Explore Northern Spain with Kids

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Visiting Northern Spain with kids? Have we got some travel tips for you. Read on.

Explore Northern Spain with Kids: Our Summer Road Trip 2016: Salamanca plaza family portrait

Explore Northern Spain with Kids

Have you traveled to northern Spain with kids? We’re about to.

School is out. Summer is here! What’s your summer plan? Many in Spain head to the beach and spend the entire summer there. I talked about this here, when I mentioned how Valencia becomes a “ghost town” for the month of August.

Explore Northern Spain with Kids: Our Summer Road Trip 2016 PIN

For our summer, we’ve decided to explore northern Spain with kids in a car. Our first road trip in Spain! Before we settled on this Spanish road trip idea, we had considered traveling around France, Italy, Morocco or Portugal. But you know what? We’ve been in Spain for almost a year, and yet we have still seen very little of Spain since the kids have been in local schools in Valencia.

Our biggest Spanish road trip yet

Explore Northern Spain with Kids: Our Summer Road Trip 2016. Toledo military museum

With this road trip, we want to drink in more of the Spanish experience and explore Spain’s regional food, landscape, architecture, and culture. We also want our kids to have new opportunities to use their newly acquired language skills.

And indeed they have: I say with equal parts pride and shame that Keiko and I are almost completely dependent on our kids while exploring northern Spain. None of us spoke any Spanish a year ago. Today, our kids are completely comfortable in the language, and completely capable of translating for their parents when we can’t convey what we want. They can even joke around with waiters, cashiers, guides and hotel staff. Are we taking advantage of their newfound skills? You bet we are, but the kids make sure to poke fun at their baffled parents every step of the way.

Road Trip SPAIN 2016: Our Car

Our Spanish car rental

We considered driving through Spain for a full eight weeks — the kids’ entire summer holiday from school. In that time, we could cover many of the country’s major sites in both the north and south. However, we have one problem: we can’t rent a car any longer than 30 days. At least, that was the case for us in Valencia.

We looked into short-term car leasing options with Renault, Peugeot, and Citroen, but decided against it. We would have had to start in Barcelona. And there was a high “delivery” charge for the car since it probably had to be driven to Valencia from somewhere in France. In addition to the regular leasing price, the total price went way above our budget.

If you’re considering a European road trip in the summer, and if you start your drive from any airport in France, this could be a decent option to consider. But for us, it was out of our budget. Thus, we decided to shorten our road trip to four weeks and to explore only northern Spain, unlike our good friends Wagoners Abroad who are now on a two-month road trip around the country.

The Spanish road trip agenda…maybe

So here’s our rough plan: drive north-west from Valencia to Galicia. Then we’ll head east to the Principality of Asturias and the Basque country and then head back south down to Valencia. There is SO MUCH to see and experience in northern Spain. We are all very excited. Our road trip began on July 9, Saturday. So yes, we’re actually already on the road.

What to do in Northern Spain with Kids?

Northern Spain gets a lot less attention compared to southern regions such as Granada, Malaga, Sevilla, and Alicante. There has been plenty written about these places, but significantly less than the south. So we did our research, and there was plenty to do. There are many historically important sites in northern Spain, but we wanted more than history.

As of now, we plan to have a dip in some thermal springs in Ourense, enjoy the beauty of Santiago de Compostela, view the natural wonder of Playa de las Catedrales, and stroll by the beach in Santander.

Is there anything else you would recommend for experiencing northern Spain with kids? And unique activities? Any special dishes or fruits/vegetables we shouldn’t miss? Perhaps some place we should drive off the main road towards? Our schedule is fairly flexible, and we’re hoping to find time for some hiking, some wild swimming or some other fun nuggets of outdoor excitement. If you have any suggestions, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page.

We plan to update our travel on our social media as we go (as you might have already noticed). Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, and enjoy your virtual road trip exploring northern Spain with kids…join us!

Explore Northern Spain with Kids: Our Summer Road Trip 2016 PIN


  1. Oh, what a wonderful tour! I like very much north Spain, yess it is plenty to do, an surely fresher than south Spain 🙂 Landscapes and meals are sooo delicious there!
    Keep enjoying it!

  2. Dear Jason
    We would love to live in Northern Spain but never been there!
    We do not like too much sun and heat. Considering Vigo, La Coruna, Oviedo and Santander, San Sebastian. I am not sure if you decide to visit Vigo, Pontevedra and La Coruna?
    San Sebastian too expensive, renting a house costs from 2500 Euro a month.
    Let know please how you liked Santander? Is it as pleasant and vibrant as we have seen on the youtube videos?
    We love biking and beaches and culture (fiestas, festivals, museum, modern art, concerts, opera and musicals).
    Please let know your thoughts.

    • Hi Margret! We like the heat, but have to be careful of the sun. We drove northwest out of Santiago de Compostela and we’re in Oviedo now. On to Santander and San Sebastian later on. Happy to give you my (completely subjective and superficial) opinion once we check it out. We share interests in outdoors & culture. It’s one of the reasons we chose Valencia to live this past year. I’ve really loved Galicia and the Asturias for hiking/canyoning/wild swimming, but would not enjoy the cold, wet winter.

    • Quick follow-up, Margaret: of the cities you mentioned, we visited Oviedo, Santander and San Sebastian. I have to say that San Sebastian is probably the most impressive “beach city” I’ve ever been to, and it looks like it would be a fantastic place to live. That said, I’m not surprised at all at high rent. Santander felt similar, with the cultured/cosmopolitan feel that we like so much. That said, we were in both places for approx 48 hours, one of those days dedicated to surfing (Santander) and paddle boarding (San Sebastian). We love hiking and wild swimming, so I was charmed by the Asturias region the most — we spent a week in the area — including Oviedo — and I would love to go back tomorrow. Can’t say much about Oviedo the city, as we were on trails nearly every day! If I was thinking of moving to the area and wanted a smaller version of what I saw in Santander/San Sebastian, I would also give Gijon a look, too. We had a great day there.

      • Thank Jason for all your input. Yes Santander and San Sebastian are both nice we think, though I only know if from youtube videos.
        We now look at Pontevedra, however it is very hard to find a house to rent. Either houses for sale and someone alreay lives there or houses to rent for a few days or weeks only (they charge 200 USD a day and are fully booked from June till September and a few days in other times too so owners do not bother to rent for a full year!). I have spent hundreds of hours on the internet talking to agencies and house owners, but no luck (from June this year). We had a house almost booked, but an owner withdraw last minute saying he has someone interested to buy it. So I not not too optimistic. Myself and my 13 years old daughter are ready to downsize to a flat but my husband is less adventorous and will not agree to it. So it looks very difficult. My daughter is admitted to a local private school – very good one but no place to live! We wish you all the best in your adventures in Spain and hope to meet you all one day. Joanna, my daughter is crazy about Japan and Tokyo and wants to live there for some time. Started learning Japanese alrready (apart from her 5 hours on skype with a private Spanish teacher). God bless you all. Thanks so much for your views on Northern Spain! Margaret