Best Places to See in Spain: Madrid, Barcelona, Ibiza, Valencia

It has been my dream to visit Spain since I was 19. This was my first time planning a trip of this length on my own, and I wanted to share some of the things I learned. 

Best Sights

Planning this trip to Spain definitely proved to be a challenge. My boyfriend had only been out of the country to Mexico, and once to Jamaica. So a Eurotrip was not something he was an expert at. I had always wanted to visit Spain, but never to see any particular sight. I just wanted to soak up the culture and see if it was a place I would ever want to live.

My personal favorite places were:

Santiago Bernabéu Stadium [Madrid] home to Real Madrid CF. We watched Real Madrid beat Juventus in the 90th minute and it was insane! The energy was crazy because they hadn’t scored all game. They just needed one goal to make it to the finals so that was such a moment.

City of Arts & Sciences [Valencia] a massive science center where you can go visit the

·      L'Hemisfèric a gorgeous building that houses an IMAX theater playing movies about the galaxy

·      The Science Museum, which I paid to visit, where you can see everything from a dinosaur exhibit to interactive science experiments about how mirrors work.

·      L'Oceanogràfic is an aquarium with a gorgeous entrance. I tried to go but I got there just as they closed.

·      The Palace of the Arts, which I mistakenly thought was an art museum, is really an opera house. I haven’t been in an opera house since I visited Sydney Australia in 2001!

La Barceloneta [Barcelona] is a neighborhood right on the coast of the Mediterrean. This is the home of the famous W hotel. On this man made beach there are vendors selling mojitos and margaritas, people tanning and riding bikes. It almost felt like California, except for the extreme blue water. The best part of this spot was visiting the W hotel. It would not be my top choice to swim at this beach, but we made our way to the W and ate at Salt restaurant. Despite being overprice, the service and view just couldn’t be beat.

Valencia Cathedral [Valencia] is known as home to the holy chalice, or holy grail. I was able to lay my eyes upon what is believed to be precious cup from which Jesus drank! This cathedral really made a lasting impression on me. I’ve been to a few cathedrals around Europe (France, England) but this was the first time I did a guided tour and really paid attention. I learned about neoclassical art and gothic style architecture. This place is a must see.

Ibiza in general is a must visit, but you have to do this in the summer during season. We went and the clubs were 99% closed, and it was cold. We had scheduled a paddle boarding session that got cancelled because of the wind. But on the day that I left the sun came out in full force, and I got a glimpse of how beautiful that island can be. I have to go back and experience the full Ibiza effect. We stayed at THB Molinos, which was perfectly located and had an indoor pool & sauna. Perfect for the unpredictable weather.  

Favorite Food

I am not going to lie to you – I think I lost weight on this trip. I was not feeling the food, and I fell into numerous tourist traps. From overpriced paella in Barcelona to stale chips in Valencia, I did not have much luck. Any foodies who can give me some tips for my next trip? I struggled because I do not like anchovies, olives, cheese, tomatoes, or anything I cannot immediately identify. But my much less picky boyfriend didn’t have the greatest experience in this department either. I will say that I visited Casa Mingo based on recommendation from my old roommate, and it was the best chicken I have every had. Juicy, seasoned perfectly and nice sized portions. They also served their signature cider, which was almost like a dry version of Angry Orchard. That was delicious. That was the meal I remember most in Spain.

 Culture Shock

I experience a few things that made it clear I was not home in California.

Staring. From the moment I got off the plane I felt like I was being stared at incessantly. It intensified in Madrid and I felt very uncomfortable at some points.

Butter. When I was at the delicious Casa Mingo and also a trendy chain called VIPS I asked for butter for my bread. This seemed like an odd request to the servers, and Casa Mingo actually would not bring me any butter. 

Tipping. I don’t think I have a good grasp on the world of tipping in Europe, but I generally believe that it is not expected. I really struggled with deciding when to tip and when to leave it be. I began to lean towards not tipping based on some google searches from expert travelers.

That is the long story short of my 2 weeks in Spain! It was amazing and I am eternally grateful I was able to visit.

Time of Year

My boyfriend and I visited Spain in April. Prior to visiting I had the idea that Spain has a similar weather pattern to California. In this case, I was very wrong. We arrived to Barcelona in mid-April and the temperature was around 63 degree Fahrenheit or so during the day. Madrid was much colder and we spent time walking around in 40-45 degree Fahrenheit. ON a trip to the Royal Palace of Madrid the clouds burst into a rainstorm and I picked up a souvenir umbrella. Not sure I’ll ever use it again but it’s cute!