Spain is a great country for backpackers. The locals are friendly, there’s loads to see for free, the food and drink is delicious and the summer weather is spectacular. In Spain time is not important. They siesta in the afternoon, eat late into the evening and party all night so make sure you’ve booked a hostel to welcome you at dawn.
On the shortlist for Capital of Culture 2016, the beautiful city of San Sebastian has vast beaches, an active harbour and unique boutique shopping. Incredible views, lovely coastal walks and a buzzing nightlife make it a great destination for travellers.
Top 3 on a budget
- Sunbathe on Playa de la Concha Beach (above).
- Explore the beautiful architecture of Baroque Church of Santa Maria , the Gothic Church of San Vicente and the Museo de San Telemo.
- Soak up the history and enjoy a coffee in Constitution Square. It was once used for bullfighting and the tiny rooms were rented out to spectators.
While in San Sebastian you need to try the pintxos, although owing to their addictiveness it probably won’t end up being a cheap meal. Enjoy a pintxos and wine tour around the old quarter, poke your head around a few of the 100 bar doors and you’ll see the most incredible display of tapas you’ll ever see. And they taste delicious. There are a few all-you-can-eat restaurants in Gros near the Playa de Gros beach if you’re after a cheap feast.
Hospedaje Donosti@ B&B has a really friendly atmosphere in a great location. Just 2 blocks from the beach and less than a 5-minute walk from the shops, restaurants and nightclubs. There’s a kitchen, a free breakfast and a cool chill out area. There’s also wi-fi, TV, DVD, cable TV and security boxes in each room.
Dorms start from €25 pppn.
From the labyrinthine streets of the Gothic Quarter to the incredible views from Montjuic Mountain of Barceloneta Beach, there’s loads for the budget backpacker to do in Barcelona. Many buildings are as impressive from the outside as they are in, including the Sagrada Familia, the Gaudi House Museum and the Casa Batllo. Without Gaudi Barcelona would certainly be a darker place.
Top 3 on a budget
- Chill out in Park Guell – a huge park filled with Antonio Gaudi’s artistic flair. Climb to the top for an incredible view over the city.
- Stroll down the city’s main boulevard La Rambla and pop into La Boqueria food market.
- Visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Hospital de la Santa Creu I Santa Pau (above) – the most incredible hospital in the world.
To save your money and your tastebuds stay away from the restaurants of La Rambla and head to El Convent instead (Carrer Jerusalem, 3). The former convent serves traditional Catalan and Spanish food with good, local wine. Tapas are served around the city but the little plates can soon add up so try Xaica (Calle Jovellanos, 5-7) near Plaza Catalunya. For a set price (starts at €8.50) you can enjoy three-courses, wine, beer or a soft drink.
Mambo Tango Youth Hostel is a brilliant relaxed and homely hostel featuring a comfy lounge area with home cinema that’s perfect for meeting fellow travellers. Breakfast is included in the price and you can find plenty of places for an authentic Catalonian lunch just around the corner.
Dorms start at €19 pppn.
There is so much to do in Valencia. The beach beckons – if you can make it out after a night on the notorious nightlife – the 5.5 mile-long Jardins del Turia offer fields, paths, fountains and playgrounds, and the City of Arts and Sciences (below) is an architectural wonder to behold!
Top 3 on a budget
- The Fine Arts Museum, Bullfighting Museum, Museum of Prehistory and Museum of Ethnology are all free. The incredible Fallas Museum is free at weekends.
- Admire the old town, featuring the Plaza de la Virgen and Nuestra Senora de los Desamparados Church.
- Board a boat out to La Albufera, a giant freshwater lagoon flanked by the rice fields and pine forests of Parque Natural de la Albufera.
The Mercado Central should be your first stop for food supplies. From pigs’ heads to freshly-baked bread and chunky chorizo, you’ll find a feast fit for a king here. Take a trip to the park to enjoy your banquet in the sunshine. For a meal out try Los Toneles (Ribera, 17). It’s one of the city’s most popular restaurants and you can get a 3-course meal for under €12, or delicious paella for €6.
You can’t get much brighter than Indigo Youth Hostel. It’s friendly, spacious and has a great lounge and kitchen to save you money on eating out. Located in Barrio del Carmen in the heart of the city it’s also close to the train and bus stations. Step out and turn a corner and you’re deep in Valencia’s notorious nightlife.
Dorms start at €10.48 pppn.
Of course, the capital of Spain has loads to entertain the humble backpacker. With over 3,500 stalls, the Rastro flea market will keep you busy. Before you spend all your euros, head over to the shops of Madrid’s main square the Puerta del Sol. Get snap happy with the Real Casa de Correos building and the many statues flanking the square.
Top 3 on a budget
- The neo-classical Basílica de San Francisco el Grande (above) houses the early Goya Sermon of San Bernardino of Siena (1781).
- Relax in the Campo del Moro – a huge park with some amazing fountains.
- People watch on La Gran Via – Madrid’s main street.
After a night out it’s tradition in Madrid to meet your friends in a breakfast bar and enjoy some chocolate con churros – doughnut-type things that you dip in a cup of thick, hot chocolate. And as for tapas, they’re everywhere. Try caracoles (snails), tortilla de patatas (potato omelette) and cocido madrileño (stew combining chickpeas with vegetables). Or even better choose a variety of dishes blind, then you can really enjoy a new culinary experience!
Las Musas Residence is close to all of Madrid’s attractions in Tirso de Molina, and just 5 minutes away from La Puerta Del Sol. Breakfast is included and the friendly and helpful staff will help you plan your day. They have a big common room and a funky, young vibe so you can make some friends to share those chocolate con churros with.
Dorms start from €13.10 pppn.
Think of it what you will, but for Seville bullfighting is a rich part of its history. In the summer make sure you watch a fight at the Plaza de Toros, one of the best rings in Spain. If you’re visiting in the spring check out the Feria, a time when all the locals get in their traditional dress and have a huge street party that lasts a week. The old city has many beautiful streets to get lost down and the architecture is incredible.
Top 3 on a budget
- Walk through the Parque de Maria Luisa and ogle at the Plaza de Espana (above).
- Seville Cathedral is absolutely huge. Walk through and climb the Giralda tower for some great views over Seville.
- Walk the grounds of the fabulous Alcazar Palace.
The street life of Seville is buzzing. Locals trundle from bar to bar, eating tapas, listening to live music and partying in the squares. Tapas bars line the streets but try Bar Kiko for excellent value. Their homemade tapas are delicious and free with a drink. Bar Eslava is also great on a budget, around €2 per plate rather than the standard €3 around town. The staff are friendly and the busy restaurant always has a great vibe. They have a restaurant too where you can get the same food but in bigger portions.
The Living Roof is just 3 minutes walk from Seville Cathedral and 5 minutes from the other main top tourist sites including the famous flamenco and tapas bars of Seville. The hostel has safe and spacious dorms with free lockers, a big kitchen and most importantly a huge terrace with a beautiful view over Seville.
Dorms start at €14 pppn.
These are the quickest routes from Spain’s Renfe train company website and so usually the most expensive. You can get trains for up to half this price if you’re prepared to spend longer travelling by boarding the local trains that stop at every stop. These are also the prices for buying your ticket at the station – book beforehand for a discount.
- San Sebastian to Barcelona 5hr45 €63.30
- Barcelona to Valencia 2hr55 €44.50
- Valencia to Madrid 1hr38 €80.40
- Madrid to Seville 2hr20 €83.90
Buses are good and often cheaper, but of course they take longer than the trains. You’ll need different bus companies for different legs.
- San Sebastian to Barcelona 7hr40 €29.95
- Barcelona to Valencia 4hr15 €25.96
- Valencia to Madrid 4hr15 €26.91
- Madrid to Seville 6hr15 €19.85