When it comes to deciding the next European vacation, it doesn’t get much trickier than Greece or Spain. Both boast a wealth of stunning scenery, awe-inspiring architecture and an enviable Mediterranean diet. Not to mention hours of scorching sun for the cherry on top.
While Spain is more westernized and advanced, something which is greatly highlighted in their remarkable infrastructure, Greece is a bit less developed, offering up a much more authentic and homely vibe, where you can truly feel the patriotism of the country. And while Greece’s 6000 island options may please the beachgoer, Spain’s incredibly cultured cities, with some epic tapas bars are hard to resist.
Whether you’re concerned about how much you’ll have to spend, the kids getting bored, or your after-dark options, we have you covered. Greece or Spain – which one is for you?
Greece or Spain: Things to do
When it comes to things to do, both countries offer an abundance of choices but in quite different ways. Greece has a much more relaxed pace of vacationing, with much of the to do list centering around ancient ruins and island hopping, whereas Spain offers more urban tourism feel, mainly focused on art, food and architecture.
But when it comes to history, very few places can rival Greece and a trip to Athens is the perfect starting point for exploring this fascinating and rich history. Be sure to check out the Acropolis, a site dating back to the Neolithic era, or visit The National Archaeological Museum (considered to be one of the most important museums in the world).
Of course, something Greece can offer a bit more of than Spain are the island choices. Corfu is always popular with tourists but the pricier island of Santorini is another must-see. The whitewashed houses, blue-domed churches and stunning vineyards are the epitome of a picture-perfect setting
So, while Greece may just win for the history and idyllic settings, Spain can certainly do culture a bit better, as it has a more multi-cultural society in general. The bustling cities of Madrid, Seville and Barcelona offer a fantastic array of art galleries, museums, and jaw dropping sights, such as the phenomenal Basilica de la Sagrada Familia. Under construction since 1882, this remarkable church is architect Antoni Gaudi’s best-known work and is now a symbol of Barcelona.
The islands of Spain tend to be a bit more developed for tourists compared to Greece. So, if you’re on a family vacation, the likes of Tenerife and Lanzarote will be what you’re looking for, as there are many waterparks and activities to keep the kids happy. But if you’re looking for serene relaxation, it may be slightly harder to find on the Spanish islands.
Winner: Spain, for the variety.
Greece or Spain: Accommodation
So, with plenty to see and do in each vacation, does Greece or Spain offer the best base for doing so? Well, luckily both offer superb accommodation choices, with Greece boasting many island paradise spots and rustic B&Bs and Spain enticing tourists with their budget-friendly grand hotels and apartment complexes, popular for family vacations.
There are plenty of places in Greece to match your needs. For the ultimate in luxury, the Kinsterna Hotel in the Peloponnese Peninsula awaits. This 5-star hotel, set amongst vineyards and olive trees, offers guests an award-winning spa and an array of activities. Or for something a little more authentic, the Kókkini Porta Rossa may suit you better. With a carefully curated selection of Greek antiques and artifacts, charm oozes around every corner here. But no matter where you stay, you can be sure that the surrounding landscape will be 5 stars at least.
Although many of the accommodation choices can live up to what’s offered in Greece, Spain just can’t compete with the plethora of island resorts. Renting villas are a popular choice here and you can get them for as little as €53 ($60) a night. However, for even cheaper alternatives, guesthouses, hostels, and camping sites can be found throughout the country. And if you’re in Spain on a family vacation, you may want to stay at Zimbali Playa Spa Hotel in Almeria, which has its own mini waterpark.
Winner: Greece, for the abundance of choice.
Greece or Spain: Beaches
When it comes to beaches, you don’t get much more stunning than the likes of Greek beaches (sorry Spain). With hundreds of inhabited islands offering miles of sandy shores and sparkling waters, paradise is never far.
A highlight on any Greek beaches tour has to be Navagio Beach, better known as Shipwreck Beach. Its white sand, marble cliffs, bright blue waters, and, of course, that shipwreck planted right in the middle make it one of the country’s most photographed spots. If you’re opting for a more secluded beach trip, you may want to try the likes of Fteri Beach in Kefalonia or Glyka Nera in Crete (but be warned the secluded beaches are often harder to reach).
Although Spain does have several sandy heavens, such as the likes of Gran Canaria and Costa del Sol beaches, and amongst the whitewashed landscape of Andalusia (known as the Tropical Coast), it simply can’t compare to the vast number of choices you have in Greece. Also, Spanish beaches tend to have a busier feel to them, with it being an ever-popular vacation choice for families.
Winner: Greece, as many of the islands are just too hard to beat.
Greece or Spain: Food
Both Greek and Spanish cuisines are a powerhouse of flavors for your tastebuds and while there are many similarities, like their love of appetizers (known as meze in Greece and tapas in Spain), there are also several differences.
Greek food tends to revolve much more around meats and cheeses, which can be found in some of their favorite dishes, such as saganaki (fried cheese), beef stifado (stew), and national dish, moussaka (mincemeat with potato or eggplant). In general, they typically rely less on frying (something for which the Spaniards are well known for) and opt for more healthy options and use of vegetables, hence why the Greek salad is a popular go-to for many.
The fried specialties of tortillita de camarones (fried shrimp fritters) and tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelet) over in Spain may not be quite as good for you, but they will certainly leave you feeling satisfied. You will also find plenty of cold meats over in these parts, with jamon and chorizo being popular additions to any dinner spreads. Seafood is a popular choice around these parts, with paella (rice, meat, and seafood) being one of their most famous dishes. And Spain’s cuisine has also been highly influenced by many international cuisines due to settlers throughout history.
Greece or Spain: Nightlife
Greece or Spain for nightlife is a tough one. Greece is home to many household names in the party scene, including Zante, Mykonos, and Corfu, to name a few. But equally, over in Spain you have Ibiza, commonly referred to as ‘the clubbing capital of the world’. So, which one to choose?
Well, if this was the 90s, Spain would be winning hands down. But in more recent times, with several Greek spots being dubbed ‘the new Ibiza’, there’s definitely no ruling Greece out.
In Zante (or Zakynthos), the infamous Laganas Strip is jam-packed with the 18-30s crowd. Over in Mykonos, partying by the beach is the order of the day, with Paradise Beach boasting the best parties, bars, and nightclubs of the island, including the world-renowned Paradise Beach Club. And the long stretches of coastline in Corfu is the perfect place for a few cocktails, looking out onto incredible views of the Ionian Sea.
So how does Spain compare? Well, as well as being home to the iconic Ibiza, it does have a few other spots worth noting for a bit of a wild night. Magaluf, on the island of Majorca has also been luring partygoers for quite some time too, with an array of bustling bars and clubs to choose from. And the island of Gran Canaria is home to several recommended nightlife hubs, including Maspalomas and Las Palmas.
But, while they each offer a plethora of party spots, the way the Greeks and Spaniards do things are pretty different. In general, the Spaniards tend to be more of the party animal, with music and dancing being the central theme of nights out, while the Greeks have a more melancholic aura, centering on a lot of talking and plenty of coffee.
Winner: Greece, for several famous party destinations.
Greece or Spain: Price
With breathtaking beach resorts, the best in fine dining and luxury yachts sailing the seas, many equate a trip to Greece with a pretty sizeable dent in the bank account. However, it is actually one of the more affordable European destinations – depending on the type of vacation you’re after of course.
In Greece, you should easily be able to get by on a budget of around €60-70 ($69-81) per day (excluding accommodation), with the average meal costing between €10-15 ($11-17). However, cost racks up when you start doing a bit of research and adding more and more islands to your itinerary. If you’re on a tight budget though, perhaps give the likes of pricey Santorini and Mykonos a miss.
Over in Spain you’re looking at a daily budget of around €55 -60 ($63-69) a day for food and transport costs, so slightly more affordable than Greece. Although the popular cities of Barcelona and Madrid may hike up the cost a little, it is still considered to be a pretty affordable destination. While it’s tempting to take advantage of the many whitewashed luxury villas and apartments, your bank account may take a hit. So, for a more budget-friendly trip there are many hostels with dorm rooms as cheap as €15 ($17) or mid-range hotels offering rooms starting from around €40 ($46).
Greece or Spain: Nature
For the nature lover, both Greece and Spain offer plenty to catch your eye. While Greece has one of the longest coastlines in Europe, Spain is home to some truly spectacular mountain ranges.
But with a captivating landscape of alpine lakes, rugged mountains, exquisite caves and even a few volcanoes, Greece is a nature lover’s haven. And if a bit of hiking is what you’re after, head to Mount Olympus (the highest mountain in Greece), where you are greeted by a variety of trails to suit all capabilities. Or if you’re looking for that next prize-worthy photo, the natural wonders of Giola Lagoon, in Thassos (natural pool inside rocky seaside cliffs) and Melissani Cave, in Kefalonia (featuring ancient stalactites and changing water colors) are sure to satisfy. With one of the longest coastlines in Europe, it’s no surprise plenty of Mother Earth’s gems lie in this country.
So, can you be just as one with nature over in Spain? Well, offering up many of the same natural features, it seems that you probably can. With Spain being home to the magnificent Pyrenees mountain range, you can be rest assured you won’t struggle too much to find an epic hiking spot here (just watch out for the snakes!). A couple of other natural wonders we would recommend adding to the Spain itinerary are Picos de Europa National Park (a dreamland of mountains, lakes, meadows, and villages) and Tabernas Desert (Europe’s only desert and a filming location of many Hollywood classics, including Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).
So, when it comes to Greece or Spain to satisfy the nature lover, we’d say they are probably pretty equal.
Greece or Spain: Conclusion
Well, after having exhausted both countries’ potential, we’ve come to the conclusion that Greece may have a little more to offer, thanks mainly to its plethora of island choices and fascinating ancient history.
However, if you want a bit more bang for your buck and a more varied itinerary, Spain just might be the better option.
But regardless of whether you’re in Greece or Spain, you can be sure you’ll be blessed with stunning scenery, great nightlife, and of course, a ton of mouthwatering Mediterranean culinary delights.