Last Summer we drove a beautiful France Spain Portugal road trip. From Disneyland Paris and Bordeaux to the North of Portugal and then Oviedo and San Sebastián. It was perfect. Sundrenched beaches in Spain, endless vineyards, sleepy villages, sidra and port, the birthplace of Portugal, it’s all there in this Southern Europe road trip. Road trips are the best and this France Portugal Spain road trip is truly a beautiful one.
France Spain Portugal Road Trip
Day 1: Arrive at Disneyland Paris
Day 2: Explore Disneyland Paris
Day 3: Drive from Disneyland Paris to Saran (162 kilometers/101 miles, about 2 hours and 15 minutes)
Day 4: Drive from Saran to Mérignac (480 kilometers/298 miles, about 7.5 hours)
Day 5 & 6: Explore Bordeaux
Day 7: Drive from Mérignac to Quintanilha (750 kilometers/466 miles, about 7.5 hours), crossing the border with Spain and Portugal
Day 8 & 9: Explore the Northeast of Portugal
Day 10: Drive from Quintanilha to Guimarães (214 kilometers/133 miles, about 3 hours)
Day 11: Explore Guimarães
Day 12: Drive from Guimarães to Porto (57 kilometers/35 miles, about 1.5 hours)
Day 13 & 14: Explore Porto
Day 15: Drive from Porto to Peso da Régua (129 kilometers/80 miles, about 3 hours)
Day 16 & 17: Explore the Douro Valley
Day 18: Drive from Peso da Régua to Oviedo (492 kilometers/306 miles, about 7 hours), crossing the border with Spain
Day 19: Explore Oviedo
Day 20: Drive from Oviedo to Donostia-San Sebastián (385 kilometers/239 miles, about 5 hours)
Day 21: Explore Donostia
Day 22 & 23: Going home
Day to Day Itinerary
The itinerary of this Southwestern Europe road trip gives plenty of time to explore each city or area. However it also offers some real driving days with beautiful views.
Day 1 till 3: Disneyland Paris
Disneyland Paris is so much fun. Go to the park in the afternoon and evening after you’ve checked in to your hotel. See the fireworks show, which is fun. Sadly there was no Illuminations show or any other shows last year, but we watched them on earlier visits. On day 2 explore the Disneyland park and take the morning on day 3 for the Walt Disney Studios Park. There are so many fun rides to take, enough for hours of fun. We went swimming at our hotel in the evening.
Day 3 & 4: Sunflower Fields
In the afternoon drive to Saran, near the city of Orléans. After passing Paris take the backroads. This will take longer, but saves on toll roads and you’ll get to admire lots of sunflower fields.
On day 4 do the same when driving from Saran to Mérignac. Again a much longer route, which will take all day, but even more sunflower fields and small sleepy French villages. The last part to Bordeaux we took the A10, to save some time.
Day 5 & 6: Bordeaux
Two days to explore Bordeaux, which is one of our best cities to visit in France. We had a rest day on day 5 and explored Bordeaux on day 6. However you can easily spend two days exploring Bordeaux, if you don’t need a day of rest and swimming. There was a swimming pool at our hotel, so part of the afternoon was spent in the water.
We went to Bordeaux by bus. Mérignac is a good base to explore Bordeaux, with one bus we were in the center of Bordeaux and a second one brought us close to the Grosse cloche. We further explored the Porte Cailhau, the river promenade and the Monument aux Girondins.
Day 7: Crossing Spain
It takes almost the whole day to drive from Mérignac to Quintanilha, even if you don’t take backroads but the freeway. Luckily you also had great views on sunflower fields from the highway. Quintanilha is close to the border with Spain. Most of the day is spent driving through Northern Spain.
Day 8 & 9: Rio de Onor & Bragança
We had a rest day on day 8, just went swimming at the pool of our bed & breakfast. On day 9 we drove on the backroads further North to Rio de Onor. We had such mesmerizing views on the mountains. It’s a rugged, green landscape with small, sleepy villages, where they’re not used to tourists. They seemed surprised that someone else drove through town that wasn’t a resident. Rio de Onor is the river that runs through the small town. The Ponte de Rio de Onor gives beautiful views on this quiet river and the quaint village. Walk the cobblestone streets and along the riverwalk.
Then drive further through the hills and small, sleepy villages in Parque Naturel Montesinho. End up in Bragança, perfect for lunch. There’s a castle and several museums to visit. Bragança is very touristique unlike the area where you just drove through. You could spend a whole day in Bragança, so if you don’t need a rest day, you could do that.
Day 10 & 11: Guimarães
Today we drive from Quintanilha to Guimarães, the birthplace of Portugal. We’re staying two nights at Guimarães, you’ll have a day and a half for exploring the city. The old town is beautiful and perfect for wandering around. There’s a sign on the building where Portugal was founded in 893. There’s lots of cute restaurants with terraces in the old town on squares. We celebrated Paul’s birthday here with good food and sangria.
Day 12 till 14: Porto
Porto is a beautiful city with so much to see and do, that the 2.5 days you have in the city aren’t enough to do everything. We wandered through the streets, sat on terraces, admired the buildings with azulejos, and did a self-guided pastel de nata tour. I walked up and down the Ponte Luis I, from which you have mesmerizing views on the Douro river, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.
Buildings with azulejos are everywhere around Porto. Most are blue and white, but green, yellow and other colors are also present. The São Bento station is a good example of this. Pastel de Nata originated at Lisbon, but Porto has several excellent places where you can get the pasteïs de nata. They’re delicious and you definitely have to try them out. Next to that have some port to go with it, also not to be missed and Porto is the city of Port.
Day 15: Rota N222
This day is all about exploring and admiring the Douro valley. The Rota N222 is a road that meanders through the valley South of the Douro river. It takes a lot longer than the toll roads, but the Douro valley is worth it. We crossed the Douro river over the Ponte Entre-os-Rios, from there we followed the N222 to Peso da Régua. There are miradouros along the way, with endless views. There are vineyards on hills almost everywhere. You can visit the vineyards and port houses along the Douro.
Day 16 & 17: Douro Valley
Two days for the Douro valley is not nearly enough, but you can do a lot. We had planned to ride the historical steam train that follows the Douro river, but alas it did not ride that Saturday. Still unclear if it was due to a National holiday or a strike.
We admired the Douro river from strolling along the riverwalk in Peso da Régua. We sat for lunch on terraces overlooking the river and vineyards at the other side. At our last day in Peso da Régua I enjoyed an hour long scenic boat ride on the Douro river. The boat was a traditional Rabelo. I loved the views on the shores with hills filled with vineyards.
Peso da Régua is a good base for visiting the Port houses in the vicinity. They organize tours, which you have to book in advance. Peso da Régua was the city from which the port was shipped to Vila Nova de Gaia, in the traditional Rabelos.
There are longer boat rides on the Douro possible from 1 to 2 hours to a whole day. There are several proprietors that offer these boat rides. The city of Lamego isn’t that far away either and has the beautiful Santuário de Nossa Senhora dos Remédios. A church with stairs leading up to it decorated with azulejos, beautiful blue and white tiles. Close to Peso da Régus are several miradouros with mesmerizing views on the Douro river and valley. At last there’s the Douro museum at Peso da Régua to learn all about the region.
Day 18: Rota N222
We continue on the Rota N222, the part between Peso da Régua and Pinhão. Those 27 kilometers/17 miles with more than 90 turns, is considered the most beautiful part of the Rota N222. This part follows the Douro river all the way through the valley. We drove the Rota N222 till the end at Vila Nova de Foz Côa. Then we headed North to Oviedo in Spain. We took the road leading through Bragança and then crossing the border with Spain.
Day 19: Oviedo
Oviedo is a less well-known city in Northern Spain. We visited before in 2019 on a road trip through Northern Spain and loved the city. There’s a street with only sidrerías (cider houses) that serve the famous apple cider produced in the region. They serve it by pouring it from up high in the glass, which is fun to see. It also has a function, since this way the cider will have more oxygen and that way more flavor. Some servers make a whole show of it, others less. Last time our son got a try at pouring it, albeit of course not drinking it.
Oviedo has a beautiful historical city center to wander around. It’s small, but has colorful buildings, lively squares and churches. It’s also the city to start the Northern pilgrims route to Santiago de Compostela, the Camino de Santiago. When you want to know more about Oviedo, Asturias or walking the Camino de Santiago, check out the site Into Asturias, from friends of ours.
Day 20: Northern Coast of Spain
On this day drive from Oviedo to Donostia- San Sebastián, following the coast as closely as possible. Northern Spain has some truly beautiful beaches. Further you’ll pass through Comillas, with El Capricho, a building from the hands of Gaudí. Santillana del Mar is another beautiful town worth a stop, with its medieval streets and buildings.
Day 21: Donostia-San Sebastián
Take the whole day to either explore Donostia and/or San Sebastián. We explored Donostia on this visit, but San Sebastián in 2019. San Sebastián has a beautiful old town.
We explored some sights near our apartment, such as Antiguako tunela, Miramar Jauregia and Loretopea. We went shortly to the crowded beach. For lunch we went for pinxtos and bocadillos, which are a must to try out when here.
Also fun is to use the Igeldoko Funikularra to visit Monte Igueldo. I did that in the afternoon, you’ll have a perfect overview of the city. The views were so perfect. I wandered around for a long time on the mountain, enjoying the views. Monte Iqueldo is a theme park, which charges a separate fee for each ride.
Day 22 & 23: Going Home
We’re leaving San Sebastián and Spain today. We drove back to Utrecht in the Netherlands in two days. We stopped in Saran for the night.
Where to Stay
I’ll discuss per country which places we stayed at. We booked them all up front. Most through Booking, except for Disney and one other. Disney we booked through their own site. The same with the apartment in Donostia.
In France we stayed at 3 different hotels. At Disneyland Paris we stayed at the Newport Bay Club. It was our first time at this hotel, the other times we stayed at the Sequoia Lodge. That one was closed at the moment we visited. Newport Bay Club was also great, the distance to the park and Disney Village was about the same as Sequoia Lodge. We stayed here for 2 nights.
In Saran we stayed, one night at the beginning of our trip and one night on the way back, at Ibis Orléans Nord Saran. A hotel close to the highway. We had a small room, but that was okay, since this was a stopover hotel. There’s a restaurant that serves dinner and breakfast. You can charge an electrical car here.
At Mérignac we stayed for 3 nights at The Originals, Hotel Du Phare. The hotel has a swimming pool, beautiful terrace and a restaurant. The bus stop is nearby, which is easy for visiting Bordeaux. It’s not that far from the highway exit. A McDonald’s and a boulangerie are its neighbors. A grocery store, Lidl, is also pretty close. The only downside to us was that the room was pretty small, perfect for a stopover hotel, but when we’re staying several days we like a larger room.
Casa Machado in Quintanilha, just over the Spanish border, was everything we could hope for. They rent out rooms in a beautiful old house in a teeny tiny sleepy village. There’s a swimming pool, a washing machine and living room. They serve breakfast in the morning on a roofed balcony/patio with a mesmerizing view on the surroundings.
In Guimarães we stayed 2 nights at an apartment from Four-As. You have a kitchen and washing machine at your apartment. The apartment is close to the Castelo de Guimarães and the lively old town. They don’t have a designated parking space, you just have to park on the street. The Wifi was sadly almost not working during our stay, really slow or non-existing at all. We however loved that it was in walking distance from the old town with its terraces.
Aparthotel Oporto Anselmo is a brand new hotel at Porto, where we stayed for 3 nights. They had their own parking lot, a swimming pool and breakfast delivered to your room in the morning. We had a kitchen and a small patio with garden. It was outside the old town, but close enough that we could still walk there.
Our last hotel in Portugal was the In Douro Hostel & Wine Bar in Peso da Régua. It was next to the train station and the Douro River was at the other side of the street. We stayed here for 3 nights. The hostel was new with spacious rooms. The restaurant served delicious food and a good breakfast buffet. The only downside was that they shut off the central air-conditioning at night. Since it was some 40°C/104°F at that moment, we slept not as well at night, because it was just too hot.
In Oviedo we stayed at the Apartamentos Clarin, it was right in the middle of Sidreria street. So a perfect location. There was a parking garage close by. We had a kitchen and washing machine at the apartment.
At Donostia-San Sebastián we stayed again at an apartment, this time one from Baskey Rentals. The apartment was spacious, we had our own small parking spot in the street. We were close to the beach. It was in Donostia. We had a separate kitchen with washing machine.
Where to Eat
Will list most of the restaurants, shops and cute places where we had breakfast, lunch, sweets, drinks and dinner. There were many great places in those 3 weeks.
At Disneyland Paris we got breakfast at McDonald’s and Starbucks. We had dinner twice at Annette’s Diner. It’s expensive, but delicious. Next to dinner we also sat down here for milkshakes in the afternoon. We had lunch at Le Vieux Moulin with Mickey Mouse waffles at the park ad at New York Style Sandwiches in Disney Village.
In Mérignac we got almost everything for our breakfast, lunch, dinner and pastries at Boulangerie Ange. Everything was delicious. The croissants, bread, pastries, salads, quiches and pizza’s. We also got lunch once at the McDonald’s next door for Yuri.
We had crepes and ice cream at Le Zazou Glacier in Bordeaux. In the afternoon we had tea at Chez Julien.
We had dinner twice at O Portela in São Julião de Palácios, a bit North of Quintanilha, we loved this small, local restaurant. There wasn’t a menu to choose from, it was just what they had on offer. But it was well prepared and the people were friendly.
We had a delicious lunch at Taberna Do Javali in Bragança. Near the Castelo de Bragança and a very popular place. The last night at Quintanilha we had dinner at Restaurante O Rústico. Again delicious, but less friendly staff.
In Guimarães we loved two places. Pastelaria Cristo Rei had everything it seemed from pastries to hot meals. We came here for lunch once and breakfast. The other place we came back to was El Rei restaurant, we had lunch and dinner with sangria here on Paul’s birthday. The food was delicious and the owner nice. We got douradinhas de Guimarães, a local pastry, at Divina Gula. People stood in line at this pastry restaurant.
On our way to Porto we had lunch at Café Europa in Agrela. This road side café had all traditional Portuguese dishes.
In Porto we had dinner at Cerveja Artesanal Levare, which we liked. I tried out the traditional Porto dish francesinha. Once got our dinner from KFC near our hotel and the first evening a milkshake and ice cream. We had lunch on our Pastel de nata tour at a place on the Rua do Flores. For the pastel de nata we took a self-guided tour and ate them at 8 different places. We loved the pasteïs de nata at Manteigaria the most. Other pastelaria and café’s where we tried pasteïs de nata and other pastries at are: Neta 3, Nata Lisboa, Fábrica Da Nata, Confeitario do Bolhão, Majestic Café Porto, Pastelaria Tupi and Natas Douro.
On the Rota N222 we had lunch at Restaurante das Caldes, where they served really large sized plates.
Peso da Régua
We had dinner at the restaurant in our hostel twice. It was of high quality and we loved it. We also ordered sangria there in the afternoon twice, which was also good. The breakfast buffet was also served at the InDouro Hostel-Restaurante & Wine Bar and we loved it. We had lunch at O Barquinho and at Sabores Do Douro. Both places were near the Douro river and served traditional Portuguese dishes. We also got some sandwiches at Adega do Quim, across from our hotel. Restaurante Torrão had a grand view from high on the Douro river, we had dinner here. The restaurant was at the other side of the river.
In Oviedo we tasted a lot of sidra. The experience of the servers pouring it from up high is fantastic. We had dinner and sidra at La Finca and loved it. We sat down at the terrace of Cafetería SouSa for coffee and tea. At a busy road, so fun to people watch.
We had lunch and dinner at Tierra Astur, which we again loved. To this restaurant we also had been two years prior. Their portions are really huge. Their food is delicious. Yuri got to pour sidra here at lunch time. We had sangria with sidra mixed in at Piperu Gascona and loved it very much. The staff was less friendly, but the cider sangria made up for that.
In Donostia-San Sebastián we had dinner twice at Tandoori Mashala. It was delicious. The dishes were mild, I could eat the lamb vindaloo here and I normally can’t.
We had a delicious breakfast with a toasted croissant at Cafeteria Tahona. The place was popular. We sat outside on the terrace.
Sweets, breakfast and lunch for the next day we got at Otaegui. A pastelaria which was popular and that had so much delicious looking cakes and sweets. We had pinchos and boqadillos for lunch at Bar Aliaia. These smaller bites are the local tapas.
When to Visit
The road trip can be done all year long. The North of France and the region of Oviedo know rain and/or snow in Winter time. December and January are the coldest months, and receive the most rain in Portugal. However the North of Portugal is at its greenest at that moment. San Sebastián and Bordeaux are colder in Winter time and have more rain, but can still have pleasant weather.
We drove this route in August. In France and Oviedo we had rain and beautiful (mostly clouded) weather. Bordeaux was colder during our visit than it normally is in Summer time. Portugal and Spain (besides Oviedo) were warm to hot and we had beautiful, sunny weather.
Hiring a Car and Airports
We drove this road trip from our home in Utrecht. We have a fully electrical car, but not all countries have enough charging points yet. So we rented a cabrio/convertible car for this trip. We have excellent experiences with Hertz and Alamo.
You can also fly into Airport Paris-Charles de Gaulle (Roissy Airport) or Airport Paris-Orly. Aeropuerto de San Sebastián is the closest, but the nearest international airports are Biarritz Pays Basque Airport or Bilbao Airport. The Biarritz airport is in France and 32 kilometers/20 miles away. The Bilbao airport is 117 kilometers/73 miles away.
- There’s an hour time difference between Portugal and Spain/France. Portugal is in the same time zone as the UK.
- Dinner in Portugal and Spain is later than we are used to. It starts usually at 8pm. And then you’re one of the first.
- France usually also has dinner later, but you can eat almost all day long at Disneyland and we didn’t have dinner at a restaurant in Bordeaux. Dinner in France is usually from 7pm.
- Bring some small coins for toll roads, most in France and Spain can be paid with credit card, but a few not.
- For the North of Portugal you need to arrange a toll badge up front. You can’t pay them at the booth in either cash or credit card. We found out the hard way and opted for routes avoiding toll roads.
- Each country had different rules in place to combat Covid-19. They changed during our trip. Read the rules before going and check up on them during your stay.
If you’re less of a theme park fan than swap Disneyland Paris for Paris and explore Paris. It would then be:
Day 1: Arrive in Paris
Day 2: Explore Paris
Day 3: Drive from Paris to Saran (114 kilometers/71 miles, about 2 hours and 20 minutes)
An alternative is a Northern Spain and Portugal road trip, skipping France.
Day 1: Arrive in San Sebastián
Day 2 + 3: Explore San Sebastián
Day 4: Drive from San Sebastián to Oviedo (385 kilometers/239 miles, about 5 hours)
Day 5 & 6: Explore Oviedo
Day 7: Drive from Oviedo to Quintanilha (290 kilometers/180 miles, about 3 hours)
Day 8 & 9: Explore the Northeast of Portugal
Day 10: Drive from Quintanilha to Peso da Régua (204 kilometers/127 miles, about 3 hours)
Day 11 & 12: Explore the Douro Valley
Day 13: Drive from Peso da Régua to Porto (129 kilometers/80 miles, about 3 hours)
Day 14 & 15: Explore Porto
Day 16: Drive from Porto to Guimarães (57 kilometers/35 miles, about 1.5 hours)
Day 17 & 18: Explore Guimarães
Day 19: Going home
That’s Everything You Need to Know for a France Spain Portugal Road Trip
Hope you enjoy this road trip as much as we’ve done! We did this road trip with a tween, our son was 11 at the time, here are our best tips for a road trip with tweens.
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