Spain: Where to Go
I’ve been to Spain twice now, covering Barcelona, Madrid and Toledo. Each city has a totally different vibe. So, which one is best for you? Stay tuned!
I would classify this as a beach town, mostly because the palm trees lining gothic streets blend the lines between city and ocean town. There are several must-see places in Barcelona.
Sagrada Familia - this massive structure is astonishingly beautiful. Of course be sure to tour it, but on days when you have some down time, I suggest sitting across the street and watching passerbys.
Pro tip: get tickets ahead of time because they often sell out if you try to get them there.
Las Ramblas/Gotchic Quarters - I’m not sure how, but my first time to Barce I completely missed the Gothic Quarters. Las Ramblas is a long street full of restaurants and tourists that you certainly should see, but venture down some side streets and you’ll find yourself in the Gothic area.
Pro tip: to avoid paying €20 for a pina colada (guilty!!) try not to eat along Las Ramblas. It is definitely a tourist trap.
Walk until you see the work of Gaudi. The dude that started the Sagrada Familia has work throughout the city that is free to stop and view. So, be sure to keep your eyes out for places like Casa Batlló and Casa Milà.
Okay this next one is for the adventurer. If you aren’t afraid to get outside your comfort zone, try walking up to Bunkers del Carmel. Thanks to Peter’s excellent research skills, we found this place online and after seeing it was only about a mile from the Sagrada Familia, decided we were in. Let me warn you though, that mile “walk” is more of a hike. It is also an area where there aren’t many tourists so try your best to blend in.
Okay, so Madrid. This place has such a different vibe than Barcelona. The city is full of tall buildings, bustling streets and packed restaurants. I would recommend Madrid for someone who wants a “city” experience. We stayed at Senator Gran Via which was the perfect location along Gran Via, a main street full of restaurants and shops.
What to do:
Hop on hop off bus tour. I highly recommend taking a bus tour in this city, mostly because of it’s sheer size. This allowed us to learn more about the city & get off at major sights but also save time from walking everywhere. It’s the best option if you have limited time in the city.
Food. When I think of Madrid, images of tapas flood my mind. For those of you who don’t know, tapas are smaller portions of food. The idea is that you order several of them to share with people at your table. We ate them all day everyday. Madrid is also known for their jamon (ham), which is worth a try - fair warning they are pretty salty.
Okay pay attention. Peter gets 5 gold stars for this one. His expert Yelp-searching skills brought us to El Sur, a hidden gem of Madrid. This traditional restaurant served us our best meal ever. And I mean ever. Picture this: a decadent quiche, chilled tortilla soup, fresh sangria and wine, soft homemade bread… and then, the showstopper. Two layers of steak sandwiching a concoction of potatoes, topped with a balsamic glaze that you would drink if you could. Not to mention, finished of with a piece of creamy cheesecake that will surely bust your belt. I’ll leave it at that.
Well in a nutshell, I would say Toledo is worth it IF you have more than a couple days in Madrid. However, I will say don’t make the mistake of just going with a travel company that takes you on a “half day tour” from Madrid. We paid our fee and almost got left behind because of the poor communication with the company. Instead, take a train there and spend time walking the city yourself. It is quaint in size & is best explored in your own time.
If you do go, be sure to try Mazapan. It’s a traditional candy native to Toledo that you can find in nearly any bakery.
So there ya have it
Spain is a wonderful country with so much character within each city. If you do go, please get a sangria for me!!
Cheers! xoxo, Katie