There aren’t too many destinations in this world that offer the breadth of incredible sites, festivals, museums, galleries, restaurants, architecture and cuisine Spain has to offer. But what really has me bouncing back to Spain like a boomerang every few years is the vibe.
The atmosphere in Spain is really like none other. Especially in the summer, which I think is the best time to visit Spain, because it’s so vibrant and many of the festivals take place then. However, Spain is temperate so any time of the year works, including spring when you can catch the Dos de Mayo festival in Madrid or the Feria de Abril in Seville.
Never have I visited a place where the excitement is palpable, the way it is in Puerta del Sol in Madrid. Nor have I gotten goosebumps over and over again as I did while watching an impromptu Flamenco performance in Albaycín, Granada, with the Alhambra standing sentinel in the dusky purple sky beyond us.
And then there are all the famous places in Spain: Seville, Barcelona, Valencia, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Cordoba, Málaga and each one evokes another sentiment in me, so powerful that it takes my breath away. Spain is alive, and its people and culture are vivacious. Spain reminds me to savor life and to keep on dreaming.
So, seven days in Spain: how to choose? To go south to Andalusia and experience the energy and sensuality of the flamenco culture? Or to head north to Basque Country and revel in the beauty of bustling cities, sprawling castles and little villages nestled in the stunning Pyrenees? Spain is as vast as it is varied, with distinct cultural differences in every region, not to mention its variation in landscape, history and language. Choosing how to spend a week in Spain is a tough call, but here goes:
Day 1 and 2 : Madrid
Since Spain has so many unbelievable cities to choose from, Madrid is sometimes forgotten, and it’s through no fault of its own: being the economic hub of the country, people can forget that it’s so much more than just that. The shopping is incredible and the city is friendly and lively both night and day. The art galleries, parks, palaces, botanical gardens and options for nightlife seem limitless. It’s laid back yet posh and familiar yet exotic. Its cosmopolitan and the foodie culture reflects that. Madrid puts on an amazing Carnaval that takes place in February, a really memorable Dos de Mayo celebration where people are out dancing in squares and food festivals occur all year round.
I absolutely love it and think dedicating a day exploring and shopping at Puerta del Sol, taking in the street performers, wandering the streets of Los Austrias, which is the historic center of Madrid, eating churros dipped in chocolate on one of the many terraces and sipping sangria is what everyone needs after a long trip over the pond. At night, you can find any kind of entertainment possible. Our Spain guided tours take you to all of Madrid’s most renowned sites, as well as showing you the city’s best-kept secrets so rest assured that you’ll make the most of it.
You’ll need another day to visit the monuments of Madrid: exploring the Prada and the Reina Sofia Musem, then taking a break in the expansive Royal Botanical Gardens. Then there’s the gorgeous Plaza Mayor and el Retiro park where you’ll be able to catch your break and maybe even enjoy a gentle boat ride in this buzzing city. A heart-stopping Flamenco show at one of the many tablaos to end the evening will leave you feeling like you’ve been there for a week already because you’ve accomplished and seen so much.
A minimum of 2 days is needed in Madrid, 3 if you would like to enjoy a day trip to Toledo or Segovia.
A side note here, starting your Spain tour from beautiful Barcelona instead of Madrid is just as exciting and very much doable. One of the Spain 2023 tours that are offered by Travelous is the Wonders of Spain, which follows a similar itinerary yet allocates two days to experience the grandeur of Barcelona.
Day 3 and 4: Head south to Andalusia
First stop, Seville
Because you need months or maybe years to truly explore this country in depth, and we only have 7 days to work with, I recommend going south to Seville, the birthplace of flamenco and one of the best places to visit in Spain. I’ve never seen a city with quite as many jaw-dropping monuments. There are lively street festivals, like the Feria de Abril, with live music and dancing folks at every corner. Seville is only 2.5 hours away from Madrid by AVE train, it’s an absolute must.
You’ll need a minimum of 2 days here to wander around this city. Start with the lavish Plaza de Espana, where you can sometimes catch a live flamenco or music performance in the open square. You might break out of its spell in time to do a bit more sightseeing, maybe visiting the breezy Parque de Maria Luisa, which the Guadalquivir River flows through. Then there’s the heart of the city, the Barrio Santa Cruz, which is the old Jewish quarter with meandering streets that are lined with orange trees and many of the city’s famous landmarks, like the largest gothic cathedral in the world, the Seville Cathedral.
There’s lots to see and do, including the Royal Alcazar, Europe’s oldest royal palace, the Torro del Oro, which was the world’s highest tower once upon a time. While you wander about, make sure you stop for delicious drinks and tapas. Definitely plan for a flamenco performance in the evening, as Seville is known for showcasing flamenco in its purest form.
A day trip to Ronda, the gorgeous Andalusian town that’s dramatically built upon a gorge is possible from Sevilla or Màlaga. Just let us know and your private guide will take you there! There are so many incredible things to see in this place, Plaza de Toros de Ronda, Ronda Viewpoint that gives you 360 views of the area, Ronda’s expansive Mondragón Palace, the unique Bandit Museum, and the Arab Baths Archaeological Site.
Day 5 and 6: Granada
Continue on towards the famous Sierra Nevada, the snowy peak that is the backdrop to all the great architectural monuments of Granada, and quite possibly the most famous place in Spain, the Alhambra. This city is breathtaking, with churches, monasteries, palaces and mansions in the Renaissance, Baroque and Neoclassical style. The Mudéjar style of Moorish architecture of the Alhambra is both mystical and mythical to the most intricate detail (just take a look at the door frames and carved pillars).
There are so many sites to see, tapas to eat - fried eggplant and calamares fritos are my favorite and often come free if you order a drink - neighbourhoods to explore. The most gorgeous, in my humble opinion, being the Albaycín, with its winding cobblestone streets and leafy alleyways. Cool down with gazpacho (garlicky, cool tomato soup that is a must in summer months) and gelato. The best gelato I’ve had in my life was surprisingly not in Italy, but in Granada and our tour guides will take you to that same gelateria if you so desire.
I believe that Granada is the best place to visit in the south of Spain, but really it’s a tie between Grenada, Seville and Cordoba with Málaga in a close second. What’s special about Granada is that here, you can experience zambra Flamenco, which is danced with bare feet and castanets, also known as clackers. It’s sensual and elevating, and something everyone needs to experience once in their lifetime. You might get a spontaneous performance in the open air because in neighbourhoods like Albaycín, The Spanish Romani, generally known by the exonym Gitanos, often show up at sunset and put on a breathtaking show. Travelous can also make reservations at a tablao so that you don’t miss this once in a lifetime occasion.
Day 7: Málaga
Breathe in that invigorating salty air before flying out of Málaga, which is a city that will have you coming back for more. Walk the Promenade of Pablo Ruiz Picasso, dotted with bars and restaurants and enjoy some delicious seafood and popular baked goods. Do yourself a favor and order a dish with olives, they’re delicious here!
There’s so much culture and history here too, so if you have a chance to make it to the 11th century monument, the Alcazaba (palatial fortification with sea views), and the Teatro Romano de Málaga, built during the rule of Julio César Augusto, you’ll be absolutely blown away by how well they’ve been preserved. And since you’re in Picasso’s hometown, another site that you can’t miss is the Picasso Museum, where you can get more intimate with his personal life. The museum showcases his paintings, engravings, ceramics, drawings and sculptures, giving new insights into the depths of his artistic abilities.
An absolutely worthwhile journey to embark on from Málaga is to the White Villages, such as the stunning village of Archidona, just an hour away from Málaga, located at the base of the Sierra de Gracia, or the village of Frigiliana, famous for its windy alleyways and maze of streets.
So that’s it for your seven days in Spain, which could easily be 9 or 11 or even 15 because there are unending sites to see and activities to do. But if you go for 7 days, they’ll be 7 days like no other and I can promise you that you’ll be left wanting more. And do let me know what you think of that thrilling Spanish vibe I mentioned earlier, is it just me or is it really like none other?