The Select Cities
A Spanish Tour
The Cheat Sheet | There's a more in-depth look at our trip through spain below, but for a quick cheat sheet of where to eat and some things to do, here's your list!
Great apartment rentals throughout Spain. A fantastic alternative to hotel living, especially for longer trips or trips with kids.
PG Isabel II, 14
+34 9 33 19 30 33
Old school, close to the water with amazing raw bar and fantastic paella. Great for a bottle of Albarino and a platter of raw seafood as well.
Passage de la Concepció, 12
+34 9 34 67 51 49
Boca Grande looks more French bistro than Spanish tapas, but it's a great spot for fresh seafood and feels a bit hipper than you'd expect. And don't miss the chocolate cake.
Plaça de les Olles
+34 9 33 19 30 33
This is on everyone's list, and I would have to agree. Opt for a seat at the bar which is reminiscent of a 50s American diner, and enjoy the super traditional but not at all ordinary tapas.
Avinguda del Parallel, 164
Ferran Adria's literal fantasy, Tickets can only be compared to a visit to Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory, and the reservation is almost as hard to get, but if you can snag it, go. Give in to the crazy inventive menu and just enjoy.
Calle Diputación, 269
+34 9 34 88 09 77
We ate here twice in as many days because we just couldn't get enough, and if we'd had more time we would have returned. Best. Tapas. Ever. Truly. Chef Carles Abellan is a fixture on the Barcelona food scene and his food is just incredible. The true standout is the bikini comerç 24, a glorified grilled cheese sandwich with jamon and black truffle.
Calle Muntaner, 171
+34 9 34 30 90 27
Another great spot for tapas, with high top tables and a younger, funkier feel.
CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
Avenue de la Constitucion, s/n
+34 9 02 09 96 92
Also known as The Cathedral of Saint Mary, it's the largest Gothic Cathedral, and the third largest church in the world. Take a walk to the top — the view is worth the trek.
Plaza Venerables, 1
+34 9 54 22 12 42
The only place to eat lunch in Seville as far as I’m concerned. There’s not a tourist in sight and there’s not a bad thing on the menu. If you really love yourself though, you’ll have the fried eggs with french fries and jamon. Or the grilled pork ribs. Or the pork cheek stew …
LA BRUNILDA TAPAS
Calle Galera, 5
+34 9 54 22 04 81
A newcomer when we visited in March 2015, there was a line to get in by the time we arrived, but it was worth the wait. A little less straightforward than the typical tapas restaurants, but still delicious. Standouts were the spicy patatas bravas and the anything-but-American mini burgers.
Calle Gamazo, 2
+34 9 54 21 30 49
Another relative newcomer, we heard it was wise to pre-order the paella, so we did. And it did NOT disappoint – maybe the best we had.
A SIDE TRIP TO ARACENA
ARACENA IS ABOUT AN HOUR NORTH OF SEVILLE AND MAKES FOR THE PERFECT DAY TRIP.
GRUTA DE LAS MIRAVILLAS
Calle Pozo de la Nieve, s/n
+34 6 63 93 78 76
The most incredible underground grottos. It’s a don’t miss.
Calle San Pedro, 36
+34 9 59 12 60 13
Maybe the most unexpected stop of our whole trip was this incredible restaurant in the teeny town of Aracena. Clean and modern, the offerings are nothing less than perfect: the requisite jamon, red peppers stuffed with anchovy, perfectly grilled lamb chops, beef cheek stew. And for dessert an arroz con leche with anisette.
Calle Ruiz de Alarcon, 23
+34 9 13 30 28 00
Just incredible. Maybe my favorite museum anywhere.
Ventura de la Vega, 13
+34 9 14 29 38 10
This place is incredibly (and sadly) not on anyone's radar. It is a perfect spot for lunch - clean, airy and modern in feel, and the food is spot on: fried eggs served over fried whitebait, an incredible paella, a beautiful cheese plate and another amazing arroz con leche for dessert.
Calle de los Cuchilleros, 17
+34 9 13 66 30 26
It’s the oldest restaurant in the world (1725), and as such, might also be considered one of the most touristy, BUT it is so damn good, it is well worth the shame. What they are known for is their roast suckling pig, and while there are a million things on the menu worth trying (the Boudin Noir is especially incredible) the pig is a can't-miss. A whole one is for 6 or more people, but I would argue that even if you're only 2 or 3, you should insist on it. The presentation alone is something to see.
In March 2015, we took a family vacation through spain and kept a travelogue for saveur magazine. If you want a quick look at our recommendations, you can see them here, otherwise here's what we thought...
DAY ONE - BARCELONA
We arrive in Barcelona and make our way to the apartment we’ve rented through Friendly Rentals. We generally choose apartments over hotels when we travel as I find to really allow us to live like locals. There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning, running to a local market or patisserie for breakfast treats and going back to the apartment to eat a leisurely breakfast while planning the route for the day. This apartment is right on the Rambla de Catalunya - a perfect location for all of our eating and sightseeing.
We drop our bags and head out towards the water. After a VERY long NYC winter, we are all eager to see the ocean. We walk along the water and find ourselves at 7 Portes, one of the oldest restaurants in Barcelona, and one that’s known for its seafood and its paella. We order a bottle of Albarino and tuck into platters of clams, oysters, sea snails and, of course, paella. We’re all surprised by how different he paella is here, in this part of Spain – a little creamier and soupier than what we’re accustomed to in the States. But it’s delicious nonetheless.
After lunch we wander through the streets near the port and make our way up to the incredible Gaudi cathedral, La Sagrada Familia. It’s under scaffolding, but there’s no question that the architecture is staggering, and it’s a great introduction for the kids for the rest of the Gaudi buildings and parks we plan to see throughout our stay in Barcelona.
Our first dinner is at Boca Grande, a restaurant known for its fresh fish and seafood. We order platters of oysters and gambas (large shrimp) on the grill and finish everything off with an incredible chocolate cake.
DAY TWO - BARCELONA
We are lucky enough to have secured a reservation at the uber popular Cal Pep, famous for its incredible tapas, so we eat a light breakfast in anticipation of the meal to come. But our good intentions are quickly thrown out the window when we take a stroll through the Boqueria market. This is perhaps one of the most incredible places I have ever been. Yes, it is a tourist destination and has a fair share of camera-wielding instagrammers at its entrance, but once inside the market opens up and there is stall after stall of incredible fish, produce, spices and fruits. There’s also amazing prepared foods and a number of tapas bars in the back that are already buzzing with morning meetings and locals having a quick mid-morning bite. My kids love the paper cones filled with sliced meats sold throughout the market. It’s a great take on street food.
We take a short walk over to Cal Pep where the front room, a simple 50s-style diner counter, is already full with a line out the door. But because there are 7 of us for lunch we are ushered into the back by the most engaging and animated waiter. At Cal Pep, there is no menu. If there’s anything you’re allergic to or simply can’t stomach. You’re welcome to speak up, but once you sit down, the food just starts coming. Plate after plate of hand-sliced jam on, perfectly fried boquerones, super fresh tuna tartar, artichoke hearts with ham – it goes on and on and we finish with an amazing crème catalan branded with the restaurants’ name.
After lunch we take a walk down to the beach. This might be my favorite thing about Barcelona – the city makes its way right up to the sea making it the best of both worlds for me as an ocean lover. We wander along the street that hugs the beach, stopping to take our shoes off and run into the surf.
Thanks to a dear friend in New York who is from Barcelona and has some great connections, we have a reservation at Tickets for dinner. Tickets is one of Albert and Ferranti Adrià’s (of the much-loved and now shuttered Il Bulli) five restaurants (part of their 5.0 project). The vision for this project was to open five completely different concepts top create a culinary amusement park. I haven’t been to the other four (Bodega 1900, Pasta, Hoja Santa / Niño Viejo and Enigma), but I can ell you that this modern tapas bar certainly fits the bill. We weren’t sure what to expect, so we looked at the restaurant’s website, and this is what we found:
For us, La vida tapa is a global concept which links gastronomy to a way of understanding life. An amusing way of eating that turns the eater into an interpreter of a theatre play, of a chorus magazine, of a circus variety, being the character of a fairy play. It is a staging of real life. At La vida tapa there is no place for boredom, sadness or loneliness but there is much for laughs, complicity and good company.
To say this was an experience is an understatement. It is molecular gastronomy at it’s wackiest, yet finest. I’m not even sure I can adequately describe what we ate, so suffice to say that it’s Willy Wonk meets Cirque du Soleil. It was delicious, inventive and crazy and maybe one of my favorite meals ever. My kids certainty loved it, too.
DAY THREE - BARCELONA
We start our day at another Gaudi stunner, La Pedrera. This residential building is part museum and part working residence, which it makes it that much more interesting. We spend a good amount of time on the famed roof before making our way to Tapas 24, an often-recommended tapas place by uber-Chef Carles Abellan. It’s a tiny space on a side street with three tables on the sidewalk and a line out the door. We were lucky to get there when we did and only waited about 30 minutes for a prime spot outside. But after eating here, I would have gladly waited 24 ghouls for a table. We share perfectly fried boquerones, the famous bikini comerç 24 – a glorified grilled cheese with perfectly sliced jamon and black truffle, pork ribs, pulled pork tacos, fried eggs with french fries and chorizo (our new favorite dish!) and a few bottles of perfect rosé to wash it all down. It’s a spectacular meal and as we’re finishing we a re already planning our next visit.
After lunch we head back to the apartment or a ice nap before our evening’s event: an FC Barcelona soccer match against Manchester City. It’s one of the things we’ve most been looking forward to on this trip, and the game does not disappoint. I have always been a huge football fan having grown up in Europe, and it’s amazing to see the incredible devotion the Barcelona fans have for their team. The roar of the crowd is deafening and three’s something magical about being in an outdoor stadium in the middle of the city. It’s an unforgettable experience. And the late hour after the game ends (Barcelona wins, of course!), doesn’t stop us from yet another exceptional meal! We head back across town to Paco Meralgo, another great tapas restaurant. Here we sit at a high table in a very casual room and feast on super spicy patatas bravas, zucchini flowers delicately fried and stuffed with mozzarella, fried artichokes and frilled razor clams. A perfect meal to end a perfect day.
DAY FOUR - BARCELONA
Lunch today is early, as we need to get on line for our second meal at Tapas 24! This lunch is almost identical to yesterdays and it’s still sublime.
After lunch we jump in a taxi and make our way to the Park Guell. The park is at the top of a hill and we hike around the outskirts of the Gaudi sculpture area for a few hours. The park is gorgeous and the day is beautiful. The kids are thrilled to be able to run around and once we make it into the Gaudi area, we are stunned by the amazing sculptures there. It’s such a great park!
It’s our last night in Barcelona, so we opt to make another trip to the Boqueria and stock up wine, tomatoes, bread, cheeses and meats and eat at home.
DAY FIVE - SEVILLE
We fly from Barcelona to Seville and drive from the airport into the center of town. Seville is the capital of Andalusia and has a much older feel to it than Barcelona did. The apartment we rented is in a very small square and has stunning view of the Cathedral, the centerpiece of the city. We settle in and head to lunch at Casa Roman, which was recommended to us by the greeter at our rental apartment. When we get there the palace is empty and we are a bit concerned, but we order some wine and grilled vegetables and boquerones, and pretty soon it’s filling up with locals – not a tourist in sight – which is a very good sign. Our waiter, Curro, is amazing, and gets us plates of the best jamon in Seville (no joke – this is what they are known for!), fried eggs with french fries and jamon, simply grilled pork ribs and incredible pork cheek stew. It’s an amazing meal and we decide that we won’t anywhere else for lunch during our brief stay in Seville.
After lunch we tour the Cathedral, which is the oldest church in Seville and climb up to the bell tower. The view is incredible in spite of the rain, and I even meet a group of Chopped Fans! We spend the rest of the afternoon wandering around and getting familiar with the city.
Dinner tonight is at La Brunilda Tapas – a newcomer on the Seville dining scene and worth the line we wait on outside to get in. The tapas here are a bit less straightforward than what we had in Barcelona but still really delicious. Small portions of spicy patatas bravas, mini burgers that are anything but American and perfectly grilled octopus. Dessert is simple ice cream and is the perfect end to the meal.
DAY SIX - SEVILLE
Today we take a day trip to Aracena, a town about an hour North of Seville and in addition to being home opt the Jamon Museum, it also boasts the most incredible underground caves called The Gruta de las Maravillas. We tour them – amazed by everything we see and ten sit down for lunch at Montecruz – a perfect choice for a big lunch up in the hills. There is, of course, the requisite jamon, plus so much more. Red peppers stuffed with anchovy, perfectly grilled lamb chops, beef cheek stew. And for dessert an arroz con leche with anisette.
After lunch we visit the Jamon Museum, which is just, as you would expect – a museum dedicated to ham in all forms. T’s actually really interesting to learn about all of the different types of ham there are, the various pigs and how different each type of ham is.
After our tour we head back into Seville and our last dinner at Enrique Becerra, another relative newcomer. We have pre-ordered the Paella, and it does not disappoint. It’s a delicious dinner and we’re happy to only have one course at this meal!
DAY SEVEN - MADRID
So the question is, what would you do if you only had one day in Madrid? The city has so much to offer, but without the luxury of time, what do you choose. Here's what we did, and to be honest, it was perfect. I could probably have snuck in one more meal and maybe a longer look at The Prado, but otherwise we got a real feel for the city in a very short amount of time.
Our first stop once we've dropped our bags at the hotel (not one worth staying at, so I will be quiet on this front), is, not surprisingly, for lunch. The restaurant of choice is Marina Ventura, and it is incredibly (and sadly) not on anyone's radar. It is a perfect spot for lunch - clean, airy and modern in feel, and the food is spot on: fried eggs served over fried whitebait, an incredible paella, a beautiful cheese plate and another amazing arroz con leche for dessert.
After lunch we meet our guide, Juan (we got him through Made for Spain, and I can't recommend him or the company enough. They can arrange all sorts of things for anywhere in Spain) for the MOST incredible tour of The Prado Museum where there happens to be an amazing Picasso exhibit, so we get to see some pretty spectacular art.
And here's the thing: if you have one night in Madrid, you MUST spend it having dinner at Botin. It is the oldest restaurant in the world (1725), and as such might also be considered one of the most touristy (in fact the night we were there saw throngs of Asian and German tourists on every floor of the restaurant), BUT it is so damn good, it is well worth the shame. What they are known for is their roast suckling pig, and while there are a million things on the menu worth trying (the Boudin Noir is especially incredible) the pig is a can't-miss. A whole one is for 6 or more people, but i would argue that even if you're only 2 or 3, you should insist on it. The presentation alone is something to see, and the preparation is perfection.
And that's a wrap on our family vacuum in Spain. I will admits that after eating our way through three incredible cities, I was more than happy to put down my fork and get on the plane. But I can't recommend the entire trip highly enough - it was a really magical time.