In just over a week you can not only experience the highlights of Spain but go off the beaten track as well. This eight-day itinerary delivers on the famous sights and neighborhoods of Madrid and Barcelona, but you'll really immerse yourself on gourmet walking tours of these cities. Throw in a sunset sailboat cruise around Barcelona and you have the recipe for the perfect Spanish holiday. 

Highlights

  • Experience the tastes of Spain on guided food tours
  • Visit the famous museums, plazas, and palaces of Madrid
  • Tour the iconic buildings of legendary Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí
  • See Barcelona by bicycle and sailboat

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Madrid Madrid
Day 2 Private Tour of Madrid - El Prado Museum Madrid
Day 3 Day Trip to Segovia & Pedraza Madrid
Day 4 Gourmet Walking Tour of Madrid Madrid
Day 5 Train from Madrid to Barcelona - Evening Tapas Tour Barcelona
Day 6 Gaudí Architecture Tour & Markets of Barcelona Barcelona
Day 7 Private Bike Tour & Luxury Sunset Cruise in Barcelona Barcelona
Day 8 Depart Barcelona  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Madrid

Madrid at night
Madrid at night

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: Private Tour of Madrid - El Prado Museum

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 the city 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. 

At the end of the tour, 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.

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: Day Trip to Segovia & Pedraza

The impressive Roman Aqueduct of Segovia
The impressive Roman Aqueduct of Segovia

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 not least of which 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 that run the gamut from Mudéjar to Gothic. You'll see many such landmarks around Old Town, such as 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 enjoy lunch in a local restaurant—be sure to try the roasted suckling pig, which is Segovia's specialty. Then you'll leave Segovia and head northeast about half an hour 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 the short tour of Pedraza, you'll hop back in the car and return to Madrid, where you'll have the evening free.

Day 4: Gourmet Walking Tour of Madrid

Enjoy Spain's classic dishes on a gourmet walking tour
Enjoy Spain's classic dishes on a gourmet walking tour

This is an excursion perfectly suited to any culinary traveler. It's a four-hour walking tour (either morning or afternoon) in which you'll visit three exceptional gourmet shops accompanied by an expert local guide.

First, you'll visit a purveyor of artisanal cured meats and sample one of Spain's most popular specialties: Iberian ham. It's a delicious and educational tour as you'll not only taste this delectable product but learn about it too. What makes Iberian ham so special? How do you identify it? How is it cured and cut? You'll learn the answers to these questions before continuing on to the next delicious stop. 

Olive oil is the theme of your next stop. There are over 240 types of olives grown in Spain, each with its own specific flavor profile. At an olive-oil shop, you'll taste oils from different regions of the country and enjoy various olives while learning 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 as you visit a chocolatier specializing in handmade chocolate creations in both liquid and solid form. It will be an indulgent delight as the tasting involves using your senses of sight, smell, and taste to decipher and enjoy the different flavor notes and ingredients infused into the chocolate.

After this whirlwind foodie experience, our guide will leave you, but not before recommending a great nearby restaurant in which to enjoy a traditional madrileño lunch or dinner.

Day 5: 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 6: Gaudí Architecture Tour & Markets of Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudí masterpiece
La Sagrada Familia, a Gaudí masterpiece

After breakfast, a local guide will meet you at your hotel for an exclusive architecture tour. The destinations are some of the most astounding works by the legendary Catalan architect Antonio Gaudí. 

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. It also features pretty gardens and views of the city. Plus, this lively park is a great place to see local musicians busking.

Then you'll head to the famous boulevard Passeig de Grácia. It's home to upscale boutiques as well as another masterpiece by Gaudí: the Casa Milá apartment building, which is nicknamed "La Pedrera" because its facade resembles a stone quarry. Originally built for the aristocratic Milà family around 1906, the result is an iconic work of Catalan-modernism architecture.

Later, you'll stop at a few of Barcelona's best local markets to taste a range of Spanish culinary delights with the help and guidance of your expert guide.

Day 7: Private Bike Tour & Luxury Sunset Cruise in Barcelona

Take a sunset cruise around Barcelona
Take a sunset cruise around Barcelona

After breakfast, you'll be embarking on a guided bicycle tour of Barcelona. This three-hour tour passes through historic and popular neighborhoods like the medieval Gothic Quarter and trendy Raval and El Born, Along the way your guide will point out historic highlights, including Roman ruins, the grand Plaça Reial, and the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century. 

But the tour doesn't end here. You'll cycle from the Gothic Quarter through Ciutadella Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city, all the way to Barceloneta Beach. This is Barcelona's main urban beach, and it's always a hub of activity, lined as it is with cafés, beaches, bars, and discos. Riding along the promenade fronting the water is the perfect way to cap your cycling tour of Barcelona's most famous areas.

After the cycling tour, you'll return to the hotel and relax for a bit. ln the early evening, head to the port and board a private sailboat for a sunset cruise off the coast. While there's still daylight, you can use the included fishing equipment to try and land a big catch.

After two hours of cruising the waters and watching the sunset, you'll return to port and transfer back to your hotel. Feel free to enjoy the remainder of the evening in Barcelona however you like.

Day 8: 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 - 8 Days
Map of Off the Beaten Path in Madrid & Barcelona - 8 Days