8 days in Spain: From Barcelona to Madrid

Advisor - Holly Huff
Curated By

Holly Huff

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  • Spain

  • Active Travel

  • Arts & Culture

  • Food & Wine

  • Outdoors

  • Local Food

  • Architecture

A beautiful old stone building with a dome roof and a spiral at the top with a cloudy blue sky in the background.
Curator’s statement

Spain is a gorgeous country with a fascinating history that offers a lot to explore. Thanks to its mild climate, it's an excellent vacation destination all year round. I have had the pleasure of visiting Spain several times, and each time, I have had a wonderful experience. Whether you are interested in Barcelona, Madrid or other parts of Spain, you can expect to find incredible culture, food and experiences throughout the country.

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Where to stay

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Mandarin Oriental, Barcelona

This grand hotel on the Passeig de Gràcia combines global luxury with authentic Catalan sophistication.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

The W Barcelona

Embrace the glamorous coastal lifestyle at W Barcelona, where modern luxury, stunning views, and an energetic atmosphere come together to create an unforgettable stay experience on the vibrant shores of Barcelona.

Fora Perks
  • $100 food / beverage / spa credit.

  • Breakfast daily.

  • Upgrade & extended check-in/out whenever possible.

Four Seasons Hotel Madrid

Seven historic Madrid buildings converted into a bustling hub marrying the past and present with a touch of luxury so true to the Four Seasons name.

Fora Perks
  • When you book Four Seasons through Fora, you will enjoy exclusive Four Seasons Preferred Partner benefits. Your advisor will be pleased to give you more details.

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Advisor - Holly Huff

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Day 1: Arrive in Barcelona

A glass case full of empanadas lined up in rows. There are black cards on top of them listing the price.

Once you arrive in Barcelona, you will notice that there are two official languages: Catalan and Spanish. However, you need not worry about communication issues as English is widely spoken, particularly in tourist areas. If you're wondering the best place to stay in Barcelona, I recommend staying near La Rambla, one of the city's most famous streets.

La Rambla is the primary street that traverses Barcelona, and the surrounding area is commonly known as Las Ramblas, including all the additional streets surrounding it. It is a tree-lined pedestrian street where numerous vendors sell everything from gelato to souvenirs. The Barri Gòtic, Gothic Quarters, is located on the east side of the street, while El Raval is on the west side.

Days 1-3: Enjoy a Food Walking Tour

An old street alleyway with stone buildings on the left and right sides. There is a stone archway in the middle front of the image with people walking beneath it. You can also view metal balconies in front of the windows on the building.

One of my favorite things in Barcelona is taking a food walking tour. They will guide you through the Gothic Quarters to different restaurants where you can try various foods and drinks. After the tour, there is an option to see a flamenco show, which I highly recommend as it is essential to experience Barcelona's culture. If you're not interested in food tours, you can opt for a regular walking tour, which will take you through the Gothic Quarters to see the old medieval city that once was the heart of Barcelona. All the streets in this area are pedestrian, and the only way to explore it is on foot. The Gothic Quarters is the oldest part of Barcelona, and you can see some of the city's beautiful Gothic architecture.

La Boqueria: One of the must-visit places for any food lover like me is La Boqueria, the most famous food market in Barcelona located on La Rambla. You can buy fresh produce and ingredients to take back and cook or try out one of the many available food stalls. In addition, there is a fantastic little spot called Wok to Walk, located right outside La Boqueria, which is perfect for grabbing a quick bite on the go. This is one of our favorite places to visit in Barcelona.

Sagrada Família: A visit to Barcelona is never complete without experiencing the magnificent Sagrada Família. It is a cathedral considered one of Gaudi's masterpieces, and it is still under construction even after 130 years. The stained glass windows are breathtaking, and the architecture perfectly represents Gaudi's style. The newer and older parts of the cathedral can be distinguished by the color of the stone when viewed from the outside.

Beaches: If beaches are more your style, Barcelona has some incredible beaches. The water is clear and warm, and a swim in the Mediterranean is worth it. You can lay on the beach, swim in the Mediterranean or stroll along the boardwalk to visit multiple restaurants or shops.

Michelin-star Meal: For an incredible Michelin-star meal, I recommend Moments, located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel.

Day 4: Visit Andorra

A glass table with a square plate full of pancakes and a bowl of jam. There is a drink with an orange slice and two black straws in the upper right hand corner and black sunglasses placed in front of a potted plant on top of the table.

Andorra is an excellent option if you're looking for a day trip from Barcelona. You can join a group or a private tour and be picked up from your hotel, or rent a car and drive there yourself. Andorra is a small city-state between Spain and France and one of the world's smallest countries. If you decide to drive, getting GPS with the rental car is best since most American cellphone companies' data doesn't work in Andorra. This city is also a fantastic place to go shopping or skiing in the winter.

The drive from Barcelona takes only a few hours and offers a chance to see other parts of the country. If you opt for a tour, several stops will be along the way. One of the most attractive things about Andorra is the duty-free shopping, so it's a must-visit destination for shopaholics.

Day 5: Venture From Barcelona to Madrid

A large white building with the Spanish flag and beautiful detailing. There are trees and bushes in front of it and a blue sky in the background.

Traveling from Barcelona to Madrid is very convenient by train, and it happens to be my preferred mode of transportation when traveling throughout Europe. There is a direct train available which takes approximately three hours and is the quickest and easiest way to get from one city to the other. Both train stations are easily accessible by metro. The prices of the train tickets vary depending on how early you book them, so I always recommend booking at least 30 days in advance. With proper planning, you can catch a train that departs shortly after checking out of your hotel in Barcelona and arrives around the time to check in to your hotel in Madrid.

Days 5-8: Explore Madrid

A town plaza with a large statue in the middle, people walking around and a building with red detailing and a tower in the background.

Centro Neighborhood: Madrid is a stunning city that has a unique vibe compared to Barcelona. My preferred neighborhood to stay in Madrid is Centro, which is situated in the heart of the city. There are many attractions and activities to enjoy in this area.

Golden Triangle of Art: If you are an art lover, Madrid is definitely a city worth visiting. You can explore the "Golden Triangle of Art" on Paseo del Prado, one of Madrid's main boulevards. In this area, you can visit three different museums, including the Prado Museum, El Reina Sofía Art Center and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. These three museums house an extensive collection of Spanish and European art, and you can easily spend a whole day exploring them.

Explore Centro and Surrounding Neighborhoods: Spend the day exploring the Centro and surrounding neighborhoods with its medieval streets and numerous restaurants. You can easily walk from Centro to Malasaña, Chueca, La Latina, Lavapiés, Huertas and Retiro. Visit Gran Vía for shopping or one of the gourmet food markets near Plaza Mayor. We enjoyed walking through the food market and trying tapas from different vendors. It's a great way to experience some of the incredible food that Madrid has to offer.

Tapas Food Tour or Pub Crawl: If you're interested in trying a variety of tapas, go on a tapas food tour in Madrid. Many options will take you to different restaurants throughout the city to sample some of their specialties. Alternatively, you can participate in a pub crawl to experience Madrid's nightlife. I've personally done pub crawls in various cities across Europe, and they're a fantastic way to meet other travelers, especially if you're traveling solo. I've learned on these pub crawls that you tend to find a wide age range, so don't worry if you feel like you're too old or young. No one seems to care about age, and everyone has a good time socializing.

Soccer Experience: If you love soccer or football, Madrid is a great place to visit. If you are lucky enough to be there when the team is playing a game, this can be an incredible experience. Even if they're not playing, you can still tour the stadium to experience what it would be like and learn more about the team.

Coque: For a truly unique experience and an incredible two Michelin star meal, visit Coque.

Need to Know

This guide is part of our ongoing series on travel to Spain

Advisor - Holly Huff

Travel Advisor

Holly Huff

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