Jenny’s tips for Madrid, Barcelona and along the southern coast from Cádiz to Valencia. She’s a freelance writer, solo traveller and eternal sun seeker. Her tips are best for a foodie, budget and culture seeking travellers who may not have been to Spain before.
How do you know Spain?
I studied in Madrid for 9 months and travelled along the coast from Valencia to Cádiz. I speak Spanish at an intermediate level and hope to buy property there one day!
Any hotels, restaurants or activities that shouldn’t be missed?
Madrid is definitely a foodie favourite. Next time you’re in Madrid, head to Plaza de Santa Ana and order the ‘rabo de toro’ at Lateral (don’t Google it until you’ve tried it!). I also really enjoyed the tapas at the Mercado de San Miguel; the empanadas were to die for! El Tigre is also a great shout for budget travellers – order a drink for a few euros and enjoy the enormous plate of food that comes with it for free! Make sure you try jamón serrano while you’re in the country as well…there’s nothing else quite like it.
There are some great and not so great hostels in Spain. The Sant Jordi hostels in Barcelona, are so much fun and know how to throw a fiesta! Sungate One in Madrid was fabulous – no bunk beds and each room has a balcony!
Casa Caracol in Cádiz is lovely too. You just have to do your research. If you’re looking for somewhere cheap in Benidorm, Pensión La Orozca offers unbeatable value for money for huge rooms with a bath and a balcony. In terms of activities, Retiro park in Madrid is a must do for a lazy afternoon stroll. It’s one of my favourite places in the world.
Go on a walking tour around Valenica – the mix of old and new is fascinating. Climb up to the Santa Bárbara castle in Alicante. Go whale watching in Tarifa (I saw killer whales, pilot whales and a sperm whale). There’s so much to do! And one of the best things about Spain is that no matter when you visit, there will almost always be a festival going on!
Anything visitors should avoid, e.g., tourist traps, overhyped stuff?
The beach in central Málaga was horrible! Dark, coarse sand, slime floating in the ocean and (oddly) overcrowded. Apparently if you head further east it gets better, but I didn’t stick around to find out!
Any other tips?
The bus and train networks are excellent! I’ve never had any problems getting around. If you’re looking for off the beaten track, go to Benidorm (hear me out!) and head east past the noisy beachfront to the little bays or ‘calas’ such as Cala Tío Ximo. They’re stunning and because they’re a small trek out of town, no-one else can be bothered to make the effort!
Teruel is a gorgeous little town in the middle of nowhere and I’d definitely recommend it for a day if you’re in the Aragon region. Spend a few hours of this exploring nearby Albarracín, a beautiful Medieval village full of historical treasures.
I’ve saved the best tip for last and am almost reluctant to give it up! Drum roll please…if you’re on the west coast (Costa de la Luz) go to Bolonia beach and soak up the turquoise water, silky soft sand, Roman ruins, shady forest and huge sand dunes. Buses run from Tarifa in high season, otherwise you’ll need to hire a car to get there.