Explore the highlights and flavors of Spain with visits to the cities of Madrid, Granada, Málaga, Cadiz, and Seville on this 12-day trip. You'll enjoy private tours of the historic old towns, visit ancient religious sites, and taste Spain's best culinary offerings. Start the trip in Andalusía to see the Alhambra in Granada, visit Málaga to learn to cook in a traditional finca, then wrap up the trip in Seville to enjoy a flamenco show.

Highlights

  • Discover Spain's capital city of Madrid and its royal past
  • Enjoy a guided tour of Granada's Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens
  • Check out coastal Malaga's burgeoning art gallery and restaurant scene
  • Enjoy a flamenco show in one of the most iconic neighborhoods of Seville
  • Take a day trip to Toledo, one of the most incredible medieval cities in Spain

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid & Evening Tapas Tour Madrid
Day 2 Historical and Cultural Tour of Madrid  Madrid
Day 3 Day Trip to Toledo  Madrid
Day 4 Train from Madrid to Granada  Granada
Day 5 Tour of the Alhambra and Generalife Gardens Granada
Day 6 Train to Málaga & City Tour  Málaga
Day 7 Picasso Guided Visit & Cooking Class Málaga
Day 8 Transfer to Seville & Guided City Tour  Seville
Day 9 Olive Oil Experience & Evening Flamenco Show Seville
Day 10 Day Trip to Cadiz Seville
Day 11 Train from Seville to Madrid  Madrid
Day 12 Depart from Madrid  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid & Evening Tapas Tour

Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles.
Madrid's famous Fountain of Cibeles

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.

In the evening, you'll really dig into Madrid's culture on a food tour. A local expert guide will lead you on a two-hour walking excursion that stops at some great tapas bars. On this tour, you'll visit Barrio Las Letras, which is known as the "literary quarter." This historic neighborhood in the city center was once home to Spanish literary legends like Cervantes and Quevedo. Besides visiting some historic sights around here, you'll also stop on Calle Huertas for a bite at one of the many tapas bars that line the street.

Day 2: Historical & Cultural Tour of Madrid 

Madrid's central Plaza Mayor
Madrid's central Plaza Mayor

Today, you'll discover the city of Madrid and explore its cultural and architectural highlights on a walking tour. Your guide will recount the history of the city and its development from a medieval seat of Spanish power to a modern metropolis of international renown. You'll also learn about current social and cultural events to ensure you're up to date on what's happening in 21st century Madrid.   

After you've experienced a bit of the city, the guide with leave you at a great local restaurant for lunch. You'll then have the rest of the day to explore on your own. You should definitely visit the expansive plazas in the heart of the city, such as the Plaza Mayor and the Puerta del Sol, which date back to the 15th and 14th centuries, respectively, and embody classic icons of Old Madrid. 

Madrid is also home to can't-miss museums like the Prado Museum, which boasts one of the finest collections of European art spanning the 12th through the 20th century and featuring the works of masters like Goya, Bosch, El Greco, Titian, and Diego Velázquez, among others. There's also the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía, Spain's national museum of 20th-century art, that contains works by masters such as Picasso and Salvador Dalí. 

After a bit of culture, you might consider visiting El Retiro Park. This 308-acre space is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, a man-made lake, and a 400-year-old Mexican conifer which is regarded as the oldest tree in Madrid. There are also must-visit gardens here including the Jardín de Vivaces ("Garden of Vivacious Plants"), Jardines de Cecilio Rodríguez (inspired by the Andalusia region), and a garden home to over 4,000 roses (best to see these blooms from May through June). 

When evening arrives, head up to one of the city's many rooftop bars for a drink and views of the city lights.

Day 3: Day Trip to Toledo 

The Alcázar towering over Toledo
The Alcázar towering over Toledo

A half-hour train ride south of Madrid lies Toledo, a historic city that was the capital of Spain in the 16th century. It enjoys a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo. This is where you'll be heading in the morning from Madrid.

In the Middle Ages, Toledo was known as the "City of the Three Cultures," a place where—legend has it—Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities peacefully coexisted. You can see remnants of this in the old Arab, Muslim, and Christian monuments that still stand. These include the 15th-century Monastery of San Juan de Los Reyes, the former Roman palace Alcázar de Toledo, and the Moorish Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, which dates to the 12th century.

Accompanied by an expert guide you'll visit these historic landmarks as well as others, including the grand 13th century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th century Church of Santo Tomé. Throughout it all, you'll tour the ancient streets of an incredible city that could aptly be described as an open-air museum. After all, it does enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Status. 

Toledo is also known for its steelwork. On a visit to the city's historic foundry, you'll see where ancient blacksmiths forged the famous swords made from Toledo steel. These were used by the Roman general Hannibal in the Punic Wars and by the Christian armies in the Middle Ages during the reconquest of Spain from the Muslims. These weapons are of incomparable quality, and you can appreciate the craftwork by viewing some of the swords at the foundry as well as learn about the forging process. 

This area is also famous for producing delicious marzipan, a confection made from almonds, sugar, eggs, and honey. You'll head to the outskirts of Toledo and visit a cigarral, a manor estate that exists mostly for leisure. However, today you'll be able to participate in a workshop where, with the help of a master confectioner, you'll learn the history of traditional Toledan marzipan as well as how to confect this delicious treat. Needless to say, the workshop ends with you indulging in your sweet creations. 

Optional activities in Toledo include:

  • Fly over the Tagus River on an urban zip line for unqie views of the city's architecture. 
  • Become a swordsmith for a day and learn how swords were made back in the day.

After the tour, you'll return to Madrid by train.

Day 4: Train from Madrid to Granada & Guided City Tour

Granada
Granada

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the train station for your journey three hours south to the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the city of Granada. Located in Spain's southern autonomous community of Andalusia, Granada is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in the south. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and have some time to relax and unwind. 

In the late afternoon, you'll meet a guide for a city tour of Granada by bike. Or if you prefer a slower pace, you can opt for a walking tour instead. You'll visit all the major sites, including the Plaza Nueva (the oldest square in the city), the Albaicín (the medieval/Moorish historic center), Barrio Realejo (the historic Jewish Quarter), and the 16th century Catedral de Granada, the largest and most opulent Roman Catholic church in the city.

End the day at a local eatery where you'll enjoy some traditional tapas and drinks. Bring your appetite—Granada is known for its huge portion sizes.

Plan your trip to Spain
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Day 5: Tour of the Alhambra & Generalife Gardens

The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens
The Alhambra and Generalife Gardens

Granada was once the last bastion of Al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) when it was ruled by the moors. You can see examples of this history in the form of Granada's most famous landmark, the Alhambra, which receives more than two million visitors annually. In the morning, you'll meet an expert guide for your tour. 

This imposing Muslim fortress was built atop a hill overlooking Granada and dates to the 9th century. It was rebuilt in the 14th century by the Nasrid Dynasty and served as a Moorish palace until 1492 when, after the Christian reconquest, it became the Royal Court of Ferdinand and Isabella. It's now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and on a tour, you'll walk through its grand halls and stroll the Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains and offer panoramic views of the city down below.

After the tour, you'll have free time to enjoy Grenada on your own. You can walk around the labyrinthine streets of the Albayzin and Sacromonte quarters, the well-preserved historic neighborhoods of the city. In areas such as these, you can visit the Granada Cathedral, Royal Church, Alcaicería (old silk market), and Madraza (medieval Koranic school).

Day 6: Train to Málaga & City Tour 

Spend the day touring Malaga with a local guide
Spend the day touring Malaga with a local guide

After breakfast, take the train to Málaga. Upon arrival, check in to your hotel and head out to explore before your guided city tour. 

The city is fast growing in popularity and offers a buzzing atmosphere and a wealth of things to see and do. Your guide will tell you all about Málaga's history, stopping by spots such as the Roman Theatre, and the Cathedral of Málaga Your guide will bring the city to life, and give you plenty of ideas on what to see and do in your free time.

For dinner, sample the local cuisine of fish and seasonal vegetables, along with olives, almonds, grapes, raisins, and delicious baked goods. Check out the waterfront or the Old Town along Calle Marques de Larios, which offers some excellent restaurant options.

Day 7: Picasso Guided Visit & Cooking Class

Try your hand at learning local cuisine

Besides its medieval cathedrals and enviable location on Spain's Costa del Sol, Malaga prides itself on being the birthplace of one of the most prominent and revolutionary artists in history: Pablo Picasso. Today's exclusive tour of Málaga is centered around this painter, sculptor, and “father of Cubism." You will visit the Picasso Museum, located in the historic center of the city. It's home to almost 300 works by Málaga's most famous son, all of them donated from Picassos' family estate.

Alternately, explore a different side of Malaga via a culinary class. Start the experience with in Colmenar, where you will have traditional Spanish breakfast. After, explore the city on a short walking tour to observe the local day-to-day life of this typical rural town.

From here, drive into the campo (countryside) through the mountains, taking in the scenery and distant views of the Sierra Nevada and sea.  After a 10-minute drive through the olive and almond groves you will arrive at La Rosilla, a rustic, traditional Spanish finca (cottage).

Spend the day here, learning, indulging, and creating together with your private group. Enjoy tapas, taste local ingredients, create traditional seasonal dishes, sip regional wines, and learn the history of the area through the medium of food. 

The dishes you cook will be Spanish style as a long leisurely lunch, enjoyed alfresco on the grapevine-covered terrace during warm months, or in front of a roaring fire in the winter. 

Day 8: Transfer to Seville & Guided City Tour

Take a private river cruise
Take a private river cruise

After breakfast, your private transfer will take you to Seville. Upon arrival, check-in and meet up with your local expert guide for an architecture and cultural tour of Seville's numerous sights, such as the Plaza de España, Guadalquivir Riverfront, Setas Marketplace, Plaza de San Francisco, and some of the city's most beautiful gardens and parks (you can also opt to do biking city tour).

During the excursion, your informative guide will share anecdotes and explain some of the mysteries and stories behind the city of Seville.  Following the tour, you'll have the rest of the day to spend as you please, perhaps taking a long paseo (stroll) to enjoy the surroundings at your own pace.

Optional activities:

  • Visit Royal Alcazar. This is a fortified palace created in distinct historical ages, with some preserved Islamic art. The styles that predominate are Mudejar art and the Gothic style, as well as areas with Renaissance and Baroque elements. 

 

  • Meet Seville's local artisans. Along with your guide, you'll head to the city's old town and walk down a small side street where a simple, nondescript door welcomes you into a 19th-century abode filled with artistic treasures. This is where renowned art restorers invite you into their homes to share their passion for their profession and reveal the techniques they use to save age-old pieces and bring them back to life

Day 9: Olive Oil Experience & Evening Flamenco Show

Flamenco in the Center of Seville
Flamenco in the Center of Seville

In the morning, a driver will pick you up at your hotel and transfer you outside the city to a special locale in the countryside. One of Spain's most popular exports is its high-quality olive oil, and today you'll experience the production process firsthand on an exclusive tour of an Andalusian olive oil estate. This estate has quite the history, as it was right here back in the 17th-century that Christopher Columbus' son Hernando began exporting olive oil to the Americas. 

You'll tour the old manufacturing center and view the 16th-century olive oil presses. You'll also visit the estate's working presses, which use modern methods to produce the olive oil they export today. The excursion ends with a tasting of olive oils from the estate, allowing you to put your newfound knowledge of this tasty ingredient to good use.

After returning to Seville, prepare for your big night out: a flamenco show in one of the most renowned tablaos (performance halls)w of Seville

Day 10: Day Trip to Cadiz 

The inviting Paseo Campo del Sur waterfront promenade
The inviting Paseo Campo del Sur waterfront promenade

In the morning, you will take the train to Cádiz. Upon arrival, head out to explore.

You have the whole day free to enjoy a self-guided tour of Cádiz, one of the most historic cities in southern Spain. It was the site of the creation of Spain's first constitution, which was passed in 1812 in the Church of Oratorio de San Felipe Neri, establishing national sovereignty from France. Here you can also visit a historic square where the charter was once read aloud, the Plaza de San Antonio.

But Cádiz is much more than historical landmarks and beautiful churches. It's a wonderland for foodies, and there's no greater spot in which to be indoctrinated into this city's gastronomic culture than the Mercado Central de Abastos. Dating back to 1838, this is Spain's oldest indoor municipal market, and it features more than 150 stalls comprised of everything from restaurants to tapas bars to fresh produce vendors, fishmongers, butchers, and more. The market is most alive on Fridays and Saturdays. 

Near the market, in the central old town area of Cádiz, is the Paseo Campo del Sur. Some say that Cádiz and Havana, Cuba, are sister cities, and walking along this waterfront promenade, you'll see why. It's a perfect place to take in the view of the majestic twin bell towers that comprise the 17th-century Catedral de Cádiz, which dominates the skyline.

There's also an inviting beach in the city center in the form of La Caleta, the most popular stretch of sand in town. If you aren't merely content on land, consider a half-day sailing tour around the tranquil Bay of Cádiz and down the coast. The waters in the bay are calm, allowing you to enjoy the beautiful scenery amid total relaxation. It's even better as you sip a glass of Cádiz's regional Garum red wine.

In the evening, explore Cádiz's famous restaurant scene. Taberna Casa Manteca is renowned for serving simple delicious tapas like chicharrones and goat cheese in typical Andalusian surroundings (there are bulls heads mounted on the wall). For breakfast served in opulent surroundings try the appropriately named Café Royalty, which is done in Renaissance style. Try the tortitas (pancakes) and/or homemade chocolate cake.

Because Cádiz is a port city, expect great seafood. For the freshest around, don't miss restaurant El Faro de Cádiz. This throwback to another age (the waiters are in white jackets and bow ties) was once a sailor haunt and now serves a variety of fish and shellfish including dorada (gilt-head bream), sea bass, oysters, and crayfish. But they're really famous for their shrimp fritters.

At the end of the day, return to Seville by train.

Day 11: Train From Seville to Madrid 

Madrid's Gran Vía
Madrid's Gran Vía

After breakfast, you'll transfer to the train station for a three-hour journey north to Madrid. From here you'll hop in a taxi for the drive to your hotel. After checking in, you'll have the rest of the day free to enjoy however you wish. Perhaps you'll want to do some more sightseeing and discover some of the landmarks and locales you might have missed out on during your first visit.

Day 12: Depart From Madrid

Bustling, Vibrant Madrid at Night
Bustling Madrid at night

In the morning a driver will meet you for a private transfer to the airport. This concludes your great journey through Spain. Adios!