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11 days in Spain, need help planning specifics

I will be traveling to Spain in June and staying for 11 days. I will be traveling with my husband and 2 teenage children. It's our first time to Spain and we like to be busy and see as much as possible without planning too much and missing out on something special.

After much research and advice from seasoned travelers, I think we have decided to go to Barcelona, Seville, and Madrid. I have booked flights into Barcelona and out of Madrid so far. I need help planning the logistics of getting around most effeciantly. I am also wanting advice for how to split up time in each place. My original thought was fly from Barcelona to Seville then train to Madrid. I have also had suggestions to drive from Barcelona along the coast through Valencia with a stop in Granada before arriving in Seville and then train to Madrid.

If possible, the places that we would like to incorporate are Barcelona with possible day trips to Montserrat and ?, Seville, Cordoba, Granada, Madrid, Segovia, and Toledo. These seem to keep coming up from everyone that has given advice and all seem like lovely places. I would greatly appreciate travel suggestions, itineraries and thoughts on how to best break up the nights between the 3. My thought is 4 nights in Barcelona, 3 in Seville, and 3 in Madrid.

Thank you so much in advance for taking your time out to help me!

Posted by
4521 posts

Frankly, you are trying to do a lot over a very large geographical area, but David's suggested itinerary would work. Another option is to focus on a tighter geographical area that is better connected by rail. It gives you more time to see things and saves the hassle of flying. One possibility is:

Barcelona: 4-5N
Tarragona - daytrip on way to Valencia
Valencia: 2N
Madrid: 2-3N
Toledo: 1-2N

A few things to consider:
Montserrat is the type of place that you might visit if staying in Barcelona a long period or on your 3rd or 4th visit. Or if you are really into hiking. I would not recommend it for a first visit with only a few days.
Figueres to the Dali Museum might be a fun visit with teens. Easy daytrip from Barcelona. His work is wild and might entertain teens better than most things.
Barcelona has a beach that is crowded but would be fun for teens (if you have boys, they will like it very much).
Tarragona has some excellent Roman ruins, including a coliseum along the coast, walls and a very good, but not too large archeology museum. An easy stop on the train line to Valencia.
Valencia is a laid back city of a completely different character than the others on this list. Be sure to check out the science museum campus for the modern architecture. It also has beaches, though not near the city center.
Madrid can be a little boring compared to the others unless you are really into art. But its great as a base.
Toledo can be a daytrip from Madrid but is better with a night or two. The kids can get lost exploring the town (literally) and it gives you many layers of history, art and culture.
Another daytrip option from Madrid that teens would like is Segovia with its massive Roman aqueduct.

While Andalucia is amazing, it might be more worthwhile to save that for its own trip. It is better seen with its own 10-14 days.

Posted by
17907 posts

Although I don't think you have time to even think of another destination, I want to mention that Cuenca is a stop on the AVE (fast-train) line between Valencia and Madrid. It is an extremely picturesque hill town with houses hanging over a ravine. There's also a beautiful cathedral, plus two modern-art museums. If you are not interested in Madrid's art museums, I personally think Cuenca is a more interesting place for simply wandering around. However, the location of the AVE station, well outside of town, means that you'd have to budget time and/or money to take a bus or a taxi from there to the old town.

Posted by
73 posts

Madrid seems to get short shift a lot on these forums, but I have to say my teenaged daughter and I had a marvelous time there last summer. Some of the things we did that appealed to my teen:

Chocolate (Spanish hot chocolate) daily - Artisanos 1902 was our favorite, but San Gines in the evening was a fun place, too
Puerta del Sol in the evening to watch street performers (was told to beware of pick pockets, but with precautions had no trouble and it was a lot of fun)
Strolling through el Parque Retiro and especially stopping at the crystal palace there
Eating late dinners in outdoor seating
The royal palace
Museo Cerralbo - a sort of gaudy mansion with mirrors and a staircase that make very impressive Instagram or Snap Chat pics :)

A lot of it will depend on your own teens and their interests, but Madrid can be a lot of fun!

Posted by
88 posts

Thank you all for input. Sorry it took so long for response. If I did 3 nights in Barcelona, fly to Granada 2 nights, train to Seville 2 nights then train to Madrid 3 nights does this sound doable? This is the itinerary that I keep coming back to but don't want to be overzealous and plan too much. I'm not sure if/when we will get back to Spain so that's why I am trying to cover so much. With that being said, I want to also be realistic. Will I want to spend the night in Toledo or just do a day trip? Also, if I chose this itinerary, is this how I would best get to each place, how I have chosen plane/train?

If I were to just focus on Barcelona/Valencia/Madrid and surrounding areas can you give me an idea of how that might work? Would I drive that? What all can I expect to see along the way?

Posted by
17907 posts

I think your proposed plan would be frustrating to travelers who really enjoy museums (of which both Barcelona and Madrid have quite a lot), but it might be workable for others, as long as they just want to hit the highlights. It would feel rushed to me, but that's talking about my travel style, not yours.

Toledo is lovely as an overnight stop since it is much more peaceful after the heavy day-trip traffic dissipates, but it's workable as a day-trip, being only about 30 minutes from Madrid. However, it does take a good bit of time to get from the train station to the historic district if you're walking.

I haven't been to Valencia, but I think most people would agree that it can't compete with Barcelona, Madrid (and its fabulous side-trips) and Andalucía. On an 11-day visit, Valencia wouldn't make the cut for me.

Posted by
11203 posts

"3 nights in Barcelona, fly to Granada 2 nights, train to Seville 2 nights then train to Madrid 3 nights does this sound doable? "

I'll answer your question with a question. If you were visiting the US for the first time, how would you feel about an itinerary that had you in New York for 3 nights, New Orleans for 2 nights, Disney World for 2 nights, and Washington DC for 3 nights? Some would find this very exciting (and they're certainly all worth visiting, and quite different from each other, just as your Spain destinations are). Others would find this exhausting and frustrating (just as you start getting into a place, you're leaving - not to mention the time spent in transit relative to the time spent actually seeing places).

Only you can say if this kind of trip is the kind you want. But make no mistake - my proposed US trip is the equivalent of what you are proposing for Spain. If that's not the kind of trip you want, you HAVE to drop something.

I only get 10 days for most of my trips, so I do realize how hard it is to cut things.

As for travel between cities, the methods you listed will be the fastest and easiest.

Posted by
88 posts

Thank you to those that as stayed relevant to the topic and giving me suggestions. To those that are not here to contribute any advice, please refrain from commenting. The proper comparison would be seeing Dallas, Austin, and Cirpus Christi Texas considering that Spain is roughly 3/4 the size of Texas. I am not looking for comparisons of Spain to the US, I am quite aware.

I was hoping to get help planning my trip on this website, not counterproductive posts. Thank you to those who have stayed on topic. I greatly appreciate the help to best plan my itinerary.

Posted by
2530 posts

What are you expecting to see in each of those places?

Posted by
2256 posts

You haven't given us very much of an idea what type of sites and experiences your family really likes most, so it is hard for us to advise which cities you might enjoy most, and for how long. The outstanding reason to visit Granada is certainly the Alhambra, so if Moorish architecture and history are important to you all, certainly you should include this visit. But if not, you would be devoting quite a bit of time (and some money) to include Granada, rather than someplace different. Likewise, while Madrid is a large city with much to do, its most outstanding sites are the Prado and two other excellent nearby art museums. If art museums do not excite your family, then you might think of just staying your last night near enough to the Madrid Airport (even in Toledo) to catch your flight. Everyone has different interests and tastes, you may have varied interests just within your family. I was in Spain for the first time for a month this past April-May, and for me, while I enjoyed Madrid, I enjoyed it less than any other wonderful place I visited. It does not have the lengthy history of the other cities, and I myself love architecture but have limited attention span for museums focused on paintings. Barcelona and other nearby places in Catalunya offer so many diverse things to see and do, you could consider spending more time based in one lodging there, rather than spending so much time in transit and checking in and out of lodging. In general, every time you move cities and lodging, you give up a half day, sometimes more, of your trip. Happy planning, you really can't go very wrong in your choices.

Posted by
73 posts

(don't know what I did to get the strange formatting, much less how to fix it, sorry!)

I don't know if this will be helpful or not, but I'll paste in from another post what my teenager and I did last summer. We were there a few more days than you but also added some locations, so I think the time/sites breakdown would still be similar:

We recently did a 14 day trip in Spain starting in Madrid and ending in Barcelona and had a fabulous time! Our agenda, of course, reflected our own interests but since it worked so well for us I'm pasting it here as one example of what's possible. We packed a lot in, but we're pretty energetic and the schedule fit us well.
Day 0: arrive Madrid in the evening, explore Sol
Day 1: Madrid: am El Escorial, pm Madrid (Renia Sofia, the Prado, Parque Retiro)
Day 2: Madrid: had planned to go to Toledo but enjoyed Madrid so much we decided to spend a second day exploring (Museo Cerralbo, back to the Prado, etc.)
Day 3: Madrid to Cordoba on AVE train in the morning, afternoon/evening exploring Cordoba
Day 4: Cordoba to Granada: am more exploring in Cordoba, afternoon bus to Granada, pm Granada (Royal Chapel and evening Alhambra tour)
Day 5: Granada to Sevilla: am Alhambra and Generalife, afternoon bus to Seville, pm explore Seville
Day 6: Sevilla (Royal Alcazar, Palace of the Countess of Lebrija, Palacio de las Dueñas, Archivo General de Indias, and pm Flamenco show, sunset carriage ride in the park)
Day 7: Sevilla to Madrid: am Cathedral and Basilica de la Macarena in Seville, afternoon AVE to Madrid, late afternoon tour of Royal Palace in Madrid
Day 8: Madrid to Costa Brava: am AVE to Barcelona, walk in Barcelona, short bus to our Costa Brava town, pm walks along old city and beach
Day 9: Costa Brava
Day 10: Costa Brava to Barcelona: am swimming, early afternoon bus to Barcelona, pm tickets to Park Guell
Day 11: Barcelona: organized tour surrounding historic towns
Day 12: Barcelona: Sagrada Familia, Casa Pedrera, Palace of Music tour, evening train to Tarragona (we were going to spend the rest of our time in Barcelona but weren't really loving it like some people do)

Day 13: Tarragona: am exploring sites and wading in the sea, pm train to Barcelona and airport, late evening flight out of Spain

Different travel forums have different "personalities" and I'm sure you've noticed this one, I think, tends to lean toward 1) slow "hanging out" type of travel itineraries and 2) a general preference for Barcelona and less love for Madrid. For my daughter and I, our busy trip was just perfect and Madrid was a favorite location. Of course it's your trip and only you know what will be best for you and yours. That's something to take in with suggestions, what makes one person's great vacation may be the opposite for another person. To each his own!

If any of this is helpful and you'd like more info on anything we did, just ask! I know just because my daughter is a teen and you're traveling with teens doesn't mean the same trip would be a wonderful for yours as it was for mine, but for what it's worth, this trip to Spain was a glorious vacation for her and me, just fabulous!

Posted by
88 posts

thousandsofkates- Thank you for sharing your trip with me. I realize everyones likes are different, I should have specified more of what our interests are. I have never encountered comments like this on any other site. Too bad there are always bad apples, but I appreciate you giving me your insight...

My family and I are looking to experience as much of Spain as we can, without being totally ridiculous. With that being said, we enjoy being busy and don't need much downtime as we are very active. We are not museum people but want to see the popular sites; sagrada familia, soccer stadium tour, walk the famous streets etc. We also realize that the different regions of Spain will each give us a totally different feel; hence the reason we would like to get a taste of several. My teens don't seem too interested in seeing the Alhambra so maybe we will skip Granada. From my research, I think that we will really enjoy Barcelona and the surrounding areas.

I have already booked my flight arriving in Barcelona the morning of June 1 and leaving Madrid the afternoon of June 11. I am thinking of staying 4 nights in Barcelona, flying to Seville and staying there for 3 nights (possibly 2 nights and one in Cordoba on way to Madrid) then train to Madrid for 3 nights( possible overnight from Madrid in Toledo). Wanting to know if this sounds like the correct mode of transportation, and advice on activities in each place based on my likes and popular sites and activities. I have 10 nights total so that is flexible, but my nights into Barcelona/out of Madrid are already set.

I am also looking for recommendations for hotels/apartments in each place. Thank you for your advice and insight!

Posted by
73 posts

With your interests, your night breakdown sounds like a decent plan. And I would recommend the night in Cordoba on the way to Madrid since it's on the same Ave line and that would save you from taking the time to double back to Seville or store your luggage.

As for areas to stay, I'd highly recommend in Madrid getting lodging near Puerta del Sol--you'll have easy access to the Metro and it's a nice area for eating and people watching, full of activity in the evening. It's also nicely central so easier if you want to stop in in the day and drop things off or grab something. We stayed at Hotel Palacio San Martin and thought it was perfect, but you'll also find other good suggestions if you look through past threads on this forum.

Along the same lines, I'd recommend staying in Seville as close as you can to the Cathedral and lower end of Ave. de la Constitution. You'll be in walking distance to most of the major attractions and an easy taxi stand for others. Plus, like Sol, that area is nice in the evening with musicians and dancers, and lots of activity. The light colored buildings and statues are divine in the moonlight. We stayed at Hotel Palacio Alcazar which was clean and decent and a great location, although other posts rave about other hotels in the area, so you'll want to check that out, too.

In Cordoba, we stayed at a nice little hotel near Plaza de la Corredera, but if we were doing it again I think I might try to get something closer to the Mezquita. Out hotel was a pleasant and fairly short walk, but Andalucia is HOT in the summer and I think it would have been nice to have a place a little closer by the major sites, if for no other reason than to have easy access to an air conditioned break spot now and again.

I'll let others weigh in on Barcelona or, again, you can look at past threads. Our hotel was on the lower end of Las Ramblas and very convenient location that way, but it was a little dingy and the location was good for getting places but not particularly special.

Good luck with your planning! Sounds like it's going to be a wonderful trip.

Edited to add, I wouldn't wait too long to book something in Barcelona--our trip was July not June, but we found hotels in Barcelona in the summer book up FAST!

Posted by
88 posts

TOF- Thank you for the input! I am seeing that with Barcelona. My friend rented a wonderful B and B there in October. Many people have told me to not use air B and B but habitat doesn't have a whole lot to offer at this point in June. Any experience with air BB in Spain?

Posted by
1 posts

For lodging try VRBO or homeaway for vacation rentals. I like them much better than Air BnB. Good luck.

Posted by
17907 posts

I don't know how far along it is in the enforcement process at the moment, but Barcelona is trying to crack down on Airbnb rentals of entire lodgings. As far back as last August there were brochures in the tourist office with a title like "Be sure your Barcelona lodgings are legal". Aside from the pure legalities involved, the issue is that you might find a perfect place and think you are are all set, then have the rental canceled at the last minute because of what's going on in Barcelona. You'd then be scrambling to find a replacement place to stay at an affordable price.

Posted by
867 posts

We just used Airbnb in Cordoba, Granada, and Seville. All great in different ways. Not relevant to Madrid or Barcelona, but ours all had paperwork like a hotel does and worked well for us. Of course, you have to do your due diligence just like with a hotel.