Northeastern Spain Tour by Train: Art, Culture, Food & Wine

A 12 day trip to Spain 
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From tapas and paella to El Greco and Gaudí, Spain captivates you with its fascinating culture. This customizable tour covers Northern Spain’s most interesting attractions, where you will admire the amazing art, soak up the ambience and savor the cuisine. The tour begins in the energetic capital of Madrid, takes you to the UNESCO-listed medieval city of Toledo, continues on in the fun-loving Mediterranean destinations of Valencia and Barcelona. Finally you’ll travel to beautiful La Rioja wine country and the spectacular coastal resorts of the Basque Country. This tour will impress you with lifelong memories and will leave you wanting for more.

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General Information

Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Madrid, Catalonia, Toledo, Girona, La Rioja, Basque Country

Departure Dates 

Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1 - Welcome to Spain! Arrive in Madrid, the Capital City

Welcome to Madrid, the bustling capital city of Spain. Upon arrival at the airport, a driver will greet you and provide a private transfer to your hotel. After checking into your hotel, you may begin to explore Madrid at your leisure. You might want to rest up first or just overcome jet-lag by exploring the sites. Start with the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s main public square built during the Habsburg rule. Nearby you’ll find the city’s most famous square and most central location, the Plaza del Sol. Then visit an emblematic monument in Madrid, the magnificent Cibeles Fountain featuring a statue of the Roman goddess of nature. Another distinctive aspect of Madrid are the grand boulevards. Go for a stroll to take in the impressive boulevards and stately monuments around the Paseo del Prado and the Puerta de Alcala, which will give you a sense of Madrid’s grandeur under the rule of the great King Carlos III. Another interesting street is the Gran Via, a wonderful showcase of impressive 20th-century buildings.

Day 2 - Guided Tour of Madrid and Leisure Time

This morning after breakfast, you will meet your tour guide who will introduce you to the capital city. Your walking tour includes a visit to the spectacular Royal Palace, inspired by the Louvre Palace in Paris. This sumptuous palace of 2,000 rooms is filled with precious art, exquisite chandeliers and exceptional tapestries. The tour continues on a stroll through the historic quarter of Madrid, as you wander the charming old streets and visit elegant plazas. After the tour, you’ll have free time in the afternoon to visit Madrid’s world-class museums. The Museo del Prado is a must-see attraction. This internationally renowned museum includes 4,800 fine works of art, including masterpieces by the most famous Spanish painters: El Greco, Goya and Velásquez. You may also visit the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía or the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza to see the city’s finest contemporary art collections.

In the afternoon, be sure to participate in the Spanish custom of tapas—a festive tradition of socializing over a glass of wine and snacks. Check out Madrid’s hottest location for tapas: Calle de Ponzano. Here you can try out two new places that only Madrileños frequent; both offer excellent quality tapas: La Máquina de Chamberí (Calle de Ponzano 39) and Sala de Despiece (Calle de Ponzano 11). Be ready for an authentic experience—hang out with the locals while sipping Sherry wine and attempt to order your tapas in Spanish!

Day 3 - Spend the Day in the UNESCO City of Toledo

This morning, you’ll travel to the extraordinary destination of Toledo, a perfectly preserved medieval city that is designated a UNESCO World Heritage City. On your guided walking tour through this amazing old city, you'll pass by endless architectural jewels: the medieval walls, the old Moorish fortress, ancient churches, working convents, and former synagogues. You’ll visit Toledo’s beautiful Visigoth Museum to see archaeological collections from the 6th, 7th and 8th centuries. Then you’ll visit the El Transito Synagogue, built in the 14th century by Samuel Ha-Levi Abulafia who was an advisor to King Pedro I of Castile. You’ll also see the Church of Santo Tomé where you can admire el Greco's famous painting “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.” Of course you will take a tour of Toledo’s Gothic cathedral, an immense place of worship that was converted from the original great mosque.

Day 4 - Travel to the Mediterranean City of Valencia

Today you’ll board the train for an easy four-hour ride to the Mediterranean city of Valencia. You can decide to either spend the morning sightseeing in Madrid or leave in the morning so that you can spend an afternoon at leisure in Valencia. You’ll be delighted upon arrival in Valencia, a charming ancient city on Spain’s Mediterranean seaport. From the first moment you get out of the train, you’ll enjoy the feel of the sea breeze and the sunshine. In the afternoon, you’ll take a guided tour of the city. Valencia is rich in history and culture, and as Spain's third largest city, also has a bustling economy. In Valencia, you can see the Impressionist paintings of Joaquín Sorolla and you’ll also find the famous Lladró porcelain factory.

Day 5 - Private Guided Tour of Valencia

Valencia's most impressive tourist attraction is the 90-acre City of Arts and Sciences Park designed by the famous architect Santiago Calatrava. This unique futuristic complex includes a science museum, the biggest aquarium in Europe, astronomy observatory, IMAX cinema, and a performing arts center. You could spend the entire day just exploring this one site! Look into what types of events and performances will be occurring at the time of your visit. You may want to reserve tickets ahead of time to attend a tennis tournament, music concert or an opera performance. Later today you may continue exploring Valencia’s historic old quarter. For dinner, be sure to try a restaurant that offers the local specialty of paella.

Day 6 - Travel from Valencia to Barcelona

This morning after breakfast, you’ll take the train to Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia, a Mediterranean region with its own language and culture. After checking into your hotel, you may begin exploring this cosmopolitan city. There are so many historical sights to see in Barcelona. The city offers a range of architectural wonders from the Gothic Quarter to the whimsical modernism of Gaudí. The best place to begin is at the Barri Gòtic, the old Gothic Quarter that dates back to the medieval era. The oldest quarter and the heart of the city, the Barri Gòtic is characterized by its narrow streets and impressive Gothic architecture. This neighborhood is full of many lovely courtyards and squares where you can see the magic of another era come to life. On the weekends at the Plaça de Sant Josep Oriol, artists display and sell their works. At the charming Plaça de Sant Felip Neri, you can see the church where Gaudí prayed, and a hotel that was filmed in one of Woody Allen’s films.

Day 7 - Classic Sightseeing Tour and Artistic Tour of Barcelona

This morning, you’ll enjoy a sightseeing tour of Barcelona’s classic sights. You’ll begin at the Plaça de Catalunya, a beautiful and expansive plaza surrounded by monumental buildings. Continue on to the incredible cathedral with its magnificent Gaudí facade. Then you’ll stroll through the narrows streets of the Gothic Quarter, with its imposing medieval buildings and charming courtyards. Next you’ll visit the Villa Olimpica to tour the 1992 Olympic Games stadium. Finally you’ll take the metro train or cable car up to Montjuïc Mountain. You’ll see the see the old military fortress and enjoy sweeping panoramic views of Barcelona and its harbor.

After lunch, you’ll discover the culture of Barcelona on an "Artistic Tour" of the city. Barcelona is famous for its Modernist style of architecture created by the famous native Catalan architect, Antonio Gaudí. On this tour along Passeig de Gràcia, you will see some of Gaudí’s most famous buildings: Casa Batlló, a fantastical must-see Modernist building and Casa Milà, another unusual building with grand stairways and surreal design details. Then you’ll visit Parc Güell, another example of Gaudí's creative genius. You can see Gaudí’s sense of humor in this whimsical garden with colorful decorative details. Next, you’ll tour the Cathedral of La Sagrada Familia with its exquisite Gaudí facade. The cathedral was designed on such an ambitious scale that the project consumed eight years of Gaudí’s life and was not finished during Gaudí’s lifetime. The work has continued on a gradual basis for the past several decades. Finally every detail of the cathedral was completed in 2010 and you will have the benefit of viewing this grandiose monument at its finest. The tour continues with a visit to Santa Maria del Mar, a remarkable Gothic church. The final stop on the tour is the Picasso Museum, which displays some of the artist's finest early works.

Day 8 - Visit the Historic City of Girona and the Dalí Museum in Figueres

Today you'll travel north to Girona, an ancient city on the Costa Brava coastline with the Pyrenees Mountains in the background. Inside the city’s “La Força Vella” walled enclosure, you’re transported to another world of a bygone era. Rich in history, Girona has a wealth of medieval buildings and architectural reminders of the Roman era and the Moorish past. The city boasts magnificent and well-preserved Arab Baths from the 12th century. On your walking tour through Girona, you'll discover the city’s rich heritage, including one of the best-preserved Jewish quarters in Europe. Next stop of the day is Figueres to visit the Dalí Museum that displays a wonderful collection of the famous surrealist’s artwork. You’ll also have a chance to see the jewelry called "Dalí Joies."

Day 9 - Travel to Bilbao in the Spanish Basque Country

This morning, you’ll take an early train to the Basque Country, traveling through the history-filled provinces of Aragon and Navarra. Alternatively you may take a flight from Barcelona to Bilbao. You’ll have this afternoon at leisure. You might want to visit the Guggenheim Modern Art Museum, Bilbao's most important monument. The building in itself is a work of modern art, designed by architect Frank Gehry. Inside the museum, you’ll find some of the world’s finest collections of 20th and 21st century art, including masterpieces by Monet, Picasso, Renoir and van Gogh.

Day 10 - Tour of La Rioja Villages and Vineyards including Wine Tasting

Today, you’ll have a chance to sample some of the finest wine in the world! You’ll visit the famous La Rioja wine region south of Bilbao, which is known as the “Bordeaux” of Spain. Driving out of Bilbao, you’ll enjoy the verdant mountain scenery before reaching Vitoria, the capital of the Álava region. Take some leisure time to stroll around and visit the city's historic old quarter. Next on today’s itinerary are stops in Laguardia and Labastida, two quaint villages surrounded by lush vineyards and exceptional wineries. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a private winery visit including wine tasting before returning to Bilbao.

Day 11 - Visit Basque Seaside Resorts: San Sebastián, Saint-Jean-de-Luz and Biarritz

On the itinerary today are two of the most sophisticated seaside resorts in Europe, on par with the French Riviera: San Sebastián, Spain and Biarritz, France. Your first stop on this tour is Biarritz, France just a short drive past the border with Spain. Enjoy a panoramic tour of the beautiful beaches (la Grande Plage), the fashionable casino, the iconic lighthouse and the most famous site: the Rocher de la Vierge (statue of the Virgin Mary on a rock in the sea). Admire the Belle Epoque architecture of the lavish Hôtel du Palais, a favorite destination of Napoleon III and his wife Eugenie.

Next you’ll visit he beautiful summer resort town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Then you'll follow the coastline to Hendaye, at the mouth of Rio Bidasoa to Hondarribia. Take a walking tour around this charming medieval walled city, visit the castle of Charles V and admire the exquisite mansions adorned with flower-filled balconies. Finally, spend the rest of the afternoon in the lovely seaside city of San Sebastián. You’ll visit its Old Town and the beautiful La Concha Bay. Enjoy a walk up to Mount Igueldo to take in breathtaking views of the bay. You’ll stroll around the Puerto Viejo and peak into the Virgen del Coro church. Then you may visit the aquarium or instead spend time sampling San Sebastián’s renowned gastronomical specialties called "pintxos" (the Basque word for “tapas”) in a local bar.

Day 12 - Tour Concludes with Departure from Bilbao

The tour concludes today after breakfast at your hotel. You’ll be provided a private transfer to the airport in time for your return flight home.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.