- Take a guided culinary tour of Madrid
- Enjoy tapas and world-famous art in Bilbao
- Customize your trip with excursions to foodie hot spots
- Visit the largest txakolí wine cellar in the Basque region
- Learn about Gaudí on a guided tour of Barcelona
|Day 1||Arrival in Madrid||Madrid|
|Day 2||Gourmet Walking Tour of Madrid||Madrid|
|Day 3||Day-Trip to Segovia & Pedraza||Madrid|
|Day 4||Transfer to Bilbao - City & Museum Tour||Bilbao|
|Day 5||Day-Trip to the Basque Countryside||Bilbao|
|Day 6||Transfer to San Sebastian - Coastal Tour & Wine Tasting||San Sebastian|
|Day 7||Explore San Sebastián||San Sebastian|
|Day 8||Day-Trip to Hondarribia & Pasai Donibane||San Sebastian|
|Day 9||Transfer to Barcelona - Optional Sailing Excursion||Barcelona|
|Day 10||La Sagrada Familia & Barcelona Market Tour||Barcelona|
|Day 11||Free Day in Barcelona||Barcelona|
Day 1: Arrival in Madrid
Welcome to Spain!
Upon arrival at the nation's capital, you'll enjoy a private transfer to your hotel in the city center. Take some time to settle in before heading out to explore. You'll definitely want to see some of the highlights like the Puerta del Sol, one of the most historic and expansive plazas in the city. There's also Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles. Located in the city center it features a sculpture completed in 1782 and depicting Cybele, the Greek goddess of fertility, riding in a chariot pulled by lions.
Perhaps you could take in a show. Gran Vía is Madrid's answer to Broadway, and on it, you'll find plenty of theaters showcasing plays and musical productions. Needless to say, the options for culture in this city are vast, and you could also visit museums, art galleries, and live music venues if the mood strikes.
When night falls, be sure to indulge in Madrid's world-class culinary scene. If you want to dine amid history, head to Botín. No less than Ernest Hemingway described it in his seminal novel The Sun Also Rises as the best restaurant on earth.
Other great restaurant options in Madrid include:
- San Mamés. You come to this family-run taberna to sample traditional Madrid cuisine done expertly. Dishes include callos a la madrileña (a hearty stew of beef tripe, chickpeas, and chorizo), Cantabrian anchovies in pil pil sauce, and bacalao con langostinos (garlic cod with shrimp). Located off from the center, it's a 15-minute train ride from the Puerta del Sol.
- Lakasa. Located in Chamberí, a neighborhood heavy with museums and galleries, is this locally-celebrated gem. Its intimate space means it's moody and chic, yet it also has a solid menu featuring fresh seasonal produce, wild game, and homemade, rustic stews.
- La Terraza del Madrid. Two Michelin stars, a location in a swanky private club, and a 21-coarse tasting menu on offer? Yup, this rooftop restaurant in the city center is the place to come to splurge on an unforgettable meal of haute cuisine. Definitely book in advance and be sure to wear a jacket and tie, or they'll turn you away at the door.
Day 2: Gourmet Walking Tour of Madrid
Today, a local guide will take you on a four-hour walking tour (either in the morning or afternoon) of Madrid, and you'll visit three exceptional gourmet shops.
First, you'll visit a purveyor of artisanal cured meats and sample one of Spain's most popular specialties: Iberian ham. You'll learn how this ham is made and served, what makes it so special, and how you identify it before continuing on to the next delicious stop.
Next, you'll stop at a specialty olive-oil shop. There are over 240 types of olives grown in Spain, each with its own specific flavor profile. An expert will help you taste oils and olives from different regions of the country before teaching you about the precise definition of extra virgin olive oil, its pressing process, and the ideal foods with which to pair it.
You'll finish the gourmet tour on a sweet note with a visit to a chocolatier that specializes in handmade chocolate creations. This tasting involves truffles, bar chocolates, and chocolate drinks, and you will learn about the different flavor notes and ingredients infused in these chocolates.
After this whirlwind foodie experience, you will be able to enjoy a traditional lunch or dinner before deciding how to spend your free evening.
Day 3: Day-Trip to Segovia & Pedraza
This morning an expert guide will pick you up at the hotel for an hour-drive north of Madrid to Segovia. There is no shortage of historic cities in Spain, but Segovia stands out for its famous Roman Aqueduct and medieval Old Town, which are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
You'll visit these sights on a guided walking tour, where a guide will tell you about the 2,000-year-old aqueduct. It runs eight miles (14 km) in length, stands an impressive 93-feet (28 meters) high, and features two tiers comprised of 160 arches.
Then your guide will take you through the Old Town which is situated on a bluff overlooking the Eresma and Clamores rivers. For many years, Moors, Christians, and Jews coexisted in harmony here, and this is reflected in the area's architectural influences that run the gamut from Mudéjar to Gothic. You'll see the 11th-century Alcázar (palace), the 14th-century Old Main Synagogue, and the 16th-century Segovia Cathedral, which dominates the skyline.
After the walking tour, you'll be able to enjoy lunch in a local restaurant before jumping back in the car for another hourlong ride to Pedraza.
This medieval walled village is a National Historical Heritage Site of Spain, and walking its central plaza is like stepping back in time. After you finish exploring, your driver will return you to your hotel in Madrid for the night.
Day 4: Transfer to Bilbao - City & Museum Tour
This morning, make you're way to the train station for the five-hour journey north to Bilbao.
Once you arrive, you'll meet your local guide and begin exploring the city's colorful neighborhoods, but you are welcome to tailor the tour to best suit your needs and interests.
Later in your tour, you'll have time to visit the Guggenheim Museum, a masterpiece of contemporary architecture designed by the legendary Frank Gehry. This glimmering titanium structure looks more like a sculpture than a building, with its sleek lines sensually curving in seeming defiance of physics. Inside, the museum's 24,000 square-meter space houses a treasure trove of works from great artists such as Andy Warhol, Anish Kapoor, Jeff Koons, Louise Bourgeois, and Eduardo Chillida.
After you finish your tour, your local guide will give some great suggestions for local restaurants.
Day 5: Day-Trip to the Basque Countryside
In the morning, you'll meet your driver/guide for an excursion into the Cantabrian Mountains and the Basque countryside. During the drive, you'll learn all about Basque culture and what makes it unique when compared to other regions of Spain. You'll see this culture firsthand when you stop in a rural village to meet some locals.
Tradition runs deep in these villages, as residents have their own customs and even their own music, which they play on hand-made instruments. Also, because farm labor is so prevalent in the country, locals have created their own sporting events based around displays of physical prowess. You'll get a front-row seat to some of these Basque rural sports, which include the wood-carving contest known as aizkora proba, plus stone-lifting competitions and tug-of-war games.
After the games, you'll enjoy a homecooked lunch served with local wine. Then it will be time to transfer back to Bilbao.
Day 6: Transfer to San Sebastian - Coastal Tour & Wine Tasting
After breakfast, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you on a full-day tour of the Cantabrian Coast.
Your first stop is the islet of Gaztelugatxe, which is most noteworthy for the long stone bridge that connects it to the mainland. "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize it as the filming location for Dragonstone, which was featured in season seven.
From Gaztelugatxe, you'll continue driving a few minutes along the coast to the colorful fishing village of Bermeo. Not only is this the Basque region's most important fishing port, but it's also located at the edge of Urdaibai, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and protected area that's home to some of Spain's most gorgeous coastal landscapes. From Bermeo, you'll travel a couple of miles deeper into Urdaibai to the town of Mundaka, which sits on an estuary home to magnificent wetlands.
Next, you'll drive a short way to the Gorka Izagirre winery, which boasts the largest txakolí wine cellar in Basque Country. This local white wine pairs perfectly with the delectable fish and shellfish of the region, and you'll discover its white fruit and floral notes on a tasting tour. Then, you'll head just up the hill to an adjacent Michelin-starred restaurant where you'll sit down to an elaborate gourmet tasting menu with wine pairings.
After the meal, you and your driver will continue east to San Sebastian. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and can spend the remainder of the day at leisure.
Day 7: Bike Tour of San Sebastián
Today you'll take a scenic three-hour bike tour of San Sebastian. You'll see both the Old Quarter and the more modern parts of the city, and a guide will teach you all about the history and local culture.
After the guided part of the day, you have the rest of the afternoon on your own. You can take a ferry to the iconic offshore island of Santa Clara, or ride a funicular up to Mont Igualdo, which offers sweeping panoramas. You might also stroll the banks of the Urumea River, where you'll find the 19th-century Victoria Eugenia Theatre, the palatial Maria Cristina Hotel, and many aristocratic houses dating to the turn of the 20th century. You can get some good pictures walking across the Puente María Cristina, the bridge that crosses the river.
In the evening, you can book an additional culinary experience like a chef's table dinner or a less formal Basque tapas tasting tour.
Day 8: Day-Trip to Hondarribia & Pasai Donibane
In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and take you on a trip to the nearby wine country. Your first stop will be in the Spanish town near the French border town of Hondarribia, and you will take a walking tour through the old town and to the marina.
After visiting Hondarribia, you will head to Pasai Donibane and have time to have lunch and explore the town on your own.
After leaving Pasai Donibane, you will stop at a nearby winery where you can visit the vineyards and learn about the production process of Txakoli wine. You will have a short wine tasting, and you can enjoy an aperitif or some more cuisine.
At the end of the day, your driver will take you back to San Sebastian.
Day 9: Transfer to Barcelona - Optional Sailing Excursion
After breakfast, you will make your way to the train station for the five-hour journey by train to Barcelona. After you arrive and check in at your hotel, you can take some time to relax before heading out to explore this beautiful city on your own.
The cosmopolitan and bustling heart of Spain's Catalonia region is popular with domestic and international travelers year-round. With fantastic art and architecture, rich medieval history, clean urban beaches, world-class nightlife, and great shopping, you'll be spoiled for choice.
A great place to start is Las Ramblas, a charming sequence of promenades that runs all the way from Plaça de Catalunya to the waterfront that draws a mix of locals and tourists. This famous tree-lined street stays cool and shady during hot summer days and is host to statues, street performers, food carts, and flower stands. Stroll to your heart's content and stop for a bite at one of the many restaurants and cafes along the way.
Early in the evening, you can book a two-hour boat excursion on a luxury yacht with a professional skipper. You can enjoy live Spanish music on board and relax while sailing on the Mediterranean. The price includes, wine, snacks, and fresh fruit.
Day 10: Private Tour of La Sagrada Familia & Barcelona's Markets
After breakfast, you'll start your day with a guided walking tour of Barcelona. During this half-day excursion, you will see some of the city's most emblematic spots and hidden corners while learning about architect Antoni Gaudí and his jaw-dropping masterpiece, La Sagrada Familia, a spectacular Roman Catholic church and UNESCO World Heritage Site still under construction.
Later, you'll stop by some of Barcelona's buzzing markets to taste local delights, and your guide will be on hand to answer all of your questions—including where to go for lunch!
After your tour ends, you'll have the rest of the evening to explore Barcelona on your own.
Day 11: Free Day in Barcelona or Optional Day Trip
Today you can explore Barcelona on your own, or you can opt to book an additional day trip for a glimpse 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 is known for its cobbled streets, grand churches, and medieval old quarter hemmed in by stone walls. 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 recounts this story, and you can also visit the 12th-century remnants of Arab baths or the 12-century abbey known as the Sant Pere de Galligants that is now home to the Archaeology Museum of Catalonia.
Located north of Girona is the town of Figueres, the birthplace of Salvador Dalí and home of the Salvador Dalí Museum. A former theatre, it 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. 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.
Another option is the pretty coastal town of Sitges, located about 45 minutes southwest of Barcelona. 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 12: Departure
It's time to say farewell to Barcelona. Depending on the time of your flight or train reservation, squeeze in one more walk through the city, perhaps picking up some last-minute souvenirs. At the designated time, you will be picked up at your hotel and transferred to the airport or train station for your departure.