Help me plan my trip to Spain

I’m going to be in Spain for about 2-3 weeks at the end of April and the beginning of May.

Spain is one of those countries that is packed full of things to see. It has the second largest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites after Italy at 41.

I’ve never been to Spain before so I have no idea what to see or what I should make a priority.

I need your help.

Give me your top suggestions for what I should see/do in Spain. I know for sure I’ll be in Valencia and Madrid. Other than that, I have no other itinerary. If there are any events or happenings in Spain while I’ll be there, that would be nice to know as well.

Try also to think of places that will yield some great photographs.

Also, Robert Cole has a poll up on his travel industry blog on who the most trusted travel authority is online. Take a second to take the poll (yes, I’m on it).


49 thoughts on “Help me plan my trip to Spain”

  1. I see a lot of suggestions on visiting the hot springs… is there a webiste that will give directions on how to get there? Thx!

  2. I don’t see many comments about Valencia here. Just to mention that Lonely planet recommends to visit Valencia as their 10 best cities to see in 2011.
    I’ve been living here for 5 years now. I can tell you it’s one of the most amazing place in Spain (especially if you don’t like tourists). The city is not too big, not too small. It has a good combination of old stones and amazing new architecture (designed by Calatrava). Beaches are nice and clean and the countryside is beautiful. Not to forget that people are friendly and the best of all: there are over 320 sunny days per year.

    If you ever make it to Valencia, here’s my must-see list:
    – Historical center
    – City of arts and sciences (from outside)
    – Wonderful natural hot springs (90km from Valencia)
    – El saler beach and natural park
    – The Turia river bed (it’s a 8 km park)

    Have a great day,


  3. There are a lot of beautiful places in Sapin, but the most magic and impresive it is Galicia and there you have to visit Santiago de Compostela, Ourense, Ribadavia and Baiona, they will show you the singular beauty of Galicia’s magic. In Santiago you can find the Galicia’s soul. Ourense is the Galician’s Athens. Ribadavia is the wine and jewish capital and Baiona is the spirit of the sea. Tere are a lot of places too but its are the essence. If you are coming back to Spain in August you can not miss the Istoria Festival in Ribadavia, it shows the history of jewish and christians in the medieval time.
    Good luck
    Antonio Miguez Amil

  4. Recommendation:
    – Barcelona: Montserrat mountain, Montjuic castle, Pedrera Gaudi, Tibidabo (only for great view), Parc Guell – when i was there i found a website very useful created by a local guy, may you interested
    – Granada: absolutly Alhambra
    – Cantabria: all along the coast, you will see marvellous natural environmet (Laredo, Potes, Sant Vicente de la Barquera)

  5. Hi Gary,
    I was just in Spain last month! Went to Granada (Alahambra is a must for great photos and history, and I highly recommend the El Granado Hostel); Seville (loved the vibe here – Giralda Tower for photos, intimate flamenco show at the Casa de la Memoria and even had a guy on the street declare to us that he loved his wife); Madrid (Royal Palace but sometimes closes for special events which is what happened when I tried to go there, art museums – everyone says the Prado but don’t forget the Reina Sofia and the Thyssen… also good for day trips to Toledo (medieval architecture, easily reached via bus) and El Escorial (photos inside are banned, but the Hall of Battles and the tombs are interesting to see if you have the time); and Barcelona. I think I liked Barcelona the most. Lots of people watching along La Rambla (don’t forget to check out the side streets and La Boqueria Market) and Gaudi’s stuff is unlike anything I’ve seen anywhere. You’ll go crazy taking photos of his architecture. There’s also a small but important Picasso museum there, and an even smaller chocolate museum nearby that gives you a bar of chocolate as your entrance ticket. One great spur of the moment things happened as I walked down a side street near La Rambla – as I passed a church I was offered a 18 Euro ticket to a Spanish guitar concert being held that night (tickets bought after 6 p.m. were 20 Euros).

  6. I lived in Spain for six weeks and if you can make it to the coasta del sol, the med coast, I would recommend. I stayed in Nerja, which is also very close to Grenada, to old Moorish (Arabic) area of Spain. On the northern coast there is Santander, a more modern city that is close to Bilbao (home of the Guggenheim Museum). You are also near the Picos de Europa mountain range on the Northern Coast. I must say the ocean and beaches are nicer than the Mediterranean , not as cold or rocky.

  7. I spent two weeks in Valencia last summer! I stayed in the neighborhood Meliana, which has a beautiful scenic farm landscape, cute outdoor restaurants, horchatarias, etc. Check it out! If you’re going to be there during the bull runnings, ask the locals about the night-time bull run events. You get to actually be on the street with the bull if you want! It’s a great time. Have fun!

  8. If your taking the train between Madrid and Valencia, it is easy stop in Sevilla and Granada. I especially liked Granada and found myself hanging around for a few days exploring the city and really enjoying the Alhambra, which is a must see in Granada. Bon Voyage…

  9. I loved Valencia – a bit of that coastal city feel of Barcelona but much more old fashioned Spanish charm – the city of Arts and Sciences will give you plenty of postcard shots on a blue sky day. My posts are here and I did a podcast on Amateur traveler too

  10. Hey yes Barcelona, Madrid, Granada are must visits, especially Barcelona for the amazing architecture by Gaudi..also visit Bilbao, Malaga for the beaches and ohh visit ibiza for your party destination..!!

    Am dying to visit Spain myself soon..!!!!

  11. Hi Gary,

    Big trip to Spain? You will love it. Actually, I will be in San Sebastian around that time, but more Mid-May. With that said:

    Barcelona has a lot of great stuff that everyone is covering pretty well so I can recommend a place to stay. It is called HelloBCN. This is one of those new slick, clean hostels with a bar that looks nothing like the dorm hives of the past.

    In San Sebastian it will all be about the food and food and more food. If you have not already checked here is a link to the write-up we did for San Sebastian . With that said, the 1st place you should go when you arrive to San Sebastian is the tourist info office which has a lot of great and current info.

    Madrid: This is one of those cities that takes a bit of knowing before you can enjoy it. The Prado is fantastic and worth a visit and again there is a lot of great food. Here is our writie-up for Madrid. You really need to stop by Mercado de San Miguel and don’t miss Sideria El Tigre which is a hole-in-the-wall that everyone in Madrid knows. Super fun and cheap, cheap, cheap.

    If you need and more info please let me know.

  12. woww .. i just found your blog, but it feels so good you can travel the world, how can you do that? is there any special tricks? and you choose your next Spanish for travel, good. Indeed spain offer a variety of places of interest and worth a visit. but because I had never been there so I can not give input. hhe ..Nice blog and thanks. And I hope you can visit Indonesia, my country

  13. So many dreamy choices, but I’d say Andalucia and Seville are one don’t-miss, and Santiago de Campostela another; I love Barcelona but it’s gotten so big and overwhelming it’s harder to find the “heart” of it now.

  14. Of course you’ll be shooting in Barcelona. While there, go to this restaurant:
    Los Caracoles

    C/ Escudellers, 14
    08002 Barcelona, Spain
    933 023 185
    It’s in the gothic section. There’s a big flaming rotisserie of chickens or something in the window. Go to the dining area downstairs. If you shoot interiors, you’ll love it. Dinner starts at 11pmish.

  15. The DALI museum in Catalonia. for sure Al Ambraha Palace in Granada. Any bar in Bilbao or anywhere. Madrid for nightlife. Barcelona to get robbed. Don’t carry your credit cards or documents. Keep them locked up in your hotel luggage. Watch your bags with one hand on the opening of them at ALL TIMES. Watch out for Morrocoons Albanians and Romanian thieves. Have fun.

  16. Seems like everyone agrees that Andalucia and Barcelona are both do-no-miss sites. Though I have never been, based on what I’ve heard from friends living in those areas and the above travelers input, I would have to agree with the consensus as well! When will you decide?

  17. There are many places in the Catalonia region where you can experience true spanish culture. If you head down the coast to Alicante and Benidorm there will be much less of that, and you will probably get around easier using German than Spanish. But Barcelona, Figueras and San Sebastian are great places to visit!

      • doesn’t mean they aren’t Spanish. French Canadians don’t call themselves Canadian. But they are, like it or not. LOL… The politics in Catalonia are boring and tired and keep the Spanish economy in the toilet.

  18. Hi. I and my friends went to Spain at the end of last year. We visited Madrid, Seville, Cordoba, Granada and Barcelona. Cities which located in Andalusia (Seville, Cordoba and Granada) are my fave. If you want know more about the stories and interesting places for each cities, feel free to visit my blog :)

  19. Heya Gary,

    I haven’t been to Spain yet, but it’s definitely one of the places I plan to go to. Attractions wise, it seems like you’ve got some great suggestions already, so I’m gonna suggest something a bit different. Soccer is a big big sport in Spain (as well as… around 90% of the rest of the world, I’m guessing?)

    So… if you’ve got the time, make sure to go to a local match! And of course, not all matches are created equal. Try to aim for local derbies, where you’ll get an excellent atmosphere to bask in. Be sure to wear the right “colours” according to your seats!

    If you’re interested, I’ll have to recommend the 11 April – Real Madrid vs Barcelona match, the El Classico! Big big match, and one of two dates that La Liga soccer fans look out to at the start of the season..

    Happy travels Gary, be sure to share your experiences!

  20. Aviva and I went to Spain in 2006. We stayed in Madrid, a night in Seville, and Barcelona. You MUST go to Barcelona for at least 4 nights – you will be blown away, its the one city in Spain I would return to over and over again based on one visit. The food is marvelous, you’ll be photographing around the gothic quarter; there is a wonderful museum which has interiors of churches from Catalonia restored inside – great idea, really fabulous.

    You can take a high-speed train to Toledo – its a hill town so plan to trek, but its beautiful. And so is Seville, which you could also do I think from Valencia; its a must see for its blend of Moorish and Christian art and architecture.. It will be hot there, but wear long slacks to the cathedral.

    Hope that helps! Have fun! – Bob

  21. Regardless of what amazing corners of Spain (or anywhere else on the globe) you choose to wander, do give yourself a huge and rare travel treat by opting for a night or two CouchSurfing in the home of one of the locals. Trust that you will enjoy a most unique and authentic experience, a peek into the living culture of Spain. Sure, many think of couchsurfing as but a free place to crash, but it’s far more than that. Even for just a single night – I once couchsurfed with a lovely paralegal lass in Madrid on my (sadly, far too short) 19 hr. layover from Morocco to Seattle. But enough time to have a delightful home-cooked dinner in her charming apartment overlooking the park, and chat in earnest about the EU, Spain’s labor laws, etc. In short – surely beats a a half-day canned city tour of [insert most any city on the globe here] every time!

  22. My favorite gallery in Madrid is the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía — the gallery of modern art with Picasso’s Guernica.

    I love Barcelona and this seems to be a common theme. Miro gallery, Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família, rambling along Las Ramblas and hanging out in La Plaça Reial for dinner (at midnight or later!) are some of my favorites.

    Wine tasting in Rioja–I cycled through there on one vacation–fun and pretty melo.

    Alhambra in Granda is also worth a visit, but that’s obviously further South.

    Have a great trip!

  23. Having lived 5 years in Madrid I love that city to bits. Great choice.

    Other parts I always liked were Granada and Barcelona, a must see.

    Extra tip I would suggest is North of Spain, often underestimated by tourist. Spain has diverse areas and South is very different to North. My silent hint is Galicia or Asturias for its fantastic food and tapas + nature.

    Enjoy! :)

  24. Looks like my recommendations have been covered, but you absolutely need to spend some time in Andalucia. Granada is a perfect stop, though Sevilla is beautiful as well. If you spend some extra time in Granada, you could grab a bus into the mountain villages of the Alpujarras, like Capileira.

  25. My favorite city of Spain, hell my favorite European city, is Granada. Can’t wait for your photos of La Alhambra and the Jewish Ward. Add to that the history of the city, its Muslim heritage, the sights and the cool backpackers that visit the city. Can’t miss.

  26. There seem to be a lot of common themes: Barcelona, Andelucia, Grenada, Toledo. I also have comments going on my Facebook page.

  27. Definitely San Sebastian (beautiful beaches, stunning churches, and oh the food!) and Barcelona for all the Gaudi.

    It’s a bit out of the way from Barcelona – though only two hours from San Sebastian – but the small town of Laguardia was one of my favorites. It’s a walled town, no cars are allowed inside, and underneath the town are hundreds of wine cellars. The area below the town is actually larger than the space it takes up above ground. It’s in the heart of the Rioja wine region, so there’s an added bonus, and there are several wineries you can visit in and around town.

    In nearby Logrono, which makes a better base, you’ll find a street with one of the largest concentrations of bars in Europe. It’s a great place for a tapas crawl.

  28. Just let me know if there is anything you’d like to know about Seville and Andalucia. Have lived in Sevilla for 17 years and from Valencia you could do Granada, Córdoba, Seville, Cádiz and Málaga … if you wanted to.

    At least when you are in Sevilla I can help you out with where to eat!

    Sevilla Tapas

  29. Oh Spain is beautiful! Trying visiting the Canary Islands – Gran Canaria (Playa del Ingles, Puerto Rico, Playa de las Canteras), Tenerife, Lanzarote. The seven islands are absolutely beautiful. Ive lived half my life there. Que tengas un buen viaje :D

  30. i’ve never been to spain yet but i keep on hearing people telling me to go to granada… maybe you could visit that place. ive heard that its beautiful. goodluck on your trip Gary.

  31. If you have the time and really want to experience the north of Spain, the best way is to do the Camino de Santiago, the french route. Beginning in St. Jean Pied de Port, crossing the border of France and Spain and walking the 800 kms towards Santiago de Compostela. Being a pilgrim down the Camino has been the best travel experience. Check this out (not sure if they have the site in english):
    happy trip…. Spain is one of my favorites!!!!

  32. Andalucia is by far my favorite region in Spain. Sevilla just oozes “spanish-ness”. Everything seems so authentic there and the food is just amazing.
    Barcelona is gorgeous too but this girls heart beats in Andalucia!
    Have a wonderful trip, wherever you go!

  33. San Sebastian has some of the most amazing beaches in Spain, especially for surfing.
    Also, you can’t beat Barcelona for architecture.

  34. Forgot to add Siurana: it’s an isolated village on top of a hill. There’s a little store there that sells *excellent* Siurana olive oil. This is also a world-class climbing destination; there’s a campsite and a refugio up there. Enjoy!

  35. Go to Barcelona: you will not regret this! It’s home to Gaudi and his many buildings (Sagrada Familia is his cathedral-still-in-progress); La Rambla (plenty of people watching, and at the end there’s the statue of Columbus pointing out to sea), good food at the Boqueria, and plenty of nooks and crannies for great photography.

    But I also recommend leaving the city and driving into the countryside: Taragona, Lleida, the mountains. Sample some good Spanish wine.

  36. I lived in Rota Spain for three years, and I’d like to put in a second bid for Andalusia. The countryside is gorgeous, the speed is a notch back from the bigger cities, and the wine is superb.

  37. I lived in Rota Spain for three years, and I’d like to put in a second bid for Andalucia. The countryside is gorgeous, the speed is a notch back from the bigger cities, and the wine is superb.

  38. Barcelona is easily one of my favorite cities in the world, partly because it’s such a photogenic city. You can shoot Gaudi’s architecture, you can shoot landscapes in Montjuic, you can shoot people in La Rambla, If it’s a nice day (and it is 85% of the time), then wherever you are, you’re in a good place to take pictures.

  39. Madrid and Valencia are good choices. I would definitely add Barcelona and also Andalucia. Seville is just 2 hours from Madrid by high-speed train (AVE) and you can get easily to Granada from there by bus or train. Don’t skip the Alhambra!
    There are lots of interesting day-trips you can take from Madrid, I would recommend Toledo, Segovia (not at all a long trip from Madrid as previously commented, it’s just over an hour by bus, I was there just a few weeks ago), El Escorial and Salamanca.
    I lived in Madrid for 6 months as an exchange student and absolutely love this city. Some of my favorite places are Chocolatería San Ginés (the best “churros con chocolate” you can find, only open at night and always packed, it’s in Calle Arenal close to Puerta del Sol) and the mesones (small bars in old cellars located right behind Plaza Mayor, my favorite one is Mesón de la guitarra, they make a delicious tortilla española).
    Have fun in Spain!

  40. Barcelona is a beautiful place, all surrounded by design, looks great. Other cities I love are Granada and Toledo, both with an arab taste which comes from years of tradition.

    Segovia is also interesting but I don’t know if it deserves the long trip from Madrid (for example). Other city I really recommend is Salamanca, which has a lovely downtown.

    I’ve written about this cities, and other travelers has lots of info about them. Read a little and you’ll love it as we do!

    Most of them can be seend in about three days each, but you can spend more days, I’m sure you will discover lots of interesting streets and places which deserves a visit.

    Hope this helps!

    • One more vote for Barcelona… it came to my mind the minute I read your wanted Spain and wanted Photography, and reading through the comments Barcelona does look pretty much top of the list for many.
      The two big arguments in favour of Barcelona: nature (between mountains and sea) and Salvador Dali – both provided this city with beautiful, colorful, unique visual impressions.

  41. Although I haven’t been, the top two places on my list for Spain are Barcelona and Andelucia. I’ll live vicariously through your photos, until I can make it there:) Have fun!

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