The Iberian Peninsula is no hanger-on. In the past, Americans have given it lower billing than the “classics” of Rome, Paris, and London, but in the past few years, as travelers seek authenticity and the unexpected, they’ve been flocking to this part of Europe.
The islands off the coasts of Spain and Portugal that were once the playground of European elite – Mallorca, Tenerife, the Azores – have now become accessible destinations for Americans. Thanks to film tourism, people are becoming more aware of Spain as a stunning backdrop to their favorite epic-scale TV shows, from “Game of Thrones” and “House of the Dragon” to “The Crown.” And now, they’re wondering how to check España’s essentials off their bucket list.
Well, wonder no more! Here’s how we recommend seeing – and staying in – Spain’s Big Three, Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, for a well-rounded taste of why this country is such a location scout, history buff, and art enthusiast darling.
Start in Barcelona
Flights to BCN (Josep Tarradellas Barcelona-El Prat Airport) are typically easy and relatively affordable to access from most stateside international gateways, making it a great place to start any Spanish adventure. From there, we suggest transferring to the Iberostar Selection Paseo de Gracia, a short car ride that lands them smack-dab in the middle of this bustling Catalonian city, right in Plaça Catalunya on the city’s most iconic avenue.
What this means, location-wise, is that anyone staying here will easily be within walking distance to many of Barcelona’s most legendary main tourist attractions. This includes many of Gaudi’s most marvelous architectural designs, the famous Catalan Modernist food market Mercat de la Boqueria, the historic Gothic Quarter, pedestrian boulevard La Rambla, and public transportation to go anywhere else.
As for the hotel itself, the neoclassical Iberostar Selection Paseo de Gracia is considered a Superior category four-star hotel. When staying here, don’t miss Ca’s Menestral Restaurant for breakfast and lunch, and do get drinks at the Skybar. Pack your swimsuit for a dip in the rooftop pool when in season – the skyline views from here are incredible. But of course, choose well from the 119 spacious and bright rooms for great views right from the privacy of your own accommodations, or your own personal terrace if that’s the category you pick!
Iberostar Selection Paseo de Gracia
Midway to Madrid
Make your way over to the center of the country for a stay in its capital, Madrid! Here, we also recommend staying close to the heart of the city in order to make sightseeing easy and views spectacular.
For the urban traveler, we like the Riu Plaza España on Gran Via, and not just for the unobstructed 360-degree vistas from this high-rise hotel’s rooftop terrace. Free WiFi, a full buffet breakfast, upper level pool, modern 24-hour fitness center, gastrobar, and a Gold certification for the Travelife Sustainability System make it of note for conscious, contemporary vacationers.
For traditionalists who want to live in history, there’s the Palacio de los Duques, a Gran Meliá Hotel. Set in the Austrias district, the oldest part of Madrid and near the Royal Palace and Plaza Mayor, thir former 19th century palace is now a luxury hotel with a garden oasis.
Like our modern recommendation, it also has gorgeous rooftop views and contemporary dining. On site here are three restaurants: a French-Spanish fusion restaurant celebrating the wine-making of both countries called Vinoteca Montmartre; Coroa Royal Gallery & Garden serving tapas and cocktails; and Restaurant Dos Cielos Madrid by the highly regarded Torres brothers, a reimagined update to the old palace stables.
Staying at either of these picks puts you within steps of high end designer shopping, world-famous museums, glamorous nightlife venues, world-class spas, and of course, sprawling boulevards of grand architecture and important landmarks.
Conclude in Seville
This city in the southwest part of Spain is the soul of Andalusia. Founded by Romans and heavily influenced by Moorish and Islamic culture, well-preserved, historic Seville has the only river port in the entire country, and boasts the warmest temperatures in all of Europe, despite falling on the same latitude as Sao Miguel of the Azores and San Jose in central California.
For a visit here, you’ll want to stay somewhere alongside the Plaza de España y Parque Maria Luisa, which puts you right in the action. The Meliá Sevilla is an optimal choice for that location, setting your home base just a short distance from the Royal Alcázar, the district of Santa Cruz, and the Cathedral. And better yet, during April Fair, one of the most popular festivals in that country, a special shuttle bus for guests makes it simple to get to that part of the city.
For the rest of the time, Meliá Sevilla has a convention center of its own with 26 available meeting rooms, plus restaurants on site for even more convenience. Quimera Restaurant and Quimera Restaurant Food & Pool offer Andalusian Mediterranean cuisine, and Mosaico’s buffet breakfast on the terrace is a must. Guests of The Level also have access to their own lounge, which serves a private breakfast and offers drinks, tapas, snacks, and cocktails throughout the day. Plus, this category enjoys views of Plaza de España for iconic vistas from the comfort of their rooms. However, for some of the best, the outdoor pool with the sun terrace can’t be beat. In fact, it’s the most popular selfie spot in the hotel, insiders tell us!
Fly out of SVQ, Aeropuerto de Sevilla, to end an epic trip to Spain.