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  • Jennifer

One Month in Spain: 5 Cities & Favorite Things to Do

Updated: Feb 25

We arrived in Madrid for an epic road trip that would take us to five cities in Spain, with three weeks in Portugal in between and a few days in Gibraltar. After a summer that was mostly cool and rainy, the sunny blue skies and heat of Spain were just what we needed! On our way we'd go from Madrid to Granada, Seville, Salamanca, and, finally, Toledo before heading back from Madrid to fly to Dubai.


As the capital and most populous city in Spain, we had lots to explore, taste, and enjoy...starting with the sites and scenes right outside the door of our apartment. We were a short walk to so much, including food markets, a palace, museums, and so many small restaurants and bars we knew we'd be eating and drinking well. Here are some of our favorite things to do in this capital city.

San Miguel Market was our first stop. After hearing so much about the tapas in Madrid we needed to experience it for ourselves! Not only is the food here next level, the building itself is a cast-iron and windowed gem. It dates back to 1916, when it was just a local market, but today it is a gourmet market filled with tapas prepared with fresh fish and seafood from the Galician coast as well as hams and cheeses and desserts.

There are more than 30 stands to choose from and we went back several times to make sure we got to most of them! Best of all, you never need to eat the same thing twice! Viva variety!

Even for people who weren't huge fans of tapas before visiting (that would be us), we quickly learned to love these small, fresh bites and this one of a kind experience. It is crowded, so snagging a spot to sit can be tough, but worth it.

Royal Palace of Madrid. We love a good palace, and the Royal Palace of Madrid is definitely one to see! It's actually part of an entire complex of buildings that includes gardens, a monastery, a chapel, and the royal palace, which is the largest in Western Europe and one of the largest in the world. All of these are gorgeous and worth visiting, especially because it is one of the few residences of a Head of State that is open to the public.

Parque del Buen Retiro, or garden of the pleasant retreat, is a 300-acre park filled with lakes, gardens and even a crystal palace. You can wander for hours enjoying the more than 4,000 roses and statues and fountains in a space that once housed Felipe IV's palace - lucky guy! This was a great way to enjoy some shade in the 100+ degree weather we experienced in August, and it feels like a refuge in a city of constant activity. Absolutely take a walk here for a break from the bustle of Madrid.

The Museo Nacional del Prado is the most famous museum in Madrid, and for good reason. With more than 7,600 paintings and 1,000 sculptures, you can see the some of the world's greatest works of art, including Bosch's "The Garden of Earthly Delights" and El Greco's "The Nobelman with Hand on His Chest." The Prado museum is a great place to stop after visiting Parque del Buen Retiro, it's just a short walk and the air conditioning is a wonderful relief in the heat!

Jack's Library isn't a library at all. It's one of the most amazing speakeasies we've ever visited. We love a good secret bar and Jack's Library didn't disappoint, with delicious cocktails and an atmosphere that made us wish we had a place like this everywhere we traveled. The bar isn't easy to find, in fact it's hidden behind a flower shop storefront, which stumped us for a good five minutes as we walked back and forth looking for our destination. Finally, we rang the flower shop doorbell and needed to enter a code we were provided when we made our reservation. Sounds easy enough, except Joe (presuming we would just walk right in) never bothered to read the confirmation email that provided all the secret details on how to access this hidden gem. After some awkward moments through an intercom with our host, we finally gained access to hidden doors that opened by removing special books in a bookshelf before we made it inside. It was like stepping back in time to a 16th century British library, with leather sofas, dim lighting and eclectic decor. Drinks are named after artists and writers, and we wish we could show you how special this place is but there are no phones or photos allowed! But you can find recipes for some of the drinks we had at Worldwide.Cocktails, just scroll to the image of the sign for Bonsai Florist Plants & Flowers.

A tapas crawl. Since we'd discovered the joys of tapas we decided to create our own tapas crawl to some of the best tapas bars in the city. After extensive research we mapped out a route to hit Casa Toni, La Casa del Abuelo, Bar la Campana, Majaderitos Cafe, and Casa Baranda. Well, we weren't the only ones seeking tapas! Every bar was packed and had a line. So much for our great idea! We found our way to an empty Irish bar and traded sangria for some cold Guinness. Still, this is a great idea if you have the patience and timing to get it right!

Granada, Spain

A four-hour drive south of Madrid, there really is one reason to visit Granada, and it's a big one - The Alhambra!

The Alhambra. This 13th century complex of palaces and fortresses is one of the most iconic examples of impeccably preserved Islamic architecture and is one of the most visited sites in Andalusia, Spain. The entire complex is gorgeous and fascinating, and when you leave the buildings to climb further up the site you get a spectacular view of Granada below. While the city is lovely, the Alhambra really is the big draw to visit here and it is definitely worth the hours of time you can spend here (just make sure you get your tickets in advance).

Real Monasterio de San Jeronimo is a beautiful site from the 1500s and is home to the Order of St. Jerome and today is occupied by the community of Hieronymite mothers. There are ten churches in Granada, and during our time there it seemed as if there was a wedding at every single one! In Granada, we stayed at the Palacio de Los Pato, a renovated 19th century palace, which made our time here as much a vacation as an immersion into the city's rich history.

Seville, Spain

Seville is the capital of the Andalusian region of Spain. The architecture and vibe of this city are entrancing, which is probably why it's a favorite filming location (Star Wars and Game of Thrones have both filmed here). Here are our favorite things from our time in this beautiful city.

The Cathedral of St. Mary of the See (Seville Cathedral), is the world's largest gothic cathedral and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is huge! The tomb of Christopher Columbus is located in the cathedral, and, of course, while here we had to climb the bell tower, which is actually pretty easy because it is mostly ramps (for donkeys in the old days) with 17 steps at the top. This is a great way to get a bird's-eye view of the city.

Plaza de toros de Sevilla is where the strong-stomached go to watch bull fights. Although we didn't want to see a bull fight, we were excited to see an actual bull ring and learn about this sport that is embedded in Spanish culture and history. We not only got to go inside the ring, we also spent time in the extensive exhibit about famous matadors and the evolution of the sport. Definitely worth a visit even if you don't want to see a bullfight.

The Plaza de España, located in the Parque de Maria Luisa, was built for the Ibero-American Exposition World's Fair in 1929. Although there isn't much going on here (today the buildings are used for government administration), the plaza is gorgeous! The semi-circular buildings surround water with gondolas, and you can see 52 benches with mosaic tiles designed to depict the 52 Spanish provinces.

Flamenco dancing was one of the "must sees" for us in Seville, and it didn't disappoint! We decided to do a dinner/dancing performance, which meant that we got to enjoy some delicious food while marveling at the dancers and musicians. Of all of the things we did in Seville, this was our favorite. The energy and passion the performers brought to the show was out of this world. If there is one thing you absolutely have to do, this is it!!

Salamanca, Spain

After crossing over into Portugal for three weeks, we re-entered northwestern Spain with a stop in Salamanca, part of the Castile and León region. This is a beautiful ancient city that dates back 2700 years and is home to the oldest university in Spain. It is a lovely city to spend a few days, which is plenty of time to see all of the sites. Our hotel, Palacio de San Esteban, was the former San Esteban Salesian Convent and perfectly located to walk everywhere - and the pool looking up to the cathedral was a bonus!

Salamanca Cathedral is by far the number one place to visit. It is actually two cathedrals - the old and the new - that are are connected and each is stunning in its own way. The new cathedral is huge and both are filled with art, but one of the coolest ways to appreciate the cathedral was with the interactive virtual reality experience room. We just put on some headsets and found ourselves flying around in the sky seeing the cathedral from above, it was awesome!

Plaza Mayor, is the central square and is surrounded by 88 porticoed arches with beautiful carvings of famous people. Pick one of the cafes or restaurants and people watch under the Spanish sun. The day we were there we stumbled upon a performance by local dancers, lucky us!! We got to see a free performance and enjoy local music and dance.

Like most of Spain, there is no shortage of delicious food in Salamanca, and we enjoyed an amazing meal at Oroveijo, a gorgeous restaurant with equally stellar food. We ate in the barrel-shaped stone cellar, which is more than 300 years old and was the home of the 17th century poet Juan Meléndez Valdés. You can see the beef steak tartare with Dijon mustard and fried tomato wonton! It was incredible!

Toledo, Spain

Our final stop in Spain was the ancient walled city of Toledo. Known as the city of three cultures because of its influence from Christians, Jews, and Muslims, Toledo is set on a hill above the Tagus river.

There are three 13th century gothic cathedrals in the city, and we did visit the largest, Toledo Cathedral, but at this point we'd seen so many churches we were ready for something different. And, boy, did we find it!

MUSEO CROMÁTICA is a museum that blends, art, music...and creative cocktails! Located in one of the oldest and most historic buildings in Toledo, the Museo Cromatica is filled with art by artists that use musical instruments as canvases - guitars, violins, saxophones, and more. It was unlike anything we've ever seen before.

The museum also happens to contain a small creative craft cocktail bar with award-winning mixologists. This is more than just an art gallery or museum; it is a fully immersive experience for the senses! The day we visited there was live music in the bar by a super talented guitarist from Argentina, and it was incredible - an intimate and completely unique afternoon. You can explore the recipes of the cocktails we enjoyed at Worldwide.Cocktails. If you can only do one thing in Toledo, this should be it.

Something we didn't expect in Toledo...weapons. We could not get over the number of stores selling swords, and that's when we learned that for thousands of years Toledo has been a center of sword making - all the way back to the Roman Empire.

Apparently, swords from Toledo were revered for their strength and quality - we guess that explains it! Although we're still not sure how you explain the six foot sword in your luggage to the customers officer.

There are lovely neighborhoods to stroll in Toledo, including the Jewish Quarter and the area around the Alcázar fortress, as well at the Greco Museum for all the El Greco fans out there (we went, but after visiting the Prado in Madrid this felt a little underwhelming). And, although they say to take a taxi across the river to get an amazing panoramic view of the city, the weather was beautiful so we walked to the Mirador del Valle to see the city in its entirety.

As our month in Spain came to an end it was fitting that we experienced one of our favorite things - an unexpected local ritual. We noticed lots of noise outside our balcony and looked out to see people lining up and the sound of music making its way toward us.

We ran downstairs in time to experience a religious procession with hundreds of people celebrating with instruments and candles and songs as they walked through the city toward the cathedral. So cool! And a perfect last night in this incredible country!

Spain was hot (finally), delicious, picturesque, and filled with sights, sounds, and tastes we will never forget. While these five cities were just a few of what Spain has to offer, we feel like our time here gave us an appreciation for the history of this country and its people. We'll be back to explore other cities and regions, but adiós for now, Spain!

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Enjoy a taste of our travels with drink recipes on Instagram - Worldwide.Cocktails..


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