You'll discover everything that perfectly encapsulates Spain's Catalonia region on a visit to its capital of Barcelona. This 11-day trip includes touring its historic Gothic Quarter, bicycling around the waterfront, and sampling Catalan cuisine in the form of cooking classes and market tours. The last few days you'll fly to the Balearics and enjoy fun in the sun on two of its most beautiful islands: Mallorca and Menorca.

Highlights

  • Tour Barcelona's Gaudí-designed architectural highlights
  • Learn how to cook traditional Spanish dishes in a private cooking class
  • Enjoy horseback riding along the coast of Menorca
  • Sail around the rocky cliffs and hidden coves of Mallorca

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour Barcelona
Day 2 Visit Park Güell & Sagrada Família Barcelona
Day 3 Private Bike Tour of Barcelona Barcelona
Day 4 Boqueria Market Guided Tour - Cooking Class Barcelona
Day 5 Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore Menorca
Day 6 Horseback Riding in Menorca Menorca
Day 7 Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma Palma de Mallorca
Day 8 Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca Palma de Mallorca
Day 9 Mallorca Sailing Tour Palma de Mallorca
Day 10 Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour Palma de Mallorca
Day 11 Depart Spain from Mallorca  

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 check 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 fun to visit. 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.

Day 2: Visit Park Güell & Sagrada Família

The Gothic-modernist marvel that is the Sagrada Familia
The Gothic-modernist marvel that is the Sagrada Familia

After breakfast at the hotel, you'll meet a local guide who will whisk you away in a chauffeured vehicle for a half-day tour. The destinations are two of the most impressive works by the legendary Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí: Park Güell and the Sagrada Família.

First, you'll visit Park Güell. Located atop Carmel Hill in north Barcelona, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a fine example of Gaudí's boundary-pushing modernist style. The park takes up 42 acres and you'll be able to marvel at every building as you stroll the walkways and gardens. There are also incredible views at many points in Park Güell that look out over the city.

Next up is the Sagrada Família, the iconic Roman Catholic basilica with an impressive mix of Gothic, Catalan-modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles. Despite construction on the church beginning in 1882, it's still technically under construction and was only consecrated in 2010. Upon arrival, the guide will reveal insight into the Sagrada Familia's fascinating history, and you'll glean even more info as you explore the interior. 

Around lunchtime, you will part ways with your guide. On your own, you can visit Ciutadella Park. Open since 1881, this green lung of Barcelona takes up 70 acres and features sculptures, lakes, gardens, playgrounds, and the Barcelona Zoo. You could easily spend the remainder of the afternoon here and not run out of things to do and see.

Day 3: Private Bike Tour of Barcelona

Biking is a great way to get your bearings in Barcelona
Biking is a great way to get your bearings in Barcelona

Today, after breakfast, get ready for a bike tour around Barcelona! At the designated time, your private guide will meet you at your hotel and take you on a whirlwind panoramic tour of this wonderful city. Riding a bike is a great way to get some exercise and learn your way around this expansive city in a fun and dynamic way.

During the tour, you will ride along the narrow streets of the Old Town (including Raval, El Born, and Barri Gòtic) before arriving at Park de la Ciutadella—a beautiful respite for relaxing strolls and also the site of the 1888 Universal Expo.

With fun anecdotes and great views to be had along the way, you'll also visit Olympic Village, the city's redeveloped port, and of course Barceloneta Beach.

Day 4: Boqueria Market Guided Tour - Cooking Class

Fresh produce at the Boqueria Market
Fresh produce at the Boqueria Market

In the morning you'll embark on a guided, small-group tour to the gastronomic epicenter of Barcelona: the Boqueria Market. Open since 1835, this is the most famous covered market in the city. Each day over 200 vendors open their stalls and sell everything from fresh produce and spices to fresh fish, cured meats, and artisanal cheeses. Plus there are plenty of tapas bars and restaurants here serving high-quality Catalan cuisine. 

Because this market is so big and hectic (it receives over 40,000 visitors each day), it's best to let your expert guide lead the way and direct you to the best stalls. After touring the Boqueria and picking up any artisanal products that strike your fancy, you'll head to a local kitchen to partake in a cooking class. Under the guidance of an expert instructor, you'll learn to make traditional Spanish specialties including paella (and enjoy them during a group lunch).

Day 5: Flight from Barcelona to Menorca - Explore

Es Calo Blanc, Menorca
Es Calo Blanc, Menorca

In the morning a driver will transfer you to the airport where you'll catch a one-hour flight to Menorca. One of four islands in Spain's Balearic Archipelago, Menorca is ideal for travelers who prefer a tranquil beach holiday to the constant partying of its western neighbor Ibiza

You'll arrive in Menorca's capital city, Maó, where you'll pick up your rental car and drive to your hotel. After checking in and unpacking you can relax for a bit before heading out to explore the island. 

If you just can't wait to hit the beach, there are many options around the capital. Es Calo Blanc is located about five miles south of the city and just south of the airport. There may not be much in the way of sand here, but the rocks hugging the cove are good spots to lay your towel and make great platforms for diving into crystalline lagoons. Cala d'en Tortuga, a few miles northeast of Maó, is another great option located in S'Albufera National Park, a nature reserve. 

Punta Prima is about the same distance outside the capital and located near the southern tip of the island. There's a large beach here and ample parking, but know that it tends to get crowded. Sa Mesquida Playa is just a couple miles from Maó on the east coast, and it's a gem. It features a long and crescent-shaped sandy beach hugged at either end by promontory hills that protect the cove from wind. 

If you're a bit of a foodie, be sure to try the island's famous Mahón cheese. Named after Menorca's capital, this is a smooth hard cheese made from unpasteurized cow's milk. It's unique in that it has a somewhat salty, spicy flavor mixed with fruity and sweet aromas. Whatever your opinion of it, Mahón cheese has passed the test of time—Menorcans have been producing it on the island for over 700 years.

Day 6: Horseback Riding in Menorca

Cala Fustam, Menorca
Cala Fustam, Menorca

Today you'll enjoy a leisure activity perfectly suited for an island with a stunning coastline like Menorca: horseback riding.

In the morning you'll drive 25 minutes to the eastern edge of the island near the medieval city of Ciutadella. It's a historic and beautiful city, but now's not the time for strolling its old cobbled streets.

Instead, you'll visit the rocky coast south of Ciutadella, home to some of the most gorgeous coves on the island. Here you'll saddle up and begin the 2.5-hour horseback ride along the famed Camí de Cavalls (Path of the Horses). This is a coastal route that various occupiers of Menorca, from the Moors to the British, used to patrol the island for centuries. You'll pass beautiful coves like Cala Fustam, an isolated spot hiding a white-sand virgin beach and turquoise waters.

After the ride, you'll transfer back to your hotel in the capital. In the afternoon, you'll have free time to continue exploring the city on your own. If you're a history buff with an interest in archeology, there are some fascinating sites in and around Maó.

Right outside the city are the megalithic monuments of Trepucó and Talatí de Dalt. These are the remains of settlements from the Talaiotic culture, a society that existed during the Iron Age. Another archeological gem near to the capital is the 19th-century Mola Fortress. This impressive stone stronghold was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth II of Spain to protect Maó's port.

For more history, visit the Museo de Menorca. It offers fascinating exhibits detailing Menorca's cultural timeline over the centuries and includes ancient sculptures, ceramics, tools, and jewelry. Plus there's also 19th-century art, antique furniture, and photographs.

Day 7: Flight from Menorca to Mallorca - Explore Palma

The city of Palma de Mallorca
The city of Palma de Mallorca

In the morning you'll have some remaining free time to enjoy Menorca. Feel free to spend it shopping, visiting a café, or lazing on one of the island's beautiful beaches. In the afternoon, you'll return your car to the rental office and take a 40-minute flight west to Mallorca, the elder sibling of Menorca. 

In fact, Mallorca is the largest of the Balearics and a popular destination for tourists and holidaymakers the world over. It's ideal for travelers of all stripes because here you have it all: beautiful Mediterannean coast and beaches,  coves hugging turquoise waters, ancient villages, mountains perfect for hiking, a variety of local wineries, and great nightlife and shopping in the capital city of Palma de Mallorca.

Upon arrival at the airport in Palma, you'll pick up your rental car and transfer to your hotel in the capital. Take some time to relax before heading out to explore. Not only is Palma de Mallorca an exciting metropolitan capital, but it's also a medieval historic gem. All around you'll find Moorish fortresses, royal palaces, and Gothic landmarks.

Day 8: Guided Tour of Palma de Mallorca

The Royal Palace of La Almudaina
The Royal Palace of La Almudaina

In the morning you'll meet a local guide for a four-hour historical tour of Palma. Like much of southern Spain, the Balearic Islands have been occupied by various empires and cultures over the years. This includes everyone from the Romans and Visigoths to the Muslims, Christians, and even the Bourbons. Although Mallorca has officially been a part of Spain since the 13th century, you can still see many remnants of this history in Palma's historic landmarks.

One you'll visit is the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, or simply the Palma Cathedral. This expansive Roman Catholic church was built by the Catalan Crown of Aragón in the 13th century over the site of a former Mosque that had been erected during Moorish rule. And even that sat on the site of the citadel of a previous Roman city.

Palma Catedral is designed in the Catalan-Gothic style and is one of the largest such churches in Europe. It has been restored over the years, and in 1901 legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí took over duties, adding a distinct Art Nouveau interior. You can see a fine example of his contribution in the wrought iron canopy over the main altar. 

Just opposite the cathedral is another stop on the tour: the Royal Palace of La Almudaina. Its position overlooking the Bay of Palma made it strategically important, which is why the Moors built a fortress there in the 10th century (before that the Romans occupied the site). Like with the Palma Cathedral, the Christians under King James II of Majorca built this Gothic fortified palace over the Muslim fortress after the conquest of the 13th century. 

A tour of the palace involves visiting the three grand staterooms, the royal staircase, and the royal apartments. You'll also visit the Capilla de Santa Ana, a Romanesque chapel that was commissioned by King James II. Today the palace is the official island residence of the King and Queen of Spain. 

About a mile west of Palma is the 14th century Castell de Bellver. Perched on a hill amid pine woods, this unique Gothic castle (it's one of the few round fortresses in Spain) was another of King James II's pet projects. Here you'll enjoy incredible 360-degree views of Palma plus tour the castle. Features include a moat and drawbridge, three defensive towers, and the imposing Torre del Homenaje (the fortress' keep). Inside is an open-air courtyard with Roman arches that often hosts evening concerts. 

Day 9: Mallorca Sailing Tour

Sail from one stunning cove to another on a boat tour
Sail from one stunning cove to another on a boat tour

After breakfast, you'll drive to the port to depart for a half-day (optional full-day) sailboat tour along the beautiful Mallorcan coast. Make no mistake, it's the 344 miles (555 km) of gorgeous coastline that makes Mallorca the Balearic's most popular destination for summer holidaymakers. Rocky coves string the island like pearls, and running from its shores out to the horizon are vast expanses of water as blue as the cloudless sky.  

This boat tour will take you to various points on Mallorca, and each has its virtues. The eastern side of the island is home to some postcard beaches like the white sands and crystalline waters of Cala Formentor. Further south you'll find pine-shrouded coves guarding turquoise waters, like at Caló des Moro. And on the west side are some attractive rocky inlets comprised of small cliffs perfect for diving. 

On the boat, you can pick your pleasure. If you want to relax and sunbathe on the deck between cove-hopping, no problem. If you prefer something more active, there will be ample time for swimming and snorkeling (equipment provided). Whenever you feel peckish feel free to indulge in some of the complimentary snacks on board; and if you book a full-day tour, you and the other guests can sit down and enjoy a full lunch. 

After returning to Palma in the afternoon, you'll have the rest of the day to explore and/or relax.

Day 10: Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains - Village Tour

Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains
Hiking the Tramuntana Mountains

A guide will pick you up from your hotel in the morning and drive you to another of Mallorca's highlights: the Tramuntana Mountains. Located on the northwest of the island, these limestone mountains with sharp ridges and handsome bluffs are a hiker's dream. You'll be enjoying a medium difficulty hike that takes between 1.5-3 hours and requires no more specialized equipment than hiking boots or athletic shoes. Expect breathtaking views of the coast from many lookout points. 

You'll also visit some of the historic mountain villages famous in the area. These include the carless hilltop hamlet of Valldemossa, the tranquil cove and rocky beach of coastal Deià, and Sóller, with its rickety wooden cable cars and long waterfront promenade.

These villages have long been home to painters, musicians, and writers from across the globe. They're attracted to the area by the relaxed way of life, endless sunny afternoons, and the ideal location between a pine-covered hillside and the glimmering Mediterranean sea. Valldemossa, in particular, is home to the 14th century Real Cartuja, a well-preserved Carthusian Monastery. Here the composer Frédéric Chopin and his lover George Sand rented rooms in the winter of 1838.

Day 11: Depart Spain from Mallorca

Farewell, Spain!
Farewell, Spain!

In the morning, a driver will meet you and transfer you to the airport. You'll then catch a flight back to mainland Spain, where you'll meet your connecting flight home. Adios!

Map

Map of Barcelona and the Balearic Islands: Mallorca and Menorca - 11 Days
Map of Barcelona and the Balearic Islands: Mallorca and Menorca - 11 Days