Spain

10 Days Trip Madrid, Spain

10 Day Trip to Spain: Madrid

Plaza Mayor

After finishing our stay in Toledo, Spain, my husband, his parents, and I packed up the car and started the short drive to Madrid. The capital of Spain, Madrid is the country’s largest city and the third largest city in Europe. There are so many things to see in Madrid – we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves!

The interesting thing about Madrid is that there’s not one specific thing that people flock here to see or one specific thing that it’s famous for. There’s something here for everyone! For instance, Madrid is well known for its art museums, nightlife, parks, and first-class restaurants and tapas bars. 

We took full advantage of everything!

Must-See Museums in Madrid

One of the first things to see in Madrid is its wealth of museums. We first went to Madrid’s most famous art museum, the Prado Museum, which has one of the largest art collections in the world. It features artists such as Velasquez, Goya, Rembrandt, El Greco, Picasso, and many others. There were so many rooms to explore and countless pieces of art to view.  Even though it was a little overwhelming, we were impressed! 

Overall, we found the museum elegantly designed. The pieces of art were very interesting, and even controversial at times. We spent a long time admiring everything  here. Unfortunately, the museum didn’t allow us to take any pictures. 

 

A Church right outside the Prado

We also went to the Reina Sofia Museum, which is a modern art museum. Our main goal here was to see Picasso’s famous painting, “Guernica,” and to see more of Picasso’s well known (and not so well known) paintings. But, Picasso wasn’t the only artist represented here. We also enjoyed seeing work by Dali.

If you ask me to evaluate the museum in general, I’d say it’s … interesting. Similar to the Guggenheim in Bilbao, some of the modern art pieces left us questioning the sanity of some of the buyers and admirers of the pieces. 

The outside of the museum

Madrid’s Magical Ambiance

In between our time at the two museums, we walked through Retiro Park, which provided us with shaded areas to sit and enjoy the scenery. The park was full of joggers, bikers, families picnicking, and couples reading on blankets. It reminded me a lot of Central Park in New York.

Before aperitifs and dinner, we walked to the Royal Palace of Madrid. The building was lit up beautifully  against the dark sky. This is definitely one of the best things to see in Madrid, and we wished we had time to go inside. But, we decided to sit outside and share a bottle of wine instead. It was the perfect way to spend our last night in Spain. 

Not surprisingly, dinner was fantastic and was one of our best meals throughout the whole trip.

Sad to Leave…

The next day, we packed up the car for the last time and headed to the airport. We thought that ending our trip with Madrid was fitting, since we’d started out in a large city. 

During our ten days in Spain, we didn’t have one bad or average meal. The food was excellent, and the variety and flavors made it a new favorite cuisine of ours. 

All in all, we saw nine unique and incredible cities filled with history, art, and charm – and we explored it all in a van that was way too big for most of them. 

The best part about the trip, though, was that we got to spend it with family. Thanks for a fantastic trip Lori and Joe!

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10 Day Trip to Spain: Toledo

10 Day Trip to Spain: Toledo

The Cathedral

As part of our 10 day trip to Spain with my husband’s parents, we stopped in Toledo. We’d just finished a fabulous couple of days in Cordoba and Seville, and we were excited to see some of the best sites in Toledo. Here, we stayed in the Hotel Pintor el Greco – it was a beautiful, comfortable stay! 

Toledo is so different from all of the other Spanish cities that we visited. For instance, it is a medieval city surrounded by walls and perched high above the rest of the area. This is very characteristic of many Italian cities, too. The stone buildings, narrow streets, car-free roads, and quaint shops, made Toledo a pleasure to stroll around. Plus, the cathedral dominates the skyline, and the plaza is full of outdoor cafes that are perfect for people watching.

Toledo’s Art Scene

We started by visiting the El Greco museum, which is set in an old, restored house. It showcases pieces of art by the painter as well as by some of his followers. The house gave us an idea into what an old Spanish style property would have looked like. The descriptions of El Greco and his paintings gave us insight into him and his techniques as a painter.

We also visited the Synagogue of Santa Maria la Blanca. It was built in the 13th century, converted to a Christian church in the 15th century, and is now owned by the Catholic church. Except for some Moorish style arches and columns, the inside is pretty empty, and there are virtually no signs that it used to be a synagogue.

Spanish Food at its Best

We had dinner at a fantastic restaurant called La Orza. This cozy setting felt as if you were sitting in someone’s living room, surrounded by the stone and wood walls. And if you enjoy foie gras, this restaurant will not disappoint you! It was undoubtedly out of this world! A lovely local Spanish wine paired with regional cuisine made this meal and evening a memorable experience for all of us.

Our 10 Day Trip to Spain is Almost Over!

Overall, I think we made wonderful memories seeing the sites in Toledo.

Madrid, Spain is next on the list! We’re sad to think of this vacation coming to an end, but we’re excited to see what Madrid has in store!

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seville

10 Day Trip to Spain: Seville

After we left, Valencia & Granada, we continued our 10 day trip to Spain with a stop in Seville. Seville seems to incorporate everything that you might be looking for in a Spanish city: history, culture, romance, and beauty. 

It has many monuments, a grand Gothic cathedral, art, and a ton of festivals catering to all interests. Jon and I had been here before in 2009 and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves! We couldn’t wait to share it with his parents, Joe and Lori.

#1 Thing to Do in Seville

One of the top things on our list to see here was a Flamenco show. Flamenco is a traditional genre of Spanish music that includes singing, dancing, guitar playing, and palmas (handclaps). 

We were mesmerized by this show! Seeing the women dancing in their traditional flamenco dresses, hearing the beautiful singing of the men on stage, and listening to the magnificent guitar playing, made this without a doubt, one of the top experiences we have had in Europe! 

We were so enraptured that the two hours passed rather quickly! 

Exploring the Alcazar

The next day we went to the Alcazar, a royal palace built in 913. The Alcazar was home to many kings and caliphs, though it was originally built as a Moorish fort. Throughout the decades, they have expanded and rebuilt it many times. 

You can easily spend a few hours here, marveling at the well-kept grounds and palaces. The detail of these ceramic patterns was mind-blowing and the gardens were big and beautiful.

Next Stop!

After the Alcazar, we spent the rest of our time in Seville strolling the streets and window shopping. There is so much to see and experience, that it’s easy to lose track of time. 

We were no exception! Time ticked away quickly… Before we knew it, we were packing up the van and preparing to make our last long drive of the trip. 

Next stop: Toledo!

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cordoba

10 Day Trip to Spain: Cordoba

After our time in Granada, we continued our 10 day trip to Spain with a drive to Cordoba, Spain. This was about two hours by car from Granada. Let me tell you, the historical sites in Cordoba should be listed as “must-do” on your itinerary! 

Historical Sites in Cordoba Don’t Disappoint!

The main attraction here is the Mezquita, which is an enormous former mosque founded in 785. In 1236, the mosque was turned into a Catholic church after Cordoba was captured by King Ferdinand III. It is one of the only places in the world where one can worship Mass in a mosque. This is the centerpiece of Cordoba and no trip here is complete without visiting it.

The architecture of the building is unquestionably stunning. Onyx, jasper, marble, and granite make up the many columns here. Similarly, they used double arches, which allowed for higher ceilings, and alternated between the colors red and white. We continued to stand in awe as we gazed at the beautiful building. We hadn’t seen anything like it before.

After our time in the Mezquita, we went through a web of winding streets, including the Jewish quarter and 14th century synagogue. Jews were among the most prominent citizens during the time of Islamic Cordoba, and they left their mark on this city. 

Today, the Jewish quarter is a series of whitewashed buildings adorned with colorful flower boxes. Many of the streets had Hebrew inscriptions written into them. It really was a cool sight to see!

Later, we found a fantastic restaurant for dinner. We also had some time to get a few drinks beforehand at a fun rooftop bar. Not surprisingly, the food in Cordoba, like the rest of the cities that we went to in Spain, was delicious. Of course, I had to order some foie gras…

A Narrow “Escape”

Getting our car out of Cordoba was a difficult experience since the streets were too narrow for our van. It took Jon and Joe an hour to drive from the parking area to our hotel to pick us up. And it was only a third of a mile away! 

After squeezing through a couple of side streets that left barely an inch of room on either side of the van, we were finally on our way. That is, until Lori realized she left her iPad in the lobby, and we had to go back and do it all again! 

After a stressful escape, we pressed onto the next adventure on our 10 day trip to Spain: Seville!

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spain

10 Day Trip to Spain: Valencia and Grenada

After a great stay in Bilbao, we pressed on with a visit to Valencia and Granada. After packing the van with all of our luggage and backpacks, we drove 3.5 hours to Valencia. Valencia is Spain’s third largest city and is known for its excellent paella (which of course we feasted on).  Soon after we arrived we unloaded, changed, and set our sights on walking through town.

A Quick Spree through Valencia’s Top Spots

The first location on our list was Valencia’s central market. But, when we got there it was closed for the day. So, we decided to grab a late lunch before we explored the rest of the places on our list. 

After lunch, we walked towards the old town, taking note of the medieval buildings and the old cathedral. Later, we made our way to the Torres de Serranos, the only remaining part of the city walls. Then, we took a walk through Jardin del Turia park, and we headed back to the hotel.

Immersing Ourselves in Valencia’s Science Museum

The next day we went to the City of the Arts and Sciences, which is a huge complex consisting of five different areas. It includes an opera house and event space, an IMAX theater and planetarium, a walkway and garden, an open air oceanographic park (home to Europe’s largest aquarium), and a science museum. 

This place is a city of its own, with very futuristic buildings and beautiful grounds. Unfortunately, we only had time for one activity so we spent our time at the science museum. The great part about the science museum is that you are encouraged to try (and touch) everything! With that in mind, it wasn’t a hard decision to choose this particular place. (If you have kids, this should be a top spot on your list!) 

This museum is geared towards learning science through hands-on experiences and we were very excited to try it out! We were practically running throughout the museum, excited to explore the exhibits and touch and play with as much as possible. 

Some of the cool things we discovered were how many centimeters high we can jump, how hard we can kick a soccer ball, how well we can balance, and how many decibels loud our screams are. 

It was truly an immersive experience, and we were so glad we went there! We spent a good two hours inside, but soon had to leave. 

Granada was calling our names, and it was a five-hour drive away. 

Soon after leaving Valencia, we were again driving through the countryside of Spain. The drive from Valencia to Grenada is gorgeous, with flat land around us and mountains from the Sierra Nevada in the distance. 

During our drive, we passed beautiful sunflower fields. Plus, we saw metal bulls on top of nearby hills that seemed to show us our way…

Royalty Like None Other in Granada

Grenada is located in the south in the region of Andalucia. We first noticed that, while the city is big, it still had a quaint feeling to it. Grenada also seems to be a young and vibrant city, with many people dressed nicely, sitting outside having sangria with some tapas before dinner. You can really relax and enjoy yourself here, completely undisturbed.

Our hotel was located down a very narrow, car-free street with restaurants and small boutique shops around the corner. A shop filled with new and fresh spices and teas caught my eyes, and I purchased some excellent products!

The day after we arrived, we went to the Alhambra, an Islamic palace and fortress built in the 9th century. It sits on top of a large hill named La Sabika. It has gardens, streams, fountains, a mosque, and a palace, all within a fortress wall and bordered by 13 towers. 

Jon and I have been to our fair share of palaces, castles, and fortresses in Europe, but this was so very different from all of the others we’ve visited. The decoration of the Alhambra was particularly distinct, consisting of Arabic inscriptions, colorful geometric patterns, and many columns and arches. We were truly impressed with the palace’s intricate designs and decor. We can’t begin to fathom all of the man-hours it must have taken to complete the beautiful details, let alone the sheer scale of the grounds. 

Later, after our tour of the Alhambra, we strolled down the long winding path to the city center. There, we stopped for a delicious lunch, topped off by incredible sangria, to fill our stomachs for the drive to our next destination. 

Our 10 Day Trip to Spain Is on a Roll! Next Stop…

As always, we were sad to leave. Our visit to Valencia and Granada gave us such a wonderful experience! But once again we found ourselves on a beautiful drive through the countryside, making our trip to Spain even more memorable! 

Next stop: Cordoba and Seville!

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spain

10 Day Trip to Spain: Bilbao & San Sebastian

As part of our 10 day trip to Spain, we planned a quick day trip to Bilbao & San Sebastian. We took a 7am flight from Barcelona to Bilbao. We spent time in Bilbao, but also rented a car to drive to San Sebastian. It was a quick excursion; we were able to take a 10:15pm flight back to Barcelona.  

It was quite a day trip!

Bilbao’s Art Scene

Bilbao is located in the Basque region of Spain and is a newly rejuvenated city. After Bilbao built the Guggenheim Museum in 1997, the city saw a large increase in tourism, prompting the city to develop itself as a city for the arts.

The overall structure and design of the museum is an incredible piece of artwork, which you simply cannot miss! Many people think that the building itself is better to look at than the art inside!

Still, we did take the opportunity to explore the artwork inside. Many of them were… interesting. For example, the desk turned over on its side with a cabinet glued to it really inspired us to start gluing items from our house together :/ We weren’t sure what this piece was meant to represent, but we had fun drawing conclusions… Was there more to it that we just didn’t see? Did he not have enough room in his house to have them coexist separately? 

But, sometimes the genius of art lies in the mystery of its meaning. So, we were content to leave it at that and move on to our next destination.

On the Menu in San Sebastian: Pintxos (Yum!)

The weather started to turn sour and it ended up being our worst weather day during the entire trip. We drove to San Sebastian early, in hopes that the rain would clear up on our drive. We walked around the city located on the water, and hiked up to Monte Urgell, which gave us beautiful views.

For lunch, we had a Basque region specialty: pintxos (pronounced “pinchos,” which we also had for breakfast in Bilbao). Pintxos are like finger food tapas, and people say they are the best in San Sebastian. They are usually served cold on a slice of bread. One of the novelties about pintxos bars in the Basque region is that you don’t order the pintxos, you take them right from the bar and are charged for whatever you take.  Some of the delicious pintxos we ate included eggplant, tomatoes, ham, shrimp, fish, peppers, cheese…

Since it was still POURING rain, we hopped into the aquarium to dry off. This gave us a nice reprieve, and there was a lot of cool aquatic life to see. I could easily see this as a great place to bring kids.

Reflections on a Day Trip Well Spent

Later, we drove back to Bilbao and walked around the old town. It was about 6:00pm on a Sunday evening, so a lot of the stores were closed. But, we enjoyed looking at the old buildings and churches. We ducked into a small pintxos bar, had a couple bottles of wine, laughed, cried, and enjoyed each other’s company. 

We are thrilled that we were able to spend the day in the Basque region of Spain. It was a perfect quick excursion as part of our overall 10 day trip to Spain. Despite the rain we were able to explore two great cities, experience a different language, and eat some of the best food we had on our entire trip!

Soon it was a short flight back to Barcelona, and a good night’s sleep prepared us for the next day and our next stop, Valencia! 

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10 Day Trip to Spain: Barcelona

The market

This is a trip that we had been planning and been excited to go on for months: a 10 day trip to Spain, beginning with Barcelona! What made this even better? We were going to be traveling, wining, and dining with Jon’s parents, Lori and Joe. 

It would be a glorious 10 day trip, and we couldn’t wait to get started!

A Taste of Barcelona’s Art Scene

Barcelona is Spain’s second largest city, located in the Catalonia region. This region is quite unique; it has its own language (Catalan), and some Catalonians consider themselves part of a different country. We were excited to explore this cosmopolitan city. 

Barcelona is packed with amazing architecture, history, and food. To start the day, we walked from our hotel, down car-free streets, to a beautiful cathedral and had a look inside.

We then made our way to Guell Palace, which was designed by legendary architect Antoni Gaudi. Gaudi’s work is all over the city and is very distinctive, unique, and FUN! It’s as if you’ve stepped into a Dr. Seuss storybook, with twisted iron sculptures and curved stones adorned with colorful mosaic tiles. His art is visually stimulating and exciting to look at.

Before dinner, we went to the Picasso Museum, which was located on a narrow street. The collection was really fascinating and it seemed to focus on a lot of his earlier work (before cubism). But, we also saw many more well known pieces from later in his life. 

All About Gaudi

Our next day in Barcelona was all about Gaudi. First, we trekked uphill to Park Guell. Park Guell includes many structures designed by Gaudi, including a plaza and three kilometers of paths, walkways, and steps. If you love strolling and you love beautiful architecture and design, this is the perfect combination for you!

Then, we walked to La Sagrada Familia, which is one of Gaudi’s most famous works in Barcelona. Unfortunately, the snakelike, Disney World line that wrapped around the basilica prevented us from going inside, but the outside was quite impressive!

La Sagrada Familia is a huge basilica that has been under construction since 1882. It’s still not finished because Gaudi didn’t leave complete plans for it after his death. In some ways, its incomplete state isn’t surprising, as it’s a very complicated structure. Still, those who continue to work on it were hoping to complete it in 2026, on the anniversary of Gaudi’s death. But some estimate that it won’t be complete for another 30-60 years! 

Our next stop was La Pedrera (Casa Mila), which is a very unusual apartment building designed by Gaudi. It was built between 1906-1912, originally for the Mila family. This is a fascinating place to visit! It combines architectural innovation with ornamental design. 

Finally, we visited Casa Batllo. By this point, we were so tired that we didn’t go inside. But, we enjoyed observing the fun designs on the facade of the building. You could probably spend hours studying the intricate and playful designs. I’m sure that inside would be even more impressive!

Wrapping up Barcelona

Dining in Barcelona was spectacular! Each meal was better than the next, filled with paella, a variety of tapas, and wine. You can’t beat finishing your day this way!

Barcelona was the perfect way to begin our 10 day trip to Spain. We definitely plan to come back, but the remainder of the trip brought new exciting adventures, too! 

Next stop … Bilbao & San Sebastian!

More fun photos…

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