For the first mid-term break of my Postgraduate year, I went home to get my snow tires but for this one – my last one – my friends and I decided to go travel, as it was most likely to be our last trip together, at least for a while.
After hours of discussing the destination – Iceland, Portugal, even Cuba was mentioned – we settled on Spain, since it is closer and way cheaper.
For as long as I can remember, I never really liked Spain. I had been there twice before: once on a school trip in Madrid and Andalusia and another time in Barcelona with some friends six years ago. I had really bad memory of it: I remember Barcelona was good for nightlife but other than that I hated the city.
So my expectations were not high and I was not really sure how the group got me into this, but still I was happy to travel with two of my best friends, while two more would meet us half way after a detour to Paris.
The plan was a trip across the country: Starting in Barcelona, then on to Sevilla, Granada and finally Madrid.
Everybody seems to be in love with this city and I still do not understand why, especially now that I have gotten to know the rest of Spain. If you have never been there I guess you should go, at least to see some of these:
- The view of the sea and the city from the W Hotel, 26th floor
- The Sala Razmatazz, my favorite nightclub there
- A meal at Carpe Diem, where we had the best food in the city with an Indian and Arabic touch mixed with Spanish specialties. The bill was very reasonable and we took a digestive walk on the seaside. But do not forget your jacket, in late March it was freezing!
- Brunch at Brunch and Cake. We were just able to get a glimpse of the food and it looked amazing! Maybe our biggest regret in Barcelona. Come as early as you can as people are queuing for over an hour to get a table.
- Parc Guell for the best view of Barcelona and the Gaudi atmosphere. You may want to book tickets online some days before just to be sure not to miss the best parts of the park.
- Rent bicycles and chill on the beach. Our best moment, for the three of us.
- We were staying at LK Barcelona Hostal and even if the staff was really nice, the location is not great as we were really far from everything, with some areas only reachable within one hour of transport. Plus, the facilities were really basic and not too clean.
After two and a half days in Barcelona we took a RyanAir flight to Sevilla for around 20 Euros each.
Sevilla is amazing and all of us fell in love with this city! We were staying in an apartment two minutes away from the cathedral and the location was absolutely perfect.
What to do in Sevilla?
On the streets of the Old Town, in the gardens, to Plaza de España (absolutely amazing), on the riverside, just walk around to get the feeling of the city.
The Alcazar with its wonderful gardens, the Arena and the Cathedral.
WATCH (and listen)
Flamenco, with a jarra (or two) of sangria at the Carbonneria, Calle Levíes 18.
The best food I had in Spain was in Sevilla because we took the time to research select the places where we wanted to eat.
- La Bartola, Calle San Jose 24: My favorite Spanish restaurant ever! Delicious tapas at a really good price with gluten-free and vegan options.
- L’Oca Giuliva, Calle Mateos Gago 9: A really good Italian-Mediterranean restaurant especially if you have a table outside.
- Da Pino, Calle María Auxiliadora 9: The best restaurant in Sevilla according to TripAdvisor. For me it was not, but the food was indeed really good, especially the meat.
- Gusto Ristobar, Calle Alemanes 3: The restaurant facing the Cathedral is way better than usual restaurant in touristic areas. A varied menu in a really nice atmosphere.
- La Abuela, Calle Laraña 10: For a late ice cream next to the Cathedral, with my favorite flavor being Kinder – I can still taste it!
After three magical days, and united with our friends along the way, we left for Granada which is a three hour bus ride away (Alsa bus, around 7€ each).
The main issue was that we have been told a lot about Granada and everybody was telling us how amazed we will be, since it was supposedly even more beautiful than Sevilla. Arriving with high expectations, we were a little disappointed. I liked the city, but just not as much as Sevilla.
Though you will find plenty of things to keep you busy:
- Visit the Alhambra (try to book online or you may have to queue 3 hours at 8 AM on a freezing morning… I know since that’s what we did).
- Walk through the tiny streets to the church for a great view of the white city
- Have hookah and amazing teas in the Arabic district
- See the Cathedral
We were staying at Lemon Rock Hostal in a private room for four and paid 162 Euros for two nights. It was great value in a super location and the hostel is really, really nice and cozy: industrial style, good restaurant, quite large and spacious rooms. The only problem was the noise; the hostel is really crowded from 9 until… late.
After two and a half days, we took another Alsa bus (21,35€) for the six hour trip to Madrid. We reached without trouble and the landscape on the way was beautiful. I did not for a second regret having chosen the bus over another plane.
For me, Madrid was the highlight of the trip. I reminded me a little of Paris, a little of London but with the sun and joy from Spain, making the city absolutely perfect. I would have loved to stay longer!
Our flat found on booking.com was again really well located with everything within walking distance:
- Prado Museum, Paseo del Prado: With the National Gallery in London and the Orsay Museum in Paris, this has become one of my favorite museums ever. It is a must see, and free for students under 26.
- San Miguel Food Market, Plaza de San Miguel: The food items may be a little expensive compared to the rest of the city, but everything is super good, and you will find anything you want: Typical Manchego cheese, mushrooms or ham croquettes, paellas or even sushi that will go with a delicious fresh juice or a glass of wine.
- Plaza Mayor, central and most beautiful square in the city. I would not recommend the restaurants though, really expensive and too touristic, especially when the food market is just a two minute walk away.
- Parque del Buen Retiro, a huge park where you can relax on the grass, get a nice tan, enjoy ice cream, take a picture with Batman, go pedal boat and visit the Palacio de Cristal.
- Gran Via: As a capital city Madrid has a lot of shops to offer, and Inditex – owning group of Zara, Massimo Dutti, Stradivarius, Pull and Bear, Oysho, among others – being Spanish, this is the best and cheapest place to shop these brands. On Gran Via street you will find every shop you may need, also Primark, Brandy & Melville, Mango, etc.
- In case you need a cheap haircut (which you cannot find in Crans-Montana), my friend went to Salon 44 on Calle de Valverde 44 and was really happy with the hair color.
Two good addresses for any meal, and brunch on weekends:
- Murillo Café, Calle Ruiz de Alarcón 27: Great brunch, especially the benedict eggs, but the restaurant is small and famous, so you should be there early or make a reservation.
- El 17 de Moreto, Calle Moreto 17: Small restaurant with very good risotto and desserts.
Last tip: Bring your student card, to benefit from a lot of discounts (E.g. 9,50 Euros to visit the Alcazar instead of 25 Euros), and a Spanish dictionary, especially in Andalusia, since some people may not speak any English.
[quote]In the end I was so glad that I came back to Spain. It is a wonderful country, where everybody –except maybe waiters – is really nice and helphul, where the food is delightful, the cities lovely and the weather absolutely perfect. [/quote]
I could not have dreamt of a better farewell trip for my PGD!