Spain’s colorful and diverse landscape allows you to experience its fiery passion for architecture, art, culture, food and flamenco. The country’s soul comes to life in its ancient cathedrals, sizzling dances, world-class art, unique eats and charismatic locals. The small town charm enchants you and the cosmopolitan vibe enlivens your senses.
The following is a brief outline of where to go, what to bring and some cultural differences you should be aware of on your trip to the land of sunshine and sangria.
Barcelona to Madrid to Costa de la Luz
Travel from the sunny Mediterranean coast of Barcelona west to the vibrant capital of Madrid and south to Costa de la Luz on your grand tour of Spain. This path lets you experience the bustling city life and gives you a chance to roam the countryside and experience the beaches.
- Barcelona: From the golden coastline to the atmospheric Gothic Quarter, Barcelona has it all. Relax on a beautiful sandy beach one day and roam the narrow streets lined with medieval architecture the next. The world-class city is home to Antoni Gaudi whose quirky, expressive art blankets the streets. Don’t miss La Sagrada Familia Cathedral, Guell Palace and Casa Batlo.
- Madrid: Pulsing with energy, Madrid is known for its baroque architecture, grand plazas and bustling night life. It marries the old world with the new and features some of the world’s most well-known art museums, including Paseo del Arte and Museo del Prado. Spend some time shopping, dining and people watching in the Puerta del Sol square.
You can’t go wrong visiting the most popular destinations in Spain. But if you travel Spain’s countryside, you’ll stumble across some lesser-known cities that hold a beauty and culture like no other. Consider also traveling through Granada, Bilbao, Pamplona, Marbella and Jerez de la Frontera.
Be mindful of cultural differences when visiting Spain and consider the language barrier. You will be hard-pressed to find a rural local who speaks English and many city dwellers prefer you speak to them in Spanish or Catalan (Barcelona). Being a part of a group tour with a bilingual guide will dramatically improve your experience, especially if you don’t speak much Spanish.
What to Bring
Aside from the standard travel essentials like SPF, weather-appropriate clothing and a good guidebook, your packing list should include:
- Comfortable walking shoes: You will be doing a lot of walking on hard and uneven surfaces, so your shoes are the key to a good trip. Break them in before you go.
- Reliable smartphone: Your iPhone 6 is your point-and-shoot camera, translation tool and communication device that allows you to keep in touch with your family back home.
- Voltage converter: European voltage is at 220 and the plugs have two round prongs. Anything you bring that requires electricity will need an adapter. Bring two.
- Copies of your passport and credit cards: In the event that you lose your important personal information (or if it gets stolen, which can easily happen to Americans), have backup copies on hand.
- Money belt: Petty thieves roam the streets of Spain looking for unsuspecting tourists. Protect your goods with a money belt strapped under your clothes to hold your info, cards and Euros.
Leave extra baggage behind including heels, expensive jewelry and a bad attitude.