Last Updated on October 25, 2022 by Nellie Huang
Planning a Spain road trip? As an expat who lived in Spain for 7+ years, I’ve designed the ultimate Spain itinerary for those looking to experience the best of Spain in 2 weeks.
Passionate, vibrant, and traditional in every sense of the word, Spain is a country that has captivated me since the day I first stepped foot on it. My love affair with Spain continued for years, and today it still holds a special place in my heart.
I’ve traveled from the sultry Andalusian province in southern Spain to the northernmost reaches of Galicia, from the deserts of Almeria to the rugged coastline of Costa Brava, and I’ve found this country to be more diverse than I ever imagined.
For first-time visitors, I’ve designed the ultimate 2-week Spain itinerary to help you experience the best of the country: whether you’re after historical treasures, buzzing city life, insanely good Spanish food. Buckle up and get ready for a journey into one of the most spectacular countries in the world!
Table of Contents
- 2-Week Spain Itinerary
- Spain COVID-10 Travel Requirements
- How to Get to Spain
- How to Get Around Spain
- Best Time to Do A Spain Road Trip
- How Long to Do a Spain Road Trip?
- Spain Itinerary Day 1: Get an Introduction to Madrid
- Where to Stay in Madrid
- Spain Itinerary Days 2-3: Exploring Madrid
- Spain Itinerary Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo
- Spain Itinerary Day 5: Fly to Barcelona
- Where to Stay in Barcelona
- Spain Itinerary Days 6-7: Getting to Know Barcelona
- Spain Itinerary Day 8: Head to Valencia
- Where to Stay in Valencia
- Spain Itinerary Day 9: See the Modern Coastal City of Valencia
- Spain Itinerary Day 10: Road Trip to Granada
- Where to Stay in Granada
- Spain Itinerary Day 11: Explore the Andalusian Town of Granada
- Spain Itinerary Day 12: Continue on to Málaga
- Where to Stay in Málaga
- Spain Itinerary Day 13-14: A Whirlwind Trip around Málaga
- Alternative: Do one of Spain’s Best Hikes
- Spain Itinerary Day 15: Time to Head Home
- Enjoy Your Spain Road Trip!
2-Week Spain Itinerary
Spain COVID-10 Travel Requirements
Spain is now open to all travelers, though you need to show your COVID vaccination pass to enter. All travelers must complete a Health Control Form (HCF), which can be completed via the Spain Travel Health website or app. It will generate a QR code which must be shown on arrival in the country. Health assessments take place on arrival into Spain, with a temperature check and visual examination as standard.
Safety Wing is the most popular travel insurance company for COVID19-coverage. I use their Nomad Insurance plan, which covers COVID-19 as any other illness as long as it was not contracted before your coverage start date. Refer to my travel insurance guide for more details.
How to Get to Spain
The two biggest airports in Spain are Madrid and Barcelona. The national airline, Iberia, serves many major airports in the US. You can find cheap flights from New York to Madrid (7.5 hours) for around $500 and flights from LA to Barcelona (15 hours) for around $600.
This Spain itinerary starts and ends in Madrid, as there’s where most people fly to. However, you can also fly to Barcelona and drive to Madrid, following this itinerary the rest of the way.
For those in Europe, most major airports have direct flights to Madrid and Barcelona. Some airlines also serve smaller airports throughout Spain like Málaga, Valencia and Sevilla. Flights within Europe can cost anywhere from $20 to $200 round trip.
How to Get Around Spain
The easiest and most convenient way to travel through Spain is by car. Spain’s network of highways are in excellent condition and it’s easy to navigate even if you don’t read Spanish. Small roads in old towns can be tricky though, as they’re narrow and busy.
Car rental in Spain is extremely affordable and you can find rentals as cheap as 30 euros a day. We always use Discover Cars as they’ve consistently given the best prices and customer service. For this Spain road trip, we recommend picking up your car rental in Barcelona and dropping it in Malaga.
By Train & Bus
If you don’t drive, you can still follow this Spain itinerary on train or bus. Most people speak at least a little bit of English, but learning some Spanish can help you get around a lot easier.
Spain has an excellent train system, with high speed trains connecting the major cities. The national train operator in Spain is Renfe. Traveling by bus is the cheapest option. Some of the main bus operators in Spain are Alsa, Comes, and Conda. To check bus routes and fares in Spain, plan your bus route using BusBud.
Best Time to Do A Spain Road Trip
Many people assume Spain to be warm throughout the year, but it actually has a myriad of terrains and climates. Bilbao in the north, for example, has a rainy and cool climate for most of the year. In general, the summer months have the best weather across the country. But that’s also the time when Spain is most crowded and expensive.
In my opinion, the best time to do this Spain itinerary is between March and May or September and October. You’ll still soak up the sunshine and you’ll be able to get in most museums and sights without too much crowd.
How Long to Do a Spain Road Trip?
Spain is an extremely diverse country with each province offering different cultures, cuisines and landscapes — it’s no wonder Spain is one of the most visited countries in the world. In the seven years I spent living in Spain, I traveled throughout the country at every chance I had and still have not seen it all!
For your first trip to Spain, I recommend spending at least two weeks in Spain. You’ll not only get to visit the most famous parts of Spain, like Madrid and Barcelona, but you’ll also get to see the coast along Valencia, and the Andalusia region that is the most traditional part of the country.
Summary of the Ultimate Spain Itinerary
- Days 1-3: Madrid
- Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo
- Day 5-7: Barcelona
- Day 8-9: Valencia
- Days 10-11: Granada
- Days 12-14: Malaga
- Day 15: Fly home!
Spain Itinerary Day 1: Get an Introduction to Madrid
Madrid is Spain’s capital and it’s chocked full of historical treasures and cultural displays, making it the perfect place to start your trip. I lived here for about 1.5 years and absolutely loved the vivacious energy and spirit of the city.
I recommend staying in the Puerta del Sol – Gran Via area, as that’s the very heart of the city within walking distance from major landmarks and famous restaurants. If you’re on a budget, then check out La Latina or Lavapies districts, which are lively local areas brimming with tapas bars and offbeat museums.
To get from the airport to the city, you can either pick up your car rental and drive there, or catch the metro. There’s a metro station at the Airport Terminal 2 and 4. A single ticket costs €3 or $3.50 and it takes 30 minutes to get to downtown Madrid.
Spain Itinerary Days 2-3: Exploring Madrid
Once you’re well-rested, it’s time to explore Madrid properly and get a good sense of the Spanish capital. Madrid may lack iconic landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or Sagrada Familia, but it’s hauntingly beautiful, with wide boulevards backdropped by medieval mansions and royal palaces and baroque churches. Here are some of the major sights worth seeing over the next two days.
Visit the Royal Palace of Madrid
Like Buckingham Palace in London, the Royal Palace of Madrid is the official residence of Spain’s royal family (but it’s really only used for special occasions now). There are more than 3,000 rooms full of art and history to explore here. It’s open to the public, and the views of the city are pretty awesome here.
Wander along Madrid’s Gran Via
From the palace, it’s a 10-minute walk over to Plaza de España, a gloriously big square dotted with lush gardens, fountains, and monuments of historical figures. You’ll then find yourself at Gran Via, the main artery of the city. Lined with shops, restaurants and bars, Gran Via is the perfect place to stroll during the night to experience the vivacity of Madrid up close.
Explore Palacio de Cibeles
Stroll all the way to the end of Gran Via and you’ll find yourself at Palacio de Cibeles, one of the most notable landmarks in the city. Dating back to 1904, this was the original post office of the city. It has survived through the bombings during Spain’s civil war and now stands proudly along a main thoroughfare. It has an observation deck on the 8th floor (entry is €3 or $3.50), with some of the best views of the city.
See The Golden Triangle of Art
A real treasure-trove for culture-lovers, the city of Madrid abounds with theaters, libraries, sculptures, and nearly 40 museums. For culture vultures, you can easily spend a whole day at the Golden Triangle of Art, along the boulevard, Paseo del Prado. Three of the most famous art museums are located right here, next to each other. Museo del Prado has more classical art, the Reina Sofia Museum has modern art, and the Thyssen-Bornemisza has everything in between.
Hang Out at Puerta del Sol
By night, the best place to soak up Madrid’s energy is the Puerta del Sol, a major square and popular meeting point for the Madrileños. It’s in the exact center of Spain, also known as kilometer zero. The official symbol of Madrid is a bear with a strawberry tree, and you’ll find a statue of this at the Puerta del Sol.
Spain Itinerary Day 4: Day Trip to Toledo
Don’t leave Madrid without taking a day trip to the outrageously beautiful city of Toledo. You can either drive or take the train. The train journey from Atocha station to Toledo takes about 35 minutes, and costs around €10 or $15 one way. Once there, it’s easy to explore everywhere by foot. You can also book a guided day tour to learn more about the town’s history.
Admire the Catedral Primada
Toledo is a walled city that has a blend of medieval Arab, Christian, and Jewish influences. There are a lot of historic religious buildings scattered throughout the city and the Catedral Primada is one of the most famous. It was finished in the 15th century and is a beautiful example of gothic architecture. Tickets to get into the cathedral and museums are $10 to $15.
See The Alcázar
This is a former military fortress that has been around for the last 2,000 years. It’s the highest point in Toledo and the views are unbelievable. It also has a military museum if you want to learn more about its history.
Visit the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes
One more stop you should consider making in Toledo is the Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes. It was built during the reign of one of Spain’s most powerful queens and has a completely unique style compared to other buildings in Toledo. Walking through the long and narrow corridors and side chapels is an experience you probably won’t have anywhere else.
Spain Itinerary Day 5: Fly to Barcelona
Next morning, head back to Madrid’s Baraja Airport and fly to Spain’s cultural capital, Barcelona. You can also drive – it takes around six hours. Flights from Madrid to Barcelona are only around $70 and take around 90 minutes. Search for domestic flights.
I recommend staying in Barrio Gotico (the Gothic Quarter). This is the historical and geographical heart of the city, where all the important landmarks, attractions and tapas bars are found. If you cannot wait to go to the beach, then stay at Barceloneta, the city’s coastline with six kilometers of beaches.
Spain Itinerary Days 6-7: Getting to Know Barcelona
Barcelona is very different from Madrid: the coastal city has younger vibes, with an electric energy and colorful personality. The city is overflowing with eclectic architecture, contemporary museums, city beaches and gourmet restaurants. If you’re a foodie, check out my article on where to get the best tapas in Barcelona. It’s impossible to see all of Barcelona in 3 days, but these are the Barcelona attractions you can’t miss.
See La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia is definitely one of Spain’s most famous attractions and for good reason. The cathedral was designed by world-famous Spanish architect Gaudí and it truly captures the culture and architectural style of Catalonia, the region where Barcelona is. It has been under construction for over 100 years and is set to be completed in 2026. Skip the line with this fast track tour, which also allows you to combine your visit of Sagrada Familia with the colorful and lush Parc Güell.
Visit Parc Güell
My favorite spot in Barcelona, Parc Güell is a whimsical park with colorful sculptures and tile work designed by Gaudí. It’s a playground for the mind: visual jokes, columns that simulate palm-tree trunks, rubble-surfaced arches that grow out of the ground, and quilts of ceramic tiles. There’s a graceful gazebo made of twisted angle iron shaped like softly curved climbing vines.
Admire Gaudi’s Work at Casa Battló
This is another awe-inspiring creation of Gaudí that needs to be seen to be believed. It’s a townhouse from the 19th century that has a one-of-a-kind structure. Because of its curves, locals call it the House of the Dragon. Tickets to Casa Battlo are expensive, at € 25 or $ 29.40, but they’re well worth the price.
Stroll Along La Rambla
Similar to the Gran Via in Madrid, La Rambla is Barcelona’s most famous pedestrianized street. Popping in the little shops and restaurants along La Rambla will show you what it’s like to be a local in Barcelona. At the end of La Rambla, you’ll find La Boqueria market, bursting with fresh produce stalls, tapas stands and bars. I did a food tour and cooking class, and our instructor brought us here to taste some of the best jamon I’ve ever had!
Relax at Parc de la Ciutadella
This is one of the biggest public parks in Barcelona and it’s the perfect place to enjoy a day outside. Those traveling with kids will love the huge playgrounds, lush gardens and fountains here. It’s also home to the Catalan Parliament and the Barcelona Zoo. It’s centrally located in the city, so it’s accessible no matter where you’re staying in Barcelona. Check this list of other free things to do in Barcelona.
Spain Itinerary Day 8: Head to Valencia
After a few days in Barcelona, it’s time to head down the coast to Valencia. A mid-sized city with the perfect balance of old and new, Valencia is an excellent spot to experience contemporary Spain.
It takes about 4 hours to drive there, but the views along the way are worth it. If you’re not driving, you can catch a high speed train from Barcelona-Sants station and you’ll get there around the same time.
I recommend staying in Ciutat Vella, literally Old Town, the historic district of Valencia. If you prefer oceanside views, the port area of El Cabanyal is a good alternative It’s near the beaches and still within walking distance of the city centre.
Spain Itinerary Day 9: See the Modern Coastal City of Valencia
Valencia may not be as big as Madrid and Barcelona, but it’s a wonderfully liveable city with thriving cultural, eating and nightlife scenes. The city has a fistful of fabulous Modernista buildings, great museums, a long stretch of beach and a large, characterful old quarter. Valencia is also famous as the home of traditional Spanish dishes like paella, and its lively restaurants are excellent spots to try them.
Visit Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias
This complex is usually the first result that comes up in Google when you search for Valencia. It’s the most famous building in the city and it actually has 5 different parts, including an IMAX theater, a restaurant, and museums. It’s surrounded by water and it’s the perfect place to explore or relax during your stay.
Part of the Ciudad de las Artes y Ciencias, Oceanográfico is the largest aquarium in Europe and has animals from all different parts of the world. It also has live shows with dolphins.
Wander around Ciutat Vella
Ciutat Vella (“old town” in Valencian) is a charming old Medieval quarter, with winding streets and plenty of sights to see. See the Cathedral, admire the gothic architecture in the UNESCO site of La Lonja, and browse the artwork at the Museo de Patriaca. Whether you’re interested in the city’s religious heritage, fine art, street art, or Aguas de Valencia, you’ll be able to explore it all on foot here.
Get Lost in Mercat Central
Fresh oranges, seafood, olives and a whole myriad of spices are on offer in this impressive historical market. Locals and tourists alike browse and shop at this vibrant, colorful market. It’s also a beautiful building and worth strolling through just to take in the sights.
Spain Itinerary Day 10: Road Trip to Granada
I’ve saved the best for the last! Granada is my second home, where I lived for over 7 years and it’s where my husband is from. This is the Spain that most people dream of: white-washed hilltop villages, flamenco dancing, and bullfighting rings.
It’s a 5.5-hour drive from Valencia to Granada, so it’s best to get up early and head out. If you have time, stop off to see the Costa Blanca on the way as the beaches around Alicante are some of the best in Spain.
I recommend staying in the Albayzin area, the oldest and most iconic neighborhood in Granada. It’s built on a hilltop, with whitewashed houses and cobblestoned alleys revealing dramatic views of the Alhambra at every turn. For a unique experience, I suggest staying in a cave in Sacromonte in the hills above Albayzin, where Romani gypsies live and perform flamenco.
Spain Itinerary Day 11: Explore the Andalusian Town of Granada
I might be biased, but I think Granada is one of the most beautiful places in Europe. The bohemian city, sprawled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada, was the last stronghold of the Spanish Moors and their legacy lies all around: in the historic Arab quarters, the landscaped gardens, and aromatic spice market.
There’s also an energy to Granada’s streets, packed as they are with tapas bars, teterías (teahouses), and intimate flamenco clubs. It’s not very big though, so 2 days are enough to get a good sense of the city. Check out my list of best things to do in Granada.
Visit the Famous Alhambra
This is one of the most iconic sites in Spain. Set against the Sierra Nevada peaks, this fortified palace started life as a walled citadel before becoming the opulent seat of Granada’s Nasrid emirs. The 14th-century Palacios Nazaríes here are among the finest Islamic buildings in Europe. You can explore the sprawling complex on your own, but book the tickets early as they sell out especially in summer. Alternatively, get a fast track guided tour to go under the surface.
Relax in the Carmen de los Martires Gardens
The nature in Granada is stunning, and the Carmen de los Martires Gardens are the perfect way to experience it. Close to the Alhambra, this lush garden is not a very busy spot and it’s a great way to sit back, relax, and breathe some of the fresh mountain air in Granada. There’s also a tower in the gardens that you can go up and see a beautiful view of the city.
Get Lost in Albayzin
Albayzin is a hodgepodge of white washed houses, pine tree gardens and cobblestone alleys all stacked up on one hill overlooking Granada. Be warned though, there are plenty of steps and slippery cobblestoned paths. Wear sturdy shoes and prepare to spend hours wandering all over the neighborhood. The best time to visit is in the morning (before 12pm) and evening (around 5pm) if you’re visiting Granada in summer.
See the Views at Mirador de San Nicolas
The Mirador de San Nicolas is a viewpoint perched on the highest point of Albayzin, offering unobstructed views of the Alhambra and Sierra Nevada. Hundreds of tourists sit by the ledge and drink in the view, while gypsy street artists strum their Spanish guitars and hippies sell their handicraft. One of my favorite bars in Granada is located right below the Mirador: Huerto de Juan Ranas has a spectacular view and atmospheric open roof bar.
See a Flamenco Show in Sacromonte
Sacromonte is Granada’s gypsy quarter, on the hills above Albayzin. This is the birthplace of the zambra, an intense form of flamenco. Most caves in the area have nightly flamenco shows, though you might see street performances if you’re lucky (though the real artists would sneer at them). I usually bring friends from out of town to Cuevas los Tarantos, where a dimly-lit atmosphere and authentic beats set the scene for an unforgettable evening.
Enjoy FREE Tapas
Spanish tapas are renown around the world for good reason. These bite-size appetizers pack in all the goodness of fresh Spanish ingredients. Granada has always had this tradition of serving free tapas with drinks. Beer or wine usually cost 2.50 to 3 euros each, and that comes with a small platter of tortilla de patata, berenjena con miel or carne con salsa. some of my favorite tapas bars in Granada include La Botilleria, Taberna La TanaBar Los Diamantes (best seafood in town).
Spain Itinerary Day 12: Continue on to Málaga
Prepare for the last leg of your Spain road trip! Continue your Spain itinerary with a 1.5-hour drive to one of Spain’s major cities, Málaga. Most people prefer Seville, but I definitely am a loyal fan of Malaga. Loaded with history and brimming with trendy vibes, the city that gave the world Picasso has transformed itself in spectacular fashion, with a radically refreshed port area and a nascent art district called Soho.
I recommend staying in El Centro, as it is known to locals, downtown Malaga. This is where most of the city attractions are located, including the Picasso Museum and Plaza de la Merced. Soho is another great area to stay, if you’re into trendy bars and artsy galleries.
Spain Itinerary Day 13-14: A Whirlwind Trip around Málaga
You’ve had a busy couple weeks, and Málaga is the perfect place to end your Spain road trip. It has a relaxed atmosphere and miles of beach to sit on while you soak up the sun. For more ideas on what to do here, check out my weekend in Malaga itinerary.
Head to the Alcazaba
The Alcazaba fortress, a smaller version of Granada’s famous Alhambra, is the city’s most iconic landmark. Perched atop the historic centre, the Moorish fortress palace is a well-preserved complex set amidst a maze of gardens and fountains, with beautiful views of the casco antiguo (old town). To get up there, climb up the steep slopes from the back of the Roman theater or take an elevator from the back of the Ayuntamiento de Malaga.