If your resolution for 2019 is to check another unexplored country off of your wanderlust wish list, you’ve come to the right place. From ancient castles overlooking the Mediterranean to its many bustling cities, Spain can fit almost everyone’s idea of a perfect vacation.
This guide is packed full of insider tips for traveling Spain, so you can feel less like a tourist and more like a local as you visit the land of sangria, paella, iconic festivals, and more.
If you’re looking for a bustling city with nightlife, colorful architecture, and the best seafood your taste buds have ever encountered, look no further than Barcelona. Barcelona is in the northeast corner of the country in Catalonia, and is the perfect city to feast your eyes on beautiful art or Mediterranean ocean views. These are the must-do’s when traveling around Barcelona:
If you’re an art lover, you’ll want to plan on wandering through these gardens designed by the famous Antoni Gaudí. Park Guell is the perfect combination of modernist architecture consisting of brightly designed buildings, and beautiful natural greenery. You’ll be surprised that ticket admission prices are extremely affordable, and be sure to purchase your ticket online to guarantee entry.
Insider Tip: For an additional price, you can head next door and really get the full experience by taking a tour of a Gaudí designed residence, Casa Batlló. Check out La Sagrada Familia for even more of his awe-inspiring work.
The dizzying scale of this soccer arena will send you on a sports-induced journey, while you cheer on FC Barcelona with arguably the most passionate soccer fans in the world. With it being the third largest soccer stadium in the world, there will be no shortage of cheer, beer, and overall madness (the good kind, of course). Grab a hot dog, a Messi jersey, and have the ultimate European soccer experience.
Insider Tip: To purchase memorabilia and to learn about the history of the stadium, or maybe even take a tour, visit the museum!
Make a reservation at this award winning seafood restaurant, and you’ll find yourself sitting oceanside eating delicious shrimp appetizers and oysters galore. This is a perfect spot for a special occasion, as it can be a bit pricey, but the extra pennies are well worth breezy palm tree views and romantic atmosphere.
Insider Tip: The Galician-style octopus is all the rage here.
Click here for information about the city’s metro system, city maps, airport information, and parking information.
South of Barcelona, and further down on the coast, is the city of Valencia. Known for its futuristic building structures, spring festival called Las Fallas, and the creation of paella, visiting Valencia should be high on your list.
Full of excitement and actual fire, it’s one of the most unique festivals in the world. Beginning in mid-March, Las Fallas lasts five days and includes nonstop fireworks, parades, elaborate costumes, and beautifully built, wooden structures to celebrate Saint Joseph. The locals work all year to bring this festival to life, only for all of it to be burned on the final night in a huge bonfire. Wear your least flammable clothing, and come celebrate at this incredibly unique event.
Insider Tip: Don’t stray away from the free food being offered in the streets. It’s a tradition to hand out donut-type deserts called buñuelos, which are served with dipping chocolate.
If there is one thing you must do in Spain, it’s to eat paella (pronounced “pie-ay-yuh”). Valencia gets to claim the fame of creating this delectable dish made of rice marinated with a delicious bright yellow spice called saffron. Vegetable, chicken, and seafood are the most popular types of paella, and with Valencia being right on the coast, they have some of the freshest seafood paella in the world.
Insider Tip: The best way to enjoy this dish is to make it yourself! Visit La Escuela de Arroces y Paella Valenciana to sign up for a cooking class.
Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias:
Otherwise known as the City of Arts and Sciences, it’s an interactive learning space built with futuristic architecture, includes a science museum, a planetarium, performing arts center, and even an aquarium. You could spend a couple of days exploring all that this complex has to offer.
Insider Tip: Crystal clear water surrounds the entire building where you can rent kayaks and paddleboards.
Use this guide to learn about the city’s subway, parking, shopping, and all other tourist related information.
Continue traveling south from Valencia, and you’ll come across Granada, a small city nestled at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains. This small southern city is a no-brainer when it comes to experiencing traditional Spanish food, rich culture, and vast history. This amazing place is a lesser-known gem of Spain, but a personal favorite.
Granada is the city of free tapas. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s the only city in the country that offers tapas (small plates of food similar to an appetizer sized portion) completely free of charge at almost every bar. All you have to do is order a drink, and a tapa automatically comes with your beverage (even a non-alcoholic one!). As if vacationing couldn’t get any better, now you can get free food.
Insider Tip: Do a self-guided bar hop to explore the city. Order one drink at each bar and by the end of the day, you will have had full course meal free of charge as well as a tour of the city. Start at La Bella y La Bestia for their life-changing sangria.
If you come to Granada, visiting the gorgeous palace called La Alhambra is a must. What was once a small fortress, then converted into a massive palace by a Moorish king, is now Granada’s biggest attraction - and for good reason. As you walk through the enchanting corridors of the castle, notice the astounding detail of decoration carved into the walls, and the true grandness of the castle. You will pass through extravagant gardens, gorgeous outdoor patios overlooking the city, and learn all about the building and city’s history.
Insider Tip: For the best view of La Alhambra lit up at night, bring a picnic dinner and walk up to the Albaicín neighborhood. Enjoy the sunset at El Mirador de San Nicolas‘s lookout patio while local musicians play their instruments.
Being so close to Africa, Granada is heavily influenced by Morocco. Located next to the Cathedral in the center of the city, the colorful Moroccan markets offer spices, tapestries, jewelry, leather goods, and ceramics. You can easily spend a couple of hours meandering throughout the cobblestone alleyways, negotiating prices with the vendors, and admiring the artistry.
Insider Tip: Instead of buying souvenirs at a touristy gift shop, get your loved ones something more authentic. These markets are perfect for finding unique trinkets to bring back home.
This Barcelona Tourist Guide is full of information regarding Granada’s subway system, bus station, city tours, and even day trip ideas. Keep in mind that Granada is super walkable!
Quick Tips For Navigating Spain
Take the Train:
A great alternative to renting a car! Go Euro is a super affordable and easy way to get to and from these three cities, as well as the rest of the country.
Keep your cash:
Tipping in Spain is rarely obligatory, especially at bars. In restaurants people may leave up to 10% for food, but it is not expected. Remember also at restaurants that speaking up when you’d like the check is customary, as Spaniards like to be leisurely and really take their time during meals.
Protect your belongings:
Though Barcelona, Valencia, and Granada are all safe cities for the most part, you may encounter a pick-pocketer especially in crowded areas. Be aware of your belongings and keep valuables in zippered pockets in your purse or back at the hotel.
Siestas are real:
Ever wish you could bring back nap time from when you were a child? While you’re in Spain, enjoy 2-3 hours in the middle of the day to eat, relax, and catch a snooze. Business and schools close for siesta every day around 3pm for workers and students to enjoy (a very large) lunch with their families. Your eating schedule might change a bit while you’re vacationing in Spain, as it is customary to have a late lunch and dinner not until 10pm. Some clubs and bars don’t even open until midnight!
May 2019 bring you your new favorite foreign country, and even introduce you to a new language! With these insider tips, you’ll be sure to cruise through Spain seamlessly.
Be sure to share your travels with us by tagging us on Instagram (@newslangapp) in your photos and by using the hashtag #NewslangTravel.