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Cordoba or Not? Feedback on 8 day trip to Spain in Oct. 2019

My partner and I are traveling to Spain for 8 days in October. My goal is to hit Madrid, Barcelona, and Cordoba but I do not know if that will be too much for the limited time. I am very interested in seeing Cordoba as I have a degree in religious history and it seems like something I should not miss although I worry it is going to prove hectic with travel to and from Madrid plus the addition of Barcelona.

I have written out two itinerary options but would love feedback! I have been to Madrid and Toledo before but my partner has never been to Spain. We are also somewhat budget conscious - I can't really tell if driving or the train will cost more.

Option 1:
Tuesday - Madrid (Land 6:20am, explore, check into hotel)
Wednesday - All day Madrid
Thursday - Day trip to Toledo by train
Friday - Check out of hotel then take train to Córdoba and stay over night in Cordoba
Saturday - Explore Córdoba more and stay overnight
Sunday - Morning train back to Madrid and take the train or fly using Iberia Shuttle to Barcelona (Barcelona overnight)
Monday - Barcelona
Tuesday - Barcelona
Wednesday - back to Madrid by train or Iberia Air Shuttle for flight back to Boston at 12pm

Option #2
Tuesday - Madrid (Land 6:20am, explore, check in at hotel)
Wednesday - All day Madrid
Thursday - Rent car and drive to Toledo then on to Córdoba (sleep overnight Córdoba)
Friday - Explore Córdoba and stay overnight
Saturday - Drive back to Madrid (4 hours) then head to Barcelona (by train or plane)
Sunday - Barcelona
Monday - Possible day trip to Montserrat mountains (but still stay in Barcelona)
Tuesday - Barcelona
Wednesday - back to Madrid to fly home
***another alternative for this plan would be to stay in Madrid Saturday night then head to Barcelona on Sunday

Posted by
72 posts

Victoria - I loved Cordoba and I do not have the academic background that you have - I can't imagine you would not want to add this to your itinerary - I suppose it depends on whether you will come back to Spain sometime later. But the Mezquita is amazing - and the town itself with the many gardens, etc. Delightful. It is one of my favorite places in Spain.

Posted by
92 posts

i also love cordoba, it's a beautiful city.

is toledo essential? same for montserrat? madrid and barcelona will keep you busy for days, and those destinations might not be worth your time if you're only in spain for a limited time. but it depends on how you like to travel.

also, if you skipped toledo, you could take a train directly to cordoba, you'd save quite a few hours.

for your itinerary, you probably do not need a car. you won't want or need it in barcelona, madrid or cordoba and you'll have to manage parking it and paying for it for the days you're not using it.

Posted by
3551 posts

Taking train is a good idea for Toledo and Cordova. Both are well worth your efforts. Each are worth a days visit. If u must choose then Toledo.

Posted by
1524 posts

Victoria is there anyway you can switch cities and rebook your flight ?

You could have used Barcelona as your start off point and land there. Then train to Madrid and day trip to Toledo. Rent a car upon leaving Madrid and drive to Cordoba. Drop off car in Cordoba. Spend a few days there and then train from there to Málaga international airport and catch a flight back to Boston with a connection in Madrid.

That would have been the type itinerary I would have go for. Do an open jaw flight plan. You have 8 days which is very tight to be commuting alot from city to city.

Posted by
4 posts

Unfortunately we are not able to re-book our travel. We were very lucky to find cheap flights last week and there is no ability to make changes. I agree that it would have worked better if we could have flown into Barcelona.

What are people's thoughts about renting a car? I will have to get an international driving permit (about $20) then the car rental for 2-3 days is about $70 but that does not include petrol, tolls, parking, etc. The trains to Cordoba and Barcelona seem more expensive then I originally thought (~$57 per person for one way from Madrid to Cordoba and ~$100 per person each way to Barcelona).

We are definitely NOT planning to drive to Barcelona. We were looking at the train or the air Iberia shuttle although I have had some trouble with the Iberia shuttle website.

Maybe we are being too ambitious. I want a relaxing holiday but also to take advantage of all there is to see!

Posted by
1524 posts

Victoria - For an 8 days Itinerary, you can divide the days like this:

Madrid - 3 Days

Barcelona - 3 Days

Cordoba - 2 Days

Since you cannot change your flight, ok then you land in Madrid. After spending 3 days in Madrid then train to Barcelona and do 3 days. From Barcelona, fly to Málaga international airport which will put you nearby Cordoba. From Málaga to Cordoba it's an hour and half. You can train there or bus there. After your 2 days in Cordoba then train to Madrid and catch your flight home. I feel that's the best strategy. Forget about the rental car. Victoria can you opt for this travel plan ?

Posted by
19160 posts

I see no advantage to using a car on this trip. Even if the trains turn out to be a bit more expensive (which I rather doubt, after you add parking, fuel, tolls, etc.), you can't afford to waste the time. There is AVE service to all your destinations, and those trains are much, much faster than driving. This is true even though traveling from Toledo to Cordoba by train requires you to return to Madrid before heading back south.

Are you checking fares on the Renfe website? Don't use RailEurope; it doesn't necessarily show you all the options, it adds fees, and it may take an extra rake-off by using a poor exchange rate when it converts the euro-cost into US dollars--though it has been reported here that the exchange-rate situation is somewhat better than it used to be.

It's likely that rail fares, overall, will continue to rise as you get closer to your travel dates. Other travelers have been buying up the cheap tickets since the October tickets went on sale, and that will continue. You obviously need to be sure about your itinerary and your schedule before buying rail tickets, but don't dawdle once you've pinned the schedule down. If you have trouble buying from Renfe (some people do), you can buy from loco2.com at the same prices for the next month or so. (That company is going to start charging a service fee in November.)

Flying between Madrid and Barcelona wouldn't save time. The train only takes 2-1/2 or 2-3/4 hours, and it takes you from city center to city center.

I loved both Toledo and Cordoba and would be hard-pressed to choose one over the other. I spent at least two full days in each city. At least you have academic knowledge on which to base the decision if your limited time forces you to choose.

I consider the time you are allocating to Barcelona to be seriously insufficient, but my (definitely non-expert) primary interests are modernista architecture and art, rather than religious history. The time allocation may be sufficient for your purposes. I wouldn't plan to visit Montserrat on such a short trip unless it was for religious/academic purposes. There's just so much to see in Barcelona proper (again speaking from the perspective of my interests).

Note that a lot of the top sights in Barcelona require timed tickets, and you really need to buy them in advance to avoid hours-long ticket lines and possible sell-outs. You may not care about these places, but if you do, you really shouldn't wait until you're in Spain to buy the tickets: La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Picasso Museum. The Picasso Museum can be unbelievably crowded (which is a problem in an art museum), and I do not recommend it for folks not serious fans of the artist. There are other art museums in Barcelona that can be visited in much more pleasant conditions.

The Palau de la Musica Catalana's English-language tours sometimes fill up, so that's another place where advance purchase of tickets would be prudent, though possibly not absolutely mandatory.

Posted by
14399 posts

Cordoba is my favorite Spanish city, though Toledo is pretty close. Barcelona is rapidly becoming by 3rd favorite city in the world . . . it's so different from most European cities, never mind Spanish ones, that I don't count it as a Spanish city.

There are several great sights in Cordoba, tops is the Mezquita, then the Juderia (Casa de Sefarad is recommended), Palacio de Viana (beautiful patios/gardens), the Torre De Calahorra Museum, the archaeology museum, and I discover more every time I visit.

There are direct trains from Cordoba to Barcelona, just under 5 hours. So it's possible to include it. But I agree with acraven, you are short-changing both Andalucia and Barcelona by trying to do both on a short R/T Madrid visit. Does your trip include Oct 12 - big holiday in Spain.

Lastly, I would not want to spend my last night anywhere but Madrid or maybe Toledo. If your flight is at noon, you need to be at the airport around 9 am. The 7.25 train from Toledo gets you to Atocha around 8 am. That gives you enough time to get through the airport to the Cercanias for the train to Barajas. Any later is cutting it close. If there's a problem with the train, you'd still have the option of an expensive taxi ride.

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you to everyone for your suggestions! Especially to RJean for providing a new way to look at the itinerary - I think we will go with that plan.

Much appreciated!

Posted by
19160 posts

You can take a train from Barcelona to Cordoba (changing in Madrid) in 4-1/2 hours, city center to city center. I don't know why you would want to subject yourself to a Barcelona-Malaga flight when your destination is Cordoba. That would require traveling from central Barcelona to BCN airport, arriving way early for security procedures, taking the flight, getting from the Malaga airport to the AVE station (local train is an option for that short leg), then taking the train up to Cordoba. That will surely take longer than the all-train route. I do not like mixed-mode trips, though sometimes one has no choice. That is not the case here.

Posted by
114 posts

Upon arriving to Madrid, so early in the morning, could you just tough out a bit more travel and take the train directly to Cordoba? Spend 2N in Cordoba (also my favorite city of our Spain trip, like others have mentioned), and then continue on to Barcelona (is there a train that goes in the opposite direction acraven mentioned?) and then to Madrid, and then back home. Might make for just a little less backtracking. Cordoba is smaller and may make for a nicer place to stroll and dine off jetlag than a big city like Madrid. Have fun!

Posted by
19160 posts

That's a good idea, too. Normally that would mean buying the airport-Cordoba train ticket at the airport train station after arrival, since it's impossible to predict when you'll be ready to board a train. That would mean paying the full price for the ticket, which seems to be 62.70 euros, as opposed to trying to pick up a discounted ticket now. But it would make good use of the bleary-eyed, foggy-brained, arrival day to get to one of your distant destinations, leaving less wasted travel time later in the trip when you'll be more mentally alert. It would also avoid wasting time by staying checking into Madrid hotels on both your first and last nights.

If you decide to travel on to Cordoba on Day 1, you should buy a ticket all the way to that city at the airport train station. You do not want to deal with the interminable ticket lines at Atocha Station in downtown Madrid. You'll need to change trains there, but it's much easier to buy the ticket at the airport. Be sure to allow some time at Atocha. It's a rather large station, and you may need to as someone to point you in the direction of your platform. There's normally a quick luggage screening before you get down to platform level for an AVE train. It doesn't take long at all, but it may require a few minutes. You might like to have some extra time, anyway, to pick up some food for the train ride. The station options will be broader and cheaper than what you find on the train.