My 3-Week Itinerary Through Spain

If you’ve been following along on Instagram, you probably know about my and Frank’s recent trip to Spain. It’s almost been a month since we returned, but if I close my eyes tight enough, I can still picture restaurant walls lined with tapas. If I try really hard, I can even taste the vermouth. 

Whether you’re looking to plan your own trip to Spain or just Spain-curious, here’s my full three-week itinerary of everything we got into. For more travel itineraries, you can find those here.

A woman walking down a village street.

Day 1: A Layover in Dublin

Highlights: Downtown Dublin, Irish oysters, Michelin-star experience at Chapter One

I’m a big fan of extended layovers when it comes to international traveling. If you play your cards right, you can basically cram a second mini vacation with no extra effort!

This time around, Frank and I enjoyed a 24-hour layover in Dublin. We spent most of that time in the center of downtown. We checked out the historic Trinity College, washed some Irish oysters down with a pint, then had a fantastic dinner at the Michelin-starred restaurant, Chapter One.

Dinner was incredible, though no pictures were taken, so you’ll just have to take my word for it. Afterward, we returned to the room for a few hours of sleep before our early morning flight. 

A sign for a restaurant outside.

Day 2-4: Madrid

Highlights: San Miguel Food Market, tapas, cheap vino 

The flight from Dublin to Madrid was short, so we had the whole next day to get a feel for Madrid. We stayed near Puerta del Angel, a neighborhood known for its nightlife and rich food scene. From there, we could walk to other focus points in town, including the Plaza Mayor and the infamous San Miguel Food Market (more on that later).

Throughout our first few days in Spain, we walked until we were thirsty, hungry, or in need of espresso. We did dedicate one day to taking a city bus tour which allowed us to see much of the cityscape, including the beautiful El Retiro Park.

A park surrounded by flowers and a big building.

The highlight of our few days in Madrid was visiting the San Miguel Market. It’s an indoor food market comprising vendors selling everything from oysters to cheeses, tapas, pinchos (skewers), sherry, vermouth, and patatas fritas. 

The market is jampacked from open to close, but that same energy makes elbowing your way through and bellying up to the bar so much fun. It was at this very market that I discovered my newfound love for vermouth, AKA a fortified wine made with sugar and spices, typically served as an aperitif.

Day 5-9: Gran Canaria

Highlights: Getting hitched! And wrinkled potatoes…

If you read my last post on how Frank and I decided to elope, you know a big focal point of our trip to Spain was to – get married! That’s why we jetted off from Central Spain to the Canary Islands, specifically Gran Canaria. 

The first leg of our trip was spent in Las Palmas, the historic neighborhood known for shopping and restaurants. We visited Las Canteras beach and sought out the island’s food specialties, including Canarian cheese and papas arrugadas, AKA wrinkled potatoes in romesco.

On our wedding day, we headed south to the Maspalomas Dunes. It was at these dunes that Frank and I exchanged vows. 

As newlyweds, we stayed at a nearby resort near Playa de Amadores for our final full day in Gran Canaria. We caught some rays, sipped on Cava, and ate all the Canarian cheese and fresh avocados I could get my hands on. 

A husband and wife kissing on the beach and holding a bottle of sparkling wine.

Day 10-12: Valencia

Highlights: Central Market, almhuerzo & paella

After Gran Canaria, we flew back to Madrid and immediately took a train to Valencia. We rode the Renfe fast train, which was comfortable, quiet, fast, and offered beautiful views of olive trees and rolling red hilltops.

Once we got to Valencia, we… ate and drank wine! Namely, we discovered almhuerzo, essentially brunch but with giant sandwiches. We also took a tour of the Valencia Cathedral, listened to live in the town square, and took many trips to the Central Market, which just so happens to be Europe’s largest indoor produce market. 

Of course, the true highlight of our time in Valencia was the paella. Frank and I did a little research and found one of the most acclaimed paella restaurants was a short ride south. So, we rented bikes and biked the 16 miles to Bon Aire

The ride alone was worth it, with alternating views of the countryside, beaches, and rice patties. The paella, of course, was exceptional, with an unmatched richness and savory quality.

Day 14-16: Road Trip to La Rioja

Highlights: Magaña winery, wine tasting & the epic view 

On our final day in Valencia, we rented a car to drive from Valencia through the town of Magaña – where Frank’s family lineage quite possibly originates – to La Rioja and finally to Basque Country.

The first leg of our trip took us through Central Spain, transitioning us from the bustling city sphere to a broad open highway, with castle ruins and small terra cotta-colored villages sprinkled through the drive.

Our first night on our own was spent in Tarazona, a small town not too far away from the village of Magaña. Frank and I stumbled into a Michelin-starred restaurant only to get the boot because the kitchen just closed. Instead, we found a small pizza shop where we enjoyed a bottle of the local vino and a nourishing tomato-burrata salad. 

A town with a small river between it.

The next day we booked it to the town of Magaña. Well, our first stop was the Magaña winery because (apparently) you can’t have a village and a castle in Spain without also making wine. After purchasing a few bottles of Magaña wine, we visited the castle. 

Next, we found a bodega and gathered the courage to pop our heads in and ask if we could have a wine tasting. Bodegas Fuentenarro was our stop, and while the owner didn’t speak much English, we enjoyed a tasting, and he even invited us down into the cellar for a tour.

Day 17: Wine Tasting in Haro

Highlights: Wine tasting in La Rioja

I was amped when we first arrived in Haro. Our first stop was a bustling tapas spot where we bellied up to the bar for a glass of wine, espresso, and some midday bites. Next, we walked to Haro Train Station Wine Quarter, where most of the bodegas can be found. 

We tasted at Muga, which was delightful and offered a very Americanized tasting experience. It was the first time since we arrived that I could taste a variety of Tempranillos by vintage and compare. It gave me a new appreciation for Muga since they export heavily to the States, and I had always overlooked them.

After a brief siesta and some espresso, we headed to Beethoven, a well-known and historic Haro spot featuring Rioja cuisine. They hadn’t opened yet, so we went to a nearby wine bar. 

The bartender was clearly used to visitors and all too excited to share the local vermouth. He even had to run down the street to buy more! He returned swiftly with bottles of vermouth and jars of olives tucked under his arm to pair with our aperitifs. This was undoubtedly the most European experience of our trip.

Day 18-21: San Sebastian to Bilbao

Highlights: Pinchos & txakoli

After spending the night in Haro, Frank and I recovered and made our way to San Sebastian, known locally as Donostia. The transition between Rioja and Basque was insane, with rolling vineyards transforming into steep hillsides filled with grazing sheep. Terra cotta homes and villages were replaced with stone farmhouses, and red soil was swapped for lush green farmland. 

San Sebastian was a whole other world. The town was buzzing with travelers, and the landscape of crashing ocean mixed with a bustling downtown and green hilltops was gorgeous.

A small city street at night.

We immediately stuffed our way into Old Town and found the busiest bar, where we ordered pinchos (pintxos), also known as skewers containing an infinite combination of olives, cheeses, anchovies, croquettes, you name it. We also tried the local cider, sagardo, and the local white wine, txakoli.

Two beautiful days were spent in San Sebastian, eating pinchos, drinking txakoli, and taking in the breathtaking views. Afterward, we drove to Bilbao, stopping first at Zumaia Beach. We also climbed the steps of Gaztelugatxe, an islet on the coast of Biscay, featured in Game of Thrones.

Day 22: Bilbao, Madrid, Then Home

Highlights: The Guggenheim & bustling cityscape 

We stayed in the Casco Viejo neighborhood for the last few days of our trip. Bilbao is the Capitol town of Basque and constantly buzzing with all types of people. We checked out the Guggenheim, then spent the rest of our time exploring the town by foot, gift shopping for family, and getting ready to bid farewell to Spain.

After two days in Bilbao, we flew to Madrid and did one more glorious lap around the San Miguel Market. The following morning we headed home, eager to plan our next big trip. 

A woman overlooking a museum at sunset.
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