Spain: Tapas, Beaches, and Walled Cities
The best way to explore and soak in the beauty of a place is by navigating through the local transport system and we are partnered up with Omio to get you across the stunning country of Spain. This route starts in Barcelona, travels south along the coast, inland to Madrid, and back north to San Sebastian; it’s filled with picturesque views, majestic landscapes, charming villages, charming wineries, and breathtaking sceneries.
Spain is known to be one of the best places to enjoy a holiday in Europe. Spain is a hotspot of culture, traditions, art, and exceptional food. The country is a beautiful mixture of numerous vibrant, stunning and lively cities. The transport system is very well connected and Omio makes it affordable so that you can enjoy a great, fun, and unforgettable vacation.
Recommended Days: 16-21 Days
Riding Hours: Approx. 18-20 hr
Distance: 1772 km
Transportation: Train, Bus
Barcelona: Beachy Barca
Barcelona, known for beaches, paella, amazing architecture, and its Catalonian flair; enjoy the city and everything it has to offer on your first stop on this itinerary. Surrounded by old-world charm and modernity, the city’s architecture ranges from the infamous Sagrada de Familia to Parc Guell to the Barcelona Cathedral to Montjuic Castle.
Enjoy a magical fountain show at the Font Màgica, wander around in the Gothic Quarter, enjoy the sand and sun at one of the many beaches, and make sure to get your fill of tapas whether that’s at the authentic La Cova Fumada, Sensi Tapas or Sensi Bistro.
Your tastebuds will thank us later. Stroll down the famous La Rambla street, buy some local produce from the Boqueria Market, and watch a flamenco show. By the time you leave Barcelona, you will only have touched the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Spanish customs and cuisine. Onto Valencia!
Barcelona Sants → Valencia Joaquín Sorolla | Duration: 2:40h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
Traveling to the next destination is made easy by hopping on one of the many direct trains to Valencia. During the journey, enjoy the views of the Mediterranean Sea as the train hugs the coastline and passes by picturesque towns.
Valencia: Orange Lovers Haven
Valencia is a charming Spanish city surrounded by narrow cobblestoned streets, medieval buildings, glistening sand beaches, turquoise blue waters, amazing art galleries, and plenty of orange trees. Valencia is known for their oranges you absolutely cannot leave without trying one! Whether that be as whole fruit, a glass of orange juice, or in the special Valencian cocktail Agua de Valencia.
Valencia is also known for their special paella which has rabbit and chicken in it, unlike normal paella which has seafood in it. And this particular paella is so tasty and sacred to the country that there is actually a governing body that determines what can be put into and called a Valencian Paella (who would have thought?).
Whilst in Valencia take a walking or biking tour of the city or make up your own. Make a visit to the Central Market (bring an empty stomach, to fill up on the tasty food), bike through Turia Gardens (one of the country’s largest urban parks), stop into the City of Arts and Sciences building, or check out its architecture along the old riverbed. If you’re interested in art, don’t miss the free Museu de Belles Arts de Valencia to see famous Spanish artists like El Greco and Goya.
Valencia Joaquín Sorolla → Toledo | Duration: 2:52h – 4:13h | Transfers: 1 | Transport: Train
Services toward Toledo leave multiple times a day with a transfer in Madrid, you can transfer easily at Madrid’s Puerta de Atocha station to a train south to Toledo, only a short distance away. The travel time from Valencia to Madrid is 1:40h and only 0:33h to Toledo.
Toledo: Charming Old Town
Toledo is a melting pot of cultural diversities and traditions that have passed this city over time. The focus of this city is often the walled part of the old town. It is wonderfully preserved and just big enough to want to get lost in the winding cobblestoned streets, but small enough that you will be able to find your way back to Plaza de Zocodover. Every corner you’ll find a quaint little shop or a grandma doing some laundry.
Enjoy the heart of the old town while you’re there find the Cathedral Primada de Toledo, which is a great landmark to find your way back to. It is a stunning example of Spanish art and architecture and so is the Monastery of San Juan de los Reyes. Watch a sunset from Mirador del Valle, visit the El Greco Museum, and dig deeper into the Moorish influences of the surrounding by visiting the Mosque of the Christ of Light and Puerta de Bisagra.
Toledo → Madrid Puerta de Atocha | Duration: 0:33h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
Toledo is not too far from Madrid as you would have experienced on the way to Toledo but this time you get to spend more time in the capital city of Spain, Madrid. There are plenty of options to take the train throughout the day to Madrid, whether that be early in the morning to make the most of your day in Spain’s capital city, or enjoy a walk along the Tagus river before catching an afternoon train.
Madrid: Art, Greenery, and the Best Food Ever
Madrid is full of life, vibrancy, and culture, the city has exquisite art galleries, historic buildings, and museums. The whole city is surrounded by 16th and 17th Century art and architecture, and the Prado is the first place to look for something back to the 12th century! A must-see for art enthusiasts, the Prado Museum holds the finest collection of European art, Renaissance masterpieces, and Goya originals.
Madrid also has plenty of lush green gardens, such as in Retiro Park, and large plazas in the city which the locals bustle in and out of. Enjoy some shopping on Gran Via or grab a couple of Napolitanas de Chocolate from Mallorquina in Puerta del Sol.
See how the royals once lived in the Palacio Real (the Royal Palace) or treat yourself like a king and order from every food stand at Mercado San Miguel. And don’t forget to find yourself a Tortilla Española (a Spanish potato omelette), they’re all over the city!
Madrid Príncipe Pío → Avila | Duration: 1:26-1:55h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
Avila is our next destination and it’s only a short distance away, and can be reached in under 2 hours by direct train service. There are more than 10 connections throughout the day with Renfe’s comfortable trains.
Avila: Walled Wonder
Avilá is renowned as a “World Heritage City” and is surrounded by many breathtaking architectural structures. The city welcomes you with a fairytale ambiance with magical castles and picturesque views. One of the most striking features of the city is the stunning walls that are also listed in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. Other architectural marvels in the city are the Basilica de San Vicente, Real Monasterio de Santo Tomas, and the Cathedral of the Savior (Avilá Cathedral).
Spain is known for its festivals and fairs and Avilá hosts a handful too. At the beginning of September, you can find Spain’s largest medieval fair in the heart of the city or plan your trip around Easter time for a big week of festivities during Semana Santa.
Avilá → Leon | Duration: 2:58 | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Train
The journey takes around 3 hours to travel from Avilá to Leon and there is one direct daily train. Enjoy the passing scenes of the gorgeous Spanish countryside as you head north to your next destination.
Leon: A Camino Stop
Leon, known as a popular stop along the famous Camino de Santiago, greets you with various stunning attractions, historical buildings, exceptional museums, and cathedrals from the moment your train arrives. When wandering around the city or perhaps walking part of the Camino, you’ll be able to see the Basilica de San Isidoro and the incredible Convent of San Marcos. Hosting a museum, a church, and an amazing luxurious hotel inside, this monastery is worth a night’s sleep in or at least a visit.
Enjoy a drink or some tapas in Barrio Humedo, a neighborhood known for its food and drinks. And finally, if you didn’t get enough of Gaudi in Barcelona, Casa Botines is another one of Gaudi’s works scattered throughout northern Spain.
Leon → Bilbao | Duration: 5:49 h | Transfers: 1 | Transport: Train
The journey east to our next destination of Bilbao will take a little less than 6 hours with an hour-long transfer in Vallodolid. Take the train from Leon Central to Vallodolid (0:59h) and then Vallodolid to Bilbao (3:49h). There is one connection from Leon to Vallodolid daily, however, there are two connections from Vallodolid to Bilbao. If interested in wandering around Vallodolid, make sure your train tickets account for a longer layover. Book these train tickets with Omio, or for this leg of the journey if you would like to take a bus there are multiple options throughout the day, however, they take longer than 6 hours with longer layovers in transfer cities. Book this option also with Omio.
Bilbao: Basque Country
Bilbao is a hotspot of art and rich in its love for its Basque culture and it shows throughout the city. The Basque region is an autonomous region like Catalonia where Barcelona is. If you’re expecting to hear Spanish around town, your ears may be shocked to hear something completely different spoken around town, Basque, or known as Euskara in Spanish. It doesn’t hurt to learn a couple of Basque words to get around;
Bilbao is especially known for the famous Guggenheim art museum, a worthwhile museum even for non-art appreciators; however, there are plenty of other things to see around the city. Enjoy a funicular ride to the top of Mount Artxanda where you can watch the sunset, wander the Casco Viejo (old town) for a drink, or grab some pintxos (the Basque version of tapas) in Plaza Nueva.
Bilbao → San Sebastián – Donostia | Duration: 1:20h | Transfers: 0 | Transport: Bus
San Sebastian can be easily reached by a direct bus connection that leaves from Bilbao’s main bus station several times a day and arrives in 1 hour and 20 minutes later. Enjoy the scenery of the Basque region and catch glimpses of the Cantabrian Sea on your way to your itinerary’s final destination.
San Sebastian: Surfer Paradise
San Sebastian is one of the most picturesque places to visit in Spain, with its azure waters and rolling hills on the seaside. People may come to San Sebastian for its beaches, for the surfing, for the jazz and film festivals, but what plenty of people come for is the food. This city is a gastronomic destination, and it really doesn’t disappoint. Enjoy an evening hopping between the several different pintxos and wine bars that the city has to offer or taste fine dining at a Michelin star restaurant (you have 6 to choose from).
Soak up the sun at La Concha Beach or from May to August you can take a boat to the island of Santa Clara for a hike around or a swim off of the shore. Check out La Catedral del Buen Pastor, walk to the Mota Castle from the city center, or take a funicular to the top of Monte Igueldo for pristine views of San Sebastian bay.
We hope you’ve eaten enough tapas, pintxos, drank enough Spanish wine, soaked up enough sun, and enjoyed the sights and culture that Spain had to offer. Thank you for following along with our route and booking with our partner Omio.
If you would like to head back to Barcelona there is a daily train that connects San Sebastian back to where your journey started. There are options also to head back to Madrid to continue south to Sevilla to continue exploring southern Spain by train, or head north by train to France and enjoy some wine in Bordeaux with this route here.
*Disclaimer: Due to the fluidity of transportation schedules, the information seen on RailwayHero may not be up to date at the time of readíng. Always double-check with the operator for the latest information.