Updated for 2020!
An unexpected surprise, that was Spain was for me. A country with a rich history and the most elaborate of architecture, this place had quickly stolen my heart as one of my favorites in the world.
In this post, I am unveiling the perfect one-week itinerary for first-time visitors to Spain. This is based on the same itinerary I have done when I visited Spain for the first time, with updated information for 2018. Enjoy!
|Stays:||Barcelona, Madrid, Seville|
|Ideal Season:||Spring (April, May, June) and Fall (September, October)||Trip Intensity:||★★★☆☆|
|# of Transfers:||4||Total time:||~Approx. 7.5hrs|
|Trip Cost:||~Approx. $1300/per person||Personal Cost:||~Approx. $1000/per person|
|Trip Cost ($USD) include: hotels, trains, tickets
Personal Cost ($USD) include: food, personal spendings
What is a Perfect Week Itinerary? PWI for short, these are 7-full-day itineraries designed to allow you to explore all the trendy sights within a limited schedule without tiring you out (too much). All of my PWIs are extensively researched and personally tried and tested, however, they are written based on my personal opinions and preferences and therefore should be used as a reference only. As much as I try to keep all my itineraries up to date in terms of travel times to the best of my ability, more research and double checking is encouraged on your end before you finalize your own itinerary.
Arrive into Barcelona. Barcelona is a great starting point in Spain, not only is it the largest metropolitan city on the Mediterranean Sea, it is also a city rich in history and art.
Morning to Afternoon: We will begin the day at Palau de la Música Catalana, a concert hall that’s also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Take the guided tour (10:00-15:30, 21,50€pp – buy tickets) if you can, which lasts about 1 hour.
Following the concert hall, we’ll head over to Barri Gotic (Gothic Quarter), the old gothic central in the city of Barcelona. With the many quaint little shops, tapa restaurants, narrow cobblestone roads, and tall buildings, this is an area you can easily spend hours in. Do some shopping here if you want, or just walk around. Plus, fun fact: Picasso lived here from 1895 to 1904.
Be sure to also visit the Las Ramblas while you are in the area, a famous 1.2 km pedestrianized walkway located in the center of Barcelona. There’s not much to do on Las Ramblas itself, as most of the time it is overcrowded with tourists. However, if you are looking for a place to eat, you may just find something interesting at the Mercat de Sant Josep de la Boqueria (Boqueria Market, 8:30-20:30, closed Sundays), which offers a diverse selection of foods.
If you are visiting Barcelona during the Spring to Fall months (March to November)… Cool off from the Mediterranean sun with a dip in the ocean at Platja Nova Icaria (Nova Icaria Beach).
Evening: Have dinner around the area. If the night is young, why not catch a Flamenco show? My recommendation is the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes, it’s a small, intimate venue where you can see the dancers just a few rows away.
Morning: When in Barcelona, one cannot miss the La Sagrada Familia (9:00-20:00, 29€pp with tower access, 15€pp without tower access). Dating back to when construction first began in 1882, and one of Antoni Gaudí’s most famous works, this will definitely be one of the most unique basilicas you’d ever visit. Advanced ticket purchase is highly recommended (get them here: without tower access or with tower access) and be mindful of the fact that you should not be wearing anything that expose your shoulders, knees, or feet.
Afternoon: Your Gaudí adventure continues in the afternoon, but before that, find a place for lunch around the basilica before heading to Park Güell (8:00-21:30, 7,50€pp – buy tickets) for the afternoon. The Park is located a little bit outside of the city, reachable by walking 9 minutes northwest on Carrer de la Marina until you reach Sant Antoni Maria Claret-Lepant, then take the 92 Av. Tibidabo bus to Ctra del Carmel – Parc Güell and you’ll get off right at the entrance of the park (the entire trip is about 30 minutes).
Morning: Visit the Casa Batlló (9:00-22:00, 24,50€pp – buy tickets) for another one of Gaudí’s masterpieces. Remodeled from a previously-built house, the façade of the house is just the tip of the iceburg of the magnificence inside. Then, head over to the Casa Milà (La Pedrera) (9:00-20:30, 22€pp – buy tickets), another modernist building designed by Gaudí. If you are short on time, I would skip the apartment itself and head straight to the roof.
Afternoon: Head back to the hotel to pick up your things. It’s time to bid Barcelona farewell!
Barcelona to Madrid: Take the train from Barcelona Sants to Madrid Atocha (train schedule here), there is no transfer in between and total travel time is about 3 hours.
Evening: Take it easy for the evening, try to stay within the city center as it will be more easily accessible.
Morning: One of the must see’s when you are in Madrid is the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid, 10:00-20:00, 10€pp). Buy your tickets in advance online and allocate about 3 hours for the entire visit.
Afternoon: Madrid is home to an abundance of museums, depending on what your interests are and time, here are a few recommendations to consider. Please check the hours of operation for each ahead of time as they all vary quite a bit.
1. Museo del Prado (15€pp – buy tickets) Spanish national art museum featuring collections dating from the 12th century to early 20th century. Free admissions from Monday to Saturday 18:00-20:00 and Sundays and holidays 17:00-19:00.
3. Museo Sorolla (3€pp) Featuring works of Joaquín Sorolla, the building also used to be the artist’s house. Not only will you see paintings by Sorolla, you’ll also see items from his personal collection like ceramics, pottery, etc. Worth a visit if you enjoy house museums.
4. Museo Cerralbo Another house museum featuring the personal collection of Enrique de Aguilera y Gamboa, Marquis of Cerralbo. Beautiful 19th-century interiors with a wide range of antiques, works of art, and archaeological objects.
5. Museo Arqueológico Nacional (3€pp) The National Archaeological Museum of Spain houses a large collection of objects that belonged to the different cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula and the Mediterranean region.
Madrid to Toledo: Take the train from Madrid Atocha to Toledo (train schedule here), aim to get to Toledo by 10:00 to maximize the day while you are there. Travel time in between Madrid and Toledo is about 30 minutes each way.
Morning to Afternoon: Toledo is a small town, which means you can get from one end to the next within 40 minutes completely on foot.
Once you have arrived in Toledo via the Puente de Alcantara, head towards the Catedral de Toledo. Build in the 13th century, this huge cathedral is one of the greatest gothic structures in Europe. With the complete tour ticket (12,50€pp) you can climb up the Campana Gorda (Big Bell) towel for a panoramic view of the city. Next, visit Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes (10:00-18:45, 2,80€pp) for its striking architecture and attention to detail. My favorite was the Mudejar ceilings and the garden in the middle.
If you have a lot of free time, I would recommend getting the Toledo Tourist Bracelet at the Monastery which will give you entry to 7 different monuments in Toledo for a price of 9€ each.
Late Afternoon: Cross the Puente de San Martín, a 15th century medieval bridge, and walk across and around the outskirts of Toledo to reach the Mirador del Valle vista point. You can get there via the Hop on Hop off buses as well which stops at the spot for about 5 minutes, I personally recommend the walk which takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour from the bridge. Bring a hat and water as it is a steady uphill climb. Check the sunset times beforehand as the best time to see Toledo in its entirety is during the sunset.
Evening: Return to the train station, which is about a 30-minute walk away. Head back to Madrid, please be mindful that the last train departs Toledo at 21:30, arriving back to Madrid at 22:03.
Morning: Wake up bright and early to catch the train to Seville.
Madrid to Seville: Take the train from Madrid Atocha to Seville Santa Justa (train schedule here), travel time is around 2.5 to 3 hours.
Afternoon: After arriving in Seville, check-in to your stay and have lunch in the area. Then, we are going to head straight to the Barrio Santa Cruz neighborhood for Catedral de Sevilla (10€pp), the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. Climb up the 33-floor staircase to the top of the bell tower (Torre Giralda) for a panoramic view of the city, trust me it will be worth it!
It should be around early afternoon after the cathedral. You are not far from Real Alcázar de Sevilla (Royal Alcázar of Seville, 9:30-19:00, 11,50€pp or free on Mondays, online tickets are subject to an additional 1€ fee), so let’s head on over.
The Alcázar is a stunning palace depicting Moorish architecture and it is the oldest royal palace in Europe that’s still in use today. I would highly recommend visiting the palace rooms in addition to purchasing the audio guides. To avoid lineups, purchase your tickets in advance (details here).
Being my favorite city in Spain, there are many things you can do while you are there. Depending on your availability, the following are some recommended sights:
1. Plaza de Espana A stunning plaza built from the early 1900s. Be sure to also visit the nearby park, Parque de Maria Luisa for a quiet stroll amidst the water fountains, greenery, and Regionalism architecture.
2. Iglesia del Salvador (10:00-18:45, 2,80€pp) A small but impressive church with quite a stunning interior. If you are planning on coming here, be sure to buy a combination ticket with Catedral de Sevilla to visit this church for free and skip the lines.
3. Triana A lively neighborhood with a traditional charm, just west of the Seville main city after you cross the bridge, Puente de Isabel II. If you are walking along the river I would also recommend going up to the Torre del Oro (The Golden Tower) for a splendid view of the river.
If you have more time…
Want more of Andalusia? Add an extra day to Granada. Known for its medieval architecture dating back to the Moorish periods, Granada houses the famous Alhambra (8:30-20:00, 14€pp), a grand palace and fortress built in the mid-13th century. Depending on when your Alhambra tour is, you’ll also want to budget some time for Plaza Nueva and Catedral de Granada (5€pp, 10:00-18:30), both of which are within walking distances to each other.
To plan your visit to Alhambra, it is best to buy your tickets well in advance (details here), while guided tour tickets are recommended and should be booked at least a month ahead of time. Note for Nasrid Palace, please be mindful that you MUST get to the Palace entrance by the time that’s shown on your ticket, allow at least 30 minutes beforehand to walk up to the Palace ticketing gate from the entrance.
Seville to Granada: Train from Seville Santa Justa to Granada is about 3.5 hours each way. Due to the distance in travel time and proximity to Seville, there are 2 options on how you can pursue this trip:
Option 1: Day trip. You will want to catch the earliest possible train at 6:35 from Seville, arriving in Granada at 10:01 (train schedule here). Start with Catedral de Granada and Plaza Nueva in the morning, and then visit Alhambra in the afternoon (from 13:00 to 18:30). Catch the train departing from Granada at 20:57 to arrive back in Seville at 00:08. I have personally done Granada as a day trip myself, it is stressful but as long as you are mindful of the times, you can hit every spot with plenty to spare by the end.
Option 2: Stay for a night or two. Arrive in Granada the night before, stay 2 nights and have a full day for the city in between. This is obviously a much more relaxed option, and I would recommend this to anyone who is looking for a more leisure itinerary.