Backpacking in Europe is definitely a much different experience than in other parts of the world. With great public transportation linking many countries together, it’s easier than you may think to get around and country hop. Spain was probably my favourite country I’ve been to in Europe so far and a really interesting place. Read on for my 2-3 week Spain backpacking guide and discover all that Spain has to offer!
*NOTE: Before I jump into it, this itinerary was fairly fast paced so if you’re after a more relaxed trip, I’d cut out 2-3 places (I’d probably go without Malaga and Cadiz personally). I also travelled with friends down to Portugal after, so this route is great if you’re thinking about extending your trip to other countries!
BARCELONA: 3-4 Days
There’s no doubt that Barcelona is beautiful. From it’s warm and balmy weather most of the year to beaches and a lively city, what more could you really want?
The touristy spots you shouldn’t miss:
- La Sagrada familia – This is Gaudi’s most famous work of architecture with construction dating back to 1882 and is still in the works today! Get your tickets here. You can also see other works of Gaudi throughout Barcelona. I didn’t feel the need to go inside them all but you do do!
- Beach hopping – Sitting along the coast, Barcelona is a beach haven! There’s plenty of beaches to choose from. Just ask a local and you’ll have no trouble finding one that suits you.
- Roam the streets – Just spend a day walking around Barcelona and there will be lots to see. From the Magic Fountain, to the touristy street La Rambla and parks within the city, you won’t be bored that’s for sure.
IBIZA: 3 Days
Would a trip to Spain be complete without stopping in Ibiza? Probably not. The real question is: is Ibiza truly worth the hype? Honestly … I would say no. This well-known party island can definitely be a tad overpriced and it really wasn’t as crazy as I thought it would be.
With that being said, I still had a fun time! I’m not sure if I’d recommend making Ibiza a solo trip just because many people come with groups of friends and as a single woman it can be a bit risky in a party setting to be alone.
Places to party
Pacha is the iconic Ibiza nightclub. All of the biggest DJ’s play there and it’s what you’d expect from a crazy nightclub. Check the dates to see if anyone you know/like is playing when you plan on going. Keep in mind that drinks are crazzyyyy expensive at Ibiza clubs ($20-25 CAD on average) so I’d suggest having a few drinks beforehand with friends elsewhere.
This is the place to be when it comes to day drinking. If you feel like ballin’ out, it’s a hotel as well (although I’d be too scared to check the prices). Ushuaia is yet another location where world class DJ’s perform and you can’t beat the atmosphere! There’s something about being outside for a musical event/festival that changes everything.
I found Amnesia to be a pretty fun club, with multiple rooms where different DJ’s were playing. If you’re not really feeling the music in one room you can simply hop over to the other! I went to Amnesia after the day at Ushuaia, killing two birds with one stone.
Things to watch out for:
- Theft – This is definitely something you need to be aware of anytime you’re travelling but it’s especially easy for thieves to get to you at festivals or in crowds! My friend happened to wander off with a guy she had met at Ushuaia and while she was talking to him on the beach (her bag behind her), someone snatched her phone without her noticing. Luckily they didn’t take her passport in the same go!
- Drugs – Unless you’re looking to intentionally take a pill in Ibiza, keep an eye on your drinks and don’t take drinks from strangers. If someone offers you water, think twice because it could very well be mixed with some MDMA you didn’t sign up for!
- The sunrise – Let’s face it – if you’re in Ibiza, you’re bound to stay out till sunrise at least once! Head down to the water for an unmatched sunrise.
MADRID: 3 Days
Ah Madrid, the capital of Spain. Stopping at Madrid is a must! It’s definitely up there for my favourite Spanish city and here’s why …
To get the most of your time in Madrid, I’d suggest taking part in a free walking tour. If you’ve done any of these before you’ll know they can sometimes feel quite repetitive but you’ll see a lot of these sights below, as well as get the history and information behind them summed up quite nicely!
- Plaza Mayor – The historic centre of old Madrid is where you can expect to start a free walking tour if that’s up your alley. Otherwise, you can venture through on your own!
- Terraza Cibeles – A stunning rooftop with views of all of Madrid. While it’s a scenic spot at night, I recommend going during the day when it’s not busy and you can get some pretty amazing pictures with the white background.
- El Retiro Park – Spend hours walking around one of Madrid’s largest parks with rose gardens, fountains and ponds. The Retiro Park Lake, better known as Estanque Grande del Retiro is a large artificial lake where you can row boat or just simply take in the sights. There’s also quite a lot of greenery if you’re after a decent spot for a nap in the great outdoors!
- Restaurante Botin – Not only is it the oldest restaurant in the world, but it was also a popular hangout for iconic writer Ernest Hemingway! All my fellow English nerds will be happy to know that it’s steps away from the Plaza Mayor.
- Calle de Ponzano – I’ll fill you in on a little secret … if you’re after some tasty tapas, this famous street is known for it’s tapas bars and not many tourist know about it! If you luck out you may be able to find a spot with 1 euro tapas.
A Spain backpacking guide wouldn’t be complete without some lively activities to keep you going all night long! Unlike most other countries I’ve been to, the Spanish folk like to start the night quite late … and by late I mean 2AM!
- Kapital – If you’re after a big night out in Madrid, Kapital is a no brainer. With SEVEN floors, including a karaoke floor, the biggest problem you’re going to have is keeping your group together! The music is great and the atmosphere is unlike any club I’ve been to before.
SEVILLE: 2 Days
Getting from Madrid to Seville is a breeze! Just hop on a train and you’ll be there in no time. Seville is a hot and dry city with quite a lot to offer.
- Real Alcázar de Sevilla – If you’re into architecture, the Real Alcázar de Sevilla won’t disappoint. You shouldn’t have a problem buying tickets the day of or a few days in advance.
- Cathedral of Seville – Hop on a free walking tour and you can learn about the history and see inside this beautiful cathedral.
- Plaza de España – Hands down my favourite spot in Seville. La Plaza de España is right near the University and around the corner from the city centre. With a large fountain, an artificial river running below a bridge and colourful and intricately designed buildings, it’s a great spot to kick back and relax for an hour or two.
- Metropol Parasol – Go for a walk along the largest wooden structure in the world and enjoy panoramic views of the city! Metropol Parasol is best known as Las Setas (the mushrooms) due to the way the spirals form.
- Flamenco – If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, one thing will clear things right up … 💃 Now do you get it? This art form of song and dance is argued to have originated from Spain’s Andalusia territory (Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Seville). If you aren’t able to fit these spots into your itinerary, you can get an authentic experience in any Spanish city (I saw a show in Madrid)!
- Hookah bar – You’ll find heaps of bars among Seville like you would any city but I’d suggest hitting up a hookah bar for something a little different.
GRANADA: 2-3 Days
Granada was probably up there for my fave city in Spain, probably because I found it to be underrated and surprisingly beautiful! I didn’t know much about Granada other than the famous palace La Alhambra that I had planned on seeing.
- La Alhambra
After seeing Alcázar in Seville, I expected similar from La Alhambra. While the look of the architecture was alike in style, it was absolutely breathtaking and a must see! I’d allow for a full day at La Alhambra so that you can take your time and make the most of it.
TIP: Book your tickets in advance to secure a spot as they book up months ahead of time!
It also offers a pretty spectacular spot for pictures with many beautiful gardens, lookouts and viewpoints throughout!
- Arab Baths/Hammams – While you can find these baths in other cities such as Seville, I happened to check them out in Granada. It’s a unique place to have yourself a spa day with friends or indulge in some alone time.
- Local markets
Walking the quaint streets of Granada is enough to keep you busy all day. You’ll stumble upon markets where you can pick up some fresh Saffron – a rare spice used in Spanish paella – to bring home for friends and family!
- Tapas & sunset views
There are so many spots to enjoy tapas in Granada, as well as sunset views! My personal fave was Plaza de San Nicolás because it had a lot of vegetarian options and the sunset view was stunning. You could see La Alhambra and all of Granada from above!
MALAGA: 2 Days
Malaga is known as a beach town in Spain. You can walk along the boardwalk where the ships come and go, have a beach day and explore the city. I found Malaga to be a tad boring so you can definitely skip it if you’d rather spend more time elsewhere.
- Playa Malagueta – This beach is the closest you’ll find to the city and a beautiful one at that! There’s also a nice array of bars and restaurants nearby.
- Museo Picasso Malaga – If contemporary art is something that tickles your fancy, head to Malaga’s Picasso museum! Pablo Picasso was actually born in Malaga so it’s a pretty cool place to check out his work. There are many other contemporary art museums you can see in Malaga as well.
CADIZ: 1 Day
Cadíz is Spain’s oldest city and quite beautiful to say the least! Walk through the city and you’ll find beautiful white buildings, cathedrals and tasty bakeries. You can also walk along the water for a coastal view.
- Catedral de Cadíz – This famous cathedral is one I wouldn’t skip out on! Head up the narrow and spiral stairs to the top where you have the best panoramic view of the city.
Final Thoughts & Bonus Tips
Spain is one of those countries you can visit a thousand times and never get bored! If you have the time, I’d highly suggest checking out some of the less touristy cities I explored such as Granada and Seville. While Barcelona and Madrid are stunning, there are so many other spots in Spain you can travel through on your own or with friends with great ease.
Before I conclude my Spain backpacking guide, let me leave you with a few last tips so that you have the best experience possible!
- If you’re travelling alone read my female solo travel safety tips so you can hopefully avoid any trouble!
- Make sure you get enough sleep – If you have a fairly aggressive itinerary like I did, make sure you give yourself enough sleep each night and hydrate or you’ll regret it.
- Don’t stress about visiting every famous cathedral – unless you’re into that type of thing of course! But in my mind, once you’ve seen 10 Spanish cathedral’s, you’ve seen them all.
Did I miss something? Feel free to slide into my DM’s or head to my contact page to get in touch!