Spain was meant to be!! It all started when I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Greece this year. Well I couldn’t get any Greece visa appointment date even in March to travel in April(I need a visa to go anywhere with my Indian passport).
Alright, how about Italy? Again, not till June. How about Spain? Voila! All the dates are open! So either people in the Spanish Embassy work extra hard or no-one wants to go to Spain. Well, if the second is the case, this article will sure change your mind.
I had been to Spain, a little more than a decade ago, all by myself, backpacking for a month. Knowing how great my first experience was of Costa del Sol, Barcelona and Mallorca back in those days, I had been keen to check out Spain again, this time with a husband and son in tow.
Yes, I still remembered my unlimited Mojitos and Sangrias, and those beautiful white washed Andalusian mountaintop villages overlooking the azure blue Mediterranean Sea.
So yes… Spain it was this year for my Birthday in April 2023.
After England and Wales in September last year, we discovered that we love to hop and jump over to Europe. Simply take one of those 8-9 hours direct flights. They feed you some meal, you watch a couple of movies, 3-4 wines down, throw in some snack and boom… you are in Europe!!
There are whole new countries ready to live in, breath in, and explore to your heart’s content. We had a great time driving all over England for 5 weeks, and planed to do the same in Spain.
It’s a great country to self drive, with great roads and light traffic (apparently Spaniards prefer trains or planes rather than driving in between cities), and great rugged country side to explore.
Some of towns and cities, we won’t recommend to driving in, we simply parked the car in a garage and explored those narrow, small alleys on foot. But having a car gives you great flexibility if you are planning to see a lot of the country.
You can choose from variety of accommodations from chic apartments, cottages and beautiful Spanish villas from Airbnb, Vrbo or lots of local villa rentals. We loved the heritage Andalusian villas as well as chic modern apartments. This gives you opportunities to live and experience any foreign country like locals.
Spain is a vibrant heart of Western Europe, where fiesta and siesta is the norm of life. It’s a beautiful, rugged country where the rich history of Romans, Visigoths, Moors and Conquistadors still lingers in their ancient medieval towns. You see it in their walled cities, magnificent cathedrals and forts scattered all through out the country.
There is simply lot to explore and experience in this relatively small country, from big cities like Barcelona and Madrid, with their gothic and historical old quarters, to sun-smoked beaches of Costa del Sol, to soaring mountain ranges and unique Balearic islands.
For us, food was the big reason too to be excited to come here. From the world-renowned tapas and Paella Valenciana to the lip-smacking Gazpacho and decadent Churros con Chocolate, Spanish cuisine is a gourmet’s delight. Each region has its unique delicacies.
Stay tuned for our “What to Eat in Spain” post for all over gastronomic adventures.
Whether it’s the passionate Flamenco, the dramatic bullfights, the architectural wonders, or great food and wine, Spain’s charm lies in its ability to offer a piece of its heart to everyone.
Madrid, the capital of Spain is where we flew into from Miami. Madrid is a vibrant, cosmopolitan city full of history, culture, art, and streets showcasing early 20th-century revival architecture. It has many big beautiful plazas where local hang out, great parks to stroll in, and plenty of museums to explore to your hearts content.
Madrid beautifully balances old-world charm and modern sophistication. Its architectural grandeur tells the tale of a rich history, with sights like the majestic Royal Palace and the ornate Plaza Mayor and popular Plaza de España.
Madrid is a city that never sleeps, known for its lively nightlife, where tapas bars and flamenco tablaos thrive under the twinkling city lights.
We were in Madrid for 5 nights and rented a cute Airbnb in the heart of the city, where Gran Via and most of the famous plazas were within walking distance.
We tried their Hop-on-hop-off bus to get a feel of the different neighborhoods of the city, with recorded commentary. You can easily take the bus any place you want to spend more time, and get back on it at any time.
Here are some of the top sights to see in Madrid:
The Royal Palace of Madrid, or “Palacio Real de Madrid” in Spanish, stands as a magnificent symbol of Spanish history and monarchy. Constructed in the 18th century on the site of a 9th-century Alcázar, or Moorish castle, it’s one of the largest palaces in Western Europe, and an important monument of Madrid.
While the palace is the official residence of the Spanish Royal Family, it’s primarily used for state ceremonies, with the royal family choosing to reside in the smaller, more modest Palacio de la Zarzuela on the outskirts of Madrid.
Almudena Cathedral, a striking architectural marvel, is right next to the Royal Palace. The cathedral is dedicated to the Virgin of Almudena, the patron saint of Madrid.
El Retiro Park is a green oasis in the heart of Madrid, offering a tranquil escape from the bustling city life. Spread across 350 acres, the park was originally created as a retreat for the Spanish monarchy in the 17th century, hence its name ‘Retiro’, which means ‘retreat’.
Today, it’s a beloved public park, open to all and treasured for its beautiful landscapes, monumental sights, and recreational activities.
There we found out that Micky Mouse was on vacation. Noah had a super kick finally meeting his favorite mouse for the first time… not in Florida but in Spain.
The Mercado de San Miguel, or San Miguel Market, is a vibrant culinary hub located in the heart of Madrid, just a stone’s throw away from Plaza Mayor. Housed within a striking early 20th-century glass and iron structure, the market is a gastronomic paradise, beloved by locals and tourists alike.
This isn’t your typical market. San Miguel Market is the epitome of Madrid’s lively food scene, where you can find nearly every Spanish delicacy under one roof. With over 30 different vendors, the stalls offer a mouth-watering array of fresh produce, cured meats, seafood, cheeses, wines, and pastries.
The market is particularly known for its tapas. From the classic tortilla Española (Spanish omelette) and gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns) to gourmet variations of croquetas and pintxos, food lovers can indulge in a culinary tour of Spain without leaving the market.
Gran Vía, often referred to as the ‘Spanish Broadway’ or the ‘Street that Never Sleeps,’ is one of the most famous and vibrant thoroughfares in Madrid. This bustling street is renowned for its grand architecture and it hosts numerous theaters showcasing musicals, plays, and flamenco shows.
In addition, the street is lined with shops ranging from high-street fashion to designer boutiques, making it a paradise for shoppers.
We also highly recommend doing day excursions out of Madrid to some of their charming Medieval towns like Toledo, Ávila and Segovia. They have day trip sightseeing tours departing out of Madrid with guided tours and tickets to the monuments.
We absolutely loved walking through their narrow cobblestone alleys, exploring old cathedrals, and listening to fascinating stories from our tour guides.
Located atop a hill overlooking the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain, Toledo is a historic city with a rich tapestry of cultures that have left their mark over centuries. Known as the “City of the Three Cultures”, it is celebrated for the peaceful coexistence of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim communities throughout much of its history.
Toledo’s historic quarter, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is an open-air museum, where every narrow, winding alley and traditional house tells a story of the city’s vibrant past.
Its well-preserved medieval architecture includes the stunning Toledo Cathedral, one of Spain’s largest cathedrals, known for its beautiful Gothic architecture and a grand altar that is a masterpiece of Baroque art.
The city is also home to the historic Alcázar of Toledo, a stone fortification located in the highest part of Toledo, which has served as a Roman palace, a fortress, and now a military museum.
The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca, the Mosque of Cristo de la Luz, and the Church of Santo Tomé, which houses El Greco’s famous painting ‘The Burial of the Count of Orgaz,’ are among other important historical landmarks.
Toledo’s gastronomy is a delicious mix of Spanish cuisines, with signature dishes like ‘Mazapán’ which is popular local sweet and ‘Carcamusas’, a delicious pork stew that you can’t miss.
Nestled in the rolling hills of the Castile and León region of Spain, Ávila is a charming city renowned for its remarkably well-preserved medieval walls.
Dominating the city’s skyline, the Walls of Ávila encircle the old town and provide a stunning example of 11th-century military architecture. The impressive walls feature 88 semi-circular towers and 9 gates, and you can walk along parts of the walls to enjoy panoramic views of the city and the surrounding countryside.
At the city’s heart is the imposing Ávila Cathedral, believed to be Spain’s first Gothic cathedral. It’s uniquely integrated into the city’s walls and serves both as a place of worship and a fortification. The cathedral houses an array of religious art and an impressive altarpiece.
Ávila is also the birthplace of Saint Teresa, one of the most famous mystic saints of the Catholic Church. The Convent of Saint Teresa, built on the site of her birthplace, and the Convent of Saint Joseph, which she founded, are significant religious sites associated with her life.
Ávila is famous for ‘Yemas de Santa Teresa,’ a sweet made from egg yolks and sugar.
A short drive from Avila, Segovia is a picturesque city rich in history and architectural grandeur. Its ancient Roman aqueduct, fairytale-like Alcázar, and majestic cathedral have earned the city a deserved place on the UNESCO World Heritage list.
The Roman Aqueduct of Segovia, one of the best-preserved monuments left on the Iberian Peninsula, is a testament to the engineering skills of the ancient Romans. This impressive structure has stood in the city center for nearly 2,000 years, and incredibly, it still carries water.
Segovia’s Alcázar, perched on a rocky crag with views over the Eresma and Clamores rivers, is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. This medieval fortress, complete with turrets, a moat, and a drawbridge, has served as a royal palace, a prison, and now a museum.
Segovia’s famous dish is ‘cochinillo’ (roast suckling pig), which is a must-try for food lovers. The meat was fall off the bone with beautifully roasted skin… yum.
We rented a car as we left Madrid on our way to Andalusia. Cars are super cheap to rent in Madrid. We recommend renting a smaller model, as it would be easier to navigate in some of the narrower streets in big towns, and in their parking garages.
Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish, is the vibrant capital of the Andalusia region in southern Spain. Known for its rich history, stunning architecture, and vivacious culture, Seville will charm you with its Flamenco and old neighborhoods like Barrio Santa Cruz and Triana.
We rented a stunning penthouse for 5 nights on Airbnb, overlooking a 180 degree view of the whole historic city center. One of our favorite things to do was relax on our terrace, watching the sun going down over the historic monuments, with a glass of local wine. (Their wines are very cheap and absolutely great tasting)
The city’s iconic landmark, the Seville Cathedral, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We took a guided tour inside the cathedral, as you learn a lot from local tour guides.
The cathedral was constructed between the 15th and 16th centuries on the site of a former mosque, following the reconquest of Seville from the Moors. The building’s design is predominantly Gothic, although it also features elements of the Moorish, Renaissance, and Baroque styles.
One of the cathedral’s most iconic features is the Giralda, a soaring bell tower that was originally built as a minaret for the mosque that previously stood on the site. The Giralda, with its height of more than 100 meters, offers a panoramic view of Seville.
The cathedral is also known for housing the tomb of Christopher Columbus, a monument of a casket held aloft by four statues, representing the kingdoms of Castile, León, Aragón, and Navarra.
Nearby, the Royal Alcazar, a palace originally built by Moorish Muslim kings, is renowned for its exquisite mudejar architecture and beautiful gardens.
Inside, the palace rooms are adorned with stunning tile work, intricate carvings, and elaborate ceilings, each room with its unique character and charm.
The Hall of Ambassadors, once the throne room, is particularly noteworthy with its gilded dome designed to symbolize the universe.
The Alcázar has also gained recent fame as a filming location, notably serving as the Water Gardens of Dorne in the TV series ‘Game of Thrones’.
Barrio Santa Cruz, also known simply as Santa Cruz, is the old Jewish quarter of Seville, and one of the city’s most charming neighborhoods. Nestled in the heart of the city, this historic district is a labyrinth of narrow winding streets, colorful Andalusian houses, picturesque plazas, and quaint courtyards. Its narrow alleyways, often adorned with flowering plants and iron balconies, open up into beautiful hidden squares.
Santa Cruz is bordered by the iconic Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcázar on one side, making it an integral part of the city’s historic core. Its streets were once home to the city’s Jewish community until their expulsion in the late 15th century.
Apart from its historical and architectural appeal, Santa Cruz is known for its vibrant dining scene. Traditional tapas bars, outdoor cafes, and high-end restaurants line the streets, offering everything from classic Andalusian dishes to innovative cuisine. We had a great lunch after all that walking, overlooking a small yet very popular plaza.
Walking through Barrio Santa Cruz, with its rich history, charming ambience, and lively culture, is a quintessential Seville experience that every visitor should try.
Triana is a vibrant and historic neighborhood in Seville, located on the western bank of the Guadalquivir River, opposite the city’s central district. Often considered the soulful heart of Seville, Triana is famed as the birthplace of flamenco, and has a rich history tied to the city’s Romani community.
The area is filled with tablaos (flamenco venues) and peñas (flamenco clubs) where you can witness deeply passionate and authentic flamenco performances.
A stroll through its streets provides a wonderful chance to experience Seville’s traditional culture, away from the main tourist trail.
Plan a few hours walking by the side of the river and esplanade, checking Torre del Oro, a military watchtower on the bank, and then going through the numerous alleys of this charming neighborhood.
Plaza de España is one of Seville’s most iconic landmarks, and a masterpiece of Andalusian architecture. Built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition World Fair of 1929, it represents the Renaissance and Moorish styles that have shaped the region’s architectural history.
This immense semi-circular plaza spans an impressive 50,000 square meters, and its buildings are arranged along the edge of the square, embracing a vast open area.
The plaza is bordered by a canal, referred to as “the moat,” which you can cross via four beautifully adorned bridges representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain: Castile, Aragon, Navarre, and León.
The Plaza de España has also been a popular filming location, featuring in movies such as Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.
Setas de Sevilla, officially known as Metropol Parasol, is one of Seville’s most distinctive modern landmarks. Completed in 2011 and designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer, it is the world’s largest wooden structure, earning its nickname, “Setas de Sevilla” or “Mushrooms of Seville,” due to its unique mushroom-like shape.
Metropol Parasol is a multifunctional space. Beneath the parasols, you’ll find a fresh food market and local produce stalls. There’s also Antiquarium, an underground museum that houses archaeological remains discovered during the construction of the Metropol Parasol, including Roman and Moorish ruins.
The upper levels of the Metropol Parasol feature a panoramic terrace and a winding walkway that offer stunning views over the city of Seville. This rooftop walkway, known as the “Mirador,” allows visitors to stroll around the parasols and enjoy the breathtaking 360-degree view of the cityscape.
Don’t Miss the Flamenco in Seville!! It is the birthplace of flamenco and remains a thriving center for this vibrant art form. The city pulses with flamenco’s spirit, from the rhythm echoing in its winding streets to the passionate performances happening in its many venues.
There are many Flamenco shows all over the city. These venues often include a meal or drink with the show, providing an unforgettable evening of Andalusian culture and cuisine.
Noah was very enthusiastic to learn a few tap dancing steps. He even wanted his own foldable Sevilla fan for his dance.
We did another guided sight seeing day trip, this time out of Seville to Córdoba. Córdoba is a captivating city located in the southern Spanish region of Andalusia.
It’s known for its rich history, having been a significant Roman city and a major Islamic center during the Middle Ages. Today, Córdoba is a vibrant city where cultures merge, showcasing a blend of its Islamic past and its present Christian influences.
Perhaps the most iconic symbol of Córdoba is the Mezquita-Catedral, or Mosque-Cathedral. It was originally built as a mosque in the 8th century when Spain was under Islamic rule, then converted into a Catholic cathedral in the 13th century.
This unique architectural marvel is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in Spain.
Córdoba’s historic quarter, known as La Judería or Jewish Quarter, is a labyrinth of narrow, winding streets and whitewashed houses filled with flowers.
It’s in this area that you’ll find the ancient Sinagoga, one of the few remaining synagogues in Spain from the time when Jews, Christians, and Muslims lived side by side in Córdoba.
The city is also famous for its patios or courtyards, which are particularly beautiful in May during the Festival de los Patios. During this event, residents open their private patios to the public, showcasing a dazzling array of flowers and plants in their traditional inner courtyards.
Costa del Sol
From Sevilla, it’s a short drive to Costa Del Sol!! The Spanish Southern Riviera!!
Costa del Sol, which translates to “Coast of the Sun,” is a stunning region in Southern Spain, renowned for its beautiful Mediterranean coastline, abundant sunshine, and vibrant cultural scene.
Stretching from Malaga to Gibraltar, Costa del Sol is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, welcoming millions of visitors each year.
The region boasts over 150 kilometers of sandy beaches and crystal-clear waters, making it a paradise for beach lovers.
We chose a beautiful Spanish Villa surrounded by Andalusian mountains overlooking the Mediterranean Sea in the distance, 10 minutes from the white washed village of Mijas.
We absolutely loved our 6 night easy going pace there, just relaxing most of the days, going out for lunches in neighboring towns, cooking dinners in house, and even working a bit on GypsyPlate.
The reason we prefer renting homes over hotels is it gives a lot of room, and the experience of living like locals. Grocery shopping, cooking, grilling and just enjoying the property. We even cooked, Pisto (it’s kinda like Spanish Ratatouille) for GypsyPlate.
Mijas Pueblo: Mijas is a charming town nestled in the hillsides of the Costa del Sol, in the Andalusia region of Southern Spain. Known for its white-washed buildings and picturesque landscapes, it offers a blend of traditional Andalusian charm and stunning coastal views.
This traditional white village is filled with winding cobbled streets, quaint houses adorned with colorful flower pots, and offers panoramic views of the Mediterranean below.
One of the town’s unique attractions is the “burro-taxi” or donkey taxi. Originating from the 1960s, these donkey-drawn carts were traditionally used to transport goods, but now they serve as a popular tourist attraction, offering a charming way to explore the village.
We preferred to ride the donkey statue, rather than a real donkey.
Mijas is also known for its culinary scene. Visitors can enjoy traditional Andalusian dishes in the many tapas bars and restaurants scattered around the town.
Local specialties include fresh seafood, locally grown fruits, and sweet Malaga wines.
On our last day in Mijas, Noah got his beloved “España” hat, which he still wears every time he leaves the house.
Malaga is a vibrant city located along the Costa del Sol in the Andalusia region of southern Spain.
Known for its high-energy ambiance, rich cultural history, and sunny Mediterranean climate, Malaga is a bustling metropolis with some historical landmarks like Alcazaba, a Moorish fortress-palace dating from the 11th century.
Nearby, you can also visit the ancient Roman Theatre and Gibralfaro Castle, offering stunning views over the city and the Mediterranean Sea.
Malaga is perhaps best known as the birthplace of Pablo Picasso. The Picasso Museum, located in the city center, houses an impressive collection of his works. Close by, you can visit the house where Picasso was born, now a museum dedicated to his life and work.
We simply just went there for a walk by the esplanade and for lunch in one of their seafood restaurants by the Med.
An hour and half drive from Mijas is the dramatic, cliff hanging white washed town of Ronda.
It’s famous for its dramatic escarpments and views, and the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the Guadalevín River through its center.
Its most iconic structure is the Puente Nuevo, an 18th-century bridge spanning the gorge, providing breathtaking views of the surrounding landscape. Ronda boasts a rich history visible in its well-preserved landmarks, including the Mondragon Palace and the ancient Arab Baths.
The city also features one of Spain’s oldest bullrings, the Plaza de Toros de Ronda. Surrounded by lush natural parks and vineyards, Ronda serves as a perfect base for outdoor activities and wine tasting tours, offering visitors a blend of cultural history, natural beauty, and adventure.
From Mijas our next stop was another gem, and a MUST for your Spain Itinerary. Granada!! We rented a beautiful heritage Spanish Villa for 4 nights in the Albaicín Moorish quarter, overlooking the world famous Alhambra.
Some of our best evenings were just sitting on the terrace overlooking this historical marvel glowing in distance, sipping our reds with some homemade Pan con Jamón, our favorite tapas in Spain.
Granada is a vibrant city located in southern Spain’s Andalusia region, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It is famed for its rich history, striking Moorish architecture, lively cultural scene, and delectable cuisine.
The city’s crown jewel is undoubtedly the Alhambra, a stunning palace and fortress complex dating back to the 13th century. We booked a 3 hour guided tour to see the whole of Alhambra.
It is a masterpiece of Islamic architecture, with beautifully ornate rooms, lush gardens, and a backdrop of snow-capped mountains.
Next to the Alhambra is the Generalife, a palace surrounded by lovely gardens that were used as a place of retreat by the Moorish kings.
Albaicín, where our villa was located, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a maze of narrow, winding streets, charming courtyards, and traditional whitewashed houses.
The Mirador de San Nicolás, located in the Albaicín, offers stunning panoramic views of the Alhambra and the city below. The adjacent San Nícolas Church is worth a visit while you’re there.
Another significant site is the Cathedral of Granada, a magnificent 16th-century building known for its grand Renaissance and Gothic architecture. Adjacent to it is the Royal Chapel, which houses the tombs of the Catholic Monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella.
Granada is also known for its lively flamenco scene, particularly in the Sacromonte district, traditionally home to the city’s Romani community. Here, you can watch passionate flamenco performances in the white caves where the dance form is said to have originated.
The city’s culinary scene is equally exciting. Granada is famed for its tapas culture, with many bars offering a free tapa with each drink. In addition to traditional Andalusian dishes and Moorish-inspired cuisine, you will find many Moroccan and Arabic restaurants all over.
Costa Blanca, or the “White Coast,” is a popular tourist region located in the province of Alicante on Spain’s southeastern coast. It spans over 200 kilometers of the Mediterranean coastline, boasting beautiful sandy beaches, stunning landscapes, historic towns, and a warm, sunny climate.
The region is named Costa Blanca because of its extensive beaches and the dazzling white sand that lines its coastline.
We rented a stunning Spanish Villa for 4 nights in the town of Villajoyosa, overlooking the gorgeous blues of the Mediterranean. We chose this town as it was close to Valencia as well as Alicante.
Villajoyosa is a coastal town known for its vibrant, colorful houses that line the seafront and great restaurants. It’s very popular with Northern Europeans in summers.
One of the town’s most notable features is its long, sandy, crescent shaped beach which is often quieter than those found in larger nearby resorts. This provides an ideal spot for relaxing, swimming, or enjoying water sports.
We went for a nice walk by the waterfront and ended up having a great meal at one of their seafood restaurants. We tried Banda, a rice seafood dish which is a slight variations from Paella.
Costa Blanca is where we mostly relaxed by the ocean, cooked our favorite tapas and just chilled out, doing nothing.
Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city, and sits on the southeastern coast, offering a rich blend of cultural attractions, modern architecture, vibrant nightlife, and fantastic cuisine.
Known for its beautiful beaches and pleasant climate, Valencia combines the charm of old Spanish cities with futuristic buildings, making it an intriguing place for tourists to explore.
One of the city’s most iconic landmarks is the City of Arts and Sciences, a futuristic complex designed by the world-renowned architect Santiago Calatrava. The complex includes an interactive science museum, a planetarium, an opera house, and a spectacular oceanographic park, which is the largest aquarium in Europe.
So far, this trip was not much for the toddler of the group, so we decided to visit Valencia’s Aquarium for Noah (and of course have some world famous Paella later).
Valencia Aquarium is a spectacular marine complex, and a must-visit attraction in the city. Its design is unique and innovative, with each building representing different aquatic environments including the Mediterranean, Wetlands, Temperate and Tropical Seas, Oceans, the Antarctic, the Arctic, Islands, and the Red Sea.
In these environments, the Oceanogràfic houses more than 45,000 individuals of 500 different species. Noah’s favorites were the sharks and penguins.
In addition to the marine life, the Oceanogràfic offers several interactive exhibits and educational presentations.
The historic city center, El Carmen, is a maze of narrow medieval streets with a variety of Gothic and Renaissance monuments. Highlights include the impressive Valencia Cathedral, which claims to be home to the Holy Grail, and the 15th-century Silk Exchange (La Lonja).
Paella, Spain’s most famous dish, originated in the Valencia region, and as such the Valencian paella is often considered the most traditional version. The key ingredients of Valencian paella include rabbit, chicken, green beans and butter beans.
We finally found a cracking Paella, that we truly loved.
Alicante is a charming city located in the heart of Spain’s Costa Blanca region. Known for its beautiful sandy beaches, impressive mountain backdrop, historical landmarks, and delightful Mediterranean climate, Alicante offers a mix of relaxation, culture, and adventure.
The city’s most iconic landmark is the Castle of Santa Barbara, an imposing fortress perched on top of Mount Benacantil, which provides panoramic views of the city and the sea.
Down at sea level, the Explanada de España, a beautiful maritime promenade lined with palm trees, is a perfect place for a leisurely stroll. Lined with cafes, bars, and shops, it’s a hub of activity day and night.
Near the promenade, you can also find the charming old quarter, known as El Barrio, with its narrow streets, colorful houses, and a range of tapas bars and restaurants.
We had wonderful lunch by the sea along with fabulous Mojitos.
From Costa Blanca, a few hours drive to Barcelona… We decided to stay for 6 nights to explore this city well, in leisurely time. Our modern, beautiful apartment was called Gaudi’s Churchyard, bang next to the famous Sagrada Familia.
Now we have stayed in many Airbnb’s, but I think the best Airbnb apartment and super host award goes to Enric. The apartment comes with a fully loaded pantry with wine and snacks, breads, croissants and what not.
The refrigerator is full of all the drinks you can imagine, along with plenty of fresh fruits. The best part? It comes with 2 hours of daily housekeeping… Wow. We were simply were blown away by this Super Host, and his fantastic apartment.
I enjoyed watching the Gaudi’s masterpiece at all times of the day and night, and marvel at the small details.
We did another hop-on hop-off in Barcelona, just to see different neighborhoods and commute between the places of interest, as it’s a very well spread city. We recommend buying the 2 day tickets, so you can cover many areas of interests all over the city.
The Gothic Quarter, known as “Barri Gòtic” in Catalan, is the heart of Barcelona’s old city. This district is one of the most popular areas in Barcelona due to its wealth of historic sites, narrow medieval streets, hidden squares, and vibrant atmosphere.
Walking through the Gothic Quarter is like stepping back in time, with parts of the district dating back to Roman and medieval times. The area is named for its numerous Gothic buildings that span from the 13th to 15th centuries.
The narrow, winding cobblestone streets create a labyrinth of passageways, each one opening onto different squares filled with history and charm.
The centerpiece of the Gothic Quarter is the Barcelona Cathedral, also known as the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and Saint Eulalia. This stunning cathedral is a fine example of Gothic architecture and is known for its intricately carved façade and the beautiful cloister that houses 13 white geese.
Plaça Reial is a famous public square and popular gathering place in the Gothic Quarter. The plaza is known for its impressive period architecture and has been a meeting place and public event space since the 19th-century.
Locals and visitors alike are drawn to the Plaça Reial in Barcelona to enjoy its unique Mediterranean ambience and central fountain, cafes and restaurants, and vibrant nightlife atmosphere. The streets of Gothic Quarters are lined with shops, bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.
The famous pedestrian street, La Rambla, is just on the edge of the Gothic Quarter, and is a bustling hub of activity both day and night.
It’s a tree-lined pedestrian avenue that connects Plaça de Catalunya in the center to the Christopher Columbus Monument at Port Vell, the city’s waterfront harbor.
The street is a hive of activity, packed with locals and tourists at all hours of the day and night. It’s renowned for its lively atmosphere, street performers, outdoor dining, flower stalls, and a variety of shops.
There are several notable attractions along or near La Rambla. One of the most famous is the Mercat de la Boqueria, a large public market renowned for its wide variety of fresh produce, seafood, cured meats, cheeses, and a host of other food offerings. It’s an absolute must-visit for food lovers.
However, while La Rambla is a must-see, visitors should be mindful of their belongings as the area is known for pickpockets. Though restaurants are over priced overlooking all that goes around, we did end up having lunch there, as we were hungry from walking for hours.
Park Güell is one of the most famous landmarks in Barcelona and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It’s a public park system composed of gardens and unique architectural elements located on Carmel Hill, offering stunning views over the city.
The park was designed by the Antoni Gaudí, and is a testament to his creative genius. The park is filled with whimsical architectural elements that showcase his distinctive style, blending organic shapes with richly detailed mosaics made of ceramic tiles.
One of the most famous sights within the park is the serpentine bench, which wraps around the edge of the main terrace. This bench, covered in colorful mosaics, provides a communal seating area with spectacular views of the city.
The gingerbread-like houses at the entrance of Park Güell are one of the most striking features of the park. The larger of the two was originally designed as a porter’s lodge and contains a waiting room and telephone booth.
The smaller house was intended for the caretaker of the estate. These whimsical structures, with their undulating lines, bright ceramic tiles, and fairy-tale turrets, encapsulate Gaudí’s imaginative approach to architecture.
The entrance leads to a grand staircase adorned with a colorful salamander, often referred to as “el drac” (the dragon), another iconic symbol of the park.
Gaudí created three houses, Casa Batlló, Casa Mila and Casa Vicens that are open to the public for visits. We decided to visit Casa Batlló as it is visually the most stunning. We highly recommend it.
Casa Batlló is a renowned architectural masterpiece in Barcelona. This colorful and whimsical building features a mosaic façade, bone-like windows, and a dragon-inspired roof.
Inside, the curved and organic design elements create a surreal and enchanting atmosphere. A visit to Casa Batlló offers a glimpse into Gaudí’s imaginative genius and is a must-see attraction in Barcelona.
We bought the gold ticket that comes with a virtual reality tablet and headphones that tell you epic stories about every room. I won’t go into details, but rather let you experience the same surprise that we did.
You can also see Gaudi’s Dome, an immersive experience to travel to the origin of Gaudí’s inspiration: nature.
The tour end with a unique 360º movie experience that left us in awe.
The main highlight of Barcelona is the Sagrada Familia, an iconic basilica and Antoni Gaudí’s most famous and ambitious architectural masterpiece.
Construction of the basilica began in 1882 and continues to this day, with an estimated completion date set for 2026, marking the centenary of Gaudí’s death.
The Sagrada Familia is renowned for its distinctive and awe-inspiring design, combining elements of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles with Gaudí’s unique vision. The basilica’s façade is adorned with intricate stone carvings depicting various biblical scenes and symbolism.
We recommend doing a guided tour of magnificent structure. Inside the basilica, visitors are greeted with a breathtaking display of light and color. The tall stained glass windows, designed in harmonious hues, create a mesmerizing play of light and illuminate the interior with a serene ambiance.
It is truly one of the most incredible buildings in the world.
The Lego Store Barcelona was on demand and a must on our list from our very first day of Spain. This is what Noah was looking forward to from the very beginning, and I must say it is a must-visit destination for LEGO enthusiasts of all ages.
Located in the heart of the city, the store offers a fun and immersive experience for LEGO fans. A huge Lego car, a Beautiful Lego Tree and an amazing Lego Sagrada Familia and Park Güell Legos were very fascinating.
Noah had a tough time choosing his exact dream Lego, but he finally settled for Harry Potter, Disney Castle and a Spiderman Car.
We decided on another guided tour to Montserrat, a mountain top monastery, along with a nearby wine tasting.
Montserrat is a stunning mountain range located near Barcelona. Known for its unique rock formations, breathtaking landscapes, and the Montserrat Monastery, it is a popular destination for nature lovers, pilgrims, and tourists alike.
The mountain range of Montserrat is renowned for its distinctive serrated peaks, which resemble the teeth of a saw, giving it the name “Montserrat,” meaning “serrated mountain” in Catalan.
The natural beauty of the area, with its rugged cliffs and lush vegetation, offers a serene and picturesque setting.
At the heart of Montserrat lies the Montserrat Monastery, a Benedictine abbey that has been a place of worship and pilgrimage for over a thousand years. The monastery is home to the revered Black Madonna statue, known as La Moreneta, which attracts pilgrims from around the world.
Visitors can explore the basilica, museum, and the surrounding areas, taking in the peaceful atmosphere and enjoying panoramic views of the surrounding countryside.
Montserrat is also known for its wine production. Wine tasting experiences in and around Montserrat provide an opportunity to discover and savor the unique flavors of the local wines.
Knowledgeable guides provide insights into the region’s winemaking traditions, grape varieties, and the unique characteristics of Montserrat wines.
We had a great experience tasting some amazing wines along with some fabulous tapas at the Oller del Mas vineyard, which has been in the same family for 36 generations!
Menorca is a picturesque island located in the Mediterranean Sea, part of the Balearic Islands archipelago in Spain.
Known for its stunning beaches, crystal-clear turquoise waters, and unspoiled natural beauty, Menorca is a haven for nature lovers and those seeking a tranquil and laid-back island getaway.
This was the last stop on our trip, and we practically just did nothing but relax in our small little condo overlooking beautiful waters. Well, apart from a little driving around the island and hunting some good food and drinks.
Menorca’s coastline is particularly captivating, with over 125 miles of pristine beaches and hidden bays, secluded coves offering plenty of opportunities for swimming, snorkeling, and sunbathing.
This was exactly what we needed before flying back to Madrid to hop on to our flight back home.
I hope our adventure inspires all of you who read this to explore this part of the world.
This time around, Spain was more rewarding and satisfying, sharing it with my loved ones. We had wonderful times exploring this great country, trying its local cuisine (my next post is, of course, what to eat in Spain) and making so many happy memories.
Well, as I said in the beginning of the post… Spain was meant to be!!
Check out our other travel guides!
Things to do in England and Wales
Things to do in London
Things to do in Charleston, NC
Things to do in New Orleans, LA
Things to do in the Outer Banks
Things to do in Puerto Rico
Things to do in Manali, India
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