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Tagging along to Essen, Germany and Madrid, Spain

My husband needs to make a work trip that will involve travel to Essen, Germany for 2-3 days work 3/23through 3/25 of March '22, then he needs to travel to Madrid to work 3/29-3/31. We are considering arriving a few days early to Germany (this part is flexible), and leaving Spain a few days after his work commitment is finished (likewise, some flexibility here). At this point, there have been no decisions made as to how long to stay where, other that required for his work. We are in our 60's, not triathletes, by any stretch. I was hoping for suggestions as to whether it would make sense to base ourselves around Frankfurt (anticipating arrival at that airport from U.S. for a few days before proceeding to Essen, or just base ourselves in Essen, and settle in for a week, maybe. I would anticipate there being a lot to do in Madrid, so probably no need to have 2 stops there, perhaps? Not entirely sure about the thought of car rentals.

I apologize that I have not “done my homework” yet, so right now I'm just hoping for a few general suggestions to guide my thoughts, or any large caveats concerning travel to/from Essen and Madrid. I will be tracking Covid testing/ infection changes as time goes by. A little nervous on that front. Thank you so kindly for any opinions provided!

Posted by
20797 posts

Madrid is a large, important city. I'm sure you could find ways to occupy your time, but many of us find it (aside from its magnificent art museums) a less interesting environment that a lot of other Spanish cities. In early April I'd be tempted to hop on the AVE (express train) and spend all but my last night in Seville. You could day-trip from Seville to Cordoba if you think that will leave enough time to absorb much of what Seville offers. Bonus: It should be a good bit warmer in Seville than in Madrid at that time of year--not that it's likely to be cold in Madrid. Another possibility would be to head Barcelona. It's on the coast, with daytime temperatures similar to Madrid's but (on average) warmer nights.

If you opt to stay in Madrid, I'd definitely encourage a day-trip to Toledo, a much older city.

Posted by
5324 posts

Great day trips to take from Madrid are to Toledo and Segovia.

Toledo was the old capital of Spain and Segovia has an ancient Roman aqueduct that was still working into the 20th Century.

Posted by
14773 posts

There's a lot to see and do in Frankfurt as well as several good day trips. IMO it's a highly underrated city. I know little about the area around Essen.

You'll have time to explore Madrid on your own, so I'd head to Cordoba or Sevilla. Well, I'd stay as long after as possible and spend a couple nights in Cordoba and at least 3 in Sevilla, and Toledo is also a great place to visit.

Posted by
5495 posts

I was hoping for suggestions as to whether it would make sense to base
ourselves around Frankfurt (anticipating arrival at that airport from
U.S. for a few days before proceeding to Essen, or just base ourselves
in Essen..."

I don't see a reason for rushing to Essen. MAINZ would make for a more enjoyable 2-3-day stay and is just 20-25 minutes from FRA buy direct train.

When you proceed jfrom Mainz to Essen, you should consider using the train route via Koblenz and the Middle Rhine Valley rather than via Frankfurt. It's a slower journey, but you'll be on Germany's most scenic train route. The tracks follow the riverbank closely and you'll be treated to some wonderful views, especially between Bingen and Braubach, the home of Marksburg Castle, a never-destroyed medieval castle. Tours of Marksburg take place year-round.

Posted by
5375 posts

Another approach would be to take a two-leg flight ending in Cologne. That's a great city, and a good base for nearby visits, and closer to Essen. Note that boat trips on the Middle Rhine may be infrequent in March. Try to download an off-season timetable. Check climate records, I've never been to Germany in March. The superb German train system makes your exact decisions unimportant in terms of local transport. Pick a place that has multiple sites that interest you.

Madrid is, as you say, a rich destination. I wouldn't hesitate to spend five nights there for a first tourism visit. Don't dismiss the idea of full-day bus tour outings from Madrid if you are hesitating to rent a car (or use a local bus to a nearby historic city.)

You need to prepare for unknown possible (future) Covid disruptions, of course, including transit to a second country. Make sure the employer has taken steps to prepare for some sort of "essential travel" declaration. I don't know if that would cover a spouse, however.

Posted by
92 posts

Oh, gosh! Thanks so much for all the helpful specifics. This is just EXACTLY what I'm looking for, especially which interesting things are near what. I need to continue to hone my preferences for "on my own" time, and bounce ideas off of my husband to agree on together time activities. I have quickly determined that a train trip between Essen and Madrid sounds like insanity, which is too bad, because I love 💘 those trains. I also had concerns about proof of negative covid results (we are fully vaccinated, boosters also) while stopping in a third country en route. Does that desire to see 'em all ever go away? This trip is probably a good time to tamp down that impulse.

I'm not sure what documentation the organization my husband is contracting for would need to provide with regard to essential travel.

Posted by
6508 posts

Why not stop somewhere between Germany and Spain, and break up that train trip? Plenty of interesting options.

Posted by
92 posts

Hi Stan-thanks for the suggestion. I pondered a stop in between, but was concerned about needing multiple negative covid proofs if a third country were involved.

Posted by
5375 posts

I don't want you to share too much, but there seem to be some unstated issues. This is revealed by the fact that you were not simply going to use the same travel means as your husband between Essen and Madrid.

Have you ever been to Europe before? Are you comfortable going to dinner by yourself if he has a business dinner? Is budget a big factor? Can you travel light, making otherwise annoying budget airlines possible for the long jump between cities? Do you care about cold or wet weather in March? Why did you mention Frankfurt in your OP?

I don't mean to challenge you! I used to go to Antwerp with my wife all the time, and I went on train daytrips and got back for dinner if she didn't have a business meal. I haven't been in Essen, but two possible daytrips are Dusseldorf (if you don't go there from Cologne) and Munster. I am also interested in Wuppertal, but that is a more special interest.

Posted by
3604 posts

March is still so far away...
Between Essen and Madrid, since you LOVE trains you could break the trip in Lyon, for example. It will mean spending 2x 8 hours on trains, but you definitely have time to see Lyon in between.
Or anywhere else between Strasbourg and the Spanish border, really.
By the way, if you are interested in trains, Wuppertal is definitely worth a quick trip from Essen. Google "Schwebebahn".

Posted by
92 posts

Thanks, balso, I will definitely google Schwebebahn- sounds like it could be a nice idea! Tim-no worries, my husband and I will be traveling together from Essen to Madrid. Frankfurt mentioned as assumed airport for arrival for hopeful nonstop flight from US. Arrival in Düsseldorf seems to require a stop in Geneva. Yes, I have been to Europe before, but not frequently-we made an unplanned stop in Antwerp last time, due to French train strike; it was a gorgeous train station! March is the time he’s got, no choice there. Not the best time, I’m sure- especially for traveling light :(

Posted by
1767 posts

Consider flying into Berlin. If you do visit Brandenburg Gate, the Berlin Wall Memorial, Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe and the DDR Museum. When you’re ready to go to Essen take a direct train (4h).
On Sat, Mar26 you can take a nonstop flight from Dusseldorf to Madrid. There’s a direct train from Essen to Dusseldorf Flughafen Airport (30-minutes).
In Madrid you want to visit the Royal Palace, Prado Museum and see Picasso’s Guernica and how he pieced it together. I would also go for walks in the early evening so you can hear how loud this city is. I would then take a direct train from Madrid to Barcelona (2h 45m) and you’ll need a reservation; this train fills up.
In Barcelona stay in the Barri Gotic (old town) and visit the Sagrada Familia, you’ll need to buy tickets beforehand. You should also stop by the Picasso Museum and eat at the La Boqueria Market on the Ramblas. Consider taking a direct train to Figueres for the day and tour the Dali Theatre-Museum (1h). When you get off the train follow the crowd of people because that’s where they’re going.

Posted by
92 posts

Marypat- Thanks for the tip on flight from Düsseldorf to Madrid, that may be very helpful. Also, thanks for mentioning the sights you enjoyed. I’m sure I will be inclined to squeeze in a art museum or two! Not sure about Berlin this go round, but I’ll surely keep it in mind as an option.

Posted by
27425 posts

the Schwebebahn is just a hoot. Upside down train which swings along the river like a pendulum,

I love it. It haven't been on the new and improved since it had trouble... I'm looking forward to it when we get back to travelling.

Posted by
92 posts

Russ- thanks again for your recommendation of Mainz as a stopping point for a few days between Frankfurt and Essen. I am considering either Mainz, Bingen (I saw you recommend this city in another post) or possibly Cologne for this stop en route to Essen. Could you tell me what you particularly liked about Mainz? It seems to get dismissed in the RS guide to Germany.