Five days may not be much time, but if you focus your energy you can create the perfect Spanish holiday. This itinerary focuses on Madrid and Barcelona, and in the former, you'll visit its most famous city sights, enjoy gourmet walking tours, and visit local artisans. In Barcelona, you'll discover this Catalan gem via its cuisine as well as an unforgettable cruise around its port by sailboat. 

Highlights

  • Experience the tastes of Spain on guided food tours
  • Visit the famous museums, plazas, and palaces of Madrid
  • Tour La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona's famous Gothic Cathedral
  • Enjoy views of Barcelona from the deck of a sailboat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid - Evening Tapas Tour Madrid
Day 2 Private City Tour - El Prado Museum - Meet Local Artisans Madrid
Day 3 Train from Madrid to Barcelona - Evening Tapas Tour Barcelona
Day 4 Private Tour of La Sagrada Familia & Sailboat Cruise Barcelona
Day 5 Depart Barcelona  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid - Evening Tapas Tour

The Fountain of Cibeles, in Madrid
The Fountain of Cibeles, 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.

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 lit 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: Private City Tour - El Prado Museum - Meet Local Artisans

El Prado Museum, Madrid
El Prado Museum, Madrid

After breakfast, a private guide will pick you up from your hotel and take you on a four-hour walking tour of Madrid's highlights. Your guide will adapt to your speed and style, whether you prefer a leisurely stroll or a brisk pace to squeeze in as many sites as possible. 

First, you'll visit the magnificent El Prado museum, which features one of the finest collections of European art in the world. This includes works by Velazquez, El Greco, and Goya. Your guide will lead you through some of these exhibits before leaving you to continue exploring on your own.

Next on the tour is a cultural experience that serves as a unique introduction to Spain's long-standing traditions. You'll visit the workshops of some of the city's most talented artisans to see firsthand their prowess and creativity. There are a variety of folks you can visit, including a craftsman of handmade Spanish guitars, a tailor who creates bullfighters' costumes, a manufacturer of traditional wine bota-bags (wineskins made of leather or goatskin), handcrafters of traditional Spanish capes, and more.

Should you choose, before parting ways your guide can recommend a good nearby restaurant or tapas bar—the perfect spot to cap your day in Madrid.

Day 3: Train from Madrid to Barcelona - Evening Tapas Tour

The Arc de Triomf, in Barcelona
The Arc de Triomf, in Barcelona

In the morning you'll leave Madrid on a high-speed train bound for Barcelona. After a three-hour trip, you'll arrive at the Mediterranean coast and the beautiful capital of Catalonia. Make no mistake, Barcelona abounds with as much energy and excitement as it does culture and history. 

Upon arrival, you'll transfer to your hotel in Old Town. After settling in, you can head out and explore, perhaps starting with Mt. Montjuic. This famous hill stands 1,988 feet (606 meters) 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 take the cable car from Barceloneta Beach and the funicular elevator adjacent to the cable car. 

Should you decide to stay in, that's fine too. You can relax and enjoy your hotel accommodations before meeting up with a private guide for an evening food tour. This is your chance to experience Barcelona's culinary scene with a local expert who will show you the city's best off-the-beaten-path tapas bars.

Day 4: Private Tour of La Sagrada Familia & Sailboat Cruise

Spend a day on the water
Spend a day on the water

After breakfast, you'll meet a local guide for a walking tour of the city, which stops at the famous La Sagrada Familia. This iconic Roman Catholic basilica is an impressive mix of gothic, Catalan-modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles. Despite construction beginning in 1882, the church is still technically under construction and was only consecrated in 2010. Upon arrival, your guide will reveal insight into Sagrada Familia's history, and you'll glean even more info as you explore the interior. 

Later in the afternoon, you'll embark on another private tour, this time aboard a chartered sailboat. On this two-hour excursion, you'll sail just outside Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast while enjoying panoramic views of the city’s skyline. After relaxing on the boat for a couple of hours, you'll return to dry land and enjoy the rest of the afternoon and evening at your leisure.

Day 5: Depart Barcelona

Goodbye, Barcelona!
Goodbye, Barcelona!

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 onwards. Have a good trip!

Map

Map of Off the Beaten Path in Madrid & Barcelona - 5 Days
Map of Off the Beaten Path in Madrid & Barcelona - 5 Days