There's fun for the whole family on this relaxed 6-day tour of eastern Spain. Starting in Barcelona, you'll ascend Mount Montjuic via cable cars, take a sunset sail around the harbor, and wander the cobbled streets of the Gothic Quarter. After a day trip exploring the wonders of surrounding Catalonia, you’ll head down the coast to finish your trip in Valencia, where all ages can marvel at underwater wonders in Europe’s largest aquarium and sample the city’s signature dish of paella.

Highlights

  • Climb Mount Montjuic for magical views over Barcelona
  • Discover Barcelona's atmospheric Gothic Quarter
  • Visit Valencia's world-famous City of Arts and Sciences
  • Savor authentic Paella in Valencia

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour Barcelona
Day 2 Kids & Family Gothic Quarter - Optional Sunset Cruise  Barcelona
Day 3 Free Day in Barcelona or Optional Day Trip Barcelona
Day 4 Train to Valencia - Tour the Historic Center Valencia
Day 5 Family Activities & Flavors of Valencia Valencia
Day 6 Train from Valencia to Barcelona  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour

Welcome to Barcelona
Welcome to Barcelona

Welcome to Spain! Upon arrival at Barcelona's El Prat Airport, a private driver will take you into the city where you can get settled into your hotel and unwind. You'll then have the afternoon free to explore on a self-guided tour.

We recommend first visiting Mt. Montjuic and the surrounding area. Montjuic is a famous hill that stands 1,988 feet (606 meters) high and overlooks the Port of Barcelona. Take the Montjuic Cable Car from the metro station near Olympic Park, which takes you up to the 17th century Castle Montjuic and offers panoramic views of the city. You can also access Montjuic via cable car from Barcelona Beach and by funicular elevator adjacent to the cable car. 

The Poble Espanyol is also a fun destination for families. Constructed in 1929, this open-air museum features over 100 recreated buildings in the style of traditional Spanish villages. When the sun goes down over the city, make sure you're near the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, named for the dazzling display of water and colored lights that occur after dark. It's the best free show in the city, one whose effect is heightened by the hundreds of spectators and a communal atmosphere.

End your evening in style with a sampling of the city's famously vibrant culinary scene. Some great options for restaurants include:

  • Bodega d’en Rafel, a cozy, family-owned wine shop with great traditional tapas. Try the bunuelos de bacalao (cod fritters) paired with sweet, iced vermouth—a Catalonian classic.
  • Els Sortidors del Parlament for traditional tapas with a modern vibe. It's a great place to open a bottle of Cava to pair with the fabulous tapas selection.
  • Honest Greens, a chain restaurant that's an ideal spot for a quick pick me up or lunch, especially if you're tired after sightseeing and strolling the Rambla. With a coffee shop and pastries in the front and a restaurant in the back, their selection of refreshing infused waters are a perfect way to cool down on a hot Barcelona afternoon.

Day 2: Kids and Family Gothic Quarter - Optional Sunset Cruise 

Cycling along Barceloneta Beach
Cycling along Barceloneta Beach

Today you'll visit the most famous area in all of Barcelona: the medieval Gothic Quarter and its trendy El Born neighborhood. Enjoy all the fun of strolling its narrow cobbled streets and discover its highlights on a relaxed two-hour tour geared towards families.

After meeting your guide, they’ll lead you out onto the streets and point out the rich history as you pass Roman ruins, the grand Plaça Reial, and the 13th century Barcelona Cathedral. Kids between four and twelve will have a blast as they take part in a "dragon hunt," learn about Spanish legends, visit candy stores, and stop at the Casa dels Entremesos, a "museum of giants" home to costumed, paper mache figures that locals parade around the city during Corpus Christi celebrations. 

In the afternoon, you have the option of boarding your own private sailboat (with a captain to steer) to sail out into the Mediterranean Sea for panoramic views of the city’s skyline and coast. During the trip, you'll be able to make use of the fishing equipment on board to try your best to land the catch of the day. After two hours on the water, you'll return to port where your captain can recommend a great plan for the rest of your evening on dry land.

Day 3: Free Day in Barcelona or Optional Day Trip

The Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat

Today you can explore Barcelona on your own, or opt for one of several day trips from the city. We recommend a day trip, as it will reveal glimpses of Catalan life beyond the metropolis. Outside the city's borders lie a wonderland of rugged mountains, golden beaches, and pretty, sleepy little towns, all just a short drive away. 

One option is to travel about an hour northeast from Barcelona to Girona. This historic city lies next to the Onyar River and is known for its cobbled streets, grand churches, and medieval Old Quarter hemmed in by stone walls. You can walk these ancient ramparts, and they afford great elevated views of the city.

Girona is also home to a well-preserved Jewish quarter, which lasted for 500 years until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492. The fascinating Museu d’Història dels Jueus de Girona recounts this story. There's also the 12th-century Banys Àrabs, which are the remnants of Arab baths from the days when Moors ruled the land. Another landmark is the Sant Pere de Galligants, a Romanesque Benedictine abbey dating from the 12th century which is now home to the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia in Girona.

Located north of Girona is the town of Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí. There's some handsome Modernista architecture here and the 18th-century military fortress of Sant Ferran Castle, but Figueres is best known for the Teatre-Museu Dalí. The former theater was converted by Dalí himself into a labyrinth of surrealism displaying the largest collection of his works, including many from his personal collection. This is also Dali's final resting place, as his corpse is buried in a crypt beneath the stage.
 
You can also travel up the Montserrat Mountains to Catalonia's holiest site, the 16th-century Benedictine monastery of Santa Maria de Montserrat. Located 28 miles (45 km) northeast of Barcelona at an altitude of 4,055 feet (1,266 meters), the views from the church are spectacular. Inside, above the altar, is a statue of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Barcelona. You can reach the monastery on a 1.5-hour hike from the town of Monistrol de Montserrat or simply take a five-minute cable car.

The pretty coastal town of Sitges, located about 45 minutes southwest of Barcelona, makes for a perfect day trip. The pace is decidedly more laidback here, and some of the best activities are the simplest, like strolling the long waterfront promenade or sunbathing on one of the many beaches in and around town. Ideal activities in town include dining in one of Sitges' world-class seafood restaurants or visiting one of its fine museums and art galleries.

Day 4: Train to Valencia - Tour the Historic Center

Blue skies and bright sunshine over Valencia Cathedral.
Blue skies and bright sunshine over Valencia Cathedral

Bid farewell to Barcelona as you hop a morning train bound for the city of Valencia. After a three-hour journey down the coast, you'll arrive in Spain’s third-largest city and check into your accommodation. Take a quick rest, then meet up with a local guide for a half-day tour.

In Valencia, cutting-edge buildings and infrastructure projects exist side by side with one of the most well-preserved historic centers of any Spanish city. There's also a distinct culture here that reveals itself in the city's gastronomy—after all, this is the place that gave the world paella. A perfect local pastime is strolling by the historic churches and castle ruins of the city center while breaking for refreshments like horchata (a sugary drink made with tiger nuts) and agua de Valencia (a champagne/liquor/orange-juice-based cocktail).

You'll get to do this and more on a walking tour of the historic center. Visit the major highlights including the Plaza Del Ayuntamiento, home of Valencia's Baroque City Hall; the historic Mercado Central, one of the oldest municipal markets in Europe; the 15th-century Gothic fortress of Llotja de la Seda; and the UNESCO World Heritage Valencia Cathedral, a 13th-century Baroque/Romanesque/Gothic basilica that draws millions of tourists each year. 

Throughout the tour, your guide will reveal historical and cultural insight into all of the landmarks you visit. Afterward, they'll be happy to recommend some good nearby restaurants for dinner. Some excellent options include:

  • Raco del Turia - you can't leave Valencia without trying the city's flagship dish of paella, and this family-run restaurant makes some of the best in the city. Whether you get the Paella del Senyoret (seafood paella) or the Paella Valenciana (with rabbit, chicken, vegetables, and snails), you won't leave disappointed.
  • Restaurant Navarro - located in the very heart of Valencia, this flawless eatery has been serving the best in Mediterranean cuisine since 1951. Highlights include the gazpacho, hake in cream sauce, and seafood paella. Do yourself a favor and try the sangria.
  • Dulce de Leche Boutique Ruzaf - located near the train station in a homey space, this is the place to come for fresh-baked cakes, pastries, tarts, and gourmet coffee. 

Day 5: Family Activities & Flavors of Valencia

Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences
Valencia's City of Arts and Sciences

It wouldn't be a trip to Valencia without visiting the City of Arts and Sciences. This architecturally unique complex takes up 300,000 square meters and is home to the interactive Prince Philip Science Museum plus an open-air oceanographic park. 

Also of note is that the City of Arts and Sciences boasts one of the most-visited aquariums in the world. L'Oceanogràfic, as it's known, is a celebration of the earth's oceans and faithfully recreates the most vital marine ecosystems. Stroll through the longest underwater tunnel in Europe to marvel at its various denizens of the deep like mantas, sharks, and even beluga whales.

Take a lunch break in style by visiting a restaurant sitting on a terrace high above Valencia to enjoy panoramic views of the city while savoring the city's most famous dish: paella.

If you still have energy, take a walk around the Turia Gardens and the impressive Gulliver Park. This long green space on the site of the dry bed of the Turia River encircles the city and is popular with cyclists, joggers, families, and couples out for a romantic stroll. Gulliver Park is a play area where children can have fun climbing on massive structures inspired by the characters of Jonathan Swift. 

At the end of this event-filled day, you'll return to your hotel where you can relax and unwind.

Day 6: Train from Valencia to Barcelona

Adios, Spain!
Adios, Spain!

It's time to say farewell to Spain!

At the designated time you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the train station to take a train to Barcelona and catch your flight back home.