When you visit a country you have never been to before don’t you always wish you had your own private guide to take you to the best places—those hidden corners that aren’t in the tourist guides and that only locals know about? I asked a number of fellow bloggers and expats who live in Spain where they like to take friends when they visit.
Segovia is a must-see day trip for Madrid visitors
Marianne Calvin, where would you take a first time visitor to Madrid?
“I always take visitors to Segovia for a partial day trip outside Madrid. It´s 20 minutes on Renfe (which costs 20 euros roundtrip) and the town is small enough to spend 5 hours which is enough time to try the cochinillo (roasted suckling pig—I strongly recommend Restaurante Jose Maria - make a reservation!), and tour the alcazar. Usually, I take the 12:30 p.m. train there and return on the 5:30 p.m. train. This is perfect for first-time visitors because they can get a taste of local cuisine and medieval history without being overwhelmed.
Marianne Calvin works at Moving2Madrid, a company dedicated to helping foreigners find a place to live in Madrid—and work their way through all the paperwork and bureaucracy.
A watering hole in Granada with views
Josh Taylor let me in on local's secret watering hole in the glorious Granada.
“Hidden high up in the hillside barrio of Sacromonte, you’ll find one of Granada’s best-kept secrets: El Chiringuito.
Traditionally, chiringuitos are small, makeshift, unlicensed (and unchecked) enterprises, often run by families on beaches across coastal Spain. They sell cheap drinks and tapas.
In fact they are more like shacks than bars. Sometimes it’s just a bloke, a cooler full of beer, a chair and a table, and he makes a killing. At least in the summer and spring time he does; these beach-side chiringuitos are seasonal, and in the cold, rainy autumns and winters, business stops dead.
But Granada’s is a one-off. It’s often just €1 bottles of cold beer or coke on offer but the walk up, beginning from Plaza Larga in the historic Albaicín barrio, is well worth the effort for those who like neither. There’s probably bottled mineral water anyway.
The bar sits on a lofty platform, facing the Sacromonte valley with the Alhambra on one side, the Albaicín on the other and the city of Granada and mountains beyond. It is without a doubt the best view in town—the sort that would usually mean having to pay crazy prices just to be able to sit down with a beer and stare at it.
Josh Taylor is a British English teacher gone full-time blogger who has been living in Granada for over six years and writes Spain for Pleasure.
If you are heading to Granada and would like a cold one with a great view at the aforementioned Chiringito, you can get a map with directions on Josh’s blog:
Getting back to the "real Spain" in a village near Seville
Catherine Gaa lived almost 10 years in Seville. Here is her favourite spot to take guests.
“After nearly a decade in Spain, I've had more than two dozen visitors. If we have time, I shuttle my guests to San Nicolás del Puerto, a small village nestled in the Sierra Norte de Sevilla and 90 minutes from the Andalusian capital. There aren't many tourist draws, save a waterfall and outdoor activities, but in this town of 700 people, my husband spent his happiest moments. We visit the family farm, eat well for next to nothing and catch up on pueblo gossip in Bar Loli.
The village's biggest fans are my parents, who ask to visit each time they're in Spain!
Catherine Gaa, writer of sunshineandsiestas, took time out her busy schedule as a new mom to tell me where she takes her visitors when they come to Spain.
A newcomers view on Barcelona
Giuliano Gottini, creator of giulianogottini.com, says he is a newcomer to Barcelona himself, but he still has lots of helpful suggestions:
Best Paella: La Fonda—Seafood can get expensive, but if you go in the afternoon you can get a really good deal.
Tours: Ferrari and Helicopter Drive
Markets: Shop at the daily markets for fresh and cheap foods.
Check out Gothic Barrio for sure.
Don't go to any touristy areas like La Rambla—a well-known pedestrian street—on the weekends as it is way too overcrowded. Also, don't buy/eat anything there —all overpriced and not worth it at all.
So there you have it folks—the inside scoop from those with experience. I hope these suggestions make your visit to Madrid, Granada, Sevilla and Barcelona feel like you are walking with your personal tour guide.