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Help with Itineray for Madrid, Spain March 2020

My husband and I (couple early 70's and late 60's) were able to book good flights for late March, flying round trip to Madrid, Spain. We realize we are putting this trip together late, but it was too good to pass up. We are considering this itinerary but need help before I book hotels (and I know I better do that pronto). Walking hilly territory is harder on me (amputee) than my husband, so please take that into consideration when advising. I have read many threads on other trips where people are stopping in many more cities than our plan below. We have done trips before living out of our suitcase and want a little less of that this time. We love seeing the celebrated sights, dining and hanging out with the people of a city/country.

March 16th Fly Us to Madrid, Spain
March 17th to 20th (possibly 21rst) Arrive and explore Madrid (side trip by train? to Toledo)
Option 1 March 21 to 23 Travel to Grenada by train (especially interested in visiting Alhambra)
March 24 to 27 Travel to Seville, Spain by train
March 28 Travel back to Madrid and leave on March 29th
Option 2 March 17th-21rst arrive and explore Madrid
March 21 to 27 Travel to Seville (day trip to Cordoba)
March 28 Travel Seville to Madrid
March 29 Leave for US
Please help with your thoughts on this. If you have any hotel and suggestions for sights you think we must see while in these cities, please feel free to share. We usually try for 4 star hotels, if available. Thank you so much!

Posted by
1188 posts

I'm not entirely sure I understand your options. In the first you spend time in Madrid, then Granada, then Sevilla, then back to Madrid? In the second you visit Madrid and Sevilla only?

Seville is Spain's best city (and Europe's third best), so no time there is wasted, but in your Option 1 case you seem to have four nights in Madrid, including day trip to Toledo, three nights in Granada and three nights in Sevilla, including Cordoba, before returning to Madrid? If so, I'd drop a night from Madrid and add to Seville.

My perception is that Madrid, Cordoba and Seville are all fairly flat. Toledo is obviously hilly to get up to the tourist centre, but there is public transport up to the top and once there it is reasonably flat, but still quite up and down. Granada is the more hilly, because although flat in the centre, after the Alhambra, which requires a lot of walking, it's main sight is the hilly Albaicin.

Posted by
20834 posts

Either works. Since the Alhambra is the most visited tourist site in Spain you should probably include it. My order would be Cordoba, Seville, Granada, and Madrid. You first day is shot dealing with jet lag so I would go directly to Cordoba - relatively short train ride from Madrid. I am not a big fan of spending a day or two in the arrival city and then traveling but getting back for night for the departure. Put it all together at the end. Do two nights in Cordoba (one full day) on to Seville, to Granada, and back to Madrid for the balance. Depending on your time, you could do a day trip or two from Madrid to Toledo, Segovia, Avila, etc.

We did a similar run a few years ago except we continued on to Malaga and come home from Malaga. It is very rare for us to do a RT ticket.

PS You are eligible for a discount train ticket card that gets you a discount on the walk up train fares. The card is 6 or 7 euros and discount is 40% weekday, 25% weekend. -- I think or remember.

Posted by
17636 posts

I like Nick's and Frank's ideas in general.

I would not bother with Avila unless you had a lot more time in Madrid. Toledo is worth at least a day-trip and Segovia is also good. Avila I was ready to leave after only an hour or two. Its main point of interest is the wall, and I don't know whether you'll want to go up the steps to walk along it.

Although there are both buses and escalators to get you to Toledo's historic district from the bus and train stations--plus also taxis, naturally--there is considerably hilliness at the top. However, during a one-day visit you might not encounter much of that. Toledo is extremely atmospheric, but you may not be so aware of that if you spend all your time along the direct path between Zocodover Square and the cathedral. That's more or less day-tripper central. Venture off that path and you may be alone in medieval Spain. There are lovely buildings (including a couple of synagogues) that are rather lightly visited.

The Alhambra is magnificent, but it is a large complex (with some hilliness), not a single building. To see the whole thing involves a great deal of walking. If you anticipate needing to limit how much of it you cover, the Nasrid Palaces are the #1 area. You should figure out ahead of time which entrance is closest to those palaces.

Tickets to the Alhambra often sell out well in advance--sometimes months in advance. As of this moment there are tickets available for every day in March, but nine days in February are already sold out. Once you have your itinerary pinned down, get those Alhambra tickets right away if you decide to include Granada.

If you should decide to omit Granada, I think you'd have time to spend a few nights in Cordoba as well as in Seville and Madrid. Ordinarily I'd suggest nights in Toledo as a possible option, but I think the hilliness could be an issue for you on a long visit.

One thing not mentioned so far is that the March weather is likely to be quite a lot warmer in Andalucía than in Madrid/Toledo/Segovia.

Posted by
23 posts

Thank you all for your help. Here is our revised trip:

March 16th US to Madrid & Train to Cordoba
March 17, 18 Cordoba
March 19, 20, 21, 22 Seville (Arrive by train)
March 23, 24 Grenada (Arrive by train) Visit parts of Alhambra
March 25, 26, 27, 28 Madrid (Arrive by train)
March 29th Fly Madrid to US

I looked at the train site (https://www.raileurope.com) to explore getting from city to city. Do you recommend we get the train tickets for all the cities we plan on visiting in advance or do walk up buying as needed? Best to buy one to each city or use the multi city ticketing? And what is your opinion on the difference in first class vs second class seating? I'm guessing the discount mentioned earlier is the senior discount pricing on the site? Any thoughts on good hotels in Cordoba? I will be reading about that city today. We appreciate all your comments.

Posted by
17636 posts

Do not use RailEurope! It often doesn't list all the trains, and its fees are still, I believe, higher than the other third-party sellers. It's best to buy straight from Renfe, but if you have a problem there (it may not like your US credit card), I think the usual advice these days is to use trainline.eu.

There are two major reasons to buy tickets in advance: you will save money (usually even compared to the senior fare) if you score Promo tickets shortly after your dates go on sale, and you will not spend precious vacation time buying tickets. In particular, note that the ticket lines at Madrid's Atocha Station are often hours long. This is not second-hand information; I spent 3 hours in line there last April. The ticket machines are easy to use, but I've seen reports that some folks have had credit card problems there as well, so it's best not to count on the machines.

For your first leg (to Cordoba) you have a choice of trying to guess what time you'll be ready to board the train (if you miss it, the ticket is worthless) or just buying a regular ticket--but at the lower senior fare--on the day you arrive. If you opt to wait and buy upon arrival, do that at the airport train station. You can also get your Tarjetas Doradas (senior cards) right at that station.

Unless something has changed, you cannot buy senior-fare tickets online before you have your Tarjetas Doradas, because you are asked for the card number during the purchase process. But as I said above, the Promo fare is usually lower, so that's the way to go if you are certain of your travel dates and times.

Posted by
23 posts

Thanks for the train information. I'll have to look at the schedule and see if we can get that first ticket out of the way for sure (depending on times available near our landing time but allowing for late arrival). We will be tired from travel and not wanting to stand in lines. Could you or someone else comment on our revised itinerary? Also, any advice on hotels to stay in Cordoba, Grenada, Seville and Madrid? Nice hotels (4 stars preferable to 3 or 5) work for us. It's great when they serve a breakfast to help kick start your day (plus saves time looking around for morning food).

Posted by
17636 posts

I'm a budget traveler and can't help with 4-star hotels.

I'd like to see one additional night in Granada, but a lot of my time there was spent on hills, and I can see that Madrid may work better for you. So I think you've laid out a vey good itinerary.