.

Our exploration led us to some of Évora's iconic landmarks, including the awe-inspiring Roman Temple, the majestic Cathedral of Évora, and the intriguing Bones Chapel, which left us in awe of its macabre yet fascinating interior.


Continuing our journey, we made our way to the captivating town of Estremoz, renowned for its illustrious marble quarries and traditional pottery.

Stepping into the heart of the historic center, we were greeted by a mesmerizing blend of history and culture.

Our first stop was the magnificent Estremoz Castle, an architectural marvel that stood as a testament to the town's rich heritage.

We also had the pleasure of visiting the Pousada Rainha Santa Isabel, a former convent that has been transformed into a luxurious hotel, offering a unique and indulgent experience.

To truly immerse ourselves in the local culture, we couldn't resist sampling the delectable Alentejo bread and savoring the exquisite flavors of the region's renowned wines.


Our final destination in the Alentejo region was the fortified city of Elvas, nestled near the Spanish border.

As we entered the city, we were immediately struck by the grandeur of the Amoreira Aqueduct, an architectural marvel that gracefully spanned across the cityscape.

The aqueduct's impressive presence served as a testament to the city's rich history and engineering prowess.

We also had the opportunity to visit the Elvas Castle, perched atop a hill, offering breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape. Elvas, known for its delectable traditional cuisine, tantalized our taste buds with its mouthwatering Alentejo pork dishes and an array of locally produced cheeses.


Discovering the Beauty of Andalusia: Seville, Cadiz, and Cordoba


Immediatelly after the spanish border, we find the city of Badajoz . The city is rich in history and is known for its well-preserved ancient architecture, including the Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress dating back to the 9th century.

Badajoz is also celebrated for its vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and annual events that showcase the region's artistic heritage.

The city's culinary offerings are equally impressive, with a strong emphasis on traditional Spanish cuisine served in charming local restaurants.

Badajoz also boasts beautiful natural landscapes, making it a compelling destination for outdoor enthusiasts.


Mérida, the capital of the Extremadura region, is a city at 40 Kms of Badajoz and steeped in Roman history.

It is renowned for its well-preserved Roman monuments, including the impressive Roman theater, amphitheater, and the Puente Romano bridge.

These ancient structures offer visitors a glimpse into the city's rich past as a major Roman settlement. In addition to its historical significance, Mérida also offers a thriving cultural scene, with various festivals, concerts, and theatrical performances held throughout the year.

The city's charming streets and plazas are lined with cafes and restaurants serving delicious local cuisine, providing a delightful experience for visitors looking to immerse themselves in the authentic flavors of Spain.

In Merida, a charming city in Spain, we embark on a journey to the enchanting region of Andalusia, known for its rich history, vibrant festivals, and stunning architecture.


Our final destination is the captivating city of Seville, where flamenco music fills the air and the streets are alive with energy.

As we begin our exploration, we find ourselves standing in awe at the Plaza de España, a grand square adorned with beautiful ceramic tiles and a central fountain that adds to its charm.

The vibrant colors and intricate designs of the tiles tell stories of the city's past, creating a mesmerizing sight.

From the Plaza de España, we venture into the charming streets of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, where every corner reveals hidden gems waiting to be discovered.

The narrow alleys are lined with traditional houses, their balconies adorned with colorful flowers that add a touch of beauty to the surroundings.

As we wander through the labyrinthine streets, we stumble upon the breathtaking Seville Cathedral, a magnificent structure that stands tall and proud, showcasing its Gothic architecture.

Inside, we are greeted by the awe-inspiring beauty of the cathedral, with its intricate details and soaring ceilings.

Leaving the cathedral behind, we make our way to the Real Alcazar, a palace that transports us back in time with its exquisite gardens and stunning architecture. As we stroll through the lush greenery, we are captivated by the scent of blooming flowers and the sound of trickling water from the fountains.

The intricate tile work and delicate carvings on the walls tell stories of the past, reminding us of the rich history that surrounds us.


Continuing our journey through Andalusia, we arrive in Cadiz, a coastal city with a rich maritime history.

The historic center, located on a peninsula, is a treasure trove of architectural wonders and cultural landmarks.

As we explore the narrow streets, we are greeted by the sight of beautiful squares and charming plazas, each with its own unique character.

One of the highlights of our visit is the Torre Tavira, a watchtower that offers panoramic views of the city and its surroundings. From the top, we can see the sparkling blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, stretching out as far as the eye can see.

No visit to Cadiz is complete without indulging in some fresh seafood at one of the local restaurants.

The city's proximity to the sea ensures that the seafood is always fresh and delicious. We savor every bite, enjoying the flavors of the ocean and the warmth of the Mediterranean sun.


From Cadiz we continue our journey to Gibraltar, a fascinating British Overseas Territory situated at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula.

As we approach this unique destination, our eyes are immediately drawn to the iconic Rock of Gibraltar, a towering limestone formation that dominates the landscape and offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding area.

Gibraltar's strategic location at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea has played a pivotal role throughout history. It has served as a crucial site for naval control and trade, attracting the attention of various powers over the centuries.

This rich historical background has left an indelible mark on the territory's cultural heritage, resulting in a captivating blend of British, Spanish, and Moorish influences.

Exploring Gibraltar is like stepping into a melting pot of architecture, cuisine, and traditions. The streets are lined with charming buildings that reflect the diverse cultural influences, from British colonial-style structures to Moorish-inspired designs.

The local cuisine is a delightful fusion of British and Mediterranean flavors, offering a tantalizing array of dishes to satisfy any palate.

Beyond its cultural allure, Gibraltar is a thriving hub of economic activity. Tourism, shipping, and financial services are the driving forces behind its economy, attracting visitors and businesses from around the world.

Despite its small size, the territory boasts a vibrant population that takes great pride in its unique identity and strong sense of community.

As we venture into Gibraltar, we are captivated by its rich history, stunning natural beauty, and vibrant atmosphere. It is a place where the past seamlessly blends with the present, offering a truly unforgettable experience for all who visit.


After Gibraltar, we go to a Malaga, a city known for its high-rise hotels and resorts jutting up from yellow-sand beaches.

Looming over that modern skyline are the city’s 2 massive hilltop citadels, the Alcazaba and ruined Gibralfaro, remnants of Moorish rule.

The city's rich history is evident in its architecture, with landmarks such as the Roman Theater and the Malaga Cathedral showcasing a blend of ancient and modern influences.

Malaga is also renowned as the birthplace of the famous artist Pablo Picasso, and visitors can explore the Picasso Museum to admire some of his greatest works. The city offers a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous art galleries, theaters, and music venues. In addition to its cultural attractions, Malaga boasts a lively culinary scene, with traditional tapas bars and seafood restaurants lining its charming streets.

The city's warm climate and picturesque coastline make it a popular destination for beachgoers and sun-seekers.


Our last stop in Andalusia is Cordoba, a city that is steeped in history and culture. The highlight of our visit is the awe-inspiring Mezquita, a mosque-cathedral that showcases the region's unique blend of Islamic and Christian architecture. As we step inside, we are greeted by a mesmerizing sight - a forest of columns that seem to stretch endlessly, creating a sense of grandeur and tranquility.

The intricate arches and delicate carvings on the walls tell the story of the city's past, a testament to its rich heritage.

Wandering through the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter, we are transported back in time, surrounded by whitewashed houses and cobblestone streets.

The air is filled with the scent of orange blossoms, adding to the charm of the surroundings. We make our way to the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, a fortress-palace that offers a glimpse into the city's history. The lush gardens and tranquil courtyards provide a peaceful escape from the bustling streets outside.

As our journey through Andalusia comes to an end, we can take a leisurely stroll along the Guadalquivir River, enjoying the gentle breeze and the beautiful views. The river has played a significant role in the history of the region, serving as a lifeline for trade and transportation.


The Road to Madrid: Visiting Toledo

Leaving Andalusia behind, we headed north towards the vibrant city of Madrid. We cross Castilla-La Mancha, a historic region, renowned for its rich cultural heritage and breathtakingly picturesque landscapes.

This enchanting region is widely celebrated as the setting for the timeless and beloved novel Don Quixote, and visitors are still able to immerse themselves in the very same windmills and medieval towns that inspired Miguel de Cervantes' iconic story.

The region's distinctive charm lies in its vast plains, sprawling vineyards, and abundant olive groves, which have long made it a vital agricultural hub. The traditional cuisine of Castilla-La Mancha, with its delectable dishes such as gazpacho, migas, and the world-famous Manchego cheese, serves as a delightful reflection of the region's deep-rooted rural heritage.

In addition to its culinary delights, Castilla-La Mancha boasts a treasure trove of architectural wonders and historical sites that continue to captivate tourists and history enthusiasts alike.

The cities of Toledo, Ciudad Real, and Cuenca stand as living testaments to the region's illustrious past, showcasing stunning examples of architectural brilliance and offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of Spanish history.


On our way, we made a detour to visit Toledo, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a city that encapsulates Spain's rich history.

Known as the "City of Three Cultures," Toledo was once home to Christians, Muslims, and Jews, and their influence can be seen in the city's architecture and cultural heritage.

Explore the narrow streets of Toledo's old town, where you'll find stunning medieval buildings, ancient synagogues, and the imposing Toledo Cathedral. Don't miss a visit to the Alcázar of Toledo, a fortress that offers panoramic views of the city, and indulge in some traditional marzipan, a local specialty.


The Vibrant City of Madrid: Culture, Cuisine, and Nightlife


Arriving in Madrid, the capital of Spain, we were immediately captivated by the city's bustling energy and vibrant atmosphere.

Madrid is not only a political and economic hub, but it also boasts a rich cultural heritage that is evident in its world-class museums, stunning architecture, and thriving culinary scene.

To begin your exploration of this magnificent city, a visit to the Puerta del Sol is a must. As the heart of Madrid, this bustling square is the perfect starting point for your journey.

From there, make your way to the iconic Plaza Mayor, a beautiful square surrounded by historic buildings that exude charm and history.

Art enthusiasts will be delighted by the Prado Museum, a treasure trove of European art. Housing an impressive collection that includes masterpieces by renowned artists such as Goya, Velázquez, and El Greco, the museum offers a captivating journey through the history of art.

No visit to Madrid would be complete without indulging in its culinary delights. The Mercado de San Miguel, a bustling food market, is the perfect place to sample traditional tapas and savor local wines. The market's vibrant atmosphere and diverse offerings make it a true gastronomic paradise.

As night falls, Madrid transforms into a city that never sleeps. The lively neighborhoods of Malasaña and Chueca are known for their trendy bars and clubs, offering a vibrant nightlife experience. Immerse yourself in the passion and rhythm of Spanish culture by catching a flamenco show, an essential part of the country's artistic heritage.

Madrid is a city that truly has it all. From its rich history and cultural landmarks to its vibrant culinary scene and lively nightlife, it offers a diverse range of experiences that will leave you wanting more.


Travelling to Oporto: Salamanca, Viseu, and Aveiro

Leaving the bustling and vibrant Spanish capital behind, we embarked on the next leg of our journey, heading towards the enchanting and picturesque city of Oporto, also known as Porto, in Portugal. However, we couldn't resist the temptation to explore some hidden gems nestled in the serene and captivating Portuguese countryside along the way.


Our first stop was the captivating city of Salamanca, renowned not only for its prestigious university but also for its awe-inspiring architectural ensemble that has stood the test of time. As we wandered through the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, we couldn't help but be mesmerized by the grandeur of the iconic Plaza Mayor and the rich history that permeated every corner. The University of Salamanca, one of the oldest universities in the world, stood as a testament to the city's intellectual legacy.


Continuing our road trip in Portugal, we found ourselves in the charming town of Viseu, nestled amidst the rolling hills of the renowned Dão wine region. The town exuded a sense of tranquility and charm, inviting us to take a leisurely stroll through its historic center. The magnificent Viseu Cathedral, with its intricate architecture and rich history, left us in awe of the craftsmanship of the past. As we explored further, we couldn't resist the temptation to indulge in the local wines at one of the traditional taverns, savoring the flavors of the region. Viseu's reputation for its delectable regional cuisine was not unfounded, and we made sure to treat ourselves to some mouthwatering roasted suckling pig and Bairrada-style roasted meats, savoring every bite.


Our final stop before reaching the captivating city of Porto was the coastal town of Aveiro, often referred to as the "Venice of Portugal." As we glided along the picturesque canals on a boat ride, we marveled at the colorful Art Nouveau buildings that lined the waterways, adding a touch of vibrancy to the serene surroundings. The town's famous delicacy, ovos moles, sweet egg yolks wrapped in a delicate wafer, tempted our taste buds, and we couldn't resist indulging in this local treat.

As we continued our adventure towards Porto, we couldn't help but feel a sense of anticipation for the experiences that awaited us in this vibrant and culturally rich city.


Exploring Porto and the Douro River


Arriving in Porto, a vibrant city located in northwest Portugal, we were immediately captivated by its rich history and renowned reputation as a hub for port wine production.

As we embarked on our exploration, we couldn't help but be drawn to the enchanting Ribeira district, a UNESCO World Heritage Site that exudes charm and character. The picturesque banks of the Douro River are adorned with a delightful array of colorful houses, creating a postcard-perfect scene that is truly mesmerizing.

To further immerse ourselves in the city's allure, we decided to cross the iconic Dom Luís I Bridge, an architectural marvel that connects Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia. This neighboring town is home to the famous port wine cellars, where we indulged in delightful tastings and learned about the intricate process of producing this beloved beverage.

As we savored each sip, we couldn't help but be captivated by the panoramic views of Porto that unfolded before our eyes, offering a breathtaking perspective of the city's beauty.

Our exploration continued as we ventured to some of Porto's most iconic landmarks. The Livraria Lello, often hailed as one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world, beckoned us with its ornate architecture and rich literary history.

The São Bento Railway Station, adorned with stunning azulejo tiles that depict historical scenes, transported us to a bygone era, evoking a sense of nostalgia and wonder.

Wandering through the narrow streets of the historic center, we discovered hidden gems at every turn. The Porto Cathedral, an architectural masterpiece that dates back to the 12th century, stood as a testament to the city's religious heritage.

And for a truly awe-inspiring view, we ascended the Clérigos Tower, where the panoramic vistas of Porto stretched out before us, showcasing the city's unique blend of old-world charm and modern vibrancy.

No visit to Porto would be complete without venturing into the enchanting Douro Valley.

As we embarked on a scenic drive along the meandering river, we were greeted by a tapestry of terraced vineyards that adorned the landscape, creating a picture-perfect setting. Visiting some of the region's esteemed vineyards, we had the opportunity to indulge in wine tastings, savoring the flavors of the renowned Douro wines that have put this region on the map.

To fully appreciate the beauty of the Douro River, we embarked on a leisurely boat ride, allowing us to soak in the idyllic surroundings and marvel at the breathtaking vistas that unfolded before our eyes.

Best Places to Stay and Dine During Your Road Trip

Throughout our road trip, we had the pleasure of staying in some incredible accommodations and dining at delightful restaurants. Here are a few recommendations to make your journey even more special:

Lisbon accommodations
  1. Memmo Alfama Hotel: A stylish boutique hotel located in the historic Alfama district, offering stunning views of the city and the Tagus River.

  1. Corpo Santo Lisbon Historical Hotel: Situated in a restored 14th-century building, this hotel provides a blend of modern comfort and historic charm in the heart of Lisbon's city center.

  1. Palácio do Governador: Nestled in a former 16th-century palace, this hotel combines elegant design with historical significance and offers a tranquil retreat near the riverfront.

Lisbon Restaurants
  1. Belcanto: Experience exquisite fine dining at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef José Avillez showcases innovative Portuguese cuisine in a sophisticated setting.

  1. Ponto Final: Enjoy traditional Portuguese dishes while overlooking the Tagus River at this charming restaurant located in a restored old warehouse in Almada.

  1. Landeau Chocolate: Indulge in delectable desserts and specialty chocolate cakes at this renowned café known for its rich and delightful treats.

Seville accommodations
  1. Hotel Alfonso XIII: Immerse yourself in luxury at this iconic hotel known for its grand Andalusian architecture and elegant accommodations in the heart of Seville.

  1. EME Catedral Hotel: Offering contemporary design and rooftop terraces with stunning views of the Giralda, this boutique hotel provides a sophisticated urban retreat near the cathedral.

  1. Hotel Palacio de Villapanés: Stay in a beautifully restored palace and experience a perfect blend of historic elegance and modern comfort in the heart of Seville's old town.

Seville restaurants
  1. Restaurante Eslava: Delight in innovative tapas and traditional Spanish flavors at this popular restaurant known for its creative culinary offerings and vibrant ambiance.

  1. Abantal: Experience a Michelin-starred dining experience at this refined restaurant, where chef Julio Fernández Quintero crafts contemporary Andalusian cuisine with a focus on seasonal ingredients.

  1. La Azotea: Enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and a modern take on traditional tapas at this rooftop restaurant with picturesque views of the city and a diverse menu of flavorful dishes.

Madrid accommodations
  1. Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques: Experience luxury at this hotel housed in a former palace, offering elegant accommodations, a historic garden, and a prime location near the Royal Palace.

  1. Only YOU Boutique Hotel Madrid: Immerse yourself in contemporary luxury at this stylish boutique hotel located in a historic mansion, featuring chic design, personalized service, and a central location in the city.

  1. URSO Hotel & Spa: Indulge in a peaceful retreat at this boutique hotel set in a restored palatial residence, offering a serene ambiance, a wellness spa, and refined accommodations in the heart of Madrid.

Madrid restaurants
  1. DiverXO: Embark on a culinary adventure at this three-Michelin-starred restaurant led by chef David Muñoz, known for its avant-garde cuisine and immersive dining experience.

  1. La Terraza del Casino: Delight in innovative gastronomy at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant, where chef Paco Roncero presents creative and visually stunning dishes in an elegant setting.

  1. Sobrino de Botín: Experience traditional Spanish cuisine at the sister restaurant of the famous Botín, known for its classic Castilian dishes and a cozy, historic atmosphere.


Conclusion: Memories and Experiences from Your Unforgettable Road Trip

As our road trip came to an end, we couldn't help but feel a sense of gratitude for the incredible memories and experiences we had gathered along the way.

From the historic streets of Lisbon to the vibrant culture of Madrid and the picturesque landscapes of Porto, the Iberian Peninsula had truly captured our hearts.

A road trip through Spain and Portugal is an adventure that will stay with you for a lifetime.

The mesmerizing beauty, rich history, and warm hospitality of these countries will leave you longing to return. So, pack your bags, hit the road, and embark on your own unforgettable journey through Lisbon, Andaluzia, Madrid, and Porto.

The Iberian Peninsula awaits your discovery.




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