Barcelona, Las Ramblas, Santa Catarina Markets, Sagrada Familia, Logrono, La Rioja, La Guardia, San Sebastian, Basque Country, San Blas Markets, Bilbao, Guggenhuem, Ria de Arousa, Rias Baixas, Cambados, Vigo, Santiago de Compostela, Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela
Dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.
Day 1: Barcelona – Churros, Chocolate, and Captivating Sights
After a long flight comes an indulgent welcome. With church bells ringing in the distance you lounge on a Barcelona terrace, a bubbling pot of chocolate beside your fresh curls of churros. Sweet goodness settles on the tongue and the city wanders past: men in caps pass old theater entrances, locals meet for morning coffee, and an air of enthusiasm mingles with salty Mediterranean scents. Relax with your churros and chocolate, a classic dish to start the culinary adventure. You’re then transferred to a boutique hotel in the heart of the city. Freshen up and take your time before a unique afternoon tour mixes famous sights with local flavors.
Eight-hundred years of history weave through stalls of temptation at La Boquiria market. Smell and sample your way around, many Spanish classics satisfying the preconceptions: freshly sliced jamon, homemade olive oil, cold seafood, and plenty of fluffy white bread. A series of incomplete spires now guide you through the city, quirky Sagrada Familia dominating the skyline. This is Gaudi’s eternal masterpiece, a huge ode to ingenious design that will take another ten years to finish. But even in its current state, it’s an unforgettable highlight of Spain. Tonight’s dinner offers a sophisticated blend of Catalan cuisine. Michelin -Starred Hisop takes the foundations of Catalan cooking and adds a contemporary twist. Think squid with fried egg and truffle, or scallops with caviar and chin, concluded with a bowl of fresh strawberries and lime.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals including dinner at Hisop, transfers, tour
Day 2: Barcelona – Learning From the Masters on a Catalan Cooking Class
Barcelona mornings always have charm. Footsteps wind downhill, dissecting pastel shaded terraces and cafes spilling coffee fumes. It’s quiet yet social, a time of day for a bocadillo and cafe con leche. Spend the morning around iconic Las Ramblas, absorbing the boutique side alleys and dipping into souvenir shops. Lunch is a light one, a snack with a view along Barcelona’s most famous street. But dinner is a feast. This afternoon is spent in a private cooking class with a renowned Catalan chef. Local tapas are the theme, a dozen different dishes created under inspiring supervision. Select your idolized menu and get stuck in roasting meats, pickling fish, slicing hams, combining flavors, grilling aubergine, and savoring the atmosphere of the kitchen. All chefs must taste their food and you’ll be sampling throughout the day, before sitting down to enjoy the complete feast.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, Catalan cooking class, transfers
Day 3: Logrono – World Famous Tapas Bars in the Heart of La Rioja
Vineyards roll past the window as you journey into La Rioja, a region of fiery flavors and odes to tradition. Stop for lunch at an elegant winery, a platter of cheese and ham served al fresco as the vines extend towards the horizon. Today’s destination is Logrono, arguably Spain’s most famous tapas town. The town’s central street is patrolled by bars, small local places that radiate enthusiastic chatter. The original tapa is a small snack placed on the lid of your drink: tapa literally translating as lid. This tradition continues in Logrono with every bar specializing in one particular tapa. Try a lid of morcilla (black sausage), quaff some seta (mushroom), savor the chorizo, and spend the evening indulging in unique flavors. With passion and panache every bar competes for custom, perfecting their single specialty over decades of experimentation. The idea is not to stay in one place and eat from a platter. It’s to do what the locals do and tour the taverns.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, tapas tour, transfers
Day 4: Logrono – Beautiful Breakfast Markets and a Sensual Rioja Vineyard Tour
Breakfast is enjoyed outside in Northern Spain. This morning you join the locals, collecting a selection of fruits and cured meats from the San Blas Markets, then sitting on broad benches as javelins of light flicker through the overhanding trees. But how to wash it all down? In the nearby village of La Guardia, breakfast comes with a glass of Rioja. Go underground into a maze of tunnels and caves, each stacked with oak wine barrels stained indelibly red. Thousands of gallons leave distinct smells as you gear up to an afternoon of touring La Rioja’s world renowned vineyards.
Take a stroll through the vines and picnic with an eternal view over the region, a couple of vintage reds poured out through goat-skin bags. This private wine tour is completely flexible and can cover anything between two and five vineyards dependent on the mood. Choose to sample more and dart between the region’s premier produce. Or sit back on a farmhouse balcony and slowly savor the best of one or two farms. Tonight’s dinner is a second tapas hop. After all, Spain’s best tapas shouldn’t be restricted to one night of indulgence.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, vineyard tour, transfers
Day 5: San Sebastian – Pintxos and Basque Culture in the Old Town
San Sebastian cascades into the Atlantic, its bays of enchantment marked by wide sandy beaches and buildings of golden era splendor. You’re now in Basque country, Spain’s most fiercely independent region, where the voices you hear are not Spanish. Language and culture are stoically protected and today is left free for you to explore the Old Town and beach at your own pace. Meander through lanes of cobbled stone, admire the soft yellow facades, and dip into small art galleries.
Dinner is indelibly local, enjoyed in one or more of the town’s famous pintxos bars. Passionate chefs revel in inventing their own creations, stuffing half a dozen tastes onto a single stick. The essence of pintxos is to produce a finely balanced array of flavors, each dish held together by a large cocktail stick. But with a buffet of such choice where do you start? Perhaps the roasted seabass and cheese? Maybe anchovies and sheep cheese? Classic jamon with melon? Each is little more than a few bites, so keep collecting the sticks and experimenting. To an outsider, pintxos and tapas could be considered similar. Just don’t let the locals hear you make such comparisons.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, transfers
Day 6: San Sebastian – Hands On Basque Style Cooking Class with Traditional Recipes
Sails reflect in the harbor’s serene waters. Streets appear from shadows, the sculpted window frames emerging floor by floor. Relax, take it slow, this is Northern Spain after all. Breakfast is enjoyed at a nearby village market, where the region’s cheese stands out along tightly packed stalls. Then you join a special club, heading through the doorway of a private txoko. Basque’s member’s-only cooking clubs have kept traditional recipes alive, the region’s professional chefs sharing ideas in these txokos of exotic smells. Under the tutorage of an old master, you prepare a lavish lunch of exclusively local produce. Cured meat and cheese is always involved, as are in-season fruits and freshly caught fish. Like the ingredients, the creations are always organic, reflecting the Basque desire to be continually innovative and experimental. After a long lunch and siesta, dinner is taken at Akelarre, a triple Michelin -Starred restaurant that reveals the dainty and delicate beauty of Basque cuisine.
What’s Included: accommodation, private Basque cooking class, all meals including dinner at Akelarre, transfers
Day 7: Bilbao – Latxa Farmhouse Sheep Cheese, Jamon, and Traditional Cider
Basque is rural and untrammeled, reflecting idolized impressions of the Spanish countryside. Vines wind around whitewashed farmhouses, green valleys tumble into the ocean, and narrow roads weave to villages with more churches than houses. Explore this iconic setting on your way to Bilbao. Stop at a tiny farmhouse where overgrown greenery hides rooms of Latxa sheep cheese. Sample your way through the ages: three months, five months, eight months, the flavors intensifying as the cheese hardens. A second farmhouse reveals another Spanish specialty: jamon. Discover the curing process and another tasting journey that goes through the ages.
Wash down the salty goodness at a 300 year old sagardotegia, or cider house. Apples stew in immense barrels, their vinegary fumes filling a stone farmhouse with insatiable temptation. Open the tap and you drink straight from the barrel, the sweet nectar an ideal complement to cheese and ham. Stuffed and delighted, you roll into Bilbao, where a boutique hotel offers views over the 13th century Parte Vieja. Dinner is taken in a famed local restaurant, tucked away down a 19th century street.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, tour, transfers
Day 8: Bilbao – Ancient City Delights and Michelin Dining at the Guggenheim
Bilbao spans the eras, the streets alive with distinct flavor and chronicles of history. A specialist architect guide accompanies your wandering, breathing life into stone and tales into palaces. Bilbao has always practiced innovation, discarding the Spanish style as it seeks to imprint Basque on the world psyche. Galleries of portraits have a mysterious edge. Fashion designer Balenciaga leaves impressions in spacious museum rooms. A platter of cold seafood is enjoyed along the waterfront; another turn, another century, another wisp of ornate doorways to explore.
The tour culminates at the Guggenheim, Northern Spain’s outrageously designed museum and the Basque’s ultimate ode to originality. Take your time. A mass of twisted metal is reflected in the water, the postmodern design as weird as it is wonderful. Slowly your eyes pull away from the exterior and absorb the interior, home to more expanses of unusual art and sculpting. And what better way to finish these four days in Basque than a meal at Nerua, the Guggenheim’s Michelin-Starred restaurant. Expect the delicately balanced creations to be every bit as original as the museum itself.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals including dinner at Nerua, tour
Day 9: Rias Baixas – Spain’s Finest Seafood Along the Galician Coast
A short morning flight and you land in Galicia, the lost corner of Spain tucked away on the northwestern coast. From Vigo Airport you travel directly into the region’s seaside history by spending the afternoon in the port village of Cambados. Low tide arrives and you explore the beach, joining the mariscadoras (shell-fisherwomen) in picking fresh shells from the Ria de Arousa. Galicia is Spain’s seafood capital and the likes of mussels and even oysters are just a part of the staple diet. With the coastline rolling by you spend the afternoon on a private yacht, gently cruising past the fishermen’s boats and docking in a secluded bay of sapphire waters. Gourmet grilled seafood is for lunch, cooked before your eyes and accompanied by empanada gallega, a distinct Galician pie that’s elegantly paired with local wine.
After an easy late afternoon in the village, best enjoyed on one of the many cafe terraces, tonight’s dinner is one of the tour’s highlights. O Grove is widely regarded as Galicia’s finest restaurant, a fair achievement given the region’s reputation for seafood. Galician octopus is the starter, lightly cured and then fried for a few brief seconds. Oil is absorbed but the octopus doesn’t toughen, it maintains a texture that’s the signature of great Galician chefs. As sunset reflects across the Atlantic take your pick of the mains, a fine dining menu of ocean fish satisfying the most discerning of tastes.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals including dinner at O Grove, boat trip and tour, airport transfers
Day 10: Santiago de Compostela – Galician Style Cooking Class in the Heart of the Old City
Santiago’s Cathedral dominates the city like no other, every city street emanating from the 6th century masterpiece idolized by Catholic pilgrims. The Old City is fully pedestrianized, thick stone slabs running past convents, churches, and a millennia of history. Get lost, explore, ducking into moss engulfed alleyways and courtyards of allure. Meet your chef on the cathedral steps and first head to the local market where you’re guided around classic local dishes and organic ingredients. Then the afternoon is spent in the kitchen, perfecting Galician seafood and attempting to master their famed octopus. Dine al fresco, sampling your cooking over a long evening of wine and sunset tones. As dusk descends Santiago increases its enchantment, soft bulbs leaving the streets harmoniously between light and shadow. Tonight’s boutique hotel is in the heart of the Old City.
What’s Included: accommodation, all meals, cooking class
Day 11: Santiago de Compostela – Departure
Breakfast is fresh and Galician, everything from cheeses to charcuterie lining the table on your final morning in Northern Spain. Cathedral bells ring and a line of pilgrims snake their way through the streets. There’s time for a final stroll, a last dose of ancient splendor on the streets of history. In the late morning you’re transferred to the airport for a domestic flight back to Barcelona, where your international departure takes a happy stomach back across the Atlantic.
What’s Included: breakfast, airport transfer