In January, Drew and I traveled to Spain. In the fall, we were looking for somewhere to go in January or February to get us out of town while the Super Bowl was in Atlanta – we stumbled upon $500 round trip flights to Spain on Delta, so we figured why not? When we booked our flights, we had no clue what were going to do in Spain – but the good news is the list of things to see and do in Spain is endless. We loved it! Below is the itinerary we followed, including where we stayed and some of the activities we particularly enjoyed.
Barcelona – 3 days, 2 nights
We flew into Barcelona on a Saturday morning and hit the ground running. We walked around the city seeing the sites and visited Casa Mila on our first day. The second day we had morning tickets to Sagrada Familia. After we visited Carmel Bunkers and then ended the day with an Espanyol vs Real Madrid soccer match.
Where we stayed: Hotel MidMost
What we liked:
- Sagrada Familia – Buy your tickets in advance! If you want to do a tower, I recommend the Nativity Facade tower as Gaudi was intimately involved in the construction.
- Carmel Bunkers – Great view of the city. Bring a picnic or some beer/wine to the top and relax. If you walk from the city, prepare for a 2 mile uphill walk.
- Casa Mila (La Pedrera) – We elected to tour this one over Casa Batllo since Gaudi fully designed the building instead of just renovating an existing building like Batllo. Ticket lines can be long, so either buy in advance or prepare for a bit of a wait.
- Gothic Quarter – We missed it, but apparently you can access the roof of the Gothic Cathedral between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m.
- Soccer (futbol) – We went to an Espanyol match since Barcelona FC was out of town. It was super fun and I highly recommend it!
- Park Guell – Book your tickets in advance. Even with advance tickets, we still had to queue up before our entry time. Also, keep your tickets – you need them to leave the restricted area.
Seville – 2 days, 2 nights
We took a train from Barcelona to Seville first thing on a Monday morning. We arrived in the early afternoon with plenty of time to walk around the beautiful cobblestone streets. Our second day in Seville was spent visiting the palace and cathedral, as well as attending a flamenco show at night. We loved Seville – it was our favorite spot of the whole trip!
Where we stayed: Hotel Boutique Palacio Pinello
What we liked:
Honestly, we just liked the look and feel of Seville. Beautiful architecture, interesting streets – we spent time just walking the streets and wandering.
- Plaza de Espana – Great for pictures. Really big and beautiful! Definitely worth visiting.
- Real Alcazar – Amazing tile work! I preferred this to the Alhambra in Granada.
- Metropol Parasol – Interesting to see. We didn’t go on the top, but you can and I’m sure it’s super fun!
- Catedral de Seville and Giralda Bell Tower – Christopher Columbus’s tomb is in there. The bell tower has a ramp instead of steps and it’s fun to walk up and see the view.
- Flamenco show – We did Centro Cultural Flamenco since it was more intimate (only 2 rows of seats), but any of them should do. Definitely a cool experience!
- Bar Estrella – Off the beaten path, but the food was good (super authentic.) They have an outdoor patio just down the street from the restaurant. This was Drew’s favorite meal of the entire trip.
- Gusto – If you’re craving something traditional (e.g. American), but done well, this is a good spot. We had breakfast here one morning and it was great!
- Cerveceria International – This is a craft beer bar, but we were pleasantly surprised by their snacks. Good spot to stop mid-afternoon. Drew was very pleased with their vast beer selection.
Following our time in Seville, we rented a car and drove to Ronda and then Caminito del Rey all in one day. Ronda is very unique as it’s built on top of a gorge – very scenic! We spent the morning hiking around the gorge and exploring the city before grabbing lunch. Next we drove to Caminito del Rey for a hike through a canyon – it used to be one of the most dangerous hikes in the world, but it has been renovated and now it’s super safe and cool experience.
Granada – 2 days, 2 nights
Where we stayed: NH Collection Granada Victoria
What we liked:
Honestly, we were a little underwhelmed by Granada. After how much we loved Seville, we just weren’t impressed by Granada.
- Alhambra – Buy tickets in advance! Print them out and figure out where the secondary entrance is – no need to walk all the way to the main ticket area and entrance.
- Granada Cathedral – Good spot to escape the cold or the heat.
- Restaurante Carmela – Good food, unique options. Lots of Spaniards dining there, so that was encouraging.
- Cafe Futbol – According to Rick Steves, it’s the best spot in Granada for churros and hot chocolate. It was good, but not like the best thing I ever put in my mouth. Worth trying for sure (plus then you’ll have a point of comparison for what are supposed to be the best churros in Spain when you visit Madrid…)
Madrid – 3 days, 2 nights
On Friday morning, we took a train from Granada to Madrid, arriving in the city around mid-morning. We spent a lot of time walking around the city and visited the Royal Palace in the afternoon on our first day. On our second day we visited Bernabeu in the morning, Crystal Palace and the park in the afternoon, and worked in some churros and chocolate along the way. We departed on Sunday.
Where we stayed: NH Collection Madrid Suecia
What we liked:
- Bernabeu Stadium – If you can see a Real Madrid match at home, you have to do it! Unfortunately, they were on the road while we were in Madrid, but the stadium tour is totally worth it. The best stadium tour I’ve ever done.
- Crystal Palace – The park it is in is beautiful, so worth strolling through on it’s own. The Crystal Palace is flooded with people doing it for the ‘gram, but it’s still cool to see.
- Royal Palace of Madrid – I LOVED THIS! I’m not much of a history buff and typically things like this don’t excite me, but the palace is HUGE and so ornate and beautiful. The audio guide is great. Definitely do this!
- Araldo Arte Del Gusto – This spot was just down the street from our hotel. It’s a pizza place, so know that going in, but the pizzas were delicious and the prices were very reasonable.
- Chocolateria San Gines – This is the spot for churros and hot chocolate. There will likely be a wait, but the line moves fast. Pay at the counter and then move downstairs with your receipt. A server will take your receipt and bring what you ordered to your table.
- Mercado de San Miguel – A hopping food hall with tons of options. We each picked a few tapas to try from different stalls and it made for a great lunch.
Things to note:
- For some reason, there were a lot of protests in Granada and Madrid. Most of them were very peaceful and seemed minor. In Madrid, however, there were main plazas that had dozens of cop cars and cops with guns. Not sure if this is normal, but nothing bad happened while we were there, so don’t be alarmed if you see something similar…
- We heard a lot about pick-pocketing before our trip, but we didn’t encounter any issues. If you’ve traveled abroad before, then just use normal travel common sense. Use a crossbody bag with a zipper, men should carry their wallets and phones in their front pocket, stay mindful of your surroundings, etc.
- We elected to travel predominately by train. The trains are clean, punctual, and easy to use. We rented a car for one day to see Ronda and hike the Caminito del Rey, but otherwise I would not recommend having a car as the roads are crazy tight in Seville (some roads are pedestrian only) and parking would be a pain in Granada, Madrid, Barcelona, etc.
- We were super worried about dinner times in Spain since we are early risers and struggle to stay up late. The good news is we didn’t have any issues getting food at a reasonable hour except in Madrid. In Madrid, most restaurants did not open until 8 p.m., which meant often times you aren’t eating dinner until after 9 p.m. Most Spaniards don’t go to dinner till 10 p.m.! Also, maybe it was because we were in Madrid on weekend nights, but every restaurant we went to asked us if we had bookings/reservations, which we didn’t. However, they all were very accommodating and seated us with the promise that we would be long gone by 9:45 p.m./10 p.m. when the true rush happens, which we were totally okay with.
Overall, we had a great time in Spain and we would recommend it to all types of travelers as there is truly something for everyone. If you have any questions or need help planning, drop me a line and I’m happy to provide guidance. Happy travels!