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Spain or Italy: Which Country Should You Visit?

As a seasoned traveler with extensive experience exploring Europe, I understand the challenges of planning a vacation–especially when faced with choosing between Spain and Italy. After all, both countries generally have temperate climates, allowing tourists to visit year-round.

So, which place is better to visit first: Spain or Italy? Well, it’s really a personal preference that depends on multiple factors. With this in mind, I’ll aim to guide you through the decision-making process.

I’ll first delve into the pros and cons to consider and then detail the optimal times to plan your trip, followed by the best places to visit in each country. By the end of this article, you’ll be equipped to make the decision between Spain vs Italy for your upcoming Europe trip.

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Spain or Italy: Quick comparison

Vividly hued buildings lining a canal in Burano, close to Venice, Italy.
Main citiesBarcelona
Points of interestSagrada Familia
Park Güell
Vatican City
Jamón ibérico
Beach areasCosta del Sol
Costa Brava
Amalfi Coast
Cinque Terre
Cultural heritageFlamenco
Moorish architecture
Renaissance art
Roman history
English spoken?Some areas have limited EnglishEnglish widely spoken in tourist areas

Pros and cons of visiting Spain

Flower Street showing a view of Torre del Aliminar Tower at the Mezquita in Cordoba, SpainIn this section, we’ll discuss some of the main advantages and disadvantages of visiting Spain instead of Italy. Although both destinations have pros and cons, hopefully, this list will help you choose!

Would you like to avoid crowds?

Looking through the Plaza de España in Seville, Spain, from the roofed sectionIn 2022, Spain received more than 100 million tourists, while Italy received 50 million. Although more international tourists choose to travel to Spain, we would argue that these visitors are better dispersed throughout the country.

For example, Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville are big attractions, as are Granada, Córdoba, Valencia, and Málaga. So, there’s an option for everyone, whether you prefer an escape to the city or the beach.

By comparison, visitors to Italy tend to be more concentrated among the four hotspots of Rome, Milan, Venice, and Florence. 

Will this be a budget-friendly trip?

Bar in Puerto Banus, Marbella, Spain, overlooking the oceanAll in all, Spain is generally a bit cheaper to visit when choosing an Italy or Spain vacation. Restaurants and hotels are mainly more affordable, even in larger Spanish cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville.

Note that you will use euros as currency in both Italy and Spain. The cost of public transport in both countries is relatively comparable. 

Remember that flights and accommodations are much more expensive around holidays. So, in Spain this would be Semana Santa. Meanwhile, in Italy, you’ll see prices surge around Carnevale and Easter.

How do you feel about Spanish food?

Plate of paella set up on table surrounded by other Spanish foodIf you’re a fan of tapas, then you’ll love Spanish cuisine. One of the most famous Spanish dishes to try is paella, typically made with saffron-infused rice and can include various ingredients like seafood, chicken, rabbit, or vegetables.

You also can’t leave Spain without trying some of its most famous tapas. For example, we suggest jamón ibérico (cured ham), tortilla española, patatas bravas, or fried calamari rings. For those with a sweet tooth, you won’t want to miss trying churros con chocolate.

However, comparing Italy vs Spain, we will admit that Italian food is slightly more varied. After all, we adore paella, but does anything compare to homemade pasta? 

Will this be a beach vacation? 

Playa de Las Catedrales in GaliciaWhen we compare Spain versus Italy for a beach vacation, the better option is Spain. In fact, Spain is currently the world leader in blue flag beaches, with 614 of its beaches having been distinguished for their quality and safety. 

The most famous Spanish beaches tend to be more expansive with powdery golden sand. For example, think of La Concha Beach in San Sebastián, Playa de Las Catedrales in Galicia, and Platja Gran in Tossa de Mar.

By comparison, Italian beaches tend to be smaller and more rugged. For example, picture the popular Spiaggia del Fornillo, one of the best things to do in Positano.

Pros and cons of visiting Italy

View of a picturesque small town in Lake Como, ItalyIs this your first trip to Europe?

If so, many people visiting Europe for the first time opt for Italy, as this country is home to tourist attractions they’re more familiar with. For example, the Colosseum, Pompeii, and the Vatican, are destinations that most Americans would know.

On the other hand, Spain offers a more off-the-beaten-track experience. Plus, it’s home to its own list of famous landmarks, including the Alhambra in Granada and the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona.

How do you feel about museums and archeological sites? 

The Gallery of Maps in the Vatican Museums in Rome, ItalyItaly might not be ideal for your vacation if you don’t like history. In fact, many of Italy’s highlights, like Rome and Florence, heavily focus on history, architecture, and art.

After all, Italy is renowned for its contributions to Renaissance art with artists like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. If history’s not your thing, consider a cycling trip to the Dolomites or a beach vacation on the Amalfi Coast or at Cinque Terre.

What kind of history do you want to experience? 

View of the Ruins of Pompeii, with volcano Mount Vesuvius in the background, in ItalyItaly and Spain are two of the best nations to visit for history lovers. Currently, Italy is home to 58 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, while Spain has 49. Some of Spain’s most celebrated historical attractions are the Mezquita in Córdoba, the Alhambra in Granada, and the Sagrada Família in Barcelona.

While both countries have impressive architecture, Spain is known for its Moorish influences in cities like Granada and Seville. Meanwhile, Italy boasts Roman and Renaissance architecture in cities like Rome and Florence. 

Are you a vegetarian?

A table full of traditional Italian food at an outdoor restaurant in the Trastevere district in Rome, Italy. We’ve had plenty of people tell us they’ve had an easier time finding vegetarian options in Italy than in Spain. Picky eaters may also prefer food in Italy due to familiarity.

For example, you’ll find many Italian dishes with flavors based on fresh tomatoes, basil, oregano, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and cheese. You’ll want to try the pizza, pasta, gnocchi, risotto, and, of course, gelato for dessert.

Best time to visit Spain

View of Park Guell in Barcelona, SpainGenerally, the best time to visit Spain is during the shoulder seasons: spring (March-May) and fall (September-November). Spring offers long days, mild temperatures, and fewer tourists.

Notable events include Holy Week, Seville’s April Fair, and Córdoba’s Patio Festival. You may even want to consider planning a beach vacation to the famous Costa del Sol towards the end of April.

Fall is another great time to visit Spain, especially if you want to visit Madrid or Barcelona. Hotel prices tend to drop in these more expensive cities, and you won’t have to battle the heat to see the most famous attractions.

Restaurant in Mallorca, Spain, with a beautiful view of the oceanSummer is Spain’s peak travel season, resulting in higher prices. Avoid booking at the last minute and monitor temperatures, especially in July. You’ll want to make sure your hotel has air conditioning, particularly in Seville and Madrid!

The busiest period is from June to August, while the lowest season is from November to February. Consider visiting Spain in the winter for empty museums and Christmas markets. 

Read More: The Best Times to Visit Spain

Best time to visit Italy

Exterior view of the Colosseum in Rome, ItalyThe best time to visit Italy is spring (March-May) or fall (September-November) for cooler temperatures and fewer crowds. Nonetheless, you can expect peak tourism during Easter.

For popular destinations like Venice or Florence, steer clear of July and August due to high tourism. In summer, explore off-the-beaten-path attractions to escape crowds, and target March, April, or October for well-known sites.

Beautiful view of colorful Amalfi Coast town in ItalyOr, if you’d rather steal this Amalfi Coast itinerary or visit the Cinque Terre, spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) can also be great times to experience these areas. We propose spending at least ten days in Italy for the whole experience.

Summer is the heaviest season for tourism in most Italian destinations, so expect higher prices for food, accommodations, and flights. Book skip-the-line or no-wait guided tours to make the most of your trip.

Gondolas along the Grand Canal in VeniceConsider a winter vacation in Italy for cost savings, but monitor the forecast for expected rainfall. Be cautious of increased tourism during Carnival celebrations, especially in Venice, Viareggio, and Acireale, typically occurring around Fat Tuesday with activities starting the weekend before.

Best places to visit in Spain

Façade of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain with reflection of the building in the water in front of it.

Since Spain is home to 17 autonomous regions, choosing a specific destination for your trip can be difficult. In fact, did you know that Spain is the most climatically diverse country in Europe?

The following are some of the country’s main highlights to consider visiting:


View of Madrid skyline as seen above Gran Vía, one of the main shopping streetsMadrid, Spain’s capital city, is the perfect place to start your trip. With Madrid–Barajas International Airport and excellent connectivity to other regions, exploring both Madrid and another destination in a single trip is effortless.

Don’t miss iconic sites like Plaza Mayor, the Royal Palace, El Retiro Park, and Puerta del Sol! There are also three famous art museums you won’t want to miss: the Prado Museum, the Reina Sofía Museum, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.


Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain, on a sunny dayAs Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona’s unique charm attracts millions of tourists annually. Gaudí’s masterpieces like La Sagrada Familia, Park Güell, Casa Milà, and Casa Batlló are must-visit attractions. Start with a free walking tour, explore Camp Nou, or indulge in Catalan cuisine.

Barcelona seamlessly combines beach town vibes with metropolitan energy. Multiple beaches near the city center offer a coastal experience, or embark on a road trip to the cute towns in Costa Brava.


View of Plaza de España in Seville, Spain, showing bridge with water under it and large historical building behind itKnown for flamenco dancing, tapas, and the Feria de Abril, most travelers will agree you shouldn’t miss this city in Southern Spain. The main things to do here are the Alcázar of Seville (GoT was filmed here!), the Seville Cathedral, and the Plaza de España.

Costa del Sol 

View over the Balcon de Europa in Nerja, showing sunbathers along a sandy beachThe Costa del Sol is one of the best places to vacation in Spain, particularly for European families. As you might imagine, this region has the most agreeable climate in Spain, with warm weather and very little rain.

For those who love watersports, seafood, golf, nightlife, and hanging by the beach with family, the Costa del Sol is a great option. In particular, Málaga, Marbella, and Nerja are ideal–they’re also popular honeymoon destinations in Spain!


View of the Alhambra in Granada from afarThe main reason people visit Granada is to see the famous Alhambra. Nonetheless, the city itself is also quite charming, especially the Albaicín neighborhood!

Since Nasrid Palace tickets can be hard to come by in high season, you may want to opt for a guided tour in a small group. After visiting the palace, visit the Realejo area for some authentic “tapas granadinas.”

The Canary Islands

Playa Jardín is situated in the popular tourist destination of Puerto de la Cruz, located in the northern region of Tenerife.The Canary Islands has become a popular European vacation spot between its countless beaches and national parks. The weather in Tenerife makes it the most visited island here, followed by Gran Canaria, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, and La Palma.

Best places to visit in Italy

Purple sunset behind St. Peter's Basilica in Rome, Italy.

Since there are 20 regions in Italy, you may have a hard time choosing which destinations to add to your itinerary. To see if any of these options pique your interest, here are some of Italy’s main highlights:


View of St. Peter's Cathedral and the Bridge of Hadrian at sunset in Rome, ItalyThe “Eternal City” is frequently considered one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations. Rome is home to important historical sites such as the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and the Pantheon.

Due to its acclaim, you’ll want to plan to spend at least three days in Rome and secure tickets to the top attractions in advance. 

Read More: Facts About Rome


Panoramic view of the city of Florence in Italy from Piazza MichelangeloFlorence, the capital of Tuscany, is a city that everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. Many tourists even rank Florence as their favorite destination in Italy due to its unique culture, food, and romantic Renaissance architecture.

During your visit, you won’t want to miss the Duomo di Firenze, Uffizi Gallery, Ponte Vecchio, and Pitti Palace. Florence is also a great base to take a road trip through Northern Italy.


View of Grand Canal and Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in Venice, ItalyVenice may be one of the first places you picture when you think of Italy. Due to its fame as a “floating city” lined with canals and colorful homes, Venice receives approximately 20 million tourists annually.

Saint Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, the Grand Canal, Burano, and Piazza San Marco are some of the top attractions that continue to draw new tourists each year. You’ll have to spend at least one day in Venice to view them all!


View of the Milan Cathedral from the plaza in front of itAs a fashion capital, Milan offers some of the best shopping in the world. However, even if you don’t have a big budget, this northern Italian city is still worth visiting.

Check out the terrace at the top of the Duomo di Milano, take a stroll through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, and tour Sforza Castle. Afterward, relax in Sempione Park and grab an Aperol Spritz at Terraza Aperol.

Lake Como

Colorful town of Menaggio on Lake Como, Milan, ItalyApproximately 80km north of Milan, you’ll find the beautiful Lake Como, a trendy vacation spot for the rich and famous. Here, you can relax by the beach, take a boat ride, or even participate in water sports like windsurfing, sailing, and kitesurfing.

Nature lovers will want to hike to Villa del Balbianello, go zip lining at Jungle Raider Park, and spend an afternoon at the botanical gardens at Villa Cipressi Hotel.

Cinque Terre

The vibrant fishing village of Riomaggiore within the Cinque Terre National Park.Cinque Terre, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on the Italian Riviera, is famous for its stunning small fishing villages. There are five in total: Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. 

Vernazza and Manarola are often considered the most beautiful, thanks to their colorful houses clinging to the cliffs. One of the best ways to experience the Cinque Terre is to take the hiking trails that connect the five towns.

Read More: The Best Books About Italy

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If you're trying to choose between Spain and Italy for your first trip to Europe, we've got you covered. We'll compare these two countries in terms of their top attractions, food, architecture, history, cost, and more. Plus, we'll review in depth the pros and cons of choosing Spain over Italy and vice versa. After you read this article, you'll be fully prepared to make a decision between Italy vs. Spain.

This post was originally published in June 2020 and has since been updated.

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