The question for many when trying to decide between Spain or Germany, is what separates these European holiday destinations from each other? Yet while both nations have similar climates and iconic cities, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart.
After spending a significant amount of time in each, we pit Spain vs Germany below. We compare both before looking at what each country has to offer, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
Germany or Spain: Which is the better vacation destination?
Both Germany and Spain are known for their distinct cultures, unique cities and some stunning landscapes, so you’re guaranteed a great holiday whichever you choose.
However if you’re looking for holiday destination that will encompass a bit of sun, sea, and sand, then Spain will be the better choice. That’s because Spain has some stunning beaches and has more Blue Flag beaches than any other country in Europe!
Away from the coastline and Spain appears to have it all as well. Every city and region of the country is packed with things to see and do. A trip to Seville or Barcelona, for example, can easily last a few days and you still won’t be bored.
However Germany is one of those countries that does give Spain a run for its money when it comes to holiday vacations. While this nation isn’t much of a beach destination – although Germany’s islands in the north do have some beautiful stretches of coastline – it still has lots to offer.
If anything, Germany is very much a nature lover’s paradise, and its landscape is arguably more beautiful than Spain. The region of Bavaria – in Germany’s south – is comprised of mountains, castles, and quaint villages that look like they belong in paintings. While the mysterious Black Forest region and mountain range have inspired stories and fairytales for generations.
In our opinion, Germany’s countless mountains, forests, and lakes make it one of the best destinations in Europe for hiking, biking, and camping. So if you’re looking for an active holiday then Germany will likely be the better choice than Spain.
Germany is also the unofficial home of beer, with the annual Oktoberfest drawing thousands of tourists every year. The traditional costumes, fantastic beers, food, and lively social gatherings at this event are well worth experiencing in your lifetime.
However, if you’re a foodie then Spain may suit you more. After all, Spain is the home of tapas, and a culinary giant in its own right.
Whilst in terms of expenses, we’ve found Spain to be slightly cheaper than Germany when it comes to accommodation and eating out. Although saying that, they’re both quite similar destinations cost wise.
Germany or Spain: Alluring natural wonders
While Germany isn’t known as a beach destination, there’s actually around 50 German islands off the north coast! These islands are pretty, have a slow relaxed pace of life and many are nature reserves due to their untouched landscape and unique flora and fauna.
The island of Sylt has become a trendy destination in its own right – head there for expansive sandy beaches, watersports, and fine dining. For a laid-back atmosphere and the perfect place for a peaceful cycle or walk, then the quaint island of Hiddensee would be the perfect spot.
Back on the mainland, but at the opposite end of the country, is the stunning region of Bavaria. The culture here is very distinctive from the rest of Germany, but what makes it so special are the alpine lakes, lush forests and dramatic mountains that make Bavaria Germany’s most beautiful area.
Make sure you visit Königssee, a lake in south Bavaria that is regarded by many as Germany’s most beautiful. This lake is surrounded by dramatic steep mountains on all sides, and is our favourite swimming spot in Europe. There’s some lovely hiking routes around Königssee too.
For another great hiking spot, head northwest to the Black Forest. This region has been the inspiration behind stories and legends for centuries, and is a draw for hikers from around the world. In fact the trails on offer are routinely voted as some of the most awe-inspiring hikes in the world.
One gorgeous hiking trail to try is the Belchensteig, a 15km circular route through the south of the Black Forest to the summit of Belchen Mountain. The third highest peak (1414m) in the Black Forest is also often described as one of Germany’s most beautiful climbs and has fantastic panoramic views from the top. (Related: Hiking in the Black Forest).
Don’t forget to visit the Triberg Waterfalls if you do pass by the Black Forest – this 163m tall set of waterfalls is a landmark in the region.
For something more unusual, visit the geyser in Andernach. Although geysers are more often associated with places like Iceland, this one in western Germany shoots water out of the ground every two hours, and up to 60 meters in height!
This geyser really sums up Germany too. This country is packed with natural wonders, surprises, and geographical landmarks.
Spain is a great holiday destination because you can easily enjoy a day at the beach and then spend that evening in one of the country’s iconic cities.
Some parts of Spain have gorgeous coastlines too. The protected coastline at Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) is wild, isolated and rarely frequented by tourists. Expect hidden coves, white sandy beaches, and dramatic cliffs in this national natural park.
Spain’s Costa de la Luz in the south has vast expanses of sand perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and a cocktail under blue skies. If you want something livelier, then head to the party island of Ibiza, where drinks, dancing and celebrity spotting is the aim of the game on the island’s most popular beaches.
If you’re feeling adventurous then get the ferry from Ibizia to Formentera – the smallest of Spain’s Balearic islands. The beaches here are beautiful and the water is crystal clear and Caribbean-esque. As it’s quite remote, there are very few tourists in comparison to other parts of Spain too.
If you pry yourself away from the coast you’ll find Spain has a huge amount to offer inland. Take a visit to El Tajo de Ronda – a spectacular gorge not far from the Costa del Sol, which has a town perched on the clifftop above. It almost looks like a movie set.
At the opposite end of the country and on the border of France is the majestic Pyrenees mountain range. Made up of over 200 mountains that are over 3000 meters tall, this region is comprised of quaint villages in the foothills connected by some of Europe’s best hiking trails. It’s a great place to go camping too – as we’ve written about before.
Another set of Spanish mountains – the Cantabrians – make up part of the Somiedo Natural Park. This lush park, which was voted one of Spain’s seven natural wonders, is home to spectacular lakes, thick forest, and is a stronghold of the endangered Cantabrian brown bear.
Germany vs Spain: Fascinating cities and towns
It’s hard to compete with cities like Barcelona, but Germany’s capital of Berlin is iconic in its own way.
This city is probably the most diverse in Europe, and as a result of the mixing pot of cultures, religions, and nationalities here, a lively and exciting art, music, and food scene has popped up. Berlin has subsequently become Germany’s trendy city to live, and the district of Prenzlauer Berg is the place for chic cafes, indie shops and bars.
Of course, the Berlin Wall remains a major draw for tourists visiting the city, and a trip to the barrier that used to divide Germany is well worth it. Visiting the wall is free, but you can take guided tours for just a few euros – well worth it for history buffs.
In Bavaria, beautiful Regensburg is known for its stunning 300m long 13th century stone bridge and the medieval buildings that surround it. Much of the old city remains intact – unlike many other German cities due to the bombing raids in WW2 – and a stroll down the riverside in the city is very special. The traditional beer gardens that line the river are a hotspot for tourists and locals alike, and serve up generous sized portions of food alongside ice cold Bavarian beer.
Further west is Heidelberg, a cobblestoned lined city that is regarded as one of the most beautiful in the country. The city has been the home of philosophers and writers for centuries, and inspired many – like Mark Twain – to pen some of their greatest work. The red sandstone Heidelberg Castle looms above the city and is worth visiting for the view of the city alone.
Back in Bavaria and you will find countless towns with houses made from timber, and streets from stone, that look like they’ve been plucked straight from a movie set. Rothenburg is one of our favourites, and indeed parts of the town were used for scenes from Harry Potter due to the perfectly preserved ancient walls and buildings here.
However, the crown for most special German town has to go to Nördlingen, a town encrusted with diamonds!
An asteroid strike millions of years ago compressed stone near the town and produced rock studded with impact diamonds. That stone was used in the construction of Nördlingen’s Old Town, and the result is a settlement that shimmers in the light. Cimb the tower of St. George’s Church – manned by a very friendly tower watchman – and see the town in it’s full glory from above.
Spain is packed with beautiful towns that appear little-changed in centuries. However it’s the cities that really pull in the crowds.
City breaks to the likes of Barcelona are popular throughout Europe due to the cosmopolitan feel and historic backdrop.
The stunning Basilica of the Sagrada Familia should be one of your first visits in the city, followed by a walk around Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. Barcelona is also famous for its shopping, with Passeig de Gracia and the streets around it providing some of the best places to spend your money.
The capital of Andalusia, Seville, is popular and no wonder. Myth has it that this city was built by Hercules, and while that may not be true, the culture here is certainly Herculean. Seville is the home of Flamenco dancing and experiencing a show at the Tablao Flamenco Los Gallos will take your breath away. As the capital of Muslim Spain during the Al-Andalus period, Seville’s spectacular buildings from that time will transport you back in time too.
Nearby Córdoba was an important city during that period as well, and is famous for the immense La Mezquita mosque. However this city is also one of our favourites to visit due to its historic Old Town which is full of flowers, fountains, immaculate winding cobbled streets and lovely little eateries.
Spain or Germany: Tempting cuisines
The traditional food of Germany and Spain is a cocktail of the various groups that have inhabited these nations.
When it comes to German cuisine, expect carb and meat heavy dishes. What else from a nation that produces so many beers!
Bratwurst is a traditional food, and is a sausage made from pork and spices. To go full German, pair it with sauerkraut – fermented raw cabbage.
In Bavaria expect lots of roast meats and schnitzel – meat which is breaded and fried (usually in fat). It’s common for schnitzel to come with spätzle, which is a pasta-like side dish made with eggs.
Beer is synonymous with Germany. One of the best beers in the country is Weihenstephaner Hefe Weissbier. It’s made in an old abbey and the brewery that brews this beer claims to be the oldest in the world as it was formed in 1040!
Expect fresh vegetables, a lot of herbs, and a good amount of olive oil when eating out in Spain.
However, Spain’s most famous cuisine is surely tapas. This is a selection of appetizers that are served in both restaurants and bars, and will almost always include jamon iberico – an air-dried Spanish ham.
For hot days you should try gazpacho – a thick soup made from vegetables that is typically served cold.
There’s some good wine made in Spain, but a favourite holiday drink of many is Sangria. This punch is made up of red wine and chopped fruits, and sometimes other spirits depending on the house style of the bar or restaurant you’re in. It’s delicious, colorful and pairs well with tapas.
Germany or Spain: Which is the better choice?
Both Spain and Germany are great holiday destinations, but they provide very different vacations.
If you’re looking for a holiday that encompasses sun, sea, sand, and relaxation, alongside some great day trips, then Spain could be the better choice than Germany. Spain has iconic cities – like Barcelona – and diverse regions like the Pyrenees mountain ranges and the Balearic islands.
However if you’re wanting a holiday that is more nature focused, with opportunities for hiking and enjoying spectacular landscapes, then Germany will be a better choice than Spain. As well as being a country packed with mountains, lakes and waterfalls, Germany also has many lovely towns and villages that look like they’ve been plucked from a fairytale.
Recommended for your trip to Germany or Spain
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