TAKE advantage of the long weekend. We have everything you need to plan your perfect escape…
The capital of Andalucia and the largest city in southern Spain, Sevilla is held in such high regard that people speak of it in awed tones, from the Plaza de Espana and Casa de Pilatos to the heartstopping beauty of the Alacazar.
The best way to soak up the true atmosphere of Sevilla is through the food. And what better place to start than El Rinconcillo – the oldest tapas bar in the city. Order a bottle of wine, admire the sweating hams hanging behind the bar and gorge on meat, cheese and olives until you are ready for your siesta.
Once you’re feeling rested it’s time for a night on the town, head to El Garlochi. Versace meets Christian tat inside this bonkers bar near the Plaza de Alfalfa. The grumpy barman has a signature cocktail called Sangre de Cristo, which means ‘blood of Christ’ (a mixture of grenadine, rosé champagne and whisky) and is even known to dress up his favourite guests in Catholic garb. Even Uma Thurman is a fan. Or should we say disciple?
San Sebastian and Bilbao
San Sebastian in the Spanish Basque country is so stuffed full with an endless supply of Michelin-starred pintxos that people often forget it boasts two of the most beautiful beaches in Spain.
The old town pintxos bars will be heaving with fellow tourists over the Easter weekend, so head a little further down the waterfront to Restaurante Biarritz for stunning sea views with minimal crowds and order the Secreto Iberico.
Stroll across the road to La Perla spa to take a dip in their underwater gym before reclining on heated chairs facing out towards the water.
For your cultural fix, hop on a bus out of town to Bilbao, where you’ll find the Guggenheim, with exhibitions celebrating the work of photographer and sculptor Gillian Wearing and Vasily Kandinsky’s bold, colourful paintings, plus dazzling installations from Jennie C. Jones.
Thoughts of the north tend to come with the fear of bad weather. And while the northern cities can’t compete with Andalucia’s sunshine or the buzz of Madrid, it is also surprisingly serene, somewhere to forget the rest of the world for a moment.
Ourense is the perfect retreat, as it feels totally hidden away from the normal swathes of tourists. Taking a car and climbing the winding roads offers not just incredible views but a chance to visit the vineyards.
Galicia is known for its white wine in particular and the region boasts both small, independent makers and top vineyards. Start by visiting Vina Costeira Bodega, where their vino blanco is made from treixadura and a dollop each of lime blossom-scented torrontes and freesia-scented loureira.
The stunningly green and vibrant vineyard is also happily close to smaller wineries Lugar de Barral and Bodega Eduardo Penha. Retire for the evening at the Monumento Monasterio De San Clodio Hotel & Spa — once you slip into one of the robes on the site of the former monastery, you’ll never want to leave.
With a population of just over 196,000, Almeria is the quietly spoken yet infinitely cool little sister to the classic Spanish beach town big-hitters. Skip the Costa del Sol crowds and head to the Las Negras for its undisturbed beaches, mountain desert views and wild nightlife.
For beachside eating spots, head to Restaurante La Ola and try their incredible seafood paella or, if you’re doing it for the ‘gram, head to Sobra La Marcha for cool cocktails and scenic sea views. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade and Sergio Leone shot his spaghetti westerns in Almeria too, after seeing the star potential of the sandy Tabernas Desert. 60 years on and it is still worth a visit.
Here you’ll find Fort Bravo, a working film set that is open to the public, where bandidos still bite the dust following the daily botched bank job. The expansive mountain range provides the ultimate backdrop, but there are also sets – a small crumbling white church, the town square, the stables, courtroom and saloon bar, where you can enjoy a cancan show after a long day of riding alongside Spain’s Lone Rangers.
Also worth a vistit is Cabo de Gata Natural Park, where, as well as a dip in the sea, you can visit Cortijo del Fraile, the setting for the Lorca’s Blood Wedding and used in a couple of Sergio Leone’s ‘Dollars’ westerns.
Yes, it has a reputation as a flytrap for cave-dwelling hippies with baggy trousers and dreads in their hair – but if you leave the stereotypes behind, there’s a whole world of magic to discover in Granada. The Alhambra and the Cathedral are must-sees – the latter was built to try and one-up the former – but every street in the city holds a wealth of history and beauty.
You can fill the entire weekend wandering around the sun-soaked streets around Gran Via, getting lost in the winding cobbled alleys of the Albacin or taking in the jaw-dropping views of the city from Sacramonte. There are churches, courtyards and awe-inspiring buildings to take in at every turn, as well as a museum dedicated to the poet Lorca and Monasterio de la Cartuja, a monastery on the site of a former Roman cemetery.
A more off-piste suggestion? Granada’s Torture Museum, a moving collection of exhibits that explore the realities of the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition.
But if you are looking for some relaxation, the Arab baths are the perfect place to recharge. Best of all Granada is a true city for foodies, with free tapas served up with every drink. El Delirio offers the best margaritas and Mexican food and it’s worth the walk from the Realejo neighbourhood to Calle Triste to have a tapa (or ten) in the spring sunshine and take in the magnificent backdrop of the Alhambra.
Cadiz and Jerez
Heaven is a weekend eating in Cadiz. A city surrounded on three sides by sea, Cadiz is famed for its food, with all the best eateries serving prawns, lobster and shellfish and other seafood from the bay. There’s also the market, where you can pick up local produce — oysters plucked straight from the sea will be shucked right before your eyes.
If you are more of a boozehound than a foodie, take the twenty minute journey from the coast to Jerez for a day trip. A pretty little spot with a fascinating beverage history, Jerez is famous for sherry and it is one of a few places in the world where the wineries are within the city limits.
But the best way to enjoy Jerez is to stroll along the cobbled streets and then hunker down in one of its characterful bars for a glass of fino – or order a bottle of manzanilla if you’re feeling brave.
One of the sunniest cities in Europe, Alicante is one of Spain’s top city breaks thanks to its clear skies, quaint streets and regular budget flights. For a central base with a buzz, you can’t get a much better location than the AC Hotel set in the heart of the city, with its rooftop pool and stunning bar serving up poolside cocktails and delicious snacks.
L’Escaleta, a two-Michelin-star restaurant is where it’s at for amazingly fresh seafood with a high-class atmosphere, while drinks and tapas at La Taberna del Gourmet is always fun – try to grab a seat by the bar and get ready to be entertained by the chatty bar staff all night long.
The best bit about Alicante? You’ve got an entire city to explore as well as plenty of nearby beaches. But if you don’t fancy the drive to the playas on the Costa Blanca, Alicante’s tree-lined boulevard runs along the seafront and is perfect for an evening stroll.