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10 days- advice choosing additional city for solo trip

Hello! I'll be traveling to Spain for 10 days in late October through early November and would love some advice on picking a second (and maybe third!) destination. I arrive in Madrid the morning of Oct 26, leave from Madrid on Nov 4. I'm thinking that I'll spend Oct 26-28 in Madrid (leaving the morning of the 29th), then return Nov 2, with a day trip to Cuenca thrown in there somewhere.

I studied in Spain for 6 months a few years ago, so I have seen a lot of the "major" sites; now looking to fill my extra days (flexibly Oct 29-Nov 2) with somewhere new. The problem is that there are just so many lovely places to go! Right now, I'm debating between Bilbao, Logrono, Burgos, Valladolid, and Girona.

I am a 20-something solo female traveler who speaks Spanish. I do not want to rent a car, so I'll be relying on buses or trains. I like history and culture, so somewhere with interesting museums or historical tours is a plus. I'm introverted, but I do like the option of somewhere with decent bars/nightlife where I could meet other young people. Good food is also always encouraged. I live in a large urban city, so spending some time around natural landscapes would also be a nice change of pace. Taking all that, plus late October weather, into consideration, where do you think I should focus my travel efforts?

Do you think that it would be too much to do two cities/town in the time available? If I chose to do both Burgos and Valladolid, for example, might I be too rushed? Same question on doubling up with Bilbao and Logrono. What would you say are the pros/cons of each location? Is there somewhere not mentioned that I'm overlooking? Basically, I'll take any advice that you all have to give. Thanks!

Posted by
17907 posts

I haven't been to Valladolid or Logrono, though I passed through the latter on a bus. I liked all of the other three a great deal and believe any of them meet your requirements for history and liveliness, though a lot of what I observed in Burgos was seemingly pilgrimage-related and I assume there would be fewer walkers at your time of year. My trip was late-May through mid-August 2016.

Have you taken a look at the travel time to and from Madrid for each of your options? That may help you in your decision. With just four free days, I wouldn't want to travel to a destination that's 6 or 7 hours away, as is the case with Bilbao. Too bad, because the Basque countryside is lovely (though potentially cool and wet). The others seem more like 4-hour destinations, though connections to Logrono are not frequent. Traveling between Bilbao and Logrono offers skimpy rail options; bus might work better.

Girona offers the option of side trips to Figueras and/or Cadaques. The bus ride between Figueras and Cadaques is lovely.

Speaking of side-trips, AVE tickets to Cuenca (the only way it works as a day-trip) are extremely expensive at the walk-up fare. Check right away on promo tickets for that side-trip from Madrid.

Posted by
602 posts

The second part of this article is on the wine tasting region around Valladolid (Ribera del Duero), but has some recommendations for tapas spots in Valladolid.

Posted by
1997 posts

Hello! You have mentioned that you previously studied in Spain, so you may have already done this, but have you considered Salamanca? It has history and culture and since it is a University town it will have a more youthful feeling plus a vibrant nightlife.

Another thought, since you are traveling in the Autumn, you may want to head south? Merida is another option to consider. It is steeped in history and has some of the best Roman ruins in Spain. However, it is a smaller town, compared to the others on your list, so that is something to take into account.

Between Bilbao, Logrono, Burgos, Valladolid, and Girona, I would recommend Burgos, as it is the historic capital of Castilla and has literal layers of history. It also should be relatively devoid of foreign tourists during the time you will be there. Have fun and good luck!

Posted by
2930 posts

I’ll throw out Burgos and Leon. They are not that far apart and not terribly far from Madrid. Both are worth 2 nights. Even closer to Madrid are Salamanca and Zamora. I’m not a Valladolid, Logrono, or Bilbao fan, only because they don’t have much that interests me. Others enjoy them.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks everyone for all the advice so far! It looks as though Burgos is in the lead right now. Given that I like wine, perhaps Burgos and some time in Ribera del Duero would be a good combination.

Carlos-- thanks for the suggestions! I love the south, but spent a good amount of time there when I was last in Spain, so I'm hoping to check out the north this round. Salamanca is an interesting suggestion though. I have already visited, but it was only for a quick day trip. I saw the plaza and the cathedral-- do you think the additional sites and the nightlife are worth the second trip?

Posted by
1997 posts

Glad I could help!
If you do decide to go to Burgos, I think that some time in Salamanca will provide a nice contrast. For sure Salamanca will be livelier at night than Burgos. Since you were in Salamanca for just a quick day trip, you did not have the opportunity to experience the vibrancy of a university town at night. I would say that Salamanca definitely merits an overnight stay, especially since all the day-tripper’s from Madrid will leave at night.
Hope that answers your question.

Posted by
214 posts

Hola, with budget of 4 days it would seem to me that you’d want to keep the travel time to a minimum and maximize your exploring. Close to Madrid are Toledo, Segovia, Avila and, my favorite, Salamanca thereby keeping your logistical time to a mimimum. In Salamanca, I spent 2 weeks at a Spanish language school, with lot’s of time to explore and enjoy the city’s ambiance (as you can imagine it’s quite youthful). The University in Salamanca is celebrating it’s 800th anniversary and there is much to see - local guides can make a tremendous difference in your visit. Within an hour or so of Salamanca are a number of unique small villages, Mogarraz, for example is still medieval in its appearance and worth consideration. Buen viaje.

Posted by
7124 posts

I’d do something like this ...

Oct
26. Arrive Madrid. Train to Valladolid (2N)
27. Valladolid
28. Train to Burgos / Salamanca (2N)
29. Burgos / Salamanca
30. Train to Madrid (4N)
Nov
1. Madrid
2. Day trip to Cuenca
3. Madrid
4. Depart Madrid

Posted by
1997 posts

Hi – just wanted to synthesize some of the other ideas on this topic into an alternate schedule:
Oct 26 - Arrive in Madrid (2N)
Oct27 – Madrid
Oct28 – Madrid/Train to Burgos (1N)
Oct29 – Burgos/Train to Salamanca (3N)
Oct30 – Salamanca
Nov 1 – Salamanca
Nov 2 – Salamanca/Train to Madrid (2N)
Nov 3 – Madrid (Day trip to Cuenca)
Nov 4 – Depart Madrid
With this schedule you basically make a triangle starting in Madrid, then to Burgos, then on to Salamanca, and ending back in Madrid.

I agree that Cuenca should probably be a day trip from Madrid. Many of my family live in Cuenca and I have been there a number of times, so looking from a tourism perspective, one day should be enough to cover the town.
Definitely, you have some choices and think about and you have a lot of good advice all around.