Ultimate Guide to a Food and Art Vacation in Spain
Published on: November 12th, 2018
Last modified: July 28th, 2023
Spain is a nation founded on culinary and artistic tradition.
Ancient Moorish architecture lines the streets of Granada and Seville, iconic Gaudi buildings are scattered throughout Barcelona and the traditional art of flamenco is still showcased across the country.
Spain is a perfect destination for both food and art lovers: eat your way through San Sebastian’s pintxos, go on private tours of iconic museums or climb to the top of Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia.
There are plenty of ways to fill a food and art vacation in Spain - here is our experts' guide to them.
Gourmet walking tours
Barcelona is the beating heart of Catalonia and the centre of northern Spain’s food scene. Exploring tucked away bars, cafes and restaurants is the perfect way to get acquainted with Catalonia’s capital. True foodies can accompany a gastronomic writer, who has spent a decade immersed in Spain’s food scene, on a gourmet walking tour of the city. The tour begins at La Boqueria – Spain’s most iconic food market – that plays host to stalls selling all manner of local products from Iberian hams to swan eggs. After the tour, travellers can taste a selection of local products accompanied by a local wine, before stopping off at a patisserie for some Spanish sweet treats.
Tapas tasting in Seville
Containing three UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Seville is arguably Spain’s prettiest town. This city oozes Spanish charm and its food scene matches up to its magical architecture. Seville is a great place to discover Spain’s famous tapas scene. These bite-sized plates of delicious food (that are best enjoyed with a glass of wine) are not to be missed. On a tapas walking tour of Seville, travellers can visit some of the city’s best tapas bars and dine in a way that Spaniards have been doing for centuries.
Pintxos tour of San Sebastian
Sitting on Spain’s northernmost tip, San Sebastian is a relatively undiscovered foodie haven. Travellers with discerning palates will fit right into sophisticated San Sebastian, which has the highest concentration of Michelin star restaurants per capita in the world. Pintxos is a staple of Basque country cuisine, and going out for pintxos has been a tradition for decades. As Pintxos are small morsels of delicious food, locals will typically visit three or four bars and sample one or two dishes in each establishment. On a pintxos tour of San Sebastian, you’ll be able to taste a world of Basque country flavours. Then, you can wash the wonderful taste down with a glass of txacolí – the lightly sparkling wine that is a Basque country export.
Cooking class with Pilar Latorre
Spain’s Costa Brava is perhaps best known for its dramatic coastline and Catalonian heritage, but it also has a fantastic food culture. In Spanish culinary circles, chef Pilar Latorre is well respected for her Mediterranean cuisine, as well as her French and Asian specialities. An intimate cooking class in her own home allows travellers to learn from this incredible chef, who trained at the prestigious Cordon Bleu School in Paris. Lasting between three and four hours, participants will cook four courses, and once you’ve finished cooking, you can enjoy your delicious meal in Pilar Latorre’s living room, along with sumptuous Spanish cava and wine.
Basque cooking class in San Sebastian
Founded on Basque traditions, San Sebastian is a fiercely proud city. This doesn’t stop when it comes to its food – Basque dishes take centre stage across town. With a traditional Basque cooking class, you’ll learn how to prepare authentic dishes. Using fresh produce from coastal villages and mountainous regions such as Gipuzkoa and Bizkaia, attendees will create authentic regional dishes from scratch. Enjoy the fruits of your labour in a typically Basque way, by sitting around a rustic wooden table for lunch.
For travellers who would rather avoid the hard work of cooking up a storm, there is also the opportunity to experience a private dinner in one of San Sebastian’s best restaurants. Held in the kitchen of a secret establishment, an exclusive menu will be created just for you and elaborately paired with select wines.
Barcelona chocolate experience and workshop
As well as tapas, pintxos and private dinners, Spain is home to some mouth-watering sweet treats. There are few things more satisfying than dipping a freshly baked churro into liquid chocolate. Introduced to Spain from the New World in the early sixteenth century, chocolate quickly spread across this food-obsessed nation. In Barcelona, you can do a special chocolate workshop to learn more about everyone’s favourite food.
You’ll start with a visit to a speciality chocolate shop to learn about and buy local ingredients. Once you’re all stocked up, wander through Barcelona’s cobbled streets to a cooking school. Here, visitors can learn how to make different types of hot chocolate and melindros, the Catalonian version of churros.
Gaudí’s architectural wonders
Besides food, Spain is renowned for its artistic scene. Filled with iconic structures and modernist buildings, Barcelona boasts architectural astonishment around every corner. On a Gaudí tour of Spain’s second biggest city, architecture enthusiasts will be able to discover some of Gaudí’s most famous works. The bright mosaics of Güell Park and La Sagrada Familia, considered to be Gaudí’s masterpieces, are a perennial on Barcelona bucket lists. On this tour, you’ll learn about Catalan Modernism – an eclectic type of architecture that flourished between 1888 and 1906. Besides the classics, participants may also get the chance to visit the Casa Batllò and Casa Milà, popularly known as La Pedrera, or the stone quarry.
Travellers looking for a little more privacy can opt for an after hours tour of Gaudí’s La Pedrera. As well as exploring the surreal building, visitors will be treated to an audiovisual show with multiple projections lighting up the stairwells. Offering an insight into the life and work of Gaudi, this iconic building is Gaudi’s last civic work. The rooftop is home to a collection of sculptures, known as ‘soldiers,’ and is the perfect place to toast the end of an educational day with a sparkling glass of cava.
Salvador Dali excursion
The Costa Brava’s art scene is on par with the region’s delicacies. A long term muse to Dali sits in the last resort on the coast before the French border. Cadaques is filled with whitewashed houses and a beautiful 16th-century parish sitting atop a hill. On Jacada’s Salvador Dali excursion, travellers can visit Port Lligat – a fishing village that inspired Dali’s work during family holidays – and the picturesque town of Figueres, where the Dali Theatre and Museum are located. Built by Dali from the ruins left by 19th century Spanish Civil War, this museum is an institution. The museum itself is the largest surrealist object across the globe, playing host to a vibrant collection of the artist’s works.
Madrid’s historic art
Spain’s capital city is awash with culture, the highlight of which is the Golden Triangle of Art – encompassing the Prado Museum, Reina Sofía Museum and the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum. Alongside flamenco, jazz and characteristically delicious tapas, Madrid’s art scene is one not be missed. The Prado Museum is a real gem, made even more special on an exclusive tour. The museum contains 9,000 paintings by world-renowned artists such as Bosch, Titian and Rubens. On an exclusive morning tour, art aficionados can visit the museum before it opens its doors to the general public. Perusing the displays before the crowds of tourists arrive makes for an extremely special experience.
Painted forests in San Sebastian
The small neighbourhood of Oma, not far from San Sebastian, contains a magical spot known as Bosque Animado, or the Animated Forest. Painted by Bilbao sculptor and artist Agustín Ibarrola in 1984, this enchanted forest symbolises the connection between nature and art. With this innovative project, Ibarrola aimed to link the works of the ancestral Paleolithic artists with the modern movement known as land art. He set about painting the trees in the forest, aware that the representation of his work would change as the trees grew. As each visitor walks through the paths in a different way, Ibarrola’s land art collection takes on a different meaning for everyone who sees it anew.