2 Days in Madrid: Itinerary for an Unforgettable Weekend in Madrid

Madrid is a fantastic city, full of life, food, and culture. Whereas most people in the world end up adoring Barcelona, I ended up head over heels for Madrid.

Even in the peak season in Madrid, the tourists feel dispersed (as long as you’re not waiting in line for the Prado, but that’s another story we’ll get to later…) and prices are reasonable.

The backbone of any good Madrid itinerary is picking a central and fantastic neighborhood.

Since you only have 2 days in Madrid, you’re going to want to stay somewhere central.

If you’re trying to decide what neighborhood in Madrid to stay in, here’s my personal choice: Puerta del Sol.

This neighborhood is the heart and soul of Madrid, and where we stayed was right in the thick of it.

We took full advantage of our prime location and dove into the Spanish style of life – eating, snacking, drinking, repeat.

Oh, and I guess a bit of sightseeing squeezed in between bites of luxurious ham and gulps of fantastic Rioja. 

How This Madrid Itinerary Works

the crystal palace interior in madrid

This Madrid itinerary is designed to be primarily a self-guided walking itinerary, where you can walk from attraction to attraction in a leisurely fashion, sightseeing along the way.

Where it makes sense, I’ve suggested a few guided tours or experiences that (in my opinion) augment your time in Madrid in a positive way.

However, the vast majority of this itinerary for Madrid is self-directed, since that’s my personal favorite way to travel.

In that case, I’ve indicated how to pre-book an attraction ticket to save time (who wants to wait in line on vacation?) but I don’t recommend a guided tour for every single experience.

Most of the magic is just exploring Madrid, with a destination loosely in mind, but open to the serendipity of exploring this magical city.

The experience of visiting Madrid is also largely the experience of eating there, so I’ve made sure to direct you to some of my favorite eateries in Madrid!

Where to Stay in Madrid

the famous puerta del sol is the perfect place to base yourself for your weekend in madrid (fountain, famous post office, clocktower)

This Madrid itinerary is centered around Puerta del Sol as your home base. It’s the most central location for every sight you’ll want to see on this two-day itinerary!

I’ll list a few recommendations for where to stay based on different budget categories.

If you’re traveling with kids, here’s a selection of family-friendly hotels in Madrid.

MID-RANGE | Pestana Plaza Mayor Hotel: I love Pestana properties (I had the luxury of staying at Pestana Palace in Lisbon once!). This one looks fantastic and offers a ton of amenities for a reasonable price for what you get!

Not only do you get a central location with views over Plaza Mayor, but there’s also a rooftop infinity pool, a wellness center with both sauna and hammam-style areas, and so many cool and elegant common areas… not to mention the rooms are spacious, modern, and well-designed!

Check availability and prices at Pestana Plaza Mayor Hotel here!

LUXURY | Gran Hotel Inglés: Part of the Leading Hotels of the World circle of elite hotels, this is one of the best luxury options in Madrid. It’s in a beautiful 19th century Art Deco building with 5* amenities, including fine dining, a spa center, extremely elegant common areas, and helpful concierge services.

The rooms are exquisitely designed in a minimalist but modern style, with luxe amenities like soaking tubs in all the rooms. Some suites even have their own private terraces with a hot tub on it!

Check availability and prices at Gran Hotel Inglés here!

BUDGET | Hotel Moderno Puerta del Sol: This surprisingly budget-friendly option is still in the heart of Madrid with rooms often available for under $100 per night. The design is not ultra-modern, but for the spaciousness of the rooms you get and the central location, it’s not a bad deal at all.

Some rooms even have spacious terraces with deck chairs where you can watch Madrid pass by beneath your feet!

Check availability and prices at Hodel Moderno here!

Getting Into Madrid

the fancy ceiling at madrid barajas airport terminal 4

If you arrive to Madrid by plane, you’ll most likely fly into Madrid Barajas Airport.

It’s a large and frankly rather overwhelming airport, but you can get into the city center by a variety of ways: organized pick-up, taxi, bus, train, or metro.

Of these five options, I recommend either an organized pick-up or the bus. Taxis can overcharge travelers, the train is less convenient than it sounds, and the metro can be overwhelming.

Organized Pick Up

This is by far the easiest way and it’s my #1 recommendation if you want a smooth entry to Madrid.

It’s typically a few dollars more than a taxi or Uber, but you’ll be greeted at the airport and will get driven in without having to worry about getting a taxi or figuring out the subway.


Taking a taxi is definitely possible. In theory, there is a flat 30 euro fee for destinations in the city center; however, it’s not unheard of for taxi scams to happen, so I hesitate to strongly recommend a taxi.

If you’re not a confident international traveler, I’d pay a few euros more for an organized pickup — it’ll save you some headache for a minimal additional fee.


sol metro station in downtown madrid

There are two metro stations at Madrid-Barajas Airport: one at Terminal 2 and one at Terminal 4.

If you are arriving at one of those terminals, the metro is fairly easy, but it will involve at least one transfer (and likely two).

Otherwise, if landing at Terminal 1 or 3, you have to take the airport shuttle, which is annoying and can take longer than you’d expect (Madrid Barajas is huge!).

Metro line 8 serves the airport, but it won’t bring you all the way into central Madrid. It is, however, a cheap option, at only 3 euros for a train ticket.

If you’re staying in Puerta del Sol (where I recommend), you’ll want to transfer first at Mar de Cristal to line 4 towards Arguelles. Then you’ll transfer again at Goya, heading towards Cuatro Caminos on line 2, but getting off at Sol.

There are other ways to get to Sol (i.e. line 8 to line 1 to line 2, line 8 to line 4 to line 1) but none that don’t require at least two transfers.

Airport Bus

This is the easiest way to get to Madrid Airport on a budget, in my opinion.

The bus serves Terminals 1, 2, and 4. If you land at terminal 3, you’ll need to take a shuttle bus first.

It’s 5 euros, so it’s a little more than the metro or the train, but it’s a lot more straightforward. It also runs 24/7 so it’s good if you have a flight at a strange hour.

The bus stops at Plaza de Cibeles and Atocha (daytime only) — neither are particularly close to Puerta del Sol so you will have to walk approximately 15 minutes to Plaza de Cibeles or 30 minutes from Atocha.


From the airport, you can take the train to Atocha central railway station for under 3 euros.

Sounds great… in theory!

However, the train station is located at Terminal 4, and if you’re at one of the other terminals, you’ll need to take the airport shuttle there, which is time-consuming, so this is not as convenient as it sounds.

Plus, Atocha is not quite where I recommend staying for this Madrid itinerary, so it’s a bit of a walk from the train station to Puerta del Sol (about 30 minutes)

Getting Around Madrid

gran via metro stop in madrid in the central city center

Once you’re in the city, it’s easy to get around by foot or by public transit.

Madrid has a fantastic metro system that will zip you around the city center pretty easily via public transport if you choose.

However, this Madrid itinerary is designed to be entirely walkable, with no need to use the metro stations unless you get tired.

However, if you plan to visit other parts of the city that are not outlined on this itinerary — such as visiting the Bernabéu Stadium, home to the Real Madrid team and a must-visit for football fans (aka not me — I’d rather do literally anything but that, but you do you!) — you’ll want to take the subway or a taxi/Uber.

Another option is buying hop-on, hop-off bus tickets, which conveniently connect the main Madrid attractions on a single bus line.

However, I don’t think it’s necessary for this itinerary unless you are traveling with young ones who can’t handle much walking or your group includes people with mobility limitations who may find the amount of walking on this Madrid itinerary to be a bit excessive.

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 1

Start at Puerta del Sol.

man on a horse statue in front of a red building with a visible clock tower part of the puerta del sol landscape

Puerta del Sol is the neighborhood I recommend you stay in if you have only a short amount of time like 2 days in Madrid.

But in case you’re staying elsewhere in the city, make your way over to Puerta del Sol to start your Madrid itinerary here.

This is one of the busiest and best-known squares in Madrid, and quite literally the center of the city, as all the main roads radiate outwards from this central point.

There are a few important points in Puerta del Sol: the Real Casa de Correos, an old post office that is now home to the President of Madrid’s Autonomous Community, the Kilometer 0 stone, the Bear and the Strawberry Tree (El Oso y El Madroño) statue, and the giant Tio Pepe advertisement that’s now part of Puerta del Sol’s skyline.

Have ham for breakfast at Museo del Jamón.

a plate of different kinds of ham and cured meat and cheese at the museo del jamon in madrid spain

Do I seem a bit ridiculous suggesting you start your 2 days in Madrid by shoving your face with ham? I’m sorry, but I simply must.

(If ham for breakfast is too much of an ask, I recommend a breakfast pastry at La Mallorquina in Puerta del Sol)

Museo de Jamón (Calle Mayor, 7) is truly a pork lovers’ dream, literally packed wall to wall with enormous cuts of ham in every shape and size. And it’s cheap. As in, I wonder how they even turn a profit cheap.

We got a heaping plate of four different kinds of ham and manchego cheese for less than 8 euros.

A beer? 90 cents (and that’s not even the small caña size, which will only set you back 50 cents) AND it comes with a snack.

While you could skip the caña of beer since it is technically breakfast, I say screw it – if you only have two days in Madrid, you may as well live them to the fullest. 

I loved Museo del Jámon so much that I went twice: one day at night during the Madrid Pride festivities, when it was jam packed with drunken revelers taking a wise break to refuel before returning to the debauchery.

We loved it so much we went back again less than 12 hours later for breakfast, where we each had an espresso and a croissant, ham, and cheese sandwich for less than 3 euros apiece.

Not a fan of ham? There are plenty of other great breakfast and brunch spots in Madrid.

Location: Calle Mayor, 7

Check out Plaza Mayor.

a horse statue in front of the famous facade buildings of plaza mayor one of the busiest places for people watching in madrid

Close to the Mercado de San Miguel is Plaza Mayor, the largest public plaza in Madrid and what used to be the center of Old Madrid.

It’s a vibrant place for people watching in the Spanish capital, and there are also lots of little cafés where you can grab a seat and an espresso and watch Spanish daily life pass you by.

Visit the beautiful Almudena Cathedral.

white interior of the almudena cathedral a must visit on a weekend in madrid itinerary

Just a short walk from the Royal Palace (Palacio Real), you can’t miss the gorgeous Almudena Cathedral in the Madrid skyline.

Although this cathedral is considered young and relatively new, its beautiful look today belies a history of more than a century of problematic construction.

You see, Francisco de Cubas originally wanted to construct a pantheon to honor the late Queen Maria in the second half of the 19 th century, influenced by 18th century French Gothic design.

Even though the first stone was laid in 1879, following religious developments, the plans changed for the structure that was planned to be a pantheon to be a cathedral instead.

Its crypts opened in 1911, but they were shut down because of the civil war that came on as a result of the Franco fascist regime.

Decades after, it ran at a smaller capacity, until it was redesigned and then fully finished in 1993.

While it may be a newer building in a city filled with older architecture, I still think it’s worth visiting for its interesting history and gorgeous look that blends into the more jam-packed Madrid cityscape in a beautiful fashion.

Location: Calle de Bailén, 10

Head to the Royal Palace (Palacio Real) for some culture.

the grayish white fancy exterior of the royal palace of madrid, the former home of the royal family and one of the most popular madrid tourist attractions on a madrid itinerary

Now, pretend you didn’t just shove your face full of ham and beer at my behest and get some culture at the lovely Royal Palace of Madrid, one of the most important places in all of Madrid (and Spain in general).

Madrid has stood long before it became the capital of Spain — its original name was Magerit. The spot where the city’s fortress once stood is now where the Royal Palace stands today.

Because the old fort burned down, King Philip V ordered a new palace to be built for the royal family — and that’s what you see today.

The Royal Palace of Madrid was inspired by the Louvre and as a result of that inspiration, it also has sprawling grounds, gardens, and fountains.

The palace has over 3,000 rooms, which include the Main Staircase, Throne Room, the Guards Room, and many more. It’s one of the most visited historic buildings in Spain, and for a very good reason!

The Royal Palace of Madrid is one of most popular places to visit in the city, so I strongly recommend booking a guided walking tour of the Royal Palace. It’s inexpensive and adds a ton of historical context that you’ll lack otherwise.

Tours depart at 10 AM daily, so try to aim to arrive there around then.

Book your walking tour of the Royal Palace here!

If you prefer self-guided, I still recommend booking a fast-access ticket online ahead of time to save time without needing to commit to a guided tour.

Lines are long and unruly in much of Madrid, especially in high season, so booking tickets in advance will save you time — key when you have a limited amount of time such as only two days in Madrid.

Location: Calle de Bailén

Visit a real Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid.

the egyptian temple of debod was a gift from egypt to the city of madrid and stands in the middle of a fountain in the middle of a public park

The Temple of Debod is a true piece of Egyptian history in the heart of Madrid.

However, unlike most Egyptian artifacts you can find in the West (cough the British Museum cough), this temple was actually a gift from Egypt to the city of Madrid!

It was originally constructed in the 2nd century BC, by the orders of the Meroe King of Egypt. The temple was dedicated to the god Amun and goddess Isis, with gorgeous high reliefs carved into the stone.

Egypt gifted this temple to Madrid in the 20th century to protect the city of floods. It was disassembled from its original location and then rebuilt stone by stone when everything was transported.

The temple opened to the public in 1972 and it’s been one of Cuartel de la Montaña’s biggest attractions ever since!

It’s one of the best free things to do in Madrid, too, as there’s no entry fee to this public park!

Walk back through the Plaza de España.

view of the statue of miguel de cervantes the author of don quixote in front of several large skyscrapers in the madrid skyline

With its massive monument to the legendary author Miguel de Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote, it’s hard to miss Plaza de España on your walk back towards Puerta del Sol, where your lunch stop is.

Near the Plaza, there are a few quick points of interest to note.

First is one of the tallest buildings in the city, Torre de Madrid at 466 feet tall (142 meters) and Edificio España at 384 feet tall (117 meters).

Combined with the Statue of Miguel de Cervantes, it’s one of the most iconic photos of Madrid!

Another interesting building to note is the gorgeous House of Gallardo, dating back to 1911 and emblematic of the strong Art Nouveau movement that took place in Madrid around the turn of the century.

Take a quick stroll through the Malasaña barrio.

a beautiful storefront in malasana barrio of madrid with traditional typefaces and art

The neighborhood (barrio) of Malasaña is located just due east of Plaza de España and it’s absolutely worth a short walk on your first day in Madrid. It’s a trendy, hip neighborhood full of great restaurants, secondhand shops, and historic buildings.

It’s also a big nightlife hub, so this is a great place to return later in the night if you feel like continuing your exploration after dark!

My favorite buildings in Malasaña are the Liria Palace (an art museum that is simply stunning on the outside, since it’s inside an 18th century palace!), the Centro de Cultura Contemporánea Conde Duque, and Monasterio de Montserrat.

You can make a little loop of those buildings to get an idea of the lovely Malasaña neighborhood, popping into any boutiques or little stores that intrigue you along the way.

If you need a coffee pick-me-up before continuing on this Madrid itinerary, grab a cortado or other espresso drink of your choice at Café Federal or Misión Café, two of the trendiest coffee shops in Malasaña.

Have a lunch of vermouth and a few bites to eat at Mercado de San Miguel.

olives and pickled peppers stuffed with cheese at a food market in madrid

Continue walking until you reach the covered marketplace of Mercado de San Miguel, which is a bit of a touristy food market, but I think it’s still a great introduction to tapas, done Madrid-style.

My favorite things to eat there were the sweet and savory toasts piled high with mozzarella or burrata, the olive and pickled vegetable skewers called bandarillas, and some delicious vermouth with orange and ice (for a single euro fifty!)

Don’t eat too much here, though – this Madrid itinerary has you scheduled for a dinner walking tour exploring the tapas scene of this city at 7 PM, so you’ll want to save your appetite for later.

Location: Plaza de San Miguel

Stroll through La Latina.

la latina madrid street scene with a famous church and statue

One of my favorite neighborhoods in Madrid is La Latina.

The Basílica de San Francisco El Grande is one can’t-miss place in La Latina, and it provides an interesting contrast to the newness of the Almudena Cathedral near the Royal Palace.

Dating back to 1760, the church is one of five Royal Basilicas of Madrid and has three chapels, including a beautiful painting by the famous Spanish artist Francisco De Goya, one of my favorite artists of all time.

Another interesting part of La Latina is the Mercado de la Cebada, which has become a major street art hub in Madrid.

Both inside and on its outer walls, you’ll find countless murals featuring street art by a variety of different artists both Spanish and foreign.

Another street you shouldn’t miss is Calle de la Cava Baja, full of cute tapas bars and restaurants perfect for a midday snack.

If you happen to be in La Latina on a Sunday, you shouldn’t miss El Rastro flea market, the largest open air market in all of Madrid.

While a bit touristy, it’s great fun to browse and see if you can find something worth the treasure hunt!

Take a tapas walking tour.

spanish ham, cheese, and olives on plates

One of the best things to do in Madrid is mixing up delicious food and awesome history!

Going for a tapas walking tour means the best of both worlds: you’ll discover old monuments and historic buildings from your guide’s local knowledge while stopping at 4 to 5 different tapas restaurants to try all the best food in Madrid along the way.

Things you’ll taste on your tapas walking tour include Iberian ham (the world famous jamón iberico), seafood paella, local Spanish cheeses, and several other surprises as well as a selection of red or white Spanish wine, beer, or soft drinks.

Check out more information about the food tour here!

2 Day Madrid Itinerary: Day 2

Eat churros con chocolate for breakfast.

churros in Sol, Madrid
Churros con chocolate, the breakfast of champions

Yesterday it was ham for breakfast, now it’s churros!

We’re really just saying f*** you to healthy breakfasts on this weekend in Madrid, and you know what? I think that’s perfectly fine.

There are many places churning delicious churros con chocolate all over Madrid, but the oldest and most famous is Chocolatería San Ginés.

The churros here are perfectly fried – crunchy on the outside, soft inside, without any taste of grease.

They’re one of the best Spanish desserts, but they’re commonly eaten as a snack or even as breakfast!

Unlike their Mexican counterparts, these are not rolled in sugar and cinnamon; instead, you drown each bite in the cup of warm chocolate sauce.

Pair with an espresso and you’ve got one hell of a sugar and caffeine rush – ready to take on the second day of your Madrid itinerary.

Take in some art at Madrid’s most famous museum, Museo del Prado.

six pillars and fancy relief sculpture at the head of the entrance of the prado museum with a spanish flag flying atop it

Take a leisurely 20-minute walk through downtown Madrid until you reach the Prado Museum, one of the top attractions in Spain.

If you visit Madrid without visiting the Museo del Prado, it’s like going to London and not seeing Tower Bridge or Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower. Simply foolish, in my opinion!

However – the line at the Prado is one of the most insane lines that I’ve seen. As in, I’ve traveled all around the world and never seen lengthier lines than at the Prado!

I recommend booking a skip the line ticket and putting it at the beginning of your itinerary on day two in order to minimize the crowds that pack the museum after lunch.

Simply book it online and present on your mobile (no need to print). It’s just a few extra dollars for the online booking fee, but it’ll save you an hour or so of waiting in line.

Book tickets online to skip the line here!

Considered one of the most prestigious museums in Spain, the Prado Museum boasts one of the largest art collections in the country, including works by Spanish artists like Velázquez and Goya as well as international artists like Rembrandt and Dürer.

It’s one of the most visited tourist attractions mainly because its walls are lined with artistic masterpieces the likes of which are hard to find a worthwhile comparison to. It’s on par with the Louvre or the Met in terms of vastness and quality of art.

The Prado has over 8,000 paintings and over 700 sculptures in its possession, which come from different schools of art ranging from the 12th to the 20th century.

Here you’ll find masterpieces like Velázquez’ Las Meninas and Goya’s Third of May. The Prado holds the largest collection of Spanish art in the world, and one of the best collections of European art in general. It’s a can’t-miss for any art fan!

Major art fans will likely also want to make a stop at the Reina Sofia Museum, featuring modern art from Spanish artists such as Joan Miró, Salvador Dalí, and Pablo Picasso (one of his most famous works, Guernica — a powerful anti-war statement — is housed here).

Another museum in the area that makes up the so-called ‘golden triangle of art’ of Madrid art museums is the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum.

Again, unless you’re a huge art fanatic and want to spend a full day of your Madrid itinerary in museums, I’d suggest skipping it and saving it for your next Madrid visit!

If you do plan to visit two or three of these art museums, though, I recommend bundling them with the Madrid Art Walk Pass to save money!

Location: Paseo del Prado

Stroll through the majestic El Retiro Park.

small little rowboats out enjoying the retiro park lake with the famous alfonso xii statue at the head of the lake in retiro park in madrid

Madrid’s take on Central Park, walking through the scenic El Retiro Park with its manmade lake and Crystal Palace is an unmissable part of any Madrid itinerary.

Located in the heart of Madrid, Retiro Park is the city’s green lungs. It spans over 120 acres and includes dozens of thousands of trees. It’s one of the most popular recreational areas in the city!

Here you’ll find several different gardens, each comprised of beautiful types of flowers. The park even has a centuries-old Mexican conifer, which is supposedly Madrid’s oldest tree.

The biggest highlight of the park is the El Retiro Lake. You can rent a boat to take out onto the lake (the perfect place for selfies!) for 6 euros on weekdays and 8 euros on weekends.

Make sure to visit the exhibitions at the Velasquez Palace and the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), made almost entirely of glass and a can’t-miss Instagram spot in Retiro Park.

Location: Plaza de la Independencia, 7

Admire the Puerta de Alcalá.

five arches of the puerta de alcala with ornate sculpturework and text in roman numerals near el retiro park

At the northwest edge of El Retiro Park is the Puerta de Alcalá in the Plaza de la Independencia.

This beautiful neoclassical gate used to be part of the former walls built by Philip IV that encircled the city center of Madrid between 1625 and 1868.

The city walls no longer exist except in two small fragments, but the Puerta de Alcalá is a beautiful remnant from that time.

Built in 1778 from granite and limestone, this 5-arch gate has stood the test of time and is still a beloved landmark of Madrid.

Stop at the Plaza de Cibeles.

the plaza of cibeles with a fountain and palace behind it which is now the madrid city council -- all famous landmarks of madrid and must sees on a madrid itinerary

The stunning Plaza de Cibeles is home to two of Madrid’s most recognizable landmarks, the Fuente de Cibeles (Cybele Fountain) and Palacio de Cibeles (Cybele Palace).

The fountain itself is beautiful, of course, but it’s combination of the fountain with the backdrop of the Palacio de Cibeles (now home to the Madrid City Council) that is perhaps even more stunning!

It’s located on a busy thoroughfare, so it’s hard to get a great photograph of it, but it’s absolutely worth a visit on your walking tour of Madrid.

Walk the Gran Via of Madrid and stop for lunch.

gran via of madrid with famous facades of buildings and clocks and angel towers

Madrid’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Elysees and NYC’s Broadway all rolled into one street, the Gran Via is the hub of shopping and entertainment in the city!

Strolling down this grand avenue is one of the best ways to take the pulse of the city of Madrid, and it’s electric any time of day or night!

Don’t miss the massive Telefónica Building, built in 1928 and an early example of the skyscraper craze that would later change the definition of city skylines worldwide.

There are also several cinemas, bars, and restaurants on this street, so I recommend stopping for lunch somewhere along the way.

I recommend De María Gran Vía or La Sirena Verde, located at 72 and 62 Calle Gran Via respectively.

Check out the Monasterio de las Descalzas Reales.

pale pink brick facade of the monastery of barefoot royals in madrid, an unassuming building with beautiful interior

Literally translated to the Monastery of Barefoot Royals, this monastery a few short blocks away from Gran Via is definitely worth a small detour on this two-day itinerary.

Dating back to the 1500s, this monastery has an interesting and fascinating history.

While many monasteries and convents are a bit austere, where the monks or nuns live in rather spartan conditions, this monastery is incredibly ornate.

The reason for this is that the convent was primarily for young widowed women or noblewomen who never married — and therefore, for their dowries as well.

The convent quickly became one of the richest convents in Europe, and you can see the splendor in the paintings and wall hangings that decorate the monastery to this day.

By the 20th century, the population of who lived in the convent changed dramatically, and rather than housing impossible-to-marry-off noblewomen, it ended up hosting primarily impoverished women. In the 1960s it became the museum that it is today.

The monastery is open daily from 10 AM to 2 PM and then again from 4 PM to 6:30 PM (except on Sundays, when it’s open from 10 AM to 3 PM), so be careful if you are visiting around lunch time.

Grab an espresso and people watch.

small espresso cups (red and white) and a sugar dispenser in madrid

One of the things you shouldn’t miss when in Madrid is the opportunity to simply people watch.

There are countless cafés in the area around the monastery and Gran Via. The monastery is quite close to the Torres Barmejas where the flamenco show I recommend is, so I recommend not straying too far from this area.

Catch the nightly flamenco show at the Torres Barmejas.

Flamenco is one of the most popular pieces of folklore and a truly unmissable Spanish experience.

It’s an energetic and passionate art form that combines dance, gestures, and music, and it has its deep roots in Andalusian history and culture.

There are countless venues where you can watch a flamenco show, but one of the most highly-rated in the city is the nightly 7 PM show at Torres Barmejas near the Gran Via of Madrid.

The decors and motifs are a wonder to look at, inspired by the gorgeous Andalusian city of Granada and its majestic Alhambra Palace.

The Spanish Moorish motifs and décor really add to the captivating atmosphere of the performance!

The choreography and energy of the flamenco dance, including interesting finger and hand gestures, is one of the most unique aspects of the Spanish culture.

You can order dinner here, but in my opinion, it’s overpriced and not high quality enough to justify the expense – especially considering the plethora of amazing restaurants and tapas bars surrounding the venue.

So, just order drinks or just take in the show and save your appetite for later. The show at Torres Barmejas is quite popular and often sells out, so I highly recommend booking your tickets in advance to be sure to see one of the best flamenco shows in Madrid!

Book your flamenco tickets online here!

Have dinner at one of Madrid’s many cervecerias or tapas bars.

Food in Puerta del Sol Madrid
A media ración size of the ahi tuna – so perfect

A good 75% of the reason why I decided I needed a month in Spain was to eat my way through all of the delicious tapas the country has to offer (the other 25% is wine and cider, obviously).

I got a good head start on my goal in Puerta del Sol, where we ate at a few delicious restaurants. Lambuzo had some of the most delicious tapas in Madrid and some great wine. As a huge Spanish wine fan, I went for the Ribera del Duero – so tasty!

We loved the berenjas (fried eggplant with a dark, rich honey sauce), atún rojo (perfectly rare ahi tuna), and the croquetas de gambas(fried potato and shrimp croquettes).

Location: Calle de las Conchas, 9

My other favorite spot for dinner is La Carboneria. While it is in a touristic area, the food quality is so excellent that I literally ate there twice during my time in Madrid.

What can I say – I was just that obsessed with their albóndigas a la casera (meatballs home-style – though I need to figure out who’s home it’s styled after and how I can move myselfin there ASAP).

They also have the most perfectly cooked tortilla española I’ve had the pleasure of putting in my mouth.

It was simplicity at its finest, a perfectly melting synthesis of potato and egg. It was gooey in the best way – not dry and set like less fresh tortilla españolas can be.

Don’t forget to order their delicious sangria!

Location: La Carboneria, Calle Coloreros 5

If You Have More Than 2 Days in Madrid…

view of toledo bridge and the city up on the hill in the beautiful unesco city of toledo

If you have more time to kill, I suggest taking a day trip from Madrid to either Toledo (my preference!) or Segovia…. or both!

This guided day tour is affordable and includes time in Toledo, Segovia, and the Alcazar (historic castle fortress) of Segovia — two UNESCO World Heritage sites in a day!

This tour includes ample time touring both Toledo and Segovia, including free time in Segovia, with small group tours of fewer than 20 people per group.

Guides, entry tickets and transportation to and from the Madrid pick-up/drop-off spot are included in the price, but any food or drink is at your own cost.

Book your guided day trip here!

A Dreamy One Day in Girona Itinerary: How to Maximize Your Time!

Staircase in Girona near the cathedral with view of the facade of the church

Catalonia is a beautiful and varied region of Spain with many countless intriguing destinations.

I recently spent a week in Catalonia, splitting my time between Girona and Barcelona.

And if I’m honest? If I could do it again, I would have spent the entire time in Girona.

The river going down the middle of Girona, splitting it into the new town and the older town, with the cathedral on a hill in the distance, and the city's famous red bridge

It’s not that I didn’t like Barcelona. It’s just that fresh off my divorce with New York after almost a decade of common law marriage, it felt too city-like in a way that just didn’t jive with me.

Meanwhile, Girona had its own heart and soul — something both so new and so old. While it certainly welcomes its share of tourists, it felt more authentic and less overrun than Barcelona.

Plus, I’m a rabid Game of Thrones fangirl, and the idea of walking through what is basically a living set piece was pretty wonderful.

While I happily spent three days in Girona and would easily spend even more time there, I know many people visit Girona as one small part of a Spain itinerary.

Luckily, the city is small with its main sites clustered in a central location, so it’s easy to visit Girona in one day (if you have to).

YOUR One Day in Girona Itinerary

Red bridge with similar detailing to the Eiffel Tower, leading across the water to colorful buildings on the other side of the river

Note: This Girona itinerary is structured assuming you’ve spent the night and are waking up in Girona, or at least taking an early morning train from Barcelona.

If you’re planning to Girona mid-day and stay until the next afternoon, you can adjust this Girona itinerary accordingly, by splitting the itinerary wherever it makes sense.

Have breakfast at Palmira Bakery.

When we visited Girona, we met some lovely Syrian refugees who opened an outstanding bakery in the Old Town called Palmira.

They sold delicious goodies, from baklava to honey-drenched flaky and crunchy desserts that I can’t pronounce but still dream about.

The owners of the bakery were incredibly friendly, pressing free samples upon us as we drank our morning espressos.

We went back every day we were in Girona — I’m jonesing for their delicious pistachio-filled baklava as I write this!

Discover the city with a walking tour.

Stone steps and walkways in Girona with old town views and windows with flower boxes

A walking tour is a fantastic way to discover a city, and if you only have one day in Girona, you’ve got to make it count.

Luckily, there are some great walking tours on offer throughout the city, focusing on either the city’s historical and cultural significance or its more recent revival as a pop culture hotspot for Game of Thrones fans.

If you want a well-rounded tour that covers the basic must-sees in Girona, check out this small group walking tour.

It encompasses Girona’s Cathedral, the Jewish Quarter, its bright houses on the Onyar river, and its famous bridge created by none other than the man who designed the Eiffel Tower!

While it doesn’t focus on Game of Thrones specifically, they do point out the filming locations, so it’s a good way to blend both in a well-organized, 3-hour overview of Girona.

Book your walking tour of Girona here!

The back side of the Girona Cathedral featured prominently in Games of Thrones as one of the set locations

Alternately, if you’re an avowed Game of Thrones fan, you can go on a dedicated Game of Thrones walking tour.

Many great scenes of this HBO epic series were shot right here in the Old Town of Girona.

The Cathedral steps? Where Jaime Lannister’s badass horse charges up to challenge the High Sparrow.

The cobblestone stairs and alleyways? Where Arya darts as she’s hunted in Braavos.

For a big Game of Thrones nerd like me – who doesn’t want to deal with the tourist crush of Dubrovnik in the summer (or its prices — seriously guys, Girona is a bargain compared to Dubrovnik!) – this is a huge plus.

While you can certainly walk around with a map and try to spot the famous spots independently, I recommend doing a Game of Thrones walking tour.

This way, you can visit the filming locations (and learn about their real-world significance) in an organized way, with plenty of real-world context for the sites you’re seeing.

This GoT walking tour is highly rated – check out prices, reviews, and availability here – and lasts 2.5 hours.

If that’s a little long for your attention span, there’s a shorter 90-minute tour here.

Eat lunch in the most beautiful setting possible at Le Bistrot.

Nestled about halfway up the staircase of the lovely Pujada de Sant Domènec, you can’t miss having a meal at one of my favorite restaurants in Girona, Le Bistrot.

This chic, romantic restaurant has Catalan food served with a French twist – at about 10 to 15 euros per head.

The star of the show was the pagès, the Catalan twist on pizza, which are basically hunks of bread slathered with delicious and inventive toppings.

Alongside our meal, we drank a delicious 10 euro bottle of wine while marveling at the lovely views leading up to the church.

The atmosphere was amazing, and when we got the bill, we were all shocked at how cheap the meal was for the quality of food.

Dinner can be quite busy, so I recommend going at lunch when you can see your surroundings better, anyway.

It’s open from 1 PM to 4 PM for lunch daily and reopens at 7:30 for dinner.

Learn about Girona’s rich Jewish history.

Before I went to Girona, I had no idea that it was called “The Mother City to Israel” and was once a very significant part of the Jewish diaspora.

The best way to understand Girona’s Jewish heritage is by visiting the excellent Jewish Museum.

It is located right in the Jewish call, the former Jewish neighborhood… before the Inquisition and other unpleasantness pushed the Jews out of Girona and into exile once again.

While the majority of Girona’s Jews have left the city that was once a refuge for them, the city’s Jewish history is quietly remembered throughout its architecture.

From preserved mikvehs (ritual baths) to minute architectural details — our Airbnb had Star of David tessellated window panes! — keep an eye out and you’ll notice all sorts of interesting details that tell the story of Girona’s Jewish history.

Refuel with the world’s best ice cream.

Rocambolesc gelato Girona

The Spanish eat quite late in the evening, with most restaurants not even beginning service until 8 PM.

This threw me off quite a bit during my five weeks of traveling Spain, as I was fresh off working five years as a teacher and was used to eating dinner every night around 6 PM!

Not too many places are open during siesta… but Rocambolesc is open from 11 AM to 11 PM, making it the perfect oh please God rescue me I’m about to kill someone out of hanger treat.

Plus, it is literally the best gelato shop I’ve eaten at in my life. I mean, how many ice cream parlors can say that they are run by the owner of one of the most esteemed restaurants in the world, El Cellar de Can Roca?

If you want to feel like you died and went to Willy Wonka’s ice cream heaven, Rocambolesc is your place. Whatever you do, make sure you try the violet and coconut sorbet if they have it – it’s heavenly!

Indulge in some excellent shopping.

Girona knows how to shop. There are so many amazing little stores tucked into the Old Town, where you can buy everything from adorable dresses, breezy tanks, home goods, and my favorite – espadrilles.

You can get gorgeous espadrilles from Tony Pons for a quarter of the price as back home – not even kidding!

I’m kicking myself for not buying a pair, as they were absolutely gorgeous, but I really had no space in my backpack (and let’s be real, they weren’t practical for the five-month backpacking trip I was on).

But I just tell myself that’s another reason to return!

Take a stroll on the city walls for epic views.

The iconic Girona Cathedral is located high up in the city, atop steps made famous by Game of Thrones.

But if you want to really feel the magic, get even higher on one of the city’s restored walls, which sweep you above the city and make you feel small.

Girona is a city meant to be viewed from above. If you start wandering around behind the cathedral area, you’ll find an entry to the city walls, where there are some great vistas to be had.

There are pathways that lead you up and up, until you have nothing but amazing city views.

All this in walking distance from the Old Town… and unlike Dubrovnik, it doesn’t cost a penny to walk the walls of Girona.

Have an incredible pintxos dinner.

pinchos Girona Zanpanzar

Everyone who has even a five-minute conversation with me knows that I am obsessed with food. And good god, does Girona deliver.

In our short time there, I ate some of the most amazing pinchos (alternately spelled pintxos if you’re in Basque country) and tapas.

One of my favorite places, Zanpanzar, was so good we actually had to go there twice! If you only have one day in Girona, make your dinner meal here.

So, what exactly are pintxos? Basically, they are delicious tapas made of whatever is local and in season, served atop toasted bread.

Some highlights (OK, they were all highlights if I’m honest): truffled goat cheese with candied apricot and walnuts; pate, quail egg and ham; white asparagus, roasted red peppers, and eggplant; goat cheese, ham, and fruit compote; mushroom, ham, and crunchy bits of garlic.

Have it with a strong, dry cider like the Basque do!

What to Do with Extra Days in Girona: Itinerary Inspiration

besalu girona
Less than an hour bus ride away from Girona, Besalú must be seen to be believed

You can visit Girona as a day trip if you’re traveling to Barcelona, but depending on where you’re traveling, it can be quicker and more direct to do day trips via Girona (and sometimes cheaper, too!)

We took a quick day trip to Besalú, which was a beautiful way to spend half a day. The old bridge, which was built about a thousand years ago, is just picture perfect.

We went around 3 PM when everything was closed, which added some charm to its sleepy medieval vibe.

But if you want to make more of a day of it and have lunch or dinner there, I recommend going either earlier or later in the day.

Other quick and easy day trips options are to Figueres, where the Dalí Museum is located and to Cadaqués, a small beach town where Dalí painted many of his works.

There are also many tiny beach towns along the Costa Brava, like Tossa del Mar and Lloret del Mar, which are — again — closer to Girona than Barcelona. Check out this guide for ideas!

Where to Stay in Girona

If you only have one night in Girona, make it count! I’ve picked my top three choices for where to stay in this beautiful city.

History and Luxury: Hotel Historic

In my opinion, the best value-to-price ratio is the surprisingly affordable boutique hotel Hotel Històric, located in Barri Vell district (the Old Town) just a few hundred feet from the Girona Cathedral.

The rooms have all sorts of historic details like exposed brick and vintage furniture, but then they also have modern amenities like dazzling new bathrooms to make sure you have a comfortable stay.

Affordable Luxury and a Pool: Hotel Nord 1901

For a touch more glamor that still won’t break the bank, check out the sleek Hotel Nord 1901, a stunning boutique hotel just a 5-minute walk from the Girona Cathedral.

With an outdoor pool in the courtyard (amazing during hot Spanish summers, trust me) and sun loungers, a delicious breakfast spread, air conditioning, and massive rooms, it’s definitely where I’d pick to stay in Girona for a special occasion.

Cheap and Cheerful: Can Cocollona B&B

For a budget-conscious traveler, don’t worry, Girona still has some great options for you! Can Cocollona B&B is a hostel with rave reviews.

Rooms are simple but clean and modern, and there’s a wonderful outdoor area with hammocks where you can relax. The hostel is social without being too rowdy.

One thing to note: it’s a bit outside of the Old Town, about a 15-minute walk away. But that’s what keeps the prices low!

Barcelona in December: Fun Things to Do & Christmas Traditions!

We might associate Barcelona with sun, sea and sangría… but Barcelona is such a fantastic all-round city that visiting Barcelona in December isn’t a bad idea at all!

You can still enjoy the vast majority of the city’s delights, and you can also get a flavor of Catalonia’s very particular Christmas festivities!

Even better, a visit to Barcelona in December means avoiding the hordes of visitors that stream into town in the summer – so many popular tourist attractions will be much less jam-packed.

This post was contributed by Leo McPartland, who was born in London but now resides in Barcelona working as an English teacher and freelance writer. Enjoy!

Weather in Barcelona in December

A cloudy winter day in Barcelona, with very few people on the street, and pretty skyline with clouds approaching sunset

First things first, the weather report!

Unless you come from a particular tropical part of the world, winter in Barcelona should hold no terrors.

Indeed, for visitors coming from the northern half of the US, it is likely to be milder and a lot sunnier than home.

Average temperatures are in the 50s, and while it gets chilly at night, daytime highs can reach 65°.

Even better, Barcelona gets around 9 hours of daylight throughout the month. 

Its slightly wonky timezone (it is to the west of the UK but is an hour ahead, which is like Chicago being an hour ahead of New York!) means that it gets dark later, around 5:30 PM, leaving you plenty of time to wander around.

Woman with a brown hat, yellow jacket, sweater, jeans, backpack and rolling bag walking through the old quarter of Barcelona in December weather

Rainfall in Barcelona is also very civilized: it rains rarely but heavily when it does.

That keeps the surrounding environs green and means that if it does rain during your vacation, it’s likely to be a downfall on just one or two days, rather than a constant showery threat.

Indeed, December averages just five days of rain, and September and October actually get a lot more!

Evenings can be chilly, so if you plan to roam the streets after nightfall, you might want to bring a hat, scarf, and gloves.

That said, you rarely see people decked out in winter wear except on the coldest days.

All in all, you should definitely not fret about visiting Barcelona in December. 

Simply pack a warm coat, and you’ll be fine.

Outdoor Things to Do in Barcelona in December

Person enjoying a cup of coffee while sitting outside at the colorful Park Guell in Barcelona, a famous landmark of the city

Barcelona is a wonderfully walkable city. Your best bet is to choose a starting point and follow your nose! 

There is a never-ending array of cafés and bars on hand if you want to warm up in a heated room with a café con leche at hand.

And of course, Barcelona’s architectural delights mean that you might want to spend as much time inside as outside anyway.

Check out the usually jam-packed Sagrada Familia both inside and out.

The Sagrada Familia interior with stained glass creating beautiful light patterns scattered all over the building

Where else to start but Sagrada Familia? 

Even this time of year, I would always book tickets in advance if you want to take a tour inside. 

Tours are pricey at around $30, so look before you book, but it’s certainly worth it. 

It’s definitely not one of those buildings that’s amazing from the outside and then a disappointment inside — in fact, the interior may be even more intruguing!

In December, there are all kinds of activities at the basilica, including ceremonial lightings of various towers, children’s workshops and – if you want free entry! – Catholic mass.

Take a stroll down the gorgeous Passeig de Gràcia.

The architecture of the tree-lined Passeig de Gracia with interesting buildings and wide avenue

From Sagrada Familia, you can catch the blue line on the metro to Diagonal.

Once you get off the metro, walk down the uber-elegant Passeig de Gràcia, one of the prettiest streets in Barcelona.

This wide, expansive avenue is home to the likes of Cartier and Chanel (as well as more affordable outlets!), and it’s given a festive boost with tasteful twinkling lights in December.

You will also find Gaudí’s La Pedrera and Casa Battló along this avenue, two of his famous works. 

The former’s undulating curves are often decked out in merry decorations, while the latter’s colorful tower is freshened up with funky lighting.

Explore La Rambla.

Walking down la Rambla with Christmas decorations and lights and people out and about on the streets

Heading downtown, Passeig de Gràcia will lead you to Plaça Catalunya, Barcelona’s central square. 

Crossing this square in turn takes you to La Rambla, where Christmas lights drape beautifully along the branches of the trees that flank both sides of the central promenade.

The Rambla offers delights in both directions: the more hip-and-happening El Raval is on the right, while Barri Gótic is on the left. 

The best strategy is to follow whatever catches your eye and get happily lost – you can always find your way back to the main street!

The principal pleasure is soaking up the otherworldly atmosphere that imbues these side streets.

Take a walk on — yes — the beach!

Woman in Barcelona walking on the beach with a shawl to warm her up

If the sun is shining (and it often is in Barcelona in December!), a walk along the beach is a must. 

The seafront is busy at any time of year, but things feel a lot less frenetic than in the summer months.

Plus, the beach will have approximately a million fewer people sitting on it, meaning better photos, more peaceful walks along the shore, and an unencumbered ocean view.

The yellow line on the metro follows the beach, and your best bet is to go to Poblenou (a little further out) and walk back towards the city center.

Poblenou is a very attractive area in itself, and from the metro you can walk along the lovely, leafy Rambla de Poblenou, before passing through a small park to get to the beach.

From here, it’s about a 45-minute stroll back toward town. 

The very end of Barcelona’s coastline is signposted by the iconic W Hotel, which makes for a gorgeous photo!

As you might imagine, there are truckloads of bars, restaurants, and cafés dotted along the way.

In particular, Ciutadella – the area between Poblenou and Barceloneta – is arguably one of the better-known areas for having a hearty paella, a perfect winter treat!

Indoor Things to Do in Barcelona in Winter

What to do if the weather does a number on your plans? 

Well, apart from the obvious answer of touring Gaudí’s masterpieces, there are a couple of other indoor attractions that I would recommend visiting in Barcelona in December.

Interact with the unique CosmoCaixa.

exploring the tropical garden area of the cosmocaixa museum in barcelona in december

Barcelona’s science museum has a curious level of fame: if you were born here, school trips to CosmoCaixa are almost a cliché, but its slightly out-of-the-way location means that tourists rarely visit it.

I cannot stress this enough: if you are remotely interested in science, this museum is utterly unmissable. 

It’s exactly what a museum should be, with interactivity turned up to ten! 

Getting your head around scientific concepts might not be easy, but this is a place where you push buttons, pull levers, and touch sensors – and this old arts student loves it!

Another unique area is the Bosc Inundat, a kind of mini-forest slash aquarium where you will see snakes, capybaras and manta rays.

To get to CosmoCaixa, you take the FGC train (line 7) to Avinguda Tibidado from Plaça Catalunya, Provença or Gràcia. 

It’s a separate network from the metro, but the stations tend to be connected, and you can use the same ticket for both.

Explore the MNAC.

The enormously sprawling castle-like building that houses the national museum of catalan art in barcelona

The National Museum of Catalan Art is a palatial building that sits at the foot of Monjuïc – the squat mountain that looms over Barcelona’s coastline – and is worth visiting for its exterior alone!

Inside, the exhibitions are more of an intriguing history of Catalan works from the last 1000 years rather than a collection of masterpieces. 

The selection of art can be overwhelming, but I’d recommend seeing the 12th-century sculptures of Christ – housed in recreations of Gothic churches.

These sculptures are intruguing and certainly worth seeing, and it’s thematically appropriate for being in Barcelona for Christmas!

Holidays, Festivities, & Events in December in Barcelona

colorful neon lights that read 'bon nadal' which is catalan for merry christmas

The holidays are different in every country, of course, and Barcelona is no different. 

There are things – bonuses and inconveniences alike – to look out for: here are just a few of them!


Both December 6 and 8 are public holidays. As a result, December 7 often becomes a de facto day off (this extension of a holiday is called a puente, or “bridge”, in Spanish). 

This puente is sometimes dubbed the “súper puente” because locals figure if they have, say, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off, they might as well take off Monday and Friday too! 

This is both good and bad for tourists. Good because that makes this week in December especially peaceful – foot traffic and especially road traffic are noticeably reduced. 

However, some businesses follow suit, meaning you should always check that the places you want to visit are open, particularly restaurants and smaller mom-and-pop style spots.

Barcelona Christmas Traditions

Squatting caganer figures which are famous catalan ornament tradition where figures are shown squatting as if pooping

In a word, Catalan Christmas traditions are nuts!

While the average Catalan home is decked out with many recognizable elements – trees, tinsel, etc. – there are at least two elements that will make your head spin.

The first is the caganer. This is a small figurine, typically placed in the nativity scene within a few inches of baby Jesus… who is pooping. 

That is not a typo — and if you speak Spanish, you may have already expected something vaguely scatalogical. 

While there is a traditional version – a red-hooded fellow who looks not unlike a casteller – you can find all versions with all kinds of celebrities and political figures doing something that does not exactly scream “Merry Christmas”!

Caganers are on sale in any souvenir store in December, and the Christmas Market held near Barcelona Cathedral will also have some caganer stalls.

Talk about a souvenir to remember!

Similarly, the tió de nadal (the Christmas log) is surreally scatological. 

These logs, painted with Mr. Hanky-style faces, have pride of place in any Catalan home.

Every day during the holiday, kids are encouraged to beat the log with a stick and ask it to poop sweets.

You can ask locals to explain — just don’t expect to understand!

Christmas (the 24th through the 26th of December)

A Christmas market stall in Barcelona in the month of December at the Fira de Santa Llucia Christmas market

If you are in Barcelona for Christmas, bear in mind that Christmas is very much a family-oriented holiday. 

Catalans typically have a family meal on the evening of December 24, a family meal in late afternoon on December 25, and a final family meal on December 26! 

That means many shops, cafés, and restaurants may be closed during these days while families get together.

If you are down to sample Catalan Christmas culinary traditions and can find an open restaurant, I have a number of suggestions!

Definitely try escudella, a warming soup, made with pasta, vegetables, beans and meat that is eaten throughout winter. 

On Christmas day, this meal is given a twist: the first course is the meat, beans and vegetables, and the second is the stock served with snail-shaped pasta: sopa de galets.

Both dishes can be found in local restaurants and are a regular part of Christmas set menus. 

However, as in any city, choice is likely to be wider in the days leading up to Christmas than on Christmas day itself. 

It’s also important to note that both December 25 and 26 are public holidays, so there may be disruption to schedules during these days.

New Year’s Eve in Barcelona

Fireworks erupting over Barcelona skyline for New Years Eve

Ringing in the New Year in Barcelona has plenty to offer. 

The city’s official fireworks display is in front of the MNAC museum in Plaça España. 

The Magic Fountain, which offers an old-timey light and music show throughout the year, starts its jets on NYE at 9:30 PM, and the fireworks blast off at — you guessed it — midnight.

If crowds don’t appeal, many locals have access to their rooftops, so if you have a good vantage point, you can see smaller, competing displays firing up into the air all over the city.

Both the mountain range of Collserola and the ocean provide a picturesque background to the pyrotechnics!

If you are out to paint the town red for NYE, it’s important to know that most locals celebrate at midnight with their family – eating 12 grapes as the clocks chime.

So, while touristy nightclubs might be rowdy from late evenings, those more favored by locals don’t get going until quite a while after! As during the year, peak hours are 2 AM through 5 AM, so pace yourself!

January 6

Child watching the famous cabalgata de reyes parade where people dressed as kings throw candy to kids
Barcelona, Spain – 5 january 2020: a child watches the traditional cabalgata de reyes at night, a catalan tradition celebrating the arrival of the three kings

Finally, if your Barcelona December stay strays into January, January 6 (Día de Reyes) is actually the big Christmas celebration, traditionally speaking.

In recent years, December 25 has undoubtedly made inroads, with savvy kids arguing that getting their presents early means they can spend the whole holidays enjoying them.

However, not so long ago, it wasn’t Santa but the three kings (wise men) who came bearing gifts – and on the Twelfth Day of Christmas, not the First!

The celebrations actually start the night before, as the kings parade through the city as part of the Cabalgata de Reyes

Standing atop floats, the kings toss sweets to children. If you are traveling with young ones, they might find the kings a somewhat bemusing alternative to Santa, but the promise of candy is likely to make up for any cultural message lost in translation.

The float usually arrives in the city’s Port Vell (the port close to Barceloneta and the Rambla) at 4 PM, and the procession begins two hours later. 

It moves up Via Laietana to Plaça Catalunya before crossing town and ending up at the Magic Fountain.

January 6 is another family day, but if you want to join in the tradition, presents are opened in the morning and dessert at lunch is Tortell de Reis, similar in flavor to a Mardi Gras King Cake. 

Careful when taking a bite! There are two hidden “prizes”: a fava bean (which means YOU have to pay for the cake) and a wise man figurine – meaning you wear the paper crown sold with the cake!

A Perfect 2 Days in Granada Itinerary: How to Spend a Weekend in Granada

If you’re looking for a wonderful yet budget-friendly place to add to your Spain trip, allocate at least 2 days in Granada to your Spain itinerary!

This beautiful city is one of my favorite places I visited in my 5 weeks of travel across Spain, and I’ll stand by the fact that it’s one of the best places to visit in Southern Spain.

Gorgeous Granada is most famous for being home to the Alhambra Palace, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Seven Wonders of the New World finalist.

In fact, the Alhambra is Spain’s single most-visited attraction… and yet, despite the popularity of the Alhambra, Granada remains an affordable and not-so-crowded place to visit.

Luckily for the budget traveler, the prices in the city don’t seem to match the popularity of its number one attraction.

Granada boasts a lively free tapas tradition (one of the last remaining places in Spain to do so!), affordable hotels, and well-priced things to do.

How Many Days Should You Spend in Granada?

view of the historic white houses of granada from above with the traditional roofs

I needed a break after traveling at a fast pace through Europe for several months, so I took a longer than typical time in Granada, spending about a week in the city and exploring it deeply.

With one whole week in Granada, I broke up my time in the city by also doing day trips to nearby places such as the whitewashed villages of La Alpujarra, and falling in love with Bubion and Capileira.

I didn’t get a chance to visit Córdoba, but I wish I had added on a day trip there as well while I was using Granada as a base to explore Southern Spain.

Other people with less travel time than me would probably find 2 days to tour Granada to be suitable, so I’ve created this 2 day Granada itinerary with fast-paced travelers in mind.

This Granada itinerary is perfect for travelers who are planning to visit Granada quickly before heading to other places in Southern Spain, like Málaga and Seville, or spend time in other Spanish destinations like Madrid or Barcelona.

While you can certainly stay in Granada for longer, this itinerary for 2 days in Granada will cover its highlights — such as the Alhambra, the Alcazar, the Albaicín, and Sacromonte — with a few off the beaten path spots I discovered in my week in the city.

Where to Stay in Granada

whitewashed houses of granada and stairs leading up a hill

Budget: Oripanda Hostel

For a hostel stay in Granada, Oripanda Hostel in the Albaicin district is one of the best options you’ll find. The location doesn’t get any better, and it has rave reviews from past guests.

The atmosphere is very social due to its many beautiful common areas that take inspiration from the Albaicin that surrounds it, like a courtyard with lovely tilework and even a small plunge pool. The dorm rooms themselves are rather bare bones, but guests still enjoyed their stay.

Check prices and availability at Oripanda Hostel here!

Mid-Range: Casa de Reyes

The medieval-themed boutique hotel Casa de Reyes is centrally located in Granada, a short walk from the Granada Cathedral as well as Elvira Street (beloved for its many tapas bars)

While medieval-themed may sound kind of hokey, it’s actually done beautifully and has a lovely B&B aesthetic. It’s designed in a way that makes you feel a bit like a king or a queen yourself when you stay in one of the sumptuously decorated rooms!

Check prices and availability at Casa de Reyes here!

Luxury: Villa Oniria

The charming sustainable hotel Villa Oniria is a beautiful converted 19th-century manor house that has been renovated to reflect the traditional architecture and design of Andalucia.

There are just 31 rooms in this small villa, so you’ll get personalized attention to detail from the staff, and you’ll love the garden complete with inner patio and fountains, your own private slice of paradise in Granada.

Check availability and prices here!

Day 1 of Your Granada Itinerary

Start your day at the Alhambra.

The courtyard in the Alhambra with archways, detailing and shallow pool

Most people come to Granada for one main reason – seeing The Alhambra Palace, one of the most famous castles in Spain – so we might as well get started there!

I strongly suggest booking a tour of the Alhambra to both secure your ticket but also ensure you’ll get all the rich historical context that a place as beautiful and historic as the Alhambra deserves.

I didn’t go on a tour when I visited because I could only use the Granada Card loophole, and it was one of my biggest regrets about my time in Granada, especially since I enjoyed my other tours of the city so much.

This roughly 3-hour tour includes a local guide throughout the whole tour, as well your entrance ticket to the Alhambra and priority skip-the-line access.

The tour includes the Nasrid Palaces and its stunning Patio de Los Leones courtyard, as well as the the Generalife Gardens, the Medina, and the Alcazaba: basically, everywhere you want to see in the Alhambra complex.

There are a wide variety of tour offerings and it can be somewhat overwhelming to make your choice. I like this specific tour because you can choose your group size depending on your budget and comfort level being around larger groups of people.

Very few tours are this customizable or transparent about how large the group will be, so I appreciate that about this tour.

Book your tour of the Alhambra online here!

Marvel at the Granada Cathedral.

Famous face of the cathedral in Granada with historic buildings around it in the square

The Granada Cathedral (Catedral de Granada) is one of the most important pieces of architecture in Granada’s center, and it shows where the Catholic and Muslim stories of Granada intertwine.

Construction started in 1518, after the Muslim Nasrid Kingdom fell into Spanish hands, and it would take nearly two hundred years to come to completion.

It was built in the old Muslim medina — mostly in order to make a statement that Granada was now under Catholic rule.

Because the building took nearly two centuries and was taken over by several architects, the cathedral shows a unique blend of architectural styles, ranging from Gothic to Spanish Renaissance to Baroque.

Note that admission to the Granada Cathedral costs 5 euros.

Stroll around the Alcaicería.

Leather puffs to sit on and textiles for sale in an alleyway in the Alcaiceria in Granada, Spain

Right near the Granada Cathedral off of Bib Rambla Square, you’ll find the charming marketplace called the Alcaicería, which sells all sorts of Arabic-inspired wares.

If you’ve been dreaming of a trip to Morocco to shop in its souks, this is as close as it gets in Spain!

It’s a little touristic, of course, but the little shops here sell some great interior design and clothing items for rather inexpensive prices.

Walk over to the Capilla Real.

The ornate interior of the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) where Isabella and Ferdinand are buried

The Capilla Real is the final resting place of two of Spain’s most famous Catholic monarchs, Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand – the ones who financed Columbus’s (violent) voyage into the so-called ‘New World’.

Their monumental tombs are shown on the ground floor of the Capilla Real (which means Royal Chapel in Spanish); however, note that their actual tombs are located in the basement level.

Their legacy is a bit complex to dig into in a mere blog post, as their reign was controversial for many reasons.

Isabella and Ferdinand ruled over Granada in the ‘Reconquista’ period, when Spain regained control over from the Moors over the Moorish-ruled parts of the country.

During the ‘Reconquista’, authorities either forced conversion or exiled the Muslim and Jewish populations who had until then been living in Granada and surrounding parts of Andalusia.

At the same time, Isabella and Fernando brought Spain out of debt and began a period of exploration that would eventually bring Spain to rule over a massive part of the globe and was a time of huge economic growth for the Spanish people.

Of course, this had disastrous consequences for the Indigenous people of the Americas, and the ramifications of Spanish colonialism echo up to this day.

It’s an interesting place to visit and it is an undeniably important piece of Spanish history, and in my opinion, it is an unmissable place on any Granada itinerary.

Note that admission to the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) is 5 euros.

Visit the stunning Madraza.

Historic facade of the Granada madraza with blueish-gray brickwork and detailed balconies

Located directly across from the Capilla Real and therefore an obvious next stop on this Granada itinerary is the Granada Madraza.

‘Madrasa’ means Islamic school, and this historic building used to be the first Islamic university in Granada!

Now, it’s home to a small museum which you can visit for a small entry fee of 2 euros.

It’s just two rooms, but the prayer room from the 14th century is so beautifully preserved that it alone is worth the stop!

Stop for a leisurely lunch.

Now’s about the time to stop for a long lunch and rest those feet!

Be sure to have lunch before siesta sets in, an institution that Granada takes quite seriously. No one takes naps as seriously as the Spanish do.

Trust me — nearly every restaurant will be closed for several hours after lunch and won’t reopen until (at least) 8 PM!

For a nice place to eat near the Cathedral and Capilla Real, I recommend one of the following restaurants: El Mercader for Spanish fine dining (reservations recommended), Restaurante Arrayanes for Moroccan food, or Papas Elvira for budget food with vegetarian-friendly options.

Explore Albaicín and Sacromonte on a walking tour.

cobblestone street of the albaicin on a walking tour

The Albaicín (also written Albayzin) is one of the coolest districts of Granada, and in my eyes, a walk through this historic quarter is an absolute must-do in Granada.

Most walking tours combine both the Albaicín and Sacromonte, as they are located next to each other and provide an interesting contrast.

The Albaicín is the historic Muslim district with stunning Moorish architecture, whereas Sacromonte is the cave district, where historically Granada’s gitano (Romani) community lived.

The Albaicin is full of winding cobblestone streets that are leftover from when Granada was part of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, a Muslim-ruled state.

As a result, you’ll see the influence of Moorish architecture here which dates back to the medieval period.

The narrow streets weave and wind around, and the white houses are nearly indistinguishable from one another, so it’s ideal to go with a guide who can give you the historical context of this neighborhood.

One of the cool cave houses you can see on a free walking tour!
One of the cool cave houses you can see on a walking tour! 

Meanwhile, Sacromonte is a very hilly part of Granada (bring good walking shoes!) where the Roma community, who settled there in the 16th century after the Muslims were expelled during the Christian conquest of the city.

They settled mostly in cave houses on the outskirts of Granada, outside of administrative control (as you may remember, a pesky little thing called the Spanish Inquisition was going on at the time…).

The history of this region is too long to go into in great detail here, and it’s best to get it from a local who can explain it to you while seeing the area with your own eyes.

I strongly recommend going with a guided tour of both the Albaicin and Sacromonte districts; this is the tour I recommend.

Most tours start around 5 PM and last 2-3 hours, which is a great time of day to avoid the heat and also finish in time to find a great sunset spot in Granada!

Book your tour now!

A quick note on semantics: I’m purposely not using the word g*psy in English, as it is considered offensive by the Roma community.

The word gitano/gitana is used in Spain to refer to people of Roma descent and is not usually considered offensive, though of course context matters.

This is a complex issue that as someone who spent many many years living in a country with a large Roma minority (Bulgaria), I try to be sensitive of.

Language matters, so be careful with how you refer to people in the Roma community.

This is a thorny issue, and while individual opinions vary, most Roma prefer the word ‘Roma’ or ‘Romani’ to refer to their ethnicity in English.

However, also be aware that people who speak English as a second language may not be aware that g*psy is considered a slur in English.

Watch the sunset at Mirador de San Nicolás.

sunset over the alhambra as seen from the mirador de san nicolas

Depending on what time of year you visit Granada, sunset may be as late as 9:30 PM, so you’ll likely have time after your tour (and before dinner — remember, the Spanish dine late!) to catch the sunset.

The most popular viewpoint in town in the Mirador de San Nicolás, which is often quite crowded with photographers and travelers hoping to get a shot of the spectacular views of the Alhambra at sunset.

Design your own tapas crawl.

A giant plate of fried anchovies along with a beer – just two euros.

Remember what I said about not needing to order food in Granada (so long as you like to drink)? Let’s put that to the test!

Start out the night at Bar Los Diamantes on Plaza Nueva, one of my favorite tapas bars in Granada. This place specializes in seafood, so pace yourself by ordering smaller beers (cañas) and seeing what comes out of the kitchen as a surprise for you!

With my first drink there, I got served a massive helping of tiny fried anchovies, which were delicious, and for my next drink I got served a larger plate of plump, perfectly fried chunks of white fish.

Just a 2-minute walk away is Bodegas Castañeda, another one of my favorite tapas restaurants, serving up delicious tapas like a small serving of paella or croquetas with each dish.

If you’re still standing and not too stuffed, you can head over to Taberna La Tana, which was featured on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. They’re famous for their morcilla (blood sausage — don’t knock it ‘til you try it!) and cured meat plates!

Day Two of Your Granada Itinerary

Check out the historic El Bañuelo.

the interior of el banuelo a historic bathhouse in granada

Dating back to the 11th century, these historic Arab baths are more ruins than baths at this point. The site is rather small, but it’s still quite impressive to see, and worth a stop at only two euros to enter.

While much of the splendor of these baths has been lost to time, you can admire the in-tact porticos and the star-shaped holes in the ceiling, typical of Moorish bathhouses.

Located along the Darro River in the Albaicín, El Bañuelo are the remains of one of the largest hammams in Granada from its period of Moorish rule.

The hammam (public bath) culture was an extremely important part of Arab life, a place where people could not only bathe and clean themselves but also socialize.

Note: Admission to El Bañuelo is 2 euros, but for 5 euros, you can buy a ‘Monumentos Andalusíes’ ticket which also includes entry to Palacio de Dar al-Horra, Corral del Carbón, and Casa Morisca.

Tip: Grab a tea at La Tetería del Bañuelo before moving on — this teahouse doesn’t get any more charming!

Wander the Carrera del Darro.

the historic street of carrera del darro with shops and bridge

Head out from El Bañuelo towards the Hammam Al Ándalus along this famous walkway, the Carrera del Darro.

This famous street hugs the River Darro and is a beautiful scenic walk through Granada.

Enjoy a modern-day hammam experience at Hammam Al Ándalus.

small bath in a brick room with arches and pottery in a traditional arabic style hammam in granada

Once you’ve seen El Bañuelo, you might be curious to see what the hammam experience is really like.

If you’ve never traveled to a place like Morocco or Turkey where you can experience a hammam, this is a great chance to do so! It truly looks like what you’ve always seen in Morocco on Instagram.

The hammam is designed in the traditional way with ornate tilework and dramatic arches. Candles and lanterns are lit along the walkways, create a peaceful and dimly-lit ambiance.

The hammam is full of steam rooms, hot and cold pools, and relaxation areas where you can sip on mint tea while unwinding.

Entrance to the hammam includes use of the facilities for 90 minutes, and you can also add on a 15, 30, or 45-minute massage with body scrub for even more relaxation.

Book your visit to Hammam Al Ándalus here!

Have a relaxing lunch in the city center.

sign with various spanish dishes including fish paella and seafood rice

After your hammam, pick one of the many cafés in the area for another long and leisurely lunch, Andalucia-style.

I suggest Bar Minotauro Café y Tapas which is one of the better-rated places along Carrera del Darro, and it’s open until 4:30 PM for lunch!

Remember — dinner is late in Spain, so be sure to eat enough to hold you over until dinnertime.

Take a walk along the Paseo de Los Tristes.

view of the paseo de los tristes and looking up at the alhambra from a plaza area with trees and motorcycles

The Carrera del Darro has multiple names in different stretches, including Paseo de Padre Manjón and the Paseo de Los Tristes, which is the most scenic part underneath the shadow of the Alhambra.

The name means ‘Promenade of the Sad Ones’ in Spanish, but I promise you’ll feel anything but as you walk along it!

So why this macabre name? Historically, it was given that name because funeral processions often used this road as it approached the cemetery.

Winding underneath the Alhambra, the palace looms above beautifully and you’ll feel transported to another world as you walk along this charming street with a rich history.

End the evening with dinner and a flamenco show

woman performing in a flamenco show with a fan in front of her face

One of the absolute can’t-miss activities in Granada is seeing a flamenco show! Flamenco is a traditional art form from Andalucia combining dance and music.

However, that’s a bit of a simplification: the art of flamenco also uses also vivid facial expressions, significant hand gestures and percussion using castanets, and a specific style of guitar tapping called ‘golpe’ which contributes to the stirring rhythm of flamenco.

You will be bombarded with people passing out flyers and trying to invite you to their flamenco show while visiting the city.

Frankly, a lot of these shows are too short and not the best. I recommend researching a show before you to go to avoid disappointment, or following my recommendation here.

My personal suggestion (and where I went when I was in Granada) is a flamenco show at Cuevas Los Tarantos, which is in a traditional cave dwelling in Sacromonte.

The flamenco performance itself lasts about 45 minutes, but allow some time for seating, ordering food, and waiting for the show to begin, so expect 1.5 hours total in the venue).

The show is affordably priced and highly reviewed, and it includes one free welcome drink. You have the option to add on dinner and drinks for a fairly reasonable price given the venue.

Plus, it’s a family-friendly affair, making it a must-do when visiting Andalucia with kids!

I appreciated that it didn’t feel like a tourist trap and that dinner wasn’t too expensive here!

Book your flamenco show here!

If You Have More Than 2 Days in Granada…

Take a day trip to La Alpujarra.

While you certainly could indulge in a lot more sightseeing around Granada, La Alpujarra is one of my favorite parts in all of Spain and I truly think it would be a shame to end your time in Granada without seeing them — especially since they’re so close and such an easy day trip.

La Alpujarra is a collection of white-washed villages done in the Mozarabic architectural style such as Capileira and Bubion, which are absolutely stunning and look like something taken out of a fairytale.

I actually spent 3 days in Capileira and every day was like waking up in a dream: it’s that magical of a village.

But Capileira and the other white-washed villages of Alpujarra are so small and quaint that you can easily get acquainted with their magic on a day trip from Granada.

You’ll also get to visit the highest village in Spain, Trevélez, which is known for its tasty Iberian ham, some of the best in the country.

Be sure to book the lunch option which allows you to try a tasty regional lunch in the Alpujarreño style — it’s very unique to this part of Spain, and it’s not something you’d get elsewhere.

Book a day trip to La Alpujarra!

Or go on a day trip to Córdoba.

I didn’t get a chance to visit Córdoba, but I wish I had added on a day trip there as well while I was using Granada as a base to explore Southern Spain.

Córdoba is a great choice if you want to continue diving into the Moorish history of Spain, as it’s home to La Mezquita, one of the most beautiful examples of Islamic architecture in Europe… even though it is now technically a cathedral.

La Mezquita — also known as the Grand Mosque of Córdoba — was built in the 8th century in the traditional Islamic style, with gorgeous archways and mosaic work that is exemplary of the Moorish style.

During the ‘Reconquista’ period, it was converted into a Catholic church, the designation it holds to this day.

In the 16th century, some changes were made to remove some of the Islamic elements and make it more of a cathedral, such as adding a nave and converting the minaret into a belltower.

Many of the traditional Islamic elements have been maintained, and while it’s still functionally a cathedral, it’s still a shining sample of Islamic architecture in Spain.

Check out day trips to Córdoba and La Mezquita here!

Tips for Making the Most of Visiting Granada

The tapas are usually free.

A large beer and a portion of french fries with chicken stew at a tapas bar in Granada
All this is two euros. Americans, please pick up your jaws from the floor.

Yes, free tapas! This tradition has mostly died out in larger cities like Madrid and Barcelona, but in Granada, tapas are always free with a drink.

In Granada, a drink typically costs anywhere from 2 euros to 5 euros depending on what you get, and it always — always! — comes with a tapa.

A tapa can be anything from some fries and a bit of stew to a plate of fried anchovies to a small helping of Valencian paella to fried eggplant with honey and beyond.

Generally speaking, you don’t get to choose your tapa at most places, though some do. Also, if you stick to one establishment and order multiple rounds, the tapas are supposed to get bigger and better with each round, though I never really quite noticed a correlation!

I could get full (and buzzed!) for anywhere from 4 to 8 euros if I was really making a night of it, and I have a pretty nice-sized appetite.

Granada is the one of the few places in the world that rewards drunken antics (which is probably why I’m convinced it’s my destiny to live there one day).

You will save quite a bit of cash if you tapa wisely rather than paying for raciones (plates). At certain locales, 4 euros will get you two drinks and a small dinner (6 euros if you’re hungry, and 8 if you’re making a night of it).

The two most popular and most affordable drinks are the caña (small) or tubo (large)of beer or tinto de verano, a delicious drink of red wine, soda water, and lemon.

You may have your doubts of mixing wine and soda water, but trust me, it’s what you want on a balmy Andalusian summer night. I mean… it literally translates to “summer red wine” in Spanish!

These cheaper drinks will set you back about 2 euros to 2.20 euros a pop – of course, if you go for a cocktail, some sangria, or a glass of wine, you will still get your tapa but your drink bill will add up quicker!

Follow the business cards.

bar table in granada

Granada has an odd system of advertising places to drink, where people working for bars will walk by – or even into! – your restaurant where you’re eating to pass out business cards to advertise their establishments.

This would never fly pretty much anywhere else in the world, but the restaurants in Granada all seem to embrace this and don’t see it as people poaching their clients.

Typically, the people advertising their bars will leave a business card with hand-written details of drink prices, and they’re usually quite cheap – I’m talking 1 euro for a beer or 2 euros for a mojito!

Note that these usually don’t come with tapas as these are bars, not bar/restaurants. However, if you’re full on food but want to keep the night going, this is the way to do it!

Walk everywhere.

narrow winding cobblestone road in the albaicin district of granada

Granada is so tiny that everything is walkable within about 30 minutes!

With a short amount of time in a city, I’ll sometimes recommend hop-on, hop-off bus passes, but that sort of thing is not necessary at all in a place like Granada, which is really small and compact, with many roads impassible to cars.

There is a Granada City ‘Train’ that you can buy passes for. However, unless you have mobility issues to the extent that walking around is not really pleasant or possible, I don’t really recommend it for this Granada itinerary.

Fill up in the local fountains.

fountain for public use in a main area in granada

Granada has some of the freshest, most delicious tap water coming right from the public water fountains around the city.

Surrounded by the Sierra Nevada mountains, Granada’s tap water typically comes from mountain springs and melted snowpack, meaning it’s just about as pure as it gets!

Bring a reusable water bottle and fill up, especially because it gets super hot in Granada in the summer!

Note: A select few fountains in the city are non-potable, but they are very clearly marked if you’re not supposed to use them for drinking.

Buy your Alhambra ticket in advance.

mosaic and architecture in the nasrid palace section of the alhambra in granada

One of the most common mistakes people make when visiting Granada is not booking their ticket to the Alhambra with enough advance notice.

If you know when you’ll be in Granada, buy your tickets online at least one week in advance… more if you can help it!

You can book tickets without a guide on the official website here, but note that they sell out really quickly as only a limited number is available, and many tickets are reserved by guided tours and other ticket resellers.

If you don’t luck out on the official website, fast-track entrance tickets are also available on Get Your Guide for a small additional booking fee, or you can book a guided tour. Audio guides can be downloaded on the app for free or rented for 5 euros on-site.

When I was in Granada, tickets were sold out weeks in advance (including guided tours) and I almost missed out on getting to see the Alhambra!

Luckily, I discovered the loophole that I could buy a Granada Card for 48 hours to get entrance into the Alhambra (the 24 hour one only allows night entrance, and I think it’s better to visit by day).

Note that this is more expensive than booking a tour or fast-track ticket, and like many city cards, the Granada Card doesn’t offer a fantastic value, so I only recommend this as a last resort.

Pick your Alhambra ticket time carefully.

A view of the star-shaped vaulted ceiling in the Nasrid Palaces of Granada
The ceiling in the Nasrid Palaces

When picking your time, note that you are selecting your entry window into the Nasrid Palace, the most impressive part of the Alhambra complex — and also the most popular.

If you’re not on time, you won’t be able to enter the Nasrid Palaces, so be sure to arrive early to avoid any disappointment! The rest can be visited at your own leisure.

Note that if you visit with a guided tour like this one, they will handle the timing of everything for you, so you don’t have to worry about the time constraints of visiting Nasrid Palace.

I didn’t book a tour when I went to Granada, and I regret it, as I missed out on a lot of the historical context.

I would have liked to know more about Granada’s Arab and Moorish history and how it can be seen in the architecture of the Alhambra — and that’s exactly the kind of guidance you’ll get on a guided tour.

13 Useful Tips for Visiting Madrid on a Budget

One of the most popular destinations in Spain is its capital Madrid with over 6 million visitors per year.

The city is known for its historical sites and some of the best art museums in all of Europe but it’s also a haven of Spanish culture from bullfighting to Tapas, Madrid has it all.

Not least to mention that it is officially the sunniest city in Europe with 250 days of sun per year!

With all these epic reasons to visit, you’d think it will cost a fortune but it’s actually very easy to visit on a budget. In this guide I’ll show you where to stay, the best affordable things to do and some top tips for budget travel in Madrid.

Where to Stay in Madrid on a Budget

Accommodation in Madrid is quite inexpensive compared to many other cities in Europe, such as Paris or Amsterdam.

The most popular neighborhoods to stay on a trip to Madrid are Centro, La Latina, and Malasana.

Malasana is the best neighborhood for those visiting Madrid on a budget as it is close to the city center and you’ll find some great value for money places to stay. 

As it’s not right in the city center, you also get the added benefit of a more relaxed atmosphere.

A typical budget hotel in Madrid will usually set you back around €100 for a standard double room.

Keep in mind these prices can soar if you’re visiting around one of the famous festivals in Spain, so avoid festivals in Madrid if you’re on a budget.

If you are looking to keep your expenses as low as possible, hostel dorm rooms are considerably cheaper than hotels.

This is an especially great choice if you’re a solo traveler as many of Madrid’s best hostels offer free dinners and cheap activities.

Free and Affordable Things to Do in Madrid

You can still have an incredible time in Madrid without spending a lot thanks to loads of free and affordable things to do. Here is a Madrid budget bucket list for your trip:

Museo Del Prado

Prado Museum is known to be one of the largest art galleries with over 9,000 pieces of artwork. This museum boasts an impressive permanent collection along with temporary exhibits from prestigious artists.

Prado Museum offers free activities and educational talks to those who sign up at the Jeronimos building 15 minutes beforehand. Museo del Prado offers free admission from 6-8 pm Monday-Saturday, and 5-7 pm on Sundays and holidays.  

El Retiro Park

El Retiro, the most famous and the most central park in Madrid, is known for being the green oasis heart of the city. The park is the attraction itself, with many pathways, gardens and even a lake to explore.

A day trip to El Retiro park gives you unlimited activities immersing you into Madrid daily life. You can explore, attend free exhibits, people-watch, meet locals, and make memories for no cost at all. 

Spain’s Royal Palace

The Royal Palace is a gorgeous architectural and historical wonder, standing for almost three centuries and remaining one of the biggest palaces in all of Europe.

The Royal Palace is a top tourist destination, and it’s easy to see why. This ticket is well worth budgeting for the small price of €10 to tour the vast estate grounds, gardens, and palace rooms for a few hours. 

Gran Via

Walking La Gran Via is a perfect way to soak up Spain’s exciting atmosphere for not much money at all. Gran Via is Madrid’s entertainment, shopping, and cultural center, often bustling with life until early into the morning.

During the day, the streets are filled with shoppers and families, and after dark the streets are lit up with nightlife from bars and clubs along the road. Hanging around Gran Via is a guaranteed way to immerse yourself into daily life as locals in Spain. 

Plaza Mayor

Plaza Mayor is a beautiful Renaissance style square where many come to admire the beautiful architecture, hang out at cafes, or just to walk around the large space.

Within the square are bustling cafes, fountains, and a statue of King Phillip III. Plaza Mayor is free to visit, although if you can afford a coffee at a cafe it is definitely worth the experience to sip your coffee and people-watch.

El Rastro Street Markets

El Rastro is a famously popular flea market, held every Sunday. There is a single main street dedicated to market stalls, however, the side streets contain the hidden antique treasures.

Whether you want to reward yourself for staying true to your budget and hunt for a souvenir, or just explore, the market El Rastro is the perfect scavengers hunt for low-budget travelers.

Free Walking Tours

Free walking tours are easily accessible throughout Europe via hostels, travel agencies, and companies advertised through the internet.

Free walking tours are an ideal way to get oriented within the city, along with learning about historical events, sites, and cultural traditions from a local’s perspective. 

While they are free, be sure to tip!

Templo de Debod

Templo de Debod is an Egyptian temple located close to the Royal Palace in the middle of Madrid’s city streets. The temple was given to Spain as a thank you from Egypt and its one of the few Egyptian works seen outside Egypt.

This site is a unique and underrated architectural gem in Madrid. The park is free to visit but it is closed from 2 pm-6 pm daily. 

Budget-Friendly Tips in Madrid

The easiest way to go over budget is by not planning out your accommodation, food, and travel expenses so here are some top tips to keep you in check.

Whether you have one day in Madrid, a weekend in Madrid, or more — accommodation will be the biggest expense, so watch that!


The most budget-friendly accommodation options, especially for solo travelers, are staying in hostel dorms.

Hostels are budget-friendly, often offering free city tours and sometimes including family dinner in the price of your stay. In addition to being good to your wallet, hostels are brilliant places to meet other travelers with whom to explore the city sites. 

Food & Drink

From a hearty seafood paella to rich gazpacho soup, there is no shortage of delicious foods to find in Madrid. I recommend Taberna Malaspina & Bar El Tigre for cheap tapas and delicious wine close to the city center.

Although tapas are the most affordable food you’ll find around Madrid, the most budget-savvy way to eat is to use a hostel kitchen and cook your own meals. This also allows you to take inspiration from the Spanish cuisine and cook the recipes yourself. 


Travel around the city is quite easy as most attractions and nightlife are all within walking distance of the city center. However, if you want to explore further than the city center, I recommend exploring via public transportation instead of private taxis.

Madrid’s metro is one of the largest metro systems in Europe so you’ll be able to get around super easily. A metro ticket costs between €1.5 – €2.5 per trip versus a metered taxi’s starting price of €3.

When combining low budget travel tips such as staying in hostels and mixing up cooking and eating out you can keep your daily cost of living in the city as low as €30. 

Enjoy your budget trip to Madrid, and hopefully you will be able to afford to travel back to Madrid again.  Safe travels!

Barcelona Off the Beaten Path: Unusual Things to Do in Spain’s Most Touristed City

Barcelona is a beautiful and one-of-a-kind city that tops many people’s travel bucket lists… but it’s also the most popular and crowded tourist destination in all of Spain.

This article assumes that you know about places like Las Ramblas, La Boqueria Market, and the Sagrada Familia. It bypasses some of the more famous Gaudí sites like Casa Battló and Park Güell in favor of some equally beautiful but less visited sites.

Nothing in Barcelona is ever truly that off the beaten path, but this guide will give you a good balance of getting a flavor of what makes Barcelona distinctive while avoiding the worst of the crowds. To further get off the path, I recommend staying in one of Barcelona’s neighborhoods that are just a bit off the tourist zone, so you can see a local side to life there.

Casa Museo Amatller

While Barcelona is synonymous with the architecture of Antoni Gaudí, who designed some of the city’s most iconic buildings such as the Sagrada Familia and Park Güell, its architectural cred goes so much further. Barcelona was the heart of the Catalan Modernism style that was booming in the late 19th and early 20th century. The rebellious forms of Catalan Modernist architects signified a greater resistance to Spanish assimilation and a desire to cement to a unique Catalan identity.

To see this intersection of architecture, history, and identity, Barcelona’s “Illa de la Discòrdia” (Block of Discord) is its most emblematic. This is where you’ll find Casa Batlló, easily identifiable by its distinctive windows — and its massive crowd. While the façade of Casa Museo Amatller certainly attracts cameras, the interior is far less visited, especially when compared to the crush of people flooding Casa Batlló. While Casa Batlló is definitely worth seeing, even with its hefty admission fees (I recommend purchasing skip-the-line tickets to avoid the inevitable lines), Casa Museo Amatller is far less crowded and a good way to get slightly off the beaten path in Barcelona while still enjoying what it is most known for.

Originally built for Antoni Amatller — best known as the industrial chocolatier who introduced new methods for making chocolates en masse — to be his private residence in the final years of the 19th century. Built sometime between 1898 and 1900, it’s one of the key works of modernist architect Josep Puig I Cadafalch, and it’s considered one of the best and most unique buildings in all of Barcelona. As you enter, be sure to note the odd carvings in the façade, including a rat with a camera. Inside, the architecture is a delightful mix of traditional and anti-traditional, with geometric stained glass windows and gorgeous spiral pillars.

Walking in this beautiful residence can feel downright amazing, as you’ll feel like passing through living history, while trying out some of the most delicious chocolates ever made in the world.

Shop guided tours and priority entrance tickets here:

Casa Museo Amatller Guided Visit with Chocolate Tasting

Arc de Triomf

While Paris is the city most synonymous with triumphal arches, you’ll find them all over the world — from Bucharest to yes, even Barcelona. This arch was constructed in the late 19th century, and as a result, its form has similar hallmarks to other examples of Catalan Modernisme.

It’s distinct from other cities’ triumphal arches for its red color, four decorative pillars, and intricate carvings which celebrate Catalan identity. You can find it in Ciutadella Park, where you’ll also find other important landmarks.

Dark History Tour

The history of Barcelona has not always been the lively, carefree tourist mecca it is today. Quite the contrary — there’s been plenty of bloodshed and violence raged in ages past, and this tour will guide you in two medieval neighborhoods where you’ll see and understand everything about Barcelona’s dark past.

As a significant medieval city in Spain, Barcelona has a lot of connections to the history of the Spanish Inquisition, one of the darkest chapters in Spain’s history. The neighborhoods you’ll visit, although beautiful and lovely, have seen their share of executions and torture. The tour itself is meant to educate, not frighten, giving you a chance to learn in depth about one of the bloodiest periods of Spanish history.

Check out available history tours here:

Barcelona: The Dark History 2-Hour Walking Tour

Sant Pau Recinte Modernista

While it’s not unknown – it is a component of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, after all – the other component sites tend to get far more notice. Instagrammers flock to the Palau de la Música Catalana and all the Gaudí sites, while the Sant Pau Recinte Modernista doesn’t get nearly as much love as its fellow UNESCO compatriots in Barcelona.

Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, this 27-building complex takes up nearly 10 city blocks, making it the largest single example of Art Nouveau architecture in existence. Despite this superlative – and partly because its large size means that you’ll feel away from the crowds even if this site is well-known – Sant Pau feels relatively peaceful in busy Barcelona.

This massive, striking building complex was conceived of in 1898 as a place for healing and tending to the ill, the result of a merger of six other hospital buildings in the quickly expanding Barcelona area. However, due to its ambitious size, it took over 30 years to finish construction.

It was subsequently used as a hospital for nearly a century, and recent refurbishments have continued its upkeep. The original hospital was kept functioning until 2009; however, it has since moved to another part of the building complex. Today, you can experience the splendor of its pavilions, gardens, and underground passages, and escape the crowds of Barcelona’s more popular tourist sites.

Pre-purchase a ticket online to save time here:

Sant Pau Recinte Modernista Entry Ticket

Monastery of Pedralbes

Named Pedralbes for its white-stone walls, this former Gothic monastery now functions as a museum, featuring artifacts from Barcelona’s history. The cloister is in excellent shape, with three floors of beautiful archways and a central garden filled with fruit trees.

While visiting the former monastery, you shouldn’t miss the impressive Chapel of St. Michael, which hosts frescos which date back to the 14th century.

Mercat de Sant Antoni

La Boqueria is the most popular market in Barcelona, given its prime location on the tourist promenade of Las Ramblas. During the summer, it’s almost impossible to even pass through the market (it is slightly better in February, but even then – still super crowded).

If you’d like to experience a market in Barcelona with significantly fewer crowds, check out the Mercat de Sant Antoni, with a beautiful historic market with much fewer tourists. The neighborhood of Sant Antoni is beloved as well, so stop by some of the local bars and restaurants after checking out the market.

Picasso Walking Tour

The name Picasso is so intertwined with being an artist that we throw it around as if the two are synonyms. To walk in the literal footsteps of one of the 20th century’s most famous artists, take a 2-hour walking tour that highlights destinations that were significant to the art of his youth and formative years.

On this tour, you’ll visit some little-known places that put Picasso’s life into context. You’ll see his favorite restaurant where likeminded, creative individuals often gathered, see the Llotja de Mar – the art school where Picasso studied – as well as the only piece of public art that Picasso has ever made. You’ll also see the stunning Museu Picasso, set in an old mansion, where you’ll see and understand just how his style evolved before his invention of Cubism.

Bundle together a walking Picasso tour & museum entry here:

Picasso Walking Tour & Picasso Museum of Barcelona

Casa Milà

Of the seven UNESCO-inscribed Gaudí sites, Casa Milà is among the less visited. However, that being said, it’s still quite common on many tourists’ itineraries, given that many people try to see as many of Gaudí’s works as they can. But it definitely comes in after Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló, and Park Güell, meaning that you’ll have to dodge slightly fewer other tourists to get your shots.

A building with a very quirky, if a bit peculiar, appearance, Casa Milà – or also known as La Pedrera, or “The Stone Quarry” in English, is one of Gaudí’s most interesting buildings. To me, a lot of Gaudí’s works have the appearance of highly ornate sand castles, and this one is no different. Casa Milà is most famous for its intriguing rooftop, with turrets that look almost like faces. In the attic, take time to peruse the exhibition about Gaudi’s life, also known as Espai Gaudi, where you’ll see the fascinating evolution of his work.

Pre-purchase a skip the line ticket & audio guide here:

Casa Milà Skip-the-Line Ticket with Audio Guide

Craft Beer Tasting

Barcelona is no stranger to excellent gastronomy and delighting in celebrating new, unique tastes. While Barcelona has always been surrounded by delicious wine, in the recent years, there’s been quite an innovation when it comes to craft beer.

If you’re interested in sampling what the beer scene in Barcelona is looking like, you can check out a microbrewery tour (see prices and availability here) in the neighborhood of Gracia that offer unique flavors of beer — chocolate beer, truffle beer, and even oyster beer. If those aren’t wild enough for you, many new flavors are being worked on and discovered all the time. There are also several bars specializing in craft beer (Abirradero, Bar Centro, and Barcelona Beer Company all come highly recommended).


One of the best views of Barcelona can be had at Tibidabo, an amusement park on a hill on the outskirts of the city. This retro amusement park is the better part of 90 years old and has a gorgeous view overlooking not only Barcelona but the beach in town as well.

Despite how easy the Ferris wheel is to see in Barcelona’s skyline, not many people make the trip out, so it’s a bit of a hidden-in-plain-sight gem in Barcelona.

Barcelona in February Is Actually Not a Terrible Idea

There are some cities I click with instantly.

And then there’s Barcelona.

I visited Barcelona twice in the summer and never quite got the love for it. It was throbbingly crowded, maddeningly touristy, made me want to use every Spanish curse word in the book, and was far more expensive than anywhere else in Spain. The Gaudí architecture was cool, sure — but could you even see it over the selfie sticks?

After eating ridiculously cheap food in Madrid and amazing pintxos all throughout the Basque country, I balked at spending upwards of 15 euro on an average meal. Barcelona, I decided, was not for me.

I’m a contrarian at heart. I proudly tell people my favorite country is Albania or Nicaragua just to see the puzzled looks on their faces. I take a weird pleasure in telling people my favorite cities in the world count Sofia and Belgrade amongst their numbers.

And so, I almost wore this resistance to Barcelona as a badge of honor. It was too crowded, too touristy, “inauthentic” – that word that travelers-not-tourists everywhere love. Sorry, I can be a bit of a douche sometimes. (At least I know it? Or does that make it worse?)

A February street scene in Barcelona

So when I came to Barcelona in February, it wasn’t necessarily out of love for the city.

It was because I scored a $159 direct flight from Oakland en route to my new home in Sofia.

My friend Stephanie who also lives in Sofia came to meet me in Barcelona, and so I decided to give the city another try.

To my surprise, the third time was the charm: I actually loved Barcelona (in February).

There was a surprising amount of great things to do in Barcelona despite it being the off-season, and I thoroughly loved my time in Barcelona in winter.

You see, Barcelona is one of the places that — in my opinion — is only good in the offseason.

Sure, you won’t be able to take advantage of the beaches, but come on.

Do you really want to be packed ass to ankles with every other tourist baking themselves pink?

Do you really want to fight your way through Las Ramblas only to sit down exhausted at some mediocre tapas restaurant?

This is Las Ramblas in February. Imagine the hell it is in summer. Photo credit: Stephanie Craig

Do you really want to pay upwards of 20 euros to get into Casa Batllo, only to barely be able to see anything through the throng of flesh?

Yeah, I thought so.

Mercifully free of people

Which is why I’m here to tell everyone that Barcelona in February rocks, and maybe it’s one of the best places to visit in Europe in February.

But maybe don’t tell everyone – this is a secret best kept amongst friends.

If you’re wondering what to do in Barcelona in the winter months, here are a few things I loved doing – to help you plan your own Barcelona itinerary and hopefully love this city in the off-season as much as I did.

Explore the Barri Gotic without the crowds

The name Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter) is a bit of a misnomer — this area dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries, not the Gothic architecture era of the Middle Ages. Still, it’s called that for the strong influence Gothic architecture plays in this part of the Ciutat Vella district.

Stephanie and I were even able to score a nice hotel right in the heart of the Barri Gotic for around 50 euros a night — unthinkable in Barcelona’s peak season. Just one more reason to visit Barcelona in February or any other off-season month.

Explore La Boqueria market

Plenty of delicious produce, even in winter

This was one of my favorite places the first time I visited Barcelona in the summer — and let me tell you, La Boqueria is even better in the winter.

There are way fewer people there so you won’t have to deal with lines or crowds the same way you will in the summer.

If you have a kitchen, there’s plenty of vegetables, fresh fish, and delicious condiments to cook with. Or you can just gorge yourself on all the fresh fruit juice, cheese, and sausage like I did. *shrug*

Decisions, decisions…

Juice so colorful, you almost don’t hate being healthy

Do a self-guided food tour

Barcelona’s weather in February is often quite warm and sunny, so there’s no reason to cower inside.

One of my favorite things we did in Barcelona on this recent trip was a self-guided walking tour with bitemojo, who I partnered with on my most recent trip. Basically, it’s an app that guides you to a few hidden gem eateries where you can redeem your “bites” through an app, walking past some historic landmarks along the way.

Combining my love of food and my side-eye towards humanity, genius.

There are two tours, each costing 30 euro (which is not that outrageous a price considering the expensiveness of Barcelona).

We opted for the tour of La Boqueria and El Raval. We got to try 6 bites ranging from cheese, Catalonian sausage, cod fritters, fried eggplant tapas, and fancy Instagrammable donuts. It was delicious and I highly recommend it!

You can also go on a self-guided food tour of Barcelona’s best eats or learn how to make regional dishes by taking a paella cooking class in Barcelona.

Mmm… donuts [/end Homer Simpson impression]

Actually see Gaudí’s sites through the crowds

Photo credit: Stephanie Craig

If you’re an architecture fan like I am, Gaudí is likely one of the main draws to Barcelona. The architect left an outsize footprint on the face of Barcelona and is responsible for some of its most iconic buildings. In fact, his buildings collectively make up one of Barcelona’s two UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Visiting Barcelona in February, you’ll have less of a crowd to fight with to get your shots. You’ll still probably need a bit of Photoshop sorcery to get a people-free photo of the Sagrada Familia or Park Güell, as Barcelona is never exactly tourist-free.

Enjoy Barcelona’s parks

Photo credit: Stephanie Craig

Honestly, Barcelona in February is pretty much equal to summer in Stockholm, and it really reminds me of my home in the East Bay. We enjoyed some really sunny days during our visit, and with a bit of luck, the temperatures will hover around 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit with plenty of sun.

We saw a lot of people sunning themselves out with their pets in February, and there’s no reason not to visit Barcelona’s parks with a bottle of wine or a picnic from La Boqueria market if you have a nice sunny winter day.

This photo is of the stunning Ciutadella Park, one of the most beautiful in Barcelona!

Go on a day trip

besalu girona
Game of Thrones vibes, anyone?

There’s no shortage of beautiful day trips from Barcelona. On our most recent trip, we visited Andorra la Vella — mostly to tick off another country off our list, as Steph and I are both shameless country counters. To be honest, I wouldn’t recommend visiting Andorra la Vella unless you’re a country counter as well.  It’s a pretty boring and not super photogenic city, and the best thing to do there is indulge in a 60 euro day pass to a fancy thermal spa.

If you have more time to explore Andorra, surely the mountains are beautiful and offer plenty of skiing opportunities, but I can’t in good conscience say Andorra la Vella is anything special. Plus, Andorra la Vella is a good deal more elevated than Barcelona, making February not really a great time to visit the Andorran capital (though I’m not entirely convinced there is a good time wow, salty much?).

What I’d recommend instead is taking a day trip to one of Catalonia’s beautiful other cities — I especially loved visiting Besalú and Girona on a previous trip to Catalonia, and I’d recommend them over Andorra in a heartbeat. The summer heat in Spain is no joke, especially inland where you’ll find Besalú, so going in February seems like it’d be a fantastic idea.

Where to Stay in Barcelona

The best part about visiting Barcelona in February or any other off-season month is that you can stay in a super central location for an insanely cheap price. On my last trip to Barcelona, my friend and I shared a massive private room with shared bathroom for about $50 USD per night split between the two of us – in the heart of Ciutat Vella. Meanwhile, when I came in the summer last time, I paid well over $30 for a bed in one of the crappiest hostels I’ve ever had the misfortune to stay at.

Here are my recommendations for where to stay broken down by price. Here’s how I roughly break it down: budget is under $20 per night for a bunk in a dorm, mid-range is $75-150 for a double room, and luxury is over $200.

Budget: If you’re on a budget and traveling solo or in a small group and want to spend as little money as possible on accommodation while still having a nice place to stay, I recommend Sweet BCN. With an 8.8 rating on Booking.com, a prime location in the hip Eixample neighborhood near sights like Casa Batlló, and charming interior décor that pays homage to its Barcelona roots, Sweet BCN is a big step above typical hostels yet the price for a bunk is very fair in February. Click here for rates, reviews, and availability.

If you simply want the cheapest room possible, I recommend Safestay Sea in Ciutat Vella, which has decent reviews but isn’t quite as nice as Sweet BCN, but is a good deal cheaper. Still, I think Sweet BCN offers better value for your buck.

Mid-range: You’ll find a ton of affordably priced mid-range options in Barcelona in February. This is a great opportunity to stay at a fashionable boutique hotel without paying a fortune, as a lot of boutique hotels will be very reasonably priced in the winter months then easily go for over $200 per night in peak season. For a stylish yet affordable stay, I recommend Hotel Omnium, which has great but minimalist design and an excellent location in the heart of Barcelona. Click here for rates, reviews, and availability.

Luxury: For a luxury stay with a reasonable price tag, I recommend H10 Casa Mimosa in the trendy Eixample neighborhood. With stylish yet unfussy décor, a gorgeous private pool nestled between buildings like a little Barcelona secret, and spacious rooms, this affordable-yet-luxe hotel is walking distance from all of Barcelona’s best sights. Click here for reviews, prices, and availability.


Have you visited Barcelona in the off season? What were your thoughts?

Note: I was provided with a complimentary food tour courtesy of bitemojo in order to test out their app. All opinions shared are entirely my own.

Why You Must Visit Lekeitio, Northern Spain’s Best Kept Secret

Lekeitio, Basque Country

Little Lekeitio in the Basque country is one of my favorite hidden gems in all of Spain.

About an hour outside of the larger Basque cities of Bilbao and San Sebastián, this quiet town is home to not one but two of Spain’s loveliest beaches, and it’s a must if you’re doing a road trip in Spain, particularly in the Basque Country.

There’s not a ton going on in Lekeitio, but it has its charms. Lots of bars restaurants dot the main road on the way to the beach, specializing in Basque ciders, txakoli (young white wine), pintxos, and – of course – fresh seafood. There is a beautiful gothic church quite close the beach, with intriguing arches that look almost like the ribcage of a whale.

The church of Lekeitio. Click to learn more!
The impressive local church

As you walk past the cathedral, you’ll soon be gifted with views of Lekeitio’s first beach and its picturesque harbor. When I was in Lekeitio, it was in one the Basque country’s rare heat waves, so it seemed like everyone was on the beach. Granted, considering that July’s average high temperature is approximately 75F (24C), Lekeitio’s “heat wave” was more like my Californian’s idea of a pleasant sunny day.

The beach in Lekeitio - click to learn more!
This is Isuntza, the first beach you’ll see in Lekeitio

But as is often the case, walking a little further afield will reward you leaps and bounds. Walk past the beach and you’ll see this magical little vista open up, with turquoise water that seems more befitting the Caribbean or Southeast Asia than Northern Spain. As you walk towards the bridge, there’s an opportunity to walk down to a little rental shop, where you can rent a kayak or a stand-up paddle board. Looking back, I wish I had spent more time in Lekeitio, so I could have rented a kayak and explored this view even further.

The views in Lekeitio. Click to learn more!
Keep walking….

Lekeitio, Basque Country
But make sure you turn back to look at this view!

After walking maybe ten more minutes, you’ll arrive at Karraspio beach, which is the quieter and lovelier of the two, in my opinion. You have a perfect view of Lekeitio’s tiny San Nicolas Island, which is easily swimmable or even walkable during low tide.

Sandy toes and lovely views
Sandy toes and lovely views of San Nicolas Island

Besides having a lovely view of the small island, you’re also directly facing Lekeitio’s colorful harbor. You can also see the first beach clearly and even watch as people appear to walk on water on the small pathway leading them towards San Nicolas Island! Total Jesus vibes.

People walk on the pathway to San Nicolas Island
People walk on the pathway to San Nicolas Island

And when all this beauty gets to be too much....
And when all this beauty gets to be too much….

This being Basque country, pintxos are never far away.
This being Basque country, pintxos are never far away.

Lekeitio, in the Basque Country region of Spain, is one of the best beach towns in Spain. From its beautiful turquoise waters that seem straight out of the Caribbean, delicious fresh seafood, and unspoiled paradise vibes, it's a surprise that this little beauty is widely off the tourist trail.

Pintxos in San Sebastián and Bilbao

solo travel in Spain

Pintxos (also written as pinchos in Spanish) is the Basque spin on Spanish tapas. Pintxo literally means “thorn” or “spike” and refers to the toothpick that customarily holds everything together, usually atop a slice of bread.

They are the quintessential bar snack and go perfectly with beer, wine, or cider. Txakoli (tx is pronounced like “ch” in Euskara, the Basque language, so it’s prounounced chakoli) is a young white wine with slight effervescence, and one of my favorite things to drink with pintxos.

Vino tinto, or red wine, is also quite delicious and usually comes from neighboring La Rioja (the subsection of Rioja Alavesa is actually part of Basque Country). A glass of wine will set you back a maximum of three euros – and likely less than two. Yes, Spain and the Basque Country are a lush’s dream.

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