11 days in Spain

I love the planning process of travel. Finding all the little details, information, reading blogs and lately also watching a lot of Youtube videos, deciding what we want to see and do and which places we would might like and then putting it all together with how to get around these places, accommodations, booking tickets… I just really enjoy doing that and see how my plan is changing and developing.

Today I will share with you our 11 day itinerary for our Spain trip in May – June. We always start with booking flights and because we knew we wanted to explore more than one city we booked our flight from Venice to Barcelona and from Bilbao back to Venice. Our first plan was to visit Barcelona, Madrid and Bilbao, but then we also added Valencia and San Sebastian which were the best decisions we could possibly take. Here is our plan:

DAY 1: ARRIVAL TO BARCELONA

We arrived before noon and planned to take a free walking tour of the Gothic Quartet to get an insight into the history of the place and learn more about the city and the life there. On our first day we also found our beloved churros place Churreria Laietana, which I can’t recommend enough. Use your first day to get acquainted with the city but don’t try to squeeze in too much.

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DAY 2: SAGRADA FAMILIA, MONTJUIC, PARK GÜELL

We booked few tickets ahead of time, one of those was also the entrance to La Sagrada Familia. We grabbed our breakfast in one of the bakeries near Sagrada Familia, ate in the park and then started our second day in the most magnificent building in Barcelona. Get the ticket with audio guide as you will learn so much about it and it’s a shame to visit such a fascinating place and not knowing what you are looking at. After at around 2 hours of admiring the inside and outside of Sagrada Familia go to the little park with a pond across the Nativity facade and take lots of photos, chill in the park for a while and jump in the metro to your next stop.

Our next stop was Plaça d’Espanya which is an amazing starting point for many great sights, such as Magic Fountain, Barcelona Pavillion, CaixaForum Barcelona, Park Montjuic, Olympic Park, Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya, etc. We first went to CaixaForum Barcelona. It is an cultural center/exhibition place located in the old factory with really beautiful architecture. From there we went to Barcelona Pavillion, which is definitely on your list if you are into architecture. Passed the Magic Fountain and go up to the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya admiring the beautiful views. From there you can also walk to the Olympic Park and see what actually put Barcelona on the tourist map in 1992. For more views of Barcelona check 5 best views in Barcelona.

Before heading to Park Güell we went to see the Sant Antoni Market, get delicious lunch at La Bodega de’n Rafel and chilled for a while in Biblioteca Sant Antoni – Joan Oliver.

We finished our day at sunset in the magnificent Park Güell and grabbed a bite to eat at The Quick Greek.

DAY 3: BARCELONA CATHEDRAL, BARCELONETTA

After the busy day sightseeing we wanted to have quite chilled day. Our first stop of the day was Barcelona Cathedral, where we enjoyed the stunning view of the city from its rooftop.

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We also stopped at Santa Caterina Market and hopped to Churreria Laietana for yummy breakfast of churros and porras with hot chocolate before heading to the beach.

Chilled day at the beach was just what we wanted. The water was too cold to swim but just sitting and sunbathing on the sand was so relaxing (if you don’t mind an occasional disturbance in the way of people offering you towels and drinks and all kinds of things).

Our plan for the day was also to head to Bunkers del Carmel to wait for the sunset with a view but after lunch at Lokillo Bar Taverna and getting back to our Airbnb we just crashed there and went out for drinks later in the evening.

DAY 4: GAUDI TOUR

This was our last day in Barcelona and we took another free walking tour, this time it was Gaudi tour. Our meeting point was at Plaza Reial, where you will find the first and only work Antoni Gaudi has ever done for the city. For more details on Gaudi’s work check out my post Gaudi’s Barcelona.

We grabbed a lunch and headed to Barcelona Sants train station to get to our next destination: Valencia.

DAY 5: CITY OF ARTS AND SCIENCES, CITY CENTER

On our first day in Valencia we decided to visit the most popular touristy place there: City of Arts and Sciences. If you are coming to Valencia this place is a total must. It is situated in the end of the former riverbed of the river Turia and it is a part of a huge park that is stretching around the city. If you have kids, you will definitely make a stop at Gulliver Park which is a playground and really amazing one. Exploring this whole stretch of land that was once river will definitely take you whole day and it is perfect place for sports or just chilling.

City of Arts and Sciences is a complex of super modern buildings, lots of water, greenery and most of these buildings have exhibitions in them. Some of them you can visit for free but some you will have to pay the entrance fee. For more information just check their website.

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From there we walked back to the city and stopped for lunch, that was kind of good but nothing special. We explored the old city center with lovely squares (the most beautiful one is Plaza de la Virgen), stunning architecture (Valencia Cathedral, Torre del Micalet, Mercado de Colón, Llotja de la Seda, etc.), lots of greenery and cool street art. We tried horchata at Plaza de la Reina which is popular drink in Valencia made of water, sugar, and tiger nuts. Quite refreshing and you will find little stalls selling these in the city center and also at City of Arts and Sciences.

DAY 6: JARDINS DEL REAL, VALENCIA BEACH

Our second and last day in Valencia we headed to Mercado del Central and from there to Jardins del Real. Valencia has so much greenery in the city you mostly walk in the shade of palm trees and other trees. In Jardins del Real you will find roses, sculptures, lake and even peacocks which seemed quite crammed in their bird cage.

From there we took a very long walk to the beach and enjoyed the rest of the day there before heading back to our Airbnb to get our bags and head to the train station. With high speed train we were in Madrid in no time and had some time before it got dark to see the surroundings of our Airbnb. If you arrive to Puerta Atocha train station you will be able to see your first sight right there – a little tropical paradise inside the train station.

DAY 7: PARKS, ROYAL PALACE

We started our day by searching for some cool street art on our way to Madrid Rio Park, where you will find really amazing Arganzuela footbridge. Madrid Rio Park is the perfect place to escape the crowds in the city center and have a chilled few hours at the park. If you don’t mind walking, I suggest you walk in Madrid, it is the best city for that.

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Our day was planned to the max so we walked along the Manzanares river to Toledo Bridge and from there to Puerta de Toledo to reach our destination which was Mercado de San Miguel. You will walk past many tapas bars so just feel free to enter where you feel like it, especially on the Calle de la Cava Baja street. On our way there we passed Basílica de San Miguel and Monastery of Corpus Christi las Carboneras, where you can buy cookies made by nuns there. Mercado de San Miguel is a stunning old building filled with delicious looking food that also comes at hefty price tag. Once you are there don’t miss out on Plaza de Mayor and then head to the Royal Palace Madrid, which is the largest functioning palace in Europe with 3148 rooms! (Imagine having to clean all that.) We didn’t enter the Royal Palace, but we did admire the beautiful surrounding with Almudena Cathedral and beautiful Sabatini Gardens. Our next stop was another lovely park on the hill Cuartel de la Montaña Park from where you will have a lovely view and also find Templo de Debod, Egyptian temple from the 2nd century BC, that was donated to Spain by the Egyptian government to save it from floods following the construction of the great Aswan Dam. It is free to enter, but you will probably have to wait for a while because there is a limit on how many people can enter at the same time.

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All that walking will definitely make you crave some food so we walked a bit further to Casa Julio, where we enjoyed a selection of croquettes and some vermut, which we are not fans of. We knew we had one more day to spend in Madrid so we headed to our Airbnb, made some quick lunch and chilled for a while.

In the evening we went to see the Retiro Park and the Palacio de Cristal. No visit to Madrid is complete without going to Retiro Park. We finished our day with some churros and hot chocolate at Panaria. I made a special post on all the wonderful parks and gardens we visited in Madrid, so check it out: 6 parks and gardens you must visit in Madrid.

DAY 8: MODERN ARCHITECTURE, ROSE GARDEN

Next day we visited few places that are maybe not so popular, CaixaForum Madrid, because the architecture of it is just phenomenal and while there also check out MediaLab-Prado. We also visited Glass gallery at Cibeles Palace, which is such an amazing place and we had it all to ourselves in the morning.

When you are in Madrid also don’t miss out on Puerta del Sol where you will find a statue of El Oso y el Madroño, a symbol of Madrid – bear and strawberry tree. Puerta del Sol is great meeting place, streets around are full of bars and shops. Our destination was Chocolateria San Ginés, which is the oldest chocolateria in the city that serves churros with hot chocolate (among other things) all day every day. We grabbed one from their take-away store, because we didn’t feel like waiting in the line to sit down and just took it with us to enjoy. This day we also had a little food tour, so our next stop was Bar Cerveriz, which is located right next to Mercado de San Miguel. We got spanish tortillas with wine and it was delicious, so I strongly recommend you to stop by at this family-run place.

In the evening we went back to Retiro Park and we visited Royal Botanical Gardens and rose garden. These places are amazing and so beautiful. I was so happy that roses were blooming because there were hundreds of them all different colours and it smelled amazing in there.

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For our last night in Madrid we treated ourselves to dinner at Tinto y Tapas, a charming little place that serves great wine and food. Food in Madrid is really amazing, so I suggest you take advantage of that. In Barcelona we had troubles finding places with great food and reasonable prices, but here it just came easily.

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You can also check out Mini guide: 2 days in Madrid.

 

DAY 9: SAN SEBASTIAN

Rise and shine! We woke up before sunrise to get to Chamartin train station to board our train to San Sebastian. After some amazing landscape passing by and 5 hours and 40 minutes later we finally arrived and were pretty much blown away immediately. San Sebastian is gorgeous, it has that French riviera vibe and kind of luxurious feel. We stayed at quite lovely hostel Uzturre which is conveniently located, everything is close by and there are many bars and restaurants around.

The old city center is really lovely, full of little shops and bars. We walked around for a while searching for a place to eat and finally ended up where the guy from the hostel told us to go – Giroki. Lots of places in San Sebastian are really expensive and you won’t get much for that price, maybe being the top Michelin star destination makes everyone think they are masterchefs. We were really happy with Giroki, they have the best brownie cake I ever had.

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So what are some of the things you can do in San Sebastian? Definitely hit La Concha beach, maybe visit Basílica de Santa María del Coro and definitely go up Monte Urgull for the best views of the city. When I first saw photos of San Sebastian it reminded me so much of Rio and this hill is a huge part of it. Walk all the way to the top, there are many paths leading up there and you will be rewarded with views on all sides all the way up. Monte Urgull has a very important military history as it was a military fortress in the 12th century and its walls were subject to attacks and sieges throughout the years. If you have time you can also visit the little island Santa Clara, hike or take funicular to the Monte Igueldo, the hill on the other side of La Concha Bay.

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La Concha Bay from Monte Urgull

There is also a very nice promenade around Monte Urgull, where you can first visit Aquarium, and on the other side San Telmo Museum or just watch people on Zuloaga Plaza. In time for sunset go back to La Concha beach and sit down with a drink and some snack and just enjoy the changing of the colours and waves of the sea.

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DAY 10: BILBAO

Before heading to the bus station we went for a morning walk on the other beach in San Sebastian – Zurriola hondartza. The waves were really strong and in the morning you will see many surfers trying to catch a perfect wave or many who came there to learn.

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Zurriola hondartza

If you will take a bus to Bilbao sit on the right side of the bus (you will thank me later). Bilbao didn’t really impress me that much at first. It was in the evening when we finally found what I would call the old city center. It just had that vibe.

Before that we went to Azkuna Zentroa, really cool cultural center, stopped by few shops, admired the modern architecture, crossed the bridges and took a first look at Guggenheim museum that was on the next day.

In the evening we first went to see Bilbao Arena and then crossed the bridge, found Mercado de la Ribera, that was mostly closed already and enjoyed a glass of wine on charming Miguel Unamuno Plaza.

DAY 11: GUGGENHEIM MUSEUM, DEPARTURE

We saved the best of Blbao for our last day. Guggenheim museum is a true architectural landmark, hosting some of the most amazing exhibitions I have ever seen. It is worth going to Bilbao just to visit this museum, so if you are ever in the north of Spain take a day come here.


A little conclusion: we visited 5 cities in 4 very different regions in 11 days, saw numerous outstanding buildings, walked many streets, had some really delicious and also not so good food, enjoyed the beach, drank lots of wine, learned so much and would definitely love to go back.

I wish we had one more day in Valencia and Madrid, at least a week in north of Spain to rent a car and explore the coast and have few hundreds of euros available to spend on a dinner in a Michelin star restaurant in Basque country. Luckily Spain is huge and you can always come back to explore some new places, new regions and experience some really amazing things.


Have you been to Spain? Which places did you visit? What impressed you the most? Would you go again and where? Share in the comments.

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35 thoughts on “11 days in Spain

  1. I absolutely love Spain, this was such a treat to read. I’ve lived in Valencia and visited Madrid but never Bilbao and San Sebastian – both look gorgeous. I’ve also visited some Andalucian destinations including Granada, Málaga, Cádiz, Sevilla and Jerez de la Frontera which I would highly recommend if you go back 😊

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lovely photos. I’ve been to Barcelona and loved it. But my fave place in spain is Toledo. An old medieval city on a hill with lots of narrow streets and alleyways. It used to be renowned for swords made of Spanish steel. The architecture was wonderful particularly the old churches and monasteries. Theres a literary link there too with Miguel de Cervantes the writer of Don Quixote.

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  3. I loved how thorough your post was on Spain, I have not yet been to Barcelona but I know many who have been and loved it… I’ve done a lot of research as well! When I do go the first and most exciting sites I’ll visit will be Gaud’s incredible architecture. I love architecture and he is the pinnacle!!

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  4. I’be got family who live in Mallorca so we go there a lot, but I’ve only been to mainland Spain once, to Malaga. I really want to explore more of the country as so many of the places are so different as the cultures were different in the regions before Spain officially became united!

    Ellyn x | Life Of A Beauty Nerd

    Liked by 1 person

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