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Two for the Road

Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, Spain.  

Northern Spain
Spain’s vibrant southern cities always draw tourists, but the country’s wildly beautiful northern coastline is just as worthy of attention. Fly direct from New York: Iberia Airlines recently upped its number of flights from New York to Madrid, with an average of 15 per week between April and October.

Days 1–2: Madrid
The city is best explored on foot, so rent a car when you travel farther afield. Check into the new Hotel Alicia (from $119 to $212;, located across from Plaza Santa Ana. Be sure to visit these three beloved tourist attractions: the Parque del Buen Retiro (one of Madrid’s largest parks), the Plaza Mayor (a sprawling and elegant central square), and the Museo Nacional del Prado (don’t miss Velázquez’s Las Meninas, if you haven’t already seen it).

Day 3: Santiago de Compostela
384 miles
Granted, many arrive in this gorgeous Galician city on foot—it is the final destination of the Christian pilgrimage known as the Way of St. James—but you can do plenty of walking even if you drive there. A visit to the stunning Catedral del Santiago de Compostela is a must. Rest weary feet at the fifteenth-century hospital turned hotel Hostal Dos Reis Católicos (from $209$380;

Days 4–5: Asturias
188 miles
After a few days in cities, head straight to the water. To drink in serious ocean views, it’s worth taking the longer coastal route to the northwestern region, known for its rolling hills, rugged shoreline, and pungent Cabrales blue cheese. Stay at the rustic Torre de Villademoros (from $115;, which has an idyllic setting and a tiny kitchen that churns out traditional regional fare.

Day 6: Oviedo
49 miles
Make a pit stop in Gijón to scope out the beautiful Art Nouveau architecture before driving on to Oviedo, the lovely town that made a cameo in Woody Allen’s Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Come dinnertime, choose between Michelin-starred eateries, Casa Marcial ( or El Corral del Indianu ( in Arriondas.

Day 7: Santander
120 miles
Pause in the charming coastal town of Llanes en route to Santander, the city that hugs the Bay of Biscay. Stop by the gothic Santander Cathedral with its 800-year-old crypt and, later, snack on tapas at the lively Las Hijas de Florencio.

Days 8–10: San Sebastián
122 miles
The Frank Gehry–designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao is a must-see on your way to this sweet Belle Epoque seaside city. Check into the Villa Soro (from $178;, a nineteenth-century aristocratic home turned boutique hotel in a leafy residential area and then wind your way through the city’s web of pintxos (Basque tapas) bars, sampling Rioja wine, croquetas, and Jabugo ham. Start your trek back to Madrid, about a four-and-a-half-hour drive, to catch your flight home to New York.


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