So after getting several emails that said this: I am going to Spain too! Where do you recommend going? I decided to just map out a great 5 Day Itinerary that would work perfectly with a week vacation. You can easily do two of Spain’s main cities in one week. You just have to pick Madrid, Barcelona or Seville. Here is the Perfect Itinerary for a 5 Day trip to Madrid and Barcelona. You can thank me when you get home! Bon voyage!
Madrid Day ONE: Arrive early morning at Madrid Airport (most likely on overnight flight from US) *Iberia often has the cheapest ticket
Check-in to hotel: Westin Palace Madrid, get map from concierge (say hello to Ricardo), drop bags and head for long lunch of sangria and tapas on Plaza Santa Ana (5 Minute Walk uphill). So many options on the plaza that are all amazing…sit outside with heat lamps and watch the world go by as you order as little or as much tapas as your appetite dictates and enjoy a pitcher of Sangria (I hope you are not by yourself!). Spend the afternoon exploring the streets surrounding the Plaza Santa Ann and Plaza Angel. *You can read more about my stay at the Westin Palace here.
Head back to hotel. If you must take SHORT nap and get ready for dinner which is not until 9 or 10PM. Since you’ll be jet lagged you want to avoid going to bed until later but if you plan on doing a traditional Spanish dinner you are going to need a short nap.
Dinner: La Mucca – great fun trendy tapas-fusion (or do what the locals do and have some tapas at one spot and then move on to another tapas spot that looks good.)
Late night drink: Rooftop Melia Hotel
Madrid Day TWO:
Wake up grab breakfast and coffee and get ready to hit El Prado…one of the world’s largest art museums and get lost among the great Goya art. Take as much time as you want….everyone enjoys art at different speeds so depending on who you are this could take all day or just a few hours.
Late Lunch: Head down the Gran Via for shopping stopping at the Plaza Major…one of the centers of Spanish History. Then head directly outside to Mercado de San Miguel….for an afternoon of tapas tasting, sangria, cervesa, rioja or whatever your heart desires. This super-fun marketplace allows you to taste a little everything for about 3-5 euros each. Fantastic way to see what kind of tapas you really like and a great introduction to Spanish small plates.
Night: Head to Cafe Centrale in Plaza Angel for some late night jazz, flamenco or Spanish guitar. You can check their schedule here. Or check the nightly flamenco shows off of Plaza Santa Ana.
Madrid Day THREE: Take train to Toledo for all daysightseeing and lunch OR Just move on to Barcelona.
Barcelona Day THREE: Take high speed train to Barcelona (approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes)
Check in to Daily Flats Barcelona….or Hotel 1898 ** my two recommendations based on your budget. Daily Flats is like renting an apartment in a great neighborhood. Amazing staff and great location. Meanwhile Hotel 1898 is incredible and located directly on Las Ramblas. Spend the rest of the afternoon strolling Las Ramblas and the maze of streets off of it enjoying the beauty of Barcelona, the food and of course the shopping.
Take siesta before late dinner and drinks….highly recommend the rooftop of Hotel 1898 for drinks and tapas and a beautiful view of all of Barcelona.
Barcelona Day FOUR: Gaudi, Gaudi, and Gaudi
Grab your map and head to two of the best locations for Gaudi architecture viewing. La Pedrera or Parc Guell. This will be enough to get a sense of the genius that was Gaudi. This could take all day or half a day depending if you include Pard Guell which is a 45 minute bus ride on Bus 24. 2. 15 euros. It is beautiful and a totally different view of Barcelona.
Dinner recommendation: La Consentida Cerverseria
Barcelona Day FIVE:
After grabbing coffee head to La Sagrada Familia first thing in the morning. The beautiful “unfinished” Cathedral is one of the most iconic landmarks in Barcelona and another example of Gaudi’s handiwork. Buy your ticket online before you go….and skip the line when you get there. We did this and were SO glad we did. If you don’t it’s tempting to avoid going in and not wait in line but the inside is THE best part and well worth it.
Chart your course back to Las Ramblas and head to lunch. Leave the rest of the afternoon for seeing the waterfront area of Barcelona. Consider taking a sightseeing boat of Barcelona harbor or spend the afternoon shopping Las Ramblas and surrounding meandering streets.
Evening: Have a drink at the W Barcelona; the architecture of this renowned and gorgeous hotel plus the waterfront location make it extremely memorable.
Dinner suggestion: El Canota
Wake up next day and head to airport. You’re going home!! Two things: if you decide to extend your stay in Barcelona, I really loved the seaside town Sitges a short train ride from Barcelona. A true Artist’s town, Sitges has great beaches and seaside restaurants and is well worth the trip. I did it as a day trip and came back to Barcelona to sleep. Also – if you have more time consider Seville for your 6th and 7th day. More on my trip to Seville here.