Spain is a great country for travellers to get around. The locals are friendly, there’s loads to see for free, the food and drink is delicious and the weather in spring, summer and autumn is spectacular.
In Spain time is not important – they siesta in the afternoon, eat late into the evening and party all night. When I visited for six weeks in April I never did get to grips with their timings, but I guess that’s the point, there are none.
Spending six weeks travelling in Spain has been one of the highlights of my life, here’s my shortlist of place you should visit if you get the chance…
1. San Sebastian
On the shortlist for Capital of Culture 2016, the beautiful city of San Sebastian has vast beaches, an active harbour and unique boutique shopping. Incredible views, lovely coastal walks and a buzzing nightlife make it a great destination for travellers.
San Sebastien has so many beautiful spots to explore. If you need more time to really make the most of it, then Spain has ways to stay long term, so you can explore more.
Top 3 on a budget
1. Sunbathe on Playa de la Concha Beach.
2. Explore the beautiful architecture of Baroque Church of Santa Maria , the Gothic Church of San Vicente and the Museo de San Telemo.
3. Soak up the history and enjoy a coffee in Constitution Square. It was once used for bullfighting and the tiny rooms were rented out to spectators.
Cheap eats in San Sebastian
While in San Sebastian you need to try the pintxos, although owing to their addictiveness it probably won’t end up being a cheap meal. Enjoy a pintxos and wine tour around the old quarter, poke your head around a few of the 100 bar doors and you’ll see the most incredible display of tapas you’ll ever see. And they taste delicious. There are a few all-you-can-eat restaurants in Gros near the Playa de Gros beach if you’re after a cheap feast. Eating your way round San Sebastian is one of the best experiences in Spain there is!
READ MORE: The Best Festivals in Spain
From the labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter to the incredible views from Montjuic Mountain of Barceloneta Beach, there’s loads for the budget backpacker to do in Barcelona. Many buildings are as impressive from the outside as they are in, including the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi House Museum and the Casa Batllo. Without Gaudi Barcelona would certainly be a darker place.
Top 3 on a budget
1. Chill out in Park Guell – a huge park filled with Antonio Gaudi’s artistic flair. Climb to the top for an incredible view over the city.
2. Stroll down the city’s main boulevard La Rambla and pop into La Boqueria food market.
3. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hospital de la Santa Creu I Santa Pau – the most incredible hospital in the world.
Cheap eats in Barcelona
To save your money and your tastebuds stay away from the restaurants of La Rambla and head to El Convent instead. The former convent serves traditional Catalan and Spanish food with good, local wine. Tapas are served around the city but the little plates can soon add up so try Xaica near Plaza Catalunya. For a set price (starts at €8.50) you can enjoy three-courses, wine, beer or a soft drink.
There is so much to do in Valencia. The beach beckons – if you can make it out after a night on the notorious nightlife – the 5.5 mile-long Jardins del Turia offer fields, paths, fountains and playgrounds, and the City of Arts and Sciences (above) is an architectural wonder to behold!
Top 3 on a budget
1. The Fine Arts Museum, Bullfighting Museum, Museum of Prehistory and Museum of Ethnology are all free. The incredible Fallas Museum is free at weekends.
2. Admire the old town, featuring the Plaza de la Virgen and Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados Church.
3. Board a boat out to La Albufera, a giant freshwater lagoon flanked by the rice fields and pine forests of Parque Natural de la Albufera.
The Mercado Central should be your first stop for food supplies. From pigs’ heads to freshly-baked bread and chunky chorizo, you’ll find a feast fit for a king here. Take a trip to the park to enjoy your banquet in the sunshine. For a meal out try Los Toneles. It’s one of the city’s most popular restaurants and you can get a 3-course meal for under €12, or delicious paella for €6.
Of course, the capital of Spain has loads to entertain the humble traveller. With over 3,500 stalls, the Rastro flea market will keep you busy. Before you spend all your euros, head over to the shops of Madrid’s main square the Puerta del Sol. Get snap happy with the Real Casa de Correos building and the many statues flanking the square.
Top 3 on a budget
1. The neo-classical Basílica de San Francisco el Grande houses the early Goya Sermon of San Bernardino of Siena (1781).
2. Relax in the Campo del Moro – a huge park with some amazing fountains.
3. People watch on La Gran Via – Madrid’s main street.
After a night out it’s tradition in Madrid to meet your friends in a breakfast bar and enjoy some chocolate con churros – doughnut-type things that you dip in a cup of thick, hot chocolate. And as for tapas, they’re everywhere. Try caracoles (snails), tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) and cocido madrileño (stew combining chickpeas with vegetables). Or even better choose a variety of dishes blind, then you can really enjoy a new culinary experience!
READ MORE: Check out the top 10 stunning Madrid icons to explore with this post from girlwithapassport.com.
Think of it what you will, but for Seville bullfighting is a rich part of its history. In the summer make sure you watch a fight at the Plaza de Toros, one of the best rings in Spain. If you’re visiting in the spring check out the Seville Feria, a time when all the locals get in their traditional dress and have a huge street party that lasts a week. The old city has many beautiful streets to get lost down and the architecture is incredible.
Top 3 on a budget
1. Walk through the Parque de Maria Luisa and ogle at the Plaza de Espana (above).
2. Seville Cathedral is absolutely huge. Walk through and climb the Giralda tower for some great views over Seville.
3. Walk the grounds of the fabulous Alcazar Palace.
The street life of Seville is buzzing. Locals trundle from bar to bar, eating tapas, listening to live music and partying in the squares. Tapas bars line the streets but try Bar Kiko for excellent value. Their homemade tapas are delicious and free with a drink. Bar Eslava is also great on a budget, around €2 per plate rather than the standard €3 around town. The staff are friendly and the busy restaurant always has a great vibe. They have a restaurant too where you can get the same food but in bigger portions.
6. Costa del Sol
And, if you want to fit in the Costa del Sol to your six-week Spain itinerary, check out this post on the Best Things to Do in the Costa del Sol from london-unattached.com. She’s listed the best beaches, nature reserves, restaurants and hotels in the area.
Northern Spain, nearish to Bilbao
Perfect for those who love to immerse themselves in nature, Oñati offers a plethora of hiking trails and picturesque parks. The town resides in a valley, framed comfortably by tall mountains and plentiful green trees.
The most notable spots include the elaborate Iglesia de San Miguel church and the 16th-Century Universidad de Sancti Spiritus. Both are a must visit once you’ve completed your hike around this small yet beautiful town.
Southern Spain near Marbella
Located just half an hour away from the famous city of Marbella, Estepona has a traditional charm like no other. Despite the streets being lined with flowers, soft sand beaches and old-town appeal, the romantic town of Estepona is relatively unheard of compared to other Costa del Sol resorts.
Wander through the old fashioned town and sample some tapas before visiting the Estepona Orchid House. Under three modern domes, you’ll find this botanical garden houses the most beautiful flowers you’ll ever see. With cascading waterfalls, vibrant plants and a fantastic modern setting, you don’t want to miss it.
With palm tree-lined streets and an ornate town centre, Écija is most definitely one of Spain’s best-kept secrets. Nicknamed ‘the frying pan of Andalusia’, temperatures are high during the summer months – so much so that it once rose to a boiling 52°C.
Tourists are better off enjoying this beautiful town in spring or autumn, avoiding the stifling heat in exchange for pleasantly warm weather.
Whitewashed buildings line the streets as well a plethora of beautifully designed towers, steeples, palaces and churches. The magnificent architecture is enough of a reason to go, including the small yet regal Iglesia de los Descalzos.
10. Zahara de los Atunes
Southern Spain, near the tip
Small yet mighty when it comes to beauty, the village of Zahara de los Atunes is famed for its fantastic beaches. Despite having one of the most beautiful beaches in the region, tourists tend to favour the more famous cities over this pretty village. This means there’s always a spot to lay and relax without the worry of overcrowding.
The pale sand and turquoise sea are framed by rolling cliffs making it a favourite for locals yet unappreciated by tourists, who tend to head to the likes of Ibiza.
Zahara de los Atunes is particularly favoured by those who want to immerse themselves in traditional Spanish culture rather than resort life.
East Spain near Valencia
While it may have risen in popularity thanks to its feature in Game of Thrones, Peñíscola is still relatively untouched by tourists compared to resort cities. Based just 90 miles away from Valencia, the medieval town is surrounded by a castle-style stone wall and a breathtakingly blue sea.
The traditional whitewashed buildings create a beautiful backdrop for the vibrant trees that line the streets, making for a beautiful setting as you walk to one of the many restaurants in the area.
One of the most notable sights has to be Peñíscola Castle, which looks over the Mediterranean Sea. This bold fortress is unmissable and has an engrossing history, so much so that we recommend spending the day touring around it.
Cycling through Catalonia was an absolute dream. Clear roads, beautiful vistas and cute little towns unfolded as I pedalled and took it all in. One of the most impressive spots on my recent Catalonia adventure though, was at Prat de Comte.
12. Prat de Comte
I cycled from Bot to Benifallet along the old railway track of the Val de Zafan route. The track has been converted into a green route, only open to walkers, horse riders and cyclists. At 40km long, it was pretty much all downhill. Apart from when we had to get back up from the gorge that is, and I nearly had a heart attack trying to push the bike back up that hill which had been so much fun on the way down.
It was worth it though. Prat de Comte reminded me of the Taroko Gorge in Taiwan. The rocks had formed to create a space where people were picnicking, relaxing with family and friends and swimming between the pools. Unfortunately I had no swimmers or time for that so I wandered up and down along the walk ways.
Prat de Comte was easy to get to by bike along the Green Way, just 31km from Tortosa. It’s also known for its healing thermal waters – you’ll see people soaking themselves in the mineral-medicinal hot springs.
Train times in Spain
These are the quickest routes from Spain’s Renfe train company website and so usually the most expensive. You can get trains for up to half this price if you’re prepared to spend longer travelling by boarding the local trains that stop at every stop. These are also the prices for buying your ticket at the station – book beforehand for a discount.
- San Sebastian to Barcelona 5hr45 €63.30
- Barcelona to Valencia 2hr55 €44.50
- Valencia to Madrid 1hr38 €80.40
- Madrid to Seville 2hr20 €83.90
Buses in Spain
Buses are good and often cheaper, but of course they take longer than the trains. You’ll need different bus companies for different legs.
- San Sebastian to Barcelona 7hr40 €29.95
- Barcelona to Valencia 4hr15 €25.96
- Valencia to Madrid 4hr15 €26.91
- Madrid to Seville 6hr15 €19.85