You don't need much more than a week to enjoy the highlights of Spain. This includes indulging in its world-class cuisine, great wine, and rich culture. It's a nine-day journey that will take you from the coast of Barcelona to the royal palaces of Madrid and finally to the Moorish fortresses of Andalusia.

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
  • Visit some of the highlights of Andalusia, like 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 Córdoba Córdoba
Day 8 Private City Tour of Córdoba Córdoba
Day 9 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 Córdoba

The Mosque Cathedral in Córdoba
The Mosque Cathedral in Córdoba

After breakfast, 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 Córdoba—a journey of 2 hours. It's a pleasant journey south, and along the way, you'll be able to relax and watch the beautiful Spanish countryside pass by outside the window.

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 8: 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 9: 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 - 9 days
Map of Ultimate Food, Culture & Wine Tour of Spain - 9 days