In 2015, I caught the travel bug and told myself I wanted to see as much as I could. My best friend and I discovered it was easy to fly around Europe so we would base ourselves in London every year and pick 2/3 cities each trip to visit. The first time we traveled to Europe, London, Amsterdam & Split, Croatia were our three destinations of travel. The second attempt was Spain and Andorra, and we loved every second of it! While we were able to visit Madrid, Valencia, Barcelona, Andorra and London, I will primarily be focusing on Spain and Andorra!
Getting around in Spain is not only simple but there are so many options! Planning ahead when traveling in Spain also makes a huge difference and helps you spend your time in each city wisely. As soon as we decided we wanted to visit Spain, we made a list of the cities we wanted to see, what city was best to fly into from New York and what city had the best access to transportation. After doing our research, we came to the conclusion that Madrid was the best place to start. Soon after booking our flights roundtrip from New York —> Madrid (we flew via Delta), we picked three cities we wanted to visit. Since Madrid is a very metropolitan city, we had the option of traveling via train, bus AND by air. We decided to include all elements (city, mountains, and beach) in our decision.
The cities we decided on were, Valencia, Barcelona, Andorra, and finally back to Madrid. While Andorra is it’s own country nestled in between France & Spain, we knew Andorra would provide a relaxing element along our multi-city journey.
The train ride was absolutely beautiful, picturesque including mountains and the beach, and a much better option than flying. Once we arrived in Madrid, we took a 3 hour train to Valencia. This gave us time to relax, and also take in parts of Spain we’d never seen before.
Upon entering Valencia, we were greeted by an extremely calming energy. While Valencia is known for being a city that Spaniards move to to retire, there was still a fun light hearted vibe! Valencia is also known for Spain’s most famous dish: Paella!
Throughout the three days spent in Valencia, we ate paella every day! Valencia’s atmospheric old town was full of cafe’s, incredible Spanish architecture, and vibrant street art. Valencia is also home to tiny churches, and many green spaces. Turia Gardens, one of Valencia’s most famous parks was filled with lush picnic spots, bike paths and a tranquil atmosphere. The highlight of Valencia was the beach by far. El Saler beach meaning “salt” was beautiful with its long stretch of white sand and various activities. A must see when visiting Valencia in the summertime.
Valencia’s central market did not disappoint either. We sampled fresh produce, tender meat and fabulous pastries. Great food is at your fingertips when visiting Valencia. Also, many of the museums are free to enter in Valencia which makes for a great well rounded experience as Valencia is also extremely popular for its Art Science culture. Overall Valencia was relaxing, full of culture and great food! Our next stop on the journey was Barcelona!
Barcelona, a lot like New York is a very busy and bustling city. We also took the train from Valencia, which was a lovely 3 hour ride up the western coast of Spain. The journey was filled with sunshine, palm trees and tons of mountains in the background to make for a great photo! Riding through Sitges, a town south of Barcelona, was memorable and a city we hope to visit when we return to Spain! Our next three nights in Barcelona was filled with, many glasses of Vermut (an aromatic Spanish blended wine),tapas, dancing, and gothic architecture. Home to Museu Picasso (Pablo Picasso Museum) with over 4,000 of his famous pieces, a must see when visiting Barcelona.
A building you cannot miss, and a place you must visit either viewing from the outside in ANY part of Barcelona, or spending half the day waiting in line to see the inside, is the Sagrada Familia. Tickets to visit are less than 20 euros for general admission and huge tourist attraction. The Basilica de la Sagrada Familia is a Roman Catholic Church that began construction in 1882 and is still being built today!!!
With expected plans to be completed by 2026, the Sagrada Familia is unlike any building in Barcelona.
Another memorable place to visit in Barcelona is Park Guell. While also touristy, the views of Barcelona from this park are worth seeing and poking through crowds for. Park Guell is extremely colorful with hand painted tile and whimsical shapes. Park Guell was designed by architect Antonio Gaudi in the 1900s and still hold hundreds of visitors to this day.
After a stroll through Park Guell, a recommended snack while passing one of Barcelona’s many cafes is churros. While similar to Mexican churros, Spanish churros are either fllled with creme or you can dip them in chocolate as opposed to Mexican style in cinnamon and sugar!
Churros were a daily snack throughout our time in Barcelona and were also made fresh. If you fancy a night of dancing at one Barcelona’s famous night clubs, head towards the beach or “Barceloneta” where the night life thrives. Three days in Barcelona was more than enough time to do all the activities mentioned and still have time for more tapas!
After our 6th day into the trip, we were feeling a bit tired from all the traveling. This was the perfect time for our 4 hour bus ride to Andorra. Andorra is only accessible by car or by bus. We hopped on a direct bus from Barcelona in the morning and slept most of the way. Upon our third hour into the bus ride something told us to wake up. We knew we were heading north and would be surrounded by mountains as Andorra is known for skiing and snow activities, but we had no idea how breathtaking it would be.
Andorra has quaint, small town elements but being surrounded by mountains, gives you a grand feeling at the same time. Most homes and hotels are located up in the hills so no matter where you choose to stay, you are surrounded by mountains. We visited the town of Andorra la Vella and met some of the nicest people with kind hearts. Most of the food in Andorra is Catalan with Spanish and French influences. Snails was the most popular dish we saw served in Andorra at almost every restaurant!
While none of us were too brave to try, snails is a favorite among natives. One plus about Andorra is that it is a tax free country so we were able to get some shopping in at Andorra’s downtown area! While ski resorts are a top travel destination for Andorra, we found it was just as pleasant to visit in summer with almost no other tourists in sight.
If you’re looking for a place to visit and slow down and catch up on rest, Andorra is the place to do so. After our third night in Andorra, we were well rested and ready to attack our last and final city, Madrid!
We took the bus back to Andorra (4 hour journey) where we would then take a 30 minute train to Barcelona airport. From Barcelona airport we flew back to Madrid where we would spend our final 2 nights. Of all the stops along this trip, Madrid was by far was the most educational. The energy in Madrid was on a more serious note compared to Barcelona and Valencia with a cosmopolitan feel. Art is everywhere you turn in Madrid with over 15 museums within 15-20 minutes walking distance from each other. An interesting but fun fact about Madrid is the tap water. We could not get enough of the water in Madrid as it is the best in Spain and tastes incredibly fresh. Another must see in Madrid was Retiro Park. Famous for its rowboat rentals and giant pond, Retiro Park was like the Central Park of Madrid but on a grander scale. Retiro park is definitely worth the hype!
Guernica, another famous Pablo Picasso painting, can be seen in Madrid’s Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. Art is everywhere you turn in Madrid and most museums can be accessed for free!
All in all, Spain is a great country to visit if you want to squeeze in multiple cities in a short amount of time. With its vibrant culture and many options to get around, I highly recommend Spain as a summer travel destination!