SPAIN TRAVEL GUIDE CONTENTS
At a Glance
Known as the land of siestas, fiestas, and flamenco, there’s no wonder why Spain is one of the top most visited countries in the world. Full of diverse landscapes, incredible cuisine and a unique appreciation for the slow pace of life, this is one country that charms every kind of traveler and keeps them coming back for more year after year.
Whether you’re visiting the luscious north, the vibrant cities or the south coast, you can be sure that you’ll come across plenty of social Spaniards, great music, and incredible food!
Composed of the mainland plus the Balearic Isles and Canaries, it is one of the sunniest places in Europe. Boasting around 5000 km of coastlines and huge expanses of mountain ranges, Spain is the ideal place for guaranteed great weather plus all the hiking, climbing and water sports you can dream off.
From relaxing on a beach with a pitcher of sangria to trekking the rivers and canyoning in the mountains, Spain’s great range of adventures suite all types of travelers.
Spain Quick Information
Electricity Socket: 230V AC electricity. Power outlets are usually two-prong round sockets. Be sure to pack a universal travel adaptor so you can still use all your electronic gadgets.
Visa: Visas are not required for stays up to 90 days for both EU and non-EU citizens. However, citizens from EU countries that are not part of the Schengen agreement and non-EU citizens need to carry a valid Schengen visa to be able to enter Spain.
If you want to stay longer in Spain or work there, you will need to apply for a student or work and residency visa which can be more difficult. Make sure to look into this properly and in advance before your travels if you know you will be staying longer as the laws are constantly changing.
Safety: Spain is one of the safest places to visit in Europe with very little serious crime, so the majority of travelers shouldn’t come across any major issues. With that being said, however, as Spain is a very tourist heavy country, the main cities like Madrid and Barcelona are a target for pickpockets and scammers so it is always important to make sure you have travel insurance.
Our travel insurance recommendation is Safety Wing due to their extensive coverage and great monthly plans.
With petty theft being such a serious problem in touristic places, always remember to be vigilant, keep your belongings safe and don’t ever do something that someone asks if it doesn’t sound or feel right.
Language: English is very prevalent in Spain with many people speaking good English in the major tourist cities (Barcelona, Madrid, Malaga, and Seville) and it is especially widely spoken in the South and at major coastal resorts. In less touristic places, and particularly inland towns or villages, you will find fewer people who speak English and more local dialects such as Catalan or Andaluz.
Although you may not find English everywhere, the Spanish people are known for their enthusiasm for their language. If you are armed with a few useful phrases and you try to communicate with them as much as you can, they will really appreciate it and be more than happy to help you with any problems you may have.
Transportation in Spain: Spain is pretty well connected via high-speed trains which means that you can easily get from one point to the next. With that being said, the best way to travel around Spain in our opinion is to rent a car.
Not only will you have the freedom to go wherever you want to but it will also allow you to explore smaller less known places. Car rental in Spain, especially if you are traveling as a couple or a group can be super affordable which is also another reason why we recommend this.
Spain Travel Tips
Best Time to Go
While you can visit Spain all year round, most travelers tend to visit in the Summer months to soak up that amazing Mediterranean sun! The only problem with this, however, is that it leads to crowded areas, especially along the coast. The best time to go is from April to October.
Spain’s weather can be split into three parts:
- Cold/Rainy (Nov-Feb)
- Cool/Clear (Mar-May, Sep & Oct)
- Hot/Dry (Jun-Aug)
Check out our month-by-month breakdown on the best time to visit Spain.
If traveling for more than 2 weeks, I’d consider getting a pre-paid traveling debit card! We loaded up a card with the majority of our Euros and carried just enough cash to use if certain places had a minimum spend or if a machine charged us to withdraw. All shops and restaurants we have been to so far have accepted card so we only tend to carry enough cash for transport or if a card machine is broken.
In terms of budget, with so many different types of travel, it is difficult to suggest a daily budget. However, from our experience, we know that it is possible to travel around Spain for as little as $60-80 a day depending on what accommodation you prefer as that will take up the bulk of your budget.
Food is relatively inexpensive, especially when you eat at local restaurants, and the transport in Spain is very cheap and very efficient. Here is a rough cost of basic commodities:
Budget: Dorm €20-30 ($25-35) / Private €55-65 ($65-75)
Mid-Range: €65 – 140 ($75-165)
Splurge: €150+ ($180+)
Food (Typical Meal For One)
Self-catering / lunch menú del día: €10-15 ($12-18)
Local Restaurant: €20-40 ($25-50)
Fine dining: €150+ ($175+)
City Metro / Bus: €1-3 ($1-4)
Overnight Bus: ~€18 (~$22)
Regional Trains: €15-45 ($18-55)
High-speed Trains: €50-140 ($60-165)
Taxis: €10+ ($12+)
What to Pack for Spain
For Spain, you can get away with just packing Summer clothes during the Summertime, however, it is worth packing other items that you can use to layer if it does get cold and if you are doing activities that will take you up into the mountains.
Every time I travel around Europe, I make sure I pack with me a travel scarf, a light cardigan, as well as a collapsible water bottle. You can drink the tap water in most places so make sure you pack a container with you.
One thing that a lot of people forget is a high-quality day bag! When walking around cities, a light backpack or satchel-style body bag is best.
In other seasons, you will need a variety of clothes to suit all weather conditions. For a complete guide on what to pack for Europe, check out our full article.
Best Things to Do in Spain
Spain is probably one of our favorite places on earth. We love immersing ourselves in the relaxed culture, using the language and trying all kinds of delicious new food! That’s what led us to coming out here for two months to work and live.
Although we haven’t been out here for that long yet, staying in a non-tourist location has really made us live like a local and observe how different life is here.
Hopefully, this in-depth guide on the best things to do around Spain will equip you with the knowledge on what to do during your time in this fantastic country.
To help you get the most of your Spain trip, we’ve put together a list of the best places to visit to Spain. Read on for some of our top recommendations on things to do in Spain!
Be Enchanted by Beautiful Barcelona
There are many reasons that travelers flock to the enchanting city of Barcelona, and one of them has to do with the fascinating blend of ancient architectural treasures alongside contemporary masterpieces. As well as truly iconic sights such as Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia, Barcelona also captures our hearts through its culture.
Probably Spain’s most famous city and one of the best that Europe has to offer, Barcelona is a perfect cultural and adventure hot spot. From its famous Art Nouveau architecture and museums, internationally acclaimed Football club and traditional tapas and vermouth bars to its bustling nightlife, there is something for everyone in this great city that will make you fall head over heels.
Boasting a world-class drinking and dining scene, spend a few days here and you’ll soon be eating at midnight and partying into the early hours of the morning with the locals! Visiting Barcelona and indulging in its awesome culture is definitely one of our top bucket list items in Spain.
After spending a month living in Barcelona, we’ve absolutely fallen in love with the city. Apart from the incredible food, it’s close proximity to the beach and nature also gives it plus points!
Insider Tip: Barcelona gets BUSY so it’s best to plan ahead. Tickets to places like the Sagrada Familia need to be bought in advance so keep this in mind. Listed below are some of our top recommendations.
Recommended Barcelona Tours
- Sagrada Familia Small Group Tour: Fast track the line and get a private small group tour of Antonio Gaudi’s best creation. While we usually tend to explore places on our own, to understand the amount of work that has gone into building this church, we highly recommend getting a guided tour. If you don’t want to get a guide, you can also just book tickets ahead of time.
- Casa Mila Skip the Line + Audio Guide: Casa Mila along with Park Guell are must visits in Barcelona. Skip the long line by booking tickets in advance.
- Costa Brava Snorkeling and Kayaking: If you want to spend some time in the outdoors, a trip to Costa Brava is a must! Enjoy the day swimming and kayaking in the beautiful clear waters with this 8-hour day trip.
- Barcelona Bike Tour: Discover the highlights of the city with this guided city bike tour. It’s a great way to see the place and squeeze in some exercise!
Foodies, don’t forget to check out our picks for the best Barcelona food tours!
If you’ve got some extra time in Barcelona and are not sure what to do, how about taking a day trip? Check out our recommendations for the best day trips from Barcelona and get inspired!
Don’t miss out on the charms of Andalusia while you’re in Spain!
If you want to explore an ancient Moorish city, Granada is the place to go. Step into history and wander the breathtaking streets of Alhambra, Granada’s old palace, and learn about the incredible past that this one destination has witnessed. Boy, if these walls could talk! Visiting Granada is definitely one of the best things to do in Andalusia.
Another must-visit city in this region is Seville. Also rich in Moorish heritage, Seville has a vibrant energy that draws in visitors from all over the world. From the ornate Real Alcázar and Seville Cathedral to the impressive Plaza de España, there’s much to see and do in Seville. Foodies, don’t miss out on the joy of taking a food tour in Seville!
And while you’re here, make a stop in the small but fascinating town of Córdoba. The Mezquita is the crown jewel of the town, and its unique history and architecture is reason enough to visit Córdoba on a day trip. But there are other awesome things to do in Córdoba such as exploring the Old Town and visiting the Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos.
Tarifa, Spain is another city within Andalusia worth visiting. Known as the Spanish city closest to Africa, Tarifa is a mecca for adventure junkies and sports enthusiasts.
Get Lost in Vibrant Madrid
Although Barcelona is a big tourist city to hit when in Spain, the capital is just as beguiling. Full of energy that oozes down every street, Madrid is one city that is alive and vibrant 24/7 – especially when it comes to midnight! Famous for its museums, amazing cuisine, and non-stop nightlife, Madrid is one city that you will find yourself being swept along soaking up the culture at every turn.
For a full guide to making the most of the city, see our city break guide featuring where to stay, what to eat, and more. We’ve also put together a suggested three-day Madrid itinerary that covers everything you should do on a first-time visit.
Known as The Forum, Spain’s capital city sits proudly on the banks of the Manzanares River in the heart of the country. Home to the Spanish government and monarchy, the city overflows with architecture, sculpture and green spaces so you can take things easily, the Spanish way.
Madrid is also a great city for adventure, where you can cycle around to see the sites or travel slightly further out for outdoor activities like paddle boarding, climbing and paragliding. Check out our recommendations for all the best things to do in Madrid!
Insider Tip: Similar to Barcelona, Madrid is a popular city so it’s best that you book a few things in advance. Here are our top recommendations on tours and things to do.
- Skip-the-Line Prado Museum: Deemed as one of Madrid’s top attractions, don’t spend your day queueing up. Instead, buy tickets ahead.
- Flamenco Show: No trip to Madrid would be complete without drinking sangria while watching a Flamenco show which is why we highly recommend this tour.
- Toledo and Segovia Day Tour: If there are two day tours that I suggest you go on, it is to these two places. My trip there was nothing short of spectacular.
- Madrid is a great base for some awesome day trips. Aside from Toledo and Segovia, here are the best day trips from Madrid that you should consider adding to your itinerary.
Other Popular Cities in Spain to Check Out
While the aforementioned duo are the creme de la creme (or whatever that is in Spanish), there are many other cities to enjoy too.
- Alicante a beautiful town by Costa del Sol that is known for its beautiful coast line.
- Salamanca is a beautiful historic town with huge amounts of character, perfect for a slow paced visit to soak up the true Spanish culture.
- Valencia on the Costa Blanca is a beautiful city full of greenery and with an amazing coastline, not to mention the incredible Albufera National Park right on its doorstep.
- Bilbao on Spain’s northern coast offers a quaint old town set between two stunning mountain ranges. It’s Basque heritage offers something a little unique, not seen in Spain’s other major locations.
- Menorca is one of Spain’s most popular destinations located in the Balearic Islands frequented by many.
Challenge Yourself with El Camino de Santiago
Stretching for 800 km from the French border to Santiago de Compostela in North-Western Spain, El Camino de Santiago (The Way of Saint James) is a challenge that many travelers take on while visiting Spain.
This popular pilgrimage takes a month to complete, a lot of determination and dedication, and is supposed to be one of the most inspiring and enlightening experiences that you can ever have. Walking this popular route definitely makes it on our top adventure holidays in Spain list.
You can opt to do this activity independently or with a group. If you choose to do the later, we recommend G Adventures.
While the Camino is arguably the most well-known hike in Spain, it’s not the only one. Whether it’s Montserrat, Picos de Europa, Caminito del Rey, or Mount Teide on Tenerife, hiking in Spain is a must for outdoor lovers!
Get Adventurous in Spain
While most people associate Spain with cities and culture, for those that want some adventure, Spain has so many incredible activities available. Listed below are just a few of our recommended experiences for those that want some thrill and adventure.
- Highest Bungy Jump in Spain: If you’re near Barcelona, you can try out the highest bungy jump in the country for an experience of a lifetime.
- Scenic Helicopter Ride: Want a different way of going around a city? This super affordable helicopter tour around Barcelona offers incredible views of the city. Check out our Adventure Seeker review of this activity to see what it’s really like!
- Tandem Skydiving in Madrid: If you’re looking for a thrill of a lifetime, check out the tandem skydive in Madrid. We’ve gone skydiving over three times now and love the entire experience.
- Bridge Jumping in Barcelona: Jumping out of a plane a bit too much for you? How about bridge jumping instead? Read our Review of Jumping of a Bridge in Barcelona to see what it’s all about!
- Parasailing in Barcelona: Calling all beach-lovers! Get a thrill by the seaside by going parasailing. See our Barcelona parasailing review to learn more.
Enjoy the Festivals and Celebrations
We love coming across local festivals when we travel and sometimes even travel specifically to a place when we know an epic event is going on. In Spain, they have great celebrations such as the Running of the Bulls (held in July in Pamplona) and La Tomatina (held on the last Wednesday in August in Buñol).
Even if you don’t want to actively run away from the bulls (as that is quite dangerous) or throw tomatoes at thousands of other people, you can still go to the events to enjoy some great food and drink and an even better atmosphere!
Want to learn more about Spain’s awesome festivals? We’ve got you covered with our list of top Spain festivals.
Attend a Cooking Class
When we were in Barcelona, one of the best things we did was attend a paella class! It was honestly one of our favorite experiences, mainly due to the hosts, the guys from The Paella Club. Over an afternoon, we learned how to make paella with free-flowing cava and wine to keep us fueled through the night! It was an awesome experience that I highly recommend.
Click here to read our full break down of the BEST Barcelona Food Tours or simply check out a few of our recommended tours.
- Paella Cooking Experience & Boqueria Market Tour
- Cook With Grandma: Market Tour & Cooking Class
- Markets Tour with a Chef
- Night Tapas in Gaudi Area
Lounge on Some of the Best Beaches
With such amazing weather, of course, beaches are going to be top of the list of things to do while in Spain! The only question is where? The Costa del Sol beaches come to mind when searching for that ideal laid-back sloth-life in the sun. Plus it has some of the best seafood and great nightlife!
While you’re along the coast, be sure to stop by Málaga. You can also opt to visit the coastal town of Nerja to combine some hiking, sightseeing, and culture. Make a pitstop to see the white washed village of Frigiliana.
In the southern part of Spain, you could even venture to the Canary Islands to relax or to take up some pretty epic island adventure sports. Check out Gran Canaria, Tenerife, Lanzarote, or Fuerteventura for some island vibes all-year round!
For a mix of city and beach life, a visit to Valencia should be on your list.
How about up north? If you’re visiting in the summer, put San Sebastian on your itinerary. It has the most Michelin starred restaurants per capita and is literally foodie heaven!
Check out our list of the ten best beaches in Spain, which can help you decide which beautiful beach(es) to visit on your trip! If you want to try out your luck in surfing, check out our article on the best surf spots in Spain or if you walk something calmer, read about the best paddle boarding in Europe.
Tours Around Spain
If you prefer traveling with a group tour, we highly recommend G Adventures. They are a super reputable company and have been running tours all over the world. We particularly love this National Geographic Tour of Northern Spain taking you through the best highlights. The reason why we love G Adventures is because they have loads of different tours that cater to different age groups. They have classic tours, tours for 18-30 year olds, and even tours that take you to different countries around the region, allowing you to explore a little bit of everything.
If traveling by yourself isn’t your jam, check out the variety of tours that G Adventures has and the details and dates of each trip. We suggest using the filters in the sidebar to help you find a tour that fits your travel dates and travel style.
What to Eat in Spain
Spain is home to the amazing Mediterranean cuisine so you can get your fill of the freshest seafood, zingy sangria, and tapas packed with flavor anywhere! If you’re only passing through Spain on your travels, these are the dishes you simply can’t leave without trying.
PS: For a full guide on the deliciousness that is Spanish food, read our guide on what to eat in Spain!
You can’t go to Spain without having a mouthwatering plate of paella. Whether you have Paella Valenciana (rice with vegetables, chicken, duck, and rabbit), Seafood Paella or Paella Mixta (free-style mixture with rice), trust us when we say that you won’t be disappointed, especially if you have a jug of sangria or two as well!
This simple omelet is a very traditional Spanish dish always consisting of potatoes, eggs, onion, salt and pepper, and it is incredible! We don’t know what they do to it, but the fact that it is the most common dish in the country goes to show just how delicious it is.
Okay, tapas may not be A dish, but it is a bunch of little dishes which are all just as amazing as the next! The most popular plates (and ones you have to try) are Gambas Ajillo (garlic prawns), Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), Calamari a la Plancha (grilled calamari) and Morcilla (blood sausage).
You haven’t tasted ham before until you’ve had some of the best Jamón in Spain. Jamón ibérico, in particular, is a delicious cured ham that comes from acorn-fed pigs to give it a rich and delicious flavor. You’ll find some of the best in Madrid!
If you have a sweet tooth, this creamy dessert will hit all the right spots! A custard dessert infused with lemon rind and cinnamon and served cold, this popular after dinner treat is a must-try, especially while in Barcelona.
Places to Stay in Spain
The options for accommodation in Spain are endless and are relatively cheap compared to other Western European countries, with dorms and camping being your cheapest option. Hostels, budget hotels, and luxury villas are common all around Spain with Airbnb and shared accommodation also being a very popular option.
If you’re traveling during peak season or holidays, it is best to book your accommodations in advance. We recommend checking sites like Booking.com. To help you out in figuring out the best places to stay in Spain, here are our personal suggestions on where to stay.
Books to Read When Traveling Spain
If you’re looking for some fun reads for your trip to Spain, here are some of my favorite books.Rick Steves Spain Guide
When it comes to Europe, Rick Steves always has great recommendations and insider tips which is why we love his guides.Grape, Olive, Pig
If you want an insight into Spanish culture and cuisine, check out this beautiful book whose photos alone makes you want to book a ticket to Spain asap!The Pilgrimage
This popular read by Paolo Coehlo talks all about his journey as he walks the infamous Santiago de Compostela road.