So what’s all the fuss about?
A trip to Playa del Ingles/Maspalomas is almost a rite of passage for the European LGBT community. With almost guaranteed sunshine and a very liberal attitude the popularity is easy to understand. With direct flights from all over Europe there’s planeloads of hot men (and women) landing here every day.
Taxis are cheap and plentiful – expect to €5 for most local journeys. There are plenty of options from the airport – one of the best ideas is to book a transfer with one of the online companies.
What to expect
My advice to the first time visitor is to go with low expectations and you’ll be pleasantly surprised. It can be tacky, it’s not very sophisticated but it can be really good fun. It’s a real melting pot and you will meet some really great people.
Where to stay
The range of accommodation is from the tawdry to the very swish. There are the standard package hotels and apartments to small friendly all gay resorts. Pick the accommodation to best suit your budget and the type of holiday you want. If you want all day partying then the resorts closest to the infamous Centro Yumbo is probably best for you. If you’re a beach bum – stay closer to the beach.
Axel Maspalomas – part of the hetero friendly Axel chain – lots of muscle men and pool parties. Central and can be expensive
Villas Blancas – Campo del Golf – 40 bungalows with 2 pools – good standard of accommodation and facilities
Vista Bonita – in Sonnenland – half way between the centre of the action and the beach at Meloneras. LGBT resort with 22 great townhouses around a great heated pool (a boon in winter).
Miles and miles of gorgeous sand, back by the infamous dunes. Can be reached from Playa del Ingles or Meloneras Lighthouse. The Gay beach is at Beach Bar 7…though you’ll certainly recognise it when you get there. The hike through the dunes is not for the fainthearted.
Most of the gay life is in the Yumbo Centre – a 1970’s shopping monstrosity during the day that becomes a beacon of neon and music when the sun goes down. There’s about 40 gay bars, a wide selection of restaurants (most with awful pictures of the food on the menus) dance clubs, drag shows and more full-on bars and clubs.
Where to drink
Early bars – Coco Loco, Adonis and Bar Rendezvous, happy hours, pop soundtrack and waiters in swim trunks, great for people watching
Sparkles – very end of the Blackpool Pier – big and brash
Funny Girls – late, polished and professional
Terry’s Show Bar – small, intimate, very Spanish and great fun
Clubs – Mykanos, Mantrix – clustered in the aptly named Six Pack Zone. Dance till 6am
Where to eat
Martell House in the Yumbo is good for people watching and food - just ignore the food photographs on the wall
Miramar - Great terrace away from the Yumbo mobs
Samsara – near the lighthouse in Melonores – fabulous fusion food in incredible space – has to be booked a week in advance
Must do once
Apoteke – the German Beach Bar – near the lighthouse – busy from 4pm – 8pm – drunk Germans and dodgy music guaranteed. Hysterical fun.
Café Vien – another after beach staple – posh cakes served by your granny.
The Open Air Cinema – if you feel that some romance is in order – this is the place for you.
If you have wanted to enjoy tasty food, amazing views and the non comparable mixture of sea and mountain by the Cantabric sea, you’ll no doubt have chosen San Sebastián to spend your holidays. Here are some spots you cannot miss in this treasure city in North Spain.
Old Town. Walk the streets in “Parte Vieja” the oldest part between the churches of Santa María and San Vicente. You will find there numerous restaurants and bars where you can taste “pintxos”, small snacks made with the most delicious local ingredients. You will be surprised how wide variety of pintxos can you find.
La Concha. The most recognizable beach in the city and one of the most iconic ones in Spain. Considered one of the most beautiful beaches in Europe, its shape has been immortalized in many pictures. Extremely busy in summer, do not miss the chance to walk by the shore and enjoy the stunning sunsets to the tune of the waves
Igeldo. Towering over the west side of the Bay of La Concha lies this spectacular mountain. A cable car can take you to the peak, where you will find the amusement park many generations have enjoyed and still keep the spirit of the early years it was built on. Once you are up there, do not miss the views of the whole city. They will leave you breathless.
Good Shepherd Cathedral. The most remarkable religious building of San Sebastián, it is endowed with a strong verticality and is the largest in Gipuzkoa. Its construction took place in the last years of the 19th century in a Historicist Neo Gothic style. With capacity for over 4,000 people, have a look in the crypt, the organ and stained glass which are authentic masterpieces.
Aquarium. Almost a century old but renewed in 2008, the San Sebastián aquarium is considered to be one of the most modern oceanographics in Europe. Make your way through the 360º acrylic tunnel suspended in the water, surrounded by huge sharks and manta rays. An experience hard to forget.
San Sebastian International Film Festival. If you are lucky enough to be in San Sebastian at the end of September, you may come across with Hollywood stars as the city celebrates its International Film Festival. It is considered one of the 14 most recognized film festivals in the world. It was founded in 1952 and it is nowadays one of the biggest touristic attractions in the city. You may, however, have to book your tickets in advance, due to high demand.
…with so much ham around!
If there’s a type of cuisine that strives to offer good raw materials and novel recipes, that’s vegan cuisine. I know you are trying to taste different things, I advise you to do as I do and take a look at this list, because eating vegan is a culinary discovery.
I particularly like everything so I’m open to all kinds of food, that is why I love to go to vegetarian restaurants from time to time, because they know how to take the best of vegetables to make them tasty. Step right up!
So here a list of the most highlighted veggie restaurants at the capital city:
A veggie classic in Madrid, it was one of the first ones I tasted when I started to enjoy veggie food. Now it’s much more elaborated. And yes, its specialty is the veggie burgers with 11 different types like Chingona or Smoked, but do not miss its salads like the Silvestre, which is delicious.
Abundant and homemade food with Venezuelan touches near Retiro Park. For example, its Arepa Burger, made with lentils and where the bread is substituted by corn arepa.
A good chance to try cuisine from other parts of the world with vegan recipes, and a great daily menu.
Pura Vida Vegan Bar
In La Latina you can also enjoy homemade vegan food. It’s a small and cozy place that’s famous for its great pizzas. But there’re much more. They have solidarity burgers with the name of animals, and donate 1€ to the corresponding NGO.
In a small market stall of Antón Martín Market are demonstrating that vegan cuisine can be creative and avant-garde. So much that they have already stepped by great chefs like Mario Sandoval (famous journalist) interested by their kitchen.
Authentic vegetarian cuisine like Crudiveganos cheeses table, could be at any Michelin restaurant!
Kilómetros de Pizza
They’re specialized in two-meter pizzas and take a look: Cream of wild asparagus, two types of artichoke (natural and with balsamic oil), pepper, two textures of zucchini and eggplant.
Pui’s Thai Tapas
This restaurant has wanted to unite a very Spanish concept with the best of Thai cuisine, one of the best countries to travel and know Southeast Asia.
It isn’t all vegan, but they’ve options like their famous Som Tam salad, made with papaya, beans, chili and lime.
Barcelona is justifiably renowned as a serious party town. It has an enviable reputation as one of the best cities in Europe (if not the world) for a really fun weekend. So what do you do when you can't drink anymore or are too hungover to think too hard?
Where to Party
Much of the partying happens around the University with its teaming gay village and around the two mile long Las Ramblas – but look a little closer and whole other world opens up to the visitor.
As you wander through the The Gothic Quarter the history of the city starts to come to live. The focal point of the Barri Gothic is the stunning Cathedal. Most of the building was created in the 14th century on the site of earlier religious sites with a church recorded here in the 5th century. Having taken 150 years to build the interior is a stunning example of Catalan Gothic and unlike many huge churches has a real spiritual quality. Much less busy than Gaudi's Sagrada Familia .
Close by is the hugely popular Picasso Museum. Housed in a series of medieval mansions the museum is massive and visitors – even with the online queue jump tickets – need to expect massive queues. Not for the hung over.
If you want to see some 20th Century art pay a visit to the small but really fun Dali Museum – you won’t have to deal with lines of tourists and this little gem of a museum allows you to get up close and personal with some of the genius works of Dali. If this whets your appetite to explore more Dali – then a trip to Figeures about an hour away is well worth a trip.
Overlooking the city this hilly neighbourhood is home to The Olympic Stadium and the whole area is a great area to wander around – great to clear the head.
Hit the beach
The beach at Barcelonetta is a magnet for the fit and healthy. The promenade is over 3 kilometres long - but it's worth the walk.
Where to eat
Can Vilaró - in front of the Sant Antoni market does amazing catalan cuisine and is really reasonable (no website but easy to find).
7 Portes - Arguably the best paella in Barcelona.
And if all else fails - head for a real pharmacy - if it says parafamacia it only sells herbal remedies (don't say we didn't warn you!).
The Fallas – Festival of Fire
The Fallas is the most traditional celebration in Valencia. The festival takes place in March, culminating the 19th St Joseph's Day.
This construction is known as a “falla”, they are spread all over the city, and eventually burnt. Huge sculptures of wood and cardboard, as cartoons making fun of the Spanish current affairs. Each sculpture is called “ninot” (“puppet” or “doll”). A great opportunity to see the best fireworks and if you don’t have sensitive hearing, the "mascletà” is very exciting!
Albufera Natural Park
This is the largest lake in Spain, and a place of great ecological interest with a rich variety of wildlife. On your way to the lake, you may encounter people selling tomatoes on the road. Buy some tomatoes from the “Perelló”! They taste like real tomatoes! you won’t regret it!
Don't miss the opportunity to try the local gastronomy, classic dishes such as Paella, Arroz a Banda, or All i Pebre made with eels freshly caught from the lake.
After lunch, you can take a boat trip, excellent for bird watching. It is very relaxing and even more beautiful as the sun sets. In the area you will be able to see the typical “Barracas”; traditional high-peaked thatched cottages. These houses are protected by the community, because of its value to the cultural heritage.
“Horchata” is a traditional drink made from chufa nuts (tigernuts). You won’t find tastier versions than the ones in “Alboraya”, small village located 5 Km north of the city of Valencia. It is a very refreshing drink, ideal to drink very cold in summer. But the experience is not complete if you don’t accompany your drink with “Fartons”, delicious glazed bread buns designed to dip in your horchata.
City of Arts and Science - Museum
If you visit Valencia, the city of Arts and Science is a must-see. This cultural and architectural complex designed by the architect Santiago Calatrava, will leave you speechless. Its Modernist style buildings will make you feel like in a science fiction movie, in fact, the movie “Tomorrowland” was filmed here in 2014. My favorite one is “L'Oceanogràfic”, It is the largest oceanographic aquarium in Europe, and I have the chance to see a beluga for the first time!
If you just have a weekend in the Madrid - how can you make the most of the city
Let’s start the challenge…
Parque del Buen Retiro - the lungs of the city - close to the main train station “Atocha” where you can rent a little boat on the lake, enjoy a leisurely stroll or even be portrayed by one of the painters!
Plaza Mayor - order a few squid sandwiches & tapas under the sunshine (it can reach 40 degrees in summer) so plan your trip to suit your skin type.
Palacio Real - great location for selfies!
Plaza de España - nice place to relax
Sol - exactly the centre of Spain, everyone meets up here to go wherever else
Museums - “Golden Triangle of Art”
Museo del Prado - interesting one if you like classical art
Reina Sofía - home of Picasso’s Guernica
If you only visit one try the Thyssen - it’s smaller, less intimidating and easy to manage
5J: the best Iberian ham ever - expensive but worth having a try
Museo del Jamón: pork legs hanging from the ceiling (that's why it is called “museum”) where you can have cheap tapas & beer
Some Cool areas to explore:
La Latina - where you will find the best tapas (omelette, olives, paella and good seafood) in the bars and small pubs. Style: hipster
Chueca - stylish gay district, nice to walk around – good atmosphere
Barrio de Salamanca - (main street, “Serrano”) - upmarket area where you will find the main designers brands and the ladies who lunch!
La Castellana - A bus tour around this street will show you the big buildings.
Gran Via - nice buildings and shops at night!
I would recommend you having dinner at a nice restaurant on the top to see all the city, like the following picture:
Lunch: 2pm - 4pm (It is typical to order a glass of vermouth (wine) as an appetizer, before lunch, they will provide you a tapa.
Dinner: 9pm - 11pm, in summer even later! The weather is so nice…
New Garamond – commercial music, well dressed crowd and typically Spanish.
Kapital (close to Atocha station and Retiro park) 7 floors with different kinds of music.
Every Sunday morning “El Rastrillo” is an eclectic outdoor market that’s worth a visit.
The Underground is huge and easy to use - if you want to get around quickly. I would however recommend that you walk sometimes as you’ll get to see the beautiful streets and impressive architecture!
I hope you enjoy your short break in Madrid!
Most likely you were looking for nice weather hours of sunshine when you decided to visit Malaga, but I must tell you that Malaga has much more to offer than that. Don’t worry! I have created a fantastic list for you.
1. ”El Pimpi” The most famous winery in the old town. You must taste our traditional sweet wine, “Malaga Virgen” in this charming Bodega-Bar, with typical Andalusian interior patios and terraces. They have very nice tapas as well; don’t leave without trying the delicious “Pork Loin in Red butter”. El Pimpi is beside the Cathedral in Malaga Old Town. If the place is crowded, you should go to “Quitapenas”!
2. "Hammam Arabic Baths". Have a relaxing time in the most “Al Andalus” atmosphere. If you are not on a budget I recommend getting a purifying massage. The overall experience and the place itself are very special.
3. “El Caminito del Rey”. (King's pathway) For the adventurous ones here’s another great suggestion! This place had been closed for many years, as it is an extremely dangerous gorge walkway. After extensive repairs and renovations, the walkway has re-opened to the public. Book in advance to avoid disappointment as it is becoming very popular!
4. “Finca de la Concepción”. Not many people know this magnificent botanical garden and it’s an incredible historical place with a vast variety of flora. Perfect for a stroll around exotic trees and plants, Roman sculptures, fountains, and waterfalls.
5. “El Torcal, Antequera”. Only 30 km of Malaga. This is a UNESCO World heritage site and one of the most impressive landscapes in Europe. Perfect for hiking surrounded by interesting rock formations - you’ll almost believe you’re one of the mountain goats who live here. Bring proper trekking shoes and enjoy the scenery!
6. “The cave of Ardales”. Pristine cave with drawings and paintings from 20,000 years BC. This site has been very well preserved, treasuring its natural beauty. Lights are kept to a minimum in case you are afraid of the dark! Mind your step and contemplate the tunnels, lakes and massive stalactites and stalagmites around.
Seville, the 4th largest city in Spain, is the capital of Andalusia and lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir river. It is Europe’s hottest metropolitan city are with average summer temperatures of over 35c, meaning that for pale Irish skin Spring and Autumn make it the best time to visit. If planning on a springtime trip, try to coincide with Santa Semana – the week leading up to Easter to really get to feel how this stunning city revels in its local neighbourhoods.
With a history dating back to the Phoenicians and the Romans, who called Seville Hispalis, the city’s story meanders to include a long Moorish history before becoming part of Castille in the 13th century. But Seville’s Golden Age began after the discovery of the Americas – even though it is a river port 80km from the sea – as it became the most important trading port of the Spanish Empire. The 4km square old town is a pop up history book of every architectural style and contains 3 Unesco World Heritage sites – the staggering Alcazar, the Archivo da Indias and The Cathedral with its minaret now church tower The Giralda.
As the city developed grew popped up on every corner and around each church a local guild evolved. As the gold flooded in from the New World more and more ornate altars were created. Each parishioner was tithed to support their church and over the week before Easter these treasures are paraded through the streets of the city. These Pasos are spectacular and surprisingly moving. Align yourself to one neighbourhood, dress to impress and even the agnostic in you will revel in the marvels of the human spirit.
Stay in the old town – try The Sacristia De Santa Ana on Hercules Square (the mythic founder of Sevile) and take in a show at the Museo de Baile Flamenco (as Seville is the home of the art form).