If Spain is on your bucket list, now’s a great time to start planning your trip. Since Spain recently reopened to US travelers (but isn’t yet crowded with tourists!), now’s a great time to experience Spain like a local. If you haven’t traveled internationally much (or maybe you have, but it’s been awhile #covid), our ultimate guide to planning your trip to Spain in 2021 will help you navigate changing requirements and find out exactly what you need to know.
Which cities in Spain should you visit? Do you need a visa to travel to Spain? What are Spain’s Covid-19 travel restrictions? We’ll answer all these questions and more for you, so you can easily plan your dream trip, find cheap flights to Spain and get away to Europe ASAP.
How to Find Cheap Flights to Spain
The first thing you need to figure out with any trip is when to go and how you’ll get there. Thankfully, with Spain the answers to both of those questions are pretty easy. There’s almost no bad times to visit, and getting to Spain from the US is easy! Even better—it’s not as expensive as you may think!
You can find roundtrip flights to Spain for around $500 (or less!) from many major US cities, such as New York, Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago and Los Angeles. Of course, you’ll find cheap flights from other cities too. Just be prepared to look well in advance! Regardless of where you’re coming from, you’ll generally find the cheapest flights into Barcelona (BCN) and Madrid (MAD). The cheapest time to book flights to Spain is about 60-90 days in advance.
The cheapest time to book your flight to Spain is usually around June, July or November (which means traveling in September, October or January/February). Thankfully, September and October are perfect times to visit Spain. With its temperate climate, even February isn’t too cold to eat outside and explore everything Spain has to offer!
Spain Covid-19 Travel Requirements
Spain reopened to American travelers on June 7, 2021. Currently, the US is not on Spain’s higher-risk list, so no proof of testing or vaccination are required. However, this could change in the future, so we recommend all travelers bring proof of full vaccination against Covid-19 (at least two weeks after your final shot), in case the situation changes.
All travelers must fill out Spain’s health form prior to arrival. From that, you’ll get a QR code which is required for entry. Also, don’t forget: all US travelers must get a negative Covid-19 PCR or antigen test taken within 72 hours prior to boarding your flight back to the US.
Spain Travel Requirements
Spain is easy to travel to from the US! To visit, you’ll just need to make sure your passport is valid for at least six months after the dates of your trip. As a US citizen, you don’t need a visa to travel to Spain.
What city in Spain is best to visit?
One thing’s for sure: there’s no shortage of incredible cities in Spain to visit! If you can’t decide where to go, Barcelona is a great place to begin (and one of the top destinations on our student’s bucket lists). If you’ve been to Barcelona before or just want to expand your bucket list, here’s our favorite cities in Spain to visit:
Barcelona is hands-down one of the best cities to visit in Spain. With tons of culture, nightlife, history and stunning beaches, there’s something for everyone here. Even better, the coastal city has temperate weather year-round, so you’ll never be too cold (even if you visit during winter).
What to do in Barcelona
- Be in awe at La Sagrada Familia.
- Get 360-degree views of the city from the rooftop of the Barcelona Cathedral.
- Visit Park Guell for iconic views of Gaudi’s colorful homes.
- Take a tour of Casa Batllo.
- Stop in for tapas in the Gothic Quarter.
Looking for a fashionable city with plenty of art, theatre and culture? Madrid is your new go-to. Museum-hop all day or spend an entire day in the enormous Museo Nacional del Prado (you won’t regret it). Visit royal palaces, elegant parks and plazas, eat delicious food at local markets and soak in Spain’s elegant culture here.
What to do in Madrid
- Get lost in the Museo Nacional del Prado (or hit up another museum that interests you, Madrid has plenty).
- Visit the Royal Palace.
- Go shopping (or window shopping) along the Gran Via.
- Get a taste of local foods at the Mercado de San Miguel.
Seville is known as the birthplace of flamenco, so it’s definitely one of Spain’s most fun and flamboyant cities. From royal palaces to historic architecture and lush parks and gardens, Seville is bursting with color and life. Any Game of Thrones fans? Several of Seville’s major sites and castles were used in filming, so you may want to bump it to the top of your list.
What to do in Seville
- Tour the Royal Alcazar of Seville.
- Visit the Plaza de Espana and soak in the iconic city square.
- Have a picnic in the gorgeous Parque de Maria Luisa.
- Get sunset views from the Setas de Sevilla.
- Take a flamenco dancing class (or at least see a performance).
This ancient coastal city in Spain has just as much to offer as other destinations, but is lesser known and thus, less crowded (and with more local experiences and flavors to enjoy). And, of course, as the birthplace of paella, you’ll be able to taste dozens of varieties of one of Spain’s most famous dishes.
What to do in Valencia
- Fill up at the huge (think 1,000+ food stalls) Central Market.
- Tour the stunning Valencia Cathedral.
- Soak in the sun at Valencia’s beaches.
- Explore some of Valencia’s history at the Silk Exchange.
Which Spanish islands are best to visit?
Need some R&R on a sunny Mediterranean island? Yeah, we thought so. Luckily for you, Spain has no shortage of idyllic islands to get away to. Whether you make it a weekend trip from Barcelona or Madrid or just spend your entire vacation on island time, Spain’s islands are definitely worth a place on your bucket list. Ibiza is the most famous, for sure, known for its unreal parties and nightlife (but also for its beautiful beaches). Nearby, the quieter islands of Mallorca and Menorca offer picture-perfect beaches where white sands meet rocky coastlines, delicious food and charming villages. On Mallorca, Palma offers beachfront nightlife alongside mountainous villages as well.
Where to Stay in Barcelona
Barcelona has plenty of great places to stay—you might have more trouble narrowing them down! If you want to be in the heart of the city, the Gothic Quarter (aka Barrio Gotico), El Born or Eixample are all great (and safe) places to stay in Barcelona. El Born is also home to some of Barcelona’s best tapas bars and nightlife. If you’re on a tight budget, staying a bit further away from the downtown center will help you save cash (and don’t worry, downtown is just a quick subway ride away). Montjuic is great on a budget.
Where to Stay in Madrid
If it’s your first time in Madrid (or your fifth, but you like to be close to all the action), stay in Centro Madrid. You’ll be within walking distance or an easy subway ride of Madrid’s most famous architecture, shopping districts, restaurants and sightseeing. La Latina and Moncloa are great options if you’re on a budget. They’re still very close to Central Madrid while offering more budget accommodation options. Huertas and Chueca are two more neighborhoods that are some of Madrid’s most chic and trendy, while still offering budget accommodation.
Should I rent a car in Spain?
Renting a car in Spain is almost never necessary. Unless you’re planning to go really off the beaten path and road-trip through some of Spain’s mountainous or countryside regions, you will be able to get around just fine without a car. All of Spain’s major cities have metro and subway systems that are more than adequate for exploring. Smaller cities typically have buses or are small enough to get around on foot or by bike. Traveling from one city to another is typically possible either by high-speed train (or regular rail), or by flying, if you prefer.
What to eat in Spain
Spanish food varies across different regions of the country. Even so, there are definitely some common must-try foods no matter where you are. Paella is one of Spain’s most traditional and beloved dishes—a rice dish tossed with spices, veggies and often sausage, chicken or seafood. Patatas bravas, a common tapa, are small diced fried potatoes with a spicy sauce that’ll definitely become a late-night favorite. Another late-night (or anytime, really) must is chocolate con churros—warm churros served with a small cup of thick drinking (or dipping, as the case may be) chocolate. Iberian ham and chorizo are also local to the region and served in a variety of dishes. And of course, don’t forget to sip on a few sangrias (if you’re of age).
Is Spain expensive?
In general, Spain is not one of the most expensive countries in Europe to visit. Although it’s not the cheapest either, it can easily be explored on a budget if you keep in mind just a few budget travel hacks.
- Explore the city with free walking tours. Barcelona and Madrid (as well as other cities in Spain, and across Europe) will offer free walking tours to explore the city. It’s also a great way to meet other travelers if you’re traveling solo! To find walking tours in Spain, check in with your hostel/hotel or just google “free walking tours [city].” Most last 1-2 hours and take you through the most famous neighborhoods. It’s a great way to get a feel for the city and learn your way around.
- Find free and cheap things to do. Many museums are free (or free on certain days). You can always explore local parks and gardens, beaches and historical neighborhoods for free. If you’re on a super tight budget, check out our blog post on how to see Barcelona for $100.
- Stay in a hostel. Spain has a great hostel culture, and you can find incredible (and cheap!) hostels all over the country. You can easily find incredible places to stay in Spain for $30 a night or even less. If you’d rather stay in a hotel, our student discounts on hotels make it easy to save up to 60% off published hotel rates.
- Eat for cheap. Spain is a foodie paradise! You can find food for all budgets as from the extremely fancy to the super cheap. Enormous food markets like Mercado de La Boqueria (in Barcelona) or Mercado de San Miguel (in Madrid) have plenty of small plates and cheap eats. Tapas restaurants are also a great place to fill up without spending a fortune.
Once you’ve narrowed down where in Spain you want to visit, found a cheap flight and some awesome accommodations and added some must-dos to your itinerary, the only thing left to do is go experience Spain for yourself! So what are you waiting for? Start looking for cheap flights to Spain now and kick off the planning for your dream trip!