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Spain + Portugal Recommendations

I’ve been busy today because we leave on a two week trip tomorrow to Spain, Portugal, and Morocco. It is about 20 degrees warmer than Paris so I’m excited to shed the heavy coats for some lightweight sweaters. This will likely be the last trip we take before we move back to the US. After researching some here is our itinerary. Spain: Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Arcos de la Frontera, Tarifa, Granada. Portugal: Salema, Lisbon. In addition we’ll take a day trip to Morocco. I’m fluent in Portuguese so I’ll be able to use my language skills at least on part of the trip! I’d love recommendations if you have them.

photo by Christian Chaize available here.

  1. Melanie

    February 16, 2012

    If you do anything in Barcelona: Gaudi Park and La Segrada Familia.

    Also, the Dali museum is located about an hour outside of Barcelona and there’s nothing else quite like it!

  2. Amy

    February 16, 2012

    We just did Barcelona for the weekend, mostly because wecwere looking for warmer weather. It seems finally today we got a brake from the icy weather over here. Are you guys thawing out yet in France? We did find it very kid friendly, all the parks are great. Our hotel was just of las ramgummy so we hit up the boqueria every day. Our kids loved the juices and the
    gummy candies. The best tip someone gave me before we went is if you are going to be there for at least two days it is worth it to buy a t-10 metro pass. It saves you some money and keeps you from pulling out your wallet ( for all the pick pockets to see) every time you get on. Also FYI…the magic fountain is closed until the end of February, if it is on your list to see. Still worth the trip up to montujic even without it
    Did you ever post your Venice trip? Did I miss it? Still looking for kid friendly stuff to do there.

  3. Maria

    February 16, 2012

    Hi Jordan.

    Loved know that you’re coming to Portugal.
    I’m from Porto, a city that you must see.
    If you need anything, please contact.

    Have a good trip

  4. i.

    February 16, 2012

    Portugal, great choice! 😉 But you should consider visiting Porto (North Portugal), it’s beautiful, especially by the river and by the beach! We’re expecting tempeartures above 20º next friday, but it has been a bit cold (around 15º) so bring your coats anyway! :)

  5. Annabelle

    February 16, 2012

    Thank you thank you people! We are headed to Barcelona in two weeks and now I have TONS of great and delicious ideas!!!

  6. Raquel Goldman

    February 16, 2012

    Hi Jordan,

    If you can, Marrakesh is beautiful – visited there with our 8 month old at the time and it was such an amazing experience. We were constantly stopped by locals and our little guy was greeted everywhere with smiles and kisses!

    If you go, stay at a Riad inside the Old Town and just wander the alleys, souks and if you can the Jardin Majorelle.

    Happy Travels!

  7. jeuno

    February 16, 2012

    Jordan! I served my mission in Spain, and I, too, am so jealous. Man, you are going to love it.

    Are you staying in apartments? I’m going to recommend grocery store foods to eat, as well as resaurant foods. Please forgive if you already have these things in France, as I’ve never been there (yet).

    Queso de burgos. The most amazing fresh cheese. Oh, I’m jealous. So, buy a barra de pan (in French, that’s a baguette), and open it. On one side, put olive oil, on the other, vinegar. Put queso de burgos (it will be in the refrigerator section in a little ridged plastic cup of happiness and joy), and tomatoes, salt and pepper in the middle, and eat it with any fresh fruit available. Life changed!

    Bio. It’s a yogurt-y drink, again in the fridge section. Do you have this in France? Oh, man. So good. So, so tart and pleasing.

    Pastries. I am not going to lie. Churros can be a little bland. Palmeras can be a little dry. Cañas can be a little light on the chocolate filling. But when they are right, they are so, so right.

    Okay, street food.

    Bocadillos de calamares. If you didn’t know, you might think people are eating onion ring sandwiches, because the calamares are that big, but they are tender and delicious, and amazing, and the perfect thing to eat in Plaza del Sol.

    Gofres. Sweet waffles. Heavy whipped cream. Delicious chocolate drizzle. Men with whipped cream hats. I’m sure this sort of thing is all over Europe. Amazing.

    Boquerones. This is more a bar food/tapa than a street food, but you must try boquerones (tiny little fish in an oil and vinegar marinade) with/on potato chips. With apricot nectar to drink. World’s most perfect snack.

    Obviously olives. And the pate they sell in little jars at the stores. Especially the salmon pate, on a nice fresh piece of bread, toasted. Heaven. I’m telling a Parisien to eat pate. I know.

    I think Goya’s darker works, at el Prado, are not to be missed, as is Guernica, which is on display with several of the preliminary sketches (at the Reina Sophia), which are really moving. The scale of all of these paintings cannot be captured in any replica. I know they’re “popular” works, but they are famous for very good reason.

    Barcelona: If you can do the Sagrada Familia, I think it’s worth any price or any wait, even with kids (having previously made the wrong choice). I agree with Erika on Parc Guell being a great place to visit with kids. Oh, the photos you’ll take!

    Other food you absolutely must eat (and will have a hard time avoiding): paella, tortilla (alone, in sandwiches, hot, cold and room temperature), [hot] chocolate. Beware blood sausage disguised as tapas. It will ruin your night (unless you like it . . . .).

    Have so much fun! I cannot wait to see the Spain/Portugal posts. superxox

  8. Lizzie

    February 16, 2012

    My dad is the mission president in Barcelona for the LDS Church so my parents have lived there for the past 2.5 years. I have visited Barcelona a few times since they’ve been there. My favorite places include:
    Shopping – Habitat, Vincon
    Food – Patatas Bravas at Tomas in the neighborhood of Sarria
    Sights – Parc Guell, Casa la Mila (worth the price to go on the rooftop), the Barcelona Cathedral & wandering the Old City, stopping at a cafe for hot chocolate and churros …

    My favorite day trip is to Tossa, about a 2 hour drive outside of Barcelona. It’s a beach town with a medieval castle right on the water. It feels like the Pirates of the Caribbean are about to sail around the bend. AMAZING.

  9. Gina

    February 16, 2012

    Jordan, you are a girl with so many talents: Portuguese! WOW… I’ve learned Swedish and a fair level of French — but Portuguese feels so complex! Have a ball! I’ve missed a few days of posts and it’s such a treat! Cute, small, cakes! Happy Birthday to your house! G

  10. Abby

    February 16, 2012

    Hi Jordan,

    I don’t know Tarifa, but I think your other Spain choices are fantastic, It’s a bit touristy, but I still love Los Caracoles for traditional Spanish fare in Barcelona and don’t miss trying a Basque pinchos bar, See my recent blog post ( and full itinerary ( for recommendations on Madrid. (And feel free to ask me any questions you may have!)

    Salema is cute though not a whole lot going on, especially this time of year I imagine. Be sure to visit the lighthouse at Cabo de Sao Vicente and Amado beach. I had lunch at Praia do Castelejo (there’s just one restaurant) and the fish was amazingly fresh. The beaches on the western coast near there are rugged and very unpopulated off season. There are eco-hotels in that area that might be worth investigating if you have not already booked a hotel? If you have time, head to Albufeira on the southern coast of the Algarve. I stayed at Albergaria Senhora do Monte in Lisbon, perched above the city center, near the castle. Very sweet place though nothing fancy.

    If you are just doing a day trip to Morocco, I would recommend taking the ferry to Ceuta and then visiting Chefchaouen in the Rif mountains. I have not been in years, but at least in 1998-9, Tangiers was not worth the trip. You’ll get hassled a lot and it’s very “border town”, not the real Morocco.

    I hope that helps a bit!

  11. Samantha

    February 16, 2012

    My biggest regret coming home from Morocco was not bringing home saffron! Its so inexpensive there, and you can even get it in bouillon cubes. I say buy a load and ship home, its still cheaper than ever buying it in the states.

    Also, you’ve got to get rugs. Practice those haggling skills, and you can get them very cheap. They will love a good haggler.

  12. Sarah

    February 16, 2012

    Recommendations for Algarve –
    We were there last week and it was gorgeous, but cold. Salema was fun but it is very, very quiet. Much of the town is closed down for February. I wish I would have stayed in Lisbon a bit longer. It’s worth a sit on the beach and a Sagres beer! We spent a day in Tavira which was a live and well. We didn’t love the hotels there, but the little town was fun.
    Santa Luzia was gorgeous. You can take a train out to the beach where there’s a hotel and restaurant.

    Recommendations for Lisbon –
    If you are taking your boys the ferry across the river is fun.
    Make sure to get Ginjinha from the original place in Rossio. Fun spot.

    Have fun!

  13. Michelle

    February 16, 2012

    Entao vc fala Portugues! Uau. Qual foi a area que voce serviu? Nunca poderia imaginar que voce fez missao e ainda por cima no Brasil :) Um Grande Abraco

  14. sandyb

    February 16, 2012

    Fluent in Portuguese?! Well, that’s a sentence I don’t read often on blogs – what a surprise! My family is Portuguese on both sides and I speak it, too. I introduced my husband to Portugal a few years ago and we both felt that the seaside town of Tavira (in the Algarve) was a gem. The coolest salt quarries on the way to a dock of small boats, which take you to a private beach on an island. Incredibly serene. Oh, and there is a nudist area to the beach (took my first skinny dip in the ocean!), but there are also areas for families and couples. Anyway, all the best on your trip!


  15. Colleen

    February 16, 2012

    I studied in Madrid this past summer and also visited Barca and Granada while there. Be SUPER careful in Barca as it is high on pickpocketers. Casa Battlo and Casa Mila are must-sees, as is Sagrada Familia. For kids, Parc Guell would be great! There’s so much to see and plenty of open spaces. Obviously the major hit in Granada is the Alhambra which is a gorgeous and amazing complex that has plenty of open spaces and so much to keep kids interested.

    Madrid. Parque del Retiro is the Central Park of Madrid. You can rent rowboats for 4 euro and spend 45 minutes on the lake. Parque del Oeste is home to the Teleferico, a 15 minute gondola ride that gives a panoramic view of the city. Chocolate and churros at San Gines are a must. The Thyssen and Reina Sofia were my favorite museums, though the Prado is most well known by everyone.

    I would check out the Guiri Guide to Madrid, also, for tips on things to do.

  16. Carrie

    February 16, 2012

    Madrid: the Mercado de San Miguel

    For a shutter-bug it’s a bit of heaven; the kids will have plenty of visual stimulation!

    Seville stole my heart and Hotel Dona Maria was a fantastic respite (with a pool in case it’s warm!)

  17. Hannah

    February 16, 2012

    Yeah! How exciting. I am studying in Barcelona now, and LOVING it. I would definitely make sure to watch out for pick-pocketers (nobody from my group has been pick-pockted but I’ve heard tons of crazy stories). Make sure not to miss out on Carnival this weekend!!! It is going to be epic. I’m pretty sure it is Thursday-Wednesday but the biggest days are Sunday and Tuesday (when me and my friends are going).
    Make sure when you are looking for places to eat NOT to eat on Las Ramblas. It is sooo nice to walk down and see all the stores, but not to eat (super pricey and just a few blocks away there is much better food for a much better price).
    Bring a rain coat! It has been a little overcast these last few day.
    And…. be ready for almost EVERYONE smoking! it’s awful!
    You are going to have an amazing time!

  18. Marie

    February 16, 2012

    Looks like you are part of this parody….
    Made me laugh! Enjoy.

  19. Jen Disney

    February 16, 2012

    Hi Jordan!

    First of all, after seeing your tablecloth post, I now REALLY want that cake. So thanks for that. :)
    Second, I just did that same trip (minus Portugal) in May! It was great. We visited all of the cities in Spain that you mentioned as well as Morocco. I blogged about all of the cities I visited. You can read about and see photos from our adventures here:
    We stayed in La Casa Grande in Arcos de la Frontera and it was a really sweet place. Just wished we would have stayed longer.
    My FAVORITE place we stayed was just outside of Ronda in the countryside. It was beautiful and relaxing. Casa de Campo los Pastores. That was one of my favorite parts of the trips. I think it would be a great place for families too.

  20. Jana

    February 16, 2012

    I’m so jealous! I went to Portugal four years ago to practice my portuguese. It was amazing! Can’t wait to go back! Here are some of my favorites in Lisbon: a must is a cup of coffe in Brasiliera cafe in Chiado, try Pastel de Belem in a famous pasteralia, take a ride on funicular and visit Igreja do carmo, go to Castelo Sao Jorge, Monesterio dos Jeronimos…. go everywhere! There is no bad choice! Lookin forward to great pics!

  21. ajira

    February 16, 2012

    It’s been far too long since I was last in Portugal. What a gorgeous place. Lisboa is amazing. Definitely visit some of the cafés on the docks… the ones for the sailors… great food, good prices, massive helpings! To this day bitoque from one of those places is one of my favourite meals ever… mostly because of the addition of a large, scrumptious salad! Delicious! There was also this pineapple soda that I adored. Goodness. Now I’ll have to pull out my old albums and review. The universidade is gorgeous, lots of lovely beaches… wish I could be more specific but it’s been a while! Enjoy! Beijoca! 😀

  22. Kath

    February 16, 2012


  23. Inma

    February 17, 2012

    Hi !
    I’m from Spain, I live in Mallorca but I have been in almost all the places that you have to visit.
    What a wonderful trip! But you have many things to see in not a lot of time…..Some recommendations :
    La Boquería
    Palau de la Música
    Parc Güell
    Gothic Cathedral and Gothic Quarter
    All abaut Gaudí ( this is essential): La Pedrera, Sagrada Familia, Casa Batlló…..
    You have to walk throug “Las Ramblas” but be very caregul because there are many thiefs there , so better if you don’t look like a tourist..:)
    Here you have all important information about this city:
    Thats a very beautiful city. You have to visit:
    La Alhambra!!!!!!!
    El Albayzin
    Many things…. Here you have a page of the town hall where they can make you a visit plan:
    Well , when I have more time , I’ll send you information about Madrid and other places. I hope I’ve hell you, although my English isn’t very good. Please if some time you come to Mallorca let me Know it.

  24. Inma

    February 17, 2012

    Sorry , i wanted to write : I’ve help you , and I’ve writed ” I hell you” :)

  25. Bels

    February 17, 2012

    I am from Madrid! You have to visit La Latina (neighbourhood) to have some beers and tapas!
    Also you can eat at El Lateral (there are 4 or 5 in the city)
    Also you can visit Living in London in Alonso Martínez for some tea!
    A library you will love is Panta Rhei, near Mercado de Fuencarral (Bilbao’s metro station). Also visit Mercado de Fuencarral, very trendy!
    Visit Templo de Debod near Plaza de España (also a metro station) it’s a gift from Egypt when Spain helped them to rebuild Abu Simbel.
    Also if you like cheese I recommend you the Cheese bar restaurant, you may have to book a table.
    You also have the Lomography store in Calle Argensola, and there are some clothes vintage shops. Another vintage shops can be found in Malasaña (Bilbao’s metro station)

    For brunch I go to Magasand (calle Columela) it’s close to Puerta de Alcalá and Retiro park.
    At Plaza de la Independencia you will find a place called Harina where there are some delicious cakes!

    I have visited Barcelona several times and my favourite restaurant is Cornelia & Co. Also you have to visit El Born, the coolest streets in Barcelona

    hope you enjoy the trip!!!


  26. Paula

    February 17, 2012

    Dear Jordan,
    if you want to travel up north in Portugal, come to Coimbra (between Lisbon adn Oporto). It is a beautiful historical city, where the first university in Portugal, from the Middle Ages, was founded. Here you can hear a different type of Fado, get to know the students’ traditions and eat very well.

  27. joana

    February 17, 2012

    Hi Jordan,

    Lisboa is one of the most beautiful places in the whole world. I was born and live in Lisboa, and i feel lucky for that. I love to wake up everyday in Lisboa.
    We (me, my 2 year old son and my husband) love to go to Jardim da Estrela – it’s a beautiful garden with a wonderful playground for kids. Nearby you can go to Artisani – the best ice-cream in Lisboa.
    We also love FCG – Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian – it has a funtastic garden that stops the sound of the city, and in FCG you can go to CAM – Centro de Arte Moderna – where you can see modern art – it’s superb; and you can go to the museum to see the Gulkbenkian collection. You can have lunch there – and you can take food to eat in the garden or in the outside auditorium.
    Parque das Nações also have wonderful and enormous gardens near the river and a bookshop for children – Cabeçudos.
    Museu do Oriente, Museu da Marioneta, MUDE and CCB – don’t miss it.
    If you will go out at night and leave the kids with a babysitter you must go to Bicaense (in Bica), Cais do Sodré, Clube Ferroviário and Lux (both in Santa Apolónia) and eat pizzas in Casanova. Be ready to dance until the first hours in the morning.
    You can also go to Clube Ferroviário by day with the kids to have lunch or just to have a drink and see the sights.
    One of the things that i love in Lisboa is to walk in the street – Lisboa has a beautiful light. I love to go to the market or little shops to buy the grocerys and to shop bread in any bakery – it’s hard to find a place in Lisboa with bad bread. If you like bread you are in the right place, Portugal loves bread.
    And if you like flowers go to the shop “Em Nome da Rosa” – in Príncipe Real, one gorgeous neighborhood.
    Try to eat bacalhau and sea food – we love to eat our Mediterranean diet. We love olive oil, bread, cheese, bacalhau, seafood, and we love to have long dinners.
    One last thing – you can’t miss the Bordallo Pinheiro garden in the Museu da Cidade (Campo Grande) – it’s small but really really beautifull with gigantic animals made in ceramic.

  28. Rose

    February 17, 2012

    I LOVE Brazil! Unfortunately I came down with some awful stomach flu in Spain and didn’t see much of it…loved Barcelona though!

  29. sofia maul

    February 17, 2012

    Hi Jordan!
    You will have such fun on your trip:

    I live in Lisbon and would recommend a leasurely walk along the river near the Electricity Museum where there is an exhibit of children’s books illustration ILUSTRARTE and then cross over or under the railway tracks and come and have some Pastel de Belém (custar tartlet that you sprinkle cinnamon on! If it is warm have a meal of fresh grilled fish in one of the restaurants in the garden: best is Montenegro! I have a two and a half year old and these are our favourite stomping grounds!

    Don’t miss out on the 28 tram ride that will take you over three of Lisbon’s seven hills.

    Have a lovely lovely time and if you need anything please let me know!
    beijinhos from Belém in Lisbon

  30. Katie Truelove

    February 17, 2012

    I completely agree with the sintra recommendation– it is such a beautiful and interesting spot!

  31. Alicia

    February 18, 2012

    I love this photo! Morocco is very high on my list as well. Lots of great recos I reblogged to share them and help add to the list. Thanks!

  32. Sarah

    February 18, 2012

    In Granada: stay at Hostal Rodri. We were just there. It’s super clean, has memory foam mattresses, and affordable (like 43 euro per room), sweet couple owns it. Check out reviews on tripadvisor.

  33. jenna

    February 19, 2012

    my family and i moved to spain 3 years ago and live 40 minutes from arcos de la frontera. i just did the tarifa/ morocco trip 3 weeks ago. its perfect weather here right now. we were at the jerez de la frontera flea market all morning. you all will love andalucia. in tarifa, la cueva has the most delicious made to order burgers. all the food in morocco was delicious.

    if you have free time. ronda, spain is spectacular! we are obsessed. we’ve gone there at least 25 times since moving here. it is the oldest bull ring in spain as well as hemmingway used to hang out there. and by hang out i mean drink. 😉 the kids book ferdinand the bull even has drawings of the bridge there. on this page the pics with a girl with red hair are of ronda.

    i love your blog. how fun that you are in my neck of the woods!

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    February 21, 2012

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  35. Heather B.

    February 21, 2012

    I am so sorry I missed this when it was originally posted. I lived in Madrid and you’re hitting up all the right places on your trip. Barcelona was amazing (Sagrada Familia, Parque Guell, La Rambla) also PALM TREES which made it very exotic when visiting in February. Then in Madrid you have Retiro and the flea market and Puerta del Sol and churros con chocolate (though I did see the recommendation above about the place between Sol and Plaza Mayor which is the best place for churros con chocolate) and the museums. Then again you have small kids so they might not be into Reina Sofia but if you can get to there or Prado then I highly recommend both.

    I could go on but you are probably well situated and I am incredibly jealous right now. Have so much fun!

  36. Jess

    February 21, 2012

    Somehow I totally missed this post! I actually have tons of recommendations for Spain (not sure if you’re already in Portugal), which I talked about here. I think central Spain is my favorite area, though I really hope to get back some day for a trip of northern (specifically northeast) Spain. Barcelona and Toledo are also incredible.

    Hope you’re having a great time!

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