There is just something about Spain that still has me dreaming of the enchanting architecture, friendly locals and delectable tapas with a glass of sangria (or 2). I knew that when I booked my trip to Spain that I wanted to get a taste of both the northern and southern regions. I had 10 full days to squeeze in all my exploring, and let me tell you- it wasn’t nearly enough.
I scored round trip flights into Barcelona for an insanely cheap price. Usually, I fly into one city and out the other but this deal was too good to pass up. So I made it work. Luckily, transportation is readily accessible in European countries which made my dilemma a heck of a lot easier.
Now, I’ll walk you through my itinerary and how to see the best of Spain like a local in a short amount of time.
I arrived in Barcelona early in the morning. Mind you, I was extremely jet-lagged and had a 2 year old clinging to me wondering why she wasn’t sleeping. Somehow I managed to make it to my accommodations without getting too lost. I took the Aerobus from the airport to Placa de Catalunya. This is probably the cheapest and easiest option. The bus runs every 5 minutes and you can buy round trip tickets at a discounted rate. From Placa de Catalunya, I strolled down the famous Las Ramblas and found my airbnb right in the heart of the gothic quarter. Honestly, we spent the majority of the day sleeping since it was the middle of the night our time.
On another note, I really enjoyed staying in an Airbnb while in Barcelona. It made my experience so much more authentic and I felt more like a local than a tourist. This is the apartment I stayed in and I can’t recommend it enough. It has a full kitchen so I was able to go to local grocery stores and shop and make my own food. Shopping in local grocery stores while traveling is one of my favorite things to do. Another plus, it was right in the heart of the Gothic quarter!
We woke up refreshed and ready to explore the city! We started off the day with the Hop on Hop off Bus Tour. I purchased my tickets ahead of time on Get Your Guide.
I’d recommend doing so because the line to purchase was extremely long. You can buy a 24 or 48 hour pass. I opted for the 48 hour bus pass and used the bus as my mode of transportation for the duration of my stay. Huge money saver! The Hop on Hop off tour takes you to all the famous sites and gives you a good feel for the city.
After the bus tour, I did something that I have never done before. A food tour! And boy have I been missing out! Typically while traveling, I tend to live like a local and avoid touristy tours. This tour was different and completely blew my mind. The guide took us to the Gracia neighborhood of Barcelona where we stopped at 9 different local, family run businesses. If you are looking for a truly authentic experience in Barcelona, I highly recommend the Gracia Neighborhood Food and Market Tour with Devour Barcelona. You can read more about my experience here.
Even if you don’t want to eat your body weight in a food tour, do yourself a favor a visit Gracia anyway. It is away from the hustle and bustle of the big city and encompasses true Catalan charm that you won’t find anywhere else.
This was a busy day filled with exploring 2 must see sites: Sagrada Familia and Park Guell. We had so much fun this day that my daughter skipped her nap, and that says a lot. Any mom that lets their 2 year old skip their nap has to have a good reason.
We hopped back on the hop on hop off bus to get to our destinations. First we stopped at the famous work of art by Gaudia- the Sagrada Familia. This unfinished masterpiece will truly take your breath away. The Roman Catholic cathedral was originally started by Antoni Gaudi and is still under construction. Allegedly, it is supposed to be completed by 2026. I urge you to buy tickets ahead of time or you may find yourself standing outside the church unable to go in. This church is probably the most visited attraction in Barcelona and tickets sell out fast. Book reasonably priced tickets from Get Your Guide on the link below!
Book tours, attractions, and activities online
After the Sagrada Familia, we got back on the bus to our next stop- Park Guell. I am sure you’ve seen the pictures of what looks like little gingerbread houses in Barcelona. These can be found at Park Guell, another work of art by Gaudi. Park Guell is a massive, beautifully landscaped park right outside the city. You could easily spend the day here strolling around and relaxing. This was the perfect place for my daughter to run around and explore. Now if you want access to the monumental zone, which trust me you do, then you’ll need to purchase tickets ahead of time. The monumental zone is where you have views overlooking the city and access to more of Gaudi’s architectural masterpieces.
Time to head south to the Andalusia region! As soon as I booked my trip to Spain, I KNEW I had to visit Sevilla. There was just something in my heart leading me there and I have forever left a piece of myself in this city. I still find myself dreaming of the cobblestone streets, ancient renaissance architecture and the serenity I felt while there. Can you tell I fell in love? Because I am head over heels for Sevilla.
Sevilla is quite a ways from Barcelona so I decided flying was the most time efficient option. I hopped on a cheap Vueling flight and arrived in Sevilla by late morning. I checked into Hotel Alacantra and was immediately sucked into the city. I went to explore the old city right outside my hotel and ended up walking for hours in complete amazement.
Where are all my game of thrones fans at?! Today, we visited the Alcazar de Sevilla, which just so happens to be the filming location for Dorne in GOT. Regardless if you watch the show or not, visiting the Alcazar is an absolute must while in Seville.
Once again, you’ll need to purchase your tickets ahead of time and you can do so
I spent the remainder of the day exploring the old city while indulging in endless amounts of tapas and sangria. You’re in Spain! Calories don’t count!
A little ways away from the city lies the famous Plaza de Espana. This is by far my favorite plaza that I have come across while traveling in Europe. You’ll understand why I feel this way once you step foot in the area. The architecture is astounding and will amaze even those who aren’t interested in architecture.
Right next to Plaza de Espana is Maria Luisa Park. Maria Luisa Park is a relaxing oasis within the city. It is massive and filled with beautiful blooming flowers and fountains. My daughter and I spent hours exploring the park. It is the perfect place to let your little ones run around or stop for a picnic.
If you would like to stay on this side of the city instead of the old city, I HIGHLY recommend this Airbnb. It is a gorgeous Andalusian house and the host, Maria, is truly one of the kindest people I have ever met. I never felt more at home in a foreign country.
If you are interested in feeling more like a local than a tourist while traveling, staying in an Airbnb is your best bet.
Back on the move! Today we opted to take a train to Toledo to break up our journey back to Barcelona. Toledo is an ancient city set on a hill overlooking the plains of Castilla-La Mancha in central Spain. Now let me reiterate, Toledo is on a hill. A gigantic hill. Me being the cheapskate that I am, decided it would be a good idea to walk to the city from the train station with my backpack and 2-year old. After about 200 stairs leading to the city I was highly regretting my decision. Learn from me and take a cab unless you want your thighs and calves to burn the rest of the day.
I checked into Hotel Santa Isabel and spent the rest of the afternoon exploring the old city. Toledo is quite small and can easily be explored within on day.
We had an early train to catch back to Barcelona. Upon arriving in Barcelona, we took a taxi from the train station to our final hotel in Spain. Taxis are extremely overpriced and if it weren’t for the convenience and exhaustion I would have preferred to take a bus to save 20 euros. We arrived at Ca La Maria B&B. I have an entire post dedicated to this fantastic boutique hotel and give it my utmost recommendation. To this day I am still drooling over the homemade breakfast and luxury king size bed.
On our final day in Barcelona we crammed in everything we missed from the beginning of our stay. Barcelona is such a large city and even though we spent a total of 5 nights I feel like we still missed out on so much. We walked A LOT this day, but I truly feel like walking is how you discover the greatest treasures. It never hurts to wander off the beaten path- you never know what you may find along the way.
Today we walked past the famous Casa Batllo and Casa Mila– more famous works of art by Gaudi. He truly dominates the city which is what makes parts of Barcelona so unique. We made our way back to Las Ramblas where La Boqueria is located. La Boqueria is a bustling market filled with almost anything you can imagine. I picked up some local Catalan cuisine, fresh fruit juice and sat along Las Ramblas. Local markets are a great place to converse with locals and try new foods.
Later in the afternoon, my daughter and I decided to do my absolute favorite thing while traveling- get lost. We walked down narrow streets, explored local shops, stopped for tapas and mingled with locals. We actually ended up back in the Gracia neighborhood which was a perfect way to end the trip. My daughter played with some local children while I took a moment to soak in what an incredible experience we had in Spain.
All good things must come to an end. I booked a later flight so we wouldn’t be rushed in the morning. We enjoyed another delicious breakfast at Ca La Maria and strolled the Catalan streets one more time. We walked to Placa de Catalunya where we caught the AeroBus that took us straight back to the airport. I recommend giving yourself extra time because there was a long line of people waiting for the AeroBus. On a side note, Barcelona’s airport is my new favorite airport because if you are traveling with children they let you skip the incredibly long lines. If you travel with kids then you know this is a complete lifesaver!
So there ya have it! That is how I spent my 10 days in Spain like a local, while still hitting all the main tourist attractions. This itinerary will give you a good variety of both Northern and Southern Spanish cultures. I never felt rushed or short on time, even though I wish I could have extended my trip. I truly believe in taking your time in each city or you will miss out on little discoveries. Traveling is a journey, not a race.
Also, I can’t recommend Spain enough if you are looking to travel with your children! The locals welcomed us with open arms and we felt incredibly safe the entire time we were there! We will both be back, and next time with another little world traveler by our sides!
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