highway between dunes in Spain. Madrid
27 March 2015

From Capital to Coast

When Spain produces sports stars, it doesn’t mess about. From Nadal and Indurain to Di Stéfano and Ballesteros, the country has yielded an extraordinary spread of talent. Happily for travellers, its main sporting cities are similarly illustrious, making this 408-mile Spanish drive an attractive option for anyone who knows their Caja Mágica from their Camp Nou. Stretching from Madrid to Barcelona – cities that collectively play home to three of the top teams in world football – the journey also takes in engaging stop-offs at Zaragoza and Reus. And in May 2015, the Madrid Tennis Open overlaps with the Barcelona Grand Prix, making a road trip between the two events more than feasible.

Banner Image Credit: unsplash

  • Madrid

    Spain’s capital is a city of food, art and history. Visit the tapas bars of the Huertas district, browse the galleries of the Reina Sofía then step back in time at the 17th-century Plaza Mayor. On a sporting note, if you miss the Madrid Open, which routinely draws the world’s best tennis players, try to arrange tickets to watch Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid in action on the football pitch. This is, of course, the adopted city of Cristiano Ronaldo. Madrid also hosts the final stage of the annual Vuelta a España bicycle race, a fixture here since 1935. Hometown boy Alberto Contador has beaten off riders like Chris Froome to notch several recent wins. From the capital, Zaragoza is a three-hour drive away.

    Image Credit: ErinEB

    From 27/03/2015

    Image of a yard in Madrid, surrounded by a red brick stone building.
  • Zaragoza

    A prosperous, cultured city in the heart of the Aragón region, Zaragoza gives good reasons to linger. Don’t miss the Plaza del Pilar, a huge square playing home to one of Spain’s mightiest basilicas, or the Museo de Zaragoza, which has a strong collection of works by Goya. For an upmarket dinner, book ahead at La Senda. The city has an ardently followed football team, Real Zaragoza, but if you’re here in the second week of October you’ll experience sporting traditions of another sort. The Fiestas del Pilar features jota (folk) dancing, alongside float parades and live music. Back behind the wheel, head east across the Catalonia border – it’s 144 miles until Reus.

    Image Credit: Juanedc

    From 27/03/2015

    View of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Pillar, in Zaragoza.
  • Reus

    Primarily known as the birthplace of Antoni Gaudí, the architect who spent much of his life shaping Barcelona, Reus is an interesting city in itself. It’s a natural spot to break up a car-hire expedition, and not just thanks to the excellent Gaudí Centre, an interactive museum dedicated to the man himself. Other diversions include the art nouveau Casa Navas, designed by another Catalan architect, and the inventive dishes on offer at Restaurant Joan Urgelles. Reus has an unusual sporting focus – it’s the home city of one of Europe’s most successful roller-hockey teams. Barcelona sits 68 miles away along the coast.

    Image Credit: Turol Jones, un artista de cojones

    From 27/03/2015

    View of building in Reus, Spain.
  • Barcelona

    You don’t have to be a sports fan to enjoy Barcelona. Its beaches, restaurants, historical quarters and art galleries see to that – top tips include the views from Montjuïc, the sculptures at the Fundació Joan Miró and the seasonal tasting menus at Accés Restaurant. If high-level sport is a passion, however, the destination offers even more. The yearly Formula One Grand Prix, which takes place on the city outskirts, is just one example. There’s the world-straddling football club, of course – Camp Nou, Europe’s largest stadium, can be visited year-round – but you’ll also find high-level yachting, basketball, tennis and motorbike racing. It’s even possible to take a guided running tour of the main sights. Almost 24 years after hosting the Olympics, Barcelona remains a sports-mad city.

    Image Credit: Juanedc

    From 27/03/2015

    View of Montjuic Castle in Barcelona.
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