• Days 1 and 2 – Barcelona
  • Day 3 – Valencia
  • Day 4 – Cordoba
  • Day 5 – Seville
  • Day 6 – Madrid
  • Day 7 – Bilbao
  • Day 8 – San Sebastián

Days 1 and 2 – Barcelona

Barcelona is a cosmopolitan hub in the north-eastern region of Catalonia, with an appealing blend of architectural marvels, atmospheric neighbourhoods and glamorous beaches.

If modern art is your thing, you’ve come to the right place – both the Picasso Museum and the Joan Miró Foundation don’t disappoint. Be sure to make time for La Sagrada Familia too – though unfinished, this basilica designed by Catalan architect Antoni Gaudí is utterly distinctive. His signature use of swirling forms and dazzling mosaics is also found at Park Güell and Casa Batlló.

When it comes to dining, the city dishes up everything from gourmet delights to home-style cooking. Just be sure to leave room for crema catalana – this rich, custardy dessert will have you begging for seconds.

Reaching Barcelona by train is easy, with direct connections and high-speed routes within the country. Madrid to Barcelona, for example, takes just over two hours travelling on AVE high-speed trains.

Day 3 – Valencia

Hop on a Euromed train from Barcelona to Valencia, and you’ll be transported from one culture-packed city to another in less than four hours. Valencia is Spain’s third-largest city, and it's renowned for its culture, golden beaches and bars that hum late into the night.

Start your day at the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral. A curious mix of architectural styles, it sits on the former site of a mosque. Plaza de la Reina and Plaza de la Virgen lie on either side – they’re two lively squares brimming with historic buildings and charming cafes.

After exploring the squares and surrounding streets, you’ll be ready to feel the pulse of the city over at the Central Market. A feast for the senses, this is a great place to watch the world go by as you dig into melt-in-the-mouth churros con chocolate.

Valencia has more than its fair share of cultural big hitters, the most notable of which is the sleek, glass-domed City of Arts and Science. At the other end of the spectrum, the National Ceramics Museum offers an insight into the city’s craft heritage.

To rub shoulders with the city’s cool young urbanites, head south to Ruzafa which has cemented its place as Valencia’s hippest quarter. Grab a traditional bocadillo sandwich before savouring a zingy cocktail in one of the area’s beloved ‘bookshop cafe’ bars.

Day 4 – Cordoba

Venture into Spain’s Andalucía region when you board a train from Valencia to Cordoba. After a scenic 3-hour train journey, you’ll arrive at Cordoba station in the north-west of the city.

Cordoba is an ancient city – it was formerly the capital of a Moorish empire that stretched across much of Spain. Throughout the city, you’ll find striking remnants of this legacy intertwined with Catholic and Jewish sites too. This sometimes unusual blend is best witnessed at the iconic Mezquita. Originally a 10th-century mosque, it later had a stunningly-ornate cathedral built within it. To get a sneak peek for free, arrive in time for the 08:30 service.

The city’s tapestry of historical influences can also be seen at the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, which features a fortress, manicured gardens and a Moorish bathhouse. Experience another side to the city in the atmospheric Jewish quarter, which also happens to be home to some of the best dining spots in town. As the day draws to a close, saunter down to the banks of the Guadalquivir river to join locals in drinking a glass of the sweet, locally-produced Montilla Moriles wine.

Day 5 – Seville

It’s day five of your tour and time to hit the Andalucían capital. Much like the region’s sultry flamenco dance, Seville embodies proud tradition, seductive elegance and sizzling energy. Trains from Cordoba to Seville typically take a snappy 45 minutes, so before you know it, you’ll be right in the heart of this scintillating city.

Seville is home to the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral – scale the Giralda bell tower for unbeatable views over Barrio Santa Cruz. Then head over to the 14th-century Alcázar, a sprawling palace which dazzles visitors with its shimmering gold detailing, graceful arches and exquisite tiles.

Now it’s time to scratch beneath the surface and encounter the true soul of Seville. Swing by Bodega Santa Cruz for some sumptuous tapas among locals, before rummaging through the antiques, ceramics and vintage flamenco dresses at the lively flea market on Calle Feria.

As the light fades, take a stroll among the orange trees in Jardines del Guadalquivir before seeking out that all-important flamenco performance – don’t be surprised if you see local sevillanos get swept up in the atmosphere and take to the floor themselves – you may be tempted to join!

Day 6 – Madrid

You may think your 8 days in Spain itinerary have reached its peak – well, think again. Now you’ll be primed to dive into the buzzing, cultural powerhouse that is Spain’s capital, Madrid. And with high-speed Renfe trains from Seville to Madrid, you’ll be in the capital in as little as 2 hours 30 minutes.

If there’s one city on your trip to get your art fix, make it Madrid. Its famed Golden Triangle of Art includes the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, the Museo del Prado and the Thyssen-Bornemisza – between them they house a dizzying array of masterpieces that will inspire even the most discerning of art aficionados. Directly behind the del Prado, you'll find the beautiful Retiro park – join the picnicking locals among the rose gardens or go boating on the lake.

As day turns to night, Madrid really comes to life. Over at the bustling San Miguel Market, you can sample an array of tasty treats, including callos a la madrileña – Madrid’s signature tripe stew. Then begin your after-dark adventure on the rooftop bar at Círculo de Bellas Artes, featured in Pedro Almodóvar’s timeless film, All About My Mother.

Day 7 – Bilbao

Hugged by coastal mountains, Bilbao is a compact city with a big personality. It is brimming with galleries, hip bars, and striking architecture but still maintains a strong sense of tradition and an easy-going way of life. Direct trains get you from Madrid to Bilbao in around 5 hours.

Start by riding the funicular to the top of Mount Artxanda to get your bearings and marvel at the spectacular views. Then descend back down and head for the iconic Guggenheim museum. The futuristic titanium, glass and stone building is an architectural gem and houses a thought-provoking collection of modern art.

While in town, be sure to try pintxos (the Basque take on tapas). Being so close to the coast means seafood is top of the menu – and it doesn’t get much fresher than here. Embark on a culinary crawl, as you work your way through the array of top-notch eateries on Calle Ledesma and beyond.

Day 8 – San Sebastián

From one foodie hub to another – the roughly 4-hour train journey from Bilbao to San Sebastián will give you ample time to build up a hunger again. Undoubtedly, San Sebastián is one of Europe’s foremost Michelin star havens. But alongside its gastronomic temples, the city has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

This is the final day of your 8 days in Spain itinerary so you’ve definitely earned some relaxation. And what better place to kick back than on one of the city’s three golden-sand beaches? Sitting in the glistening Cantabrian sea, La Concha Beach is regularly rated as being one of the world’s best city beaches. After taking a dip, swing by the old town for a refreshing glass of Basque cider.

Spend your afternoon soaking up the retro charm and breathtaking views at San Sebastián’s amusement park. Then it’ll be time to dine in style in one of the city’s restaurants. For a gourmet experience that will have you waxing lyrical to friends back home, reserve a table at three Michelin star restaurant, Arzak. Or keep things simple while not compromising on taste, over at locals’ favourite, Bar Ganbara.

So there you have it – 8 days in Spain that takes in 8 amazing cities. Check out the outstanding deals and cheap train fares that will make your dreams of Spain become a reality. Then forget about staring at flight departure boards and leave your driver’s licence at home. It’s time to take the scenic route and experience Spain by rail!