Barcelona, Bilbao, Guernica, San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, San Sebastian
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Barcelona and Basque are icons of Europe and the most enchanting of travel destinations. Home to distinctive art, historic cities, golden beaches, and legendary cuisine, Barcelona is home to an atmosphere that will carry you away. This private luxury tour celebrates the best of both destinations with local excursions including La Rioja wine tasting and a Montserrat choir song. So, indulge in the food, feast on the architecture, and go off the beaten trail with expert, local guides.
Barcelona – Relaxed Arrival on the Mediterranean
With all the images of Gaudi and company, it will be easy to forget that Barcelona is mostly dominated by the Mediterranean. The sea runs the length of the city, and its cooling breeze will work wonders on summer evenings. You can gaze out from almost anywhere in Barcelona, and you will see the blue Mediterranean along the horizon, which is just one reason the city has such a laid-back vibe. You will arrive in Barcelona today, and you will be transferred to a hotel that is just two blocks from Barceloneta beach. You can take a stroll along the promenade, grab a drink at one of the hundreds of little bars, and settle in to the city’s warming, Mediterranean atmosphere.
Barcelona – The Fantastical Structures of Catalan Art Nouveau
Wandering up a spine-like staircase, you will gaze around at mosaic tiles and wavy lines. Standing on a roof terrace, you will admire peculiar chimneys and ribbons of bricks. Gaudi’s early work was residential properties and houses that jump out of the street and into the Eixample neighborhood. Casa Batllo and Casa Mila will be a wonderful introduction to his style, and they are houses where you can really appreciate the minute details before visiting the enormous spaces of La Sagrada Familia. Gaudi’s cathedral is over a century into construction, and it is still not finished. You can visit most of it and find a sublime mix of details for scale.
These three sights will make for a relatively active morning. So, you will do what the locals do for lunch: take your time. You will dine on a shaded terrace and allow your meal to spill over into the middle of the afternoon. While the concept of actually sleeping during a siesta is no longer widely practiced, midafternoon is when it will be best to stop, relax, and let the heat pass. Afterward, you will continue your tour of Catalan art nouveau at Palau de la Musica Catalana where colorful shards of light will shine through the ceiling. Here, the dedication to art even exceeds that of the cathedral. Your evening will be left free, and there are many excellent restaurants that will be close to your hotel.
Barcelona – Historic Boulevards and an Evening of Tapas
Down cobblestone lanes, there will come whispers of competing eras. Roman foundations will be topped by Gothic churches and contemporary wine bars, and great slabs of medieval stone will crowd around slithers of art nouveau. It will be easy to get lost with alleys poking out in all directions and church bells echoing in harmony. A Barcelonan native will lead you around this oldest part of the city, taking you past street musicians on La Ramblas and then into the intoxicating smells of La Boqueria market. There will be many individual treasures in this area, but mostly you will remember the atmosphere and the feeling of where Catalonia keeps its roots.
The afternoon will be kept free, and it could be time to hit the beach. Then, this evening, you will be exploring another windy neighborhood. El Born is where the best Barcelona tapas bars are located, which are tiny places each with their own culinary specialism. Tonight’s guide will know exactly what to order and from where, leading your palate on a journey through diverse flavors. It will be an enchanting place to be after dark with chitchat from all the terraces and so many little treats to try. Tapas may originate from Andalusia, but Barcelona has made them its own with the dishes that utilize the foods being the most readily available in Catalonia. You will be tasting as you go and will visit at least four different bars.
Barcelona – A Morning in Montserrat and Afternoon in Sitges
High on a mountain, you will let the wind whip past your ears. Benedictine monks will wander past, and a choir song will ring out and beckon you forward. This is Montserrat, which is where a majestic monastery proudly stands above the Catalan plains. Every morning, this choral harmony echoes through the nave, which is an experience that can make you stop and think about the world around you. Just getting to Montserrat will be worth the day trip excursion with a winding road that is followed by a mountain cable car. After the choir song, there will be time to explore more of the monastery before descending to a Catalan lunch in a small, nearby village.
From here, it will be a one-hour transfer to Sitges, which is a small, coastal town that is south of Barcelona. Boutique art galleries and tiny cafes will line the streets here, guiding you towards the beach. You will immediately notice how quiet it is here. While Barcelona’s beaches are popular and get busy in the late afternoon, Sitges is where Barcelona’s locals go to escape crowds and doze off beneath the sun. You will make your way back to the city by train, which will be a comfortable, 40-minute journey. There are a few superb seafood restaurants in Sitges if you wish to dine early, or there will be a plethora of choices that make Barcelona such a big culinary destination.
Barcelona – Flexible Day in and Around Barcelona
This day will be left free and can be customized to your wishes. For many visitors, this can simply be a quiet day where you lounge around the hotel and the beach, wandering the old streets and promenade. Excellent museums dot the city, including one that is dedicated to Picasso and another to wider Catalan art. Possible day trips can include the Dali Museum in Figueres, the vineyards of Penedes, or Priorat if you are in the food for decadent, red wine. Even without a plan, you can go far in Barcelona, as the city has many unique neighborhoods.
Bilbao – An Afternoon in the Guggenheim Including Dinner
You will fly directly to Bilbao, which is a Basque city that is spread across three distinctive eras. All three parts of the city have preserved a unique atmosphere, making Bilbao feel like a trilogy of destinations in one. Medieval charm will flow through the old city where the houses lean into each other and most of the streets date to the 12th and 13th centuries. Grand boulevards of fashion boutiques will be a feature of the new town with ornate flourishes that give off a late 19th-century glamour. You will then follow the river a little further, and you will be in the future as symbolized by the Guggenheim.
As with all contemporary art museums, the Guggenheim’s actual art is very much open to interpretation. Not everybody likes it, and it is intended to be controversial. The two main highlights will be the buildings itself and the on-site restaurant. Approaching the shimmering metal structure, you will feel constricted as the building looms as you can only enter through a tiny doorway. Following this, you will be hit by the vast, open space. The restaurant is in the top 100 according to the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants and is a fine purveyor of Basque cuisine with all the artistic ingenuity that you would expect from such a museum. Dinner will be on your account.
Bilbao – Rioja Wine Tasting Excursion and an Evening in the Old City
You will travel just an hour south from Bilbao where you will arrive at the vineyards of La Rioja, which is Spain’s most iconic wine region. This tranquil land will encourage you to indulge in your senses. You can taste old-world wines slowly in enchanting old cellars around Haro, and pair wine with food at a country estate that opens to just a few people each day. You will venture beneath the ground in Laguardia, finding musty corridors of wine barrels that seemingly stretch for miles. Then, you will return to Bilbao after the private tour and spend your evening in the old city where the small plaza will offer a selection of pintxos bars.
San Sebastian – A Glamorous Seaside Town and Local Pintxos Tour
Guernica can be a haunting place, and its narrative was dominated by the civil war in early 20th-century Spain. It will be essential viewing if you want to understand the Basque region, especially if you want to know why it remains so proudly independent in its style. Fortress-like walls will stretch up onto the cliffs of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe, and magnificent steps will take you higher and higher. Hundreds of them will wind uphill to a church that is cut off from the world and perched above the quiet lapping waves. These two destinations will be comfortable and breathtaking stops on today’s transfer to San Sebastian.
You will arrive in time for a late lunch and some free time to explore. Two beaches will stretch out from each side of the old city as glamorous townhouses fill the streets. La Concha is sublime even if you do not like beaches. As afternoon blurs into the evening, you will head out on a private pintxos tour. This unique form of tapas is more fine dining than a beer snack. Think sea urchin, moose with aged ham, and phantasmagorical seafood creations that will be held together by small sticks. Basque is famous for its food, and San Sebastian’s pintxos bars are the quintessence of the style.
San Sebastian – Day Trip to Hondarribia and French Basque
This final day will take a leisurely journey up the coast, winding beneath the mountains as you stop in Hondarribia, which is a famous fishing village that will serve you a superb seafood lunch. Many of the restaurants have Michelin stars or are near the top of worldwide lists, yet their atmosphere is more of the beach-shack and feet-in-the-sand style as opposed to being overly formal. Further north, you will cross into French Basque where you will explore a couple of small towns before you wind back to San Sebastian in time for sunset from La Concha. It will be your final night in Spain, and the guide can arrange reservations at one of the city’s most celebrated restaurants.
Barcelona – Departure
You will depart from San Sebastian’s small airport on a local flight to Barcelona. Here, you will transfer onto your outbound flight. For late departures, it will be easy to lounge away the day on one of San Sebastian’s two beaches.
- Marvel at Barcelona’s art nouveau from Gaudi’s unfinished La Sagrada Familia to Palau de la Musica Catalana
- Explore the futuristic art in Bilbao’s Guggenheim before dinner in its internationally revered restaurant
- Discover the mazy lanes of old Barcelona, including Barri Gotic and La Boqueria
- Relax along the coast in San Sebastian, which is a glamorous, Basque seaside town
- Listen to the Montserrat choir song as you visit a monastery high above Catalonia
- Make a day trip to La Rioja from Bilbao, visiting vineyards and the Laguardia wine cellars
- Tour the iconic tapas bars of El Born, which are Barcelona’s most atmospheric nighttime neighborhood
- Uncover the Basque culinary secret of pintxos with a local guide that shows you many fine dining, yet informal treats
- Spend an afternoon lounging on the beach in Sitges, which is a charming Catalan town that is so different from Barcelona
- Discover the best of the Basque region, including a seafood lunch in Hondarribia and the towering pinnacle of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
Take one glimpse at Basque or Barcelona, and it is easy to see the quintessence of Spain. Languid city plazas are always full of cobblestone and chatter, and sultry evening atmospheres encourage everyone to leave their stresses behind. Basque and Barcelona are not merely Spanish. They are proudly unique and distinctive in their history, language, and style. So, on this vacation, you will get a real glimpse of Spain with all those promises of great food, laid-back evenings, and relaxing days on the coast. You will also get much more as you will also experience the intimate highlights of two inimitable regions.
Barcelona and Basque are an excellent combination for first-time visitors to Spain. They are easily connected by direct flights and are relatively compact travel destinations, so you do not lose much time through travel nor must you continually change hotels. Day trips are abundant, such as Montserrat and Sitges from Barcelona, or La Rioja from Bilbao. Every day is spent exploring and is followed by a leisurely evening in a city where guides show you the best plazas and restaurants, along with neighborhoods that come alive after dark. Empty hours are usually filled by the coast with both Barcelona and Basque having some of Europe’s finest urban beaches, and San Sebastian’s La Concha is particularly memorable.
Start this private, luxury tour with five nights in Barcelona. The surreal works of Gaudi and Montaner are the focus of your guided tour on day two, from the unfinished cathedral to private residences and the sublime Catalan music hall. Dive into the heart of old Barcelona on day three where markets provide lively color, and the stories stretch back to Roman occupation. On day four, you explore more of Catalonia, first the Benedictine monastery and choir song in Montserrat and then the charming coastal town of Sitges. Day five is left free, and there are many potential options to further customize your tour.
Fly to Bilbao, and the Guggenheim provides an evocative, Basque introduction, not only of the art but also a dinner in the museum’s restaurant, which was on the world’s top 100 list. Descend into city wine cellars and go tasting at vineyards on day seven’s trip to Rioja with Bilbao’s old town proving to be a relaxing place to return. Following the coast, you travel onwards to San Sebastian on day eight, stopping to hear history in Guernica and wild nature at San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.
Your final two nights are in San Sebastian, which is a glamorous, seaside town where the food is particularly memorable. The culinary experience starts with a private pintxostour, showcasing both the cuisine and the culture. Your final day trip heads into French Basque with a stop for seafood in Hondarribia. Just like in Barcelona, you will be carried off on the local atmosphere in Basque, finding that the vacation takes your feet in two directions. One half of you is engulfed with classical images of Spain, while the other is experiencing regions that are fiercely and proudly unique. Don’t take just our word for it - consider reading some of our travelers’ reviews of Spain.
$2,395 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.
- In-country transportation
- Some or all activities and tours
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- 24x7 support during your trip
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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