Visitors to Spain and Portugal often want to visit both countries' capitals and take the train or fly from Madrid to Lisbon. However, the savvy traveler doesn't race from major city to major city, instead of visiting smaller places along the way, such as Salamanca.
Visit Salamanca for Spain's most beautiful plaza, its Plaza Mayor, and for some of the best tapas bars in the country. It's also easy to get from Salamanca to Madrid.
Salamanca is just 100km from the Portuguese border, making it seem like an ideal final stop in Spain before heading to Portugal. Salamanca is closer to Porto than Lisbon, so one would think that it would be easier to get from Salamanca to Porto than to Lisbon, but unfortunately, that's not necessarily the case.
What's the Best Way to Get from Salamanca to Portugal?
Unfortunately, none of the means of transport are ideal.
The problem is that while Porto is closer to Salamanca than Lisbon is, there is no train. But the only train to Lisbon is a night train, while the return journey from Salamanca to Lisbon arrives in Salamanca at the awkward time of 5am.
So you have the choice between the uncomfortable bus or the more expensive night train.
Hotels typically won't accept you at five in the morning, so you may not want to takethe train into Salamanca.
If you are starting and ending your trip in Madrid and want to include Salamanca, Porto, and Lisbon on your itinerary, I would recommend this itinerary, which avoids the awkward Lisbon to Salamanca train journey:
- Madrid to Salamanca by bus or train. There are buses and trains throughout the day, taking 1h30 to 2h45.
- Salamanca to Porto by bus. One bus per day - in the afternoon - taking six hours.
- Porto to Lisbon by train (perhaps via Coimbra - see below). There are trains throughout the day, taking about three hours.
- Lisbon to Madrid by train. There is one (night) train per day.
With such long train journeys, you might want to get a rail pass.
Adding in Coimbra
Take a train from Lisbon to Coimbra to explore Portugal's historic university city. Coimbra is also a good place for people traveling from Porto to head into Spain as there are good transport connections from Porto to Coimbra.
To get from Coimbra to Salamanca, you're better off taking the bus the train drops you off at an unusual hour. If you do want to take the train, note that trains depart from Coimbra-B, which some website don't recognize as the same city as Coimbra, even though it is.
Longer Itinerary Heading South from Salamanca
An interesting long way round is to head south from Salamanca, via the Roman ruins of Mérida (and maybe the UNESCO Heritage site that is the old city of Cáceres). There are buses to both, taking between four and five hours to reach Mérida. From Mérida, there are buses to Lisbon and Evora, in the wine-producing Alentejo region.
How to Get to Portugal from Salamanca by Train
The train from Lisbon to Salamanca takes about six hours and costs about 50€. Note that there is only one train a day and it arrives in Salamanca at around 5am.
Meanwhile, the train from Salamanca to Lisbon leaves at 1am.
There are no trains from Porto to Salamanca.
The bus from Lisbon to Salamanca is run by ALSA. It takes about ten hours and costs about 45€. The advantage of the bus over the train is that you arrive in Salamanca at a more sensible hour (early evening, usually).
The bus from Porto to Salamanca is run by ALSA. The journey takes between five and seven hours and costs about 35 euros.
How to Get from Lisbon to Salamanca by Car
The 500km drive takes about 5h30. Take the A1, A23, A25 and A-62. Some of these are toll roads.
The 350km drive from Porto to Salamanca takes about three-and-a-half hours. Take the A25 and A-62 roads. Note that these are also toll roads.