7 nights and 8 daysThis tailor-made itinerary makes a perfect rail holiday across northern Spain and southern France. Travelling by train is a relaxing, comfortable, and practical way to visit some of the most fascinating Basque and Catalonian cities, with the flexibility to stop off in alternative cities and prolong your stay in any destination. In this rail journey, you travel by train to St Jean de Luz in France for a couple of nights, before travelling south west into the Spanish Basque Country, and then continuing on to Barcelona and Catalonia by train for your final three nights.This luxury touring holiday takes you through two of France and Spain’s most intriguing regions, staying at four or five star hotels along the way. Travel by day or overnight from London, through Paris, to southern France and the Basque Country. The Basque Country's key attraction is its blend of both panoramic seafronts, and rolling green countryside. The coast is spectacular, with long, sweeping sandy beaches, high rocky cliffs, quaint fishing villages, stunning sunsets over the ocean, and the sounds of the surf breaking on rocks. Only a short drive inland will bring you to velvet green hills and flower-filled fields. In this itinerary you see both the French and Spanish sides of Basque Country, crossing the River Bidasoa at Irun as you journey from St Jean de Luz in France to San Sebastian in Spain, both of which are magnificent coastal towns with gastronomic and cultural reputations. Enjoy the maritime feel of St Jean de Luz, exploring the old shipowners’ houses, and the church in which Louis XIV was married. Then, move on to San Sebastian, with its royal seaside Spa building, and its numerous Michelin-starred restaurants. After departing San Sebastian and the hearty Basque Country, you leave the greenery behind and cross the drier plains of Northern Spain. On this journey it is possible to stop in cities such as Pamplona and Zaragoza to both break up the long train-ride and take in some more of inland Northern Spain’s best sights. Then travel onwards to Barcelona. As Catalonia’s capital, Barcelona is a vibrant, bustling city set on a plain that rises up between the sea and wooded hills. The city centre has one of the highest concentrations of Gothic architecture in Europe, and is home to some of Gaudi’s most recognisable masterpieces. Barcelona is Spain’s most cosmopolitan city and is full of excellent restaurants and bars that provide the perfect port-side setting for a delicious and atmospheric evening meal. Just outside the city are mountain ranges that may entice the avid walker. After three nights in Barcelona, head to Paris for your return flight to the UK.Click here to download a pdf with full details of some of our rail holidays to Spain.PRICES5 star hotelsFrom £1,670 per person for first class rail travelFrom £1,500 per person for standard class rail travel4 star hotelsFrom £1,400 per person for first class rail travelFrom £1,220 per person for standard class rail travelIt 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• Standard double or twin rooms with private bathroom and breakfast included.• Four- or five-star accommodation in the following cities:2 night’s bed and breakfast in St Jean de Luz2 nights’ bed and breakfast in San Sebastian3 nights’ bed and breakfast in BarcelonaClick 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.
Day-by-Day ItineraryDAYS ONE TO TWO:Arrive in St Jean de Luz, and spend two nights in the cityLeave London at around 9am, changing to a fast train in Paris. Arrive in St Jean de Luz at around 8pm in the evening on your first day. If you wish to break the journey in Paris for a night or two, we can arrange this. Spend two nights in St Jean de Luz at the Grand Hotel St Jean de Luz, a pink neo-romantic property on the seafront, or at Hotel Parc Victoria, a unique art-deco hotel surrounded by beautiful gardens. The small Basque town of St Jean de Luz is set just north of the French-Spanish border. Its modest size and charm makes it ideally suited to exploration on foot, with numerous winding lanes, white-washed houses, and tiny shops and cafes to discover. The main highlight of St Jean de Luz might be the wide sandy beach that stretches along the coast; hours can be spent here enjoying a refreshing drink in the sun, or strolling along the promenade. Walk along the coastline to see the perfectly intact layers of sedimentary rock as they dramatically emerge from the sand. Further into the town, however, is a beautiful old quarter with excellent examples of Basque architectural design from throughout the ages, from the traditional port, to the shipowners’ houses, and the Church of Saint Jean Baptiste, the site of the marriage of Louis XIV in 1660. Inside, the church is captivating, with three levels almost entirely decorated in gold, and an intriguing hanging model ship as the centre-piece. Some of the most impressive houses date back to the 17th century, when St Jean de Luz flourished as one of the most important fishing ports in France. The Casino La Pergola, for example, is a fantastic art-deco building to match Hotel Parc Victoria. Perhaps hire a car for the day to explore the surrounding villages, or relax at the Grand Hotel and indulge in the excellent thalassotherapy treatments available, which use salt water, seaweed, and algae. DAYS THREE TO FOUR:Catch your train to San Sebastian for your next two nights Depart St Jean de Luz in the early afternoon and travel by train to San Sebastian. After one change of train in Irun on the French/Spanish border, you will arrive in San Sebastian in just a couple of hours. Spend two nights in San Sebastian at the Hotel Villa Soro, a grand hotel reminiscent of the French châteaux, with a very warm, cosy feel typical of the Basque Country. San Sebastian, voted the European Capital of Culture 2016, is in a beautiful setting on arguably one of the best city beaches in Europe – La Concha. The town itself is dominated by Belle Époque architecture. The beautifully golden Town Hall was once the city’s Gran Casino before its closure in 1924, and down on the seafront stands the La Perla Spa, one of the most beautiful spa buildings in the world. It was originally built for Queen Maria Cristina, and the abundance of glass is radiant from both the inside and the out. Spend lunchtimes in the old part of the town, enjoying the lively tapas bars that will introduce you to the traditionally Spanish way of life. Also of interest may be the Palacio Miramar, once the summer residence of the royal family in the 19th century, which bears the marks in its architecture of San Sebastian’s proximity to France. For a taste of both history and culture, pay a visit to the San Telmo Museum. In the evenings, make the most of the numerous Michelin-starred restaurants which dot the streets. Perhaps arrange your stay to coincide with one of the many cultural events that take place throughout the year, including the San Sebastian Jazz Festival and the International Film Festival. The nearby city of Bilbao makes for an excellent day excursion, if you have the time, with its artistic and cosmopolitan centre and the famous Guggenheim Museum. After a busy day exploring San Sebastian or Bilbao, the Hotel Villa Soro offers a plush armchair, roaring fire, and comfortable, light, and airy bedrooms to welcome you back.DAYS FIVE TO SEVEN:Depart San Sebastian and catch a train across to Barcelona for your final three nightsLeave the Basque Country at about 7.30 am, and head across Spain to Barcelona, where you will arrive in the early afternoon. The train passes through Pamplona, Zaragoza, and Lerida, which make excellent stop-off points if you wish to break up the journey. Spend three nights in Barcelona at either the Grand Hotel Central Barcelona or the Granados 83, both of which are chic, contemporary hotels in the heart of the city with rooftop pools. The list of cultural and historic attractions in Barcelona is virtually endless, with the Gothic quarter, Montjuic, Las Ramblas, and the Eixample holding some of the greatest treasures. A key part of visiting this famous city is the iconic architecture of Antoni Gaudi. Begin the tour of his work in the Parc Güell in the Zona Alta, decorated with fluid mosaics and vibrant bright colours. From here, perhaps visit the Palau Güell in El Raval, a much more refined example of Gaudi’s work, but with hidden flourishes above the door arches and in the cavernous interior. El Raval is also home to the Romanesque monastery of Sant Pau and the glassy, modern Museu d’Art Contemporani. Finish with the fairly-tale architecture of the Sagrada Familia, with its modified Gothic architecture, its traditional Latin cross, and its imposing impact on the Barcelona skyline. In the afternoon, or to pick up a spot of lunch, wander down Las Ramblas and enjoy the shops, stalls, and street entertainment, as well as the oysters at La Boqueria Market. An understated pleasure of Barcelona, slightly further from the tourist eye, is the maze-like mediaeval Gothic quarter. Its streets are punctuated with enchanting palaces, churches, and squares, as well as some of the best shops in the city. In la Ribera, the palaces of merchants have been transformed into informative museums, including the Museu Picasso, while the modernist Palau de la Musica Catalana has a fantastically mesmerising ornate interior. If you have time, walk along the Passeig de Gràcia to see the mordernista architecture that leads up to the Sagrada Familia, explore the huge Montjuic Castle, or relax on one of the 6 Blue Flag beaches which offer the best seafood in Barcelona in contemporary seafront establishments. Spending an evening enjoying traditional Catalan cuisine beside the port is highly recommended. DAY EIGHT:Return to the UK via ParisLeave Barcelona just after 9am on a train to Paris, where you arrive mid-afternoon. Catch the Eurostar back to London at about 5pm, arriving at 6.30pm. Click the 'Hotel Information' tab to find out more about the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.
Below is some information regarding each of the hotels featured in this touring itinerary.Grand Hotel St Jean de Luz– 5 star – St Jean de LuzThe hotel enjoys a prominent position on the wide, sandy beach of St Jean de Luz and only a few minutes' walk from the Basque style Old Quarter and fishing port. The Grand Hotel offers 52 rooms and suites, and whilst the entire hotel was completely refurbished a few years ago it has retained its Belle Epoque style. The hotel has a cosy lounge with comfortable chairs and sofas, a bar and a gastronomic restaurant with terrace overlooking the beach, where classic dishes with flavoursome Basque undertones are served.See more detail on Grand Hotel St Jean de LuzHotel Parc Victoria – 4 star – St Jean de LuzThe Hotel Parc Victoria is a delightful Relais and Chateaux property located a short walk from the seafront in a quiet residential area, surrounded by an attractive park and gardens. It was constructed in the 1880s and is mostly art-deco style, and has retained many pieces of elegant antique furniture. There are just 20 rooms and suites, all with private bathroom and air conditioning, and the hotel’s restaurant is open for both dinner and lunch. See more detail on Hotel Parc VictoriaHotel Villa Soro - 4 star - San SebastianIn the very heart of cosmopolitan San Sebastian, Hotel Villa Soro is a four-star gem within walking distance of the Old Town and Zurriola beach. The service is simple, yet the atmosphere is like that of a residential home, with 25 cosy guest rooms and warm service.See more details on the Hotel Villa Soro.Grand Hotel Central Barcelona – 5 star - BarcelonaWith 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 beautiful views over Barcelona, which is 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 the Grand Hotel Central.Granados 83 – 4 star – BarcelonaLocated 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.
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