Last updated on March 17, 2023 by Wandering our World
The question when trying to decide between Spain or Greece, is what separates these iconic European beach destinations from each other?
Yet while both nations have similar climates and are great coastal destinations, each has its own distinct histories, cultures, sights to visit, and cuisines that set them apart. All of which makes them very different holidays.
For example, Greece has over 6000 islands and its coastline is spectacular, making it arguably the more special country for a beach-focused holiday.
On the other hand, Spain is perfect for tourists who love exploring cities as the country has some of the best urban centers in the world. But it’s also great for those who want to spend some time sunbathing and swimming on Spain’s gorgeous coastline too.
However that’s just scratching the surface when it comes to how these two countries are different. Which is why after visiting each several times, we decided to pit Spain vs Greece below.
We compare the beaches, culture, cities, look at which is cheaper and more. We also look at the sights to explore, the food you can try, what natural attractions you can see in each, as well some amazing towns and cities you should visit.
All so you can get a good idea about which of these beautiful countries will suit your holiday needs best.
- A Quick Overview Of Spain vs Greece
- How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare
- How Does The Culture, Cities & Vibe Compare
- How Does The Cuisine Compare
- Which Should You Choose
A Quick Overview Of Greece vs Spain
Both countries offer unique and exciting holidays, but which one is better depends firmly on your priorities.
Where Greece really excels is on the coast, as it boasts over 6000 islands! Therefore if you’re looking for a holiday where beaches are the priority, then Greece may be the better choice.
In our opinion, Greek beaches tend to be better than Spanish ones, and often prettier too. Plus the weather and water temperature is often more favourable for swimming and sunbathing.
Additionally, Greek islands often have a real rustic regional charm to them. These islands have incredibly rich histories too, and countless centuries-old architecture, some of which stretches back to Ancient Greece and beyond!
For history and culture, very few places on earth can rival Greece.
However Spain is one of those countries that does give Greece a run for its money. This nation has a rich history and has many stunning architectural gems. Whilst cosmopolitan cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville are famous for their galleries, museums, and beauty.
In fact, when it comes to sightseeing Spain has it all. Every city and region of the country is packed with things to do and see. A trip to Seville or Barcelona, for example, can easily last a few days and you still won’t be bored.
The food scene is also excellent in Spain (home of iconic tapas), so if cuisine is top of your holiday list then Spain may be a better choice. The transport system is also very good, so traveling around the country is relatively easy.
In essence Spain is perfect for urban tourists, art and food lovers. So if you’re looking for a holiday which involves many city scenes, Spain will likely suit you better.
Although that’s not to say Spain doesn’t have gorgeous natural sights too. The Pyrenees mountain range in the north, and beaches on the Mediterranean Coast are popular and photogenic spots for a reason.
In contrast to Spain, Greek cities tend to have far less to do than their Spanish counterparts, and the transport system is not as efficient. That said, it is possible to travel cheaply between mainland Greece and the islands by air or ferry.
In fact Greece does win when it comes to cost. We’ve found that Greece tends to be a little cheaper than Spain in regards to accommodation and eating out.
For us, Greece is also the better holiday destination if you’re looking for relaxation, time spent outdoors, and an island hopping adventure.
Below we look at some of the natural sights you will come across in Greece and Spain, as well as comparing their cuisines and cities!
By doing so, we hope to build up a better picture about what you can do in each country, which should help with your decision about which one suits you more.
How Do The Beaches & Landscape Compare?
Greece: Beaches & Landscape
With so many islands, it will come as little surprise to hear that Greece is packed with natural wonders.
The Ionian archipelago is a popular destination for tourists, and one of the best places to see nature at its greatest. Visit the Melissani Lake Cave on Kefalonia for an other-worldly experience. Situated 20 meters underground, you can explore this magical cave by rowing boat.
The island of Zakynthos has some of the best beaches in Europe, like Shipwreck Beach (photo below) and is a popular destination because of that.
Also named Zante, this island has an energetic nightlife scene so is perfect for tourists who want to sunbathe and swim in the day, but dance and drink when the sun goes down.
Zante is also home to the Blue Caves, a series of pretty underground waterways that wind their way into the coastline.
Of course Greece is packed with many stunning islands, and one of the best things about this country is the ability to island hop and discover your own favourite.
The amazing thing is you can find an island in Greece for pretty much any holiday you want. Want lively nightlife? Choose Mykonos or Paros. Want lots of family friendly activities, then head to Crete or Corfu. Or if you want an authentic Greek experience, why not head to rustic Naxos. The fact is, Greece is one of the most diverse places in Europe.
One of our favourites is the island of Milos, which is where the Venus de Milo was found! This gorgeous little volcanic island has dozens of beaches, breathtaking turquoise waters, and a welcoming local population.
Mainland Greece also has some spectacular scenery that should be explored. The UNESCO World Heritage Site of Meteora (see photo below) in central Greece is well worth visiting.
The atmospheric rock formations there jut out of the ancient landscape, and sitting on top of them are centuries-old monasteries. Those used to be reached by ladders, but thankfully can now be reached by foot via stairs. It’s a place which really transports you back in time.
In fact mainland Greece is full of fantastic hiking trails – many long distance – that take you between ancient villages that have existed for generations.
One of our must-do hikes is the Menalon Trail, a 45 mile trek in southern Greece that takes you between the photogenic mountain villages of Stemnitsa and Lagkadia. Look out for wildlife as you hike.
Spain: Beaches & Landscape
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. It has the perfect mix of natural scenes and city delights (more on the cities later), and definitely beats Greece in that respect.
Some parts of Spain have gorgeous beaches too. The protected coastline at Cabo de Gata (Andalusia) is wild, isolated and rarely visited 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.
But 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. Ibiza is Spain’s equivalent to Zante, although we think it’s a little more lively and wild.
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 is the majestic Pyrenees mountain range in the north. 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 hiking and camping – 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.
How Does The Culture, Cities & Vibe Compare?
Stepping away from package holiday resorts and into the cities and towns of Greece and Spain will give you a richer, cultural experience.
Greece: The Culture, Cities & Vibe
Whilst Spain probably edges the battle when it comes to cities worth visiting (as we’ll show you further down), Greece still excels when it comes to towns and pretty islands with the ‘wow’ factor.
One of the islands which has that in abundance is Santorini. The two biggest towns there, Fira and Oia, hang on to the cliff-face of this volcanic island, and the buildings within them – whitewashed and often with blue-domed roofs – stand strikingly against the backdrop.
This is a must-visit place in Greece, but also one of the most popular spots throughout the country being visited by around two million tourists per year!
The historic and ancient capital of Athens is well worth staying in for a night or two, and is home to iconic buildings such as the 5th century BC Acropolis and Parthenon. The museum at the Acropolis is full of artefacts from Ancient Greece and is a must for any history buff.
Situated beside the Acropolis is our favorite area of Athens – Plaka. The quaint streets in this neighborhood wind their way up hilly slopes and are adorned with flower pots and tiny independent shops selling jewellery and clothes. With family-run taverns and boutique coffee shops, this is one of the best places in Athens – and Greece – to grab a bite to eat and watch the world go by.
But the title of Greece’s most picturesque town may go to Agios Nikolaos – a little port settlement on the island of Crete.
Surrounded by the sea on three sides, this town has several waterfronts which have a great selection of shopping and dining opportunities. The infamous ‘leper island’ of Spinalonga – which was in use up to 1957 as a quarantine center – is close by and can be visited via a boat that leaves from the town.
In essence, when it comes to towns and diverse regions, Greece is exceptional. Many of the towns on the islands are fairytale-esque and the regions can be vastly different despite being so close. On top of that, scattered amongst them are remnants of Ancient Greece which only adds to the beauty of Greece.
Spain: The Culture, Cities & Vibe
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 perfect mix between old and modern.
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. In fact if shopping is important to you, then Spain will likely be the better choice than Greece.
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 there 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 has stunning cities, and if you can pull yourself away from the beaches, you’re in for a real treat. The mix of new and modern, from cultural icons like Flamenco to streets where you can shop the biggest and best brands, Spain’s urban centers can be a holiday in their own right – that doesn’t quite feel the same with the cities in Greece.
How Does The Cuisine Compare?
The traditional food of Greece and Spain is a Mediterranean cocktail of the various people that have inhabited these nations.
Their food cultures are comparable, and we can’t say one is better than the other. Ultimately it’ll come down to personal preference. Enjoy tapas and sangria in chic city bars? Head to Spain. Want moussaka and ouzo in a island taverna looking over the Aegean? Then Greece will be a dream.
Greece: The Food
Like many Mediterranean cuisines, Greek food involves a lot of fresh vegetables, olive oil, grains, and a good dose of wine!
One of the most famous food exports from Greece is moussaka. This mincemeat and potato or eggplant dish is served everywhere in the country. It’s almost always guaranteed to taste excellent if you get it at any family-run taverna.
Greece is famous for its dips, such as tzatziki – which is made up of garlic, yoghurt and cucumber – and fava, which is made from split peas.
To wash everything down, you must try Greece’s national drink, Ouzo. This strong liquor is made from aniseed, and is usually served with cold water which turns the clear drink a cloudy white.
Spain: The Food
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, colourful and pairs well with tapas.
Greece Or Spain: Which Should You Choose?
Which country is the better destination depends entirely on what you want from your vacation.
If beaches are your priority then Greece may be a better holiday choice than Spain.
Greece has over 6000 islands, and the coastline is spectacular. It also has great hiking opportunities, and tends to be a cheaper destination than Spain too.
On the other hand, Spain is perfect for tourists who love exploring cities, but also want to spend some time sunbathing and swimming.
The opportunities for sightseeing are probably greater in Spain, and the food scene is arguably better than Greece too.