Ahh Spain. A popular destination in Europe, and for good reason, this country has truly captured my heart. Even though I am a die-hard francophile, Spain has become my second favorite European destination thanks mainly to its plethora of foodie adventures.
If you want to know what should be on your Spain bucket list, read on to learn about the unique experiences you can find throughout this fascinating country!
Madrid Tapas Crawl
If you only do one thing in Spain, you must eat Spanish cuisine, and there’s nothing more quintessentially Spanish than tapas. This is one of my favorite subjects and I’ve written on it extensively. (Shameless plug for the Best Ever Spain Food Guide!) Spain’s culinary practices bring people together in a really unique way, making a food tour in Spain an absolutely essential experience.
Madrid is the perfect spot for this activity. Spain is composed of 17 different regions, all with their own unique customs and cuisine. That’s a lot of variety from cities that are quite far apart. Never fear though! In Madrid, the country’s capital, you can sample everything in one place. From Basque Country pintxos to Valencian paella to crema Catalana, Madrid has everything you’re looking for. (Make sure you try Spain’s prized cut of ham: jamon iberico de bellota.)
Plan your night out with any of these guides:
Experience Ibiza Nightlife
Spain’s nightlife is legendary and there’s nowhere better to experience the all-night party and DJ scene than on the island of Ibiza. Clubs stretch for miles along the sandy beaches. Here, you’ll find epic nightlife in clubs of all sizes that will rival your wildest teenage daydreams.
Electronic dance music is huge here with world-renowned DJs flocking to the island to play at its famed clubs. Dance the night away and recover on the beach the next day. Is this Spain bucket list experience a once-in-a-lifetime event for you or a recurring vacation?
Discover Gaudi in Barcelona
It would be impossible to visit Barcelona without hearing some mention of Anton Gaudi. The father of Modernism (aka Art Nouveau), Gaudi’s work can be found all across Spain’s most popular city. The architect’s work is incredibly unique and fascinating and is completely interwoven into the history of the city itself.
The Sagrada Familia, the famous church whose towers loom over the city, still surrounded by cranes and workers, was shaped by Gaudi’s vision. A tour of the church that’s taken over 100 years to complete is a must when you visit Barcelona. There are plenty more Gaudi-inspired sights to see across the city like Park Guell, Casa Mila (La Pedrera), Casa Battlo, and Casa Vicens. Interested parties can also take an architect led-tour around the city or visit Colonia Guell on a day trip from Barcelona.
Check out the Ultimate Barcelona Travel Guide for more ideas!
Eat Paella in Valencia
No Spain bucket list would be complete without paying homage to the country’s most well-known rice dish: paella! If you really want to try the real deal, head to Valencia! (Or a Valencian-owned establishment.) The original dish, Paella Valenciana, is made with rabbit, chicken, and sometimes snails, prepared with short grain rice and saffron.
You can order paella made in any style you’d like. (I wholeheartedly suggest seafood!) However, be careful not to fall victim to any tourist traps. Paella should be cooked in a large pan (also called a paella) that allows the rice to spread out and cook evenly. True paella has a crisp bottom layer called soccarat that forms in the last few minutes of cooking.
TIP: The best place for solo travelers to find single portions of paella will be in market stalls. Otherwise, portions are typically for 2+ people.
Visit a Cava Cellar in Catalonia
It’s time to talk about bubbly! Cava is the sparkling wine of Spain and an essential item on our Spain bucket list. The region of Catalonia (which includes Barcelona) is where 90% of the country’s Cava is produced! That’s why Catalonia is the perfect place to tour an authentic Cava cellar.
Penedes, a wine region located just 30 minutes outside of Barcelona, is one of the best places to tour a Cava cellar. There are dozens of tours that visit a range of wineries and Cava cellars. If you can’t fit in a full tour, you can always visit one of Barcelona’s Cava bars like Can Paixano in Barceloneta or La Vinya del Senyor in the Gothic Quarter.
To learn more about Spanish cuisine and spirits, check out the Best Ever Spanish Food Guide!
Run with the Bulls in Pamplona
Are you brave enough to add this item to your Spain bucket list? Adrenaline junkies have their chance to run with the bulls in Pamplona, Spain every July from the 7th-14th. Each morning at 8:00 am, six bulls are led on a short course through town up to the bullring
This activity takes place during Fiesta de San Fermín in Pamplona, Navarre, located in northern Spain. Anyone can participate as long as they are over 18 and follow the rules and regulations published each year on the festival’s website. Is this on your bucket list?
Attend Cordoba’s Patio Festival
Every May, the beauty of this small, Andalusian city is magnified as colorful flowers bloom in blue pots that hang from its bright, white walls. Cordoba is home to both The Mezquita, an important piece of Moorish architecture, and The Festival of Patios.
During this festival, visitors are allowed into the patios of private homes as locals compete for the prize of best patio. The lush courtyards are absolutely stunning when draped in florals and lush greenery. You can get even more of your flower fix at Palacio de Viana, a beautiful palace with 13 fragrant courtyards and gardens. Trust me when I tell you that this whole place is an Instagrammers dream come true.
Get all the info you need to plan the perfect Cordoba Day Trip here!
Eat Pintxos in Foodie Paradise San Sebastian
A hidden gem of sorts, San Sebastian has certainly earned its spot on this Spain bucket list. The small northern city is located in the Basque Country, not far from the French border. A gorgeous seaside oasis, the town is filled with dazzling belle epoque architecture. But this isn’t why it’s made the bucket list!
What really sets San Sebastian apart is its culinary scene. Firstly, this area is known for its gourmet pintxos, small bite-sized tapas crafted with quality ingredients and gourmet genius. However, this city is also filled with Michelin-starred restaurants and private food and gastronomy associations. Their culinary roots run deep, offering an unforgettable foodie experience you’ll be dying to recreate.
Visit Granada’s Alhambra
I had to include a castle fortress on our Spain bucket list! In Europe, castles are everywhere, but Spain’s southern Andalusian cities are filled with interesting palaces influenced by centuries of Moorish occupation. Granada’s Alhambra is perhaps the largest and most splendid of them all.
The Alhambra is a palace and fortress complex located an hour and a half northeast of Malaga. This monument is one of the most famous pieces of Islamic architecture in the world. Magnificently preserved, it’s one of the 7 Wonders of the Muslim World. The highlight of a trip to Granada is time spent admiring the Alhambra’s beautiful colored tiles, intricately carved stucco, and stunning courtyards. Afterward, be sure to enjoy a tapas crawl as Granada is one of the only Spanish cities that still offers free tapas when you come in for a drink.
See Flamenco in Seville
The southern city of Seville is said to be the birthplace of flamenco, a Spanish art form made up of three parts: guitar playing, singing, and dancing. The colorful twirling skirts, the rollercoaster of rhythm and the captivated crowd make flamenco an essential Spanish experience!
While flamenco originated in southern Spain, it is thought to be influenced by cultures across the world from Latin America and Cuba. Flamenco dancers try to express their deepest emotions by using body movements and facial expressions. You can’t visit Seville without catching a flamenco show.
Check out this guide for all the best things to do in Seville.
Day Trip to Segovia’s Alcazar
Okay, I said I would only include one castle, but I had to make it two to round out our Spain bucket list! It is a European country, after all. The picturesque town of Segovia lies just thirty minutes outside of Madrid, making for an easy day trip. The Alcazar of Segovia is said to be the very castle that inspired Walt Disney to design Cinderella’s castle.
There’s tons of history in this iconic palace. The Alcázar was first built around the 11th century by the Almoravid dynasty and went on to serve as the royal palace for over 20 monarchs. It was also a state prison, a Royal Artillery College, and a military academy. Talk about nine lives. While in Segovia, you can also visit a stunning cathedral and Roman adequate. Jump back on the train and return to Madrid in no time.
Discover Hidden Beaches in Mallorca
Mallorca is an island paradise that demands a place on our Spain bucket list. While there is plenty of fun to be had in the capital city of Palma de Mallorca, visitors absolutely must venture off the beaten path if they want to be rewarded with some of the most spectacular sights in Spain.
You can swim beneath not one, but two, stunning natural arches on Mallorca: the Arch at Cala Varques and Es Pontàs Natural Arch. The island has much to offer adventure and nature lovers alike with its hikes and trails that each lead to a new hidden paradise!