First Timer's 10 Day Itinerary in Spain

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Advisor - Nicole Canal
Curated By

Nicole Canal

  • Spain

  • Barcelona

  • Madrid

  • City Travel

  • Food & Wine

  • Arts & Culture

  • Beaches

  • Couples Travel

  • First Timer's

  • Multi-City

  • Multi-Destination

Yellow building lined with green window panels and flower pots representing Spain travel.
Curator’s statement

What drew me to Spain travel was the relaxed Southern European lifestyle. It's a feeling you get right when you step out of the cab and absorb the energy of the city. Spain is one of those countries that has so many cities and sites to see, that it's difficult to narrow it down on the first trip. But that's the answer, to know you will return! For a first visit, I decided to visit Madrid, Barcelona and Costa Brava. This limits down the travel time, and gives you a chance to see a great representation of Spain's art, food and culture – this country really has it all!

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Day 1: Madrid

A white building with blue sky in Madrid, Spain.

If you're flying in from the US, you're likely to get into Madrid early in the morning, which makes it all the more important to have an early check in at the hotel. After a (very quick) nap, head to the Plaza Mayor to walk around and get a sense of place. A walking tour on your first day is always a good idea for this. Stop into some of the many shops in the area, whether it's the rubber ducky store or a luxury candy shop.

Join the hustle and bustle at Mercado de San Miguel and try as many different dishes as you can fit, including dessert!

You'll want to fight the jet lag today while also taking it easy.

Day 2: Flamenco in Madrid

Two pairs of shoes, one person in all black and the other in a pink ruffle dress and tan shoes, dancing the Flamenco in Spain.

After enjoying breakfast at the hotel, head to one of the most significant museums in Madrid – the Reina Sofia. Here you will see works by Picasso and other 20th century Spanish artists.

After another filling meal full of meat and cheeses, go explore the intricately decorated Royal Palace of Madrid. Here you can see large-scale artwork and learn about what each room was used for. The grounds also give you a beautiful view of Madrid.

Do yourself a favor and make a reservation at Villa Capri for the perfect date night dinner. This Italian restaurant is gorgeous and the wait staff speak to each other in Italian so it must be authentic, right?

See a Flamenco show! This is a culturally significant dance that is a really unique experience to watch.

Explore the city at night!

Advisor - Nicole Canal

A note from Nicole

Tip: Make sure to secure your museum tickets in advance of your trip because of their immense popularity.

Day 3: Costa Brava

A seaside cliff in Costa Brava, Spain at sunset.

Take an early train to Barcelona and from the Barcelona train station, take a taxi north to Blanes, which is the first city in the Costa Brava region.

After settling in, soak in the million dollar views at Jardí Botànic Marimurtra. This botanical garden has plants from all over the world thriving around every corner. There are many photo ops and romantic spots here.

Relax at the hotel pool after a day of travel and sightseeing.

For dinner, explore the beach boardwalk and stop at one of the many Mediterranean restaurants with a view of the sea and great people watching.

Check out Brezza Gelateria for amazing ice cream that you can eat on one of the beach benches to watch the ocean.

Advisor - Nicole Canal

A note from Nicole

Train tip: Get to the station at least 30 minutes early in order to find your platform and go through security. For this itinerary, you can purchase a roundtrip ticket from Madrid to Barcelona that includes your days in Costa Brava.

Day 4: Beach day in Costa Brava

A woman on a pebble beach in Costa Brava, Spain with crystal blue waters and a rocky formation.

Time to relax on the beach! Note that this is a pebble beach, which for me was very refreshing not to have sand blown into my eyes or sticking into my skin. The water is a reasonable temperature and the tide is calm, so it's perfect for swimming!

Day 5: Barcelona

An aerial view of Barcelona, Spain of the city and blue water.

After one last stroll on the beach, take a taxi back to Barcelona.

First thing on your agenda should be walking around Gothic Quarter. There are so many people, shops, and narrow streets that are fun to explore. Stop by the Mercado de La Boqueria to experience a bustling food market with sweets, cheeses, meats and more.

Go inside the Basilica of Santa Maria del Mar to see a beautiful Gothic church.

When you're ready for dinner, Onofre is a must! They have an extensive wine list and delicious Catalan tapas. I highly recommend the burrata!

Something I love to do on vacation to a new place is to go on a ghost tour! It's a great way to walk around and learn unique histories with a fun spin.

Day 6: Barcelona's top sites

Colorful tiles on a bench at Park Guell in Barcelona, Spain.

Barcelona has so much to see, so advanced site tickets are recommended. La Sagrada Familia is a must if you are a fan Gaudi's work. If you only have time for one site, I would suggest this one. This grand basilica has been worked on for almost 150 years and is still under construction.

Park Guell is an expansive outdoor area with sweeping views of the city and many Gaudi works throughout. This is a great way to get your steps in and some fresh air!

For dinner, try Sesamo, a vegetarian and vegan restaurant. They have a tasting menu for two, or try one of their frequently changing specials.

Day 7: More of Barcelona

A golden Gothic building in Barcelona, Spain at sunset with pink clouds.

Casa Batllo is another famous Gaudi work, this one being a private residence at the time and is now a popular museum.

Time for tapas! Vinitus was one of my favorite meals of the trip, and right across the street from Casa Battlo. I am currently day dreaming of the grilled razor clams.

Right next door to Casa Battlo is Casa Amatller that is the former house of a chocolatier you can tour but more importantly, a shop for all your chocolate purchases. There is a cafe attached to get a hot chocolate if the weather makes that appealing, or not because who needs a reason for hot chocolate?

Stroll down Las Ramblas to see all the vendors and liveliness that goes well into the night.

Day 8: Romantic day in Madrid

El Retiro Park in Madrid with five boats with couples in them on a lake.

Take a morning train back to Madrid for your last few days before the flight home.

Set aside a few hours for my favorite museum, the Museo Nacional del Prado where you'll find 12th to 19th century artwork including many major masterpieces such as the Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch and Saturn Devouring His Son by Francisco Goya.

After lunch, stroll through El Retiro Park with an ice cream cone in hand. (Can you tell that dessert is an important part of vacation for me?) Get romantic and rent a rowboat on the Great Pond with your sweetheart.

Day 9: Spa and bites in Madrid

An aerial view of Madrid, Spain with colorful red and yellow buildings around an open square.

Try something different for lunch today at Morfi Empanadas Argentinas for Argentinian empanadas. They have so many different fillings, including dessert empanadas. My favorite was the Caprese!

Gift yourself and your partner a relaxing day at Hammam Al Andalus for spa services at these incredible Arab baths. Choose from different massages and enjoy the three different baths: one hot, one temperate and one (really) cold. Follow that up with the sauna and unlimited mint tea for the full experience. The best part? The silence.

For your final dinner, head to Botin because how can you miss out on the oldest restaurant in the world? Enjoy fine dining with their hand carved meats and make sure to check out their kitchen before you leave.

Day 10: Return home

A man boxing up pastries in Spain.

Have your last meal at a cafe for some indulgent pastries while reminiscing on your favorite parts of your trip together.

Leave plenty of time for the airport!

Need to Know

Looking for another city and beach vacation? Check out my Best Beaches & Things to do in San Juan, Puerto Rico Guide!

Advisor - Nicole Canal

Travel Advisor

Nicole Canal

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