Beat’s guide to Spain and Portugal

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Beat’s guide to Spain and Portugal

Words by staff writer

We take a month-off to traverse the Iberian peninsula and advise you on the best places to visit, stay, eat, drink and dance.


The first port of call on any Spanish sojourn, Barcelona is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world for good reason. The home of Antoni Gaudi’s finest architectural creations, Barcelona boasts one of the man-made wonders of the world in the Sagrada Familia, plus other Gaudi masterstrokes such as Parc Guell and Casa Batllo, just to list a smidgen.

It’s also a city that has everything. World-class architecture? Naturally. Beyond Gaudi, the city also boasts one of the beautiful ‘old towns’ – the Gothic Quarter – in the world, which expands into the seaside suburb of Barceloneta in a mesmerising collection of rustic buildings, decorated balconies and flowing laneways.

Amazing beaches? Among the best in Spain, Barcelona’s beaches soak up the city’s enviable weather and are one of the city’s most dazzling attributes, overflowing with volleyball nets and other activities, they’re also flanked by an impressive array of nightclubs – the perfect combination, if you ask us.

Art? From the Museu Picasso to the Fundacion Joan Miro to the Museum of Catalan Art, there is a strong Catalan focus as one would expect in a region famed for its wont of independence. Sport? One of the greatest football clubs of all time, for good measure.

What to do in Barcelona – Day One & Two

Casa Batllo (walk the entire Manzana de la Discòrdia)

Casa Batlló stands as an iconic masterpiece of Antoni Gaudí’s architectural brilliance, nestled in the heart of Barcelona, Spain. Built between 1904 and 1906, this stunning structure is a testament to Gaudí’s unique vision and avant-garde approach to design. Commissioned by the industrialist Josep Batlló, Gaudí transformed a conventional building into a surreal and fantastical creation that defies conventional architectural norms.

The facade of Casa Batlló is a mesmerizing blend of whimsical curves, vibrant colors, and intricate details, resembling a mythical creature with its undulating forms and mosaic tiles. The rooftop, with its sinuous dragon-like spine and colorful ceramic tiles, is an enchanting spectacle, symbolizing the legend of Saint George slaying the dragon.

Casa Mila

Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera, stands as one of the most iconic and revolutionary buildings in Barcelona, Spain, designed by the visionary architect Antoni Gaudí. Constructed between 1906 and 1912 for the industrialist Pere Milà and his wife, Roser Segimon, Casa Milà represents the pinnacle of Gaudí’s creativity and his commitment to blending art with functionality.

The building’s undulating stone facade is a marvel of organic forms and flowing lines, resembling a massive sculptural wave frozen in time. Its lack of straight lines and uniformity challenges traditional architectural conventions, giving Casa Milà a surreal and otherworldly appearance.

Park Guell

Park Güell, located in Barcelona, Spain, is a breathtaking testament to the artistic genius of its designer, Antoni Gaudí. Commissioned by industrialist Eusebi Güell and built between 1900 and 1914, this whimsical park showcases Gaudí’s unique architectural style and his fascination with nature-inspired forms.

The park’s main entrance welcomes visitors with a mosaic dragon fountain, known as “El Drac,” which has become an iconic symbol of Park Güell. As visitors ascend through the park, they encounter a mesmerizing array of colorful mosaic tiles, undulating stone structures, and organic shapes that seem to blend seamlessly with the surrounding landscape.

Montjuic – Museum of Catalan Art

Perched atop the Montjuïc hill in Barcelona, Spain, the Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya (MNAC) stands as a majestic tribute to Catalan art and culture. Housed in the magnificent Palau Nacional, a stunning example of neoclassical architecture built for the 1929 International Exhibition, the museum showcases an extensive collection spanning over a thousand years of Catalan artistic heritage.

Visitors to the MNAC can explore a diverse array of artworks, including Romanesque frescoes, Gothic altarpieces, Renaissance paintings, and Baroque sculptures. The museum’s collection also features significant works from the Modernisme movement, including pieces by renowned artists such as Antoni Gaudí and Ramon Casas.

Fundacio Joan Miro

Situated on Montjuïc hill in Barcelona, Spain, the Fundació Joan Miró is a vibrant celebration of the life and work of one of the 20th century’s most influential artists. Established by Joan Miró himself in 1975, the foundation serves as a dynamic cultural center dedicated to promoting modern and contemporary art.

The foundation’s building, designed by architect Josep Lluís Sert, is a masterpiece of modernist architecture, featuring clean lines, spacious galleries, and abundant natural light. Set amidst lush gardens with breathtaking views of Barcelona, the museum provides a serene and inspiring setting for visitors to immerse themselves in Miró’s creative universe.

Gothic Quarter (at night)

As twilight descends upon Barcelona, the Gothic Quarter awakens with an enchanting allure, transforming into a labyrinth of narrow cobblestone streets illuminated by the soft glow of street lamps and the warm light emanating from cozy taverns and boutique shops. The Gothic Quarter, or Barri Gòtic, is a historic neighborhood that exudes an irresistible charm and a palpable sense of history.

Wandering through the quarter’s maze-like alleys, visitors encounter architectural marvels at every turn, from majestic cathedrals and ancient Roman ruins to hidden plazas and centuries-old palaces adorned with intricate stone carvings and ornate facades. The Gothic Quarter’s medieval atmosphere is enhanced by the haunting melodies of street musicians echoing through the narrow streets, adding to the neighborhood’s mystical ambiance.

What to do in Barcelona – Day Three & Four

La Boqueria

La Boqueria, Barcelona’s iconic food market, entices visitors with a kaleidoscope of colors, aromas, and flavors. Stallholders showcase a tantalizing array of fresh fruits, seafood, meats, cheeses, and local delicacies, creating a sensory feast for all who wander through its bustling aisles. A culinary paradise in the heart of the city.

Must-try culinary delights in Barcelona 

  • Tapas
  • Black Rice
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Churros
  • Bombas
  • Calcotadas
  • Casa Pagès (restaurant)

Palau de la Musica – Palau de la Musica Catalana

The best place in Barcelona to see traditional flamenco, the beauty of the venue outshines any performance within it. The Palau de la Música Catalana, a jewel of Catalan modernism, enchants visitors with its exuberant architecture and rich cultural heritage. Designed by Lluís Domènech i Montaner, its ornate facade features vibrant mosaics, sculpted figures, and intricate stained glass windows, while inside, its concert hall dazzles with colorful columns, intricate ceiling roses, and a breathtaking skylight. A testament to Barcelona’s artistic and musical legacy, it continues to inspire awe and admiration as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Santa Maria del Mar

Santa Maria del Mar, a Gothic masterpiece in Barcelona, stands as a testament to the city’s medieval heritage. Its soaring nave, elegant columns, and stunning rose window captivate visitors, while its rich history and timeless beauty inspire awe. A symbol of faith and architectural prowess, it remains a cherished landmark.

Sagrada Família: Basílica and Towers: Tower on the Nativity Facade

The Sagrada Família’s Nativity Facade Tower rises majestically, adorned with intricate sculptures depicting scenes from the birth of Jesus. Designed by Antoni Gaudí, it embodies his vision of nature-inspired architecture, with organic forms and rich symbolism. Ascending its spiraling staircase offers panoramic views of Barcelona, a sublime experience. Take the elevator up to the Nativity Facade Tower after you’re done marvelling at the interior, it’s well worth the price. 

The best live music venues and nightclubs to visit in Barcelona


First place on this list goes to the underrated and often unseen techno mecca right in the heart of one of Barcelona’s most beautiful districts. Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, Moog is an iconic nightclub pulsating with underground electronic beats. Established in 1996, it has become a cornerstone of the city’s electronic music scene. Moog offers an intimate space where music aficionados gather to immerse themselves in techno, house, and experimental sounds spun by renowned DJs and emerging talents alike. Its dark, industrial ambiance coupled with cutting-edge lighting creates an electrifying atmosphere that draws both locals and tourists seeking an authentic clubbing experience. With its dedication to pushing boundaries and showcasing innovative sounds, Moog continues to be a vibrant hub for nocturnal adventures in Barcelona.


Barcelona INPUT is a dynamic cultural space renowned for its diverse programming and avant-garde performances. Situated in the vibrant neighborhood of Poble Nou, it serves as a platform for experimental theater, contemporary dance, music, and multimedia arts. The venue fosters creativity and exploration, hosting boundary-pushing artists from around the world. Its intimate setting allows for immersive experiences, blurring the lines between audience and performer. From thought-provoking theatrical productions to innovative multimedia installations, Barcelona INPUT offers a rich tapestry of cultural experiences that captivate and inspire. It stands as a beacon of artistic innovation, enriching the cultural landscape of the city.


Pacha Barcelona, nestled along the lively beachfront of Port Olímpic, embodies the spirit of its iconic Ibiza counterpart. Renowned for its glamorous ambiance and electrifying parties, Pacha Barcelona offers an unforgettable nightlife experience. With its sleek design, luxurious VIP areas, and state-of-the-art sound system, the venue exudes sophistication and opulence. World-class DJs spin an eclectic mix of house, EDM, and international hits, captivating a diverse and energetic crowd. Whether dancing beneath the glittering lights or lounging in plush VIP booths, patrons revel in the pulsating energy and vibrant atmosphere that define Pacha Barcelona as a premier destination for unforgettable nights on the town.


From Barcelona, head to Bilbao for a taste of the Basque Country. Just as famed for their independence as the Catalans, the Basque are home to one of the world’s oldest languages, which originated entirely separately from Catalan or Castillan Spanish dialects. The mountainous regions surrounding Bilbao are some of the most lush, green landscapes in all of Spain, while the city itself is an interesting blend of modern and antiquated architecture. Known for its steel production in its economic heyday, Bilbao does have coastline and some beaches, but for the most beautiful natural scenery and food, we recommend San Sebastian (around an hour away).

Nevertheless, Bilbao is worth a special visit for its Guggenheim museum, one of the foremost art galleries in the world (designed by Frank Gehry, no less) and for its famed football team, Athletic Bilbao. Known for their cantera policy, Athletic Club are the only major football club in the world that only field players from its local region. They epitomise the proud nature of the Basque people and the atmosphere in the San Mames is second to none.

A guide to the Guggenheim

The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao stands as an architectural masterpiece and a cultural icon in the heart of Bilbao, Spain. Designed by Frank Gehry and opened in 1997, its titanium-clad curves and undulating forms captivate visitors from around the globe. Housing a diverse collection of contemporary art within its striking walls, the museum is a testament to innovation and creativity. Its exhibitions showcase works by renowned artists alongside emerging talents, offering a dynamic and thought-provoking experience. Beyond its artistic significance, the Guggenheim Bilbao has revitalized the city, becoming a symbol of urban regeneration and a beacon of cultural enrichment for generations to come.


The Spanish capital is one of the most beautiful and opulent cities in the world, and the largest in Spain by population with a whopping seven million people. While nearly every facet of Barcelona’s culture has been ravaged by tourism, Madrid has found it much easier to retain its clean authenticity and excels particularly in the arts.

The Prado Art Museum

The Prado Museum, located in Madrid, Spain, stands as a crown jewel of art history, showcasing an unparalleled collection of European masterpieces. Founded in 1819, its vast galleries house over 8,000 artworks, spanning from the 12th to the 20th century. Visitors are captivated by iconic works by Spanish masters such as Velázquez, Goya, and El Greco, alongside renowned artists like Rembrandt, Titian, and Rubens. The museum’s neoclassical architecture provides a majestic setting for exploring centuries of artistic evolution. From religious and mythological scenes to portraits and landscapes, the Prado Museum offers an enriching journey through the rich tapestry of European artistry and cultural heritage.

Reina Sofia

The Reina Sofía Museum, situated in Madrid, Spain, is a beacon of modern and contemporary art. Named after Queen Sofía, it occupies a historic building that once served as a hospital. Since its inauguration in 1992, the museum has become renowned for its exceptional collection, including works by Spanish masters such as Picasso, Dalí, and Miró. Its centerpiece is Picasso’s monumental anti-war masterpiece, “Guernica,” a powerful symbol of resilience and protest. Beyond its permanent collection, the museum hosts temporary exhibitions, film screenings, and educational programs that engage visitors in exploring the complexities of modern art and its societal impact, making it a vital cultural hub in Madrid.

The Círculo de Bellas Artes

The best view in Madrid by quite some way, sitting back on a lounge-chair and taking in the sights over an Aperol Spritz is well worth the price of admission.

The Círculo de Bellas Artes, located in the heart of Madrid, is a cultural institution dedicated to the arts and humanities. Established in 1880, it serves as a dynamic center for artistic expression, creativity, and intellectual discourse. Housed in a magnificent early 20th-century building, it features exhibition spaces, theaters, cinemas, lecture halls, and a rooftop terrace offering panoramic views of the city. The Círculo organizes a diverse array of cultural events, including art exhibitions, film screenings, literary readings, concerts, and workshops. With its rich history and commitment to fostering artistic innovation, the Círculo de Bellas Artes remains a vibrant hub for cultural exchange and exploration in Madrid.

Must-try food in Madrid

  • Croquetta
  • Calamari Sandwich
  • Pa amb tomaquet
  • Spanish Omelette
  • Chorizo
  • Gazpacho
  • Waffles

The best live music venue in Madrid

Cassette Club

If you only visit one nightspot in Madrid, make it the stunning industrial building Cassette Club, which plays hard techno in a cavernous space with rock walls and minimal black furnishings, with an overlooking mezzanine floor. Not for the feint hearted, Cassette Club is one of the finest clubs in all of Spain and a mainstay on Resident Advisor’s list of places to visit in the region for electronic music fans.

Other interesting clubs, bars and live music venues to visit

  • Medias Puri
  • El Sol
  • Joy Eslava
  • Goya
  • Mondo Disko
  • Fabrik
  • Sala Equis 


While many will rightly shudder at Ibiza’s reputation, the truth is the most famous of the Balearic Islands is undergoing significant efforts to detach itself from its clubbing reputation, so we found heading there before the heart of tourist season – early May – we managed to have the best of both worlds.

If you can stand the $22 beers (or find an alternative to drinking altogether) Ibiza clubs boast some of the greatest lineups in the world at not unreasonable early bird ticket prices. Amnesia and Pacha, in particular, are superb venues that should be items on any serious fan of tech-house’s bucket list. Hi Ibiza is also worth sussing out purely for the quality of their lineups.


Amnesia, a legendary nightclub nestled in the heart of Ibiza, epitomizes the island’s electrifying nightlife scene. Since its inception in the 1970s, it has been a cornerstone of dance music culture, attracting revelers from around the globe. Boasting a striking open-air terrace and a sprawling main room, Amnesia offers an unparalleled party experience. Renowned DJs spin pulsating beats, ranging from house to techno, as dancers lose themselves in the music amidst dazzling lights and immersive visuals. With its hedonistic ambiance and euphoric atmosphere, Amnesia continues to reign as an iconic destination for nocturnal adventures, embodying the essence of Ibiza’s clubbing culture.


Pacha, originating from Ibiza, stands as a global symbol of luxury nightlife. With its beginnings in the 1960s, it has evolved into a prestigious brand synonymous with glamour and hedonism. The flagship club in Ibiza remains an institution, drawing in crowds with its iconic cherry logo and extravagant parties. Pacha venues worldwide, from New York to Dubai, exude opulence and sophistication, offering an immersive experience in electronic music and entertainment. VIP lounges, themed nights, and world-class DJs ensure unforgettable nights for patrons seeking to revel in the high-energy atmosphere that defines the Pacha experience across continents.

Hi Ibiza

Hi Ibiza, formerly known as Space Ibiza, redefines the island’s clubbing landscape with its innovative approach to electronic music and entertainment. Situated in the heart of Playa d’en Bossa, the venue boasts a state-of-the-art sound system and immersive production that elevate the clubbing experience. Renowned DJs from around the world grace its decks, delivering pulsating beats across genres like house, techno, and EDM. Hi Ibiza’s sleek design and vibrant ambiance create an electrifying atmosphere where partygoers can dance the night away beneath the Mediterranean sky. With its forward-thinking programming and dynamic energy, Hi Ibiza continues to be a beacon of nightlife excellence on the White Isle.


The home of The Alhambra, Granada is worth the visit for the beauty of its city alone, not to mention the gorgeous Nasrid Palaces. Tip to the wise, you have to book the Nasrid section as a special ticket months in advance. It’s also a must to visit the Sacromonte district, where religious exiles formed cave homes high in the mountains overlooking the city. One of the finest places to watch flamenco in all of Spain.

Watching flamenco in Granada

The Sacromonte district in Granada, Spain, is a cultural gem nestled in the picturesque hills overlooking the city. Renowned for its historic caves, it has been home to the city’s Roma (gypsy) community for centuries. These caves, carved into the hillsides, offer a unique glimpse into traditional Roma culture, with some still serving as residences, while others have been converted into flamenco venues and cultural centers. Sacromonte is synonymous with flamenco, and visitors can immerse themselves in the passionate rhythms and soul-stirring performances that echo through its winding streets. Beyond flamenco, Sacromonte offers stunning views of the Alhambra and a tranquil escape from the bustle of the city below.

Visiting the Alhambra

The Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage site, stands as a testament to the rich history and architectural splendor of Granada, Spain. This majestic fortress and palace complex, perched atop a hill overlooking the city, dates back to the 9th century when it was originally constructed as a small fortress. Over the centuries, it was expanded and renovated by various Muslim rulers, culminating in the exquisite palaces, courtyards, and gardens that visitors marvel at today. With its intricate Islamic architecture, ornate tilework, and serene fountains, the Alhambra offers a captivating glimpse into the golden age of Moorish Spain, enchanting millions of visitors each year.

A must-visit at The Alhambra – The Nasrid Palace

The Nasrid Palace, nestled within the Alhambra complex in Granada, Spain, is a masterpiece of Moorish architecture and a testament to the opulence of the Nasrid dynasty. Constructed during the 14th century, it served as the residence of the Muslim rulers of the Emirate of Granada. Adorned with intricate stucco work, delicate arabesques, and colorful tile mosaics, the palace’s interiors transport visitors to a world of unparalleled beauty and refinement. Its iconic features, such as the Court of the Lions with its mesmerizing fountain, and the Hall of the Ambassadors with its stunning domed ceiling, continue to captivate visitors with their timeless elegance and cultural significance.


As you head further south, you get a taste of the Moorish architectural divides that help visualise Spain’s chequered history. Here, the Royal Alcazar of Seville is a must-visit. Seville, the vibrant capital of Andalusia, Spain, exudes a rich tapestry of history, culture, and architectural splendor. Renowned for its majestic landmarks such as the UNESCO-listed Alcázar Palace and the awe-inspiring Seville Cathedral, the city seamlessly blends Moorish, Gothic, and Renaissance influences. The labyrinthine streets of the historic center reveal hidden gems at every turn, from quaint plazas to charming tapas bars. Seville’s passionate flamenco scene, colorful festivals like the Feria de Abril, and tranquil riverside promenades along the Guadalquivir River contribute to its magnetic allure. With its warm climate, captivating ambiance, and lively spirit, Seville enchants visitors with its timeless charm and Andalusian hospitality.

Royal Alcazar Seville

The Royal Alcázar of Seville stands as a masterpiece of Mudejar architecture and a symbol of the city’s rich cultural heritage. Originally built as a fortress by the Moors in the 10th century, it was later expanded and embellished by Christian monarchs, resulting in a breathtaking blend of Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles. Its lush gardens, intricate tilework, and ornate courtyards, such as the iconic Patio de las Doncellas, transport visitors to a world of enchantment and wonder. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the Royal Alcázar continues to captivate visitors with its timeless beauty and historical significance, serving as a living testament to Spain’s diverse and illustrious past.


From Lux to Musicbox Club to Ministerium, Lisbon is home of one of Europe’s most underrated clubbing scenes. It also boasts the beautiful Bairro Alto neighbourhood, the wonderful traditional trams and funicular railway – the only way to deal with the oppressive hills that dominate your walking tours – and wonderful fado music. 

An underrated highlight – the Reservatório da Mãe D’Agua (Fever events)

The Reservatório da Mãe d’Água (Mother of Water Reservoir) in Lisbon is a remarkable architectural and historical treasure. Built in the 18th century, it served as a water reservoir and distribution system for the city, showcasing impressive engineering ingenuity for its time. Located in the heart of the city, near the Amoreiras neighborhood, this vast underground cistern features stunning vaulted ceilings and majestic columns. Today, it stands as a cultural attraction, offering visitors a glimpse into Lisbon’s past and hosting various events such as art exhibitions, concerts, and guided tours, allowing them to appreciate both its historical significance and architectural beauty.

In contemporary times, it serves as an immersive gallery for Immersivus exhibitions. We were lucky enough to see a Frida Kahlo exhibition at the Agua Museum which was utterly transfixing, showing Kahlo’s work in a range of mediums, including across vast caverns where water and pilons reflected the colourful works around the room.

The best way to travel around Spain

The Spanish train system has undergone a massive revolution, making it one of the fastest, most modern and reliable and even comfortable public transport systems in all of Spain. That has come at a cost however, with buses usually the much cheaper option, as they are across all of Europe. While Flixbus is de rigeur in eastern Europe, we preferred to use Omio as a booking system across our entire trip – it was fast, easy, cheap and reliable.

How to find cheap accommodation in Spain

We tend to favour HostelWorld and AirBnb – the latter if you’re solo and looking for private rooms, the former if you’re a couple and looking for private rooms (assuming in both cases you’re looking for the best possible room for the smallest possible budget).

The best mobile phone provider in Spain

We used Vodafone but a word to the wise: don’t buy a phone card in the airport, visit an actual Vodafone store instead. The prices are much cheaper and they’ll activate your card for you in the store, saving you plenty of headaches later on.

For more information about travelling through Spain, visit the Spanish Tourism website here.