Visiting Spain: Visit the Essentials First

visiting spain

It doesn’t matter what your travelling preferences are, we all love a fiesta, and what better place to have a fiesta than by visiting Spain itself? Located in one of the warmest parts of the European continent, Spain does not only offers long sunny days, but also a rich history and culture. This country can cater to anyone’s taste. Partying all night, visiting museums and researching Spanish history or eating their delicious cuisine until your heart pops out. The only thing that you should know is where you’re heading, and this is where we step in. Look at the list below, and try to find the best Spanish ciudad for your holiday, especially if it’s your first time:

Madrid: The heart of Spain and capital of flamenco

It doesn’t do to visit Spain and not see the capital of the country, does it? As any other European capital, Madrid has everything to offer – bars that are open until late at night, great shopping centers and some of the most amazing parks in Europe. One such is the El Parque del Buen Retiro, or simply shortened to El Retiro. It was once a royal ‘’hangout’’, and it staged many concerts and garden plays. Nowadays, it is a great tourist attraction (even though greenery might not be the first thing that comes to your mind when you think of Madrid), as people can rent one of the many rowboats and paddle in the huge man made lake in the center of the park. However, Spain is the only place in the world where you can see a live performance of flamenco dances, and Madrid is the best place to do this.

madrid

Barcelona: The diamond of Catalonia

You’ve no doubt heard of Barcelona. There are numerous tourists who hit the road to Spain and decide to visit this place only. And it doesn’t matter how many days you stay, Barcelona is a city which you can never fully explore. If you really want a European holiday of your lifetime, you should find one of the best Barcelona holiday packages that are offered, and see the home of the extremely impressive pieces of Gaudi’s architecture such as the legendary La Sagrada Familia. Moreover, taking a walk-through Las Ramblas and having a cup of coffee in one of its many cafés is definitely something that you should experience at least once in your lifetime.

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Seville: From bullrings to beautiful barrios

To all the animal rights activists out there – no, we don’t agree with this either, but we must agree that this is one of the symbols of Spain and an inevitable part of Spanish history. Even though bullfighting originated in Ronda, Seville is its spiritual home. So, is it a form of art or simply animal cruelty? Well, it would be best to visit one of Seville’s many bullrings and see for yourself. However, don’t you think for a second that Seville is only good for this. As the heart of Andalusia, this magical city has many other things to offer – such as the Barrio Santa Cruz, one of the most beautiful barrios of Spain, or Alcazar (perhaps better known as Dorne from HBO’s Game of Thrones).

seville

Granada: The place that’s the richest in Spanish history

First and foremost: you’re visiting Spain and you want to try tapas. Since Granada is one of the rare places in Spain where you get tapas for free alongside your drink, it should be on the must-visit list. Moreover, this is a place where you’ll see the most important historical monuments of this country. It is a paradise for every history buff. One of the best things you can see here is the Alhambra fortress – a fortress so huge that you will need a whole day to explore it to the smallest detail. If you want to imagine what it looks like, it’s said that you must imagine the world’s most beautiful gardens, add a fortress and multiply the whole image by ten. Alhambra overlooks the whole city of Granada, offering a most breathtaking view. And it’s also an excellent place to take amazing Instagram photographs! The ticket is around 13 euros, and it’s open from March to October, so make sure to plan your stay there accordingly.

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And these are only the essentials. Spain has so many other things to offer, such as 24/7 Ibiza parties, spring days in Valencia, visiting the tomb of Christopher Columbus, walking across the world’s scariest bridge, seeing the Museum of Funeral Carriages, or eating at the world’s oldest restaurant in Madrid. Spain should be your next destination. And maybe even the one after that, because you can go there as many times as you want, and you’ll still have more things on your bucket list.

Thinking Of Renting A Car In Europe? Here’s What You Need To Know

Renting A Car In Europe

Renting a car in Europe lets you explore and discover different countries and cultures. Renting a car gives you freedom to travel on your own schedule and time. You can get off the beaten path and get to smaller towns and sights with relative ease. There are potential challenges like “driving on the wrong side of the road” in the UK, different rules of the road and some country specific laws. But it’s all well worth it for the memories and potential trip of a lifetime. Here’s the short list of things to consider when you’re renting a car and driving in Europe.

Renting A Car In Europe? Book In Advance

Ca rental rates vary widely by destination and season. Generally speaking, rates are higher for any rental car company or location if you wait to book. (Especially if you walk up to a rental counter with no reservation). You will save money by paying for your car rental ahead of time. Auto Europe is one of the best options for car rentals in Europe. They’ve been in business over 60 years with more than 20,000 locations in 180 countries. They work with well known car rental companies and provide unbeatable rates on car rentals. You can book your car rental as soon as you book your trip with the option to modify or cancel your booking if your plans change.

Beyond the large highways in Europe, most roads are tight and winding. And parking is tight and tricky with limited street parking and small parking lots. A smaller car, typical in Europe, is the best way to get around and easier to drive. Many cars in Europe are equipped with a manual transmission. If you don’t drive a standard/manual transmission, you’ll need to book early to make sure that you get a car equipped with an automatic transmission.

Renting A Car In Europe

Renting A Car In Europe? You’ll Need Insurance Coverage

With Auto Europe, if you select a basic rental rate your price will include value added tax (VAT), public liability insurance, fire insurance and unlimited miles. If the inclusive rate is selected, it will include everything in the basic rate plus collision damage waiver (CDW) and theft protection for the rental vehicle. I definitely recommend the inclusive rate specifically to have full CDW and theft protection on your rental car. If you rely on credit card coverage or your own car insurance, you may not have enough coverage and/or you may have to pay in full for a claim and then seek reimbursement.

Renting A Car In Europe? You Might Need an International Driver’s Permit

Many European countries—like the United Kingdom and Ireland—recognize North American driver’s licenses. However, other countries—like Italy, Germany, and Spain—require that you possess and carry an International Driving Permit (IDP). The IDP is proof that you possess a valid driver’s license. It also translates your driving qualifications into ten of the world’s most commonly used languages, and allows travellers to drive in over 150 different countries.

You can get an International Driver’s Permit at AAA (U.S.) and CAA (Canada) for a nominal fee, and you only need proof of your driver’s license to apply.

Renting A Car In Europe? Be Prepared For the Unexpected

The unexpected can of course happen anywhere and at anytime. Be aware of what’s covered by the rental car agency if you have an accident or your car breaks down. Most offer some form of roadside assistance in the event of a break down. Traffic tickets and toll fees will naturally be billed to you if you don’t pay locally.

If your rental car is involved in an accident, it is imperative that you contact local authorities immediately. A valid police report is always required, regardless of how minor the accident is. The second number you should contact is the one listed on your car rental key chain. For further protection, take pictures of all the damage done to your rental car and any other parties involved.

Having your cell phone activated for use in Europe is a must for driving directions, destination information and in the case of emergency. A SIM card saves on roaming and data charges while keeping you connected. TravelSIM is my choice because its prepaid (providing cost control), works in over 170 countries and incoming calls and messages are free. Between driving and blog support, I need coverage while in Europe.

Renting A Car In Europe?

Renting A Car In Europe? Find Out the Rules of the Road

The autobahn actually exists in Austria and Germany where the drivers follow a strict code. The left lane is for passing only (most cars will be travelling at more than 160 km/per hour). The middle lane is for the average driver – 120-160 km/per hour. Anything slower is on the right lane.

In the UK, you drive on the left side of the road , and you pass on the right side. There are also numerous roundabouts where you need to know which exit you are taking ahead of time.

Turning right on a red light is not permitted anywhere in Europe, unless there’s a sign that indicates otherwise.

Renting A Car In Europe? Other Things To Know

  1. It’s not a bad idea to buy a traditional paper map as backup. Maps are readily available at gas stations and highway stops. Google Maps or offline maps work but you may not have service or data in remote areas.
  2. Most tolls can be paid by coins, cash or credit card. Some countries like Austria and Switzerland require the purchase of vignettes (driving stickers) that need to be displayed in your front window. They are readily available at gas stations and road side stores.
  3. Getting gas in Europe typically requires that you pay in advance before pumping.
  4. Parking in Europe varies greatly by town and city. Parking can be free, pay via parking meter or require a parking permit. Pay attention when you park or you will invariably get a ticket.
  5. You’ll get comfortable driving in no time. Enjoy the trip, lookout for great places to stop and enjoy the views!

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11 European Cities For Foodies

The European culinary scene is ever-evolving with more European cities for foodies. Many of the cities on this list might not have been considered just a few years ago, which makes Europe such an exciting destination for foodies. Here are 11 cities in Europe that food lovers will surely enjoy exploring.

COPENHAGEN

Copenhagen was the city that spawned the ‘New Nordic Cuisine’ culinary trend back in the early aughts. Championed by Rene Redzepi and Claus Meyer of Copenhagen’s now world-famous Noma restaurant, it revolves around using local ingredients and seasonal produce to create simple, elegant dishes, adapted from traditional Nordic techniques. A number of renowned and Michelin-starred restaurants opened following Noma’s lead, cementing Copenhagen as one of Europe’s great food cities.

There are a series of ‘must-have’ dishes to try during a trip to the Danish capital including smoked and pickled herring, Danish cheeses, and the classic Smørrebrød – a Danish open-faced sandwich. Classic examples of Smørrebrød include egg and shrimp, marinated herring, beef tartar, and cod roe all atop buttered rye bread.

LONDON

London’s food scene is an amalgam of traditional culinary vision and the modern innovation. No food-centric trip to London is complete without at least one afternoon tea. This light meal typically comes between lunch and dinner and is taken very seriously in upscale hotels and tea rooms all over the city. If you think this is an antiquated practice long out of style, take a look at the month-long wait to get a reservation in the tea rooms of the Ritz or the Savoy.

Visitors will leave full and happy with a Sunday roast at the neighborhood pub accompanied by a pint of bitters, or some takeaway fish and chips from one of the city’s many ‘chippies.’ Chicken tikka masala is ubiquitous at restaurants city-wide, and is even reported as being the U.K.’s most popular dish.

If you’re a veteran London visitor and have had your fill of the classics, the city offers a thriving contemporary restaurant scene with inventive dishes from Michelin-starred kitchens. Indulge in the deep-fried sea anemones at Barrafina in Covent Garden or roasted veal sweetbreads at three-starred Restaurant Gordon Ramsay in Chelsea.

BOLOGNA

Bologna is famous for many things, but its market scene is high on the list. Just off of the main square of Piazza Maggiore sits the ancient food market Quadrilatero. Here you’ll find nearly anything your heart desires including fish, pasta, cured meats, baked goods, and produce. A little further away lies the Mercato delle Erbe (vegetable market) where you’ll find more locals and fewer tourists. Fill your bags with fresh, seasonal produce and then head to Osteria Del Sole, a bar that’s been running since 1465! Order up a glass of local wine and nosh on your market purchases – they let you bring your own food.

No trip to Bologna is finished without at least one plate of tagliatelle al Ragù (pasta with Bolognese meat sauce) with a hearty topping of parmesan from nearby Parm. An even more authentic dish from this robust food scene is tortellini in brodo, meat filled pasta served in a hot broth or a plate of lasagna Bolognese.

BORDEAUX

Much more than just a famous wine in France, the Bordeaux food scene offers the many classic French dishes attracting crowds to France for generations such as duck confit, and foie gras, but its ocean-adjacent location adds a seafood element to the mix. Have your fill of the area’s oysters, langoustines, mussels, shrimp, and clams right along with your steak frites and glass of bold red wine.

TBILISI

Georgia’s capital city, Tbilisi life revolves around food and there’s a thriving restaurant scene to prove it. You may not be able to picture Georgian cuisine off the top of your head but think warm, freshly baked breads, tender roasted meats, dried fruit leathers, ample use of walnuts, and roasted vegetable dishes to give ratatouille a run for its money. Georgia is also one of the oldest wine regions in the world, allowing for superlative natural wines to be found in eateries throughout the capital city. Taste unique dishes and fine wines at Tbilisi restaurants like Gabriadze Theatre Cafe or Purpur, both in the historic part of the city.

SAN SEBASTIAN

No food-centric list of Europe is complete without San Sebastian. Considered by many to be the continent’s food capital, this Spanish Basque city has the second highest concentration of Michelin stars per square mile in the world after Kyoto. Travelers come from all over the globe to take vacations designed around dining in San Sebastian. Known for its pintxos restaurants, the Basque-equivalent of tapas or small plates are found primarily in the old quarter of the city. Don’t forget to throw your napkins on the floor when you’re done, though! It is a tradition and the dirtier the pintxos bar, the better it is.

The city’s molecular gastronomy has caused quite a stir among food enthusiasts in recent years. San Sebastian restaurants like Arzak and Mugaritz serve dishes that play with the physical forms of the ingredients they are comprised of. Each patron receives edible art, ensuring a thought-provoking dining experience.

When you’ve had your fill of being served, try a Basque cooking class at the hotel Maria Cristina followed by a night cap of txacoli, the region’s dry, sparkling white wine.

BERLIN

Berlin is a city soaked in history but it would be a mistake to visit just for the walking tours. The last couple decades saw a boom in Berlin’s restaurant scene elevating this German city far beyond the classic soft pretzel and beer pairing. Fans of German food will probably be familiar with the Berlin street dish of currywurst, or sausage with ketchup and curry powder, but the city is teeming with refined and inventive eateries renowned the world over. Those chasing Michelin stars will find their happy place at restaurants like Facil, Reinstoff, and Weinbar Rutz. More recent additions to the scene include the Berlin chapter of Soho House’s the Store Kitchen, sophisticated Nordic offerings at dóttir, and an upscale carbohydrate heaven at Standard Pizza.

Beyond the classic and the modern, Berlin features food from all over the world. Visitors will find large offerings of Turkish, Vietnamese, Indian, and Thai restaurants, to name just a few.

AMSTERDAM

Amsterdam features foods all over the price spectrum. You could visit for a week and subsist solely off of street treats and market fare. Get a fast introduction to the Amsterdam food scene with a plate of cured herring from one of the city’s many herring carts or haringhandels. If it’s cooked fish you crave then try kibbeling, battered and deep fried white fish served with an herbed mayonnaise sauce. Add a cone of thick cut French fries known as patat or frites covered in mayonnaise and curry ketchup and you’ve got yourself a complete, albeit nutritionally void, meal. For dessert treat yourself to a stroopwaffelcomprised of two thin waffles sandwiching a gooey layer of caramel, or some oliebollen, deep fried sweet dumplings dusted with powdered sugar.

THESSALONIKI

Greece’s second largest city is second to none when it comes to dining. Known as the country’s culinary capital, part of Thessaloniki’s success lies within its proximity to fertile land producing top notch produce including olives, grapes, beans, and grain. Quality ingredients are of the utmost importance when your gastronomic scene is known for its simple, straightforward cuisine in the city’s many mezedopola, casual eateries serving small plates (meze) to accompany alcoholic drinks. There are many nearby wineries producing excellent varietals to pair with your meze, or sip on ouzoretsina (resinated wine), or tsipouro(pomace brandy) if you prefer.

PARIS

Even if you’ve been to Paris a dozen times, you can always find another brasserie, patisserie, or boulangerie to explore. If you’re looking to dine in a Parisian institution however, Benoit is an excellent choice. The only Parisian bistro to receive a Michelin star, this restaurant dates back to 1912. Experience classics like pâté, escargots, and boeuf bordelaise.

If you want to encounter the more contemporary direction of Parisian gastronomy you may be interested in the Korean fried chicken at Hero, or the upscale-but-not-stuffy Franco-Chinois cuisine of Yam’Tcha.

When the multitudes of dining options overwhelm you, why not pack a gourmet picnic in the park? Stop into Claus, a beloved Parisian gourmet grocery and cafe on rue Jean-Jacques Rousseau, then make your way over to the gardens at the Palais Royal for an open air brunch.

ROME

A foodie’s trip to Rome is akin to a pilgrimage to Mecca. Among all the grandeur and ancient architecture of the city lie restaurants combining simple fresh ingredients into dishes that far surpass the sum of their parts. Nowhere is this more evident than with the classic Roman dish, Cacio e pepe. Translating to ‘cheese and pepper’ the dish is made solely with black pepper, Pecorino Romano cheese, and pasta (usually spaghetti). A certain gastronomic alchemy takes over when the ingredients are combined to create a dish that has been consumed since ancient times.

Another distinctive quality of Roman food is their adept ability to use the ‘poor man’s’ ingredients known as the fifth quarter, or quinto quarto. These are the offal of animals that are often thrown away elsewhere including the tongue, tripe, brain, and liver. If you’re an adventurous eater you’ll be in dining heaven and if you’re a picky eater why not say ‘when in Rome!’ and expand your horizons with quinto quarto.

Pin it and start planning your next foodie adventure!

(This post provided by Auto Europe)

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Why should you go on a Pilgrimage

This guest post was written by Rebecca Brown, an avid traveller from Ireland.

 

Do people even go on pilgrimages today? Really? In the age of the Internet and all that?

Odds are, we are further from God (if there is a God) than we have ever been. And I’m not trying to belittle your belief system, I have one of my own too. However, I never imagined myself as the kind of person to go on an actual pilgrimage. In the sense that I will be walking the same road hundreds of thousands of people have walked since the Middle Ages, a road where people died, and which they traversed to feel closer to their deity. Turns out, it was one of the best experiences of my life.

Admittedly, before we took the trip last year, I visited my mother’s homeland (she was born in Eastern Europe). Seeing where she came from felt like a spiritual homecoming, and that’s putting it mildly and overemphasizing it at the same time. When my husband suggested the Camino de Santiago, I was on the fence to say the least. However, he talked me into it, and the five weeks we spent walking across France and Spain were some of the best of our lives. That’s where the inspiration for this piece has come from, and all the people whose faces I am not likely to forget, but who will remain anonymous in the next page or two.

In a nutshell, here is why you should be going on a pilgrimage:

You are either rather young, or rather old

I know it sounds idiotic, but it’s true – we’ve met many young people out looking for adventure. They were in it for the walk, for the miles, for the nights of camping, for getting soaked in the middle of nowhere and chasing after a bus, (knowing that riding it is not the true Camino way, but nevertheless caring more about being dry than a true pilgrim). Not all were believers, and not all wanted to come, but I met one of them at Santiago de Compostela, who said it was the best vacation of her life.

On the other hand, we met an older gentleman from York. He has been walking a different Camino each year for five years. He told me he needed the time to spend in his own head, and that nothing can get your brain working like moving your legs. He’d been a top level executive for ten years, and now that he was one no longer, he wanted the time and the space to reflect on those years, the failures and the big wins. No better way to see yourself more clearly than to walk five hundred miles, he said. I’m thinking he’s probably right.

You (don’t) believe in God

Of course, there are those who take pilgrimages to feel closer to God, even today. There are also those who don’t quite believe, but would like to. The devout are some of the most interesting people to talk to on the Camino – they are calm, collected, and they can absolutely motivate you when you are about to chuck your shoes in the ditch and fly home. There are amazing heartfelt conversations to be had while you walk along. You may often find yourself questioning your own views of the world, and I don’t just mean your spiritual beliefs.

You want a challenge

This is admittedly me. I wanted to challenge myself physically and mentally – and see if I could do it. Turns out I can, even if I did want to quit three times. Let me warn you, there will be blisters. There will be rain and wind. There will be annoying people bugging you, but you can’t avoid them anyway. But you will have time to think, you will have time to breathe (I can’t stress this enough) and you will have the incentive to open your heart just a bit more. By the way, I am a terrible cynic in my everyday life, but something about the Camino has changed me. I have not only traveled from Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port to Santiago de Compostela, I have learned more about life and people in those 800 kilometers than I thought I could.

If this short rant has sold the Camino the Santiago to you as well, here are some of my expert tips:

  • Choose a reliable tour operator. We went with Follow the Camino, based on a recommendation, and we were never once sorry.
  • Choose even more reliable shoes. I finally bought these Hanwag Trek Light ones, and they were great – after I paired them with the right socks.
  • Choose the most reliable socks. The socks are the most important part of your gear, don’t underestimate them for a second.
  • Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate. Upping your water intake will help you feel and walk better, no question about it.
  • Leave the prejudice behind. Simply enjoy the walk and the air and the company. That’s what you’re there for.

Have you ever walked the Camino de Santiago? Would you like to, and if yes, what are your reasons? If these eight hundred plus words have not sold you the idea of trekking eight hundred kilometers, let me know why you are still unconvinced!

 

Parent Only Getaways to the Costa del Sol in Spain

The Costa del Sol in Spain is currently one of the hottest choices both for family vacations, and for second home, for buyers from the UK, Scandinavia and even Russia and China. The reasons why so many people from abroad are visiting and even moving to the south of Spain, are manifold. Perhaps most importantly, the weather is fantastic almost all year around; winters are mild and summers, deliciously sunny, with life focused on the beach and the many beach restaurants and clubs which pepper the Coast. Safety is another strong point. Families love the peace and calm, which sits nicely alongside the buzzing night life in both the city of Málaga and her smaller yet more luxurious sister, Marbella, famed for top-level shopping and gastronomic offerings. Finally, price is another strong point. You can enjoy a great tapas meal or three-course meals for a fraction of the price you would pay in a city like Paris or Berlin.

One thing many travellers won’t tell you about, is that the Costa del Sol is also a great choice for a parents-only holiday. The buzzword these days in health and travel circles alike is self-compassion; which in essence involves being kind to oneself, taking a break from our duties to work, friends and children to re-focus on the things that make each of us feel happy and whole. The results of ignoring our inner needs can be disastrous, ranging from anxiety to depression so it pays to make it a point to disconnect at least once a year. A parents-only holiday also allows us to reconnect with our partner or spouse, and enjoy a few romantic days away together, discovering new sights, sounds and flavours in the company of our best friend and lover.

Even if you have just a few days (between three days and a week), there is plenty to do in the Costa del Sol. Top suggestions include:

  • A night at the theatre: Head for Málaga’s premiere theatre, the Teatro Cervantes, which attracts world-class performers from the worlds of dance, classical and modern music, opera, ballet, modern dance, jazz, flamenco and so much more. The Cervantes was built in the 19th century and is beautifully elegant inside, with gilded balconies, a painted ceiling and a magnificent main stage.
  • The Starlite Festival in the summer: Starlite is a festival which takes place every summer (July and August) in Marbella, a city which is around an hour’s drive (or less) from the Costa del Sol’s main city (Málaga). Starlite features top performers, and offers a fun night for all in a unique setting: the Cantera de Nagueles, set in the midst of dramatic rock formations. Just a few of this year’s performers are Andrea Bocelli, Elton John, and Jason Derulo.
  • Museum hopping: Málaga has long ceased to be a city that relies on the beach for tourism. Its Town Hall has done plenty to make it an epicentre of art and culture, with the establishment of various museums, including the Contemporary Art Centre, the Picasso Museum of Malaga, the Russian Museum and the pop-up Pompidou Art Center, the first of its kind in Europe. Also on the list of most visited museums is the Carmen Thyssen Museum, which focuses on 19th-century art. While you are in the Old Town, take in the stunning exponents of architecture, including Málaga’s magnificent cathedral, built between 1528 and 1782 and featuring stunning Renaissance-styled interiors.
  • Tasting evenings: Málaga is home to more Michelin-starred restaurants than any other province in the south of Spain. In Marbella is Dani García: a two-Michelin starred restaurant that takes you on an imaginative journey which combines traditional ingredients with avante-garde preparation methods. Also in Marbella are El Lago (one Michelin star), Messina (one star) and Skina (also with one Michelin star). Skina is a particularly beautiful place to dine, since it is located in the quaint Old Town of Marbella, where iron lampposts stand gracefully in cobblestoned squares, and where restaurants are often graced with the scent of flowers and the sight of flickering candles. For an elegant night out with a big party afterwards, head for Plaza Village at the Puente Romano Beach Resort & Spa. The latter boasts a plethora of top-rated restaurants (including Thai Gallery, Dani García and Bibo) as well as elegant nightclubs such as La Suite or Joe’s Bar.
  • Relaxing spa breaks: Málaga is home to a plethora of stunning spas, the best and most luxurious of which are in Marbella. Have an anti-ageing facial or soothing massage at the Villa Padierna Palace spa, the La Cala Resort Spa or the Marbella Club Hotel Spa, to name just a few of the many luxurious spas on the Coast.

This is an article sent in by Sally Barker

Where to Find Europe’s Best Beaches: Spain vs. Portugal

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Posted by Sam Schuler

Spain and Portugal are two top vacation destinations in Europe with beautiful sandy beaches, a warm sunny climate and a low cost of living. Spanish cities and beaches attract over 60 million visitors each year and the country ranks #2 in Europe for tourism.

In comparison, the country of Portugal does not even make it into the Top 10 most popular destinations with a mere 14 million visitors. However, if you are looking for authentic fishing villages, cultural experiences, rolling surf and less crowded beaches, Portugal may be more to your liking than the high-rise Spanish Costas!

Both countries have family friendly beaches, city beaches and more remote crescents of sand that few visitors choose to visit. Checkout our list of Europe’s best beaches before planning your next sun-and-sand vacation in Europe.

Best Beaches in Spain

For families, La Manga del Mar Menor in Murcia offers a shallow saltwater lagoon formed by a 22-mile long sandbar with several channels connecting it to the Mediterranean Sea. The result is miles of beaches on both the ocean and the lagoon with opportunities for snorkeling, sailing, windsurfing and canoeing in this scenic area.

Couples looking for a more high-end resort will find exclusive designer shopping, marble plazas and gorgeous beaches in Marbella on the Costa del Sol. The multi-million dollar super yachts in the marina may be out of your budget, but you can still enjoy the private beach clubs, tennis courts, golf courses, stand-up paddle boarding, waterfront dining and subtropical gardens in this classy resort.

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Looking to escape the crowds? Make your way further north to Tamariu on the Costa Brava. This idyllic area has sandy coves fringed with tall green pines and coral pink rocks. This area boasts some of the clearest waters in the Mediterranean making it a delight to go swimming, snorkeling or take a boat trip in this peaceful area. It’s the perfect place for chilling out on the beach, yet beautiful Barcelona to the south and the French border to the north are just an hour away if you fancy a scenic coastal drive.

The quieter northwest coast of Spain is popular with surfers as it is battered by Atlantic breakers. Consider the city of San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque region which has endless sandy beaches along this picturesque shoreline. The hilly backdrop and traditional houses in the Old Town make this almost unrecognizable as “typical Spain” but it provides the perfect haven for beach lovers.

Of course, many of Spain’s best beaches are on the Balearic Islands of Majorca, Menorca and Ibiza. In summer these sandy beaches are the perfect place for party goers to sleep off a night of dancing, clubbing and drinking, if that’s what you’re looking for in a vacation!
In winter, the Spanish Canary Islands are a popular choice. Located off the coast of Africa, these volcanic islands have some of the Europe’s best beaches, although they often consist of mainly black volcanic sand. One exception is Maspalomas Beach on Gran Canaria, which has gigantic wind-sculpted sand dunes of golden sand as a backdrop to one of the best beaches in Spain.

Best Beaches in Portugal

Most of Portugal’s best beaches are in the southwest of the country, south of Lisbon and scattered along the Algarve coastline. Praia da Rocha in Portimao is one of the longest, broadest and firmest sandy beaches in the Algarve, which can get crowded in summer. Sheltered by the cliffs, it is popular for sunbathing, safe swimming, surfing, walking or playing beach volleyball.

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The small town of Sagres on the Algarve has an undeveloped beach with orange cliffs and dramatic rolling waves. If you want to spend time exploring Portugal’s agricultural heartland by car, this town is the gateway to the Alentejo and the dramatic Costa Vicentina Natural Park.

Porto de Mos Beach certainly wins as one of the best beaches in Portugal when it comes to natural beauty. The golden sands, multicolored cliffs, caverns and rock formations are stunning against the turquoise sea. This gorgeous beach usually benefits from fresh sea breezes to keep temperatures pleasant.

If you want to combine your beach vacation in Portugal with a few city highlights, Playa do Guincho is just 30 minutes from Portugal’s capital, Lisbon. The golden sands are pounded by Atlantic breakers and the fresh seafood here is sensational! Nearby is the lighthouse and Cabo da Roca, Europe’s most westerly point which was once believed to be the end of the world!

Spain or Portugal? Which Beach Getaway is Right for You?

Whether you choose to explore the best beaches in Spain, or would prefer to catch some rays in coastal Portugal, a car rental will allow you to make the most of your visit exploring the surrounding area at your own pace. Visit Moorish palaces, tiny fishing villages and stunning national parks as part of your adventure. Of course, your car rental also makes airport transfers with your luggage very affordable and easy.

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From spacious van rentals in Portugal that are able to accommodate the entire family, to trendy sports cars in Spain and practically everything in between, Auto Europe has the vehicle that will best compliment your needs wherever you’ll be traveling. Reserving a car rental online is easy and can be done by using their secure booking engine – below.

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Barcelona: The City With Something for Everyone

The seaside center of Catalonian culture, Barcelona, is one of Spain’s most scintillating cities. Top travel destinations often claim to “have it all,” but this is particularly true for Barcelona, where tourists can marvel at Gothic and Modernist architecture by day and sway to the saucy rhythms of Iberian party music by night.

Barcelona is cosmopolitan yet historic, charming yet wild and filled with sublime flavors and Michelin star restaurants. The city’s renowned gastronomy draws on unique influences from the Basque country and Catalonian region, creating a hip mix of modern and traditional Spanish flavors you won’t find anywhere else, even within Spain itself.

Sound captivating? It is. The shorter your trip to Barcelona, the longer you’ll want to stay, but then again, the longer you stay, the harder it is to leave. It’s no secret that Barcelona draws you in almost immediately, but now the only question is: Draws you into where? Hipmunk hotels in Barcelona are some of the finest in the world, and you’ll wish you never had to check out.

Art and Eats: Hotel Arts Barcelona

Not many hotels can claim to be more unique than this — a skyscraper located right on the beach with unparalleled views of the Mediterranean. As its name suggests, Hotel Arts celebrates the artistic spirit at the core of Barcelona. Your taste buds will go wild with the hotel’s six different restaurants featuring renowned chefs and exquisite cuisine. As far as architecture goes, the hotel considers itself part of Barcelona’s recent “cultural renaissance,” which means if you’re looking for a place in step with this dynamic city, this is it. Sip specialty drinks at a pool adjacent to the glistening Mediterranean Sea and sit in the shadow of Frank Gehry’s famous fish sculpture, one of the city’s most celebrated contemporary works of art.

Football and Fanfare: Princesa Sofia Gran Hotel

It’s impossible to mention Barcelona without at least touching upon the one sport that rivets the population like no other. If you’re a soccer — football in Spain– fan, get in the game by staying at Princesa Sofia Gran Hotel, just two blocks from the home of the world-famous Barcelona Football Club, the Camp Nou Stadium. Wondering why the hotel has a regal rather than a sports-themed name? That’s because it’s even closer, just one short block away, from the Royal Palace. But with the hotel’s lush five-star luxury, you won’t need to visit the nearby estate to feel like nobility.

Sights and Sounds: Olivia Plaza Hotel Barcelona

Located in the midst of the hustle and bustle, Olivia Plaza Hotel is ideal for those serial sightseers. It’s just steps away from Olivia Plaza and La Rambla, the boulevard famous for shopping and entertainment. Its prime location is also right near Catalunya, a subway hub, so those looking to explore the city inside and out will have easy access to the train network. You’ll be within walking distance to the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art with the classic Arco de Triunfo in the other direction, and you’re likely to see some major landmarks just by strolling the streets around this prime hotel.

Nature and Relaxation: ABaC Restaurant & Hotel

The city of Barcelona itself is so exciting that it’s easy to stay within its bounds and forget the inspiring landscapes that surround it. That won’t happen with this stylish hotel, located near the picturesque foothills surrounding the city. This proximity to nature, as well as its excellent spa and wellness center, makes Hipmunk ABaC the ideal location in Barcelona if you just want to relax and allow the vibrant spirit of the city to rejuvenate you.

 

This post was posted by The Hipmunk on Hipmunk’s Tailwind Blog on December 21, 2015.