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2 week Spain Portugal Trip in Decemeber

Folks,

Our family of four (includes 2 kids 11 and 14) is planning to travel to Spain and possibly Portugal. We plan to leave USA on Dec 24th and arrive back on Jan 7th. We haven't booked the tickets yet but are looking at various options. Our goal is to visit Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granda and possibly Lisbon. Now, we have three potential choices:

1) flying in-and-out of Lisbon is cheaper by about 30% but we will be wasting quite a bit of time on travel itself. We will most likely have to follow Lisbon -> Seville -> Granada -> Madrid -> Barcelona -> Lisbon route.
2) Barcelona -> Madrid -> Granada -> Seville -> Barcelona
3) Barcelona -> Madrid -> Granada -> Seville -> Lisbon

Any feedback on these options or any other ones? Many thanks in Advance.

Posted by
17861 posts

You will have only 12 full, non-jetlagged days on the ground in Spain/Portugal. I think you're trying to get to too many cities in that time. It wouldn't recommend that itinerary even if you were not traveling during the period when days are very short.

I would drop at least one of your five destinations. There are arguments for choosing several of them for elimination:

  • Lisbon: because transportation links between Portugal and Spain are not good. You'll need to fly. Who wants an extra flight in the middle of such a short vacation?

  • Madrid: because art museums aside, it's not (to me) quite as interesting a city as your other options, and it may be relatively cool in late December (average high about 50F; average low about 38F). Barcelona, being coastal, is about 9 - 10 degrees warmer in December.

  • Barcelona: because it's a geographical outlier, though the fast trains make the Madrid-Barcelona run in as little as 2-1/2 hours.

  • Granada: because it's at altitude and will probably be cool at night (average high about 55F, average low about 36F)

You didn't mention Cordoba (worth more than a day but often treated as an easy day-trip from Seville) or Toledo (worth even more time but often treated as an equally easy day-trip from Madrid).

With the amount of time you have I'd be tempted to stay in Seville (day-tripping to Cordoba), Granada and either Toledo or Madrid (day-tripping to the other). I say that despite really liking Lisbon and adoring Barcelona, because I think it's important not to change hotels 4 or 5 times over the course of 12 days.

Have you looked at multi-city airfares rather than round-trip? For example, you could fly into Lisbon (or Barcelona or Madrid) and home from one of the other cities. That would avoid wasting a good chunk of your last full day in Europe just getting back to a city you've already been to. If that is not practical (for example, if you find an incredible deal on a round-trip fare that saves you too much money to ignore), I'd suggest moving on from the city where you land to another destination on your arrival day (when you'll be jetlagged and probably not very productive travelers anyway) and do your sightseeing in your gateway city at the end of the trip.

Posted by
2591 posts

If the kids are girls, the palace in Madrid is a must see.

Posted by
17861 posts

Well, I'm a 69-year-old woman and regretted the time I spent in the Royal Palace. I certainly wouldn't have liked it at 11 or 14. Just a matter of taste, I guess. I'm nuts for the modernista architecture in Barcelona.

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone for their very helpful feedback especially on Seville around xmas.
- We are thinking about staying 4 nights in Barcelona and Seville each. Not sure about the rest yet.
- We will skip the stay in Granada and instead take day trips to Granada/Alahambra.
- We also want to take day trips to Cordoba/Toledo from Seville/Madrid if it makes sense.
- We have two boys and they are not that much into museums/Art so Madrid is not a must-see for us. But it's very convenient geographically.

Unfortunately, all these flight choices are going to cause us to waste the last day of the trip just traveling.
- Round trip to Barcelona - Arrive around 4:30 pm and depart at 10am
- Arrive in Barcelona at 4pm and depart Lisbon at 7:10 am
- Arrive in Lisbon at 6pm and depart Lisbon at 7:10 am

Ideal flight for us will arrive in barcelona and depart from Seville but it's quite expensive. Any recommendations between these 3 options will be quite helpful to us.
Regards

Posted by
14206 posts

The only feasible day trip to Granada is from Malaga. From Sevilla or Cordoba, it's about 3 hours by train in each direction, by road 2.5-3 hours without traffic. It only makes sense to day trip to Toledo from Madrid. OTOH Cordoba is less than an hour's train ride from Sevilla and Cadiz is about 1.5 hours away. Jerez is another option, it's about an hour by train and you can visit the Royal Equestrian School and see a horse show but do check the schedule in advance, shows are only 2-3 times a week.

There's enough to see Spain so leave LIsbon for a future trip to dedicated to Portugal.

Can you find an option for Barcelona/Madrid flights? Then your only long travel day would be between Andalucia (Sevilla or Cordoba) and Barcelona. I understand you are only looking at airfares now, but it could be worthwhile to see how much your total train and air fares would be. The trains aren't cheap so eliminating one could make open-jaw less of a deal breaker.

Posted by
4600 posts

Too ambitious for two weeks.

We have been to Spain and Portugal multiple times. Two weeks is not enough just for Spain.

You need minimum of 3 days for cities like Barcelona, Madrid and Seville.
You can do Granada in one full day, but getting there will eat up more time.

Also, when in Madrid, you should take day trips to Toledo and Segovia. Further between Seville and Madrid is Cordoba that deserves a day.

Plan to visit Portugal on another trip and don't miss Porto and the amazing Douro River Valley.

Posted by
17861 posts

I agree with Chani: Look at using Barcelona and Madrid as your gateways. Airfares are highly origin- and destination-specific, so my experience may be very different from yours, but on my two trips to Spain, I found fares to those two cities far, far cheaper than those to places like Seville or Malaga. To avoid an unwanted last-night stay in Madrid, you could fly to Madrid and take a train to your first destination, returning home from Barcelona. Toledo would be ideal for your first night, because it's a short trip and the train tickets do not increase in price when you buy them on the day of travel. So you could spend a couple of nights in Toledo (to have one full day there), then go on to Seville. Seville to Barcelona could be done by air or by train; that's a train ticket you'd want to buy in advance in order to save considerable money.

Incidentally, trying to spend the last night in Toledo before a transatlantic flight home from Madrid is iffy, because transportation from Toledo may not start running early enough for safety. Having to be at the airport 3 hours before flight time makes that plan somewhat risky. I believe it's worse on weekends, but who knows what the train schedules will be like post-pandemic.

Landing in Madrid and spending your first night in Seville (or Cordoba, which is totally worth 2 nights) could work if you decide you don't have time for Toledo, but buying those train tickets after you arrive in Spain will probably be costly (Cordoba being less so than Seville). Buying them ahead of time to save money would force you to guess about a suitable departure time; the inexpensive advance-purchase rail tickets become worthless if you miss the train.

I also agree about not day-tripping to Granada from Seville. I found lots to enjoy in Granada, not just the (magnificent) Alhambra. But then again, I wouldn't travel to Europe in December because of the short days, so I may not be thinking about this the same way you would! There are flight options from Granada to Barcelona; there's also a direct morning express train that takes just over 6 hours.

There's so much to see in Spain; I wouldn't want to add the extra complication (and travel time) of squeezing Lisbon into this itinerary.

Posted by
1201 posts

a) You can certainly visit Granada as a day-trip from Seville, but your "expectations" need to be realistic. Firstly, you should only plan to visit the Alhambra in the time available (there is so much more to Granada, one of Spain's finest cities, but that will have to be for another time). Secondly, you should either drive yourselves or book an organised excursion - either takes you direct to the Alhambra entrance, whilst public transport will leave you on the other side of the city, with an additional "transfer" hassle needed. And, of course, you need to decide if the 5+ hours roundtrip is worth it. Personally, I might leave the Alhambra for another holiday and instead spend time at Seville's Alcazar. The latter isn't as famous and doesn't have the hillside setting of the Alhambra, but it is still pretty "wow".

b) For your flights, have you looked at Malaga's airport as a route in/out of the Iberian Peninsula instead of Seville's? Malaga is a much busier airport with many more connections, including to most of the British/European hub airports, giving possibly more (and better priced) options for the transatlantic portion of the flight, whilst also avoiding "on-land" back-tracking to Barcelona or Lisbon.

c) Of your existing three options, my preference (for no very good reason), is arrive Barcelona and depart Lisbon. Make Seville a stop between the two (from Barcelona by railway, indirectly via Madrid/Toledo if time permits; then onto Lisbon by aeroplane).

PS with two weeks available, I think you can even include Granada as a stop for a night or two if you really wanted. A key issue is where are you when Christmas actually falls and some attractions are closed?

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks everyone for their very useful feedback. We have much better idea of how to plan our itinerary now. I'll come back with more questions on where to stay etc in a month or two.

Regards

Posted by
547 posts

Looking at the map without checking prices of plane tickets:

If you want to include Lisbon, choice 3 looks like the most rational to way to do m so. This plan would involve 4 ground trips by bus or train (or car, but I don't rent cars in Europe). Or maybe you could do these cities in the reverse order.

Choice 1 would involve 5 ground trips. Choice 1 is almost the reverse order of choice 3, except that you would see Lisbon last and it would be a long schlep to go all the way from Barcelona to Lisbon.

Choice 2 is only 4 ground trips, but can you arrive in Barcelona and leave from the airport in Seville or Granada? Or could you do the opposite order, arriving in Granadaa or Seville, flying home from Barcelona?

If this matters, my plan is to see Madrid, Toledo, Cordoba, Granada, and Seville, in October. My plane arrives in Madrid, my flights leave from Seville.

For my own trip I found good prices on tickets from TAP Portugal airline, but I went with American because on all of the possible trips offered by AP Portugal, there are layovers that are under 2 hours, which seems dangerously short to me.