I love Spain. I fell in love two years ago when I visited Barcelona for the first time. This time around I made a point to see Barcelona, Madrid and Ibiza to get a little taste of everything. Spain’s cultural vibrancy is unmatched which makes it one of my all-time favorite places to visit.
We started our trip in Barcelona. The most important thing to note about Barcelona is that citizens from Barcelona are apart of the Catalonia region. If you ever group Spain and Catalonia together you better hope a resident from Barcelona isn’t standing around. They take pride in coming from Catalonia very seriously and do not want to be associated with Spain. In fact, they have been trying for years to separate themselves completely from the rest of the country.
Barcelona is a huge city with a lot to see and do. I have broken down my top sights and here are the must sees…
1. La Sagrada Familia– Of course! It would be a sin to not see La Sagrada Familia while in Barcelona. La Sagrada Familia is gorgeous! It is so vibrant and colorful which is such a good representation of the city itself. Buy tickets online so you can skip the line, they’re around $16 without an audio guide.
2. Casa Batllo and Casa Mila–Two houses in Barcelona designed by Antoni Gaudi. They are both so unique and are an absolute MUST when visiting Barcelona. I haven’t been inside either of the houses but viewing the artist design from the outside is definitely worth your while.
3.Park Guell– To piggyback on the last one, Park Guell is another one of Gaudi’s famous pieces of art. To me, the park resembles a kind of gingerbread atmosphere with beautiful tiling and the famous colorful Gaudi frog at the top to pull it all together. The Park also offers a wonderful birdseye view of Barcelona! Tickets are around 7 euro for an unguided visit.
4. National Art Museum– The National Art Museum is simply beautiful. It is situated on a hill with waterfalls cascading down the front. In addition to the amazing forefront, there is also a color changing water fountain show on the ground level in front of the Art Museum that occurs every night at 9 p.m.
5. The Beach–I may be a little bias here because I love all beaches, but Barcelona’s is one of my favorites because it actually has sand. The beach isn’t very far from the city center, probably about a 20 minute walk and it’s the perfect way to relax in the busy city.
We stayed at the Generator Barcelona Hostel which was absolutely fantastic! The staff was amazing. We checked in really late the one night and as soon as we got there the front desk attendant said “You guys look really tired and hungry, let me run next door and see if they’ll keep the kitchen open for you.” He was such a sweetheart and we were able to have one of the best meals of our lives before check in. The hostel was extremely clean and the decorations were the perfect depiction of Barcelona’s style. They serve a continental breakfast every morning and have a pretty cool bar with happy hour every night! We only paid around $15 a night. Next time I’m in Barcelona I will definitely be booking another stay at this hostel!
We’ve covered sights to see and accommodation so next on the list is what to eat! My all time favorite place in Barcelona is La Boqueria which is Barcelona’s food market off of Las Ramblas. The market has so many amazing foods but the reason I love it so much is for the fresh juice selection! I would be lying if I told you I didn’t go there every day we were in Barcelona. I am obsessed. Other than juice they sell all kinds of fresh fruits, seafood, meats, cheeses, flowers, nuts, oils, etc. You name it, they got it. I could eat my way through the market, everything is delicious and phenomenally priced. I’ve visited a lot of food markets all throughout Europe and I’d have to say Barcelona’s is number one.
Another great place to eat at is Casa Lolea. If you’re ever flying to Spain and like me where you will read all through the food menu but won’t order a damn thing, Lolea Sangria is a name that will see constantly popping up. It is a famous Sangria company and when I say it’s everywhere in Spain, it’s everywhere! When we found out there was a restaurant in Barcelona, it was a must that we go. The restaurant served all kinds of tapas and their four different kinds of Lolea Sangria. We bought a red and a white and ordered pretty much every tapa on the menu. Everything was fantastic! If you ever visit definitely try the lentils soup, the steak tartar, patatas bravas and ceviche!
As I mentioned before we had one of the best meals we’ve had the night we checked into our hostel right across the street at Pikio Taco. Pikio Taco sells all kinds of small tacos, nachos, quesadillas and of course margaritas! The food here is to die for! I am a huge fan of tacos and these are definitely the best I have ever had. The prices are amazing, it’s only about $1-$2 per taco depending on which meat you order. The margaritas blew my mind! They have a guava margarita that is served with hot chili pepper on top and oh my god I fell in love. It was AMAZING. They really know what they’re doing there and you definitely need to check it out if you’re ever in the area.
Stop number two in Spain was to Madrid. This was my first time in Madrid and I already knew it was going to be a very different vibe from Barcelona. Barcelona is a way more modern city and Madrid gives you that old school Spanish vibe that we were all craving.
We stayed at the most beautifully decorated hostel called Living Cats Hostel. No there were no cats and thank god for that. Now, the beds weren’t anything to brag about, the room itself was probably one of the worst dorms we’ve stayed at but the common areas were amazing. The front room was surrounded in Spanish tile and had a beautiful water fountain in the middle holding it all together. The bar area was also pretty great, they offered two for one happy hour deals on sangria and beer, as well as, community dinners for free!
Rooftop bars are super popular in Madrid which is right up my alley. We found one of the best at Circulo de Bellas Artes. It does cost money to go up to the bar but it’s worth it, trust me. The views are incredible and it is such a relaxing atmosphere. There are two different floors. One floor has beds that you can sunbathe and drink on and the other is more for socializing and community seating. There is an extensive list of rooftop bars to go to in Madrid, but this is a local favorite and I guarantee it won’t disappoint.
Rooftop bars may be on the top of my list but other must sees in Madrid include…
- Plaza Mayor– Plaza Mayor is the central plaza in Madrid and has a very typical old school Spanish vibe. I must say it is very different from other main squares we have seen. The buildings aren’t as tall and people actually live in this main square which is very abnormal.
2. Royal Palace of Madrid– The Royal Palace of Madrid is breathtaking. The building is surrounded by large royal gates decked out in navy blue and gold. It is a very picturesque sight to see and definitely worth a visit.
3.Muralla Arabe–Muralla Arabe are the Muslim walls of Madrid and it is one of the oldest buildings in the city. In front of the building you can see what is left of the walls. I recommend going on a free walking tour to learn more about the history during the Muslim domination.
4.Temple of Debod– The Temple is the best place to watch the sunset in Madrid! It is an unusual sunset place for us, since the majority of the view is of the park and not the city, but it is still beautiful nonetheless. The Temple of Debod is an ancient Egyptian temple that was dismantled and rebuilt in Madrid. The Temple looks amazing after the sun goes down and all the spotlights come on.
After all that sightseeing I’m sure you’re going to have worked up an appetite, but have no fear, food is always my best topic. We stumbled upon a restaurant near our hostel the first night and ended up returning every day after then because it was so innovative and unique.
Brutal Bar takes gourmet restaurant cooking and serves it at a reasonable price. Eating at Brutal Bar was like dinner and a show. There are some dishes that come out with syringes full of olive oil and seasonings to inject into your food and some dishes that come out with blow torches to fry your bacon at the dinner table. My dining experiences at Brutal Bar were incredible. They have a wide variety of tapas, our favorites were the burrata cheese, the goat cheese salad, the risotto and the bacon on a clothesline with apple fritters. Brutal Bar is one of my favorite restaurants I’ve ever been to and I am extremely sad that Madrid is so far away from home because of it.
Another must eat in Madrid is the napolitana con chocolate from La Mallorquina. La Mallorquina is the famous bakery in Madrid. It has been operating since the mid 1800s and moved to Sol, one of Madrid’s squares in the early 1900s. The napolitana con chocolate is what La Mallorquina is known for. The dessert itself is a flat croissant-like pastry filled with a hefty amount of melted dark chocolate. YUM!
It wouldn’t be a trip to Spain without getting churros and what better place to go than the Chocolateria San Gines. Here you can order churros in variables of 3 and get your own personal cup of chocolate to dip the churros in. The chocolate sauce is more like a thick hot chocolate and it is amazing! The churros are cooked to perfection and the dessert isn’t too messy which is a major plus.
After Pikio Taco in Barcelona we were still craving tacos and margaritas so we ended our Madrid stay at Rosa Negra. Rosa Negra is a local taco place that serves not only tacos but nachos, quesadillas, burritos and of course, margaritas! The margaritas weren’t as great as the ones from Pikio but the flavor selection was much larger. The tacos were pretty amazing and definitely hit the spot after our long day of touring the city.
We wanted to get the most out of Spain that we possibly could so before we left the country we made a pit stop for a few days in Ibiza. Now I know what you’re thinking, Ibiza? Oh my god they must have been partying their faces off with Diplo and Flume. No, Ibiza in the off-season is not Ibiza in the on-season. Which we prefer. I honestly don’t think I would be able to survive in Ibiza during the summer.
Since Ibiza was a ghost town during our weekend stay, we spent both days on the beach enjoying the last bits of our wonderful 75 degree weather. Our Airbnb had a lot of leftover beach inner tubes so we just HAD to take them out with us and act like the 10 year olds we truly are. The water was a little chilly but after a few minutes you got used to it. I laid in the water for hours and had some of the most relaxing days I’ve had in a while.
Ibiza was such a relaxing weekend getaway for us, minus the fact that I sprained my ankle trying to find wifi since our Airbnb didn’t have any, but we’re not going to talk about that.
Our trip to Spain was spectacular. Spain is one of those countries I will always make a point of going back to. I love the people so much and the food is always amazing. Most of my fondest memories abroad involve Spain in one form or another and I am constantly reminded why whenever I return.
The next time I’m in Europe, Spain will definitely be making another appearance in my itinerary. Now we are off to the most anticipated country, Portugal and I absolutely CANNOT wait!