Bountiful Barcelona overflows with its architectural glory and seaside grace. Begin with old-world Madrid, full of subtleties and sublime moments, and then move to Seville with its Andalusian energy and tradition. Throw in day trips to Cordoba and Toledo, and you have a perfect seven days in Spain with a journey through the eras made easy by 21st-century luxury travel. Look forward to the food, the culture, the superlative sights, and the parts of Spain that always capture the heart of its visitors.
Barcelona – From Gothic to Modernista
Barcelona will capture your heart and easily soothe any travel fatigue. Draped along the seaside, the old Catalan city responds to any mood you might be feeling. The city is laid-back around the beaches or up at the fort, lively on Las Ramblas and in Barri Gotic and soulful in the places that hide around cobbled squares. Touch down, transfer, check in early and head out with your guide. You will not need to be too active just yet, but you can get a feel for what makes this city tick. Barcelona is all about the streets, and you will only need to sip on a coffee to start drinking it all in.
Your boutique hotel is in Barri Gotic, a small, pedestrianized area of Roman leftovers and Gothic cobblestone. This will prove a good place to start exploring, discussing 2,000 years of history as you go. Hit Palau de la Musica Catalana in the early afternoon, an exquisite concert hall and probably the greatest Modernist work that has been completed. After taking it in, retire to the seaside and lounge away the rest of today, your guide providing tips and transport dependent on your interests. It may be an early night for you, but should you wish to wine and dine Barcelona offers almost endless choice.
Barcelona – Classic Gaudi and Sunset Over the City
Cranes still stand over La Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s cathedral that is over a century in creation. Ghouls guard its corners, twisted pillars suggest something new from every angle, and there are gasps as visitors enter through a sanctified archway. You will need two to three hours in this enormous basilica, especially when you include access to the tower. Your guide will narrate stories of the construction that are full of conflict as architects argued over the interpretation of a long-dead Antoni Gaudi’s work. La Sagrada Familia is always busy with tourists, so will find a quieter neighborhood to have lunch, away from the bustle and mundane restaurants where the menus come in English.
Head to Park Guell later in the afternoon, perhaps with some shopping beforehand. Sunset is magical in Barcelona, even if the city faces east as buildings glow golden as La Sagrada Familia’s spires compete with other contemporary towers. To watch it all, you will find a seat on a serpent mosaic, just one element of Gaudi’s peaceful park above the city. Post-sunset is when the Catalans come out to play, and there is always a lively atmosphere on the plazas. To enjoy it all, your guide can direct you to the most beautiful plazas, or to one with a more local feel.
Madrid – Best of the Vernacular
Spain has its architectural wonders, including more UNESCO World Heritage Sites than any other country aside from Italy and China. However, it is more the vernacular where Spain really shows off. Very little is mundane, and certainly nothing constructed more than a century ago. Two of Gaudi’s masterpieces are merely local houses, designed and built for their owners in the late 19thcentury. Blue and white tiles shimmer on stairways, curls and swirls fill the facade, and the rooftops resemble art galleries. Casa Batllo and Casa Mila are where people lived, and although they are now major attractions, they stand on streets of other vernacular architecture, where many buildings come from the hands of a Modernist.
After lunch, you will zoom to Madrid on the AVE, wheat-fields giving way to arid plains before the Spanish capital seems to appear from nowhere. Trains are more comfortable than flying and far quicker, dropping you amid the best of the Castillian vernacular. You will immediately notice a change in building style, especially in the city’s 16thand 17th-century center. More classical but none the less flamboyant in its own way, Madrid’s center is a shimmer of soft hues and lightly sculpted facades. Take it all in on an orientation tour and spend the evening at Plaza Mayor, where you can still imagine a time when horses galloped here, beneath the king’s balcony.
Madrid – Exquisite Art and an Energetic Old Capital
Head out with your guide on a day of significant, and yet somewhat forgotten, sights. Madrid does not quite have the glamour of Paris or even London, but it also has fewer tourists. In light of this, the Palacio Real de Madrid offers a serenity to match its splendor, the Prado Museum does not require jump the queue tickets, and you may be the only visitor in Joaquin Sorolla’s house. The Royal Palace has an extravagance worthy of a time when Spanish monarchs were the richest and most powerful in the world, but it also has quirks along with reception rooms and galleries, such as a pharmacy filled with 18th-century potions.
The Prado is too big to be experienced in its entirety as this national art museum takes you on a journey from 12th-century Christian scenes to those Spanish names synonymous with the early 20thcentury. In a turn of history, the museum is also home to the world’s finest Flemish art collection, a memoir to a time of Spanish dominance in the lowlands. The Museo Sorolla is small and easy to take in, an in-depth look at a mostly forgotten figure in Spanish art, his personal collection of ceramics particularly impressive. For the evening, you can have more of Plaza Mayor, or ask the guide about the city’s fine dining restaurants as like most European capitals, Madrid has a wide range of innovative styles and menus.
Madrid – A Full Day in Medieval Toledo
Toledo appears like a fairytale and the feeling of mystique grows stronger as you cross Puente de Alcantara to find a warren of lanes and spires, almost everything warped in an atmosphere of centuries past. Toledo provided a haven for persecuted Moors, then persecuted Jews, all the while building its churches and maintaining a glorious Gothic cathedral. The harmony extends an impression of a fairytale with convents alongside synagogues and striking Mudejar ceilings. There are few more complete medieval cities elsewhere in Europe, nor any as easy to get around. You can cross Toledo in 40 minutes while completely on foot, as there are hardly any roads for vehicles. So take it easy, stop as often as you need, and spend the entire day in Toledo.
Your guide will be a local and will know the city inside out, from Campana Gorda to Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes and the best places to drink and dine. Cross the bridges, uncover El Greco’s famous works in tiny churches, and follow a storyline that may will continue the fairytale-like mystique. There are regular trains back to Madrid, so you will have flexibility over what time you return. You can savor the beautiful light of dusk in an old medieval center, or back in the Spanish capital.
Seville – Wonders of the Mezquita and Real Tapas
The Mezquita, a building so glorious it defies description, is also so magical it demands silence. It is best not to go deep into images of columned halls and gardens, and probably best not even to Google the Mezquita and come with a pre-arranged idea of what you will find. The structure is an artistic ode to the Moors, an artistic civilization that has mostly been forgotten, and certainly marginalized in the annals of history. The area is ideally situated on the railway route south to Seville, so you can ump out in Cordoba, store your luggage at the station, and travel through the Mezquita with your guide.
There will be plenty of time to explore more of this old Moorish capital before continuing through Andalusia, Seville a city best enjoyed in the time between late afternoon and evening. The locals come out to walk the streets, a tradition known as paseo, and the taverns hum with chatter. Andalusia is the region of true tapas and Seville pioneers a contemporary style to meet its tradition. A tapas hop is an idyllic introduction to both the city and its atmosphere, as well as being a journey through tasty treats and morsels. And even if you are feeling tired, it is an activity that breathes life into the bones and can keep you going long into the dark.
Seville – Highlights of Seville and the Flamenco of Triana
There was a time in history when Spain took over the New World, liberating a continent of its riches. All of that wealth traveled through Seville, the port city from which conquistadors set sail. Five centuries later what is left behind is the largest old quarter in Europe, topped by a church only rivaled by the Vatican in size with Columbus and many other famous explorers found in its crypt. A little like Toledo, this old quarter is part fable part historical harmony, especially at Barrio Santa Cruz, Real Alcazar de Sevilla, and Iglesia del Salvador.
Spend most of the day discovering the sights and sounds of this old quarter, particularly the winding streets that are slowly being converted to house boutique stores and wine bars. Spend the evening in Triana, one of the three Andalusian corners where flamenco originates. Dresses twirl, feet stamp, a guitarist plays clearly yet languorously, then a lone voice sails through the room. Lamenting loss and lust the singer improvises a tale, such clarity in the words even if you do not know much more than gracias in Spanish. This will not be flamenco for tourists; rather it is flamenco where it all began in a small club where all the best flamenco artists want to perform.
Seville – Early Morning Departure
Seven days and seven nights spent in Spain will bring you now to an early departure as you head to the airport and leave this magical country behind.
- Bask in the architectural highlights of Barcelona, including Gaudi’s formative works
- Wonder at the Moorish Kingdom with half a day in Cordoba, the city’s Mezquita being a remarkable highlight
- Embrace the sounds and sights of traditional flamenco in Triana, a neighborhood of Seville
- Explore the iconic European art on display in Madrid
- Dine on Andalusian tapas on a guided tavern hop in Seville
- Spend a full day discovering Toledo, perhaps the most untouched medieval city in Europe
- Wander the eras in Barcelona, from the Gothic Quarter to sunset from a fort
- Whizz between destinations on high-speed AVE trains, minimizing travel time while getting a glimpse of rural Spain
Spain is a country that captures the heart, even if your time is short. Cities rise like medieval timepieces, untouched by time or modernity. Monuments stand as memoirs to empire and era, the Moorish Mezquita just one beautiful example. There is energy on the streets and a welcome extended to all, this being a country that quickly whips you into its rhythm. There is far more to enjoy than just the sights. With every dainty tapas, each cobbled street, and any corner you turn, you will feel Spain as much as you see it, which is precisely why it can capture your heart.
This itinerary will bring an exquisite seven days in Spain, and the perfect one-week journey through the timeless highlights. You will explore five distinctive destinations with overnight stays in Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. Cultural experiences are integral to the experience, rounded off by a night of flamenco in the small district where flamenco has its roots. And then there is the food for another enduring highlight that goes straight for your heart. The eating experiences will be much about the atmosphere found in traditional haunts across the country as you experience the regional diversity. And what about the vernacular? While the landmarks are obvious compass points, you will find a simple beauty that also changes as you swap Catalonia for Castilla then Andalusia.
Your perfect one week in Spain is made possible by the country’s high-speed AVE trains. City to city travel is comfortable and efficient on one of the world’s fastest railway networks. There will be no wasted hours at airports or on transfers into a city, plus you get to admire rural Spain through your window. The cities will seem to appear as if from nowhere, rising from sun-parched plains with all the mystery of a forgotten era. It can feel as though you are stepping into a movie set, especially in cities like Toledo and Cordoba, two day-trip destinations that show you another side to Spain.
Fly first to Barcelona, a seaside city that can be as laid-back or energetic as you want it to be. Feast your eyes on the architecture as Catalan culture swishes through your soul. Go beyond Gaudi to early Modernist architecture, and then step back to Roman and Gothic splendor. Watch the city change color at sunset, discover all the food, and find how vernacular buildings are showstoppers from every angle. Three days spent in Barcelona means that you will not need to rush, so you can discover the best of the city without getting worn out from walking or from too many early starts.
Zoom next to Madrid and spend a full day in the heart of Spain’s capital. The art is exquisite as you see old European classics in the Prado and the fabulous works of Joaquin Sorolla. The royal palace is incomparable and markedly lacking in crowds, and the old city center has an atmosphere that you would not expect from a capital. Madrid remains a very traditional city, perfect for an evening with the locals. The next day will be spent in Toledo, a jigsaw puzzle of medieval eras and religious juxtapositions, and a city that has preserved the look and feel of a distant time.
Cordoba is an easy stop on the railway route to Seville, the Mezquita an unmissable ode to the Moorish kingdom. Cordoba will be one of those cities that can leave you short on words as you look around and admire the artisanal attention to detail. Ending in Seville, you will then be wrapped in the Andalusian atmosphere with tapas bars, side-street chatter, Moorish leftovers and flamenco. You will experience flamenco in Triana, discover Europe’s largest old quarter, and hop between tapas bars with a guide. And when the seven days draw to a close, there will be a part of your heart that is forever etched with memories of Spain.
$1,915 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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