North of Spain itinerary

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Barcelona and northern spain itinerary

This itinerary lets you enjoy Barcelona and all the Northern coast of Spain. We believe 11 days is the minimum time to enjoy this long itinerary in Northern Spain. You may decide to stay more time at different locations or enjoy smaller towns and villages in the area. This itinerary focuses on the main stops throughout the route and proposes ways to expand the itinerary in case you have more days available.

For each main stop, you will be able to access detailed city guides where you will find all you need to plan your stay at each of the cities on this northern Spain itinerary: recommended hotels, restaurants, monuments, tours, activities and nearby trips.

Barcelona & Northern Spain itinerary - Stops

The itinerary day by day

Barcelona (2 1/2 days)

Barcelona, the first stop in this itinerary through northern Spain, is one of Spain´s most European cities. Modern, busy… but it offers so much more: Gaudi architecture, beaches, bars, and food markets, a fantastic Gothic district, and beautiful squares with a truly Mediterranean flair. Barcelona is also easy and very pleasant to walk. The city is very flat and boasts two super avenues that are amongst the must-do: Paseo de Gracia (a must to enjoy Gaudi and modernist architecture) and Las Ramblas, one of the most lively pedestrian streets in the world. You will need at least two days to enjoy Barcelona and your stay could easily be extended to visit Montserrat monastery and the nearby wine regions of Penedes or Priorat.  Art lovers will find lots to do, families can enjoy theme parks at the top of a hill, and sports lovers can visit the Barcelona football stadium. Also, north of Barcelona, the coast of Girona offers both ideal beaches and small villages that contrast and fun and party resorts.

Thumb Barcelona city guide

Barcelona is Spain´s second largest city and the capital of Catalonia. The city has something from everyone. Its Mediterranean character contrasts its gothic roots, which also contrast with its wide avenues and beautiful modern buildings.

Barcelona is a place where architecture and art melt together. The influence of Gaudi has been profound and exceeds his masterpieces.

Barcelona travel guide »

Zaragoza (1/2 day)

Zaragoza makes for the perfect stop on your way to the Northern coast of Spain from Barcelona. Zaragoza is the capital of Aragon and holds half of the region´s population. It is located next to the Ebro river (second largest in Spain) and has a long history that takes us back to Roman days. The top highlight in Zaragoza is El Pilar, a huge basilica that cannot be missed in the city center. Baroque style with splendid domes and the treasure of the Pilar statue, hidden in the Capilla Santa. Besides El Pilar you it makes all sense to pay a visit to La Aljafería, a Moorish palace that was restored and is home of the regional parliament (yet it can be visited). There are also four museums dedicated to the Roman history of Zaragoza.

Pamplona (1/2 day)

For most, Pamplona is the city where San Fermin takes place. Despite Pamplona cannot be understood without San Fermin and the running of the bulls, Pamplona offers more than this festival. We love the restaurants and bars in Pamplona, where you will find great value for money and gastronomy that is true to its region. Pamplona is an important stop in El Camino, and there are some beautiful squares and interesting monuments and museums to keep yourself busy. San Fermin is with no doubt the highlight for the city, and one of the top things to do in Spain in July. But accommodation prices rise considerably during San Fermin and the city is too busy for travelers that will prefer to discover Pamplona when it gets back to normal.

Pamplona, Spain

Pamplona is well known around the globe for the running of the bulls that takes place through its streets in July every year. But Pamplona has much more to offer travelers that are willing to take the time to get to know the city. Pamplona and the region of Navarra enjoys a deep and interesting history and a unique local culture unlike anything else in Spain.

Pamplona travel guide»

Laguardia (1 day)

Driving from Pamplona to Laguardia will take you a bit more than one hour. Laguardia is part of the Basque Country and inside the Rioja wine region. Rioja is a beautiful region well-known thanks to its wine. For many people, this is an amazing region, perfect to walk along small roads, visiting quaint villages, and indulging yourself with wine and local gastronomy. Laguardia is a perfect place to enjoy Rioja, though some may prefer Logroño, larger and with one of Spain´s top districts for tapas: Calle Laurel. Laguardia is medieval, small, and beautiful. Logroño is a city, an important stop in El Camino de Santiago, and a paradise for tapas. The decision on where to stop is yours!

Hidden Gems

This small Spanish village was founded in 908 by Sancho Abarca of Navarre to defend the frontier, when it was known as La Guarda. It was originally laid out in the shape of
a ship, with the bow facing North. and the stern South. In 1164 it achieved town status under Sancho el Sabio. In 1194 its fortifications were extended by King Sancho el Fuerte. Cars are not permitted inside the walled city!

Laguardia, Spain »

San Sebastian (2 days)

For many of Spain´s smartest city, San Sebastian offers one of the world´s best city beaches, La Concha, and a paradise for foodies. Once the summer destination for the royal family, San Sebastian has known how to retain the glamour of its many famous visitors, including the mysterious Matahari. We are sure you will fall in love with San Sebastian, which also offers the possibility to enjoy nearby beautiful towns like the fishing port of Getaria (famous besides the port for its txakoli wineries and also for its restaurants that specialize in grilled fish and meat) or Hondarribia, from which walls you will be able to enjoy views of neighboring France. If you have enough time it would be a good idea to stay a bit longer in San Sebastian and discover the French Basque country (Saint Jean de Luz or Biarritz)

City guide San Sebastian thumbnail

San Sebastian city guide with a recommended list of hotels, restaurants, places to visit, weather, prices, monuments, things to see and do and much more. With its amazing gastronomy offering, San Sebastian is for sure one of the top cities to visit in Spain

San Sebastian, Spain »

Bilbao (1,5 days)

Your next stop in this itinerary through Northern Spain is a city that has transformed itself. Bilbao is today one of Europe´s top art cities. Its top icon, the Guggenheim is an immense titanium fish that holds an important modern art museum, though for most visitors the building is the major piece of art. Despite the city has evolved and modernity is felt in obvious ways, Bilbao remains true to its origins and we are sure you feel its pride and character in many small details. Bilbao holds a past connected to iron and shipbuilding. In Bilbao, you will find not just art, but also pintxos and wine bars, interesting food markets, and a very interesting day trip to discover top attractions like the Unesco listed Puente Colgante or the now-famous hermite of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe.

Bilbao gate

Bilbao city guide with recommended list of hotels, restaurants, places to visit, weather, prices, monuments, things to see and do, and much more. Bilbao is Spain´s 4 largest city. Its industrial history is being “shadowed” by architectural inspiration, art galleries, and a plethora of cultural and gastronomical activity.

San Sebastian, Spain »

Santander (1 day)

Santander and surrounding towns are popular summer destinations for Spanish citizens. The city is located at a privileged location by the seaside, next to the Bay that holds its name. Santander is a perfect place from where you can explore Cantabria. Nearby Santillana del Mar, a beautiful mid-sized tow, boasts one of the best prehistoric art caves in the world. Comillas, home of one of Spain´st top Universities, offers an interesting stop west of Santillana and Santander, with a beautiful beach and a pleasant old quarter. If you travel with children make sure you pay a visit to Cabarceno, an open-air zoo that you visit with your car (it holds 20 kilometers of roads) and where all sorts of animals live in large areas that used to be open-cut mines.


Santander is the largest city and capital of Cantabria, located in Northern Spain. The North of Spain is lush, green, and mountainous but at the same time is home to some of the most amazing beaches you will find in Spain. Asturias is no different. The city is wealthy and beautiful, full of culture, with all sorts of delicious local delicacies to be enjoyed.

Santander, Spain »

Gijon (1/2 day)

Gijón rivals with Oviedo as the top city in Asturias. Gijón is still today an important industrial centre, but as in the case of Bilbao, it has evolved and transformed into a very pleasant city to live and visit. It boasts a fantastic beach that offers a great seafront walk and its old district is full of bars and taverns where you can taste the delicious (and cheap) Asturian specialties like fabada. Gijon is a perfect place from where to enjoy Picos de Europa national park, many small villages like Tazones or Cudillero or the famous cider from Villaviciosa.

Lugo (1/2 day)

Lugo is the next stop in this itinerary in Northern Spain. A city not so well-known if compared to some of the other recommended stops in the itinerary, Lugo will for sure surprise you with its beautiful Roman walls and the labyrinth of small pedestrian streets and squares located withing the old fortress. Known as Lucus Augusti, Lugo was the most important town in Galicia during Roman times. The city hold the reputation of serving the best octopus in Spain: pulpo a feira is a local dish you should give a try.

Santiago de Compostela (1 day)

It is not unintentional that we have leaved Santiago de Compostela as the last stop in this itinerary through North of Spain. Santiago is the capital of Galicia, and the end of the Camino de Santiago. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims come from all over the world every year to enjoy El Camino, or at least part of it. Arriving to Santiago is a great feeling for all those who have walked for weeks. And we are sure it will also be a very rewarding experience for you despite you may have travelled comfortably in your car. Santiago de Compostela is a very special place, where lots of emotions get together, where great food and wine is served, and where locals, university students, pilgrims and tourists in general find what they are after.

Santiago de Compostela guide thumbnail

Santiago de Compostela became famous as a result of the great medieval pilgrimages to the tomb of the apostle James the Great. Santiago de Compostela is today a vibrant university town, with lots of heritage, fantastic gastronomy and the end of El Camino. Located in the North-west, Santiago is for sure of one of Spain´s top cities

Santiago de Compostela, Spain »

Top highlights of this itinerary from Barcelona to Santiago de Compostela

We want to share with you some of the top highlights you will enjoy if you decide to enjoy this northern Spain itinerary. In each of the guides, you will find above you will find many more top sights. We have gathered here some of the most important ones, which are amongst the top sights in Spain for sure!. Enjoy. 

Las Ramblas 9

Las Ramblas in Barcelona

Las Ramblas, Barcelona Las Ramblas is one of the icons in Barcelona. A long street which is a favorite amongst both locals and tourists alike. La Rambla is probably the best well-known street in Spain. This street is both known as La Rambla or Las Ramblas. In this guide to Las Ramblas, you will find information on the best attractions in the street, top things to enjoy, the best itineraries to enjoy la Rambla during

Sagrada Familia

Sagrada Familia- Barcelona

La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona´s most important sight,  is an unfinished Catholic church which was designed by Antonio Gaudí after its construction had already begun. In this visitor’s guide to La Sagrada Familia you will learn about its history and anecdotes, and also get practical information to visit La Sagrada Familia in the best possible way.  Nowadays it is one of the most visited monuments in Spain and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. When you think about things

Casa Mila

Casa Mila in Barcelona

Casa Milà – Review  Casa Mila in Barcelona is a top attraction in the city and one of the most visited buildings in the world.  “Works of Antonio Gaudí” is the category that UNESCO has used to classify seven buildings of the architect in Barcelona as World Heritage Sites. Apart from the Sagrada Familia, many other interesting constructions are a part of this list such as Casa Milà and Casa Batlló. When it was designed

qué es esto

La Concha beach

La Concha beach San Sebastian, Spain.  La Concha is one of the most emblematic beaches of the Basque Country, and Spain for that matter. La Concha is the urban beach of the city of San Sebastián, The Basque Countries second largest city. The beach is located within a small bay with the same name. La Concha is widely considered to be one of the best urban beaches in the world, and is easily the best

Guggenheim musem

Guggenheim musem- Bilbao

The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao  The Guggenheim Museum of Bilbao is the city’s most emblematic monument. A visit to Bilbao wouldn’t be complete without at least strolling by and admiring it from the outside. This spectacular shimmering building on the bank of the Nervión river is itself a piece of art. Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the museum is considered one of the premier examples of contemporary architecture, and has been hailed as a “signal moment

Best things to do in Spain in July

San Fermin Festival: the Running of the Bulls

The running of the Bulls of San Fermin, known as the San Fermin Festival, is celebrated each year in Pamplona from the 7th to the 14th of July.

The start of these bull runs at any town festival goes back to the necessity of transporting the animals from the holding pens outside the city to the plaza where they will engage in the San Fermin bull fights later in the evening.

Caves of Altamira in Cantabria

The Altamira caves are located in Santillana del Mar, a small town in Cantabria. These caves are one of Spain´s most important tourist attractions and receive every year over 250,000 visitors.  They are a Unesco heritage site. Santillana del Mar is known for 3 things. The first one are the caves of Altamira, the second thing is its beauty and the third one is kind of a joke since its name, it is widely said,

Pathway to san juan de gaztelugatxe or dragonstone from game of thrones

San Juan de Gaztelugatxe: Dragonstone of Game of thrones

Table of Contents What is San Juan de Gaztelugatxe? San Juan de Gaztelugatxe is a tiny island off the northern coast of Spain, in the Basque Country. The island is connected to the mainland by a thin, winding, manmade pathway. The chapel at the top of the small island has been a place for pilgrims for a long time.  San Juan de Gaztelugatxe has traditionally also been a very easy day trip to enjoy from

PLAYA DE GULPIYURI-Small is beautiful! Fantastic landscapes. Better to arrive early

Playa de Gulpiyuri – small hidden beach near Llanes

 Playa de Gulpiyuri Beach What is so special about Guilpiyuri beach? This beach is, for lack of a better word, odd. It is, in fact, a saltwater beach although the actual coast is 10 minutes away! Gulpiyuri is on our list of top beaches in Northern Spain Besides being odd, Gulpiyuri is also a small beach. It is actually tiny, with just 50 meters of pristine white sand. Many people think this is the smallest

Picos de Europa

Picos de Europa: the amazing national park in northern Spain

The Picos de Europa National Park The Picos de Europa are a mountain range in northern Spain, that stands out because of both the hight of the mountains and their proximity to the ocean. It is one of Spain’s 15 national parks It is currently the second most visited national park in Spain, the first being the Teide national park in Tenerife. The range spans over three regions of northern Spain: Cantabria, León, and Asturias

Cíes Islands

Cíes Islands: amazing, secluded islands off the coast of Galicia

Cíes Islands The Cíes Islands are a group of small islands of the coast of Vigo, Galicia in northwest Spain. The archipelago was declared a Nature Reserve in 1980 and was included in the Atlantic Islands of Galicia National Park of Spain created in 2002, one of the 15 national parks you can find in Spain. The Cíes Islands are home to one of Spain’s most spectacular beaches, Rodas Beach however, the are no cars

Top tourist attractions in Santiago de Compostela

Santiago de Compostela Cathedral – Visitor guide

The goal of the streams of pilgrims that arrive in Santiago de Compostela is the Plaza de España, or Plaza del Obradoiro – which means the square of goldwork. Stately buildings surround the Plaza, including the superb façade of the Santiago de Compostela Cathedral: one of the most beautiful churches on the Iberian peninsula, and the end of El Camino de Santiago. Visitor guide – Santiago Cathedral Recommended tour to enjoy the cathedral A visit