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Feedback on Our Proposed Itinerary

We are planning a trip to Spain for March 11-30, 2020. We are late sixties, active, like music, culture, biking, and local food. I was in Spain in 1973 for a few weeks with a similar itinerary.(but don't remember much) Please give any suggestions to improve this. We have no plans or reservations yet, except the flight. We are flying in and out of Barcelona from Newark.
March 12-16: Barcelona. (suggest area to stay?). Should we take a day trip to Montserrat?
Ave to Madrid: 3 nights (March 16-19) (suggest area to stay?)
Toledo 1 night (March 19)
Back to Madrid, then Ave to Seville: 3 days (March 20-23)
Train to Ronda: 3 nights Rent car there to explore hill towns. (March 23-26)
Train to Granada: two nights. (March 26-28)
Train (AVE?) to Barcelona: (March 28-30)
Right now, I'm looking for feedback on the itinerary itself, but if you have any suggestions for tours or tour guides, don't-miss restaurants , etc. suggest away.
Thanks in advance for your help.

Posted by
1272 posts

Culturally, I suspect Spain has changed a bit since 1973, Barcelona certainly has.

I think your itinerary looks fine and am loathe to start tinkering, but a couple of suggestions

  • Cordoba is worth seeing. You could take a night from Ronda and either (a) add to Sevilla and day-trip or Cordoba or (b) stop for a night in Cordoba after Madrid, before going on to Sevilla
  • There is one direct AVE train from Granada to Barcelona and a few more options if you change train (e.g. in Madrid), but I would also consider flying this portion instead of railway since it's a long journey by rail. Granada airport is close to the city and small/easy to navigate. Booked well in advance flights would not be dear. Clearly, timetables might change before next March, but I doubt by too much.

And with apologies for really tinkering, might I suggest looking at Cadiz as a day-trip whilst in Andalucia? I think its an underrated city. But I wouldn't take time from Sevilla or Granada for it - perhaps Madrid?

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks so much -- yes, I am sure things have changed dramatically!
I considered Cordoba originally, and like your suggestion to include it.
I will look at flights from Granada to Barcelona.
Thanks again - very helpful!

Posted by
30 posts

We are headed to Spain in a couple of weeks and will spend our third trip to Barcelona at the end of it. It's a wonderful city and great for walking. We have stayed in apartments in Gracia which is a neighborhood we really like. This time, because we are traveling with another couple and need more space than we could find in Gracia, we have rented an apartment in Eixample.
As for things to do, once you've done your reading and know some of the many things you'd like, narrow the list down! I recommend checking to see if there are any performances of interest to you at the Palau de Musica and, if so, gett tickets before you leave. If you enjoy seafood, take the Metro to Barceloneta and have a terrific lunch at Can Majo. Walking through the old city, with its artisan shops, if fun. And, of course, if you went to La Sagrada in the 70's you'll definitely want to revisit it now.
We have found the best guides for Spain (besides RS, of course) are the online Maribel guides. They are excellent advice on all of the regions you plan to visit. https://www.maribelsguides.com

Posted by
584 posts

I agree with the recommendation to visit Cordoba and to stay overnight. If you can, try to stay 2 nights. The Mezquita is amazing, but there is more to Cordoba than the Mezquita. We loved the Alcazar gardens, Palacio de Viana, Roman Bridge, Mercado Victoria, and wandering through the Juderia, with its white washed buildings, narrow lanes, flower pots and patios. It's very atmospheric. One of our best meals was in Cordoba at the Regadera. You need reservations!

We stayed in the Eixample neighborhood in Barcelona, and we loved it. It's the modern part of the city with beautiful architecture and close to many of the Gaudi sites. We visited Gracia, which the previous poster mentioned. It's lovely, too; it's a neighborhood where people live and it's quiet. But it's a little further away from many sites, which might be the only drawback.

In Madrid, we stayed at the Mercure Madrid Centro on Calle Lope de Vega. It's about a 5 minute walk to the Prado and 10 minutes from Reina Sofia. Also it's within walking distance of Retiro Park, and a block away from Calle de Jesus with all its tapas restaurants.

For dining in Granada, I recommend El Trillo Restaurant at Calleon Aljibe de Trillo. Another favorite meal of our trip.

And in Seville, I highly recommend La Azotea in Barrio Santa Cruz. Food is delicious! In fact, we ate there twice!!

Posted by
14409 posts
  • Barcelona: Since you like hiking, Montserrat is a good idea, but only if the weather is good, including visibility.
  • Madrid: Unless you want to spend a lot of time in the great art museums, consider 2N here
  • Toledo: Maybe 2 nights here, taking an evening train and departing on a morning train. That gives you a full day and there's a lot to see.
  • Cordoba is on the way to Sevilla and well worth seeing. The Mezquita is unique, the medieval quarter is well-preserved, and there are a number of interesting sights. There are horse shows at the Royal Stables several times a week. Some people say a few hours is enough but people who spend a couple nights here usually fall in love with it. If you can't squeeze in a night or two, you can see it as a day trip from Sevilla.
  • Sevilla: 3 nights is 2 days. You'll use 1/2 day or more to get here from Toledo - be sure to allow at least 30 minutes transfer time at Atocha. It's a big station, some find it confusing, and you will need to go through a security check before boarding to Sevilla. It doesn't take long but sometimes there are lines.
  • Ronda: It makes more sense to rent a car when you leave Sevilla and drop it when you get to Granada. The drive to Ronda is mostly scenic. Start with a visit to Arcos, then a couple other hill towns before arriving in Ronda. There's more to explore on your way to Granada. With 2N here, you have one full day for Ronda (probably enough). That frees up a night to add somewhere else.
Posted by
43 posts

Hi Marsha
Great suggestions - had been looking at Barceloneta and it's good to have a restaurant suggestion. We'll try to book a concert, too. Also, appreciate the suggested resource. I've been using RS and Lonely Planet; this will add a more global dimension.
Question: what source do you use for booking apartments ? Thanks so much.

Posted by
43 posts

KMKWoo

Great suggestions --- especially Madrid for location ! Thank you.

Posted by
43 posts

Chani
Thank you for the itinerary suggestions - It's hard to decide how much time to allocate to each location, so this is very helpful. I was thinking of taking the train to Ronda from Seville because RS mentions how scenic it is, but renting a car would give more flexibility.
Thanks.

Posted by
43 posts

These responses are so helpful. I'll work on this then ask some more questions.
I already checked out the cost of a flight from Granada to Barcelona --- $29! That certainly is a great option, and renting a car in Sevilla, then dropping it at the Granada airport seems logical.
I hadn't considered Cadiz - will look at that, too.

And we'll definitely working in Cordoba - appreciate that you gave me the highlights of that, too.
Thanks so much.

Posted by
14409 posts

Hi Sue. I've never taken the train through the hills, but I've driven the roads on two trips (yes, it's that good that you want to go back). All the roads I've driven are scenic and there are pullouts where you can soak it in and take photos. GPS is a very good idea, mostly for getting out of Sevilla and into Granada.

Cadiz is a bit out of the way. The main problem in choosing an itinerary is that there are too many places and too much to enjoy in each. My first trip to Spain was R/T Madrid with 21 days in Andalucia and 2 in Madrid, thinking I would visit the area "in-depth" and cross it off my list. I was barely a week there when I knew I'd be returning. That was 6 years ago. Since then, I've spent 4 more weeks just in Andalucia in two visits and added 3 visits to Barcelona.

Posted by
43 posts

Chani
Thanks for your suggestions. You've reinforced our plan to spend some time in Andalucia. Would you share where you stayed when you were there?

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks for your suggestions. We've added Cordoba to the itinerary, and plan to fly from Granada to Barcelona. One last question:
which order makes more sense: Madrid to Cordoba to Seville to Ronda to Granada. OR Madrid to Cordoba to Granada to Ronda to Seville (then fly to Barcelona) ? Right now, we're doing the first option but we haven't booked anything yet.

Thanks again.
Also, does anyone have a source for renting apartments ---- airbnb, etc?

Posted by
510 posts

Your first suggested order sounds most logical and you can fly between Granada and Barcelona.

We used VRBO and found some great apartments.

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks for the response. Just wanted to confirm the order of travel before I schedule the flight from Granada to Barcelona.

Posted by
14409 posts

The most sense is fly to Granada, train/bus/car in Andalucia and end in Madrid, then train to Barcelona. How you arrange the order in Andalucia is not so critical. BTW do you know about the tarjeta dorada? Discounts for the over-65's?

What is your current itinerary?

I'm a budget traveler. For me the important things are location, cleanliness, and en suite bathroom (usually breakfast isn't included and may not be provided). I'd be happy to share the places I've stayed, if you think they would suit you. The only place I've splurged is the Amadeus in Sevilla - stayed there on all three of my visits and never considered anywhere else. In Madrid, I used Hotel Europa, modern, comfortable, very good central location and reasonably prices. Both hotels are used by RS tours and I've seen lots of positive comments here from other forum members.

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks Chani. I didn't know about the senior discount - we'll check that out.
The only part of trip that is set in stone is that we're flying in and out of Barcelona. Our current itinerary is:
March 12-16: Barcelona. Considering a day trip to Montserrat.
Ave to Madrid: 3 nights (March 16-19) Day trip to winery.
Toledo 1 night (March 19)
Back to Madrid, then Ave to Cordoba (1 night) (March 20)
Seville: 3 days (March 21-24)
Drive to Ronda: 3 nights Explore hill towns. (March 24-27)
Drive to Granada: two nights. (March 27-29)
Fly to Barcelona: (March 29) Fly home March 30.
We have no hotels scheduled and I will check out those you've mentioned. Do you have suggestions for Barcelona or Granada?
Thanks so much.

Posted by
14409 posts

In Barcelona I stayed at Pensio2000. It's 2 flights up, no lift but the owner has a pulley to lift and lower luggage. Beds are comfy, bathrooms are modern, the middle aged couple who own and run it are lovely. They have 7 rooms, it's a converted apartment. 4 or 5 of the rooms have tiny balconies. It is literally across the street from the Palau de la Musica, a short walk to metro stations, La Rambla, El Corte Ingles (huge supermarket) on Placa de Catalunya. I walk most everywhere when I stay there (been 3 times).

When I'm in Cordoba (3 times so far), I stay at Don Paula. The rooms are rather Spartan but pretty spacious, the beds are comfy, the bathrooms are modern, there is a mini fridge (with complimentary juices) and an electric kettle with coffee and tea in the room. They don't serve breakfast. It's on the edge of the Juderia, not in the center of the old town but close enough to the new center to walk to some good restaurants and the ancient remains of the Templo Romano in the opposite direction.

I stayed at a quirky place (very comfortable) in Granada, Hostal/Pension Rodri, short walk to the cathedral, so an excellent location. That was in 2013.

When you get to Spain, you can buy the tarjeta dorada at any train station. You need photo ID with proof of age. Passport works, of course, and once I used my driver's license. It's €6 per person and available to anyone aged 60. Once you have that, you can buy full fare (flex) tickets on fast trains at discounts of 25% or 40%, depending on the type of train and the day of the week. Sometimes you can save by buying promo fare tickets well in advance (they usually go on sale 62 days ahead, but the train company is erratic, sometimes it's much shorter, occasionally a month or two longer). To compare fares, use the renfe site and put in the number of passengers in the "tarjeta dorada" box (in English, it might show up as gold card). While you can't actually buy tickets until you have the card, you can see the prices. Choose the train you are interested in and click on the Options (plus sign). There's a drop-down menu with all the fares.

Most sights in Spain give discounts to seniors, 65 or older. Don't save a couple euros on the discount for the Alhambra - the hassles to collect tickets aren't worth the money. AFAIK that's the only place where it's a problem. So check on the website (and read the conditions - there may be a very few places that limit the discount to Spanish residents). And if it's not listed, then ask at the sight.

En route from Ronda to Granada. If you like hiking, you may enjoy a couple hours at El Torcal. You go past Antequera. Consider stopping to see the prehistoric dolmens on the outskirts of the town. The Nasrid Palaces are usually open on Fridays for a night visit. I enjoyed it, it's quite different from the way it looks in daylight and there are some nice views of the city below. This would be in addition to, not in place of, a daytime visit.

Posted by
19187 posts

The way you're listing your itinerary, with the same date shown for two different cities (including both the arrival day and the departure day), tends to suggest you have more time in places than you really do. To me, it's easier to grasp like this:

March 12: Fly to Barcelona (4 nights). Considering a day trip to Montserrat.
March 16: Ave to Madrid (3 nights). Day trip to winery.
March 19: Toledo (1 night)
March 20: Cordoba (1 night) via Madrid.
March 21: Seville (3 nights).
March 24: Drive to Ronda (3 nights). Explore hill towns.
March 27: Drive to Granada (2 nights).
March 29: Fly to Barcelona (1 night).
March 30: Fly home.

You have less than a full day in both Toledo and Cordoba. I know lots of people do that, but both places are worthy of more time. And you have 2-1/2 days to tool around Ronda and the white villages, which are picturesque but don't have much in the way of "sights" as compared to Cordoba and Toledo.

I spent multiple nights in Toledo and Cordoba; I love staying in places of that size. Still, I think I'd day-trip to Toledo from Madrid in this case. That would avoid back-to-back one-night stays and the time related to hotel check-in and check-out for just a single night in Toledo. You'll lose the late-evening hours in Toledo, but you'll gain some time that morning by not having to get yourselves and your suitcases to you hotel and go through the check-in process. It may also get you to Cordoba earlier the following morning.

With only three full, non-jetlagged days in Barcelona I wouldn't be in a rush to go to Montserrat (which I confess I haven't yet been to myself). That trip doesn't need to be pre-planned; you just go to the station under Placa d'Espanya and buy a combo/round-trip ticket. You can wait and see how busy Barcelona itself keeps you, and you can consider the weather. Of course, if you opt for the early-morning flight from Granada to Barcelona, that will give you a bit more time in Barcelona, but many of the sights there require timed tickets (pre-purchased to avoid terrible lines).

Posted by
43 posts

Thanks for the comments Acraven. I appreciate your suggestion about day-tripping to Toledo. We have a "3 days in each location" guideline, but obviously broke it here.

Posted by
19187 posts

I hate the short stops, too, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do. It's just that those are (waah) not one-night cities!

Posted by
14409 posts

Looking at a acraven's itinerary summary, what leaps out to me is that you're shortchanging both Toledo and Cordoba (whether a day trip or a 1-nighter) by including so much time in the hill towns. If you don't skip the car/Ronda altogether, then just stay one night there and add 1 night each to Cordoba and Toledo.

Posted by
43 posts

Chani, that's a great suggestion. Especially after looking at the Maribella guide to Toledo, I'd like to be there longer. If we stay in Ronda just one night, we could linger on our way to Granada to maximize the time in the hill towns. I'm ready to start booking rooms.

Posted by
19187 posts

I think that's a better idea. Toledo really repays wandering off the path between Zocodover Square and the Cathedral. There are lots of sights there besides the El Greco Museum and the Cathedral.

Posted by
14409 posts

Sue,

From Sevilla, if you head to Arcos you add about an hour's driving but I think it's worth it. Park at the large lot at the base of the town and either climb or take the mini shuttle up to the center. Use the RS walking tour. Allow 3-4 hours. Then continue on to Ronda.

I'll repeat since it may have been lost in all the other suggestions: En route from Ronda to Granada. If you like hiking, you may enjoy a couple hours at El Torcal. You go past Antequera. Consider stopping to see the prehistoric dolmens on the outskirts of the town.

Be sure to leave a few hours to see Ronda's sights.

Posted by
43 posts

Chani, thanks for the specific suggestions about the trip to Ronda from Seville. Very helpful!