I frequently hear complaints that Spain isn’t that dog-friendly. And compared to many other countries in Europe, there are many ways in which Spain isn’t as dog-friendly, from restaurants rarely allowing dogs inside to larger dogs not being allowed on long-distance trains, as covered in my guide to travelling in Spain with a dog. However, there are still plenty of dog-friendly things to do in Spain, if you go hunting.
I’ve spent over two months travelling around Spain with my dog, on two separate trips. Sure there were plenty of places he wasn’t allowed, including churches and museums, plus many gardens, similar to the situation in France. But there’s no shortage of beautiful old towns where you can at least wander around and admire the exterior of the buildings, plus many natural sites in Spain are quite relaxed about dogs. Here’s my pick of where you should visit in Spain with your dog.
1. Visit Park Güell in Barcelona
If you are visiting Barcelona for the first time, you have to visit Park Güell. Situated on the hillside above the Gràcia district, the park is the work of Antoni Gaudí, most famous as the architect of La Sagrada Família. There’s some colourful, whimsical mosaics, not to mention the beautiful views looking off towards the coast.
For humans planning on visiting the gardens, it’s recommended to book tickets in advance. On the sunny day that we visited in late April 2017, tickets were already fully pre-booked. However, there’s no ticket required for dogs, who are allowed in the park as long as they remain on a leash. Though they’ll also have to queue for the perfect selfie next to the salamander and other popular spots!
While you are in Barcelona, it’s also worthwhile visiting at least the exteriors of some of his other buildings, which you can do with your pup. My favourites were Casa Milà and Casa Battló, both in the central Eixample district. If you’re interested, I’ve put together a self-guided cycling route to visit Gaudí’s works, which can also be done in part on foot with a dog.
2. Eat Pintxos in San Sebastian
Now throughout most of Spain, dogs aren’t allowed to join you inside restaurants, though there are some exceptions. However, we discovered that wasn’t the case in the Basque region. In both Bilbao and San Sebastian, when dining each evening on pintxos, our dog was able to join us inside! It’s one of the regions I selected the Basque region as the most dog-friendly region in Spain.
Pintxos are the small snacks served in bars in northern Spain. Though initially intended as a little appetiser to go with your drink, it’s popular to dine on a succession of pintxos, enough for your dinner, perhaps moving from bar to bar. The centre of San Sebastian can get pretty busy, so stick to quieter areas or head out early if dining with your dog.
3. Or Dine on Tapas in the Sunshine
Even if you don’t visit San Sebastian and have the chance to visit pintxos bars with your pup, I still recommend taking the chance to dine on tapas elsewhere in Spain alongside your dog, but outside in the sunshine.
While it’s rare that restaurants in Spain allow dogs inside, the majority of restaurants and cafes where I dined at an outdoor terrace allowed my dog to join me. I honestly can’t recall a single occasion where my dog wasn’t allowed.
With the sunny, warm weather in Spain, this can often be done year round, especially if there are outdoor heaters. Although in the winter months it’s best done during lazy afternoons, while the sun is still up, rather than late at night. Do as the local do and enjoy a glass of local wine or tinto de verano, rather than sangria.
4. Go Hiking in the Pyrénées
Spain has a vast range of natural landscapes, including some magnificent mountain ranges. One of the most imposing is the Pyrénées mountains on the border with France. And if you’re hankering after a hike with your dog, you’ll be glad to know that within the Pyrénées and Monte Perdido National Park on the Spanish side of the border, dogs are welcome to join you as long as they remain on a leash.
One of the most popular hikes in the national park is the hike to Cola de Caballo in the Ordessa Valley (the lower half of this trail). The hike is a total of 16km, passing through a valley and pass multiple waterfalls. But if your dog isn’t up to such a long hike (like our Schnitzel), just head as far as you can, visiting the closer waterfalls and cascades, then return.
5. Or Explore Mount Teide
Another great natural destination in Spain to visit with your pup is Mt Teide, the volcanic mountain at the centre of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. We easily flew to Tenerife with Vueling, who allow small dogs in the cabin.
To explore Teide, I recommend hiring a car for at least one day to explore. It’s a huge mountain, towering 3718 metres above sea level, and taking a road trip from one side of the mountain to the other will take up most of the day, allowing for stops along the way. We didn’t actually hike that much, as it was very windy on the day we visited, but there are dog-friendly options available, as long as you keep your dog on a leash.
6. Stay on Board a Yacht
During our visit to Tenerife for some early-spring sunshine, while it was still chilly in mainland Spain, we also had the adventure of staying onboard a yacht. The yacht was moored up long-term at a marina, after having been sailed by the owner from Croatia, and dogs were allowed to stay on board.
It was a little nerve wracking at first lifting Schnitzel on board, especially for early morning and late evening walks, but we all loved the time relaxing on board the boat. During sunny afternoons we put Schnitzel’s bed up on deck for him to doze upon, or else he joined us in the cabin. I’ll note that this option is probably better for smaller dogs, so that you can lift them in and out of the cabin. Not to mention space is rather limited in the cabin.
Although the yacht that we stayed on, which we found through Airbnb, is no longer available, other yachts stays regularly come up. Look out for this option around Spain for an unusual adventure! Slightly older, more battered yachts like the one we stayed on are more likely to be both dog-friendly and affordable.
7. Visit Historic Toledo
One of the most beautiful old cities close to Madrid is Toledo. It’s possible to visit the city on a day trip from Madrid, or else stay for a night or two (my recommendation!) While your dog won’t be allowed inside the impressive cathedral or other sites such as the oldest synagogue that exists in Europe, it’s worthwhile just to wander the streets with them.
Additionally, there’s plenty of walking paths surrounding the city that provide beautiful views of it, that of course are perfect for a dog walk. If visiting during the warmer months of the year, head out early before it heats up. If staying overnight, I also recommend walking around the cathed
8. Walk the Walls of Lugo
Like many cities in Spain, Lugo in northwestern Spain dates back to the Roman era. And the most remarkable legacy left by the Romans are the huge walls surrounding the Old Town. They’ve been UNESCO listed for being the only intact circuit of Roman walls still in existence.
And best of all? As well as being completely free to walk around, dogs are welcome to join you on top of the walls. (This is in contrast to the medieval-era walls surrounding Avila, which both cost and don’t allow dogs.) Schnitzel wasn’t too happy at walking in the rain while we completed the 2km-loop, but it’s a fun thing to do with your dog.
9. Explore Las Médulas
The landscapes of Las Médulas are stunning and virtually unknown outside of Spain. The result of intensive gold mining by the Romans (the technique is literally translated as “destruction of mountains”), it’s a beautiful spot to visit with your four-legged friend.
My biggest surprise? If you pay to enter the old Roman mining tunnel near the Mirador de Orellán, hard-hat on head, your dog is also welcome to join you for free. Not that they need a hard-hat, as it’s mainly to protect your head on sections with low roofs (and Schnitzel has never been described as being tall in his life!) Dogs are also welcome on the other walks around the area.
10. Visit Segovia and its Aqueduct
Segovia is another of the beautiful old cities within day-trip distance of Madrid. While the Cathedral and Alcazar are two of the most popular sites (and unfortunately don’t allow dogs), the highlight of a visit here is viewing the Roman-era aqueduct. Cutting through the plaza in the centre of town, wander around the different vantage sights with your dog on leash.
Additionally, there’s a number of walks down below the town that you can take your dog on. Don’t miss out on visiting the grassed park down below the Alcazar for some of the best views in town – perfect for a picnic with your pup!
11. Explore the Other Roman Aqueducts Around Spain
Segovia isn’t the only Spanish city blessed with a Roman-era aqueduct. And while generally other Roman archaeological sites in Spain are off-limits to dogs (unlike in Italy, but similar to the situation in Greece), the huge aqueducts are fine to be explored with your dog from down below.
I particularly loved the aqueduct that cuts through a park in the western city of Merida, which is surrounded by a lovely off-leash dog park. There’s also another stunning aqueduct outside of Tarragona, south of Barcelona.
12. Check out the Local Street Art
While dogs aren’t allowed to join you on a visit to the many superb art museums located in Spain, they are able to join you while wandering the streets of Spain’s cities and discovering their local street art scenes.
The best known city in Spain for street art is Valencia, with many examples tucked away in its city centre. Just head out on the streets and see what you discover. Barcelona also has a great street art scene, centred on the Gràcia neighbourhood.
13. Visit Ronda and the White Villages
One of the most picturesque towns in all of Spain is Ronda. Located in between Malaga and Seville, the town is perched on the edge of cliffs, the stunning Puente Nuevo (“New Bridge”) spanning the deep gorge that intersects it. Other highlights in Ronda include the many miradors (lookouts), Plaza Duquesa de Parcent and one of the most significant bull rings in all of Spain (although I’m not in favour of bull fighting and skipped entering).
Ronda is also a great starting point to the town the Pueblos Blancos (or “white villages”) of Andalusia, located mainly to the north west of the town. This is a gorgeous part of the country!
14. Head to Plaza de España in Seville
If you want to see a representation of all of Spain, then head to the Plaza de España in Seville. Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1928, the surrounding buildings are a pastiche of various Spanish revival styles, very grand and photogenic. Along the walls of the plaza are numerous alcoves, each tiled with a design representing one of Spain’s provinces.
Dogs are welcome to join you at the Plaza de España, unlike other popular tourists spot in Seville such as the Royal Alcázar. Adjacent is the Parque de María Luisa where dogs are also welcome, although on a leash. Its many shady walks offer a slight reprieve during Seville’s long hot summers, although it is also beautiful year round.
15. Visit a Spanish Beach
It wouldn’t be a visit to Spain without a visit to the beach, would it be? If a romp on the sand with your pup is on your to-do list, this will be easier to achieve outside of the peak summer months. During the off season, most beaches are left to “go to the dogs”, with plenty of dogs visible playing on beaches, no signs prohibiting dogs in sight.
However, during the summer months, the majority of Spanish beaches become off limit to dogs. There are some dog beaches scattered around the country, listed on Redcanina.es. Check out the locations in advance, otherwise it might be quite a drive from where you are staying.
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