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Family Trip Barcelona & Southern Spain

Hello everyone. I'm reaching out to have you check for problems with our proposed itinerary. My wife and I and 2 boys (19 & 17) are planning a trip to Spain in late July. Yes, it'll be hot. My wife is built for it, I'm not but I'll make do as I have on other trips.

We like to mix a good amount of sight-seeing, museums, hiking, green spaces, relaxation, and great meals. Our kids are active and generally inquisitive enough to be up for anything of that mixture. We have learned over the years as a family that we get very active for a few days on vacation, then prefer to relax for a few, then go hard again for a few days, etc. Prefer trains everywhere possible, but can drive if needed. So we're thinking:
Barcelona for 3 nights (arriving early morning on first day, beach 1 of these 3 days)
Cordoba for 2 nights
Granada for 2 nights
Beach Town for 3 nights (Costa del Sol?)
Seville for 4 nights
Madrid for just 2 nights
The total duration is fixed, flight purchased.

Thanks in advance for all the wisdom you can provide!
-Jason

Posted by
1548 posts

Barcelona 5, offers beach experience, Montserrat and superb day trip ops via train. Huge menu of ops so do not be in a hurry to “get on with your trip.”
Valencia 2, also offers beach experience. Paella capital of Spain.
Granada 2, check on Alhambra ticket availability asap! Corboba is an experience akin to Granada, pick one.
Seville, 3, if you must cordoba can be a train stopover on your way to madrid
Madrid 4

All above available by train.

Posted by
6801 posts

Trying to decide how much time to spend in one place is a quandary if you’ve never been there. I think what you have is workable, but there is a lot of travel time that will eat into the amount of time you have in any one place. It’s not how I’d divide the time, but it isn’t my trip.

Posted by
2489 posts

Add 1 night to Granada and 1 night to Barcelona and do Cordoba as a daytrip.

Posted by
3355 posts

I can’t comment too much because we have not been to Spain yet (going in 2025), but since our trip is only 2 weeks, we like to keep our geographical area small. So we are flying into Seville from Paris. Our itinerary is;
5 nights Seville
3 nights Cordoba
4 nights Granada
2 nights Ronda
We are saving Barcelona and Madrid for a future trip.
Your trip is a lot of moving around, but to each his own.

Posted by
4 posts

Good points. No, we don't like spending so much time in transit. It's always balanced against 'seeing' or 'experiencing' more. We thought about combining Granada/Cordoba, but want to see Alhambra so maybe we could do it as a day trip.

We're also trying to reconcile the reality that the heat will limit how much we can see in a day and how tiring travelling city to city will be. Could revise to just be Barcelona-Seville-Madrid with day trips off of these 3 spots...

Posted by
4645 posts

The issue is including three far apart areas, the allotment of nights for Andalucia is pretty standard--those are short hops by train or bus. It is the long train rides between regions that would give me pause, in addition to the heat.
Are flights booked?
See the post about water issues in BCN.

Posted by
4 posts

Flights are booked buy movable. Sorry, I don't see anything about water issues in BCN. Perhaps I'm just overlooking it?

Posted by
1548 posts

Ah! If you are amenable to reducing stress, time and expense of multiple destinations then consider:

Barcelona, five nights and train to Seville. Yes, long train ride, but pricing and convenience and comfort is excellent. With trains you get on and off in central town locations.

Seville, three nights then train to
Cordoba, two nights. Cordoba is excellent substitute for Granada. Granada as a day trip from Seville makes for an inefficient and ineffective use of your most precious vacation commodity, time. Train to Madrid.
Madrid remainder of journey.

Heat is a subject often raised so I am adding my generic thoughts on how to pragmatically deal with heat.

Posted by
1548 posts

Start before you board the plane and overflow your body with water throughout the journey. Once your body loses hydration it battles to regain sufficient hydration amidst high heat. Do not be worried about hydration creating the need to constantly use bathrooms. In high heat your body gobbles up hydration creating less of a need for bathrooms. BTW: drink less alcohol for not a good combo with heat.
Plan your journey to take advantage of morning and evening visits to attractions. During the highest heat of mid day disappear to your hotel or find a shaded place to escape high heat. There is a reason why siesta became a tradition in Spain.
Heat raises sweat and tempers while diminishing patience resulting in declining experiences. SLOW DOWN, plan on less and avoid lines. PLAN your journey with skip the line purchases for entries to your most valued destinations. Less is more so keep in mind...........see less and be there more.
Plan your clothing, bring a hat, taking into consideration the impact of heat. PACK your favorite sunscreen and apply liberally. BTW: heat loves to bake cosmetics.
Focus on protecting your feet and hands and be sure and soak both in cool water (not a bad idea for your entire body).
Spend more on accommodations with functional air conditioning and a central location.
Less is more, produce is a great breakfast, mid evening tapas make for a great lite meal. Watch for restaurants offering shaded patio dining and seek to grab a table directly adjacent to the restaurant wall. Often restaurants take their deliveries via a basement entry which provides an escape of cool air (from the basement) along the exterior wall. Also watch for restaurants where they are "watering" the stones/pavement where they set their exterior tables. This tactic helps break the heat of the day providing quicker cooler exterior dining experiences. For us, we strive to eat inside during high heat as long the space is air conditioned.

Posted by
3621 posts

I cannot understand why anyone would say that Cordoba would be a substitute for Granada. I don’t know of any structure in Europe as awesome as the Alhambra. Take a guided tour. You’ll get so much more from your visit than if you diy. Cordoba is also very much worth seeing, but quite different.
Since you are planning 3 days in a beach town, I would not use one of the Barcelona days for more beach. Barcelona has so much to see that 2 days cannot do it justice. Get reservations for the most popular sites.
I suggest you look carefully at the Costa del Sol. It sounds unappealing to me; full of modern hotels and touristy restaurants. Otoh, there are a number of attractive beach towns near Barcelona. Why not get your beach time in one of those before heading south?

Posted by
700 posts

Spain is a really big country with many diverse areas. If you really want to slow down, enjoy the experience, and spend less time in transit, I would reduce your overall geographical area for this trip and save parts of it for another time.

Barcelona is the geographical outlier, so perhaps either focus on it and surrounding areas, or drop Barcelona from this trip and focus on Madrid and south.

I've not been to Barcelona so can't suggest an itinerary for that area, but there are plenty of detailed recommendations on this forum if you dig back in the postings.

For Madrid and south, I would do something like:

Fly into Madrid, train immediately to Cordoba
Cordoba 2 nights
Granada 3 nights
Cadiz for 3 nights (beach town -- beaches in Cadiz are nicely accessible from a charming old town, much more enjoyable than lots of places along the Costa del Sol)
Sevilla 4 nights
Madrid 3 nights
plus one extra night to allocate to whichever city you think deserves more of your time, depending on what you want to do.

You can play around with the exact order of these cities; train/bus schedules can make a different order make more sense.

I agree that Cordoba is in no way a substitute for Granada, and if this trip will be your only likely opportunity to visit Andalucia, do not miss the Alhambra. But if you remove Barcelona, you have plenty of time to enjoy both locations at a reasonable pace.

Have a great trip!

Posted by
4 posts

Thank you everyone. With the drought, we are reconsidering Southern Spain this year. It may be better to shift to Northern Spain & Portugal or select a different locale to target.