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Barcelona-Seville-Madrid- May 2020- Itinerary Assistance Requested

We are a family of 4 adults visiting Spain May 13-May 28. We fly into Barcelona and will stay until May 18 when we fly to Seville. On May 22 we will take the train to Madrid and then fly home from here. ( 1 of us flies home on 5/27, the others leave on 5/28) One member of our group has limited walking ability and will primarily be using a wheelchair. This is our first trip to Spain, but not our first trip to Europe.
We could use some itinerary planning help and also some guidance about on whether to visit the Alhambra or the Mezquita on May 20th.
This is our itinerary so far:
Barcelona-We are staying in Eixample area
May 14- a 4 hour private tour is booked that will include the main areas of the city
Between May 15 to 17 we would like to tour the Sagrada Familia, Casa Mila, Palace of Catalan Music ( maybe see a concert)
We’d like to try and fit in Parc Guell (we know parts are inaccessible to the wheelchair and renovations are currently underway), Museum of Catalan Art and/or the Picasso Museum ( however we are thinking we will have plenty of opportunity for museums in Madrid) Barcelona Cathedral , and Boqueria Market .
May 18 we fly to Seville and arrive early afternoon. We are staying in the Arenal district
May 19 we are thinking of booking a walking tour in the morning and seeing the Cathedral on our own in the afternoon.
May 20- this is our dilemma – (keep in mind one family member has a physical disability). Do we book a private tour of the Alhambra and take the train to Granada or take the train to Cordoba and visit the Mezquita? The Patio Festival will end on May 17 so if we go to Cordoba we are hoping we can still enjoy some of the patios. We do realize that this is somewhat a personal preference question (Alhambra or Mezuita)- but in the opinion of those who have visited these sites what would be your guidance in how we schedule this day?
May 21 we have a private tour of the Real Alcazar booked.
While in Sevilla we will also see a flamenco show and get massages!
May 22 take the train to Madrid. We are staying in the Gran Via area.
We have a food tour scheduled the night we arrive.
May 23, 24, 26, 27- During these days we will visit the Prado, Reina Sofia (closed on Tuesday) the Royal Palace , El Retiro, Thyssen-Bornemisza and the Museum Sorrolla. We might also book a walking tour.
May 25 we have a private tour of Toledo scheduled. We do know this might be a challenging visit with the wheelchair and the tour guide is aware.
All tour guides that we booked are RS recommended.
We are trying to have a daily plan to include at least one major site, but also allow enough free time to enjoy. It is not uncommon for the family member with the disability to take a rest during the day so we will need to assist him in getting back to our rental and then the other 3 can go on their own.
Any guidance that can be provided on planning and suggestions for our daily itinerary as well as input for May 20th would be greatly appreciated. We know we have to reserve tickets in advance.

Posted by
2270 posts

Here are my thoughts, based on a 2017 trip to Spain:

I would make time to see the Saint Pau Modernista site in Barcelona. It's about a 10 minute walk from the Sagrada Familia. A world away from the chaos of SF - it was my favorite place in Barcelona. I don't think the trip from SF to Saint Pau would be a problem for someone in a wheelchair. We also saw a Flamenco performance at the Palace of Catalan Music - 2nd favorite place in Barcelona.

I decided against the trip from Seville to Granada, or to Cordoba, and visited Cadiz instead. To me, the trip from Seville to Granada was just too long for a day trip, and I preferred Cadiz to Cordoba. I would go with Cordoba.

With your itinerary, it's hard to go wrong!

Posted by
2171 posts

I may be in the minority, but I found Cordoba with its Mezquita more enjoyable than Granada with its Alhambra. I think this quote from the novel After Goya, kindly shared by fellow forum contributor Bill, perfectly sums up my reasoning:

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
30 posts

I’m in the same boat as Carlos as far as preferring the Mezquita and Cordoba slightly to Granada and the Alhambra, although both are wonderful sites, and I also suspect that opinion is in the minority. Aside from that, I think that to do an out and back trip all in one day is really only feasible with Cordoba. Have you checked train schedules yet? They won’t have posted for May yet but you can look at the same travel day of the week (a Wednesday?) over the next month or so to get an idea of what your choices will be. You can count on about 3-ish hours to get to Granada vs 45 min each way for Cordoba. It looked to me like your earliest possible arrival time into Granada would be about 1045, meaning you could maybe book tickets for the Alhambra for about noon. I would want at least 4 but probably more like 5 hours to comfortably see it, and would also need a break at some point in the day for food.
Heading to Cordoba gives you many trains per day as options and would save 4-5 hours of total travel time which you could use to actually see some of the town. We really loved it and found the patios to be beautiful even way out of season. I hope someone can give you specific feedback on wheelchair accessibility of those sites. My gut feeling is that the Mezquita would also have the edge there vs all of the ups and downs of the Alhambra. If you do end up going for the Alhambra on the day trip or rearranging your trip elsewhere to fit it in, be aware of how early the tickets go on sale and be sure to grab the day and time you need as soon as they are available.

Posted by
114 posts

I have to agree with the others. I don't think going to Granada to see the Alhambra as a day trip from Seville is a good idea. It's too far and the Alhambra takes many hours to see. Go to Cordoba and see the Mezquita. Cordoba was our favorite city of our trip to Spain, so if you could stay one night there, it would be worth it!

Posted by
14267 posts

Barcelona - Skip the Picasso Museum. Even when it's not crowded, there are so many people there that it will be difficult to see much, especially with someone in a wheelchair. The rooms are small and, frankly, the collection is not impressive. On the other hand, MNAC is a wow. I'd allow at least 3 hours and most of the collections are nothing like those in the art museums of Madrid. You might consider going to the Santa Caterina Market instead of La Boqueria. It's less touristy - it's where the locals shop. I would also encourage you to consider San Pau. It was a hospital, so it should be suitable for a wheelchair. It's about a 15 minute walk from La Sagrada Familia, as I recall it is slightly uphill.

Cordoba - like others, I think this is more suitable, for both physical and time restraints. I wouldn't count on seeing the patios - most are private and only open to the public during the festival. However, there is a lovely sight, Palacio de Viana which has 7 patios to explore. You can skip the house tour, not as interesting. Allow some time to wander the Juderia as well.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you everyone for your insight and suggestions. All sound good to consider. Despite the desire to go to Granada, it does seem that going to Cordoba would be the better option.

Posted by
18746 posts

To expand a bit on Chani's suggestion of the MNAC in Barcelona: It has two special collections you won't find in Madrid. The modernism collection has furniture, jewelry and decorative arts from the same era as the city's modernista architecture. Then there are the stunning medieval frescoes rescued from churches int the Pyrenees. That's in addition to the expected paintings and sculpture, of course.

And Sant Pau is very worthwhile. However, I'm not sure about wheelchair accessibility. It's a multi-building site. There are a few especially pretty rooms upstairs in the main building (which area falls at the end of the self-tour route). I do not know whether there's an elevator there. Otherwise, you're looking at an impressive set of stairs. Accessibility information may be on the website.

The cathedral in Seville is a sight for which you need either to buy a timed ticket in advance or use the workaround identified by Rick in his guidebook: Buy a combo ticket at the Iglesia del Divino Salvador (worth a short visit) then walk right in the door at the Cathedral after showing your ticket to the uniformed line-minder. Google tells me the Iglesia del Divino Salvador is just over 1/2 mile from the Cathedral. If you adopt neither of these strategies, you will probably be in line for over an hour on an uncovered plaza. I assume you know how hot it can be in Andalucia in May.

Some sights in Andalucia switch from winter hours to summer hours on May 1. That can mean a major shift if visiting hours, so be sure you re-check websites in May, shortly before departure, to be sure you're operating with the latest schedule information.

You should be able to see some patios in Cordoba. I was in the city in April 2019, and some were accessible, though obviously not as all-over-decorated as they would be during the festival. As I recall, the Seville tourist office's one-page handout listing local sights and their hours of operation had some information on patios. You may find some information by Googling as well.

Posted by
4575 posts

Here’s another option to consider:
If you haven’t booked your flights from Barcelona to Sevilla, do consider flying from Barcelona to Granada instead.
If you choose this option, make sure you book your Alhambra tickets 3 months in advance.

Enjoy your time in beautiful Spain!

Posted by
4660 posts

I'll join the chorus recommending Cordoba over Granada for a day trip. It's much closer, and the Mezquita is relatively more accessible than the Alhambra. Also relatively less crowded. I think you'll be able to see some of the patios, I had no trouble in early November. They should be stunning in May.

Thanks, Carlos, for the great quotation about Cordoba. I really liked that place.

Posted by
14267 posts

As a former hospital, Sant Pau also has lots of toilets in every building :-)

Posted by
18746 posts

Ashley, are you sure those two churches in Seville are that close to each other? That's not what I remember, and it's not what Google says.

Posted by
18746 posts

I'm sorry, Ashley. I rechecked Google Maps and I was wrong. I think I must not have changed the mode-of-transportation default from public transit to walking. And I evidently must not have taken the most direct route myself. I walked it more than once, but it was Holy Week and there were a lot of crowds.

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you again everyone for your valuable input.
We are most likely changing our plans from Granada to Cordoba. We also added San Pau Hospital to our Barcelona visit.
I had already booked our flight from Barcelona to Sevilla as the flight times better suited our travel plans.
Safe and Happy travels in 2020 everyone!