Dreaming of the ultimate trip to Western Europe? Perhaps no destination belongs in your travel plans more than Spain. This isn’t a country you can pin down in just a couple words. Few travellers realize Spain’s immense diversity until they’ve experienced it for themselves.
From soaking up the sun along the coast in Andalusia to padding your knowledge about modern & classic European architecture in Madrid or Barcelona, any trip to Spain has the power to change your perspective on travel & maybe even your life as the country’s fun-loving nature rubs off on you.
Got just 10 days in Spain? Make the most out of your time with this complete 10-day Spain itinerary…
Table of Contents
- 10 days in Spain: Things to know before you go
- Where to go in Spain: A complete 10-day itinerary
- 10-day Spain itinerary: Tips, tweaks & more places to visit
10 days in Spain: Things to know before you go
When to go to Spain
Spain’s reputation for blissful sunny skies isn’t so far off (especially when compared to other European destinations further north), although hardly enough to go on when planning a trip.
Overall, the best time to visit Spain is in the spring and in the fall. In the months of April/May and September/October, the temperatures in Spain are generally quite pleasant.
In travelling in these months rather than the usual summer high tourism season, you’ll also avoid the bulk of the tourist crowds and the often unbearably hot temperatures that go along with the summer season.
Do I need travel insurance for Spain?
Like most European destinations, it’s wise to purchase travel insurance while booking your trip to Spain. Although there’s little to worry about safety-wise on a trip to Spain, that’s not to say that there aren’t certain things that can crop up that a good travel insurance policy will protect you from.
Whether it’s lost luggage, stolen baggage or a medical emergency (which can add up to big bucks in Spain!), the benefits of a travel insurance far outweigh the relatively small cost.
And, in some cases, you may even be required to get travel insurance for your trip to Spain. Anyone needed to apply for Schengen Visa must show proof of at least €30,000 in medical coverage before being approved.
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Getting connected in Spain
It should come as no surprise that staying connected in Spain isn’t much of a problem. In most tourist areas, you’ll have no problem finding free WiFi connections at restaurants, cafés, and hotels.
The only caveat with public WiFi is that, wherever you are in world, it can often be both inconvenient and unreliable. With high numbers of customers logging on at these public access points, data connections can often slow down to a halt with all the bandwidth getting hogged.
One of the best solutions for travellers wanting to stay connected is to rent a 4G WiFi hotspot for Spain. These convenient hotspots allow you to connect your own device to get up to 1GB of 4G data (or unlimited 3G data) per day wherever you roam in the country.
Virtual Private Network
Whether you connect with your own hotspot or using public WiFi when you travel, however, you need to understand that your data may be at risk. Would-be cyber thieves are always on the hunt for unsuspecting victims to quietly take their sensitive data (whether its passwords or banking information) from unsecured connections.
Fortunately for travellers, there’s a solution.
Connecting your device through a reliable virtual private network in NordVPN helps to alleviate the risk of your data getting breached anywhere you are in the world.
NordVPN now offers over 5,000 servers to connect through worldwide. Their military-grade double-encryption technology ensures that all your data is safe. On top of that, they don’t keep any server logs meaning that all your browsing is 100% private.
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Other Spain travel planning resources
- Guidebooks: Although much of my travel planning now takes place online and on-the-fly, I almost always carry along an old-school paper guidebook as backup and for some extra reading material. As usual, Lonely Planet Spain is among the best choices.
- Phrasebooks: Chances are you’ll encounter some language barriers as you trot along on your Spain itinerary. The Lonely Planet Spanish Phrasebook & Dictionary is a good place to start coming to grips with the language.
- Language learning resources: If you want to dig deeper into the Spanish language (who doesn’t?), two of the best resources out there are Teach Yourself Complete Spanish and Routledge Colloquial Spanish. These courses will take you from absolute beginner to a lower-intermediate level quite quickly with a little sustained effort.
Where to go in Spain: A complete 10-day itinerary
With so much fascination awaiting around the country, the hardest part about planning out your first 10 days in Spain is deciding what to include and what to leave out.
As with most of the country itineraries here, this 10-day Spain itinerary is designed for first-timers visiting on a time-crunch. I’ve necessarily had to leave out some fantastic destinations as there’s just too much to see in Spain to fit in everything in such a tight amount of time.
Ready to launch your itinerary? Let’s discover what to do in Spain in 10 days or less…
Often overshadowed by Barcelona’s touristic pull, the capital city of Madrid isn’t often the first destination to show up on a Spain itinerary. It’s a shame because there’s truly no better place to start exploring Spain for the first time than in its cultural heartland.
Unlike other popular European travel destinations, there’s no single monument that defines Madrid. Rather, the city’s a broad collection of moments that, when fused together, create a compelling mix that’s as interesting as any on the continent.
Through Madrid’s veins flows the lifeblood of Spanish culture. In its museums and galleries, you’ll have no problem stumbling upon the works of famous artists like Goya, Velázquez, Picasso, and Dalí; on its streets, architecture movements ranging between a tiny smattering of medieval and Renaissance to its more obvious Baroque and modern Spanish styles.
For those looking for more tactful experiences, Madrid’s a city where food & drink reign strong. Spain’s reputation as one of the best places to eat in Europe isn’t lost here nor is the Spanish reputation for enjoying life to its fullest. Whether you’re washing down some tapas with a glass of red wine or rip-roarin’ with cocktails until dawn, Madrid’s not an experience that’s soon forgotten.
On this first-time Spain itinerary, I’d recommend spending at least 3 days in Madrid. It’ll leave you two days in Madrid itself plus an extra day for a trip outside the city. (More on that later…)
What to do in Madrid
In a city as eclectic as the Spanish capital, it shouldn’t be surprising that there’s a myriad of things to do & see in Madrid. Here are a few ideas for your itinerary…
Check out Madrid’s art museums
While I’m rarely one to spend most of my time exploring cities in museums, it’s nearly impossible to come to Madrid without spending time hopping between a few of the city’s best ones. At the very least, try to check out these two must-see art museums in Madrid:
- Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía: A national museum focusing on 20th-century. There’s about over 20,000 pieces here from famous artists including Salvador Dalí, Juan Gris, and Joan Miró.
- Museo del Prado: Perhaps Madrid’s most famous attraction, this museum (colloquially known in English as The Prado) features one of the world’s best collections of European art. The works here date between the 12th and 20th centuries with masters like Goya, Bosch, El Greco, Rubens, and Velázquez well represented.
Chill out in Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park)
To catch Madrid’s more relaxing side, there’s no better stop than Parque del Buen Retiro (Retiro Park). This gorgeous 350-acre park, once owned by Spanish royalty, is a favourite for Madrileños to escape the bustle of the city with a walk, bike ride, picnic or row along the park’s lake.
Retiro Park is more than just a simple green space and is home to a number of interesting historical sculptures and monuments including the grand Monument to Alfonso XII.
While you’re in Retiro Park, don’t miss a chance to check out the Crystal Palace (Palacio de Cristal), a beautiful glass pavilion that once housed a former royal greenhouse and now features art exhibits.
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real)
Wherever you are in Europe, there’s hardly a shortage of royal palaces. Somehow, I’d venture to say that you’ve probably never seen anything quite like the Royal Palace of Madrid (Palacio Real).
Originally built in the 18th century by Felipe V, this 135,000-square-metre palace is something to behold. If you think Palacio Real is a tad over-the-top, you’re not wrong. Much of it was designed with pomp in mind, to show off the massive power & wealth of Spanish royalty from its gilded furnishings to its exquisite art collections.
The Royal Palace is open daily from 10am to 8pm (or until 6pm in winter).
Feel the buzz of Madrid at Plaza Mayor
Madrid wears its history on its sleeve at Plaza Mayor, a 16th-century square that’s become one of the city’s most bustling gathering points. Sure, it’s more than a bit touristy these days, but this elegant plaza still holds the attention of visitors with its stunning colonnades and expansive open spaces.
For the full architecture experience, approach Plaza Mayor via the steep steps of the Arco de Cuchilleros, a 17th-century archway surrounded by picture-perfect examples of old Spanish architecture.
Take a day trip to Toledo
To anyone who has one day in Madrid to spare, you simply have to head over to the lovely Spanish city of Toledo. It’s easily one of the best days trips from Madrid—and with good reason!
Perched high upon the banks of the Río Tajo, this UNESCO-listed city, once the capital of Spain, is as stunningly beautiful as it is interesting. It’s unique & rare in its architectural tapestry, showcasing influences from its historic Christian, Muslim and Jewish communities.
If you’ve got time on your Spain itinerary, try to spend at least one day in Toledo. To make the most of your day, I’d recommend overnighting there. Even if you can only fit in a day trip though, here are some of the best things to do & see in Toledo to add to your sightseeing list:
- Sephardic Museum: A museum set in the Sinagoga del Tránsito that tells the little-known story of Spain’s Jewish community.
- Toledo Cathedral: An imposing Gothic cathedral with roots digging back to the 13th-century. Be sure to check out its main chapels—Capilla Mayor, Capilla de San Blas, and Capilla de Reyes Nuevos—as well as the sacristy containing priceless artwork by artists like El Greco, Raphael, and Velázquez.
- Alcazar: A spectacular fortress overlooking the city from its highest point with stunning views to match. Once a bastion of defence, the Alcazar now houses a museum with various military exhibitions.
Where to stay in Madrid
With the immense size of the Spanish capital, figuring out where to stay in Madrid can sometimes be a bit of a challenge. For most travellers, the Centro is the best option for sightseeing on this itinerary. Here are a few great options:
- Hostal Central Palace Madrid: A budget-friendly hotel featuring spacious rooms with a classic European elegance. The top-end rooms light up with views of the Royal Palace, Almudena Cathedral and Sabatini Gardens.
- B&B Hotel Madrid Centro Puerta del Sol: A fantastic mid-range hotel located, as the name implied, just steps from Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor. Rooms are ultra-clean and fitted with stylish modern decor & furnishings.
- Gran Meliá Palacio de los Duques: A spectacular luxury hotel housed in a former 19th-century palace. Guests will love everything at this full-featured property from the elegant rooms to the lovely rooftop pool with views over Madrid.
Getting to Madrid
By air: From abroad and from other European countries, the best way to get to Spain is by air. Madrid is served by Madrid–Barajas Airport (MAD), Spain’s biggest and busiest airport. Popular airlines serving Madrid-Barajas include Air Europa, Iberia, Ryanair, easyjet, Vueling, and Norwegian Air Shuttle.
Even without the household name of other Spanish cities, it’s quite possible that Seville will quickly become one of your favourite new European destinations. The Andalusian capital pushes forth some of Spain’s most enchanting city scenes from its stately Plaza de España to its glorious centrepiece Gothic mosque-turned-cathedral.
Even beyond its obvious historical eye candy, Seville doesn’t just ride its coattails to the bank. Seville’s a city that’s at the forefront of modern Spain. It’s a city where eating, drinking & being merry is as much a part of its DNA as its stunning good-looks.
What to do in Seville
As one of Europe’s most deeply satisfying places, Seville delivers some serious impact for the senses. From discovering its splendid Moorish, Renaissance and Gothic architectural palette to watching the heart of Andalusia beat during a flamenco dance, get started with these best things to see & do in Seville:
Get awestruck at Plaza de España
Located in Maria Luisa Park, the striking Plaza de España could well be one of Europe’s grandest sites. Despite its classic Renaissance architectural influences, the plaza only dates back to 1929 when it was erected for the Exposición Iberoamericana.
What the Plaza de España lacks in authenticity though, it more than makes up for in grandeur. Wander through the colonnades or along the boardwalk to catch the infinitely Instagrammable plaza from all angles.
Gawk at the Catedral Santa María de la Sede
From one awe-striking site to another, the Catedral Santa María de la Sede (or Catedral de Sevilla) is bound to leave your jaw sagging as much as any other site in Spain. This 15th-century cathedral, built upon a 12th-century mosque, is the world’s largest Gothic building and trumped in size only by St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
Exploring the entire cathedral will require more than just a pass by. To dig in fully, take time to visit all the chapels and sacristies strewn throughout the massive complex including Capilla Mayor; home to the world’s largest Gothic altarpiece, and the tomb of famous explorer Christopher Columbus.
While you’re visiting, don’t miss a chance to scale up the Giralda, the 104-metre-high bell tower that was one once the minaret from the original mosque.
Explore the Real Alcázar de Sevilla
To round out Seville’s must-sees, don’t miss a chance to visit the magnificent Real Alcázar. This royal palace, built upon a 10th-century fort, is a masterful blend of Moorish and Christian architecture.
Much of the Alcázar’s most compelling features blossomed in the 1360’s under King Pedro, who, although Christian, sent Muslim artisans to work on his contribution to the fort: Palacio de Don Pedro. With its unique Moorish design, this palace still remains the most impressive patch of the complex.
Where to stay in Seville
Like other popular Spanish cities, choosing where to stay in Seville isn’t without its challenges. There are literally thousands of places to stay spread through out the city.
To whittle it down to a more manageable number, I’d recommend Old Town in the Centro as the best area for travellers. Anywhere you stay around there, you’ll be close to the top tourist attractions. Here are a few ideas:
- Zaida: Far finer than its budget-friendly price point lets on, this hotel sits in a lovely Neo-Moorish palace that screams with traditional Andalusian style.
- Welldone Antiquarium: An excellent self-catering option offering apartment units decked out with modern decor. It’s Old Town location places you front and centre among palaces, restaurants, and tapas bars.
- Hotel Gravina 51: Occupying an 18th-century building, this mid-range hotel is quick to dish out the Andalusian charms. Rooms are spacious and elegant, fusing classic southern Spanish designs with modern amenities. The location close to Plaza de Armas and the Maestranza Bullring is perfect for culture-lovers.
- Hotel Casa Del Poeta: One of the top luxury picks in the Old Town area, this 4-star hotel delights with its crisp traditional designs and warmth unmatched in Seville. The show-shopping Seville Cathedral and Alcazar are within quick walking distance.
Getting to Seville
By train: By far, the most comfortable way to travel to Seville from Madrid is by train. The route is served by AVE, the high-speed Spanish train system. Travel time between Madrid and Seville is just 2 hours and 30 minutes.
With the majestic Sierra Nevada as its backdrop, Granada can feel as if its been ripped out of the pages of a fairytale. Most visitors head to Granada intent mainly on searching out its crown jewel, the Alhambra, and leave, instead, with a grand appreciation of its lively streets and daily life in the Andalusian city.
Hardly to anyone’s surprise, Granada takes its lust for life quite seriously—this is Spain after all! Whether you’re looking to fill your belly with some good food & wine at a small traditional tapas bars or retire in the wee hours to a boisterous club for an all-nighter, Granada’s a place to make it all happen.
What to do in Granada
Despite its unfair reputation as a one-trick-pony, there are plenty of things to do & see in Granada. From coaxing out its Moorish roots in the Albayzín to strolling through perfectly manicured gardens, here are a few ideas for your Granada itinerary:
Get mystified at the Alhambra
As one of the top attractions in Spain, the Alhambra deserves all the praise it gets. This massive walled palace complex, drawn in the shadows of the Sierra Nevada, showcases the best of Spanish Moorish design and is, quite possibly, the most compelling example of Islamic architecture in all of Europe.
Visiting, however, doesn’t always come easy. Especially in peak season, you’ll need to book your tickets for the Alhambra in advance as there’s only a limited amount sold per day. (And with up to 6,000 other visitors per day, the competition’s stiff!)
Once you’re in, be sure to take everything with stride. The Alhambra isn’t one of those in-out destinations that you can fly through in an hour. Really be sure to take in the best of it including the Palacios Nazaríes, Palacio de Carlos V, the Alcazaba, and Palacio del Generalife.
Wander about the Albayzín
The Alhambra hints at the lingering effects of the Moors on Granada’s cultural and architectural scene. Besides the palace complex, one of the best places to immerse yourself in Moorish culture in Granada is the Albayzín, the city’s former Arab quarter.
There’s more than a little North African influence here as you wander among the warren of narrow stone alleyways among white-washed townhouses reminiscent of the medinas of Tangier or Casablanca.
While you’re exploring the Albayzín, be sure to check out Mirador de San Nicolás, the best viewpoint in the city for catching the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains in their fully glory.
Dazzle at Granada Cathedral
Ponder any picture of the Granada cityscape and you’re bound to see its heart, Granada Cathedral, plain as day. This cathedral, built in the 16th century over top of Granada’s Great Mosque, is one of the biggest in Spain and slots in among the largest in the world.
Granada Cathedral dazzles with its grand Spanish Renaissance style featuring an intricate façade and several ornate chapels including the Nuestra Senora de la Antigua.
Once you’ve checked out Granada Cathedral, pop in next door to the Royal Chapel, the resting place for several of Spain’s Christian monarchs including, most famously, Islabella I and Ferdinand II.
Where to stay in Granada
Given the city’s smaller stature, figuring out where to stay in Granada is less of a challenge than other larger Spanish cities. The biggest problem comes with Granada’s popularity. Unless you book several months in advance, you’ll often find your selection limited. Be sure to start planning ahead if you want to get your chance to stay at one of these top picks:
- Shine Albayzín: A gorgeous design hotel set in a 16th-century Moorish palace in the old Arab Quarter. The superior rooms, delivering views of the Alhambra, offer more value than you’d expect at the price.
- Catalonia Granada: An ultra-modern vibe pervades this sleek mid-range hotel in the centre of Granada. Rooms are comfortable, bright & airy but the scales really tip in your favour with the pool and rooftop sun terrace featuring views of the city and the Sierra Nevada.
- Eurostars Catedral: If getting central is your main concern, you can’t go wrong booking a room at this lovely boutique hotel. Set in the historic centre, the views from the rooms, especially the junior suites, are spectacular.
- Hospes Palacio de los Patos: Built in a 19th-century palace that’s important enough to be UNESCO-listed, this luxury hotel is among the best in Granada. The interior is a work of art unto its own, featuring ornate crown mouldings and ceiling frescoes. Extras like a sauna, Turkish bath, indoor pool, and garden area add even more value.
Getting to Granada
By train: As with most itineraries, it’s most comfortable to travel between Seville and Granada by train. Several train depart per day and can be reserved ahead of time. The journey takes approximately 4 hours.
For a city this famous, there hardly needs to be an introduction. Not only in Barcelona one of the best places to visit in Spain in 10 days or less, it’s truly one of the world’s top travel destinations and must-see for any serious traveller.
Lately, it seems as if every citizen on earth has taken that challenge to heart. The streets of Barcelona are becoming so increasingly packed that it’s causing a massive uproar in the community as more and more people get priced out of the city.
Nonetheless, don’t let everyone else’s undying love for Barcelona stop you from experiencing it to the fullest. Visit outside of the summer tourism high season if you can to forge a little more peace than usual.
What to do in Barcelona
Seemingly, it could take a century to get through all of the top things to do & see in Barcelona. Whether you have one day in Barcelona or week, try to fit in a few of these must-see attractions:
Drop your jaw at La Sagrada Família
Truly one of the world’s most unique building, La Sagrada Família should occupy the top spot on your Barcelona sightseeing itinerary. The dramatic ornate arches and fairytale-like spires of this Catholic basilica are unmatched anywhere on earth. Getting underneath to witness its glory from below is simply jaw-dropping.
Envisioned by the Catalonian architect, Antoni Gaudí, the immense La Sagrada Família is, famously, yet to be completed. Work started well over a century ago in 1882 and continues unabated with an end finally within sight within the next decade.
Twist your mind at Park Güell
If the unorthodox stylings of La Sagrada Família weren’t quite enough, head up Carmel Hill to the north of Gràcia for a taste of one of Gaudí other creations, Park Güell.
The uniqueness of Gaudí’s style are on full display at Park Güell. All the elements strewn throughout the park reflect the artist’s refusal to create straight lines as he deemed them unnatural.
What results is a village-like park that appears more like something you’d hallucinate after a bender in the 1960s than a planned, but ultimately failed, upper-class neighbourhood in one of Europe’s finest cities.
Sort through the stalls at La Boqueria
Although Barcelona’s museums & architecture will keep you enthralled for days, give yourself a break from it all with a walk through La Boqueria. This large marketplace in La Rambla has a long history as the breadbasket of Barcelona, dating back as far as the 13th century by some accounts.
Today, it’s become a little more crowded & touristy than many would like, but it’s still a cultural experience that every traveller to Barcelona should undertake. Filter through the food stalls to find typical local foods like queso de cabra (goat’s cheese), jamón (ham), and olives.
Where to stay in Barcelona
One of the toughest parts of your Spain travel planning experience will be sorting out where to stay in Barcelona. The city’s not just spread out over a wide area but offers an insane array of accommodations.
Even when narrowing down your search to the city centre (Ciutat Vella, Gothic Quarter, and Eixample), you’ll find that many of the best hotels get booked up several months ahead. Try your luck with one of these top choices:
- Hotel Cantón: One of the most budget-friendly picks in Ciutat Vella, this hotel features clean no-frills rooms that get the job done. Las Ramblas and the Old Port are just minutes away.
- Room Mate Anna: A unique boutique hotel with super-funky & colourful design that’s about a far away from the traditional Spanish aesthetic as possible. Deluxe rooms are equipped with private balconies overlooking the wacky Casa Batlló by Gaudí. Don’t miss out on taking a dip in the seasonal rooftop plunge pool with the cityscape as your backdrop.
- Hotel Casa Camper: A sleek boutique hotel that drops in with large colourful rooms and a modern design. If the hotel’s free 24-hour buffet doesn’t grab you, Barcelona’s famous Boqueria market is just five minutes away by foot.
Getting to Barcelona
By air: Unlike destinations along the Barcelona-Madrid-Malaga high-speed train route, getting from Granada to Barcelona is best by air. It’s short 1h25m flight, and when booked with plenty of time to spare, can be comparably priced to trains.
10-day Spain itinerary: Tips, tweaks & more places to visit
Got a little more time for your trip or want to switch things up? Here are a few tweaks for your Spanish itinerary…
- Loving the vibe of Madrid? Spend a couple extra days to experience more of the area including top day trips like Salamanca or Segovia.
- Got extra time in Seville? Throw in a day trip to the interesting city of Cordoba, an important Roman settlement and, later, centre of Moorish culture in Europe.
- Looking for some time along the coast? Throw in a side trip along the Costa del Sol to take on an Andalusian beach town like Nerja or Marbella.
- Can get enough the Spanish food scene? End (or begin) with a visit to Basque Country’s San Sebastian, one of Europe’s best upcoming foodie cities.