Iberia’s iconic cities celebrate both the enchantment of history and the vibrant ambiance of today. Begin with Barcelona to enjoy the cobbles to the Modernistas to the magic of Catalonia. Move next to Madrid to take in the royal treasures mixed with decadent tapas and the elegance of the plazas. Finally, you will stop in Lisbon, the Portuguese capital of color and charm where every neighborhood has its own idiosyncratic style. With several nights spent in each city, this luxury tour will uncover...
Barcelona – Elegant Pleasures of the Catalonian Capital
Touch down in Barcelona, and the atmosphere of Catalonia will immediately engage your senses. The sound of footsteps will echo down a cobbled lane as fresh fragrances from tapas kitchens mingle with the salty breeze that comes off the Mediterranean. Cathedral spires stand proudly and can be glimpsed as you wander in and out of the Roman lanes. You will be greeted at the airport, and the day will be at your leisure with the Catalonian ambiance enveloping from all sides. Your attractive hotel is situated in the heart of the old city, and there are countless attractions within walking distance, along with an almost infinite assortment of restaurants and bars.
Barcelona – Roman Barcelona Then the Legacy of Gaudi
Barcelona hails to the time of the Romans, a city along the Mediterranean that was fought over by empires and kingdoms. Barcelona also hails to the era of the Modernistas, the architects who inspired a new wave of art nouveau in the latter part of the 19th century. Today’s private tour will connect these eras, beginning with the roots of the city and then moving forward into its flamboyance. First, the Romanesque Cathedral and its cloister for a trace of future architectural styles etched into the doorways and columns. Take a stroll through a labyrinth of medieval streets, where wine bars are built into the 5th-century buildings and the architecture will bring your eyes on a merry dance. These streets lead out to Las Ramblas, the iconic thoroughfare of street artists and seduction.
Stop for lunch along the harbor as super-yachts rock gently on the azure of the Mediterranean. Spend the afternoon in Eixample, the neighborhood of aristocrats who commissioned the Modernistas. Gaudi’s early work is celebrated here, three casas, houses, of undulating curves and peculiar chimneys. Close to here you find Park Guell, where serpents are painted in mosaics, and twisted brick pillars hold up walkways between the trees. On today’s private tour, there will be plenty of room for customization, perhaps taking a look at La Sagrada Familia or uncovering other Barcelona highlights like the Olympic Ring or the Two Harbors. On route to the monuments, you will find that the Catalonian capital is not just a city for sightseeing, but one that encloses you in the atmosphere.
Barcelona – Exquisite Treasures of Catalonia: From Coast to Vineyards
Perhaps the greatest appeal of the Iberian Peninsula is the distinctiveness of each region. Catalonia has its own language, culture, and style, all very different from the rest of Spain. This third day in Barcelona is a chance for you to customize your discovery of the wider Catalonian region. Every morning a beautiful choir song rings out from Montserrat Monastery, a UNESCO World Heritage site dramatically positioned beneath stark mountains. Seemingly endless vineyards are where the bubbles of Spain are made, Catalonia the home to Cava, a sparkling wine akin to Champagne. Down on the coast, you will find beautiful little towns like Sitges. But then upon the plains, there are medieval charms like Girona, which tumbles down towards the Mediterranean. With a morning or afternoon, you can visit one of these destinations. With a full day, it is possible to combine the two on a privately guided tour to reveal a very unique part of the Iberian Peninsula.
Madrid – Free Morning in Madrid and Charms of the Capital
By now, you will have settled into the rhythm of Iberia. Wake late for coffee and breakfast on the terrace accompanied by the distant echo of church bells. Take your time as the cool morning hours give you a chance to explore slowly. You will travel on the high-speed railway between Barcelona and Madrid, a journey between the city centers taking just over 2 ½ hours. In the Spanish capital, the rhythm continues at its languorous pace, slow enough for all the senses to pick up on the clues.
Enjoy a late lunch on a terrace, the big meal of the Spanish day which often extends until 3:30 or 4 pm. Then later in the evening, you can be engulfed by the atmosphere of the paseo, when the locals go on a stroll around their city after work. There is a salubrious atmosphere now, one that encourages you to explore without a map and make a stop at any of the plazas and terraces that enchant. This vibrancy continues to dominate the air into the night, with most squares and neighborhoods lively until 11 pm or midnight. In the first couple of days, it can be challenging to adjust your own clock, but by now, you will be accustomed to the cadence, and by doing so, you will get to experience the most authentic parts of the Iberian Peninsula.
Madrid – Palaces, Plazas, and Paseos of Madrid
All across Madrid, you can sense the glamour as 17th-century marble facades glisten beneath the morning sun as grandiose statues stare down on the plazas, avenues are lined with porticos, and the peculiar faces of sculpted ghouls overlook. Madrid is a city of magnificence, one that takes you from plazas to paseos, avenues, to palaces. A private guide will take you on a tour of the most important sights and move at Madrid’s decadently laid-back pace. Begin with the old cobbles around the Plaza Mayor, where hot chocolate fumes emanate from 19th-century taverns, and you can turn corners towards vintage stores. Move next to the Plaza de la Villa, enclosed by symbols of 17th-century Iberian architecture, such elegance on three sides.
Stop for lunch on a different plaza for a chance to discuss the history of the region over a typical meal from Spain’s central plains. On a slow afternoon, you can stroll the lanes of history, past the theaters from the old world to the statue of Don Quixote and his faithful peon Sancho Panza. Continue to the royal palace, the largest in Europe, and an opulent masterpiece where every room hides another treasure. Canvases fill corridors and walls, jewels and chandeliers shimmer in different rooms, the styles of Spanish kings are uncovered, and you will find potions in the glass bottles of the 18th-century pharmacy. Today’s panoramic tour will conclude with a coffee at a café as the terrace opens out onto a view over Spain’s central plains.
Madrid – World-Renowned Art and the Medieval City of Toledo
This will be a free day in Madrid, and there are so many impressive sights to consider. The world’s greatest collection of Spanish art can be found in the Prado Museum, a gallery to rival the Louvre with its journey through the centuries of brushstrokes and paintings. To continue into the 20th century of art, you may want to visit the Renia Sohia, where Picasso’s Guernica is just one of the mighty slabs of bewildering oil swerves. While the art can take up a full morning, nearby Toledo is worthy of an entire afternoon.
The medieval city is just over 30 minutes away by train and will greet you with cathedral spires and the winding lanes of the 16th century. Follow the El Greco trail, and you can discover the entire city, along with the most legendary of the painter’s works, including swathes of stained glass that blur boundaries with the surreal. Back in Madrid, late in the evening, it will be hard to ignore the allure of the plazas, perfect for a tranquil nightcap or dinner. While today is at your leisure, the program can be customized so it can be privately guided to your interests.
Lisbon – Leisurely Day in the Two Capitals
Madrid is the capital city isolated on the plains, spacious and glamorous as it stands in the heart of Spain. Lisbon is the bustling capital on the coast, where the streets are narrow and eclectic colors are found at every turn. Built upon seven hills, the Portuguese capital is one that whisks you off into the bustling atmosphere of both past and present. You will feel the allure on steep cobbled streets, where the trams tinkle their bells as they ascend. Be immersed in culture on the plazas, where local kiosks ensure these opulent squares remain the focal point of local life. You will quickly discover that Lisbon is a city that can pull you in many directions, whether along the river towards the Atlantic Ocean or up the steepest hills to cathedrals from the past. It is a short flight from Madrid to Lisbon, and private transfers are arranged.
Lisbon – Panoramic Discovery of Lisbon: Barrios to Beauty on the River
Graffiti covers Bairro Alto’s lower facade like a mural with lines and colors that contrast with the hues of narrow townhouses found higher on the hill. As the tram rumbles past, this neighborhood will compel you to enter narrow doorways to find charming cafes or stores packed with antiques. There is a different atmosphere in Belem, the spacious neighborhood of the wealthy along the river. Here you will find monuments to Portugal’s old glory, spaced along the water so to further dramatize their scale. Ascend a hill, and there will be a lovely cathedral. Then another hill, where painted blue tiles provide the barrio’s facade.
Throughout the city, there are monasteries and monuments to the past but also markets with a vibrancy that has hardly changed for centuries. On today’s privately guided tour, you can connect these angles and cross the city of seven hills to discover how Lisbon is a jigsaw puzzle of barrios and beauty. The evening will be at your leisure, and another market is highly recommended. Time Out Market is the handpicked home of Lisbon’s best chefs and eateries, and an informal place to dine from kitchens that is run by Michelin-starred chefs among others.
Lisbon – Palaces of Sintra and Elegance of Lisbon
A free day will complete your tour of the Iberian Peninsula. Lisbon’s surroundings are full of surprises, and there are many great day trips possible from the capital. Ascend into the hills and the palaces of Sintra, all so old that nobody is quite sure when they were built. Or travel along the river to the Atlantic Ocean coastline, where a succession of cute fishing villages has an unexpected grandeur. With a full day, you can combine both as the UNESCO World Heritage palaces are a perfect complement to the Portuguese Riviera. This day can be customized with your private guide to offer more insight. Or you may wish to spend it in the parks of Lisbon, serene spaces as this 10-day luxury tour comes to an end. Your guide in Lisbon can recommend restaurants for a final dinner in the city.
Lisbon – Departure
After breakfast at your hotel, the rest of the day is free until your departure. Your private transfer will take you along to the airport on a leisurely ride to conclude your tour.
- Wander the lanes of Barcelona to discover the legacy of the Roman Empire and the mosaics and magic of Gaudi and the Modernistas
- Uncover the treasures of Catalonia to find a land of quaint vineyards, elegant coastal towns and monasteries tucked beneath the hills
- Be immersed in the charm of Madrid where the al fresco terraces dominate the plazas and a decadent hum emanates from streets of tapas bars
- Explore one of the world’s most esteemed art galleries as the Prado is an unmissable stop on the Iberian Peninsula
- Connect with the neighborhoods of Lisbon on a panoramic private tour that will range from the royal monuments in Belem to the cobblestone bairros on the hills
- Discover the many palaces from the contrasting eras with old Moorish Sintra feeling completely different from Europe’s largest royal palace in Madrid
- Engage in the many possibilities as Iberia’s three major cities are surrounded with many options to take you out of the city and into destinations like Toledo and Estoril
Iberia’s three most eminent cities dazzle with history. Find a Roman legacy in Barcelona, enjoy Madrid’s royal excess and then take in the icons along the river in Lisbon’s Belem. All three cities will also immerse you in art and architecture, whether the buildings of Gaudi, the canvases in the Prado or the colors of the narrow townhouse-lined bairros. Heritage abounds, and not just in the cities but in their immediate surroundings such as Montserrat Monastery, Sitges, Toledo, Sintra and the palaces too old for dates. The food will be a sublime experience as you dine on tradition and hop between the al fresco terraces of today. In all three cities, you can celebrate so many Iberian paradigms for a journey that will provide a discovery of the peninsula’s past and present.
On this handcrafted tour, you will spend three nights each in Barcelona, Madrid and Lisbon. You will begin with the Catalonian capital where cathedrals and casas, houses, burst with the ingenuity of local design. You can then discover the unmissable monuments like Park Guell and the cobbled lanes around Las Ramblas. But you will also uncover the Catalonian sensibilities to find a city with a lively atmosphere. The next day, there will be multiple options for exploring wider Catalonia, from the seductive choir song at Montserrat Monastery to coastal Sitges and the home of Cava. Evenings are always atmospheric with so much to see and explore within walking distance of your hotel.
Take the high-speed train to Madrid the following day, and almost immediately you will find that this is not a typical capital city. The city is invariably laid-back and comfortable place to hop between taverns of tapas and spend languid hours on the al fresco terraces. Of course, it is also a city of discovery, from the largest royal palace in Europe to the sublime art of the Prado. Just a short distance from Madrid, you will find monuments to a different era. Medieval Toledo is also the city of artist El Greco and an easy day trip, and with three days in the Spanish capital, you will be able to take in the breadth of Iberian influence as if the city has handpicked the cuisine and cultures from all across the peninsula.
Fly to Lisbon as your first week ends to find a city built on seven distinctive hills alongside the river. Every neighborhood has its own vibe, from the cobbles and excitement of Barrio Alto to the elegance and space of Belem. Doused in color and a delight to discover, Lisbon is a city that always compels you to find more: the Moorish palaces in nearby Sintra, old-world beach towns skirting the Atlantic, a food market of Michelin-starred-chef kitchens. It will all feel completely different from Madrid, which in turn is very distinct from Barcelona, as this journey through three cities will celebrate these three parts of the Iberian paradigm. All activities are privately guided over the 10-day tour, and there is a nice balance between exploring on your own and the insider insight from a guide. Interested in learning more by seeing some of our travelers’ Portugal vacation tour reviews? Click here for more.
$5,495 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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