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Northern Spain: Catalonia, Basque Country, Rioja, Asturias, + Galicia




We went on a 2-week road trip through Northern Spain and Portugal last year. We have been to Barcelona a couple of times and were excited to get to see more Spanish regions and all of the wonderful food, wine, and landscapes they have to offer.


Catalonia

Barcelona

This was our third and shortest visit to Barcelona, so while we didn't hit all of the typical touristy spots we did have a few great experiences, particularly at our sweet hotel and a few restaurants and bars.


The Corner Hotel

A really lovely boutique hotel in a great location - walking distance to the Gothic Quarter but not right in the middle of the heavily tourist areas. The rooftop pool and bar was the best part!






Food & Drink

  • Sips: When we went last year, this was the #3 cocktail bar in the world - and this year it's #1! Really creative and beautiful drinks and friendly service.

  • Two Schmucks: Another top 50 cocktail bar. More relaxed and casual that Sips. They also had a great selection of interesting, naturally-fermented wines.

  • Dos Pebrots: Catalonia is known for it's Michelin-Starred and high-class gastronomy restaurants. Cary heard great things about this place, that specializes in traditional Mediterranean flavors and techniques.

  • Can Recasens: Our favorite restaurant. Cary's landlord recommended it when he lived in Barcelona a few years ago. The salads and charcuterie boards in particular are wonderful. You need to call to make a reservation, it fills up quick!

  • Índigo Café: Stopped for a coffee and a treat - very cute!

  • Jansana: A great gluten-free bakery.

  • Santagustina: My favorite lunch spot in Barcelona! Down a pretty side street in the Gothic Quarter, a bit separated from the very busy touristy areas.




Jardins de Laribal + Parc Joan Miró

This area of the city is full of parks and lovely trails and museums. Highly recommend exploring.





Vic

We had a very quick visit to Vic on our way to visit some friends. A very old and beautiful small city not far from Barcelona.





Basque Country

San Sebastian

San Sebastian was just as beautiful as everyone says. The small city is nestled around Bahía de La Concha and the beautiful wide Ondarreta Beach. There's a lovely paved promenade the length of the beach that leads to the picturesque and historic downtown. One of our favorite things was enjoying the sunset on the beach with a bottle of wine and charcuterie from the nearby underground market, La Bretxa Mercado. We also enjoyed trying pintxos at a tapas bar and lunch at Antzara Taberna.








Hiking trails

We went on two short hikes right off of the city center. One leading from near the San Telmo Museum that takes you up to Motako Gaztelua was paved and busier. The other was the Mount Ulia Trailhead, my personal favorite, and is accessible from the street Zemoria Kalea and is more natural and has some really beautiful views.






Wine Country

We took a day trip from San Sebastian down to the Basque Country wine region, a small area that borders Rioja. Because we were traveling during 'shoulder season', many of the wineries were closed, however we managed to find three that were great. The first, Bodegas Ysios, was very elaborate. The wine was good but seeing the building from the outside was the best part. Right across the street is a smaller winery called Bodegas Javier San Pedro Ortega and was our favorite. We had our own personal tasting on the outdoor patio and the wine was excellent. The third one, Bodegas Baigorri, was beautiful but larger and less personal.








Gaztelugatxeko Doniene

A touristy but essential thing to do in Basque Country! Where Dragonstone from game of thrones was filmed, Gaztelugatxeko Doniene is a hermitage on a tiny island. It was breathtaking and absolutely worth it. The hike down, while paved, was very long and very steep. We are in good shape and it was challenging. Plan to bring plenty of water and sturdy shoes.






Bilbao

We wandered around downtown Bilbao for a couple hours on our way to Oviedo. We had a great Spanish lunch at La Batea Mejillonerias, walked around the exterior of the Gugenheim museum, and had a coffee and treat from ARVO Coffee and Plants.



Basque Countryside

We took one day to drive around the Basque countryside - and I'm so glad we did! We stumbled across the Makatza sheep farm, where we drove up to see if they had a shop. It turns out that they don't, however they invited us in and showed us how they make the cheese (in Spanish) and gave us some samples. They only sell their cheese at two markets in the Basque Country. Such a special experience!








Asturias

Bufones de Pría

This was one of the most beautiful spots we visited. While it's known for its blowholes ( waves crash into the rocks and water shoots out of holes along the coastline), the water was really calm when we went so didn't get to see it. However, the location was stunning and the views of the cliffside were magical. The walk from where we parked was beautiful, surrounded by lush pastures with sheep and cows crazing with the mountains in the distance. Dreamy!







Oviedo

We were both so pleasantly surprised by Oviedo. We didn't know what to expect, but found taht the culture, food, and architecture were amazing and so different than anywhere we'd ever been. Oviedo is known for it's cider, which is fairly flat straight out of the bottle. The traditional Asturian way of serving it is in very small quantities that they serve by holding the bottle high above their head and pouring it into a glasss held below the waist to create fizziness. They come around to the tables periodically to continue pouring for you. There is a stretch of cider houses on the street C. Gascona with great food. We also took a hike up to Iglesia de Santa María del Naranco that had a good view of the city.




Lagos de Covadonga

This might be my favorite part of the trip. Typically, you can drive nearly to the top, park, and hike ~1-2 miles to the AMAZING mountain-top lakes. On the day we went there was an international bike race that finished at the top, so we had to hike the 6 miles all the way up the mountain dodging cyclists. It was a workout but SO worth it. All along the way there were beautiful views and lots of cows and sheep. Once you got to the top, you were in the clouds (it was cold! Bring layers). We got lucky and got to see the lake before the clouds came in, and we picnicked in the grass with a couple cows. It was really wonderful.











Galicia

Praia as Catedrais

Another highlight! This beach had the most beautiful rock formations, and was huge so even if there are a lot of people there was plenty of space. The rocks/caves were fun to explore.





Santiago de Compostela

We stopped here briefly on the way to Vigo. Grabbed a coffee at the very cute Ratiños coffee shop and walked around the famous Cathedral packed with hikers finishing the famous Camino de Santiago pilgramidge.



Vigo

Vigo was a sweet, understated city that was our home base in Galicia. Fewer people spoke English and it was much less touristy than the other cities we stayed in. We really enjoyed Garden Vigo and Sibarita restaurants, Sémola cake shop, as well as our beautiful AirBnB balcony overlooking the Praza Porta do Sol.



Wine Country

Galicia has two distinct wine regions. The area near the coast and closer to Vigo is known for its white wines, and a couple hours inland is known for its reds. We enjoyed exploring both, but the Río Da Acea valley, with vineyards all along the steep slopes down to the river, was incredible. We visited Bodegas Regina Viarum, and near the coast we went to Adega Eidos winery.




Beaches

While it was pretty chilly when we went in early May, it was still worth it to visit some of the beautiful Galician beaches. We enjoyed Praia Da Lanzada, Tomás Abril beach, and Moaña beach.



We loved the entire trip and are excited to see more of Spain next time!

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