Cloisters at Santo Domingo de Silos / All photos courtesy of the author

Eat, Pray Love: Almost anywhere you go in Spain can inspire and fulfill this trio of ambitions. Here are our favorites.
Top 5 Places to Eat

Every region and city in Spain has a culinary specialty, but some cities have a culinary life that strives to keep exploring and having fun in the kitchen. These places are:

    1. Barcelona
    2. San Sebastian
    3. Bilbao
    4. Madrid
    5. Santiago de Compostela

I suggest you fully explore one city’s culinary gems, then venture out. If in Barcelona, consider journeying north to Girona and Besalu, a neighboring city and small town, each with great Catalan cuisine.

After exploring Santiago de Compostela’s seafood, take a trip to the Rias Baixas, the western coast, and enjoy Finisterre, Noya, and Porto do Son.

A market in Barcelona

Also, if you really want to get off the main tourist path, I suggest heading to Rioja and exploring the culinary wine pairings in Logroño, Haro, and Laguardia, all in the heart of incredible wine country.

Top 5 Places to Pray

Spirituality is an intimate and personal experience, but here I have striven to offer ‘universal’ places, regardless of denomination (or preference to be non-denominational).

This has been the criterion I applied in researching my book, The Spiritual Traveler Spain: The Guide to Sacred Sites and Pilgrim Routes (HiddenSpring/Paulist Press, March 2009). In this spirit, I strongly recommend:

The Camino de Santiago

Even if you walk only a portion of the over 500 kilometer + road across the north of Spain, the act of walking has a profound effect upon the spirit.

Another aspect of the Camino is the string of beautifully carved Romanesque churches that line the road in both France and Spain.

The builders of the Romanesque weren’t afraid to look straight on at the nature of being human; their carvings depict the mix of human expression, from our donkey nature to our divine. Check out this great audio guide to the Camino.

Santo Domingo de Silos

Spend a weekend at south of Burgos, taking in the chanted prayer of the monks six times a day. Check out the Yecla gorge where vultures fly along the steep rocks.

Montserrat Monastery

Sierra de Mariola

A hike around the Sierra de Mariola mountains and their aromatic full of medicinal plants (please do not pick). The best access point is from the village of Bocairent, northwest of Alcoy in the province of Valencia.

Toledo, Córdoba, and Granada

Make a triangle and visit Toledo, Córdoba, and Granada for the beauty of each city and their religious heritage of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Take time to let your spirit feel the spaces in the old mosque, Cristo de la Luz, and old synagogue, Santa María la Blanca, in Toledo, the mosque-cathedral in Córdoba, and the Alhambra in Granada.

La Vera Cruz

Take a path away from the hubbub of Segovia and walk outside the old walls to the church of La Vera Cruz, a beautiful round church on a hillside surrounded with wildflowers and grazing sheep. Although only walking distance from Segovia, it is wild and remote and conducive to meditation.

Downhill is a convent that also serves as the final resting place for the Catholic mystic, St. John of the Cross.

Top 5 Places to Love

The Alhambra in Granada

This place is both a spiritually uplifting and a great spot either to walk with your sweetheart or sit on your own in one of the gardens and write in your journal.

Santiago de Compostela

The northwestern pilgrim’s city of Santiago de Compostela has some of the most romantic streets: multicolored granite buildings and footpaths, rain that comes and goes creating a misty wrap about the green city, and the live music of a lone violin or guitar or ocarina echoing against the stones.

Walking the Camino in Galicia

Seville

Take a moonlit walk or boat paddle along the Guadalquivir River in Seville in spring when the orange blossoms are in bloom.

Oviedo

Try the open air market and flea market on a Sunday morning in Oviedo, stopping for coffee in one of many cafes around the covered market area.

Montserrat

Montserrat mountain is both sacred and romantic, with toothy peaks jutting up from the surrounding plains inland from Barcelona.

Though a major Catholic shrine dedicated to the Black Madonna of Montserrat, this ethereal setting has been the romantic and sacred focus of pre-Christians as well, including a very likely place where Venus was once honored (and some argue, that she still is honored in her form as the Mother of God).

Community Connection

For a Spanish experience that’s neither romantic nor spiritual (at least not in the peaceful sense of the word!), consider Running with the Bulls in Pamplona. And for the romantics out there, Spain also made our list of the World’s Best Spots for a Same-Sex Wedding. If you do choose to walk a portion of the Santiago de Compostela Camino, be sure to listen to our audio guide here.

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