To really experience Spain you need to visit different regions, immerse yourself in local culture, and sample as much delectable cuisine as possible. That's exactly what you'll do on a 12-day adventure that will take you from Barcelona to Madrid and down to Andalusia. Throughout the journey, you'll take gourmet cooking classes, attend an authentic flamenco show, and enjoy some of the greatest food and wine in the world.

Highlights

  • Take a private cooking class in Barcelona taught by a master chef
  • Enjoy an exclusive flamenco show at a local venue
  • Discover Madrid's rich history on a private tour of the city
  • Tour a working olive-oil estate
  • Visit some of the highlights of Andalusia, like Seville and Córdoba

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour Barcelona
Day 2 Private Tour of Barcelona by Land & Air Barcelona
Day 3 Private Cooking Class with a Master Chef Barcelona
Day 4 Train from Barcelona to Madrid Madrid
Day 5 Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy Madrid
Day 6 Free Day in Madrid - Evening Flamenco Experience Madrid
Day 7 Train from Madrid to Seville Seville
Day 8 Private City Tour of Seville Seville
Day 9 Visit an Olive Oil Estate Seville
Day 10 Private Transfer from Seville to Córdoba - Stop in Carmona Córdoba
Day 11 Private City Tour of Córdoba Córdoba
Day 12 Private Transfer from Córdoba to Madrid - Departure  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour

Traditional street in Barcelona's Poble Espanyol
Traditional street in Barcelona's Poble Espanyol

Welcome to Spain!

Upon arrival at Barcelona's El Prat Airport, a private driver will transfer you into the city where you can check into your four-star 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: Private Tour of Barcelona by Land & Air

Aerial view of Barcelona and the Sagrada Familia
Aerial view of Barcelona and 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 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. Interestingly, it also has a storybook quality due to the bright colors and smooth organic shapes. The park takes up 42 acres and you'll be able to marvel at every building as you stroll the myriad 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 that's an impressive mix of gothic, Catalan-modernism, and Art Nouveau architectural styles. Despite construction on the church beginning in 1882, it's still technically listed as being 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. 

Then you'll head to the famous boulevard Passeig de Grácia. It's home to upscale boutiques as well as two buildings by Gaudí. The first is the Casa Mila apartment building, which earned the nickname "La Pedrera" because its facade resembles a stone quarry. Casa Batlló is another modernist masterpiece of a residential building. Locals have christened it Casa dels Ossos, or "House of Bones" due to the skeletal nature of its design. 

After touring Barcelona's streets, it will be time to change perspective and take to the skies on a helicopter tour. This excursion lasts a brisk 10 minutes, during which you'll be able to look down on every major landmark in the city as well as the impressive coastline. It's the perfect activity in which to cap your second day in Barcelona.

Day 3: Private Cooking Class with a Master Chef

Learn how to prepare authentic Spanish tapas
Learn how to prepare authentic Spanish tapas

Today in Barcelona, food takes center stage as you participate in an exclusive cooking class of traditional Spanish cuisine. You'll learn skills that you can use to impress friends and family back home when you cook them authentic Spanish tapas.

This gastronomic workshop begins with a visit to a local market with your private teacher/master chef. With fresh produce in hand, you'll head to a private kitchen in downtown Barcelona and prepare your very own Spanish tapas from scratch under the tutelage of your chef. A fitting end to this experience is when you get to sit down and enjoy your delicious creations.

After the cooking class, you'll have a few hours left to enjoy the city. If shopping is on your radar, visit the boutiques around the Passeig de Gràcia. And if the cooking class piqued your appetite, you can find many options for dinner complete with great local wine on Carrer De Blai in central Barcelona. It is known as the "tapas route," as it features an abundance of spectacular tapas bars.

Day 4: Train from Barcelona to Madrid

Welcome to Madrid
Welcome to Madrid

After breakfast at the hotel, 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, you'll check into your downtown hotel and then have the rest of the day free to explore the city at your own pace. Tomorrow will be the grand tour of this historic metropolis, so you might want to opt for more leisurely activities this afternoon and evening. 

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, many of which are geared for the whole family. 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 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. 

Day 5: Private City Tour - Discover Madrid's Royal Legacy

The Royal Palace, Madrid
The Royal Palace, Madrid

Today you will enjoy a half-day tour of Madrid led an expert local guide. Over the course of its long history, Madrid has seen many different eras, and today the city adorns itself with that history in its architecture, public spaces, and culture. An organized tour is ideal, as your guide can reveal insight into how these different time periods influenced Madrid's different neighborhoods and buildings, as well as point out the most interesting sights.

One area you'll visit that's awash in regal splendor is the Madrid de los Austrias. It was built in the 16th century during the reign of the Hapsburg Dynasty's first ruler, Charles I. Located in the city center, it's home to one of the grandest plazas in Spain, the Plaza Mayor, which was once the heart of Old Madrid.

Also here is the Royal Palace, which was the official home of the Spanish monarchs until 1931. You'll tour both the grounds and interior of this 3,418-room monument to opulence, entering the parade ground, the bedchambers of Charles III, several salons, the Royal Chapel, and the Hall of the Crown, which displays Charles I's crown, scepter, and throne.

Later you could visit El Retiro Park. This 308-acre expanse of verdure is the green lung of Madrid, abounding with sculptures, fountains, and a man-made lake perfect for taking a boat trip. 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). 

Day 6: Free Day in Madrid - Evening Flamenco Experience

In Spain, flamenco is an art
In Spain, flamenco is an art

Today is a more relaxed day in Madrid free of rigid timetables. You can spend the morning enjoying the hotel amenities or get out and explore the city on foot. If you're a sports fan you can opt for a treat in the form of a tour of the Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, the 81,000-seat stadium home to the Real Madrid football club. You might also consider taking a stroll along Fuencarral Street, which runs through downtown and is a popular shopping area full of upscale brands and designer boutiques. 

In the evening you'll have the chance to experience and appreciate one of Spain's premier cultural offerings: flamenco. This musical style enjoys a rich heritage that dates back to the 9th century when the music and dances of immigrants in the Andalusia region of the country mixed with the cultures of local Moors and Jews. Over the centuries, the intermingling of these various influences synthesized to produce the style of Flamenco that has come to define Spanish folkloric music.

Taking in a Flamenco show is a must for any visitor to Spain. You'll enjoy an even more comprehensive experience on a guided tour celebrating all aspects of this musical styling. 

First, you'll have a private tour of a guitar workshop where local artisans craft these traditional instruments. Second, you'll stop at a dance academy that teaches the future stars of flamenco. Then you'll visit a shoemaker who labors to produce the unique footwear for these dancers.

Finally, you'll sit down for a sultry tango show as professional dancers move about the tablao (dancefloor). Throughout the performance, your guide will point out the intricacies and significance of the dance so you can better appreciate this artistic expression. It's a show you won't soon forget. 

RIght about the time the performance ends, Madrid should be coming alive. This is a city that thrives at night, and to this end we recommend heading to Calle Ponzano. Located in the north of the city, this bohemian enclave the perfect area to enjoy a late-night tapas dinner followed by some bar-hopping.

Day 7: Train from Madrid to Seville

The Plaza de Espana, Seville
The Plaza de Espana, Seville

After breakfast in Madrid, a driver will pick you up at your hotel for the transfer to Atocha Train Station where you'll board a high-speed train to Seville. The journey is a pleasant three hours, during which you can relax in your reclining seat and watch Spain's beautiful landscapes pass by through the window. 

Upon arrival in Seville, a driver will meet you for the transfer to your hotel for check-in. After settling in, we recommend you head out and explore a bit. Seville is the capital of Spain's Andalusia region, and there's no shortage of amazing sights here. 

One example is the Plaza de España, which was built in 1928. For an impressive modern landmark, head to the old quarter and Plaza de la Encarnación. Here you'll find Metropol Parasol, a massive wooden structure designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer and which opened in 2011. Known locally as Las Setas ("The Mushrooms"), this icon of Seville is indeed fungi-like and capped with a curved honeycomb roof. You can take an elevator to the top where you'll be treated to stunning views of the city. 

And there's no better way to finish a day in Seville than by enjoying a sundowner at one of the city's famous tapas bars.

Day 8: Private City Tour of Seville

The well-manicured gardens of the Alcázar
The well-manicured gardens of the Alcázar

After breakfast, you'll head off with a local guide to explore this ancient hotbed of culture. 

You’ll visit the Seville Cathedral, a 15th-century Roman-Catholic church that's home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the largest gothic church in the world, and an awe-inspiring testament to pious grandiosity. 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 you'll 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, you'll walk to 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—the perfect excuse to take a break and enjoy some small plates washed down with local wine. 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. Not surprisingly, Seville's gastronomic scene is incredible. Know that locals love to compliment an evening of tapas with a nightcap at a favorite watering hole. 

Day 9: Visit an Olive Oil Estate

An antique olive oil press
An antique olive oil press

One of Spain's most popular exports the world over is its high-quality olive oil. You'll witness the production process firsthand on an exclusive tour of an Andalusian olive oil estate. Located just 30 minutes outside Seville, 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 New World. 

Upon arrival in the morning, you'll be treated to a typical Andalusian breakfast of coffee, hot chocolate, churros, and toast with olive oil and tomatoes. Afterward, 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. 

Also at the estate is one of the biggest olive-oil museums in the world. It features exhibits detailing 150 varieties of olives from 13 countries. A visit to this museum reveals the characteristics and qualities of olives and how their oil has evolved to become one of the most popular culinary ingredients in the world. 

You'll also relax on the estate’s patios and enjoy some leisure time while basking in the beautiful Andalusian scenery. On the estate, you'll find wide-open fields, purebred Spanish horses, Arabic gardens, and a private collection of horse-drawn carts from the 7th to the 19th centuries. There's more than enough here to keep you and the family occupied. 

The excursion ends with a tasting of olive oils produced on the estate, allowing you to put your newfound knowledge of this tasty ingredient to good use. After returning to Seville, you can spend the remainder of the day however you see fit. You could stroll the Plaza de América at Maria Luisa Park, walk around the neighborhood of Triana or pick a restaurant for a dinner accompanied by a flamenco show.

Day 10: Private Transfer from Seville to Córdoba - Stop in Carmona

The Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba

After breakfast, your driver will pick you up at your hotel for the two-hour drive east to Córdoba. However, you'll stop along the way in Carmona. This beautiful little town in the province of Seville was once a stronghold in ancient Rome but thrived in the middle ages. You'll see this architecture in the form of the 13th century Palace of King Don Pedro, the Moorish Alcázar, and the Seville Gate Palace.

Carmona is a great place to take a break, stretch your legs, enjoy a refreshment, and do a bit of sightseeing. Afterward, you'll continue on to Córdoba. Upon arrival, you'll check into your hotel and take some time to settle in. If you choose, you can head out for a self-guided walking tour around Córdoba's city center.

Day 11: Private City Tour of Córdoba

The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba
The Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba

In the morning, you'll meet your private guide for a walking tour around Córdoba's city center. You'll visit all the amazing sites, including the breathtaking Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba), a pagan temple that was converted into the great mosque of the Ummayad caliphate and later transformed into a Catholic church.

In addition, you'll 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.  

You'll also have the option to meander around the winding and narrow streets of the historic Jewish Quarter. At the end of the tour, your guide will say farewell and leave you in a popular local restaurant for a typical Córdoban lunch. The afternoon is then yours to continue exploring the city at your leisure.

In the evening, you'll meet up with your guide again and he or she will lead you on a gastronomic experience as you visit markets and bars, pairing Spanish tapas with the perfect local wines. Afterward, you'll return to your hotel.

Day 12: Private Transfer from Córdoba to Madrid - Departure

Farewell, Spain!
Farewell, Spain!

After a leisurely breakfast, you will make the 4.5-hour transfer back to Madrid and the airport. Here you will catch your return flight home. Adios!

Map

Map of Ultimate Food, Culture & Wine Tour of Spain - 12 days
Map of Ultimate Food, Culture & Wine Tour of Spain - 12 days