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Barcelona, San Sebastian or Madrid: Which of these prominent Spain cities suit your wanderlust? |

Travel and Tourism

Barcelona, San Sebastian or Madrid: Which of these prominent Spain cities suit your wanderlust?

Euden Valdez -
Barcelona, San Sebastian or Madrid: Which of these prominent Spain cities suit your wanderlust?
Barcelona, San Sebastian and Madrid, these three diverse and prominent Spain destinations can cater to Filipinos' unique wanderlust. / Euden Valdez and Jap Tobias

MANILA, Philippines — We may occasionally think of paella, imagine flamenco dancers, or dream about the Sagrada Familia, but Spain remains to be quite an enigmatic country—more so a travel destination—for many Filipinos.

But not for long. With Spanish and Philippine cultures and history closely intertwined, not to mention the renewed interest for European travels, Filipinos are fast catching wind of Spain’s irresistible charms. Even more enticing are diverse destinations catering to all kinds of wanderlust.

Insight Vacations, a travel company that has been enriching lives of curious travelers since 1978, puts forward three prominent Spain cities, Barcelona, San Sebastian and Madrid, for Filipinos to discover in an Easy Pace Tour.

“The three major cities of Barcelona, San Sebastian and Madrid are in regions that almost feel like different countries with varied style and culture. They also allow for wonderful trips to other prominent places of interest such as Montserrat near Barcelona; Toledo and Segovia near Madrid; and from San Sebastian in the Basque, there’s Bilbao and even France!” enthused Dom Nemer, a travel director at Insight Vacations who has led countless Spain tours.

Barcelona: An immersion in architecture and history

 “Little by little. Piece by piece. Coin by coin,” was how tour guide Amada López Girondo described the construction of Basilica de La Sagrada Familia (Basilica of the Holy Family) that has already spanned 141 years—and counting.

She is one of the local experts that Insight Vacations employs at every destination, for a deeper understanding of sights and insights.

Facade and interiors of Sagrada Familia Valdez

Amada shared that the Basilica lives up as a “project promoted by the people for the people,” when its founders decided to build a church that is fully funded by people’s and organizations’ donations. Today, it is 70% finished and is expected to be completed in next two years, at least.

Even so, Sagrada Familia already towers across all of Barcelona in architectural and cultural significance. The modernist yet nature-inspired design of the late architect Antoni Gaudi is showcased on almost every corner of the church, from the façade to the towers, the pillars, altars, arches and even the doors and windows. In a day, an average of 15,000 visit to see all these, and in return, 100% of ticket sales goes to the church’s funding.

Guell Park showcases in one destination more works of Antoni Gaudi Valdez

Gaudi and his peers left more architectural gems during the Modernism movement in Barcelona. A drive along the Diagonal to Central Boulevards will showcase Casa Mila and Casa Batllo by Gaudi, the Casa Amatller by Puig i Cadafalch, and the Casa Lleó i Morera. Then, take a side trip to Guell Park—another destination purely of Gaudi’s work—that inspires imagination from modernist yet naturalist architectural designs.

San Sebastian: A coastal retreat in the Basque Country

Northwest of Barcelona is Donostia-San Sebastian, which is the most idyllic coastal destination and an introduction to the culturally diverse and unique Basque country of Spain.

Go pintxos hopping in the Old Town of San Sebastian Valdez

What better way to get a taste of the Basque culture than through food, pun intended. In San Sebastian, one can go pintxos hopping in the Old Town where bars are aplenty in every small and big alley. Each offering their take on these small bites or snacks that people regularly enjoy before bigger meals such as lunch or dinner. It’s like tapas but the Basque people have given pintxos its own flare and flavor, with seafood specialties true to its coastal location.

During the Insight Vacations tour, highlight dinners such as the pintxos tour come with wine pairings for a premium experience. More importantly, locals join the dinner, showing the best restaurants in town.

La Concha Bay's crescent shape is best viewed atop the Mt. Igueldo Valdez

A stay in San Sebastian also entails a leisurely walk along La Concha Bay, which is a scenery straight out of a postcard. On one side, the waves crash against the board walk and on the other, the Old Town bustles with locals and tourists.

The bay’s famed crescent shape is best viewed atop the Mt. Igueldo, which can be easily reached onboard Insight Vacations' luxurious and spacious coach. One can easily see why the city is an irresistible coastal retreat.

Madrid: At the center of the Castile Kingdom

Last on the list of Spain’s most popular cities is of course, Madrid, which surely lives up as the country’s bustling capital and the heart of the Kingdom of Castile.

Insight Vacations throws guests right at the center of the action by choosing a 5-star hotel along C. de la Princesa Street. Not only is it centrally located, it is also the most cosmopolitan and genuine area in Madrid.

Madrid Royal Palace still serves as the official seat of the Head of State
Photo Release

Within minutes, one can reach just by walking the Plaza de España with an imposing monument honoring Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Just next to the plaza is no less than the Madrid Royal Palace, which was home to the Kings of Spain from Charles III to Alfonso XIII until the early 19th century.

Today, it still serves as the official seat of the Head of State, and one of the few which is open to public. Yes, one can tour the palace, its 3,418 rooms, and journey through centuries of Spanish history!

From Gran Via to Sol, experience the vibrant capital city of Madrid Valdez

Then head straight to Gran Via, one of the busiest streets in Madrid known for shopping, dining and even entertainment with production theaters. Here, get lost in countless establishments along with locals and tourists alike, and feel that indeed, you are in the country’s capital.

Make travel matter

From Barcelona to San Sebastian to Madrid, Filipinos can discover the best of Spain with Insights Vacations’ Easy Pace Spain Tour. Beyond the promise of traveling in style onboard luxurious coaches, making connections with local experts, savoring authentic dishes with wine pairings, and staying at 4- to 5-star hotels, the tour more importantly lets you give back to the community and the planet.

As part of Make Travel Matter, dine at La Pau restaurant in Barcelona, which provides employment and training for young people Valdez

“Insight Vacations not only looks after our guests but the destinations we travel to as well. Through our Make Travel Matter® experiences, we create positive impact on our planet and help local communities,” Nemer said.

“One such experience is dining at La Pau restaurant in Barcelona, which provides employment and training for young people who have been excluded from the educational and social system,” he added.

Travel directors like Nemer also make Insight Vacations tours even more memorable as they take care of guests’ needs every step of the way. With meticulous explanations, they also recommend Optional Experiences to guests so they can make the most out of the Easy Pace Spain Tour.

Barcelona's local tour expert Amada López Girondo (left) and Insight Vacations' travel director Dom Nemer Valdez

These experiences include, among others:

  • An authentic flamenco performance at the Tablao Flamenco Cordobes in the La Rambla district in Barcelona. Know the origins of Spain’s traditional performance art of singing, dancing and guitar-playing from professionals themselves. They fill the tablao, small, intimate venues for flamenco, with their fiery passion and energy.
  • Still via Barcelona, head over to the stunning and sacred mountain of Montserrat. It is home to the monastery of the Benedictines, and the church of Our Lady of Montserrat, and the Virgin of Montserrat, considered as one of the most venerated Black Madonnas in Europe.
  • From San Sebastian, tour the Guggenheim Museum via nearby Bilbao. In recent years, the contemporary museum gave a major facelift to the once industrial Basque city.
  • A side trip to quaint coastal towns of Biarritz and St. Jean de Luz in France is also possible from San Sebastian! Both showcase the charm of Basque France, including its delicious food and posh resort homes.
  • One of Spain’s many Unesco Heritage Sites is the city of Segovia near Madrid. Walk along medieval streets characterized by unique Moorish (Muslims) architecture, as well as a former Jewish Quarter. Most of all, be at awe with the 14th century Alcazar Palace and the 2,000-year-old Roman aqueduct. Segovia teems with a very rich heritage indeed.
  • Also in Madrid, experience a night of opera at La Castafiore, a one-of-a-kind restaurant where wait staff are stars of their own, performing high-octave numbers. Enjoy this while savoring great Spanish food and wines.

“Spain is historically a melting pot of different cultures, many of which are different to the rest of Europe. That means we can experience a variety of different cultures, not forgetting a varied diet across the land,” Nemer said.

“This is why Spain should certainly be the number one destination for Filipinos. The weather is mild, people are welcoming and accommodating; they’ll even recognize a lot of words in the Spanish language,” he ended.

How to book your tours and flights Spain

To book Insight Vacations' Easy Pace Spain Guided Tour, go here:

To book your flights to Spain, visit Turkish Airlines website at Awarded 2022 Readers’ Choice Award by Condé Nast Traveler, the airlines operates one daily flight from Manila to Istanbul (layover) then three daily flights to Madrid and four daily flights to Barcelona from Istanbul Airport. 


Disclaimer: This Spain Media Familiarization Trip was sponsored by The Travel Corp., which owns and operates travel brands including Insight Vacations, and co-organized with the Spain Tourism Board. Airfare was sponsored by Turkish Airlines.

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