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Northeastern Spain is one of the most storied culinary destinations in Europe—there are 48 Michelin Stars in Basque Country alone. Visit the highlights of the northern region, Bilbao, San Sebastian, and some off the beaten path destinations along the coast. You will start your trip to Barcelona and continue to the north of Spain where you will learn about the process of winemaking and test some of the best tapas. You will finish this 8-day itinerary in Madrid.
Your tour will start off in Barcelona. You are met at the airport for transfer to your hotel.
Later in the day, you will get your first taste of Catalan cuisine on a Barcelona tapas crawl, led by a passionate foodie. You’ll visit the most authentic gems in the off-the-beaten-track Sant Antoni neighborhood, and pop in and out of the busy bars just like the locals do.
By the end of the night, you’ll know exactly what it means to do tapas like a local, and why tapas culture can’t exist outside of Spain (so you’ll have to come back!).
After breakfast, you’ll be embarking on a guided bicycle tour of Barcelona (you can also do a guided walking visit). This three-hour tour passes through historic and popular neighborhoods like the medieval Gothic Quarter and trendy Raval and El Born, Along the way your guide will point out historic highlights, including Roman ruins, the grand Plaça Reial, and the Gothic Barcelona Cathedral, which dates to the 13th century.
But the tour doesn’t end here. You’ll cycle from the Gothic Quarter through Ciutadella Park, one of the largest green spaces in the city, all the way to Barceloneta Beach. This is Barcelona’s main urban beach, and it’s always a hub of activity, lined as it is with cafés, beaches, bars, and discos. Riding along the promenade fronting the water is the perfect way to cap your cycling tour of Barcelona’s most famous areas.
After the cycling tour, you’ll return to the hotel and relax.
Later in the afternoon, you can opt to embark aboard a chartered sailboat. There is a two-hour excursion that sails just outside Barcelona along the Mediterranean coast while enjoying panoramic views of the city’s skyline. After relaxing on the boat for a couple of hours, you would return to dry land and enjoy the rest of the evening at your leisure.
After breakfast, you’ll transfer to Barcelona’s train station where you’ll embark on a five-hour railway journey. The destination is the northern Atlantic coast and the city of San Sebastian, which sits on the Bay of Biscay near the border with France. It’s located in the heart of Basque Country, one of Spain’s most beautiful regions and a haven for foodies across the globe.
After checking into your hotel, you’ll explore San Sebastian with a local guide. You’ll wander the stone streets of the Parte Vieja (“Old Quarter”) and stroll along La Concha Promenade, the elevated waterfront that curves around the city’s main beaches, Onderreta and La Concha. For great views looking back at San Sebastian, take a ferry to the famous offshore island of Santa Clara, or ride a funicular railway up to Mont Igualdo, which offers even more sweeping panoramas from the west edge of the city.
After the tour enjoy some Tapas! San Sebastian specializes in a type of tapas called pintxos (pronounced “peenchos”). Most bars, cafés, and restaurants in the Parte Vieja serve some version of these bite-sized, gourmet delicacies, and naturally, they’re best paired with some delicious local wines.
A day to explore the city on your own or decide to do one of the optional day trips:
In the evening, reservations can be made at one of the many excellent restaurants in San Sebastián.
Transfer by car to Bilbao. Travel time: 1 hour. You will be met by our local guide to get to know Bilbao. Staggering architecture, a venerable dining scene and stunning landscapes just outside the city center.
Basque culture takes on many forms in this thriving waterfront city. Evocative museums like the Euskal Museoa and the Arkeologi Museo provide a glimpse into centuries past, with their collections of ancient Basque carvings, Middle Age treasures and everyday implements of the mariners, artisans and landowners of this age-old people.
After your city tour, you can visit on your own the icon of Bilbao, shimmering titanium Museo Guggenheim Bilbao. Is one of modern architecture’s most iconic buildings.
In the evening, immerse yourself in the heart of the pintxo tradition. Visit traditional haunts where classic pintxos reign and sample cutting-edge, bohemian establishments where innovative chefs impress daily. It’s not all about the pintxo though, as it would be sacrilege not to help your pintxo with some local drop; Txakoli, Cider or our Rioja reds and whites.
Head to Spain’s most coveted wine region, La Rioja, one of the most emblematic wine producing regions in Europe. Here you will in a mediaeval village surrounded by rolling countryside and vineyards. Upon arrival, you’ll check-in to your hotel and can spend the rest of the day at leisure. Options include staying in and enjoying the hotel amenities or heading out and explore the lovely village of Laguardia, where the hotel is located. This romantic town was founded in the 10th century as a defensive outpost of the Kingdom of Navarre, and as you walk its stone streets you’ll see evidence of this in the medieval walls that encircle it.
Take the train to Madrid. Travel time: 3 hours. Later in the day, you will meet with alocal guide, a true Madrileños, born and raised in the capital, and they are happy to share our insider knowledge and family traditions as you walk through the historic center and take in the sights and flavors around you.
This 3-hour walk is an in-depth experience to understand how the city works as we explore its cultural highlights. We will trace the history of Madrid and its development from its medieval roots to the modern times when it became the thriving capital of Spain, and we will fill you in with the latest news, shows, and exhibitions.
This is effectively a briefing on what’s on in Madrid, what to do and see (and what to avoid) while you are here as you get a sense of social and cultural events. This orientation walk will also provide you with the essential historical background you need to understand what is happening in 21st century Madrid.
Optional Flamenco Show, you can not leave Spain without experiencing this amazing dance!
After breakfast, a driver will pick you up to take you to the airport to catch your flight back home.
Bye Bye Spain!