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Best cities to see in Spain with about 4 days

Hi everyone,

I will be going to Portugal, Spain, and France (Paris) for 2 weeks from Jan 9-23. I am having a hard time picking the best cities to see in Spain. My choices have been: Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cordoba, or Barcelona. I want to choose 2 of those cities to see. Right now, I have been thinking Seville and Barcelona. Since I am going in the middle of January in the winter, I would like to stay in the warmer parts of Spain. But I have always wanted to go see Barcelona.

It would also be great if anyone has top things to see in those cities with limited time.

Thanks!

Posted by
4783 posts

With just four days, I'd recommend you visit one of those cities, not more. Madrid would be very cold in January because of its altitude. Seville would likely be the warmest, and Cordoba could be a day trip from there. Granada isn't a realistic day trip from Seville (about 5 hours round trip by train), but maybe could be from Cordoba (3 hours round trip). But there's enough in Seville for your whole time.

Barcelona would be another good choice, warmer than Madrid but probably colder than Seville. There's plenty to do with four days there. See the "Explore Europe" link on this website for good information about sightseeing in any of these cities.

Posted by
4884 posts

Where in Portugal will you be coming from? Transportation links between the two countries aren’t as good as you would expect. You can fly direct from Lisbon to Barcelona.

There isn’t much difference in temperature between Barcelona and Seville in January - both around 15 degrees daytime, but Barcelona is warmer at night (still single digits). With only 4 days, you only have time for one city. Granada is at altitude, so colder. Ditto Madrid.

Posted by
2885 posts

I too would recommend one of your choices for 4 nights. You can easily see the sights of Barcelona in 4 days. I don’t have personal experience in the month of January but it is our favorite city. We were there in the month of September following a tour of Portugal. We spent 4 nights in Madrid & 4 nights in Barcelona. This might be helpful in your planning: https://www.bcn.travel/visiting-barcelona-in-january/

Posted by
3314 posts

I’d pick Sevilla with a possible day trip to Córdoba. To me, that’s about the only way you’ll see more than one city on your list with the time you have.

Posted by
3558 posts

Your 2 dates are both Sundays. Are you arriving on 9 January and departing on 23 January? If so, you actually have 14 nights in Paris, Spain and Portugal. And you don’t really have the 9th or the 23rd to do much, due to jet-lag on the 9th and departure requirements on the 23rd. So, full-days with comfortable shoes on the cobblestones somewhere are 13.

Where do you arrive? Where do you depart from for home? Where you begin and end your trip will affect how much time you have to play with and how to work out the logistics.

Assuming you're talking about January 2022, your logistics will also be affected by the varied Covid-19 requirements in each country. Be sure to research those. Just because it's the EU doesn't mean that the rules are the same everywhere.

With your very short time, you will likely need to fly between the major cities you choose to visit. Both Spain and France are very large countries and Portugal is difficult to get to efficiently except by plane.

In the summer of 2019 (seems so long ago), I did the long Rick Steves tours to Portugal and Spain. Because I was flying non-rev (stand-by) on Delta, I flew RT to Amsterdam. Typically the most efficient way to fly is multi-city, especially when the starting place is a significant distance from the ending place.

After spending 3 nights in Haarlem, I flew TAP (good) to Lisbon from Amsterdam a few days before the tour started. The tour ended in Porto. The same day I flew from Porto on Ryanair (bad) to Barcelona to spend a few days before the Spain tour began there. I stayed over an extra night in Sevilla after the tour ended and flew back to Amsterdam on Transavia (okay), spending my last night back in Haarlem before flying home from Amsterdam the next day.

If you don’t have guidebooks, an easy way to try to prioritize what to see in the cities in Spain that you list, or those in Portugal or Paris, is to use the Explore Europe section of this website. There you can pick the country and city and see some brief but good information on what to see there. This is the link: https://www.ricksteves.com/europe

I prefer to take trains and some of the intra-European flights were not very comfortable, but the distances were simply too long for that to be practical. You may find that to be true for your planning, too.

Four full days requires 5 nights in Spain. I agree with others that trying to do 2 of the cities you list is 1 too many. My first choice for a first visit to Spain would be Barcelona. Number 2 would be Sevilla with a day trip to see the Mezquita in Cordoba. There's more than enough to see and do in either city, as the link above will lead you to discover.

No matter where you go, remember that the days will be short and some sites may close earlier than you might expect. Timeandate.com will give you details on sunrise, sunset and weather for each place you plan to go.

Posted by
1102 posts

Lo pointed out a few important points. I'd go even further and say: Three countries is simply too much for 13 days. Keep in mind that every change of location is basically going to cost you one travel day. Three places to visit means two travel days, thus leaving you with only eleven full days for sightseeing and enjoyment. That's not much even for two countries.

Also, the more countries you visit, the more Covid rules and regulations you are going to have to keep up with. What are the rules for you as an American (I assume) traveling to each of these countries? What are the rules for moving between these countries? Those may be several different sets of rules, and you will have to stay up to date on all of them.