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A 2-Week Spanish Road Trip

spain

A 2-Week Spanish Road Trip 

 

Are you planning a road trip to Spain? I’ve designed this 2-week itinerary to showcase the best of Spain.

Spain has always captivated me as a country full of passion, energy, and tradition. Since I first visited it many years ago, I have found this country to be a myriad of exciting opportunities. Spain has been my love affair for many years, and it remains a special place of honor in my heart.

I have traveled from the sultry Andalusian province in the south to the Galician north, from Almeria to the rugged Costa Brava, and I have found this country to be more varied than expected. 

For first-time visitors, I’ve designed the ultimate 2-week Spanish itinerary for you to experience the best of the country: whether you’re after historical treasures, bustling city life, or some amazing tapas. Buckle up for an exciting journey into one of the world’s most magnificent countries!

tapas

 

The Best Itinerary for a Two Week Stay in Spain

What is the best way to get to Spain?

Madrid and Barcelona are Spain’s largest airports. The national airline, Iberia, serves a number of major US airports. You can get cheap flights between New York and Madrid for about $500 and from Los Angeles to Barcelona for about $600. 

Madrid is the starting and ending point of this Spain itinerary since it is where most fly into. Alternatively, you can fly to Barcelona and drive to Madrid, then follow this itinerary the rest of the way.

For travelers in Europe, most major airports have direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. Several airlines also service smaller airports throughout Spain, including Málaga, Valencia and Sevilla. Flights within Europe can cost anywhere between $20 and $200 round trip. Yes, as low as $20. 

How to travel around Spain

By automobile

The most convenient and easiest way to travel through Spain is by car. Spain’s highway network is in excellent condition, and even if you do not speak Spanish you can still manage. Old town roads can be tricky, however, because they are narrow and crowded as is the case in much of Europe.

The cost of a car in Spain is extremely affordable and you can find rentals as cheap as 30 euros per day. For this Spain road trip, we suggest you rent your car in Barcelona and return it in Malaga.

 

By Bus & Train

If you do not wish to drive, you may still follow this Spain itinerary by train or bus. Most people are conversant with at least some English, but knowing a little Spanish can help you navigate the country much more efficiently.

Spain has an excellent train system, connecting the major cities with high-speed trains. Spain’s national railway company is Renfe. The cheapest way to travel is by bus. Alsa, Comes, and Conda are three of the largest bus operators in Spain however I think Flixbus is an excellent choice as well, and love the free wifi on the buses. 

Best Time to Visit Spain

Spain is often assumed to be warm all year round, but its climate is actually varied throughout the year. For example, Bilbao in the north has a rainy and cool climate for the majority of the year. However, the summer months have the best weather. But that’s also the time when Spain is most crowded with tourists and the most expensive.

I believe that the best time to visit Spain is between March and May or from September to October. Some museums and sights will be less crowded and you will still be able to soak up the sunshine.

How long should I stay in Spain?

Spain offers a great diversity of culture, cuisine, and landscape, making it one of the most visited countries in the world. For your first trip to Spain, I suggest spending at least two weeks in Spain. In addition to Madrid and Barcelona, you will also have the opportunity to visit the coast of Valencia and the Andalusia region, which is the most traditional part of the country. 

A brief summary of the Ultimate Spain Travel Itinerary.

  • Days 1-3: Madrid
  • Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo
  • Day 5-7: Barcelona
  • Day 8-9: Valencia
  • Days 10-11: Granada
  • Days 12-14: Malaga
  • Day 15: Fly home!

 

Spain Itinerary Day 1: Getting to Know Madrid

Madrid is the capital of Spain and it is abundant with historical treasures and cultural displays, making it the place where you should begin your travels. 

I would suggest staying in the Puerta del Sol – Gran Via area, which is within walking distance of the most important landmarks and well-known restaurants. If you’re on a budget, you might want to check out La Latina or Lavapies, which are lively local areas with tapas bars and offbeat museums.

To reach the city from the airport, either you can rent a car and drive there, or take the metro. It is possible to use the metro at Terminals 2 and 4. It costs €3 (about $3.50) for a single ticket to downtown Madrid and it takes 30 minutes to get there. 

madrid spain

Where can you stay in Madrid?

Budget: B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Puerta del Sol

Perfect for those who want to enjoy city living at its best, this affordable hotel boasts a prime location.

Mid Range: Only YOU Hotel Atocha

This hotel is set in a 19th-century building and is as eclectic as it is unique. Located near the Atocha train station.

Luxury: Four Seasons Hotel Madrid

Elegant and magnificent, this luxury hotel is the ideal choice for well-off travelers. The hotel is located right in the center of town.

Spain Itinerary Days 2-3: Madrid

Once you have had ample opportunity to rest, it’s now time to explore Madrid properly and get a feel for the Spanish capital. Madrid may not possess iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or the Sagrada Familia, yet it is hauntingly beautiful, with its wide boulevards set in a backdrop of medieval mansions and palaces, as well as baroque churches. Here are some sights to see over the next two days.

See the Royal Palace of Madrid.

The Royal Palace of Madrid is like Buckingham Palace in London, the official residence of Spain’s royal family. There are more than 3,000 rooms filled with artwork and history to explore here. The museum is open to the public, and the views of the city are great.

 

Explore the Gran Via in Madrid.

Plaza de Espaa is only a 10-minute walk from the palace, a magnificently large square that is home to many fountains, lush gardens, and statues of historical figures. You will then find yourself at the Gran Via, the major thoroughfare of the city. With its extensive selection of shopping, dining, and entertainment options, Gran Via is the perfect night spot to experience Madrid up close. 

Discover Palacio de Cibeles.

At the end of Gran Via, you will find another of Madrid’s most notable landmarks, Palacio de Cibeles. The original post office of the city dates back to 1904. It survived through the bombings during the Spanish Civil War and stands proudly along the main thoroughfare. It has an observation deck that is located on the 8th floor and offers some of the finest views of the city.

Check out The Golden Triangle of Art

A true treasure-trove for culture-lovers, Madrid is home to theaters, libraries, sculptures, and nearly 40 museums. The Golden Triangle of Art, which runs along the avenue Paseo del Prado, is the perfect place for culture vultures to spend a full day. Three of the most famous art museums are located here, close to one another. The Prado Museum has a wide range of classical art, the Reina Sofia Museum specializes in modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum has everything in between.

Hang out at the Puerta del Sol

The Puerta del Sol, a major square popular with the Madrileos, is the best place to soak up Madrid’s energy at night. It occupies the exact center of Spain. This location is also known as kilometer zero. Madrid’s official symbol is a bear holding a strawberry tree, and you can see a statue of it near Puerta del Sol. 

Spain Itinerary Day 4: Daytrip to Toledo

Not to be missed is a day trip to the spectacular city of Toledo. You have the option of driving or taking the train. The train ride from Atocha station to Toledo takes approximately 35 minutes, and it costs around €10 or $15 per trip. Once there, you can easily explore the entire city on foot. Also available is a guided day tour, during which you can learn more about the town’s history. 

Enjoy the beauty of the Catedral Primada. 

Toledo is a walled city with a blend of medieval Arab, Christian, and Jewish influences. There are many historic buildings scattered throughout the city, one of which is the Catedral Primada. The cathedral was built in the fifteenth century and is an excellent example of gothic architecture. Tickets to visit the cathedral and museums will cost you between $10 and $15.

The Alcázar

As far back as 2,000 years ago, this was a military fort. The tower is located in Toledo’s highest point, from where one can enjoy a magnificent view of the city. It also has a military museum, where you can learn more about its history.

Tour Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes

Another stop you ought to consider in Toledo is the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. It was built during the reign of one of Spain’s most powerful queens and has an extremely unique style that is unmatched by anything else in Toledo. Being able to walk along the long corridors and side chapels is an experience you probably will not have anywhere else. 

Spain Tour Day 5: Head to Barcelona

The next morning, return to Madrid’s Baraja Airport and fly to Spain’s cultural capital, Barcelona. You can also drive, but it takes approximately six hours. Flights to Barcelona from Madrid cost only about $70 and take around 90 minutes. 

I recommend staying at the Barrio Gotico (the Gothic Quarter). This is the historical and geographical center of the city where all the important landmarks, attractions, and tapas bars are located.  If you are eager to go to the beaches, stay in Barceloneta, the city’s coastline with six kilometers of beaches.

barcelona

 

Where is the best place to stay in Barcelona?

Budget: Generator Barcelona

Generator Hostels are one of the best hostel chains in Europe, making budget travel a very upscale experience. The modern design creates a relaxing atmosphere, while the bar and lounge offer a great place to meet friends. 

Mid Range: El Avenida Palace

El Avenida Palace is a moderately priced hotel located along Gran Via, the main artery of the city. We love this place due to its budget-friendly rates and panoramic views from the rooftop bar. 

Luxury: W Barcelona

The W Barcelona is situated on Barceloneta beach and is undoubtedly the best luxury hotel in the city. It may be the only hotel in Barcelona that can claim to be an icon in its own right, and your vacation will be one to remember if you stay at this hotel. 

Itinerary Day 6-7: Discovering Barcelona

Barcelona, on the other hand, is very different than Madrid: the coastal city has a younger vibe, with electric energy and a colorful character. The city is brimming with stunning architecture, contemporary museums, beautiful beaches, and gourmet restaurants. It is impossible to see all of Barcelona in 3 days, but the following are the places you should not miss.

tapas barcelona

La Sagrada Familia

La Sagrada Familia is undoubtedly one of Spain’s most important sights, and rightly so. The Cathedral in Barcelona was designed by world-renowned Spanish architect Gaudi and perfectly reflects the culture and architectural style of Catalonia, the area where Barcelona is located. It has been under construction for over a century and is scheduled for completion in 2026. 

Parc Güell

The Park Güell is my favorite city spot in Barcelona, a whimsical park composed of colorful sculptures and tile work designed by Gaudi. The site provides a playground for the mind: visual jokes, columns imitating palm tree trunks, arches of rubble that rise above the ground, and ceramic tiles. Go to Casa Battló to view Gaudi’s work.

This is another magnificent creation from Gaudi that must be seen to be believed. It is a townhouse from the nineteenth century, in a unique style. Locals call the house House of the Dragon due to its curved shape. Casa Battlo tickets are expensive at € 25, but they are well worth the price. 

La Rambla

Like Madrid’s Gran Via, La Rambla is Barcelona’s most famous pedestrianized street. Taking a stroll along the La Rambla can provide an insight into what it is like to be a local in Barcelona. At the end of La Rambla, you can find La Boqueria market, which is filled with fresh produce stalls, tapas stands, and bars. 

 

Parc de la Ciutadella

This is one of Barcelona’s largest public parks and it is the ideal place to spend a day outdoors. The large playgrounds, lush gardens, and fountains here will delight families with children. It is also home to the Catalan Parliament and the Barcelona Zoo. It is centrally located in the city, so it is accessible no matter where you are staying in Barcelona. 

Spain Itinerary Day 8: Travel along the coast to Valencia.

After a few days in Barcelona, it is time to head to Valencia. Valencia is a mid-sized city with the perfect balance of old and new and is an exceptional place to experience contemporary Spain.

It takes four hours to drive to the area, but the views along the way are worth it. If you do not drive, you can take a high-speed train from Barcelona-Sants station and reach your destination around the same time.

I recommend staying in Ciutat Vella, or Old Town, the historic quarter of Valencia. If you prefer views of the ocean, the port area of El Cabanyal is a good alternative. It is close to the beach and still within walking distance of the city center. 

valencia

Where is the best place to stay in Valencia?

Budget: Valencia Town Center New Apartments 

This apartment hotel is located near the Estació del Nord train station and is inexpensive, spacious, and well located. It is well suited for families who need extra space and cooking facilities.

Mid Range: Hotel Plaza Mercado & Spa 

Located in Ciutat Vella, this well-priced hotel is right next to the central market and within walking distance from all the city’s attractions. The bar and restaurant is excellent. Check rates here.

Luxury: Barceló Valencia

Barceló Valencia has one of Valencia’s most impressive rooftop bars. The views from the Arts and Science complex are stunning, and the hotel offers a nice, albeit small, spa facility for when you need a respite.

Spain Itinerary Day 9: Explore the modern coastal city of Valencia

Valencia may not be as big as Madrid or Barcelona, but it has a thriving cultural, eating, and nightlife scene. The city is full of fabulous modernista buildings, great museums, a wide beach, and a characterful old quarter. Valencia is also known as being the home of traditional Spanish dishes such as paella and has a large number of lively restaurants in which to savor them.

valencia spain

Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias

It is usually the first result that appears when searching Google for Valencia. It is the most famous building in the city, with five distinct parts including an IMAX theater, a restaurant, and museums. This area is surrounded by water and is ideal for exploring or relaxing during your stay.

Oceanográfico is located in Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias and has an aquarium with a variety of animals from all over the world. It also has live dolphin shows.

Ciutat Vella

Ciutat Vella is one of Valencia’s most delightful old medieval districts, with winding streets and numerous points of interest to explore. View the Cathedral from the UNESCO site La Lonja, gaze upon the gothic architecture at the Musée de Patriaca, and examine the artwork in the Museo de Patriaca. Whether you are interested in the city’s religious heritage, fine art, street art, or Aguas de Valencia, you will be able to explore everything here on foot.

Mercat Central

Fresh oranges, fish, and olives are available in this impressive historical market. The vibrant, colorful market is a favorite stop for both locals and tourists alike. It’s also a beautiful building and worth checking out just to take in the sights.

Itinerary Day 10: Roadtrip to Granada

I have left the best for the last! This is the Spain which most people dream of: white-washed villages, flamenco dancing, and bullfighting rings.

It will take you approximately five hours to travel from Valencia to Granada, so it is advisable to leave early. There is no high-speed rail service on this route for those without a car. The train takes about eight hours and you’ll have to change in Madrid.

I recommend staying in the Albayzin area, as it is the oldest and most famous neighborhood in Granada. It is built on a hilltop and features whitewashed houses, cobblestone alleys, and dramatic views of the Alhambra at every turn. For a unique experience, I recommend staying in a cave in the hills above Albayzin, where Romani gypsies live and perform flamenco.

Staying in Granada

granada spain

Mid Range: Hotel Casa Morisca

This charming hotel in the Albayzin has a central location, pleasant views of the Alhambra, and is reasonably priced. 

Mid Range: Hotel Casa 1800 Granada

The charming Alhambra Hotel boasts stunning views and an attractive design. 

Luxury: Parador de Granada

Located on the Alhambra grounds, the Parador can give you an insight into what it is like to live within a castle and a world-heritage site. Easily the best hotel in Granada. 

Spain Itinerary Day 11: You will explore the Andalusian city of Granada.

Granada is arguably one of the most beautiful places in Europe. This bohemian city lies at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, and it was the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors and their legacy is all around: in the historic Arab quarters, the beautiful parks, and the aromatic spice market.

Granada has energy to its streets, filled with tapas bars, tea houses, and intimate flamenco clubs. It’s not very large though, so 2 days will be enough to get a sense of the city. Take a look at my list of the top things to do in Granada.

granada

Alhambra

This is one of Spain’s most iconic sites. Fortified against the Sierra Nevada mountains, this palace was once a walled citadel that later became the opulent residence of Granada’s Nasrid emirs. The 14th-century Palacios Nazares here is one of the most beautiful Islamic buildings in Europe. You can visit the sprawling complex on your own, but book your tickets in advance as they sell out quickly, especially during summer. 

Carmen de los Martires Gardens

The gardens of Carmen de los Martires are a perfect way to enjoy nature in Granada. Close to the Alhambra, this beautiful garden is not very busy and is a wonderful way to relax and enjoy fresh mountain air in Granada. In addition, there is a tower in the gardens from which you can see a beautiful view of the city.

Albayzin

Albayzin is a captivating collection of whitewashed houses, pine tree gardens, and cobblestone alleys that are all stacked up on a hill overlooking Granada. Be aware that there are plenty of steps and cobblestoned paths that are slippery. Don sturdy shoes and prepare to spend several hours wandering around the neighborhood. The best time to visit Granada in summer is in the morning (before 12pm) and evening (around 5pm). 

Mirador de San Nicolas

The Mirador de San Nicolas offers great views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada from the highest point of Albayzin. Hundreds of tourists sit and take in the view while gypsy street musicians play their Spanish guitars and hippies sell their handicrafts. One of my favorite bars in Granada is right underneath the Mirador: Huerto de Juan Ranas has a stunning view and a lovely open roof bar.

Watch a Flamenco Show in Sacromonte

Sacromonte is Granada’s Gypsy quarter, situated above Albayzin. This is the home of zambra, an intense form of flamenco. Most of the caves in the the area has nightly flamenco shows, but some people might get lucky and catch street performers. 

Tapas for FREE 

Tapas in Spain are renowned around the world for a good reason. These bite-size appetizers are packed with fresh Spanish ingredients. Granada has always served free tapas with its drinks. Beer or wine usually costs a couple of euros per pint, and usually come with a small platter of tortilla de patata, berenjena con miel, or carne con salsa. Some of my favorite tapas bars in Granada include La Botilleria and Taberna La TanaBar Los Diamantes.

Spain Itinerary Day 12: Travel on to Malaga.

Get ready for the last leg of your Spain road trip. Continue your journey through Spain with a 1.5-hour trip to one of the country’s major cities, Málaga which you may never have heard of. In spite of the preference of most for Seville (and its IKEA store), I am a loyal supporter of Malaga. Loaded with history and filled with trendy vibes, the city that gave birth to Picasso has changed spectacularly, with a newly revamped port area and a nascent arts district called Soho.

I suggest staying in the El Centro neighborhood, known to locals as downtown Malaga. I could be biased here as I grew up in El Centro, California but they are nothing alike. The Picasso Museum and Plaza de la Merced are located in Malaga’s El Centro. Soho is another great place to stay if you enjoy trendy bars and art galleries.

Where to stay in Malaga

Budget: Anahita Boutique Hotel

This charming boutique hotel offers beautiful rooms with patterned floors and antique furnishings. Great location in the old town! 

Mid Range: Room Mate Larios

The stylish Art Deco hotel is part of a national Spanish chain and is located along the pedestrian street, Larios, in Malaga’s center. This is an excellent vantage point for taking in the city.

Luxury: Gran Hotel Miramar

This is the height of luxury. The luxurious Gran Hotel Miramar is located in a listed building of the 20th century overlooking the Mediterranean Sea.

Spain Itinerary Day 13-14: A short excursion around Málaga

After two busy weeks, Málaga is the ideal place to conclude your Spain road trip. It has a relaxed atmosphere and miles of beach to relax in the sun. For more information about what to do in Malaga, check out my  Malaga itinerary.

malaga spain

Alcazaba 

The Alcazaba fortress is a smaller version of the Alhambra, one of the most famous landmarks in Granada. The moorish fortress palace in the historic center is a well-preserved complex in a tangled network of gardens and fountains, providing beautiful views of the local casco antiguo (old town). For access, you may climb up the steep slope from the rear of the Roman theater or take an elevator from the rear of the Ayuntamiento de Malaga.

Mirador de Gibralfaro

The Castillo de Gibralfaro is a tenth-century castle that is located above the Alcazaba. The castle has been partially restored and houses a military museum, but it is worth visiting not only for the views but also for the panoramic views. It can be reached by bus or by foot, but the climb is well worth the effort to get a breathtaking vantage point that overlooks the city. For additional access to Gibralfaro, take the scenic pathway of Paseo Don Juan de Temboury, situated south of the Alcazaba.

Puerto de Málaga

Malaga’s new waterfront area is Muelle Uno (Pier 1), a sleek and stylish place within walking distance of the city center, and close to all of Malaga’s cultural and historic sites. It is just across the street from one of the largest parks in the city and is a 10-minute walk from the Alcazaba.

Only opened in 2011, this port houses Malaga’s only Michelin-starred restaurant, but there are numerous other cafés and bars catering to various budgets. The Pier is well lit at night and is a perfect spot for a romantic evening out with loved ones.

malaga spain port

Visit the beaches of El Pedregalejo

In Málaga, it is not difficult to find a beach. Within walking distance of the old town are miles and miles of beaches. For an out-of-the-ordinary beach experience though, head to El Pedregalejo. It is not in the city center and it is less crowded than other nearby beaches. After you have enough time to soak up the sun, you may also visit one of the chiringuitos (little food huts) to indulge in some local seafood.

Spain Itinerary Day 15: Adios, It’s time to head back home.

After spending a few days relaxing and exploring Málaga, it is time to say farewell to Spain. If you are returning from Madrid, you will need to catch a domestic flight from Málaga to Madrid. Flights between the two cities are fairly frequent and, when you book in advance, you can usually find them for a reasonable price (around $50). 

Make sure to book a morning flight so you can arrive in Madrid with plenty of time to spare. In Madrid, the airport is very large, and customs can take hours, so allow at least three hours for customs clearance. 

Two weeks in Spain will give you the bare minimum amount of time to experience this outstanding country. I hope this itinerary will inspire you to have a passion for Spain, as I did.

Did we miss anything on our Spain itinerary? If you have any questions, please let us know in the comments section below and we will be happy to assist you.

You may be interested in https://europeantravel.blog/best-winter-sun-destinations-in-europe/

 

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A 2-Week Spanish Road Trip
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A 2-Week Spanish Road Trip
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For first-time visitors, I’ve designed the ultimate 2-week Spanish itinerary for you to experience the best of the country: whether you’re after historical treasures, bustling city life, or some amazing tapas. Buckle up for an exciting journey into one of the world's most magnificent countries!
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