My girlfriend and I are traveling to Spain for the first time late March/early April for 10 days. We fly into Madrid and out of Barcelona. Since it is our first time, we aren't quite sure if we should spit our time between the two cities and do small day trips, or if we should try and carve out some time to see another city like Bilbao or Seville. We also thought about truly getting away and going to Mallorca for a couple days in the middle of the trip.
With 10 days, I would not go in the opposite direction to Bilbao; and depending on your interests, you might skip Madrid and go straight to Seville. You could fly direct to Mallorca from either Madrid or Seville and then fly from there to Barcelona.
The easiest day trips from Madrid are to Toledo and Segovia depending on your interests. We went to Montserrat from Barcelona on a day trip. You have to research each city in guide book or in https://wikitravel.org/en/Main_Page to pinpoint your interests and base your decision on where to spend your time/money on that.
Do the 10 days include arrival and departure days?
Ten days is good for 2 cities and day trips.
You will loose 1/2 day when you travel.
The 10 days exclude the arrival and departure days. We have 10 full days to explore.
I too would agree with Jazz+Travels. Several years ago we toured Portugal and then ended going the opposite direction to Madrid>Barcelona. We spent 4 nights in each city. We did a day trip to Toledo from Madrid. (You might consider Segovia as well). We took the train from Madrid to Barcelona. We felt we had enough time to visit our points of interest. If we return to Barcelona we would add the city of Girona that we missed the first time.
If you haven't already done so, I highly recommend buying some good guidebooks, such as Michelin Green Guide, Rough Guide, Lonely Planet, or Rick Steves so that you know what each city/location offers. And what are your interests? Do you like art museums, architecture, Moorish history, etc. Are you foodies? I can't help with Mallorca. I guess whether or not you should go there depends on flight schedules and how long it takes to get there. But I can take a stab at some possible itineraries.
Firstly, I plan my trips by nights. So I will assume you have 10 nights on the ground. If not, you can adjust accordingly. If you like art, then I am sure you will like Madrid, which has some outstanding art museums, along with the Palacio Real, Retiro Park, Mercado San Miguel, to name a few. So perhaps 5 nights in Madrid, especially since you will be dealing with jet lag in Madrid when you arrive. You could visit Toledo as a day trip from Madrid, or depending on how much Madrid interests you, you could spend 4 nights in Madrid and one night in Toledo. Toledo is extremely crowded during the day with day trippers, so spending a night there is very rewarding when it's quieter and the city is beautifully illuminated.
After Madrid/Toledo, you can take the AVE train to Barcelona and spend 5 nights there. Barcelona has tons of interesting sites, especially the unique Gaudi architecture, and many of them need to be booked in advance.
Seville is a gorgeous city and has lots of Moorish history and architecture, along with lovely parks, plazas, and fountains. The Alcazar was one of the highlights for me. I think Seville deserves a minimum of 3 nights, and 4 nights would be better. And March/April is a nice time to visit Seville weather-wise because it is extremely hot during the summer months.
So, if you want to include Seville, a possible itinerary would be Madrid (3 nights), Seville (3 nights), and Barcelona (4 nights).
We are both very into art, and architecture. She is a graphic designer who studied art in college and I am also into photography. We are also fairly big foodies. We also want to get away and get to a quiet beach for a small part of the trip.
I would love to see Seville this trip, but want to give the city ,and that area in general, the time it deserves.
Semana Santa (huge in Andalucia) begins on April 5. It sounds like you'll be in Barcelona by then.
Most of the art in Madrid in European painting. If that interests you, you'll want 1.5 days or more for the Prado (full day), the Thyssen and the Reina Sofia (2-3 hours each). Toledo is a possible day trip from Madrid, but much better as a 1-2 night stay. It's a 1/2 train ride on a spur line, so it's pretty easy to get to Barcelona from there. Or to go there from the airport, then Madrid. Barcelona is chock-full of moderisme architecture and interior design. There's also the excellent MNAC art museum (3 hours at least). The Dali Theatre and Museum is a day trip from Barcelona, and you can also stop to see lovely Girona (medieval center) on the way back. Barcelona has beaches. You can take the metro a bit out of the center to find more quiet beaches. The water will be icy cold still (Mallorca too), but there should be days warm enough for sunbathing.