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Spain and France - which order?

I’m looking at a trip over Thanksgiving plus a week, 14 days total (including travel). Flying into Madrid and out of Paris, or vise versa. I’m not sure which order is better. We’re flying from the west coast, and the flight to/from Madrid would include 2 layovers. Flight to/from Paris is (usually) one layover.

Options are:
Fly into Madrid, stay 2 nights
Madrid to Granada by bus/train, stay 3 nights
Fly Granada to Paris, rent car and drive to Bayeux for 3 nights
Drive Bayeux to Paris, return car outside city, taxi to hotel for 4 nights

Fly into Paris, taxi, then train to Bayeux, 3 nts
(Rent car in Bayeux on day 2). Don’t want to drive after long flight.
Drive or train to Paris for 4 nts
Fly to Granada for 3 nts
Train/bus to Madrid for 2 nts

Fly into Paris, stay 4 nts
Drive to Bayeux for 3 nts
Drive back to Paris, fly to Granada for 3 nts (May need to drive back to Paris the night before due to flight time)
Train/bus to Madrid for 2 nights

We are a family of 4 (2 teens). This will be our 3rd trip to Paris (1st for the kids), first trip to Spain. Not trying to see everything. Oldest son is WWII buff. Youngest is in a Spanish immersion program, so we want to give him an intro to Spain (our first trip there also). Musts include: Normandy, Versailles, Paris in general (not too many museums), Alhambra. We’d love to stay longer, but can’t.

I’m basing the trip around these airports due to cheap flights (<$600 from west coast). Which option would you choose? Any other suggestions?

Posted by
2770 posts

I guess I like option 1 the best. It seems like less travel. I think you might consider a day trip to Toledo because it is a much more cultural and historical city than Madrid. Depending on when you land in Madrid, you could even go directly to Toledo and stay there, its cheaper and Toledo is even better when the day trippers are gone. Unless you are comfortable driving from CDG, you could consider a train to Bayeux and rent a car there. To me, it would seem a whole lot less stressful.

Posted by
5385 posts

Consider that there are no direct flights between Granada and Paris; if flying with a party of 4 including 2 teens I would not want to take a connecting flight in this case.

Posted by
2770 posts

and Granada is tricky anyway because of the train construction work in Granada requiring a bus to Antequerra and train transfer. I guess there is a chance it could be completed by November. . .

Posted by
4946 posts


There are direct flights but only on select days of the week.

Posted by
2273 posts

The arrival day in Europe after a trip from the western US is always a wasted day in my opinion. That and the fact that I like to get my outlier destination (most multi-stop trips have one) out of the way at the beginning of trip leads me to offer a tweak on option 1: just carry on after you arrive from the US to Granada. You’ll use that “wasted” day to get to your outlier destination. Then come back and do your two days in Madrid and fly from a Madrid to Paris. You’ll have some risk, of course, because the flight to Granada will not be a protected connection. The benefits are (i) that you will have lots of flights to choose from both to get to Granada and later to get to Paris and won’t have to figure out if there are nonstop flights in November from Granada to a Madrid and if there are none, spend 5 to 6 hours, including the layover, getting from Granada to Paris and (ii) you will have put to good use that “blurry just landed and have jet lag” time.

Posted by
2937 posts

Less is more should you take our advice and eliminate stops on your 14 day trip.

2 days in Madrid is ludicrous. You can't do Madrid right, go to the wonderful Prado or take day trips to not to miss Toledo and Segovia.

You don't need three nights in Granada. One full day or two nights is enough.

Also, why go back to Granada? Fly out of Paris on an open jaw.

4 nights in Paris is not enough, but it is a start. Glad to picked Normandy, Bayeux is not to be missed, especially the 900 year old Tapestry about the Norman conquest of England. Not sure I would spend three nights there, but you could do that if you visited Mont St. Michel.

Some museums are a must. The Lourve is fantastic. Versailles is great, take the RER on your own.

Posted by
12635 posts

Can you fly to Granada instead of Madrid without adding a layover? That would seem to make it a little simpler. Consider how you think you'll handle the jetlag. Maybe fly into Malaga, spend a lazy day there, then take an evening bus to Granada for 2N. Instead of Madrid, consider going to Sevilla - much more interesting culturally/historically. Vueling and Transavia have flights from Sevilla to Paris. I like ending in Paris because it will be December and the Christmas decorations and markets should be beautiful.

If Madrid has to be your gateway city, is it really worth the extra travel time to see the Alhambra? Yes, it is the best sight in Spain, but you could see several beautiful sights instead - the Alcazar and cathedral in Sevilla, the Mezquita in Cordoba for a start.

Posted by
2770 posts

I guess I would say that you are trying to do the best that you can with a short time period and trying to satisfy multiple objectives. I would say, and I know many would agree, that Madrid isn't as historic and cultural as other cities in Spain. It appears that you are using it more as a way to access Granada. Again, I would probably suggest you stay in Toledo which is very close to Madrid over staying in Madrid, but that is your choice. I can see that teens may not be very interested in Madrid art museums. I wouldn't feel bad about only staying in Madrid for a couple nights so that you can visit another area. I also think that you can get a real good introduction to Paris in four days. With kids its not like you can pull them out of school for a month and travel at a slower pace like many on this forum are fortunate to be able to do. That said, you really need to take a look at travel times and the amount of time that you really would have to visit the places you deem important. I believe it was Chani that made the comment that you might pick a different city in Andalusia over Granada. I agree with her. The Alhambra is the biggest and I feel most important sight in that area, but Granada is a bit of a pain to get to right now. Sevilla is a lovely city and I'm not saying the Alcazar is on the level with the Alhambra, but its pretty great. There is a lot of different activities in Sevilla. I actually didn't like Granada as much as I liked the other cities we visited (tho again, the Alhambra is a great site) My favorite cities were Cordoba, Sevilla and Toledo in that order. Also, remember, every family is different and there is no one way to travel. Ages, budgets, stamina, time available, interests all vary by individual

Posted by
2770 posts

Also since Sevilla is a bigger city, the airport may have better options for you.

Posted by
200 posts

Thank you all for the wonderful suggestions. I’ve found a good airfare into Granada (<$700) so I think we’ll start there. Then on to either Seville, Malaga or Madrid (all have direct flights to Paris). Fly to Paris, rent a car and drive to Bayeux. Tour Normandy for a couple days, drive back into Paris (drop off the car outside the city), spend 5 nights (I miss counted originally) then fly home.