I will never stop loving Spain. It is filled with exquisite architecture, rich culture, incredible food, delicious sangria, and endless history. Spain also happens to be the first country I ever traveled to, and it was definitely this trip that gave me the travel bug. The three-day layover I had in Barcelona was just a tease, and I decided I had to go back and experience Spain for all of its beauty few years later. In about two weeks I traveled from Seville, on the Southwest coast of Spain, all the way up to Barcelona, on the Northeast coast of Spain.
Málaga to Granada
After a string of flights, my trip started with just a half-day in Málaga for lunch and some exploring, before catching a bus to Granada. Here is where the gelato, sangria, and tapa addiction began!
Granada is full of history, which was best captured through my visit to the Alhambra. This World Heritage site is a medieval palace and fort, dating all the way back to AD 889. Considering it is a World Heritage site, it is always busy with tourists and backpackers, but it was definitely one of the highlights of my entire trip.
I often forget how close Morocco is to Spain, and how much the cultures from these two continents actually overlap. There are plenty of Moroccan teahouses in Granada, making for a nice way to relax in the afternoon, and see the two cultures blend.
Granada to Seville
Next up on my radar was Seville, which easily became my favorite city I visited on this trip. The windy cobblestone streets, plazas, and horses trotting around make it picture-perfect. I also had some of the best tapas in Seville, and even tried bull tail for the first time.
Before arriving in Seville, we stopped in the countryside of Los Alcores to tour Basilippo
Olive Oil Farm. Here I learned about how olive oil is made, and even tried a fresh sample on top of chocolate ice-cream. While this might not sound appealing at first, I can promise you it is a surprisingly tasty combo. The foodie inside of me enjoyed it way too much.
The beautiful Plaza de España is also located in Seville, complete with 48 mosaic alcoves, one for each of the provinces in Spain. This is a great way to experience free artwork inside of a lovely park.
Bullfighting is still quite popular in Spain, it did not appeal to me to watch an actual bullfight, but I did want to see inside of a bullring. It worked out well because on my visit to Plaza de toros, there was no bullfighting going on. This bullring is quite spectacular though, it holds 12,000 people and is home to one of the world’s most popular bullfighting festivals.
What is experiencing Spain without traditional Flamenco dancing? This type of dance is based upon folklore music from Southern Spain, and Seville was the perfect place to watch it. We traveled up winding roads into an old cave where we lined the sides of the walls and watched professionals dance the Flamenco.
Seville to Córdoba to Madrid
From Seville we moved on to Córdoba, which allowed just enough time to stop at The Great Mosque of Córdoba. With over 856 columns, this cathedral dates back to the Roman Empire and boasts large sums of granite, marble, and jasper. Córdoba is a great stopping point on the journey to Madrid.
Madrid is a populous and bustling city, which largely contrasts the rest of Southern Spain. There is something for every type of traveler in Madrid- museums, delicious food, nightlife, and plenty of plazas to hang out in. My time in Madrid was spent navigating the city streets, going to The Prado, visiting local markets, taking a tour of the Royal Palace, and enjoying the nightlife it had to offer.
Madrid is pretty much right in the middle of Spain, so chances are that you will stop here no matter what direction you are traveling in. From Madrid, we utilized the AVE and headed to the Northeast of Spain.
Madrid to Barcelona
My next and final stop was Barcelona, another very populous and busy city, but this time located on the shores of the Mediterranean. I took the AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Barcelona, which turns the over six-hour car ride into less than three. Be sure to reserve seats on the AVE beforehand though.
This was the first chance I had all trip to get to the beach and purely relax. While it is tempting to stay at the beach forever, there is so much more that Barcelona offers. The city contains a plethora of architecture from the incredible Antoni Gaudí. Gaudí is responsible for la Sagrada Família, which is a massive church in the heart of Barcelona that was started in 1882. Each time I have been to Spain, I have been sure to visit this church. While construction still has a long way to go, it is incredible how much is accomplished on this building every year.
Another showcase of Gaudí’s work can be seen at Parque Güell, which is at the top of Carmel Hill in Barcelona. This park features modern mosaic art in many different forms, and can easily be enjoyed without a tour. Gaudí’s work at Parque Güell is very different than that at la Sagrada Família, making it essential to explore both.
You cannot go to Spain without having a traditional paella meal. If you enjoy fresh fish, seafood paella is the way to go. I had the most delicious waterfront paella lunch in Barcelona, in port olímpic, complete with pan con tomate and fried sardines (both are also traditional courses in Spanish cuisine).
Two weeks in Spain for six cities required us to keep a fast pace and limit the downtime. You could easily spend a month in these six places without ever feeling bored. I’ll be counting down the days until I can chow down on paella and sangria in Spain again!