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13 Nights in Spain Itinerary

We are planning a January 2022 trip to Spain in and out of Barcelona for 13 nights. We were planning on landing and taking a train or fly that day to Seville and make our way back to Barcelona by train to end and fly home.

Seville - 3 nights
Madrid - 4 nights
Barcelona - 4 nights
We are trying to decide if Valencia is worth a night or 2 or should we stay longer in an area and see additional cities of Cordoba or Grenada or Toledo or Malaga. We have visited Italy and Portugual and seen lots of museums/cathedrals and want this trip to be half sites and half experiencing the Spanish culture.
Are any of the nights above to many? Are we missing any cities that are must?

Thanks for any help

Posted by
4697 posts

All the other cities you mention are fine, but you don't have "too many" nights in any of the cities in your present plan. I think you're much wiser to concentrate on them than spread yourselves too thinly among others. That said, Cordoba is on the rail line between Seville and Madrid, and it would be easy to spend most of a day there on the way in either direction. The Mezquita is an amazing example of Moorish architecture, and nearby are several other worthwhile sights.

You could save time by flying "open jaw," or multi-city on the airline websites. For example, if your inbound flight lands in Barcelona you could take another flight (allowing several hours in case of delays) to Seville, then come back to Madrid by train, then fly home from Madrid. That would give you about a day's worth of sightseeing on the ground. BCL to SVQ is about two hours, vs. 5+ hours by train (plus time getting from BCL to the station).

Posted by
18875 posts

I think you'll have time for a day-trip to Toledo while you're in Madrid. Especially if you're not big art-museum fans. Toledo is on a spur railroad line connected only to Madrid, so you can't just stop there on the way to another city (as you can with Cordoba).

As far as I'm concerned, for non-art lovers Madrid is visually less interesting than Cordoba and Toledo. For that matter, if you end up deciding one day of sightseeing in Madrid is enough, you could also day-trip to Segovia. Cuenca (medieval hill town) is great, too, but I think it's unlikely you be able to get a reasonably-priced, spur-of-the-moment AVE ticket to and from Cuenca, and that's the only way to get there fast enough to make Cuenca a viable day-trip.

There's a lot to see and experience in Seville; three nights is short there. You may still be suffering from a bit of jetlag on your first full day in Seville.

Edited to add: I enjoyed both Malaga and Valencia but they were part of a much longer trip to Spain. I'd rate them behind Cordoba and Toledo for sure, and both require considerably more travel time from the places you have locked in.

Posted by
3888 posts

I think what it comes down to is personal preference. I've been to all the cities you mention except Malaga and Valencia. Madrid is pretty and lively, and probably a must do if you are into art museums. I do like art museums, but I like other things more, and I will admit that the Spanish artists are not my favorite. I'm probably just not very sophisticated. I would vote for just two days in Madrid, one day being a day trip to Toledo (we did two days and an overnight in Toledo, but one day is better than none) and two days in Cordoba. Cordoba is an amazing little city and the Mezquita was astonishing.

Another option would be to keep it simple and spend the entire time in the Barcelona area. There is so much to do there especially if you look to the cities beyond Barcelona, proper.

Posted by
169 posts

Getting to a "farthest" point on your first day is usually a good idea. Also, consider a multi-city ticket - In to Madrid and home from Barcelona (or the reverse)..

Sort of like this: Assuming you have 13 nights on the ground.

overnight flight
day 1 - arrive Madrid train (AVE ?) to Seville nights 1 - 2 - 3 (gives you afternoon/evening and 2 full days)
train to Cordoba OR Toledo nights 4 - 5 (gives you an evening and 1 full day)
train to Madrid nights 6 - 7 -8 -9 (gives afternoon... and 3 full days)
train to Barcelona nights 10 - 11 - 12 - 13 (gives you an evening and 3 full days)

day 14 - flight "home"
when I did our planning - I had trouble finding easy, direct &/or quick transport from Seville to Granada, Malaga or Valencia... You might want to stay with "central" or a "coastal" itinerary. IF you are renting a car... route could be different.

OH and don't know of temps in January - might want to stay "south" and skip Barcelona (?)

This will give you a taste of Spain - and probably have you wishing for more exploring there.

Posted by
3208 posts

I don’t understand flying into Barcelona just to take a train to Sevilla the same day. It would be easier to fly right into Sevilla and save the travel time. Personally, you won’t miss out on much if you skipped Valencia. Córdoba and GrAnada are very nice cities each worth a couple nights or multiple visits. The advice you’ve been given by others is very good. What you like to do should help you finalize your plans.

Posted by
1017 posts

Dick makes a good point about flying into Barcelona or Madrid and flying out the other. I would add Granada and Toledo to the mix. Buy Rick Steves ES (Spain) guidebook (17th edition) that does an excellent job introducing you to the culture in Granada.
If you visit the Alhambra in Granada, buy tickets for the Palacio Real if you’re not that much into visiting museums on this trip. That section of the Alhambra is worth seeing.
You only need two nights in Sevilla which was my least favorite place in ES. Do sleep in the Barrio de Santa Cruz neighborhood so you can appreciate the culture more. I also liked getting lost on the back streets in the Triana neighborhood. Sitting with locals and watching a soccer game while eating tapas and drinking beer al fresco style was an enjoyable way to end the evening.
There’s not much to Cordoba’s old town, so if you’re not interested in seeing the Mezquita, skip it.

Posted by
18875 posts

I completely disagree with MaryPat about the number of worthwhile sights in Seville and Cordoba.

In terms of weather, Barcelona--being on the coast--is likely to be much milder in winter than Madrid. Central Spain can get quite chilly. Barcelona's average January high temperature is 9 degrees warmer than Madrid's; Barcelona's average January low is 11 degrees warmer. Now, those Wikipedia averages are from a period that cuts off in 2010, and I think we all know weather has gotten stranger and stranger. Plus they're only averages. So I always recommend that folks take a look at the actual, day-by-day, historical weather statistics available on timeanddate.com:

Barcelona weather January 2021

Madrid weather January 2021

I've provided links for January 2021, but it's really important to check multiple years. I usually do 5 years. There is a lot of year-to-year variation. I see that in 2021 Barcelona didn't generally beat Madrid by 9 to 11 degrees.

Posted by
3888 posts

I'm surprised to hear of anyone disliking Sevilla and Cordoba. Just goes to show that we all are different in our tastes. We were in Sevilla for 3 1/2 days and felt we did not have enough time. It is so festive and colorful. The cathedral, alcazar, triana, all the wonderful churches (Macarena and Triana's, were especially interesting), and the Plaza espanya! We would have been happy there for at least a week. Make sure to reserve the Alcazar at any time of the year. It was faster to get a ticket for the cathedral by going to the Church of the Savior first at about 9am and purchasing the combo ticket.

The Mezquita is my favorite of the Andalusia sites. In Cordoba, beyond the Mezquita, the houses with the patios, the Jewish quarter, the bridge, all amazing. We also walked into the newer downtown and ran into a fun market. We were there 2 nights and wished for one more.

Posted by
370 posts

“Hunched around a meander of the Guadalquivir river, a hundred miles or so upstream from its cousin Sevilla, Córdoba is refreshingly free of overbaked Andalusian brag and swagger. Córdoba is a quietly confident, and a confidently quiet city which welcomes its visitors with a warm handshake rather than a self-regarding fanfare.
Often overlooked by the international coach brigades, Córdoba only reveals its undeniable charms at walking pace. Once the third holiest pilgrimage site in the Islamic world, and before that the capital of Roman Hispania Ulterior, Córdoba wears its age and multi-layered antiquity well. Against the background of a sluggardly dark Europe Córdoba was once the very epicentre of all understanding and learning. At the close of the first millennium Córdoba was an illumined, pre-Enlightenment, full-tilt laboratory of trade, science and culture, a Silicon Valley cum Alexandria cum Victorian London without the fog and rickets. And now? As a university city the air of learning lingers.
Unlike Granada and its Alhambra, magnificently aloof in its eyrie overlooking the modern city, Córdoba´s main attraction sits plum squat in the midst of the city like a slumbering overfed pet. And, in contrast to the Alhambra’s fiercely steeped approaches, the Mezquita is connected with the modern centre via a web of gently graded lanes and alleys which trickle down towards the river through the JuderÌa, or medieval Jewish quarter."

Posted by
4697 posts

Wow, Bill, did you write that? ;-)

Wonderful description of Cordoba and the Mezquita, one of my top "unsung" favorites in Europe.

Posted by
2207 posts

Wow, Bill, did you write that? ;-)

It's a fantastic quote, but from the novel 'After Goya' (2011), which sums up my views as well, personally Cordoba is the best city in Andalucía. Cordoba was the grand historic capital of Al-Andalus for several centuries, long before Granada was even village.

Posted by
3 posts

thank you all for your replies and help. we will be going to some museums, sites, etc but also wanted to experience some out of the way places like we did previously in Tuscany. We already have RS's Spain book and read his research and looked at his trips. We just want to know if there are any cities/places off the beaten path should visit. We love trains in Euro and dont mind getting off at a stop between major cities.

Posted by
3888 posts

In some ways, I think you can think of Cordoba as off the beaten path, in that it seemed like the vast majority of people were there on day trips. The early morning and evening were delightful. In January, I'd be careful of "off the beaten path" locations. We were in Andalusia in November. We visited the white villages between Sevilla and Granada. They were lovely, however they all were very quiet which was really only a problem for us when we wanted a drink or meal. If you go to smaller, less known places in January you may find a lot of places closed. Just a guess.

I think you also could look for culture/off the beaten path type places within the well known cities. For example, I was intrigued by all the different variations of the Virgin Mary in Sevilla. (I'm not Catholic so I hope I don't offend) We were searching for Triana's which is one of the oldest in Sevilla, and we got into areas that seemed to be just locals. When we found Esperanza de Triana, the small church/chapel was full of locals stopping at the end of their day to pray. We thought it was fascinating. A couple guys went in for a few minutes and then headed into a bar. Other people went in with their bags of groceries.

I love visiting churches but I definitely know the feeling of being "churched out". On that trip, by the time I got to Segovia, I skipped the cathedral. Sometimes I take a pause and think about a church as a church and less so a museum.

Posted by
2207 posts

We just want to know if there are any cities/places off the beaten path should visit. We love trains in Euro and dont mind getting off at a stop between major cities.

Well funny you should say that, because conveniently on the AVE high speed line between Barcelona and Madrid is the city of Zaragoza, it's not in the RS guide and definitely off the beaten path. You could hop off the train and make a stop at Zaragoza for a few days, before continuing on to Madrid.

Zaragoza has more than 2,000 years of history including Roman ruins of the city walls, forum, and amphitheater, as well as the Aljafería; an 11th-century Moorish palace, the most northern Islamic palace in Europe. It's also the home of the famous pilgrimage site of Nuestra Señora del Pilar Basilica, housing the Virgin Mary of Pilar. I think it makes for an excellent halfway stop for 2-3 nights, plus day trips, like Loarre Castle.

I think that Zaragoza is one of those undiscovered gems that Rick calls "back doors". It reminds me a lot of Barcelona before international mass tourism really took off.

Posted by
18875 posts

Zaragoza is a good suggestion, but I also agree that there are plenty of undiscovered neighborhoods in the often-visited cities, and January is probably not a great time of year to go to some of the smaller places I enjoyed (Carmona and Arcos de la Frontera from Seville, Priego de Cordoba from Granada, Vejer de la Frontera from Cadiz, Grazalema from Ronda). In addition, those out-of-the-way places are likely to be over an hour away by bus, and you don't have a lot of time to play with.

Ubeda and Baeza in northern Andalucia are places of some size that remain mostly undiscovered, but the weather was chilly and wet when I visited the area in early April, so I am doubtful about conditions in January.

Girona (not undiscovered but probably won't have a lot of tourists in January) is a fabulous side-trip from Barcelona--though also worth at least one night--but I rather doubt you'll be able to tear yourself away from Barcelona. Girona is an affluent city of considerable size that just happens to have a large medieval district. Girona will not be shut down in January.

Posted by
3888 posts

Girona is one of my favorite cities in Europe (though the list is growing) and Besalu is a nice day trip by bus from Girona. We were in Barcelona and Girona in January a few years back. Everything in the old town area of Girona was open. Some places in Besalu were closed but enough was open so that there were restrooms and food options. All we really wanted to do in Besalu was wander the beautiful medieval city so the fact that there were fewer people didn't bother us in the least. The weather was absolutely fantastic. I'd say sunny and about 65-70 degrees F.

Posted by
4866 posts

Not a bad plan, but it involves a lot of travel. I suppose changing to open jaw is not possible.

Do not miss Toledo and Segovia on day trips from Madrid. Therefore you need to add a night in Madrid if possible.
Skip Grenada, Valencia and Malaga this time.

Posted by
370 posts

@Carlos Wow, Bill, did you write that? ;-)
"It's a fantastic quote, but from the novel 'After Goya' (2011)"… which I wrote.
Yes, I am the author of the novel, After Goya.

Yes, blame me for the rest of the novel, and its clumsy tracking from Málaga, Córdoba, Madrid, Zaragoza and Belchite (with a side mention of Barcelona) the best I could do at the time.

Currently working on a novel based in the North of England — though still wanting to see Goya in Spanish translation, and my Spanish/Catalan friends think a version of Goya could work really well as a streamed series.

Appreciate your appreciation. All the best.