- Learn how to prepare tapas in a cooking class in Barcelona
- Witness Roman ruins in ancient towns in the Province of Cáceres
- Discover Madrid's rich history on a private tour of the city
- Tour the Alhambra, the 9th Century Muslim fortress overlooking Granada
- Visit some of the highlights of Andalusia, like Seville, Ronda, and Málaga
|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||Day Trip to Toledo – Private City Tour & Gourmet Lunch||Madrid|
|Day 8||Private Transfer to Cáceres - City Tour of Trujillo||Cáceres|
|Day 9||Private Transfer from Cáceres to Seville - Tour Mérida and Zafra||Seville|
|Day 10||Private City Tour of Seville||Seville|
|Day 11||Visit an Olive Oil Estate||Seville|
|Day 12||Private Transfer to Málaga - Wine Tour in Ronda||Malaga|
|Day 13||Pilgrimage from Málaga||Malaga|
|Day 14||Day Trip to Granada - Tour the Alhambra||Malaga|
|Day 15||Private Transfer from Málaga to Córdoba||Córdoba|
|Day 16||Private City Tour of Córdoba||Córdoba|
|Day 17||Private Transfer from Córdoba to Madrid - Departure|
Day 1: Arrival in Spain - Self-Guided Barcelona Tour
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
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
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
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
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
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: Day Trip to Toledo – Private City Tour & Gourmet Lunch
In the morning, a driver will pick you up for the one-hour journey south from Madrid to Toledo, a city that enjoys a dramatic location atop a gorge overlooking the Río Tajo. This is a historic city that, in the 16th century, was the capital of Spain.
It was back in the Middle Ages that 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 will 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, Toledo does enjoy UNESCO World Heritage Status.
At lunchtime, you'll head to the outskirts the city, where the ancient metropolis gives way to pastoral landscapes dotted with Spanish manor estates known as cigarrales. Amid this scenic backdrop, you'll enjoy a gourmet lunch on the banks of the Tagus River with views looking back at Toledo.
This area is also famous for producing delicious marzipan, a sweet made from almonds, sugar, eggs, and honey. After lunch, you'll visit another cigarrale that serves as a confectionary. Here you'll participate in a workshop where, with the help of an instructor, you'll learn the history of traditional Toledan marzipan as well as how to make this delicious treat. Needless to say, the workshop ends with you indulging in your sweet creations.
Day 8: Private Transfer to Cáceres - City Tour of Trujillo
In the morning a driver will pick you up for your journey three hours west of Madrid to the Province of Cáceres. The first destination is Trujillo, an incredible town that dates back to Roman times yet is off the tourist trail. Walking the cobbled streets of Trujillo is like stepping back in time. On a private tour, you'll learn all about Trujillo's rich historical legacy (the conquistador Francisco Pizarro was born here) as your guide points out the mix of gothic, Moorish, Jewish and Christian influences in the medieval buildings that have endured to this day.
Then it will be time to stop for a delicious lunch followed by a short drive to the outskirts of the city of Cáceres, which abound with green fields and pasturelands. Here you'll see two of the most famous animals in the country in their natural habitat: Spain's prized fighting bulls, and the Iberian pigs whose cured ham is prized delicacy throughout the world.
At dusk, you'll head into Cáceres just in time to watch the setting sun gild the tops of the ancient churches and buildings. You'll head straight for Cáceres Old Town and meet another guide who will lead you on a quick evening tour of the highlights of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The tour ends in the city’s historic center in an area with no shortage of dining options. Here you can cap your full day with a wonderful dinner amid the historic buildings of Old Spain.
Day 9: Private Transfer from Cáceres to Seville - Tour Mérida and Zafra
In the morning, your driver will pick you up and you'll embark on the three-hour drive south to Seville, the capital of Spain's Andalusia region. However, you'll stop after about an hour in Mérida, another ancient town that's off the tourist trail. Mérida was founded by the Romans in the 1st century BCE, and you'll see evidence of this in the ruins of the Roman Theatre located in the center of town. It's an awe-inspiring archeological site that enjoys UNESCO World Heritage Status and is well worth a visit.
Then you'll continue south for another hour before making your second scheduled stop, at the town of Zafra. Known for its gothic castle that dates to 1443, Zafra is a pleasant place to stop for a rest and a bite to eat. You can also take a quick stroll around its famous Plaza Grande and Plaza Chica, two 16th century arcaded squares rimmed by whitewashed buildings, centuries-old homes, and authentic tapas bars.
After Zafra, you'll hop back in the car and continue south until you reach the city of Seville. After checking into your hotel you'll have the remainder of the day free to relax.
Day 10: Private City Tour of Seville
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 11: Visit an Olive Oil Estate
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 12: Private Transfer to Málaga - Wine Tour in Ronda
In the morning, a driver will meet you for your southward journey from Seville to Málaga. This Mediterranean port city is a mix of the old and the new. It enjoys an enviable location on Spain's Costa del Sol, a stretch of Mediterannean coast that runs 98 miles (159 km) south from Málaga past Marbella towards Gibraltar, and which is famous for its abundance of golden beaches.
The journey takes about three hours, but you'll break up the drive with a stop in Ronda. This ancient city dates back to the 6th century when it was first settled by the Celts. It's a storybook locale carved out of a mountain and situated over a deep gorge, making it one of the most unique and dramatic cities in the country.
Like many places in Spain, Ronda is famous for its wine culture. You'll discover this first hand by visiting a winery that was actually a convent up until the 16th century. The owner will lead a guided tour of the stunning grounds which feature, among other things, hanging vines, fruit trees, and well-manicured gardens. It's amid this pleasant scenery where you'll sit down for a lunch cooked specially by the owner himself. Naturally, this includes a tasting of the various wines produced on-site.
Afterward, you'll continue the drive for two more hours from Ronda to Málaga. If there's time left in the day, and if you have the interest, you can stop at some of the famous white villages nestled in the Sierra de Grazalema Mountains. One of the most beautiful is Zahara de la Sierra. Sitting atop a mountain, this village was a Moorish outpost until the early 15th century. You can see remnants of this in the form of the iconic castle perched atop the rocky mountaintop just above the town.
After visiting Zahara de la Sierra, you'll continue on to Málaga, where you'll check into your hotel and unwind for the evening.
Day 13: Pilgrimage from Málaga
Today you'll enjoy a unique and quintessentially Spanish cultural activity. After breakfast at your hotel, you'll partake in the centuries-old folkloric tradition known as romería.
This long-standing activity involves a crowd of pilgrims walking from the city to a religious sanctuary in the countryside. The procession is the whole point of the celebration, and those on the route dress in costumes, ride horses, carry flags, all accompanied by live music and fireworks. There's no shortage of food stalls, bars, and drink vendors, too. It's an organized experience, but don't worry about getting lost—just follow the crowd of merrymakers, horses, and parade floats, and they'll lead the way.
After the party, you'll have a break for a picnic lunch. Then it will be time for the 30-minute ride back to Málaga, where you'll have the rest of the day free to explore. Perhaps visit the hilltop Gibralfaro Castle, which dates to the 10th century, or stroll around the Port of Málaga. For culture, you can visit the Picasso Museum, the Carmen Thyssen Museum (which features Andalusian paintings from the 19th century), or the Centre Pompidou Málaga, a contemporary art museum housing works in a glass cube.
Day 14: Day Trip to Granada - Tour the Alhambra
In the morning a driver will meet you for a two-hour drive northeast and into the Sierra Nevada Mountains to Granada. This is another historic city that 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.
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.
Day 15: Private Transfer from Málaga to Córdoba
You will leave Málaga in the morning by private transfer north to Córdoba, yet another jewel in the crown of the Andalusia region. The journey takes about three hours, and you'll stop halfway to visit El Torcal de Antequera. This nature reserve is known for its otherworldly rock formations, comprised of limestone that is hundreds of millions of years old, sculpted by the elements over time.
Upon arrival in Córdoba, you'll check into your hotel, unwind, and can spend the remainder of the day however you see fit. If you do have the energy to get out and explore, you could take a quick stroll along the narrow streets of Córdoba's historic Jewish Quarter. Or, you could 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. Be sure to do so at sunset.
Day 16: Private City Tour 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 17: Private Transfer from Córdoba to Madrid - Departure
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!