Anthony Bourdain once said, “Any reasonable, sentient person who looks at Spain, comes to Spain, eats in Spain, drinks in Spain, they’re going to fall in love. Otherwise, there’s something deeply wrong with you. This is the dream of all the world,” – and he couldn’t have been more right!

Like most others, Denise Larson, Travel Advisor, has fallen in love with Spain. On her most recent trip to Spain, her husband joined her to see the country’s magic for himself. Read this two-part series as Denise shares her itinerary, experiences, and recommendations for an unforgettable time in Spain!

Part One: Getting There

I have always loved Spain; my fourth trip there was also my husband’s first! I wanted to share my favorites with him and experience a few places I had yet to visit, such as Bilbao, Santiago de Compostela, and The Alhambra in Granada.

Travel method: We flew business class in both directions on our long-haul flights to Frankfurt, Germany, with Lufthansa. The food, service, and onboard entertainment were great.

Accommodations: The My Cloud Transit Hotel at Frankfurt Airport was an excellent option since we had a seven-hour layover. It was a 20-minute walk from the Lufthansa gates with a room large enough for two with a queen size bed, ensuite shower and toilet facility, flat screen TV, and a small desk.

Bilbao: 2 nights

Bilbao is the capital of the Basque Country, which is west of the Pyrenees mountains that extends from France into Spain. Bilbao is a beautiful mix of new and old, with a bustling city center, quaint narrow streets, and colorful buildings.

Travel method: From Frankfurt, we flew to Bilbao, Spain, where we rented a car. We included a transponder with our rental, making it a breeze to get through the toll gates without stopping.

Accommodations: The Hotel Miro Bilbao is an excellent 4-star hotel in a lovely pedestrian area with many shops and restaurants. The hotel has a nice breakfast restaurant with plenty of options. Parking is easy, with an underground garage right across from the entrance to the hotel.

Activity: The Guggenheim Museum is terrific and should be on anyone’s list! Our hotel was just across the road from the museum, making it a convenient activity. They sell out weeks in advance, so always prepurchase tickets.

Santiago de Compostela, in the region of Galicia (northern Spain), is well-known for the lively atmosphere of its pretty cobbled streets, full of religious pilgrims and students. It also has picturesque spots, great views, and peaceful natural parks. We did this as a day trip. Hotel 1898 offered a complimentary breakfast picnic ready for us to take for the day.

Travel method: We drove from Bilbao to Santiago de Compostela in one day (seven hours) along the highway bordering the northernmost route in Spain. The drive was beautiful, and we saw many rural areas that we otherwise wouldn’t have seen.

Activity: Santiago de Compostela is a big draw for religious pilgrims from around the world, and there are several routes you can walk to get there.

Barcelona: 2 Nights

Barcelona is an exciting city with otherworldly architecture, colorful markets, and tasty tapas in the Catalan region.

Travel method: We took a domestic flight from Bilbao to Barcelona on Iberia Airlines.

Accommodations: Hotel 1898 Barcelona is an excellent solid 4-star hotel with a great breakfast restaurant, rooftop pool, and bar area. The Deluxe Double View room has a large private patio with a dining table for up to 6 people, a sun lounger & umbrella, and plenty of room to spare.

Activity: We did the Barcelona in One Day: Sagrada Familia, Park Guell & Old Town eight-hour guided tour by Viator. It was a long tour, but well worth the time as we could see all the essential sites with a knowledgeable guide and had ample time to enjoy them.

Madrid: 2 Nights

Madrid, Spain’s central capital, has elegant boulevards and expansive, manicured parks like the Buen Retiro.

Travel method: We took trains in first class between Barcelona and Madrid on Renfe trains. We planned to allow 45 minutes to check in at each station’s passport control, including Barcelona, Madrid, and Malaga but found the lines much longer than anticipated and required at least one hour.

Accommodations: The Atocha Hotel, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is an excellent 4-star hotel with an on-site restaurant. We enjoyed the Atocha Signature House room, with two private Juliet balconies.

Activity: We did an 11-hour guided Avila and Segovia Tour with Monuments and Gastronomic Lunch from Madrid by Viator, which included a petite lunch and beverage. While we could see all the sites on our list, we would have preferred a private tour considering the length of time.

My husband visited the Formula 1 Exhibition at IFEMA in Madrid. He said it was the ultimate exhibition for those interested in the sport of Formula 1 and was excellently done, spending about three hours at the venue.

Don’t miss part two of Denise’s Spanish itinerary, including Valencia, Granada, Ronda and Estepona.

Ready to plan your trip to Spain? Contact Denise Larson at

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