Castro is a smallish jewel of a resort to the west of Bilbao and a welcome respite from the cultural overload of the Guggenheim. Comprising of a cheery port and two beaches (one manmade), it's a popular destination in summer and offers the perfect Cantabrian holiday experience. Just back from the front are a couple of pedestrianised streets are cluttered with stone pinxto bars specialising in everything from fried mushrooms to wonderfully plump sardines.
Chanced upon this gem of place while headed to the bustling Rambla del Poblenou. Doesn't look much from the outside, but inside it's spacious and modern. Staff are friendly and more importantly it's a vegetarian place in Spain! Popped here twice during my stay and the food was superb. Had some scrumptious nachos, artichoke dip and hummus to name a few. The bread (free with dip before drinks even arrived) was outstanding. Understand from the menu that it comes from the organic Reykjavik bakery. Two main meals with beers and coffee came to less than 25€. Would definitely recommend this place to all followed by a stroll down the Rambla del Poblenou to the beach.
Really good food, vodkas and wines and excellent value. Set lunch at 15 euros includes drink. Evening meal a la carte 35-40 euros. Staff are eager to please and speak English. Relaxing, appetising, clean ambience! Convenient five-minute walk to Thyssen and Prado museums.
Calle del Prado 15, 28014 Madrid, Spain
+34 914 293 659
Google map: bit.ly/i6kmAy
Digame Mallorca is a fab website, that has everything that is going on in Mallorca. Whether it be a bar, club, restaurant, activity or music gigs that you are looking for, you can find it here plus much much more. Really user friendly site. They also have a monthly free magazine you can pick up.
A local bar squished between two blocks of flats. Don't go if you have tired feet or are looking forward to a good sit down, as there are no seats! Saying that the place was packed, and all of the white, plastic garden tables were taken up. There is not much on the menu, but the pajarito (roasted quail) and filete (pork bap) are both yum. Dare to try the spicy sauce too!
Avenida Santa Cecilia, 2, Triana, 41010 Sevilla
+34 954 08 66 94
Google map: bit.ly/fXIXVR
The best Irish Bar in Barcelona that I've found, genuinely has a great pint of Guinness and is Irish owned and run.
Very central, not pretentious nor full of gaggling tourists, plenty of ex-pat locals on a given night. Recommended for a nice quiet pint or to start a weekend evening.
A small but lovely Malaysian restaurant in Sóller, on the main shopping street just opposite the Ca'n Prunera museum. The food is fresh and delicious, and, if anything, somewhat underpriced.
Deserted even in September, descending to the Bay of Silence on the Asturian coast about 25 miles west of Asturias airport near Oviedo, is like being lowered out of sight of the rest of the world. From above, the view glimpsed through pine trees shows cliff-side steps twisting down a white cliff to a cove. Protected by apostle-like rock stacks, the tranquil beach is inexplicably empty, while grey and cream flow lines of rock strata at the cliff base betray the tumultuous activity of past ages. A diversion for those on the Camino de Santiago de Compostela trail?
Salobrena is the jewel of the Costa Tropical and a world away from the faded glamour of Marbella and the all day breakfasts of Torremolinos less than an hour down the coastline. It is made up of several beaches split in two by El Penon - a huge rock that sticks out into the sea. The rock can be easily climbed and affords impressive views out to the sparkling Mediterranean or back towards the peaks of the Sierra Nevada mountains which in winter are dazzlingly white against the azure Andalucian sky. In the foreground, your eyes will be drawn to Salobrena town, a collection of whitewashed houses that rise steeply through a labyrinth of cobbled streets towards the old Moorish castle at the top. This is a year-round destination. The deserted beach will offer an afternoon dose of warm winter sunshine after a hard morning skiing in the Sierra Nevada’s in contrast to the height of summer when you will have the privilege of sharing it with generations of Granadinos all escaping the heat of the city. Salobrena beach is most famous for its chiringuitos (beach bars) which still uphold the tradition of free tapas – nothing beats a glass of cold Alhambra lager with a tapa of the freshest squid or whitebait that money doesn’t have to buy.
This small beach effectively splits Cadiz in two. Stand on the sandy beach looking at Cadiz with the waves behind you, the old town with its small, wiggly, mazelike streets past the looming cathedral to the left and the new town with its endless rows of high-rise apartments to the right. If the sun is shining you will always find small groups of locals and language students taking in the sun, playing beach football or throwing a Frisbee around. More importantly for some is the surf. The beach has very reliable surf for kids on their sponges (bodyboarders) and of course the very protective local surfers. I learnt to bodysurf here and will return to do it again! Surf tech speak: Exposed beach break, favour lefts, quite reliable surf (tending to flat in summer). Local refreshments are provided by friendly beach sellers, Mickey from Argentina is there all year round, he will even join in with any football, volleyball and even throws a mean Frisbee. Playa Victoria stretches off along the new town, 3+km, and in summer everyone in Spain seems to be here! Finding any spot is nigh on impossible. So I suggest, ‘avoid!’ Visit Cadiz in February for the Carnival or Easter and try not to get stuck there as I did!
Google map: bit.ly/f5Qmdj
The long sweeping beach at Sanlucar de Barrameda in Andalusia is worth a visit at any time of year. The beach is lined with unassuming bars that serve fresh seafood and superb pimientos de padron at good prices, a real treat, washed down with a cold glass of zingy manzanilla, the local sherry. But for two long weekends in August it is transformed into the most glorious racecourse. During the “Carreras de Caballos” race horses gallop along the surf while families watch on from their deckchairs in the late afternoon sun. The beach is decorated with hundreds of colourfully decorated cardboard betting booths made and staffed by small Spanish children who will give you a hand made betting slip, and if you are lucky a sweet when your horse comes in.
This spectacular crescent shaped stretch of white sand sits off the coast of Galicia, accessible only by ferries, which only run from early spring to late summer. There are no hotels, no litter bins, and almost no development on these islands once treasured by Julius Ceasar. The stunning crystal clear waters, warm micro climate and soft white sands make this a heavenly escape from the mainland during the summer months.
Where: A 30 minute ferry ride from Vigo or Baiona
Address: 36212 Vigo, Spain
Google map: bit.ly/eSb2Eo
While not offering the best sand, sunbathing, or nightlife, this famous beach on the Cantabric coast, is one of the most spectacular in the world. Only during low tide are the magnificent natural arches visible, stretching 30 metres high and providing a 'cathedral-like' appearance from which the name originates. A truly incredible place to explore, with a myriad of once-in-a-lifetime photo opportunities, it is easy to become spellbound among the cliffs and caves. A word of warning however, be sure to journey back to safety before high tide covers this cathedral of sand almost as fast as it appeared.
Where: In Lugo,Galicia, close to the town of Ribadeo
Address: As Catedrais-Aguas Santas, 27790 Barreiros Municipality, Spain.
Google map: bit.ly/hXtkeW
I stumbled upon this little gem of a museum/church/gallery, in the heart of the barrio de Santa Cruz. Entry is free on Sundays from 4pm - 8pm and you can enjoy one of the best preserved typical Seville constructions - patio and fountain. To the left is a small room housing paintings from Sevillano painters, including Velázquez. On the other side of the patio, behind a dark wooden door is the biggest treat, the church. Unlike any other I have entered in Spain, it is decorated with ornate, colourful imagery on the walls and ceiling.
Plaza Venerables, 8
41004 Seville, Spain
+34 954 564 595
Especially in cooler months, El Comercio is a popular afternoon meeting point for Sevillanos. It is well known for its Churros con chocolate - a fried, long donut-like snack which is dipped in rich, thick, hot chocolate. If you want to try them, don't arrive before 5pm at the weekend, as its likely that the machine won't have had chance to warm up! (Speaking from experience)
A fantastic very child friendly beach. The name alone puts junior members of the group in a giggly and good mood before you even get there. This is only enhanced by a beautiful, never very busy, beach with several areas to explore - small caves, a deeply shelving area with fantastic waves, an enormous shallow stretch for perfect paddling and headlands and freshwater streams to follow for an adventure. Two cafes perched above the beach provide reasonable snacks and meals and loo facilities. Lifeguard facility at most times and care should be taken to observe their flag system and advice. Parking in a pay carpark near the beach or in Llanes.
Google map: bit.ly/gEVqvv
San Sebastian, with the lush green hills of the Basque country all around, has the most glorious beach. It has fine golden sand, a shallow slope into the sea and best of all, the enclosed cove with an island in the middle means that the two beaches are completely sheltered from ocean currents and waves and thus totally safe for swimming. There is one ideal surfing beach too. It is kept impeccably clean, and there are also changing rooms, lockers, beach showers and cafes on the beach which is right by the buzzing and beautiful old city centre of San Sebastian.
Just go downhill til you get there! Possible by train from the UK in one day with Eurostar and TGV to the border and one connecting train.
Google map: bit.ly/hHbYEI
Cala Gracioneta is a beautiful secluded cove, situated just outside of San Antonio. It's well hidden, so head for Cala Gracio (it's touristy big brother) and on foot, follow the rocky headland around and into the next bay. Here you'll find an interesting mixture of locals, but more importantly peace and quiet, fine golden sands, and clear, warm shallow water; ideal for kids learning to snorkel, or adults winding down from the previous night. As if you need another reason to spend the day here, El Chiringuito is an authentic cafe/bar serving seriously good Cava Sangria and the best Paella on the island. Relax under the shade of the trees - eat, drink and enjoy the views!
2K North of San Antonio. You can walk or catch the no.1 bus to Cala Gracio.
Google map: bit.ly/hKBOba
I am almost reluctant to share this secret gem, as its charm lies in its unspoiled nature and totally undeveloped facilities. El Palmar is a deserted stretch of sandy, wind-blasted beach that goes on as far as the eye can see. There are no high rise concrete hotel blocks, no fancy restaurants, no lager louts demanding full English breakfasts. There are a few chiringuitos (shanty-like bars) serving tinto de verano, a refreshing red wine and soda mix, boquerones (delicious deep-fried anchovies) and other tasty snacks. Almost everyone in the bar is a local: either a crusty old fisherman taking a break from putting out the nets to discuss the tide and have a cold beer, surfer dudes or youngsters who come to watch the sunset while listening to local rock bands. It's always very, very windy here and there is little shade from the intense sun, except in the bar!
Located about half-way from Tarifa to Cadiz on the Atlantic coast.
Only reached by car on route A-48 (autovia de la Costa de la Luz)
For me, choosing which beach to recommend in Spain is so easy it's a joke. On the north coast of the party island Ibiza is one of the most peaceful, idyllic beaches I have ever been to. Situated in a shallow, sheltered cove with cliffs and fishing huts, Cala D'en Serra is only about 20m wide but is absolutely stunning and I've never shared the beach with more than five other people. Chilled perfection!
Just north of Portinatx. Keep an eye out for a sign on the main road that leads you down a dirt track.
Google map: bit.ly/e0t4El
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