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  • Rail holiday to Barcelona, La Rioja and Bilbao

    Parc Guell in Barcelona

    Grand Hotel Central

    Grand Hotel Central

    Granados 83

    Granados 83


    Marques de Riscal

    Marques de Riscal

    Hotel Viura

    Hotel Viura

    Bilbao Guggenheim Museum

    Hotel Carlton

    Hotel Carlton

    Hotel Miro

    Hotel Miro with views over Guggenheim

    Rail holiday to Barcelona, La Rioja, and Bilbao

    By air and rail – 8 nights/ 9 days
    Travel by train from the UK to the capital of Catalonia, the vineyards of La Rioja, and the Basque city of Bilbao. Enjoy relaxing and scenic journeys as you travel through France and Spain at the beginning of this touring holiday, passing forested hills and picturesque towns as you head from the Mediterranean towards the Atlantic Ocean. Following your time in Bilbao, you can choose to take a flight back to the UK or embark on a larger tour of Spain by rail.

    This luxury tour first takes you south through England, France, and northern Spain on the Eurostar and then on a France-Spain connection. Watch as the landscape changes and the climate gets hotter, before you finally disembark in Barcelona. Spend three nights in either the Grand Hotel Central or the Granados 83, exploring the wealth of diverse quarters and attractions that this cosmopolitan city has to offer. Navigate winding mediaeval streets, seek out Gaudi’s most recognisable masterpieces, and dine on traditional Catalan cuisine on the promenade of a Blue Flag beach. From here, travel by train to Logrono, pick up your hire car, and drive further into the lush La Rioja countryside. Spend three nights amidst the vineyards of the striking Marques de Riscal in Elciego, or at the Hotel Viura, enjoying the finer things in life and basking in the Mediterranean sunshine. Use this particular stop as an opportunity to sample the best of the local cuisine. Drive back to Logrono and return your hire car after your stay, before boarding a train west to Bilbao. This thriving city is an artistic and cultural hub in Northern Spain, and your hotel options for the next two nights, the Hotel Carlton or the Hotel Miro, are both within easy walking distance of the famous Guggenheim Museum. Explore the bustling city centre, enjoying the artistic heritage captured by various museums and galleries, and perhaps take a day trip out to gastronomic San Sebastian. From Bilbao airport, board your return flight to London Heathrow, which marks the end of this luxury touring holiday. It is also possible to go by ferry from Bilbao to Portsmouth.

    Click here to download a pdf with full details of some of our rail holidays to Spain, or click here to download a pdf with details about this touring holiday.

    4 star hotels
    Rail (standard class on Eurostar and second class on all other trains) from London to Spain and flights back to London at 4- star hotels (eg Granados 83, Hotel Viura and Hotel Miro), From £1,760 per person.
    Supplement: Standard premier on Eurostar and first class on all other trains £160 per person. 
    Prices based on two sharing a double or twin room.
    5 star hotels
    Rail (standard class on Eurostar and second class on all other trains) from London to Spain and flights back to London at 5- star hotels (eg Grand Hotel Central, Hotel Marques de Riscal and Hotel Carlton Bilbao), from £2,330 per person.
    Supplement: Standard premier on Eurostar and first class on all other trains £160 per person
    All Prices based on two sharing a double or twin room.
    It is also possible to mix and match the different hotels (i.e. you do not have to stay in all five star or all four star). 

    What’s included:
    • First or second class rail travel (as above) on all trains including Eurostar
    • One way flight with British Airways or Vueling, from Bilbao to London Heathrow
    • 3 days Group A car-hire in La Rioja
    • Accommodation with bed and breakfast at the following hotels, based on two people sharing a standard double room:
    Three nights in Barcelona
    Three nights in Elciego
    Two nights in Bilbao

    Click the tabs above to view our suggested day-by-day touring itinerary and to find out more about the hotels featured.
    Click here to find out more about how our touring holidays work.


    Rail holiday to Barcelona, La Rioja, and Bilbao

    Day-by-Day Itinerary

    DAY ONE: Catch a train from London to Barcelona, where you will spend three nights

    Start your rail holiday by leaving London St Pancras at around 9am, and travelling on the Eurostar to Paris Gare du Nord. Transfer to Paris Lyon station to catch the daytime train to Barcelona, where you arrive just before 9pm. Your hotel for three nights is either the Grand Hotel Central Barcelona or the Granados 83, both of which are stylish and elegant hotels in central locations.

    DAYS TWO AND THREE: Barcelona
    Spend two days exploring this vast and diverse city. There are a huge number of must-see attractions in Barcelona, which make for a hugely exciting and fulfilling stay. Discover the modernista architecture of Gaudi and his contemporaries by visiting the Parc Güell in the Zona Alta with its fluid mosaics and bright colours, the more reserved Palau Güell in El Raval, and, of course, the iconic Sagrada Familia church which scores the Barcelonan skyline in the Eixample. Its fairy-tale exterior gives way to a cavernous and captivating interior built in the shape of a traditional Latin cross. Walk along the famous La Rambla to enjoy the quirky shops and street entertainment, as well as to sample the Catalan cuisine. The La Boqueria Market is famed for its oysters. Spend a few hours one morning exploring the maze-like mediaeval Gothic quarter, seeking out the enchanting squares, the palaces, and the excellent shops that punctuate the winding pathways. Perhaps visit the museums of La Ribera, which were once the palaces of merchants, or the Romanesque monastery of Sant Pau in El Raval. Pass the modernista architecture that lines the Passeig de Gràcia on your way to the Sagrada Familia, or take in the sombre elegance of the Montjuic Castle. The Montjuic quarter is also home to the minimalist Fundació Joan Miró, and the recently established Museu Nacional d’Art de Catalunya. In the evenings, enjoy the best seafood in Barcelona in one of the chic restaurants that line the promenades on any one of the 6 Blue Flag beaches. Once you have got your fill of Barcelona, perhaps take an afternoon excursion to one of the towns and cities nearby, such as Girona, Vic or Figueres, home of the Dali Museum. Retire at the end of each day to the contemporary comforts of the Grand Hotel Central or Granados 83, perhaps taking a final dip in one of the rooftop pools as you watch the sun go down.

    DAY FOUR: Travel from Barcelona to Elciego in La Rioja for your next three nights
    In Barcelona, board a train at about 2pm, which will take you north-west across northern Spain, passing Lleida and Zaragoza in the Ebro valley on the way to Logrono, where you will arrive just before 6pm. On arrival in the capital of La Rioja, collect a hire-car and continue to the Marques de Riscal, a strikingly modern hotel which forms part of a long-established winery, or the Hotel Viura, another striking hotel with a geometric, chaotic façade to contrast the fluid metallic lines of the Marques.

    You have three nights to spend in La Rioja, which will provide plenty of time to relax, explore the countryside, and visit the nearby towns and villages. The Marques de Riscal is around 15 miles from Logrono in the town of Elciego, where it is surrounded by the vineyards and wineries of this famous region that produce wine mainly from the Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes. The Marques de Riscal was the most significant producer of Rioja Alavesa wines in the 19th century, and was central to the growth of the economy in Elciego. The wineries in Logrono itself may be open for wine-tasting tours during the time of your visit, or, alternatively, tour the vineyards and wine cellar of the Marques de Riscal. In the small village of Elciego, the main cultural attraction, aside from the vineyards, may be the Parish Church of Elciego. Though it is unassuming from the outside, the inside is given a charming golden glow by the Retablo Mayor. The Plaza Mayor in Elciego is a mysterious square far removed from the hustle and bustle of the larger nearby towns, with a highly affecting feeling of peace and quiet. Should you choose to stay at the Hotel Viura in Villabuena de Alava, Elciego will still prove and enjoyable day out. The Hotel Viura, however, sits at the very heart of La Rioja, and also offers its own wine-tasting tours in its vineyards and cellar. From here, you are perfectly placed to visit the Yuso and Suso Monsteries, which are atmospheric terracotta coloured building amist the rolling green hills and valleys of a wine region famous since Roman times. The nearby villages of Santo Domingo de la Calzada, situated on the Saint James Pilgrimage Route to Santiago de Compostela, has numerous quiet streets and peaceful plazas that make for a thoroughly relaxing few hours excursion. For a taste of the more lively nearby towns, Logrono makes a very fulfilling day out. We would recommend visiting the Concatedral de Santa Maria de la Redonda, whose main façade was designed to resemble an altarpiece. The two front towers, know as Las Gemelas, or ‘the twins,’ were built in the Baroque style, and inside, there is a painting of the crucifixion by Michelangelo. The Santo Sepulcro in one of the cathedral’s chapels is unusually detailed in tortoiseshell, silver, and wood. This three night stay in Elciego or Villabuena de Alava offers an insight into a pocket of culture that forms and maintains one of Spain’s most famous industries. The dynamic, contemporary design of both hotels and the large windows that open each room out onto the vineyards ensure the utmost comfort after you have dined in either the Michelin-starred restaurant at the Marques de Riscal or in the indulgent restaurant at Hotel Viura.

    DAY SEVEN: Catch a train from Elciego to Bilbao for your final two nights in Spain

    Return your hire car to Logrono station before catching a mid-morning train northwards to Bilbao, a journey of around two and a half hours. Stay at the Hotel Carlton, or the Hotel Miro, for two nights, both of which are stylish hotels in privileged locations just a short walk from the Guggenheim Museum.

    DAY EIGHT: Bilbao
    Take time to explore the Basque city’s sights, perhaps starting with a visit to the Guggenheim itself, which will offer a valuable introduction to the city’s opulent heritage. Designed by Frank Gehry, this futuristic building, with its shimmering curves of titanium and glass, is home to a permanent collection of contemporary art and regularly hosts temporary exhibitions. Only a few minutes’ walk away from the hotel is the Bilbao Fine Arts Museum, which houses an extensive collection ranging from 12th Century sculptures to 20th Century paintings, and is a picturesque building in its own right. Along the riverbank is Bilbao’s old town. Comprised of tightly-packed colourful houses, and long, steep stairways, this part of the city takes you back to a more traditional Spain. Also worth a visit is the Gothic Santiago Cathedral, which dates back to the 14th century. This building’s front framed archway mirrors the beautiful criss-crossed arches of the ceiling within, and the circular window above the door lets in an ethereal light. Head down towards the seafront to see the eclectic Mercado de la Ribera, the largest covered market in Europe. It was built in 1929 and still sources some of the best seafood in Bilbao. The city has a vibrant evening scene with bars and restaurants, offering a more cosmopolitan vibe after your peaceful stay in La Rioja. After taking in the views across the river and in the squares, return to the grand and welcoming Hotel Carlton, which seamlessly blends the traditional and the contemporary aspects of Bilbao, or the ultra-modern and chic Hotel Miro.

    DAY NINE: Return to the UK

    Perhaps enjoy breakfast in one of the city centre cafes to make the most of your final morning in Bilbao. Then, take a taxi to Bilbao airport for your flight back to the UK.

    Travelling times for this touring holiday (approximate):
    London to Barcelona: 12 hours
    Barcelona to Logrono: 4 hours
    Logrono to Bilbao: 2 hours 30 minutes

    Click the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.

    Barcelona, La Rioja and Bilbao by rail

    Hotels featured in this touring itinerary.

    Choice of 2 per destination. Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.

    Grand Hotel Central Barcelona – 5 star - Barcelona
    With avant-garde design, this stylish and elegant hotel has a great location in Catalonia’s capital city, on the Via Laietana which connects the seafront to the old town. There are 147 comfortable rooms decorated in a modern style with soft colours. The hotel has a sky terrace and infinity pool with views over Barcelona, the perfect place to relax after a busy day in the vibrant city. City Bar & Restaurant serves fresh, relaxed Mediterranean cooking perfect for sharing.
    See more detail on Grand Hotel Central Barcelona.
    Granados 83 – 4 star – Barcelona
    Located in a former hospital, Granados 83 is an art-deco style hotel with interiors which are reminiscent of a New York loft with exposed brickwork and leather furnishings. The 77 guestrooms and suites are arranged around a central courtyard with a glass ceiling, and there is a rooftop terrace with a small pool. The hotel is located in a lively part of the city surrounded by shops, restaurants and open-air terraces. The hotel also has its own restaurant and bar.
    See more detail on Granados 83.

    Marques de Riscal – 5 star – La Rioja
    Designed by Frank O. Gehry (as is Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum) – the hotel has a strikingly modern design and forms part of the Marques de Riscal City of Wine. Marques de Riscal was the first wine cellar of the area – built in 1858. The hotel is clad in sandstone with great sweeping panels of titanium and stainless steel. Somehow this does not look out of place in the traditional, medieval town of El Ciego. The hotel provides the perfect base to explore the tradition, gastronomy and landscape associated with wine. There is a wine spa offering beauty and anti-stress treatment based on grapes and wine.
    See more detail on Marques de Riscal.
    Hotel Viura – 4 star – La Rioja
    A member of the Small Luxury Hotels of the World, Hotel Viura has a very unusual modern design, resembling a pile of precariously placed cubes, terraces, and balconies. There are 33 rooms and suites with floor to ceiling windows looking out over the village of Villabuena de Alava or the mountains of the Sierra de Cantabria. Within a short distance of the hotel are prestigious wine cellars, medieval villages, monasteries and churches. The hotel restaurant features wine barrels suspended from the ceiling and services typical food of La Rioja and the Basque Country. Of course there is a comprehensive wine list.
    See more detail on Hotel Viura.

    Hotel Carlton – 5 star - Bilbao
    The five star Hotel Carlton in Bilbao oozes French Second Empire Style, and was completed in 1926. Its grandiose, ornate architectural style is characterised by flourished archways, staircases, balustrades, cornices, and symmetry, all of which add to the all-encompassing sense of luxury at this Spanish hotel. The style of the hotel lends itself easily to both contemporary, chic design, and more traditional decoration, something which becomes clear in the eclectic, but highly comfortable, individual rooms. The excellent positioning of this hotel puts you in the very heart of the city.
    See more detail on Hotel Carlton.
    Hotel Miro – 4 star - Bilbao
    Located very close to Bilbao’s Guggenheim museum, the Hotel Miro is a small design hotel, decorated by Barcelona fashion designer Antonio Miro. There are 50 chic, simply furnished rooms and suites several of which have a view of the Guggenheim. The hotel is close to the Museum of Fine Arts and just a short walk from the city’s shopping area and Old Quarter. The hotel doesn’t have its own restaurant but there are plenty of places to choose from in the surrounding area.
    See more detail on Hotel Miro.

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