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Insiders Guide to Spain & Portugal

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Insiders Guide to Spain & Portugal

story by: Anna Sarjeant

1. Go in search of elephants in the spanish mountains
Work off all the churros you’ve gobbled in Barcelona and take a day hike to the Montserrat Mountain range. There are numerous tours available, all led by experienced guides. Roughly 50km out of Barcelona, you’ll spend 6 hours winding through craggy mountainside, much of which resembles animals and objects. Look out for the cat, elephant and a pregnant woman!
HOT Tip: To get to Montserrat, take a guided bus tour, or take a car. We recommend you hire a car. The journey from Barcelona is mostly via highway. Take the C-58 and from there it’s signposted.

2. Dine and dance like a Barcelonian
Go in seek of ‘Ginger’ – a cosy, unspoilt and relatively undiscovered Spanish bar in the heart of Barri Gótic; Barcelona's Old Town. Serving classic cocktails, fresh tapas, jazz and of course, Cava, its dimly lit interior is undisputedly seductive. Order an aperitif and give into its Catalan charm. 
HOT Tip: Tipping is considered good etiquette in Spain. In bars, round up your total to the nearest Euro. In restaurants, add 10%, unless a surcharge has already been added to the receipt. 

3. Embark on a global rail journey in a Madrid bar
Always at the forefront of new and unusual social happenings, ‘The Passenger’ is a bar in Madrid. A coffee shop by day and a cool hipster hangout by night, Franger Jacobo, a Spanish video artist has crafted the interior to resemble a moving train. Complete with digital windows that showcase moving landscapes recorded from around the world. 
HOT Tip:Want a glass of water with your wine? No need to order mineral, Madrid has the best tap water in Spain – sourced directly from the mountains. Ask for ‘agua del grifo’ AKA the free stuff. 

4. Learn the off-side rule with real Madrid
Real Madrid has got to be one of THE most famous football clubs in the world. All the professionals dream of walking down the players’ tunnel at Santiago Bernabéu Stadium; Real Madrid's home stadium. Take a self-guided tour of this impressive, 81,000 seater giant. See the locker rooms, the press-conference area and the player-benches on the pitch - following in the footsteps of legends. 
HOT Tip: if you want to see an actual Real Madrid match, book tickets ​two weeks prior to avoid disappointment. Collect tickets from the stadium’s Taquilla 14 (Gate 14) on the day of the match. 

5. There's secret garden in Lisbon & only the locals know it
Watch the sun set over Lisbon by ascending to the Jardim do Torel at dusk. Nestled at the top of one of the seven hills of Lisbon, a tram will take you to the top. The least touristy park in the city, this secret garden acts as a balcony over the glorious landscape. Take a picnic and bask in the jaw-dropping panorama.   
HOT Tip: Take the Elevador do Lavra, the city's oldest tram to get to the top. The garden’s main entrance is at Júlio Andrade Street.

6. Pose for your photo with Gaudi
How’s this for niche? Enjoy your very own Barcelona photo shoot by a professional photographer – with Gaudi’s most unique creations as a backdrop. Book in for the Park Güell Photo Shoot Tour and you’ll spend a little under two hours executing your best model poses in and around Gaudi architecture. You'll receive 55 high-spec photographs 72 hours later via the internet. 
HOT tip: When you’re finished, walk towards the direction of the two weirdest looking houses (designed by Gaudi) and walk downhill. There you will find buses that take you back into town.

7. Drop anchor and swim with dolphins
Live like Long John Silver (or should that be Longue Juan Silva) on-board a Portuguese pirate ship. Head to the Algarve - Portugal's most southernmost region and arguably the most spectacular coastline in Europe – for a half day cave cruise from the marina of Albufeira. Powered by gigantic sails, sit on the aft and look out for dolphins, or dive off-board and explore the caves.
HOT Tip: Tourist favourites such as this will be more expensive in-season. Good weather and fewer crowds can still be found off-season. May, June and September are usually hot without being over-crowded or over-priced.

8. Devour rich history and even richer cake
Delve into Portuguese history with a visit to Porto’s Museu Nacional Soares dos Reis, and the oldest public museum in Portugal. Complete the tour with a walk around the sunshine-filled gardens and a stop at the museum café, which serves warm apple pie on the patio. 
HOT Tip: Many museums in Portugal offer free admission on Sunday mornings or discounts with a local tourist card. Few museums are open on Mondays so check before you go.

9. ​Taste Spanish stew and drink with the locals
The MadrEAT food fair takes place in the middle of Madrid’s Financial District. Usually subdued, once the food stalls descend it’s transformed into a fervent commotion of chatter, music and mouth-watering flavour. You’ll find traditional Spanish stews, Colombian arepas and a stand selling vermut - the Madrileños wouldn't dream of drinking anything but! 
HOT Tip:MadrEAT is open every Friday and Sunday from midday to 6pm, as well as Saturdays, midday to 7pm.

10. Cross borders for world famous skiing & shopping
Nip to Andorra – the tiny Pyrenees-based principality that nestles inconspicuously between France and Spain Three hours from Barcelona, in summer it’s a mecca for shopping, with over 2000 shops. While in winter, the skiing is said to be the best in the world.
HOT tip: Andorra boasts a tax-free status. Even more reason to shop til you drop!

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