Explore some of the best highlights in Spain’s internationally acclaimed cities of Madrid and Barcelona. Streets buzz with energy as taxis and mopeds whiz down central boulevards while pedestrians chat in quaint shops and at outdoor cafes. Children play lively games of impromptu soccer in central plazas while parents sip a glass of sweet red wine one a nearby restaurant terrace. Around every cobbled alleyway is a peek into these cities’ fascinating narratives. Stroll along...
Barcelona - La Rambla and Dinner along La Barceloneta
You will begin your trip by coasting along the sunny shores of Cataluna where ocean water sparkles and the smell of fresh, citrusy paella lingers in the air. Your private transportation will meet you at the terminal and escort you to your five-star hotel in the heart of eccentric Barcelona. You will whiz down busy streets as you pass by the dreamlike facades of architect Antoni Gaudi and the ornate steeples of the city's cathedrals. Soon, you will arrive in the Gothic Quarter, which is the epicenter of the Old City that is marked by narrowed cobbled streets, ironclad balconies, and intricate brick designs. You will settle into your Baroque-style hotel and spend the afternoon exploring the surrounding neighborhoods.
You can stroll down Barcelona's most prominent pedestrian boulevard of La Rambla. Families and couples meander down this central pathway that separates El Raval district from the Gothic Quarter and extends out towards the sea. Beautiful green trees line the sides of the charming boulevard, and street vendors set out jewelry and other souvenirs to attract passersby. Nearby, locals and travelers alike sit out on sun-kissed cafe terraces with a cup of cafe con leche.
You will continue to the beaches of Barceloneta port where the ocean breeze overwhelms the senses. As the sun begins to set, surfers will catch their last waves of the day, and seagulls will swoop down as careless munchers drop a few crumbs. When your appetite finally strikes, you will delight in an exquisite dinner along the seashore and treat yourself to the city's beloved fruity sangria as the buzz of downtown dulls to a hum.
Barcelona - Guided Tour of City Highlights of the Gothic Quarter and Sagrada Familia
Today, you will dive into Barcelona's rich history on your first full day in the city. You will meet your expert guide in front of your hotel for a walking tour of the Gothic Quarter and beyond. You will begin this adventure at the Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya, which are the offices of the presidency of Cataluna that were first constructed in the year 1400. Elegant facades of brick and gorgeous balconies stand in contrast to the eclectic sculptures and whimsical artwork in the surrounding public plazas. Then, you will peruse the Old City's Jewish Quarter, including an ancient synagogue that was completed in the 3rd or 4th century and is said to be one of the oldest standing synagogues in all of Europe. Later, you will venture to the Plaza de San Felipe Neri, which is tucked away in a quaint alcove where sunlight streams down on a central fountain. Here, you will hear how the Spanish Civil war affected the city, and depressions in buildings' facades are evidence of the massive bombings in the city during the war. Finally, you will tour the Palau Reial Major, which is a stunning palace that was constructed during the 14th century and is home to Barcelona's elite.
Around midday, you will take a breather at the grand central square that is known as Plaça Reial for savory tapas of ham, olives, and cheese. Musicians will serenade you with their melodies as kids partake in a lively game of soccer. In the afternoon, you will marvel at the impeccable architecture of Antoni Gaudi's famed masterpiece: La Sagrada Familia. The Gothic exterior and modern technicolored interior have wowed visitors for decades. The massive, stained-glass windows burst with colors, and its towering pillars stretch to heights of nearly 230 feet. Kaleidoscopic designs of this UNESCO World Heritage site are akin to those out of a fairy tale, and this site enchants tourists from around the world on a daily basis.
Girona - Self-Paced Visit to Jewish Quarter and History and Arab Baths
Today, you will escape the hectic city life for the day as you transfer to the vibrant red, yellow, and orange hues of Girona. Nestled along the River Onyar, this serene city is best known for its impressive Gothic architecture and remnants of Roman aesthetics.
You will follow your guide to the enormous Cathedral of Girona, which anchors downtown. Massive archways and the bell tower point to Roman and Gothic influences during the 11th and 12th centuries. You will pass along ancient city walls that date back to the 9th century before strolling through the picturesque Barri Vell, where steep passageways lead to ethereal Arab baths and lively shops. You will then tour the inside of the Arab baths for a unique insight into the region's Moorish history. Walls are decorated in careful stonework designs, and light streams through artful geometric patterns in the ceiling.
In the afternoon, you will have an opportunity to explore Girona's unique Jewish Quarter, which is considered one of the best-preserved Jewish neighborhoods in all of Europe. You can listen to the soothing music of street musicians as you amble past quaint cafes and restaurants, and step inside the Jewish History Museum to admire narrow labyrinthine streets and beautiful archways. As the sun sets, you will make your way to water's edge and cross Eiffel Bridge as you look out on the striking facades of the stunning apartments that overlook the rushing river waters below.
Barcelona - Antoni Gaudi Architecture Tour and Park Guell
You will return to Barcelona today for a day of architectural intrigue. You will spend the morning with your expert guide as you revisit the whimsical aesthetic of famed architect Antoni Gaudi. Some of his facades melt down the sides of buildings like oozing volcanic lava while other designs mimic the rolling sand dunes of distant lands. Nearly every inch of stone is adorned with painted-tile mosaic and decorated iron balconies. You will visit such quintessential Gaudi works of art as the Casa Calvet, Colonia Guell, and Casa Vicens.
You will then take a short detour to the neighborhood of Gracia, where you will enter the renowned Parque Guell alongside your expert guide. Other than Sagrada Familia, this is one of the most iconic examples of Gaudi's work within the city and around the world. This massive public park is a Gaudi Disneyland of sorts. The Fairytale-like atmosphere, cottages, tunnels, and archways transport visitors to another world. The same archetypal mosaics cover plastered, serpentine benches, which is a perfect place to bask in the panoramic views of the city and ocean.
At night, you will ascend to the rooftop of Casa Mila for an evening cocktail and nighttime stroll along the undulating landscapes of this unique building. Look out on the city as waves crash in the distance, and downtown bars and restaurants boom with lively music and chatter.
Valencia - Guided Tour of Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias and Mercat Central
In the morning, you will transfer to the coastlines of Valencia. You will board ground transportation and arrive a few hours later at your five-star hotel in Ciutat Vella, the Old City. You will be able to hear the splashing of plaza fountains and the honking of hurried traffic as busy locals depart the city center for outlying neighborhoods of Benimaclet and Eixample.
By mid-morning, you will partake in a lovely bike ride along the Passeig de l'Albereda greenway and will be destined for the City of the Arts and Sciences. Shortly after, you will uncover the truly remarkable work of Calatrava Santiago who is a local of Valencia and world-famous architect. You will behold the stunning futuristic structures that have formed around tranquil, water basin centerpieces. The stark white facades that are typical of Calatrava's designs pop against the grassy gardens at the perimeter.
In the afternoon, you can immerse yourselves in the vivacious activity of Mercat Central in the Old City, where you can sample fresh fruits or try Valencia's staple: the olive. There will be dozens of varieties of olives that are laid out in every shade of green and purple, and you will be able to inhale the intoxicatingly sweet and salty medleys as local vendors converse in the native Valencian tongue. As you stroll along the romantic moonlit alleys of the Old City, you can stop at an outdoor restaurant for an exquisite taste of authentic Valencian paella. You can choose from seafood, chicken, or vegetarian variations of the delicious mix of rice, green beans, peppers, and the mouthwatering seasonings of saffron and rosemary.
Valencia - Leisure Morning in Gothic Quarter and Dinner at Cuenca's San Pablo Bridge
Birds will begin to chirp, and cafes will clank its terrace tables and chairs as they set up for the day's activity. You will have the morning to yourself to leisurely explore Valencia's old Gothic Quarter. This beautiful section of the city is decorated with shimmering, stained-glass windows, cobbled streets, and hole-in-the-wall bars, and cafes. You will pass by the bold La Lonja de Seda, which is an ostentatious, fort-like structure that boasts a prominent tower. You can climb the 144 steps to the tower's summit for breathtaking city views. Then, you can wind down the narrow streets to Valencia's cathedral that was constructed in the 13th century atop a former Moorish mosque. The enormous cathedral doors open up onto the plaza’s public square, which is where you can enjoy a refreshing light lunch.
In the afternoon, you will pack your bags before transferring to the nation's capital. On your way, you will stop in the lovely mountain village of Cuenca. Situated at nearly the halfway point between Valencia and Madrid, this charming town offers visitors gorgeous sunset views on the hillside. As the sun begins to fall in the sky, the dramatic cliffside warms with the sun's final burst, and streetlights illuminate the translucent skyline. You will stroll past the fascinating Casa Colgadas, or "Hanging Houses," which are unique, stone homes that quite literally and fearlessly teeter on the cliff's edge beside a remarkable drop below. Finally, you will delight in a lovely dinner along the San Pablo Bridge, which is an expansive iron and wood bridge, as you look out on the city's beautiful natural land formations.
Toledo - Guided City Tour, Visit Alcazar, and Zipline
While anticipation grows as you near your final destination in Madrid, you will make one final stop in Toledo, which is just a few hours south. This captivating city, set atop a hillside and situated along the Tagus River, serves as a testament to its unique Arab, Christian, and Jewish heritage. Like much of Spain, these ethnic and religious groups have laid claim to much of the Central and Southern Iberian Peninsula since nearly the first century. Architectural and cultural implications of this influence can be seen throughout the city of Toledo and its neighbors.
You will meet your guide for a tour of the city's highlights and will begin at the Santa Iglesia Catedral Primada de Toledo before continuing to the monastery of San Juan de los Reyes, and The Synagogue of El Transito. Lastly, you will arrive at the Alcazar, which is a bold fortress that stands out as the most prominent edifice in all of Toledo. Originally built by the Romans in the 3rd century, the palace was reconstructed in the 1540s under the Spanish rule of Philip II of Spain. You can circle the perimeter of this impressive structure and learn about its central role during the Spanish Civil War.
In the late afternoon, you will have the thrilling opportunity to whiz along a zipline from across the river and toward the city's skyline for impeccable views. For travelers who opt not to take part in the zipline, you will also revel in beautiful city views from a nearby mirador or lookout point. In the evening, you will relax with a moonlit meal and a chilled cana before arriving at night to your luxurious hotel in Madrid.
Madrid - Visits to Royal Palace, Gran Via, Malasana, Lavapies
You will navigate the buzzing city streets of Spain's capital and meet your expert guide in the center of the action in Plaza del Sol. Vendors sell trinkets and souvenirs like hotcakes, while children take photos with life-sized cartoon characters and live music rings out from every corner. Friends may bounce between one-of-a-kind shops and large international retailers before chatting over a glass of red wine and tapas at a sunny cafe patio. You will also be able to hear musicians as they provide the perfect melodic backdrop to an otherwise hectic scene.
From the main plaza, you will travel to the Plaza Mayor, where restaurant-goers are in abundance and children kick around soccer balls. You will learn more about the plaza's history as the original center of the city and will soon arrive at the Royal Palace, where you will have an up-close look at the official, Spanish royal residence that is covered in gold leaf, massive mirrors, and decadent artwork. You will then transfer to the palace gardens to see bursting foliage, fountains, and brimming treetops.
File back into the quickened pace of urban life at Gran Via, which is Madrid's central artery and a mecca of art and design. You can peek your head into the city's finest shops and check out billboards of upcoming festivities. In the evening, you can head to young, hip neighborhoods like Malasana and Lavapies for a thrilling evening of savory tapas and live rock music around every corner.
Madrid - Picnic in Parque El Retiro and Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
On your second day in Madrid, you can take a respite from the concrete jungle in the luscious oasis of Parque El Retiro. This expansive greenspace, once the private land of the Spanish elite, is now a public park for locals to enjoy just minutes away from city sites. You can stroll through the park on foot as cyclists, runners, and families who are out for a picnic pass by in your periphery. Listen for the gallop of horse hooves as they pull couples in carriages along the beautifully trimmed hedges. Eventually, you will arrive at a serene water basin that marks the center of the park. Here, you can hop in one of the dozens of paddle boats as you row around the pond's perimeter and soak up the sunshine.
Later in the afternoon, you will follow your guide to enter the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia. Some of the most famous artists, not only within Spain but on an international scale, have housed their work within these halls. You will admire the renowned masterpieces of Salvador Dali and Pablo Picasso, including Picasso's Guernica.
As the day ends, you will indulge in a later dinner, as the Spanish often do, inside the Plaza Mayor. You can choose from delicious meat and cheese selections that can be paired with a sweet or tart wine from Spain's wine country in the northern region of La Rioja.
Madrid - International Flights Home
In the morning, you can enjoy a final cup of cafe con leche in the Plaza del Sol as you take parting photos in the city center. In the hours that follow, you will meet your private transport in front of your hotel as you drive to Madrid's international airport. From there, you will board your flight home.
- Stroll down the bustling boulevard of La Rambla and indulge in a sunset dinner along the coastline at La Barceloneta port
- Explore the Jewish Quarter and ornate Arab baths of Girona
- Traverse the cobbled streets of Barcelona's Gothic Quarter and marvel at the fantastical Sagrada Familia cathedral
- Sample authentic paella in Valencia and visit the City of Arts and Sciences
- Snap picturesque photos at the Hanging Houses of Cuenca and uncover Valencia's Gothic Quarter
- Behold the beauty of Toledo's Alcazar palace and zipline across the Tagus River
- Marvel at Madrid's Royal Palace and keep stride amidst the hustle and bustle of downtown Gran Via
- Indulge in a picnic at Parque El Retiro and admire world-renowned artwork at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia
Get lost in the culture and history of a nation that is beloved for its delectable cuisine, friendly people, and laid-back attitudes. Close your history books and hop on a plane as you uncover the exquisite gems of Spain's major cities: Barcelona and Madrid. Each urban area teems with vivacious activity as locals go about their daily business and rendezvous with friends to shop or indulge in sit-down dinners on the weekends. Moreover, stoic facades around every corner nod to a rich history that spans thousands of years. In between these two major metropolises, you will make stops at treasured cities, towns, and villages along the way, each with their own rich pasts that are ready for you to uncover.
You will begin in Barcelona, where you will tour the Gothic Quarter and marvel at the whimsical halls of the Sagrada Familia cathedral. Then, you will delve deeper into the awe-inspiring architecture of Antoni Gaudi at the expansive Parque Guell. Afterward, you will take a short detour as you venture to the town of Girona and wander through the enchanting Jewish Quarter. Later, you will have the opportunity to snap picturesque photos at the Hanging Houses in Cuenca and indulge in the savory explosion of authentic paella in Valencia.
You will round off the last two days of your trip in the center of Spain amongst the dazzling highlights of Madrid, where you will mingle with royalty at the city's Royal Palace and then relax in the tranquil Parque El Retiro. You will also venture inside authentic bars and cafes in the trendy neighborhoods of Malasana and Lavapies before admiring the lovely artwork by Picasso and other world-renowned artists at the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia on your final day in the city. Consider learning more about our travelers’ favorite travel activities by reading their Spain travel reviews.
$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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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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