Savour wine and tapas in a sun-dappled cafe by the coast. Soak in the local nightlife to the sound of the flamenco guitar. Stroll through the mosaic-decorated halls of an unfinished masterpiece. This is Spain. And as of yesterday, the sunny jewel in Europe’s mainland is welcoming back fully vaccinated visitors from the UK, EU and North America. With travel at the edge of our fingertips, it seems only fitting that we pull together some of our favourite things to eat, drink, do, and see for an unforgettable first trip to Spain.
Weave your way through mosaic landscapes & Gothic architecture
It’s tough not to be awestruck by the beautiful century-old architecture nestled within the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter. In this labyrinth of cobbled lanes and squares, you’ll discover the remains of the city’s Roman wall, the Jewish quarter, as well as several standout landmarks from as far back as medieval times. Even if you’re a history buff or an architectural expert, the Gothic Quarter is still undoubtedly best experienced through the seasoned hands of a local guide – helping you dive head-first into Barcelona’s cultural timeline.
The first trip to Spain isn’t complete without stepping into the world of Antoni Gaudí either. A colourful combination of Gothic and Art Nouveau styles, the Sagrada Familia is a magnificent – and still unfinished – Roman Catholic basilica which has become iconic to the city’s skyline. Take a few hours to wander around the building and admire the whimsical maze-like landscaping surrounding the church, which has been described simultaneously as “one of the most hideous buildings in the world” by George Orwell, and the “greatest piece of creative architecture” by famed architect Louis Sullivan. We’ll leave it up to you as to which you’ll agree with more!
Celebrate the cultural fiestas and dances of Spain
The Running of the Bulls fiesta in Pampolona is a one-of-a-kind event that sees adrenaline-seeking locals and visitors coming together to run in front of a pack of cattle in the middle of summer. A wild, joyful celebration of life – tinged with real, adrenaline-pumping danger.
If a nine-day bull-running festival doesn’t quite tickle your fancy, however, stroll through the beaten tracks of the city at your own pace and bask in the bustling atmosphere of the second-largest city in the Basque region. After all – there’s plenty here to enjoy. Book-lovers, in particular, will love tracing the steps of Hemingway himself with a cup of coffee at Café Iruña – a one-time haunt of the author.
What’s next? Well, how does getting swept up in the passion and frenzy of a live flamenco dance sound? On your first trip to Spain, spend at least one night soaking in Seville’s nightlife: listening to the flamboyant strums of the guitar, the rhythmic clapping distinctive only to flamenco, and the lilting voices of the singers. A night to remember in the city famous for the dance itself.
Relax on the sun-kissed shores of the Costa del Sol
Feel the sun’s rays warm your shoulders as you stroll along one of Spain’s most famous coastlines. Here, there’s something for everyone. Looking for that golden holiday tan? Sip on a refreshing drink from one of the nearby cafes and bask in the midday sun. More of an adventurous type? Take a short trip to nearby Malaga – a city famed for its hiking spots and art museums. Need a cool down on your trip to Spain? Plenty of open-air beachside restaurants are just waiting to welcome you with open arms. There, you can feast on a cuisine inspired by Spanish, Jewish or Arabic traditions. That’s everything from pescaíto frito – breaded and fried fish – or gazpacho – a cold tomato soup perfect for a sun-beaten day.
And finally… admire world-famous masterpieces in the Spanish capital
Take a guided tour of all Madrid has to offer, starting with the famed Prado Museum on your first trip to Spain. Inside these halls, some of the most striking pieces from a long history of European art are displayed. We’re talking collections from Velazquez himself, Goya’s Black Paintings (as created in the twilight of his life), and Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights. From there, the city is yours to dive into.
Our personal favourite way to end the day, however? Digging into a hot calamari sandwich whilst doing a spot of people watching in Buen Retiro Park. If that doesn’t say la buena vida, what does?
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