Special thanks to Kerri Brown, Mackenzie Dolan, and Morgan Mohonen for the recommendations
The eclectic cities of Barcelona and Madrid are dense with history, excitement, and nightlife. The secluded and pristine coasts of Palma and the Balearic Islands are well worth a short trip from mainland. Even the avid partygoers have a home in Ibiza, where the city never sleeps and the clubs never close. Brimming with passion, colorful characters, and breathtaking scenery, Spain is commonly known as any visitor’s favorite destination.
Things to Do
Arc de Triomf: Located right next to the Parc della Ciutidad. Classic, Gothic-era architecture.
Barcelona Cathedral: Located in El Gotico; there are often markets in front that are fun to check out. Surrounded by the Roman Wall that used to enclose the entire city.
Barceloneta: Beach neighborhood. If you’re by Port Vell, there’s almost always live music, which is normally pretty good.
Cable Car: There are two cable cars in Barcelona: one running from Montjuic up to the castle of Montjuic, and another that starts in Port Vell and goes across the city to Miramar. The views of the city are beautiful, and it’s a really scenic evening activity.
Camp Nou: Take a tour and visit the museum inside the Barca stadium. Also, catch a game if you get the chance! If you go on a non-game day, you can get a tour of the locker rooms and field.
Casa Batllo: Gaudi’s house with the colorful facade on Passeig de Gracia. They offer a special Magic Nights series in September where you can go at night, drink some cava or wine and listen to classical music.
Cava tasting: There are a ton of great wineries in the Catalonia region and some are super easy to get to by train, Freixenet especially. They offer inexpensive tours and cava tasting -- most are early in the morning, go before 11 a.m. if you want English.
Colonia Guell: One of Antoni Gaudi’s works. An unfinished crypt and church merely a train away from Barcelona. Really neat to check out. It’s not super touristy and only about four euro per ticket.
Day trip to Costa Brava: Blanes is the southern-most town on Costa Brava and the easiest to access from Barcelona, but all the towns are beautiful. From the city, Blanes is about an hour and a half train ride and then a 15 minute bus. Awesome beach scene.
Day trip to Dali Museum: Short commute, roughly hour an half away in the town of Figueres. True to Dali's style, this museum is strange, captivating, and a memorable sight.
Day trip to Montserrat: Hiking Montserrat is a must during your time in Barcelona. Get there via train to visit the monastery, and then you can choose to hike or take a funicular to the top.
Day trip to Sitges: Calm beach town, about a 30 minute train from Passeig de Gracia.
Day trip to Taragona: Historical, Roman-influenced town about an hour from Barcelona. Make sure to visit the colosseum!
El Born: An insider's favorite in Barcelona. Nestled in winding streets with beautiful shops, it hosts a ton of cafes and even a neighborhood wine tasting festival.
Santa Maria del Mar: Take a glimpse at this gothic-era inspired cathedral and the El Born Museum. Both are free and worth the time to walk through.
El Raval: Another neighborhood with windy streets on the other side of La Rambla. El Raval has a bit of a rough reputation, so be careful at night. Still, it’s a cool neighborhood and has some really amazing hole-in-the-wall shops, bars, and cafes.
Flamenco show: Although it’s a Spanish and not Catalan tradition, still a grand spectacle to watch. Shows are held in Plaza Reial off La Rambla, called Los Tarantos.
La Pedrera: Antoni Gaudi’s house with famous chimneys and a beautiful view of Sagrada Familia.
La Rambla: The main tourist street in Barcelona. La Rambla is home to street performers, flower stalls, cartoon artists, the wax museum, the boqueria, and a million quaint outdoor cafes.
Labyrinth Park: It’s a little bit of a hike to get to, but that also means minimal tourists, which can be refreshing. The oldest park in Barcelona, it has a hedge maze, a ‘romantic garden’ and some neat cut-outs where elites used to host outdoor parties.
Light Show: Depending on the season (winter runs Fri/Sat at 7 p.m.) there is a free visual display at the Magic Fountains of Montjuic.
Parc della Ciutidad and Gaudi fountain: Relaxing place to run or just hangout. Gaudi’s fountain, modeled after the Trevi Fountain, is nestled in the north-east corner. Can also rent rowboats in the pond.
Castle of Montjuiic: For all history buffs, this rustic castle will teleport you back in time.
Miro Museum: Trendy, modern art museum full of abstract, minimalist, and memorable rotating exhibits.
National Museum of Catalan Art: Dubbed Palau Nacional, this museum hosts some of the most renown Catalan art assembled.
Olympic Stadium: Free entrance,stadium where the 1992 Olympics were held.
Teatre Grec: Beautiful gardens in front of the Miro Museum; offers great view of the city.
Parc Guell: Another of Gaudi’s staples, Parc Guell is incredible. Worth the price of admission. Make sure to sit on the benches designed for comfort. Also, the park has amazing views of Barcelona so go on a pretty day!
Passeig de Gracia: Shopping street full of vibrant and bustling merchants.
Picasso Museum: Located in El Born, displays some of Picasso's finest works.
Sagrada Familia: Probably the biggest symbol of Barcelona, Gaudi’s church is breathtaking. Buy your ticket online to avoid the line and get the audio guide. You can also attend mass on Sundays.
St. Miquel de Fai: Hidden gem of a hiking spot.
Tibidabo: Tibidabo is the mountain range resting just behind Barcelona. You can hike to the peak, or opt to take a shuttle up to where a church and amusement park sit. Memorable way to spend an afternoon.
Places to eat
Bacoa: Popular burger place near Plaza Catalunya.
Bo de Be: A Barcelona staple. Freshly cooked chicken or steak served on a warm baguette with unlimited sauces/toppings for five euro.
Boca Grande: Delicious dinner place: great for big groups.
Brunch & Cake: High-quality brunch spot near Universitad.
Carpe Diem at CDLC: Go to CDLC during the evening and they have amazing sangria, mojitos, and spring rolls to enjoy on their lounge sofas.
Casa de Tapes: Wonderful tapas! Need we say more?
Champagneria: Street sandwiches and champagne, very affordable.
Cuines Santa Caterina: Restaurant attached to the Santa Caterina market near the Cathedral. Probably the largest menu selection in Barcelona. Has everything from paella to pasta to burgers.
La Boqueria: The boqueria in general is amazing, but go to the little bar/restaurant inside called Universal and get the mushrooms. Their peppers, sea bass, steak, fries and lemon chicken are all crowd pleasers.
La Flouta: Amazing tapas and moderately priced. It gets super busy
after 9 p.m. so try to go earlier. The steak baguettes are to die for.
La Pizza Pazza: Pizza slices on Ample in the Gothic Quarter.
Los Caracoles: Great ambiance in the Old City. Delectable mushrooms, paella, vegetables and chicken.
Milk: Open for brunch, dinner and late night until 2 a.m. Hailed as one of the greatest brunch spots in the city. Don't miss their blueberry pancakes.
Mosquito: Asian tapas in El Born area. Dumplings are their specialty.
N.A.P.: Considered top pizza in Barcelona. Located in El Born and has a truly local feel. Due to quality and popularity the wait time is lengthy on weekends.
Picnic: Another top-notch brunch spot right by Parc della Ciutidad and Passeig de Picasso.
Rosa Negra: Funky and fresh atmosphere, serving Passion Fruit Margueritas and Mojitos. Also has authentic Mexican food at a moderate price. We recommend the quesadillas.
Sedna: A small little outdoor restaurant by the harbor. Inconspicuous from the outside, it has the highest reviewed paella in Barcelona. The sangria is amazing, but they don’t do pitchers.
7 Portes: Scenic seafood restaurant by the harbor. Call ahead to get a reservation!
Sports Bar Italian Food: Another pizza place on Ample that has Napolian style pizzas. Great to catch a game and have a beer.
Wok to Walk: This is your spot for stir-fry take out.
Places to Drink
Bar Marsella: Located in El Raval, it's the oldest bar in Barcelona. They haven’t renovated or modified the bar since it first opened, and all their old bottles, chandeliers, mirrors, etc are in-tact. Get the absinthe, lauded as Hemingway and Picasso's hang out spot.
Chupitos: Purely shot bar, and an ideal place to start a night out. Famous for having over 200 shots at 2.5 euros each.
Dow Jones: Stock-market themed bar. Prices are set up like stocks: when the market ‘crashes’, prices drop and it's a mad dash to the bartenders. Exciting concept in an intimate setting.
George Payne: Hold beer pong tournaments on Monday nights, ringing with American music and karaoke. Plenty of space inside and great place to watch a futbol match.
La Fira: Bring your dancing shoes and salsa the night away.
Le Cyrano: They serve popcorn at no cost, and their claim to fame is letting patrons pour their own amount of alcohol for a set price. It’s a really fun place to go on Thursdays before Sutton.
Ovella Negra: Relaxed atmosphere, it’s a huge space with wooden picnic-style tables and massive gallons of sangria and beer.
Pippermint: Humongous and strong drinks that you can split with a bunch of friends.
Apollo: Nasty Mondays draws the local crowd, and they have bands playing all different types of rock and dance music on stage. Because it’s not a touristy club there is a cover (that includes a free drink), but it's worth it. The downstairs club area plays rave music, but upstairs there are two levels of mosh pits for the rock music. They also do Crappy Tuesdays and a couple other events, but Nasty Mondays is by far the best.
Bling Bling: Close proximity to Sutton, lively bar with good energy.
CDLC: Beachfront club that looks out to the ocean. Big on Tuesdays.
Opium: The quintessential study abroad tourist club in Barcelona, Opium is the major beach club. You’ll never have to pay cover if you get there by 2 a.m. Pro-tip for beach clubs: you can leave, just get stamped, so you can hang out on the beach and come back at your leisure. Big on Fridays.
Otto Zutz: Popular with study abroad crowds. They have free open bar for girls before 2 a.m. It’s a small club, usually filled with Americans.
Razzmatazz: Hosting five unique floors, it's the biggest club in Barcelona. Chances are you’ll have to pay cover as people don’t promote for it as often as clubs like Opium. Geared toward local crowds, popping on Wednesdays and Saturdays!
Shoko: Free wine/cava from 10-11 p.m. and free open bar for ladies from 11-12 a.m. Average club, but you can’t beat free stuff.
Sutton: Thursday nights! Never had a bad time there.
Places to Stay
Med Aparts: Apartments for both two and three bedrooms. A three bedroom can fit up to seven people.
Airbnb is another great option. Look to stay in Gotico, El Born or near Plaza Catalunya/La Rambla.
The Aerobus is a great option for getting to the airport. Buy a round-trip ticket if you’re going away for a weekend because it’s cheaper. They aren't fans of breaking big bills so make sure you have a 20 euro bill or less. It leaves from Plaza Catalunya and the airport every five-ish minutes until around midnight every day of the year.
Cabs in Barcelona are pretty reasonable and it’s not hard at all to find open ones. Definitely worth it if you have three to four people traveling with you.
The Metro is also super easy and convenient. General rule of thumb is stay within 10 minutes walking distance of a metro stop. If you’re there for a weekend, consider buying a T-10 pass for yourself or to split -- it’s 1 euro per ride versus 2.25 for a single ticket.
Promoters: Find promoters for free entry to clubs, search Instagram/Facebook. Will be peppered on the beaches.
Attire: Dressing to go out in Barcelona is a lot more casual than the rest of Europe. Guys can’t wear sneakers to Opium for example, but girls can get away with even flip flops. At places like Razz or Apollo, anything is fair game.
Timing: People normally head to the bars at 11:30/12 a.m. and switch to clubs at 1:30/2 a.m. Depending on the club, you shouldn’t have to pay cover if you get there by 2 a.m. and can name one of the promoters.
There’s a decent dry cleaner on Ample, about tweleve euros for a dress.
The Chinese bazaar near Santa Caterina market is great for acquiring cheap items. They have everything from wine glasses to holiday decorations to notebooks.
Workcenter Urguinaona has office supplies you need. Kind of expensive, unfortunately, and a print/fax/photo center.
Holmes Place is a great gym if you're looking to get a good sweat in. Or, you could always hop into a beach-volleyball game.
Beautiful mountain city with Moorish influence.
Things to Do
La Alhambra: 13th century Moorish castle and worth a visit. One of the last hallmarks of Muslim architecture mixed with European influence. Make sure you get your tickets 2-3 months ahead of time, they often sell out that far in advance!
Capilla Real: Where King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel are buried.
Walk around and look at all of the graffiti: Street art is embraced in Spain, and you'll find some really beautiful murals all over the city.
Places to Eat
All restaurants are authentic and a great perk about the Cordoba region is most restaurants will give you free tapas if you order drinks. We loved Rosario Varela!
Mirador San Nicolas: Great place to eat with a view of the Alahambra.
Best time to visit: Late winter and spring is an ideal time to visit. It is around 65+ degrees F with pleasant forecasts. Granada can feel very crowded, even in the off season, so summers are prone to being madhouses.
Buy your ticket for Alhambra! The palace portion (most important part) of Alhambra will sell out day-of and you don't want to miss it.
Ibiza is famous for being the #1 party island in the world and it lives up to the hype. Whether you are into day parties by the beach or dancing all night at the club, Ibiza is the premier party destination you do not want to miss.
Things to Do
Cala Salada Beach: White sand, clear waters, and tucked away from the strip of hostels that can get overwhelming.
Blue Marlin Beach Resort: High-energy day club with great views.
Scuba diving: While the marine life is not super abundant compared to other tropical islands, the huge rock structures make for interesting sites and fun swim throughs. Seahorse dive shop in San Antonio is great.
Cliff jumping: Ask the locals for the best spots.
Pool party or boat party: Ibiza Rocks is a popular pool party spot in San Antonio or check the summer schedule for what boat parties are happening.
Day trip to Formentera: If you are looking for a quiet day away from the crowds, this beautiful island is for you. Ferries run often and are very cheap. Ask a local for the best beaches to go to. The water is even bluer than in Ibiza.
Places to Eat
Bagatelle: Tucked away in a secluded cove, enjoy a fancy lunch before hitting the pool or beach on site.
Cotton Beach Club: Upscale dinner spot with incredible views. Make a reservation well in advance.
Deeva Casual Beach Site: Casual beach restaurant, perfect for a mid brunch break. The goat cheese salad is a cheese lovers dream.
Ohana Ibiza: Directly on the beach with fresh poke and fruity cocktails. Can't ask for much more, and the owner is the friendliest guy in the world!
Places to Drink
The big nights for going out in Ibiza are Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. While theres always something to do, Fridays can be a bit of a bust, so just ask around where people are going those nights. Some of the big clubs are Amnesia, HI, Pacha, and Ushuaia. Check the summer calendar online for the schedule of DJs playing at each.
Tips: Door entry and cover charge is expensive because of the big names, but you’ll never have seen anything like it. Buy tickets beforehand or from sellers on the street. You'll usually find discounts.
Places to Stay
Apartamentos Panoramic: Cannot recommend enough! It’s an apartment style setup: clean, modern, complete with a kitchen and easily fits three people in the double room. Their customer service is unmatched: provide a free welcome bottle of wine, will call a cab quickly, and are walking distance to nightclubs and day beach clubs. So much better than the hostels, with comparable rates too. They also have availability last minute because they have so many rooms.
Hotel Apartamentos Marina Playa: Hip and clean, adults only hotel (because who doesn't enjoy a break away from screaming kids) in San Antonio. The second story pool overlooks the ocean for a picturesque set up.
Hotel Don Quijote: Centralized location and very affordable rooms that fit two to three people. It's only a 10-15 minute cab ride from the clubs and its right on the beach. Not a luxury hotel by any means but the facilities were clean and you can’t beat the price for the location.
Hotel Torre Del Mar: By far the best bang for your buck. Usually offering great deals, this 4-star hotel is walking distance from Ushuaia and the pool serves incredible, 180 degree views of the ocean.
Cabs are the easiest way to get around the island but can be pricey.
Public buses also run up and down the island.
A lot of travelers stay in the San Antonio area because the high volume of hostels and Ibiza Closing Parties events. We would not recommend staying there, even though most do. It is an expensive cab ride from there to all the nightclubs, and the beaches are littered with promoters selling "party packs." Despite being hostels, most of the accommodations are pricey and are known to be really strict about how many people are allowed to stay in the room.
Things to Do
Casa hernanz: An original place to get Spanish espadrilles and there is always a line. They temporarily close for siesta during day, so plan accordingly.
Circulo de Bellas Artes: Check out the rooftop view.
Chueca: LGBTQ-friendly neighborhood that has a ton of cute cafes, food places, and plenty of sex shops.
Day trips to Toledo and Segovia: Can get by public bus, full of history, markets, and waterfronts.
Gran Via: Authentic boutique shopping. Beware of pickpockets.
La Latina District: Streets right by Plaza Mayor ideal for barhopping and mingling with locals at night.
Museo Del Prado: National Spanish art museum, located in central-city. Holds exquisite art dating back to the 12th century. If you have a student ID you can get in for free.
Plaza Mayor: Iconic central plaza. Has Dozens of unique shops, restaurants, and places to grab refreshments or gifts.
Real Madrid game: Unlike any other atmosphere. The city is always glued to the television whenever they play, and feeling the energy of the stadium is a moving experience.
Retiro park: Rent a row boat and paddle around for a relaxing day. Or, you could always just take a stroll and drink wine.
The Grand Palace: Historic site where Spain's royal families used to dwell and call home.
The Rastro Market: Sunday must for groceries, gifts, etc.
The Reina Sofia: Museum of contemporary Spanish art.
Places to Eat
Botin: Hailed as the “oldest restaurant" in the world, go for the atmosphere.
Cafe de la Luz: Endearing cafe with a homey feel.
La Rollerie: Cafe off of Tirso de Molina. Has great small-portion food and tons of options. With two stories, there's lots of space to study or work.
Lateral: Go for dinner. Amazing mojitos and really good tapas. They don’t take reservations, so go around 9 p.m. when it opens.
Mercado San Anton: Market place, less crowded, and right off Chueca Metro. There’s also a restaurant on the top floor we recommend.
Mercado San Miguel: Right by Plaza Mayor, quality market.
San Gines: Sweet churros drizzled with chocolate.
Valor: EVEN BETTER churros drizzled with chocolate.
Places to Drink
Dubliners: Casual bar with fair prices, hit before clubbing.
Joy: Energetic club with an upbeat vibe.
Kapital: Eight-story club with each floor playing different music. Don't go before 1:30 a.m. and that might even be too early. Entrance is usually 16 euro, includes a free drink.
Zoológico: Only open Saturdays, worth checking out.
Things to Do
Alcázar: Sevilla's royal palace. This place has luscious gardens and Harry Potter vibes inside.
Plaza de España: Elegant mixture of Moorish and Renaissance architecture, it is a grand building that's quite beautiful.
Calle Sierpes: A grand street with tons of boutiques and stores for shopping.
Flamenco show: Always a great time and order the Agua de Sevilla.
Las Setas (Metropal Parasol): A giant modern structure. Walk around underneath or climb to the top for cool views. Looks dope, worth checking out.
Sevilla Cathedral: Incredible architecture and views from the top. A UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Places to Eat
Taberna Coloniales: Their tapas are a must, serving delectable plates. The Bunuelos de Queso are life changing.
Helados Rayas: The best ice cream around town. No shortage of shops and any of them will do. Definitely try the Nepolitana.
Places to Drink
Alfalfa: Area of town packed with bars that serve endless amount of unique shots.
Botelon: Best to head there around midnight. By the Torre del Oro, tons of people will come to hang out and pregame by the river before going to bars.
Calle Betis: Popular street filled with fun clubs to dance at.
There is a subway system that connects the city and is easy to get around on.
City shared sevici bikes are cheap and have plenty of easy access stations.