Tapas Tour in Spain
Culinary Studies & Indulgence in Spain
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Your guide will meet you at the Madrid airport and get you transferred to your hotel, where you can take a moment to get settled before heading out for an evening meal – starting with tapas of course! Your server will often just pick something from the array of foods that have been prepared, but don’t be afraid to ask if you have a preference for jamón Iberica (Iberian ham), a slice of Spanish omelet, or albóndigas, spicy meatballs swimming in sauce. It’s a delicious way to begin your adventure and discuss upcoming plans!
The great thing about Spain and Madrid in particular is that just about anywhere you go and order a drink, you’re going to find tapas, or their larger, shared-plate cousin raciones. So why not take in some of the amazing history of Madrid, stopping off wherever your fancy grabs you along the way for tapas? Today you’ll set out for a tour of the Royal Palace of Spain, complete with the stunning gardens behind the compound. Afterward, a stroll to the La Latina neighborhood with its narrow streets will reveal not only numerous churches and the royal theater on the way but also plenty of choices for lunch – and tapas! Try a traditional vermút de grifo, vermouth on tap served with orange slices and olives to go with your tapas. Then it’s off to the magnificent Prado Museum, with its massive collection of artworks from Goya, El Greco, and Velazquez, followed by dinner at one of the amazing rooftop restaurants in the area.
After breakfast, you’ll head to the train station for a day trip to nearby Toledo, just 30 minutes away. This ancient walled city sits perched atop a hill overlooking the surrounding countryside and river, and its incredible architecture and winding narrow streets are worthy of a full day. The city is a mix of medieval Christian, Jewish and Arab monuments, reflecting its history of changing hands over the centuries. You’ll tour Santa Iglesia Cathedral with its spectacular tower and the views it affords before hitting one of the numerous homey cafes and bars for lunch, with – you guessed it – tapas! Since Toledo is famed for swordcraft, this is a great spot to try some banderillas, or skewers with various meats and vegetables. After lunch you’ll want to check out the Cuevas de Hercules, Roman-era vaulted caverns, as well as the El Greco Museum, a former house owned by the famed artist turned into a museum. You could easily spend several days wandering the narrow streets of this ancient place, but you’ll need to head back to the train station and Madrid, where you’ll meet for dinner and a discussion of what you saw as well as what’s next on the agenda!
You’ll start the day early after breakfast with a trip to the Museo Reina Sophia, a gorgeous modern art museum that houses works by Dali, Miro and is home to Picasso’s “Guernica.” Afterward, there are plenty of options for lunch with tapas as you stroll towards the botanical gardens and the massive Retiro Park. Check out the Crystal Palace and the famed Statue of the Fallen Angel while you’re there, then head over to Puerto del Sol, the beating heart of not only Madrid but Spain as well. It’s a gorgeous open plaza with great people-watching and the 0km stone marker for distances within Spain. And while there are plenty of cafes and restaurants nearby, hold off on dinner for a bit and wander over to nearby Plaza Mayor for a slightly less touristy, more genuine experience. Locals dine and drink at cafes surrounding this huge square as well as tourists, and you can find some amazing tapas treats if you keep your eyes open!
Today you’ll get an early start after breakfast and take the high-speed train to Barcelona on Spain’s Mediterranean coast. It’s just a 2.5 hour trip at speeds up to 300 km per hour, so you’ll arrive in Barça in plenty of time to enjoy the day there. Once you get settled at your hotel, head out to the must-see Sagrada Familia, the modernist cathedral designed by the architect Gaudí, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Like Madrid, Barcelona has no shortage of homey cafes and restaurants, but the tapas style here is a bit different. While waiters in Madrid plunk down a free tapa plate of their choosing with every drink you order, in Barcelona, you’ll often see bares de producto, counters piled with plates of whatever happens to be on offer that day for a small price. Still a bargain at most places! You’ll also find more seafood options here on the coast, with sardines, clams, octopus, fried calamari and much more on offer depending on where you go. Head down to the Gothic Quarter and its narrow winding streets to check out the 13th-century cathedral of Barcelona and perhaps the Picasso Museum before selecting from the myriad of nearby restaurants for dinner.
After all this eating, perhaps it’s time for a little exercise! Today you’ll hike up to the historic Montjuic Castle, a 17th-century fortress and former prison perched atop a hill offering breathtaking 360-degree views of the ocean and the city. There’s a cable car that takes you up part way, but there is still some hiking involved, with lovely views along the way. You’ll then head through the heart of Barcelona, stopping off for lunch at one of the numerous cafes near Plaza Catalunya before heading up to Park Guell, the Gaudí-designed park complete with mosaic-covered buildings and sculptures in his imitable style. After, head down to the Barceloneta area for dinner at one of the many small, family-run restaurants there, and afterwards head out to the beach to enjoy a gorgeous sunset your last night in Spain.
At breakfast, perhaps take some time to discuss what you’ve learned about Spain and Spanish culture in your short time here, and the ways that gastronomy is intertwined with history. This Spanish adventure may be at an end, but you’ll head home with wonderful memories and maybe a few ideas for how to make your own tapas creations for your friends and family!
Many visitors to Spain has been confused at first when a server automatically brings out a small dish of olives, goat cheese or Iberian ham on croquettes along with a drink order, but tapas are a wonderful tradition that deserves its own tour. You’ll enjoy the local variants while seeing some of Spain’s most iconic sights through Madrid, Toledo, and Barcelona. Bring your appetite as you embark on this epic culinary studies tour of Spain!
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