Spain is a treasure trove for wine enthusiasts, offering a diverse range of wine regions and experiences. In this travel guide to Northern Spain, we will embark on a journey through Madrid, Rueda, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero, uncovering the secrets of each region, including how to get there, what cities to visit, and where to stay. I had the opportunity to go on this trip with Marqués de Cáceres and Vineyard Brands. They were the ultimate hosts! Now I get to share with you the very best places in each region.
Madrid, the vibrant capital of Spain, is well-connected by international flights and trains. Once you land in Madrid, you’ll either want to rent a car, secure a driver, or get a train to one of the cities mentioned in this itinerary. On our trip, we essentially made a big circle traveling through Northern Spain. We started and ended in Madrid, making our way up through Valladolid and Logroño, and ending back in Madrid. For this travel guide to Northern Spain, I highly recommend spending at least a few days in Madrid either before or after your trip out to wine country – it’s an amazing city!
After flying into Madrid, we made our way to Olmedo. Olmedo is about a halfway stop on the way to Valladolid. In Olmedo, they have Thermal Baths in the old 12th century convent of Sancti Spiritus at a placed called Castilla Termal. This was the perfect place to stop for a spa morning!
Valladolid is a cute city located between the regions of Rueda and Ribera del Duero. This city is known for its rich history and impressive architecture. Located just northwest of Madrid, the Rueda wine region is easily accessible by car or train. The journey takes approximately 2 hours by car and around 3 hours by train.
Hotel Zenit El Coloquio is where we stayed our first night in Valladolid. The location is right in the heart of the city and walkable to a lot of shops and restaurants! It was a super cute hotel with friendly staff and breakfast included. To make the most out of your travel guide to Northern Spain, if you stay in Valladolid I highly recommend checking out the following restaurants.
Rueda’s terroir is characterized by its continental climate and flinty soils mixed with sandy clay. The combination of these factors results in wines with vibrant acidity and a distinct minerality. Rueda is renowned for its white wines, particularly those made from the Verdejo grape variety. Other grape varieties grown in the region include Sauvignon Blanc and Viura. The most famous style of wine here is the refreshing and zesty Verdejo, which showcases flavors of citrus, tropical fruits, and herbs. If you love Sauvignon Blanc, you must try Verdejo! No travel guide to Northern Spain would be complete without a stop through Rueda and sipping multiple glasses of the region’s famous Verdejo.
Located north of Madrid, Ribera del Duero is easily accessible by car or train. The journey takes approximately 2.5 hours by car and 2 hours by train. Our time in Ribera del Duero was short but there are so many wineries here to visit! You could easily spend a few days in this wine region.
Ribera del Duero is a must visit wine region for any travel guide to Northern Spain. Here you will find a continental climate with hot summers and cold winters. The region’s soils range from limestone to clay and sandy loam, contributing to the complexity and structure of the wines. Ribera del Duero is primarily known for its red wines made from the Tinta del Pais grape variety, which is a local clone of Tempranillo. Ribera del Duero produces powerful and structured red wines that exhibit flavors of dark fruits, spice, and earthiness. The wines often undergo oak aging, adding complexity and elegance to the final product.
Nestled in the picturesque vineyards of Spain’s renowned wine region, the Bodega Finca La Capilla stands as a true testament to the art of winemaking. Marqués de Cáceres recently acquired the bodega, and its dedication to crafting exceptional wines is evident in every bottle. They meticulously execute each step of the winemaking process to preserve the natural flavors and character of the grapes. With a commitment to sustainability and organic practices, Finca La Capilla ensures that their wines are not only a delight to the palate but also a celebration of the surrounding environment.
Visitors to the bodega are treated to an immersive experience, where they can witness the passion and expertise that goes into producing their exquisite vintages. We were lucky enough to tour their incredible vineyards and see their pristine winemaking facility. Their wines are an incredible example of quality wines coming from the Ribera del Duero. I really enjoyed La Capilla Crianza and La Capilla Vendimia Seleccionada red wines.
The charming town of Roa is situated up on a hill in the Ribera Del Duero region. We stopped here for a lunch at Chuleta, a place famous for their smoked lamb. The lamb was delicious along with the steamed vegetables and scallops. Additionally, this restaurant has large windows and a terrace with stunning views of the countryside!
Situated south of the Basque Country, Rioja is accessible by car, train, or bus. From Madrid, it takes approximately 3 hours by car, 2.5 hours by train, or 4 hours by bus to reach the Rioja wine region.
Logroño, the capital of the Rioja region, is a fantastic city to visit. It boasts a lively food and wine scene with bustling tapas bars and beautiful historic sites. Other notable cities in the region include Haro and Laguardia.
We stayed in Logroño for a couple of nights at the five star hotel Áurea Palacio de Correos. They have a beautiful rooftop overlooking one of the city squares. This place was charming, luxurious and right in the center of town. I would highly recommend staying here.
Rioja exhibits a diverse range of soils, including clay, limestone, and alluvial deposits. These soils, combined with a Mediterranean climate, contribute to the complexity and character of Rioja wines. Rioja’s fame rests on its red wines primarily crafted from the Tempranillo grape variety. Other grape varieties grown in the region include Garnacha (Grenache), Mazuelo (Carignan), and Graciano. Rioja produces a wide range of wine styles, including young and fruity wines, oak-aged Crianzas and Reservas, and long-aging Gran Reservas. Each style showcases the unique characteristics of the region and the grape varieties used.
When exploring Rioja, make sure to visit Marqués de Cáceres, a renowned winery known for its exceptional wines. The main tasting room of Marqués de Cáceres is located in the heart of Rioja Alta, one of the country’s most celebrated wine regions. Founded in 1970 by Enrique Forner, the winery quickly earned a reputation for producing exceptional wines that harmoniously blend tradition with innovation. Today Cristina Forner, Enrique’s daughter, manages the company. With over 200 hectares of vineyards, Marqués de Cáceres cultivates the finest Tempranillo, Garnacha, and Graciano grape varieties, benefiting from the region’s favorable climate and fertile soils.
The winery reflects its commitment to quality through a meticulous winemaking process, which emphasizes manual harvesting and careful aging in oak barrels to enhance the wines’ complexity and character. Marqués de Cáceres offers an impressive range of wines, from their vibrant and fruit-forward Crianza, fresh and light rosé wines, to their elegant and complex Gran Reserva. These wines are a true reflection of Rioja’s unique terroir, and they have something for every palate and any occasion.
Madrid really stole my heart! No travel guide to northern Spain is complete without a stop in Spain’s capital. It’s full of culture, fun neighborhoods, good restaurants, wine bars and art. We visited all of the main sites such as the Prado Museum, Plaza Mayor, the Market of San Miguel, and Parque de El Retiro and I would recommend it all.
Madrid offers a wide range of accommodation options to suit all budgets. Some popular hotels in the city include The Westin Palace, Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques, and Hotel Ritz Madrid.
We stayed at Gran Melia Palacio de los Duques which is part of the Leading Hotels of the World. This five-star hotel, located in the heart of the city, formerly was once a 19th-century palace. The hotel retains its regal charm with grand facades, ornate interiors, and beautiful courtyards. I loved the elegantly designed rooms, which provided us with a perfect retreat after a day of exploring the city. The hotel’s rooftop terrace has got to be one of the best views of the city. I would stay here again in a heartbeat!
After visiting the Prado Museum we stopped into The Spanish Farm for lunch after quick searching places nearby. For us we did not need to make a reservation. The menu was authentic and delicious!
The Market of San Miguel is a must visit if you are in Madrid. I ate here twice for lunch two days in a row! There are so many different traditional foods you can try! My personal favorite was the Jámon (of course), the patatas bravas, and the different clams and seafood options!
In this travel guide to Northern Spain, you’ve seen how it truly is a wine lover’s paradise, with its varied wine regions providing unique experiences and exceptional wines. Whether you explore the bustling streets of Madrid or taste the world-renowned wines of Rueda, Rioja, and Ribera del Duero, you are guaranteed to delight your senses and create lasting memories. So, pack your bags, raise a glass, and embark on a remarkable journey through the flavors of Northern Spain. A very special thank you to Marqués de Cáceres and Vineyard Brands for this amazing trip of a lifetime!