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7-10 days in Spain

We are 4 women traveling to Spain at the end of September. I would appreciate recommendations on a 7-10 day itinerary. We are able to rent a car. We love villages, art and culture and want to include Madrid and Barcelona. I’d appreciate any thoughts you might have

Posted by
4560 posts

If this is your first trip, with seven days, I would split it between Madrid and Barcelona by train. With ten days, I would add a stop in between at Zaragoza. There are multiple day trips you can do from the cities. The temptation to just use the high-speed train and visit the two main cities is pretty great.
If you truly want to drive and visit villages, let us know how much time you intend to spend in Madrid and Barcelona so we know how much time there is to work with.

Posted by
537 posts

If you're JUST checking out Madrid and Barcelona, then you won't need a car. You can take the train & metro to a majority of your destinations and taxi/car share for a couple of others.

If you do rent a car, Madrid and Barcelona are like most European cities, where parking and route-finding is usually a source of frustration. If you do want to explore with a car outside of Madrid, Toledo is an option. An other is, traveling Northeast of Barca, exploring the various sea-side towns/villages or going inland to Girona and Figures/Roses area. Traveling Southwest of Barca towards Valencia, the train travels along the coast; many commuters going to/from Barca live in these communities ride this so, no shortage of services and stops

Posted by
6743 posts

If this is you first time in Spain I’d stick with larger cities and get around by train. Which cities is up to you. If you prefer medium sized cities over larger ones like Madrid and Barcelona, then cities like Zamora, León, Burgos and Zaragoza might work. For smaller cities, Toledo, Segovia, Cuenca, Alcalá de Henares, and Lugo. From the larger cities you can also take day trips to smaller ones. Since Madrid and Barcelona seem to be high on your list, you won’t have time for other locations.

Posted by
609 posts

If you can take the 10 days then do Madrid-Granada-Sevilla. If you spend 3 nights in each it will give you the flavor of each city. We did it last October with a day trip to Cordoba and only use the trains. Just don't try to see it all or or fill every second of each day.


Posted by
48 posts

I really appreciate all of your responses. They have by very helpful I think we would spend two days in Madrid and two days in Barcelona. What would be the best day trips from each city. If we were to skip one of the big cities, which might it be.

Is it too much to try and see Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. I think it probably is based on your comments.

Posted by
6743 posts

In my opinion, yes, it is to much to try and see Madrid, Barcelona, and Sevilla. Stick with Madrid and Barcelona and take a day trip or two from each. From Madrid you could go to Salamanca, Toledo, Segovia, Cuenca, or Alcalá de Henares. From Barcelona, a couple popular day trips are Figueres and Monserrat. Adding Sevilla would add more travel time taking away from the already limited time you have.

Posted by
1194 posts

Hi from Wisconsin,
As always I am a wet blanket. This is what 10 days creates.
Day 1: you arrive and are jet lagged, evening walk about
Day 2 to 4 = would be three days in Madrid.
Day 5: train to Barcelona, move into new place, look around late afternoon/evening
Day 6 to 8 = three fulls days in BCN, and you will likely hit a jet lag recurrence about day 7, (if only for the need of a nap, to avoid being real cranky , nobody talks about this, but it happens)
Day 9: train to MAD, move into new place arrive later afternoon/evening
Day 10: get to the airport.

Personally, we like to have a few days in our city of origin, and a few days at the end of the trip in the same city. So instead of 3 days in Madrid, try 2 with the extra day tacked on at the end in Madrid. I would spend all 10 days in those two cities.

Madrid in particular has such great art museums, and so many neat neighborhoods. Each neighborhood with a chance to have a glass of something outside on a terrance. What a wonderful city, don't sell it short. BCN...again, what a great place. Sagrada Familia should take you a nice chunk of time. Casa Mila. The Ramblas...can gobble hours. Eating at the market. Picasso Museum.

What ever you do, slow down, enjoy the day,
wayne iNWI

Posted by
4560 posts

You really have endless options so I don't think we can really help you until you decide what you most want to see. Madrid plus Barcelona with a week means those two cities to me. If you want to save one or the other for a future trip, then big city plus smaller town becomes a possibility. There are no wrong choices, I think the only error is to try to pack too much in till it all suffers. I could go to a Spain for the rest of my life and not even scratch the surface!

Posted by
7836 posts

With 10 days you could do three cities, but with 7 days only two.
I suggest with 10 days Barcelona, Madrid (day trips to Toledo and Segovia) and Seville.
With 7 days, eliminate either Barcelona or Seville.

Posted by
27362 posts

When discussing a short trip like this, you need to be very precise about the timing. What does "a 7-10 day itinerary" mean? How many nights will you be spending in Italy, not counting the overnight flight?

If you can spend 10 nights actually in Italy (not including the night on the plane), that gives you 9 full days to explore. The first (arrival) day may be significantly marred by jetlag and/or sleep deprivation; people vary in how functional they are that day. The final, departure-for-home day usually doesn't provide time for much more than packing, checking out of the hotel and getting to the airport (3 hours before departure time).

If your 10-day maximum includes the day you depart from the US and the day you fly back, that's only 8 nights in Spain (just 7 full days to sightsee). There's no way I'd try to squeeze 3 cities into that period. I'd even be hesitant about day trips.

It's a shame to have a round-trip flight on such a short trip. It means you lose two half-days for relocating rather than just one. It would be a lot better to fly into Barcelona and out of Madrid, or vice versa.

Posted by
993 posts

I spent 5 nights in Madrid - I arrived in an evening, one day was a day mto Toledo. In Madrid i saw the Prado and then the Thyssun-Bornemiszma museums, the same day. I liked the 2nd even better, maybe because it has more old landscape paintings. I didn't make time for the Reina Sofia museum. I saw the Sorolla museum - yes it is worth 1-1/2 hours, look it up, its a museum of paintings by Joaquin scrollable y bastia, in his house. The museum of the Americas has some paintings and objects that could be thought of as art. The anthropology museum occupied me for about 5 hours. The Royal palace has annexcellent display of old metal plate-armor. I skipped Barcelona. If you have extra time maybe see Toledo as a day trip or spend a night there. Can you post a supposed day-by-day itinerary listing what sites you want to do?

Posted by
48 posts

I appreciate everyone’s advice. We have narrowed down an option for an itinerary and I would appreciate your thoughts. After looking at this itinerary, I have a couple of questions,
Is it worth staying in rioja area
Should we stay in San Sebastián or Bilboa
What are the best day trips from Rioja or San Sebastián/ Bilboa
Is it worth taking a day trip into basque area of France. Thanks so much.

Day 1. Arrive Barcelona
Day 2 Barcelona
Day 3 Barcelona
Day 4 drive to Rioja area and stay overnight - stop in Zaragoza for lunch
Day 5 day trip to Pamplona or Vitoria-Gasteiz.. overnight in rioja or move on to San Sebastián
Day 6 San Sebastián and overnight
Day 7 Bilbao ..Stay in Bilbao or San Sebastián?
Day 8 train to Madrid
Day 9 Madrid
Day 10 Madrid
Day 11 fly home

Posted by
537 posts

Hope you like driving because Spain is a big country, and you're going to be putting in some road time in the beginning of that itinerary.

Vitoria-Gasteiz I would definitely favor over Pamplona. While not at the Pisa level of over-rated, lets be honest, Pamplona is really known for its week-long festival in July. It's a nice place, clean and not overly commercial but, there's not much else going on. Vitoria I think has a lot to offer for the out of towner, layers of history and architecture.

I found San Sebastian extremely enjoyable and the best of Basque Country, besides being one of Europe's gastronomic (food) capitols, I thought the area has a lot of character. Two beaches with the town splitting the them in the middle makes for a pleasant change from the bustling metro-areas that make up a lot of Euro cities. Bilbao does have the Guggenheim, if you're into modern art, then that's your place to go. It used to be a major industrial center for Spain, however that's changed quite a bit, whereas San Sebastian has none of the big city feel. San Sebastian is a destination so, there's a definitely tourist scene however, get out from old town and things mellow out and you see the change.

Posted by
6743 posts

With so little of your limited time allocated to driving between Barcelona and San Sebastián, you really won’t have time to stop and enjoy to many interesting towns en route. It really doesn’t make sense to drive. It would be easy to spend 2+ weeks driving between those places. If you only plan on lunch in Zaragoza you may as well stop in a small town and eat. Zaragoza is large and parking isn’t necessarily easy to get to in the historic center.

Since you didn’t mention where in La Rioja you were going to spend the night, consider Olite or Logroño. If you’ve heard of Paradors, there’s one in Olite, Calahorra, and Argómaniz outside of Vitoria-Gasteiz. The one in Olite is in an old castle.

There are plenty of small towns with interesting sights in the Logroño, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Pamplona area that don’t take long to see, so don’t just go from point A to B without checking out what’s of interest in the towns in between.