- Enjoy walking tours through the historic cities of Barcelona, Toledo, and Seville
- Discover the incredible architecture of Antoni Gaudí in Barcelona
- Tour the impressive Alhambra in Granada and the Alcazar in Segovia
- Visit the traditional white villages of Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra
- Eat your way through Spain's oldest market in Cádiz
|Day 1||Arrive in Barcelona - Enjoy a self-guided afternoon tour||Barcelona|
|Day 2||Tour Gaudi's architecture and Barcelona's markets||Barcelona|
|Day 3||Relax with a free day in Barcelona or opt for a day trip||Barcelona|
|Day 4||Take the train to Madrid - Explore the city||Madrid|
|Day 5||Explore Madrid with a free day||Madrid|
|Day 6||Day Trip to Segovia by train||Madrid|
|Day 7||Discover the UNESCO city of Toledo||Madrid|
|Day 8||Take the train to Córdoba - Explore the city||Córdoba|
|Day 9||Wander the streets of Córdoba at your leisure||Córdoba|
|Day 10||Transfer from Córdoba to Granada via the Caminito del Rey||Granada|
|Day 11||Tour the Alhambra - Enjoy an evening flamenco show||Granada|
|Day 12||Explore the towns of Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera||Granada|
|Day 13||Transfer to Seville via Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra||Seville|
|Day 14||Discover the history and landmarks of Seville||Seville|
|Day 15||Take the train to Cádiz and explore the city||Seville|
|Day 16||Fly from Seville to Barcelona - Depart Spain|
Day 1: Arrive in Barcelona - Enjoy a self-guided afternoon tour
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.
Start in the neighborhood of Mt. Montjuic and the surrounding area. Montjuic is a famous hill that stands 1,988 feet (606 m) 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 or by the funicular elevator adjacent to the cable car.
The Poble Espanyol is also worth the visit. Constructed in 1929, this open-air museum features over 100 recreated buildings in the style of traditional Spanish villages. When the sun starts to set over the city, head to the Magic Fountain of Montjuic, named for the dazzling display of water and colored lights that occur after dark.
For dinner, check out the Gothic Quarter for traditional street food and late-night restaurants.
Day 2: Tour Gaudi's architecture and Barcelona's markets
After breakfast, you'll join your guide for a tour of Antoni Gaudi's architectural masterpieces. You'll start by exploring Park Güell, which is composed of extensive gardens and Gaudi's artistic elements. It's set on Carmel Hill with fantastic views of Barcelona. This is also a great place to see local buskers performing in the park's hidden corners.
You’ll then make your way over to Casa Mila, one of Gaudi’s most iconic works of civil architecture due to its constructional and functional innovations, as well as its ornamental and decorative components. Built for the wealthy and aristocratic Milà family, the result is a moving work of art.
To end your day, you'll stop at a few of Barcelona's local markets to taste a range of Spanish delights. With the advice and careful selection of your guide, you'll taste many of the city's staple foods.
Day 3: Relax with a free day in Barcelona or opt for a day trip
Today you can explore Barcelona on your own, or you can opt for one of several day trips from the city. Day trips are a great way to see glimpses of Catalan life beyond the big city. Outside of Barcelona's borders lie a wonderland of rugged mountains, golden beaches, and 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 for 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 the12th-century Sant Pere de Galligants, a Romanesque Benedictine abbey that 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. Here you'll find handsome Modernista architecture and the 18th-century military fortress of Sant Ferran Castle. Figueres is best known for the Teatre-Museu Dalí. 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. Inside the church, you'll find a statue of the Virgin of Montserrat, the patron saint of Barcelona, above the altar. 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 last option is the coastal town of Sitges. Located about 45 minutes southwest of Barcelona, it 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: Take the train to Madrid - Explore the city
Today you'll transfer to the train station where you'll embark on a 3.5-hour journey to the nation's capital. Upon arrival in Madrid, settle into your downtown hotel and enjoy the rest of the day to explore the city at your own pace.
If you're interested in seeing a show, head to Gran Vía (Madrid's answer to Broadway) where you'll find plenty of theaters showcasing plays and musical productions. The options for culture in this city are vast, so you can also visit museums, art galleries, and live music venues if the mood strikes.
When night falls, be sure to indulge in Madrid's culinary scene. If you want to dine amid history, head to the city center and Botín, which is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest restaurant in the world—it first opened its doors in 1725. 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. Enjoy this family-run taberna by sampling traditional Madrid cuisine. 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).
Lakasa. Located in Chamberí—a neighborhood heavy with museums and galleries—is this locally-celebrated gem. Its intimate space pairs perfectly with its menu of fresh seasonal produce, wild game, and homemade stews.
- La Terraza del Madrid. This rooftop restaurant in the city center is the place to come to splurge on an unforgettable meal of haute cuisine, with two Michelin stars, a location in a swanky private club, and a 21-coarse tasting menu on offer.
Day 5: Explore Madrid with a free day
Despite Madrid being one of the biggest cities in Europe, its city center, which houses the bulk of its monuments, is easily accessible on foot. After breakfast, enjoy meandering the city on your own.
A good place to start is Puerta del Sol, the central meeting point of Madrid and the radial center of all Spanish roadways. You'll also find the famous statue, El Oso y el Madroño, the bear with a strawberry tree, which has been the city's coat of arms since the 13th century.
Nearby is Plaza Mayor—a great stop for some tapas—and the Royal Palace of Madrid. There are two gardens near the palace, the Sabatini Gardens and Campo del Moro. You can't miss the impressive Catedral de la Almudena, a beautiful, baroque Catholic cathedral.
Other sites to see include the many fountains of Madrid, such as the Cibeles and Neptune Fountains, plus the Puerta de Alcalá, the Prado art museum, the Temple of Debod, and Plaza de España.
For lunch, head to the Mercado de San Miguel, which was originally built in 1916. Here you can try different traditional Spanish foods with an endless offering of tapas and meals. You can also try local wine and sherry.
Afterward, continue your tour of Madrid independently. If you didn't already visit it yesterday, enjoy your afternoon in El Retiro Park, which once belonged to the Spanish Monarchy. Spend some time amongst the beautifully-manicured gardens, fountains, walking paths, museums, and the lake where you can row a boat around the Monument to Alfonso XII. The Crystal Palace is a surreal space with a revolving modern art exhibit, a great spot to catch the sunset as it bursts through the glass.
Another idea for sunset is a rooftop bar. The terrace above the Círculo de Bellas Artes offers incredible views of the city, plus tapas and drinks. Grab dinner at a traditional tavern in the city center. The side streets around Calle de la Cruz are filled with colorfully-tiled facades and delicious Spanish cuisine.
Day 6: Day Trip to Segovia by train
After breakfast, catch the train for a short ride to Segovia. Upon arrival, you'll meet your guide for a half-day city tour. There is no shortage of historic cities in Spain, but Segovia stands out for its famous Roman Aqueduct and medieval Old Town, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Upon visiting these sights on a walking tour, you'll quickly see what all the fuss is about. Segovia's famous Roman Aqueduct is the pride of the city. It runs eight miles (14 km) in length, stands an impressive 93-feet (28 meters) high, and features two tiers comprised of 160 arches. Considering this aqueduct is nearly 2,000 years old, it is in remarkably good condition.
Then there's Old Town, which is situated on a bluff overlooking the Eresma and Clamores rivers. For a long time, Moors, Christians, and Jews coexisted in harmony here, and this is seen in the unique buildings with architectural influences from Mudéjar to Gothic. You can't miss the 11th century Alcázar Palace (said to have inspired Walt Disney), the 14th-century Old Main Synagogue, and the 16th-century Segovia Cathedral, which dominates the skyline.
After the walking tour, you'll enjoy a lunch of typical Segovian cuisine. The roasted suckling pig is Segovia's specialty.
After lunch, there will be time to explore the city. Be sure to try some local pastries, ponche Segoviano.
In the afternoon, you'll return to Madrid.
Day 7: Discover the UNESCO city of Toledo
A half-hour train ride from Madrid takes you to the historic city of Toledo, which was once the capital of Spain in the 16th century. The layered city is perched atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo, its massive 16th-century fortress dominating the scene.
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 the 13th-century Toledo Cathedral and the 12th-century Church of Santo Tomé. Enjoy walking the ancient streets of this UNESCO World Heritage City, which is often described as an open-air museum.
After your walking tour, you'll learn about the steelwork that is crafted in Toledo. 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. These weapons are of incomparable quality, and you can appreciate the craftwork by viewing some of the swords at the foundry.
In the afternoon, you'll have some free time to wander Toledo before catching the train back to Madrid.
Day 8: Take the train to Córdoba - Explore the city
In the morning, you'll make your way to Atocha Train Station where you'll board a high-speed train to Córdoba. It's a pleasant, 2-hour journey south with views of the beautiful Spanish countryside.
Upon arrival in Córdoba, you'll settle into your hotel, unwind, and spend the remainder of the day however you see fit. If you have the energy to explore, you can take a quick stroll along the narrow streets of Córdoba's historic Jewish Quarter. Or, head to the western outskirts of the city and visit the ruins of the Medina Azahara, a Moorish palace-city built in the 10th century.
Of course, one of the best strolls anywhere in the city is along the Roman Bridge of Córdoba, which dates to the 1st century BCE. You can't miss this view at sunset.
In the afternoon, visit the Alcázar de Los Reyes, a palace built in the 14th century. This is where Christopher Columbus met with the Catholic monarchs and was granted approval for his voyage west in search of the Indies. The terraced gardens, fish ponds, flower beds, and orange trees here make for great photo opportunities.
Day 9: Wander the streets of Córdoba at your leisure
Today is a free day to explore Córdoba at your leisure. Start at the incredible Mezquita, a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate and later transformed into a Catholic church. You'll quickly see why Córdoba was the capital of Islamic Spain and, at the time, Western Europe's biggest and most cultured city.
If you didn't visit it yesterday, spend some time at the Medina Azahara, which was commissioned by the first Caliph of Córdoba, Abd al-Rahman III in the 10th century. Medina Azahara was a medieval town and the de facto capital of al-Andalus, the medieval name of the Iberian Peninsula. You'll walk around the ancient palace and learn about how it once served as the heart of administration and government. You can stop by the new museum that lies on the edge of the site for a quick look at the impressive and fitting architecture. This is one of Spain's most impressive archaeological sites.
From here, Córdoba offers charming, stone-paved lanes away from the tourist hub around the Mezquita where you can wander between flowering plants and hanging trees encountering hidden plazas and courtyards. This is only a small city but it offers ample history and culture around every corner. Discover to your heart's content before sitting down for some delicious tapas at one or more of Córdoba's local bars.
Day 10: Transfer from Córdoba to Granada via the Caminito del Rey
After breakfast in Córdoba, you'll meet your driver and set off towards the recently opened and very popular Caminito del Rey. This walkway was built along a gorge carved out by the Guadalhorce River, at times only 33 feet (10 m) wide and 2,297 feet (700 m) deep.
You'll start at the northern entrance, where you'll get your safety equipment before proceeding along the trail, taking in its views down the steep-sided gorge. It's a one-way trail, which typically takes around 3-4 hours to complete.
At the endpoint, your driver will meet you to take you the rest of the way to Granada where you'll settle into your accommodation and enjoy the rest of the day to explore on your own. This city, famous for the palace complex called Alhambra, is situated at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains. An interesting neighborhood to peruse on your first afternoon is Bib-Rambla, an area of the city with great shopping, restaurants, and bars.
Day 11: Tour the Alhambra - Enjoy an evening flamenco show
Today you'll visit the Alhambra, the most iconic landmark in Granada and one that many call the eighth wonder of the world. This famous palace/fortress complex was constructed in the 9th century and was home to rulers of the Moorish/Muslim Nasrid Dynasty as well as the Royal Court of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella.
With countless rooms and the extensive Generalife Gardens, which are filled with colorful flowers and fountains, this mountaintop fortress makes for an unforgettable visit. You can opt for a private visit or a guided group tour.
After the tour, you'll have the rest of the day to explore the city on your own, perhaps strolling around one of Granada's oldest neighborhoods, Albaicín. Here you'll find several viewpoints overlooking the city, the mountains, and the Alhambra. In the evening, enjoy dinner and a cultural flamenco show, as Andalusia is the birthplace of this romantic dance.
Day 12: Explore the towns of Ronda and Arcos de la Frontera
Enjoy a day trip through some of Andalusia's most enchanting locales. Take in the views as you drive through olive groves, rolling meadows, and cork forests. As you wrap around mountains, you'll pass the region's "white villages", which are ancient hilltop towns famous for their whitewashed buildings.
Your destination is Ronda, a historic city located atop a gorge in the Málaga province. Along the way, you'll stop in Arcos de la Frontera, one of the aforementioned white villages. On a tour with an expert guide, meander the cobbled streets and admire the Moorish towers and castles. Discover the many points in town where you can enjoy sweeping vistas of the Andalusian countryside below.
After the walking tour, you'll stop at a local restaurant for a traditional Andalusian lunch and local wine. You'll then continue to Ronda, arriving in the afternoon. This is one of Andalusia’s most beautiful towns, famous for being built alongside a gaping river gorge that drops 393 feet (120 meters) straight down. The gorge bisects Ronda's old and new towns, which are connected by an 18th-century triple-arched bridge.
You'll have time to explore Ronda on your own, taking in the views and visiting the medieval buildings and ancient Moorish architecture. You can also visit the Plaza de Toros, the oldest bullring in Spain. At the end of the day, you'll drive back to Granada.
Day 13: Transfer to Seville via Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra
Spend your final morning in Granada with a relaxed breakfast, then prepare to explore some of Andalusia's most enchanting sites with your guide. You'll visit some of the region's other "white villages".
Your first stop will be in Grazalema. Here, you will sample the renowned payoyo cheese and explore the streets of Spain's most popular white village. Afterward, head over to Zahara de la Sierra where you'll visit a nearby olive mill, learning about the production of olive oil and tasting different varieties.
After lunch in Zahara de la Sierra, you'll continue your journey inland, up and over the mountains to your hotel in Seville, the largest of the white villages. Upon arrival, drop off your luggage and settle into your room before venturing out to explore the city. Tomorrow you'll enjoy a walking tour of the city, so for tonight, you can stroll through its famous Plaza de España and grab dinner in the San Lorenzo neighborhood.
Day 14: Discover the history and landmarks of Seville
After breakfast, you'll explore Seville with a local guide. Start with the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. You'll also see La Giralda, which is the cathedral's looming belltower. There's a noticeable stylistic difference between the two structures, as this 12th-century pillar was originally built as a minaret for the Great Mosque back when Andalusia was ruled by the Moors.
Then, travel back to the era of the Christan conquest when you visit the Alcázar of Seville. This royal palace was commissioned for King Peter of Castile in the 14th century and was built over the site of a former Muslim fortress. It features well-manicured gardens, and the building itself is one of the finest examples of Mudéjar architecture in the nation.
After stopping at the Alcázar, stroll through the fashionable Santa Cruz neighborhood, which was once the Jewish Quarter in the city. It's a colorful and well-preserved part of the historic center, with many options for cafés and tapas bars. You can also visit crafts markets and local shops where seasoned artisans produce intricate silverwork and elegant garment embroidery.
After completing the half-day tour, you can return to your hotel and relax, or continue to explore the town. If you decide to head out for the night, do like the locals and enjoy an evening of tapas with a nightcap at a wine bar
Day 15: Take the train to Cádiz and explore the city
Make your way to the train station for your journey south to the oldest city in Europe, Cádiz.
You have the whole day 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 also a wonderland for foodies with its renowned Mercado Central de Abastos. Dating back to 1838, this is Spain's oldest indoor municipal market, featuring more than 150 stalls comprised of everything from restaurants and tapas bars, to fresh produce vendors, fishmongers, butchers, and more.
Near the market, in the central Old Town 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.
Cádiz is also known for its beaches, with La Caleta as the most popular stretch of sand in town. It's easy to spend all your time on the beach, but you can also enjoy the water with a half-day sailing tour around the tranquil Bay of Cádiz and down the coast. Tours usually include a glass of Cádiz's regional Garum red wine.
In the late afternoon, grab a snack at Taberna Casa Manteca, which is known for serving simple tapas like chicharrones and goat cheese. Because Cádiz is a port city, you can also expect great seafood. For the freshest in the city, check out restaurant El Faro de Cádiz. This traditional eatery was once a sailor haunt and now serves a variety of fish and seafood, including dorada (gilt-head bream), sea bass, oysters, and crayfish.
At the end of the day, you will return to Seville by train.
Day 16: Fly from Seville to Barcelona - Depart Spain
In the morning, a driver will pick you up from your hotel and transfer you to the airport, where you'll catch a 1.5-hour flight to Barcelona. From here, you can catch your flight back home, or continue onto your next destination.