Rick Steves' Best of Barcelona and Madrid tour combines Spain's top cities to create a sparkling, full-bodied eight-day adventure. First, you'll experience the pride and energy of Barcelona — rambling on the Ramblas, digging into delicious seafood, and marveling at architecture and art by Gaudí and Picasso. Then, we'll hop a high-tech train to Madrid for its terrific tapas, masterpiece-packed Prado Museum — and a day in historic Toledo. You'll come home with more memories than you ever thought possible in a week-long getaway. Join us for the Best of Barcelona & Madrid in 8 Days!
You'll get all this!
- An extra-small group, limited to 20-24 people — less than half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Barcelona and Madrid come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 19 group sightseeing events • Ramblas orientation • Barcelona Articket • Sagrada Família tour • Casa Milà tour • Gothic Quarter walking tour • Barcelona Cathedral • Picasso Museum tour • Barcelona panoramic bus tour • Museum of Catalan Art tour • Madrid panoramic bus tour • Madrid walking tour • Royal Palace tour • Prado Museum tour • Reina Sofía Museum tour • Toledo day trip and walking tour • Santo Tomé Chapel (El Greco's The Burial of the Count of Orgaz) tour • Toledo Cathedral tour • Sinagoga del Tránsito tour • Wine tasting...and more
- All group transportation from Barcelona to Madrid
- 7 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Barcelona and Snapshot: Madrid & Toledo guidebooks, Spanish phrase book, map, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2013
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Barcelona
Barcelona, the proud capital of Catalunya, may be the most festive city on the Mediterranean. Meet your guide and group around 5 p.m. at our centrally-located hotel for an orientation meeting — then we'll join the party with a stroll along the surprise-filled, people-packed Ramblas boulevard before having dinner together. Sleep in Barcelona (3 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Gaudí Day
Today is devoted to the swirling, Modernista architecture of Antoni Gaudí. We'll tour the greatest works of Barcelona's master builder, including the towering, dizzying Sagrada Família church and his Casa Milà apartment building. The remainder of your afternoon is free to explore more Gaudí delights throughout the city. This evening we'll wrap up our day learning about what goes into Catalan cuisine including a visit to the lively, legendary La Boquería market, before setting you free for dinner on your own. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Barri Gòtic and Picasso
This morning, we'll explore Barcelona's maze-like Gothic Quarter, from its Roman foundations to the spires of its candle-, relic- (and geese-!) strewn cathedral. We'll end our tour at the Picasso Museum, Europe's best collection of Picasso paintings, where we'll trace the story of this hometown boy-genius' art as he evolved from a kid who painted like an adult...to an adult who painted like a kid. This evening we'll toast to our last night in Barcelona with a paella dinner together. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 4: Montjuïc and a Speedy Train to Madrid
We'll start today with a panoramic bus tour of Barcelona, beginning atop the historic Montjuïc Hill. After a visit to the Museum of Catalan Art, it's "all aboard" for one of Europe's newest, speediest trains (the AVE) to Madrid. Upon arrival we'll meet our bus for a tour of Madrid's major monuments and classy boulevards. Once we've settled into our hotel in the heart of Madrid, we'll take a neighborhood orientation walk, ending with a tapas-style dinner together. Sleep in Madrid (4 nights). Train: 3 hrs. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Madrid's Royal Palace
Today, we'll take a historical walking tour starting at the very center of Madrid, the bustling Puerta del Sol. From there we'll walk to — and through — the sumptuously-decorated Royal Palace. With 2,000 rooms, tons of luxurious tapestries, and a king's ransom of chandeliers, this is truly one of the great palaces of Europe. You'll be free for dinner on your own tonight, but first we'll prepare your taste buds with a Spanish wine tasting. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Masterpieces of Madrid
This morning we'll tour one of Europe's premier art museums — the masterpiece-packed Prado — where you'll see paintings by Velásquez, Goya, El Greco and others. Then we'll visit the Reina Sofía, Spain's greatest modern art museum, home to Picasso's Guernica. The rest of the afternoon is yours to stroll through the majestic Retiro Gardens (Madrid's most popular park), do a little shopping, and maybe even catch a performance of flamenco. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 7: Toledo
A short bus ride after breakfast will take us to Spain's old capital city of Toledo (and back in time about 500 years). We'll take a traffic-free walking tour that includes Toledo's magnificent cathedral, the historic Sinagoga del Tránsito and El Greco's The Burial of the Count of Orgaz in Santo Tomé Chapel. This afternoon you'll have time to enjoy the winding medieval streets of Toledo. We'll catch the bus back to Madrid for our final dinner together to share travel memories and toast new friends. Salud! Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 8: Tour Over After Breakfast
Madrid's airport is an easy bus or taxi ride away — or you may want to continue your Iberian adventures on your own. Hasta luego!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Barcelona & Madrid in 8 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate in cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Barcelona before your tour begins, use Rick Steves' Snapshot: Barcelona guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Spanish and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Barcelona that we do not do as a group: City History Museum, Catalan Concert Hall, Fundació Joan Miró, Maritime Museum, and Parc Güell.
If you are interested in attending zarzuela, the Spanish light opera, during or after your tour, you may want to check the schedule and buy tickets before leaving home. More information can be found in Rick Steves' Snapshot Madrid; schedules and booking information are at http://teatrodelazarzuela.mcu.es. For additional sightseeing after your tour, see your Rick Steves' Snapshot: Madrid guidebook for suggestions. Your guide will also be happy to help you with your post-tour plans.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Barcelona and Madrid are transportation hubs, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy. Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a railpass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303 ext. 214).
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Amanda was a wonderful guide. Her enthusiasm for the country and its people was infectious. She has a delightful personality. I felt that she was VERY available to us and sensitive to our different needs, capabilities and desires."
— Virginia in Mill Creek, WA
"I can't say enough good things about Federico! He was so enthusiastic! I myself am a teacher and Federico had outstanding skills intertwining history and art and bringing it to life by using props and drama. My favorite part was Federico giving us some insight into current day politics and culture of the Spanish people."
— Kay in Edgewood, WA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"Strolling through Barcelona late in the evening listening to classical guitar echo through the streets...The amazing museums...Sitting beside the Mediterranean Sea and 'people watching'...Watching the Puerta del Sol slowly come to life from my hotel balcony...Marveling at Gaudí's genius at the Sagrada Família...The power of Picasso's Guernica...Secretly wishing I would run into Javier Bardem!"
— Jennifer in Decatur, GA
"There were many 'wow' moments for sure. One of my favorite ones was the flamenco performance we saw after dinner one night in Madrid. It was fabulous!"
— Cecilia in Albuquerque, NM
"The entire trip was a 'wow' for me, but I would have to say that the tapas crawl in Barcelona and all of the group dinners were the most memorable — great food and conversation."
— Warren in Portland, OR
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
- Blood Carmen (1983)
- Todo Sobre Mi Madre (1999)
- Gaudi Afternoon (2001)
- L'Auberge Espagnole (2002)
- Volver (2006)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Classical: Joaquin Rodrigo, Andres Segovia
- Opera: José Carreras, Placido Domingo
- Pop/rock: Marc Anthony, Sergio Dalma, Julio Iglesias
- Flamenco: Paco de Lucia
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Spain
- Homage to Catalonia — George Orwell
- Barcelona: the Great Enchantress — Robert Hughes
- Homage to Barcelona — Colm Tóibín
- Gaudí: The Biography — Gijs van Hensbergen
- Travelers' Tales: Spain — Lucy McCauley
- The City of Marvels; The Truth About the Savolta Case — Eduardo Mendoza
- The Shadow of the Wind — Carlos Ruiz Zafón
- The Flanders Panel — Arturo Perez-Reverte
- Death of a Nationalist — Rebecca Pawel
- Winter in Madrid — C. J. Sansom