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A few Spain itinerary questions

In the initial planning stages, haven't booked anything yet. We will likely have 10 nights (9 full days) in Spain approximately Dec 26-Jan 5. Family of 4 (2 adults, 2 teens); teens are great travelers, love walking and walking tours; food; historical sites and churches; don't like art museums. We are currently thinking of flying in/out of Madrid (can't seem to find affordable open jaw tickets from anywhere south); and visit Madrid, Cordoba, Seville and Granada. A few questions on my mind are:

  1. Which city would be better for New Year's Day, when almost everything is closed, Seville or Granada?
  2. We would like to stop in Cordoba on the way from Madrid to Seville. I've seen several recommendations to do that, but am wondering how you do that? Do you book separate tickets (Madrid to Cordoba for the morning, Cordoba to Seville for the evening?)
  3. We are currently thinking of 3 nights in Madrid, 3 nights in Seville, 1 night in Granada; with day trip to Cordoba (on the way from Madrid to Seville) and maybe a day trip to Toledo from Madrid (need to look at that). Given that we won't do all the art museums in Madrid I think a day trip to Toledo one of those days might be more enjoyable. That gives us a couple more nights to play with; suggestions?
  4. For those who have traveled to Spain with teenagers, can you share what they enjoyed the most? Any specific activities or sites would be appreciated.

Thank you!

Posted by
1522 posts

Hi Denise,

answer to your questions:

A) "Which city would be better for New Year's Day, when almost everything is closed, Seville or Granada?"

Seville is the ideal choice, more stuff to do and some places will be open.

B) "We would like to stop in Cordoba on the way from Madrid to Seville. I've seen several recommendations to do that, but am wondering how you do that? Do you book separate tickets (Madrid to Cordoba for the morning, Cordoba to Seville for the evening?)"

The AVE trains are all reserved seating. Your ticket is for a specific train, so you cannot just buy a ticket to Seville and hop off in Cordoba on your way. You will need to buy two separate tickets, Madrid to Cordoba and Cordoba to Seville.

For trains:
https:/…Buying.Renfe.Tickets.Online.html

C) For 3 days in Madrid like you mentioned you will do a day trip to Toledo, the other 2 nights just enjoy Madrid and see the sights. Some notable historical sights nearby Madrid to tour would be El Escorial and Valley of the Fallen.

D) In Seville, stay in the Santa Cruz are, your teens will love it there. You may not have heard of it, but Seville actually has a theme park, Isla Mágica! It is located in the area called La Cartuja and it is culturally themed. Here you can explore a Spanish galleon, ride the train to Potosi, as well as ride coasters and cool off on the water rides. There are also family friendly shows that the whole family can enjoy.

The Royal Alcazar is found close to the Seville Cathedral. Tell kids about the history of the palace before they go inside, as you are looking at the huge red painted wall with a lion’s crest.

https://www.alcazarsevilla.org/en/

Another great activity for kids in Seville is renting a pedal boat and heading down the Guadalquivir River. You can ride underneath the Isabel II bridge that leads from the center of Seville to the neighborhood of Triana and enjoy looking at the brightly painted buildings along the Calle Betis in Triana.

Posted by
2050 posts

Hello! Some answers to your questions:

  1. The best city in Spain for New Years Eve and Day is Madrid, but between Sevilla and Granada, definitely Sevilla, it will have more dinning and shopping options open on NYD, your best bet will probably be international foods like Chinese or Moroccan etc.

  2. There will probably be many people traveling during your time in Spain because of the holidays, so secure tickets ahead of time if you can. You would book two separate tickets as you will be taking two different trains at different times.

  3. If you have any spare nights definitely add them to Cordoba, the true charm of Cordoba comes out in the golden hours of the afternoon and evening, when all the day trippers are gone and you practically have the town to yourself.

  4. For the youngsters, consider skiing or snowboarding in Andalucia! Yes this may come as a surprise but Granada has some of the best skiing in Spain, located in Sierra Nevada range above the city. Look for Pradollano Ski Resort, just 45 min from Granada, double check the snow report beforehand. I think this will be a unique experience for the kids :)

Posted by
1698 posts

The post referring to El Escorial is a bit confusing, as it is not actually in Madrid - it is a half day trip away. With only three nights/two days including one for Toledo, I would definitely pass.
However, if you add a night in Madrid, I would prioritize a day trip to Segovia.
You could also turn Córdoba into an overnight stop, and you could spend two nights in Granada. This is how I would allocate the three spare nights.

Posted by
2050 posts

Agree with Balso, if you have only 3 nights in Madrid and are already planning on day-triping to Toledo (which is fantastic during the holidays), I would not consider El Escorial and most especially not Valle de los Caidos (an active Francoist regime monument).

To clarify my answer 3 above, if you have three extra nights, I would allocate 2 nights to Cordoba and add 1 night to Granada.

Posted by
90 posts

Thank you! These are really helpful tips. As I was reading the responses I realized I left out a question ... There are two things I think our family would enjoy in Malaga - the car museum and the hike at El Caminito. Does it make sense to try to do that, and if so, would it be good to do as a day trip from Granada? Or as a separate overnight?
Thank you for all of the good advice.

Posted by
18156 posts

If you want to see the Alhambra, stay on top of the ticket situation there. It sells out months in advance. Here's the official ticket website: https://tickets.alhambra-patronato.es/en/tickets-alhambra-general/. It shows no tickets [I should have specified that I was referring to the general tickets] available for December 25, 26, 30 and 31 as well as January 1. I am guessing the Alhambra is closed on those days. In any case, tickets are already on sale for December, and January will be up soon. When I was doing my own ticket-shopping earlier this year, it seemed that the early-morning time-slots went fastest--probably to tour operators.

To avoid standing in very long lines, you'll need a ticket-acquisition strategy for the Alcazar and Cathedral in Seville as well. Those tickets don't sell out really early, except for the private apartments at the Alcazar, but I don't think they are considered critical. The Alcazar ticket can be purchased online. I'm not sure you can handle the Cathedral that way (I haven't looked). Rick's guidebook tells you how to avoid the Cathedral line by buying a combination ticket at the Iglesia del Salvador. The Alcazar is quite large and takes considerable time to see.

Posted by
4556 posts

Denisek,
I'd like to add my 2 cents to the great advise you've already received by the previous posters.

I'd suggest you consider ending your trip in your departure city, to avoid changing hotels and breaking up your visit.

This is the route we took and it worked well for us.

We spent more days on our trip, but will suggest itinerary for your time frame:

  • Took AVE train to Córdoba on day of arrival - 1- 2N
  • Train, or ALSA BUS, to Granada - 2N
  • Train, or ALSA Bus, to Sevilla - 3-4N
  • AVE train to Madrid - 3N (if not interested in museums, definitely spend 2-3N in Toledo)

As pointed out by Acraven (upthread), it looks like there are no longer Alhambra General tickets for your dates, however, there are very few Dobla de Oro General tickets (for your dates), do book those tickets ASAP.

Here's the official website for The Alhambra for more information.
[BTW, The Alhambra is open year round except for December 25, and January 1.]

I didn't travel with teens to Spain, however, when we were in Toledo, I walked over to see the Puente de San Miguel, and there was a company that runs a zipline across the river. It sure looked like a fun activity! I found this video for you:Zipline in Toledo

Make sure you go to, "Los Italianos", for delicious ice cream when in Granada.

Enjoy your trip!

Edited to add... I almost forgot this!

I completely agree with Carlos' comment about Córdoba, and the same is true for beautiful Toledo!

If you have any spare nights definitely add them to Cordoba, the true charm of Cordoba comes out in the golden hours of the afternoon and evening, when all the day trippers are gone and you practically have the town to yourself.

Posted by
14227 posts

You probably need 2 nights in Granada. You won't have time to visit the Alhambra properly on your arrival day. The site is huge and there's a lot to see, probably closes at or before sunset at 6 pm. You could possibly start your visit first thing in the morning and then get a late train or bus to your next destination but that means stopping to collect your luggage on the way to the bus/train and getting to your next hotel pretty late.

There is luggage storage in Cordoba at the bus station across the street from the train station if you visit en route. Check the days and hours the Mezquita is open. If it's open on holidays, it will be closed to visitors during masses.