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Spain what cities are a must

Hi Flying into Barcelona Oct-22, plan on staying 4 days? maybe airbnb, what are the best "active" areas to stay at?

also have 2-3 more weeks (besides Madrid for a couple of days) what other cities are a must go to ?

Even thinking about extending a few days and possibly going to Morroco.

appreciate any recommendations,

thx you

Posted by
27352 posts

Always, always extend if you can.

The thing about Morocco is that it has lots of fascinating cities, but Tangier (where folks go by ferry from Spain) is not one of them. It will take the better part of three precious vacation days to have less than a full day in Tangier. Why? Because the ferries do not depart from a Spanish coastal town you would otherwise be going to. It's a large time expenditure to get to a really mediocre city. The good news is that there are flights to Fes and Marrakech (two of the most interesting Moroccan cities) from many cities in Europe, so you don't have to tack on a few (inadequate) days in Morocco just because you're in Spain. You can combine a nice trip to, say, Fes and Marrakech with time in England, France, Germany, etc. So I urge you to forget about Morocco on this trip.

Spain has very many highly worthwhile destinations, but I don't label cities "musts". It really depends on what sorts of things you're interested in: museums (historical? art?), historic sights (what period?), architecture, outdoor activities, nightlife... You haven't told us what type of sightseeing/experiences most interest you, so I'll take a stab at this:

October should be a good time of year for Andalucia, which is extremely (unbearably?) hot in the summer. The three key destinations there are:

  • Seville (largest city there, needs minimum 4 nights, could use more)
  • Cordoba (ideally 2 nights; could use 3 if you want to relax a bit)
  • Granada (minimum 2 nights, could definitely use 3)

Other excellent destinations in Andalucia include Malaga (attractive coastal city), Cadiz (historic coastal city), Jerez (sherry bodegas and horse shows), Ronda and white villages such as Arcos de la Frontera, Grazalema and Zahara de la Sierra. Those are just the most-visited, sight-rich towns. There are other worthwhile destinations, including the Renaissance cities of Ubeda and Baeza.

Outside Andalucia you have these excellent and relatively quick side trips from Madrid (though I've spent the night in all of them and thought the time was worthwhile):

  • Toledo (historic capital)
  • Segovia (aqueduct)
  • Cuenca (ravine-hugging houses and a couple of good, small, modern-art museums)
  • Salamanca (historic university city)

Between Barcelona and Madrid is Zaragoza, an interesting, relatively untouristy city.

Then there are San Sebastian and Bilbao in the Basque country and Santiago de Compostela and other towns in Galicia--but these northern-coastal areas take more time to reach and travel through, and their weather is more conducive to a mid-summer trip (and even then rain is frequent).

Valencia, on the eastern coast well south of Barcelona, is nice but to me wouldn't be included on a first visit to Spain of just a few weeks. However, it has very fast rail service from Madrid, and that train line goes through Cuenca.

The weather is likely to be best in Andalucia, and as I wrote above, that's an area you really, really don't want to visit in the summer.

Of the places I've mentioned, all except the white villages of Andalucia are readily manageable by train (usually) or major bus line. The trains along the Barcelona-Zaragoza-Madrid-Cordoba-Seville line are extremely fast, and these's also good service Cordoba-Malaga, Cordoba-Granada and Seville-Jerez-Cadiz. Going to the Basque Country and/or Galicia (and the interesting points in between) involves more travel time and less being-there time.

Posted by
6622 posts

Acraven has nailed it, as usual. As for where to stay in Barcelona, I'd suggest either the Bari Gotic (old medieval city) or the Eixemple (modernist architecture, wide streets). Both are close to Placa Catalunya, the transit hub for the airport and various city locations. If by "active" you mean cafes, street life, etc., both areas would qualify. Bari Gotic is closer to Las Ramblas, the famous pedestrian street where tourists and pickpockets mingle.

BTW, you'll get more eyeballs on your questions if you repost them under "Destination Q&A" where there's a well-visited Spain forum. You're in a section of the forum intended for posting reviews of hotels, restaurants, and sights you've liked or disliked.

Posted by
24 posts

Wow! What great replies thx you acraven & Dick, most helpful. Yes I like historical sites the most and being slightly out of the outskirts of tourist areas. That being said based on your info I will forgo Morocco for another trip.
I will stay in Spain for as long as I can, using the train services, thx again 👍👍

Posted by
8206 posts

Our last trip to Spain was flying into Madrid, taking a bus to Granada and flying to Barcelona.

Spain is a very large country with numerous coastlines and vastly different regions. We found the country to be easy to travel in and the prices were much, much cheaper than some other countries like France & the U.K. The people are also exceptionally beautiful there.

We have also gone along the Mediterranean coastline in Spain and found the cities to be very congested--a sea of high rise condos. We like Barcelona, but otherwise will not return to the other southern coastal cities of Spain.

Posted by
6829 posts

I would also recommend heading farther south to places like Ronda and Cáceres. Ronda is north of Malaga and a beautiful town set above a deep gorge, with incredible views. Cáceres is in the Extremadura area, and has been a World Heritage village since 1986. It's also less touristed than the Andalucia region. The Old Town in Cáceres is one of the few relatively untouched medieval sections left in Spain. I was there for Semana Santa in 2006 and felt like I'd traveled back in time. There is also a lot of history here, as the area dates back to the prehistoric area.

Edit: Just saw that acraven also recommended Ronda, so consider this a second endorsement. 😊

Posted by
24 posts

Cáceres Sounds wonderful I’ll have to keep that in mind. Thanks 👍

Posted by
323 posts

Just bookmarked this, excellent replies. @acraven and @dick. Thanks so much!