I headed back to Spain this summer visiting Madrid and Barcelona with my family. Since I studied Spanish throughout high school and university I was excited to be back in a country where I could speak the language and get some practice. In addition Spain has beautiful architecture, great weather and delicious food.
In Madrid we booked an Airbnb right next to Puerta del Sol which allowed us to walk to pretty much all of the tourist destinations around the city. The first day we took a walking tour which was a great way to orient ourselves to the city, then we checked out the Cathedral and Palace a little more closely.
Travel Tip: Taking a walking tour on your first day in a new city can be a great way to learn about the history and architecture of the city. You can also get ideas for where to visit and eat during the rest of your stay from your tour guide.
Museums- Madrid is home to two of the best art museums in Europe: Museo del Prado and the Reina Sofia. I was able to visit the Museo del Prado for free during the free hours in the evening. Although I was a little rushed in viewing the art before closing time it was a great way to save money.
Travel Tip: For free admission to the Prado Museum visit Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm to 8pm, or Sundays from 5pm to 8pm. For free admission to the Reina Sofia Museum visit Monday to Friday from 7pm to 9pm, Saturday from 2.30pm to 9pm, or Sunday from 10am to 2.30pm.
We also visited two beautiful parks: Parque del Buen Retiro and Parque del Oeste. Buen Retiro Park has many beautiful sculptures and monuments as well as a boating lake. Parque del Oeste is home to the Templo de Debod, an Egyptian temple which once stood in the village of Debod but today can be found in Madrid. This piece of Egpytian history was donated to Spain as a thank you after Spanish engineers helped the Egptian government move the monument and prevent it from being destroyed by a new dam. The park has stunning views of city as well.
When in Spain you must try Churros so we opted to try them at Chocolatería San Ginés a tourist and local favorite alike.
This was my second time in Barcelona so I played tour guide to my family and also hit up some of the spots that I missed on my last trip (see blog post).
Gaudi- Many of the main attractions in Barcelona were created by eccentric architect Antoni Gaudi. His works have Gaudí’s works have a highly individualized and distinctive style and are definitely worth checking out even though they can be quite expensive for the budget traveler. I visited the Sagrada Familia, Gaudi’s masterpiece Cathedral which still has eight years left in construction, but has definitely made significant progress since I saw it two years ago. This time I also ventured inside of Casa Batlo, a whimsical apartment building that gives visitors another perspective of Gaudi’s imagination. Although a little out of the way, Park Guell is another must Gaudi creation and one of the most popular Instagram locations in Barcelona.
Travel Tip: Reserve tickets for Park Guell and Sagrada Familia in advance. During peak tourist seasons tickets all time slots can get full up to two days ahead.
Cerveseria Catalana was the best Tapas place I visited in Spain by far. This place was highly recommended to me by friends and a yelp favorite as well. If you’re in Barcelona you should definitely check it out and try the huevos cabreados!
About an hour’s journey from Barcelona’s Placa d’Espanya station, this monastery perched on breathtaking serrated mountains this monastery was the perfect day trip away from the city. I bought the combined ticket which included a journey on the R5 and the Aeri cable car up to the Monastery. There is also a funicular but we opted for the cable car because it provided some breathtaking views. We took one of the shorter hiking trails to Santa Cova which took about 1.5 hours because the weather was a little stormy, but if we had more time I would have loved to go on some of the longer and more challenging trails.