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Itinerary Advice

Hello all,

My husband and I (late 30s) are in the very early stages of planning a trip to Spain in mid-Oct 2018. We are active people and when we travel, we most enjoy cultural immersion, history, and architecture (art/museums are not our top priority). This is our first trip to Spain, but we hope that it is not our last. We usually prefer public transportation and are not planning on renting a car and driving (unless there is a very compelling reason to do so). Any and all advice is welcome!

As of now, price-wise it is more economical for us to either fly R/T to and from BCN or fly into BCN and then out of MAD. We are thinking of skipping Madrid and its environs this trip (we are more intrigued by Barcelona and Andalusia at this point).

Sat, Oct 20 Arrive BCN early a.m. - walk/explore/get bearings
Sun, Oct 21 - Barcelona - Gaudi sights
Mon, Oct 22 - Day trip to Monserrat
Tues, Oct 23 - Travel to Sevilla - walk/explore/get bearings
Weds, Oct 24 - Sevilla
Thurs, Oct 25 - Travel to Granada - walk/explore/get bearings
Fri, Oct 26 - Alahambra
Sat, Oct 27 - Granada to Madrid or Barcelona (depending on return flight)
Sun, Oct 28 - Depart for States early a.m.

Posted by Nestor
Virginia
284 posts

With only 8 nights (7 full days) in Spain you might be cutting it thin. With 3 travel days you will spend 1/2 day each time you move. I think that 2 destinations with day trips will give you more time to sightsee. Not sure what you like to see. Have fun.

Posted by traylaparks
1059 posts

My one piece of advice is for your day in Barcelona: Take the 10 minute walk from La Sagrada Familia to the Saint Pau Recinte Modernista complex. Montaner's work is overlooked by most tourists, but if you are intrigued by modernisme, Saint Pau could very well be one of the highlights of your visit to Barcelona.

https://www.santpaubarcelona.org/en/visits

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8971 posts

I agree with Nestor. Spain is a large country. You have only seven full days--though you may know that you are both just fine after an overnight flight, in which case it's 7.5+ days. That makes covering 4 cities (or even 3) that are so far apart extremely problematic. There certainly will be no time for cultural immersion beyond what you observe going on in bus and train stations. (And a car would definitely not be faster over the entire territory you propose to cover.)

Barcelona has lots of architectural eye candy. Gaudi is only one of several fabulous modernist architects who worked there. You could just about see all of La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell, Casa Mila (La Pedrera) and Casa Batllo in one day by rushing around, but all need pre-purchased (usually timed) tickets to avoid lengthy lines, so you can't just move on from one to the next when you realize you've seen enough. Also, there are additional Gaudi sites that might interest you. And what about work of other, equally talented architects at the Palau de la Musica Catalana, the Sant Pau modernista site, the modernism museum, and the modernist collection at the Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya--which also holds architectural elements and great frescoes rescued from churches in the Pyrenees? And the evocative Barri Gotic? Outside Barcelona, you would probably enjoy the large walled historic district in Girona and the white-cube former fishing village of Cadaques.

With the airfare situation you cite plus your lukewarm feeling about Madrid, I'd seriously consider making this an all-Catalunya trip or Catalunya plus Granada (flying back and forth between Barcelona and Granada with two nights in the latter).

Seville really needs more than one full day plus some extra hours, and going to Seville and not seeing Cordoba is a shame. To a somewhat lesser degree, the same can be said about Ronda. So that part of Andalucia really takes more time than Granada does. That's why I'm recommended Granada rather than Seville/Cordoba/?Ronda? in conjunction with Barcelona on this short trip. If you didn't have to fly into and out of Barcelona or Madrid, I'd say spending the whole trip in Andalucía would work well.

Posted by JenLad OP
10 posts

Thanks everyone! I appreciate the advice. I know I'm trying to pack a lot into a short time (and I've tried to whittle it down!) but unfortunately this is about the length of time we have with jobs and small kids - the grandparents can only take so much. We are usually able to hit the ground and keep up at a relatively good pace the first day (its usually the return jet lag that gets me). I really don't intend to "fit in" Madrid, but if we are going to fly out of Madrid, I would like to go ahead and get there the day before our flight so as to not be rushing or overly reliant on a train to be on time/deal with luggage/etc before a flight.

With what I've read about the time it takes to get in and out of Granada, we have contemplated not going. It seems like it is NOT a good day trip from Sevilla, correct? I have thought about making Sevilla our only second home base and then doing a day trip from there.

I have a feeling that giving up Barcelona would make the most sense, but that is what I most want to see.

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8971 posts

Yes, Granada isn't a day-trip from Seville. Cordoba is a good one, though.

You're right about getting to Madrid the night before your flight home. If you don't get into late, you can take the walking tour Rick lays out in his book.

I adore Barcelona myself, so I'm not going to try to talk you out of going there.

Posted by MorganMurphy
Denver, Colorado
66 posts

I had a similar dilemma when planning our trip to Spain this past September. I wanted to see Barcelona and Madrid and Andalusia (and, and, and!). As hard as it was to do, I did drop Barcelona, vowing to go back to Spain in the future. With so few days, it's difficult to spare the time It takes to get to/from Barcelona and Granada or Seville by train. Flights only take 90 minutes, but you also need to factor in getting to the airport, checking in, security, waiting, etc.

Tough choice! Good luck and have fun planning!

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
7017 posts

Can you make Seville your departure city ??

Sat Oct 20 Arrive in Barcelona (3 nts)
Sun Oct 21 - Barcelona - Gaudi sights
Mon Oct 22 - Day trip to Monserrat
Tue Oct 23 - Travel (fly) to Granada (2 nts)
Wed Oct 24 - Visit the Alahambra
Thu Oct 25 - Travel (train) to Cordoba (1 nt)
Visit the Mezquita
Fri Oct 26 - Travel (train) to Sevilla (2 nts)
Sat Oct 27 - Seville
Sun Oct 28 - Depart from Sevilla

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
10872 posts

Prioritize! Barcelona needs more than a day or two. Granada is a long way (time-wise) from everywhere. Sevilla is great, but Cordoba is maybe better (it's a personal favorite) just because the Mezquita is the best sight in Spain after the Alhambra.

I would say [1] Barcelona plus Granada OR [2] Sevilla/Cordoba/Granada.

If [1], fly R/T BCN, and fly round-trip from Granada to Barcelona, with your first and last nights in Barcelona, it's too risky to plan a separate flight on the same day as a longhaul. It's nearly 8 hours by train between the two.

If [2], fly R/T MAD, go right to Cordoba for 2N, then train/bus to Granada for 2N, then train/bus to Sevilla for 2N, then evening train to Madrid for early flight out.

Posted by lisasclaf
1 posts

I am doing a similar trip and airfares to Granada are quite low right now, lower than Madrid or Barcelona, so I am flying NY to Granada and returning Madrid to NYC. This gives me good options to see Granada , Seville and Madrid.

Posted by JenLad OP
10 posts

OK, so I know this still packs in quite a bit, but I did as Lisa suggested and checked out fares to Granada, which are actually more reasonable for me right now than MAD. How's this:

Sat - arrive Granada @ 9:40 a.m.; walk and explore; (Alhambra/Nasrid Palace at night?) (sleep Granada)
Sun - Granada (sleep Granada)
Mon - Granada bus/train to Seville - alternate option is to bus/train to Cordoba and spend the day in Cordoba, then take last train to Seville (sleep Seville) - Thoughts about whether to stop at Cordoba on way to Seville or make this a day trip while sleeping in Seville?
Tues - Seville (sleep Seville)
Weds - Seville (sleep Seville)
Thurs - Seville to Barcelona; probably just check in and dinner given length of train trip (sleep Barcelona)
Fri - Barcelona (sleep Barcelona)
Saturday - Barcelona (sleep Barcelona)
Sunday - depart around noon

Alternate Itinerary (although I hate to skip Granada)
Sat - arrive Seville around 12:15p (sleep Seville)
Sun - Seville
Mon - Seville (day trip to Cordoba; sleep Seville)
Tues - Seville
Weds - Seville to Barcelona (sleep Barcelona)
Thurs - Barcelona
Fri - Barcelona (day trip to Monserrat?)
Sat - Barcelona
Sun - depart around noon

Posted by acraven
Washington DC
8971 posts

I would not plan any sightseeing activity requiring a prepaid entry fee for my arrival day, much less my arrival night, unless I knew from prior experience that I would sleep well during the overnight plane ride. I know quite the opposite: I will be barely alive on my arrival day.

Posted by JenLad OP
10 posts

acraven- I know it's not ideal, but I think Nasrid Palace is only open at night on F and Sat nights in late October. I was hoping that since we should arrive early, we could walk/eat/check in and take a good nap before we went (it looks like tickets are available 8-930p). I think we will also get general daytime tickets for the next day if possible.

Posted by Chani
Tel Aviv
10872 posts

I loved seeing the Alhambra at night, and then going back during the day. It is so different. Instead of stopping in Cordoba on the way to Sevilla, I'd either day trip from Sevilla or stop on the way to Barcelona.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
9399 posts

I agree that the Nasrid Palace by day and by night are two completely different experiences. I didn't think nighttime was so special that it was a "must see."

So, I'd definitely book the Alhambra daytime visit for the day after your arrival, and play it by ear for the night of arrival. If you're feeling awake enough and there are tickets available for a nighttime visit, great; if you're tired or there are not tickets, you can give it a miss without too much regret. Do be sure to be as rested as possible for the Alhambra daytime visit.

Apparently the Alhambra tickets are selling out earlier than ever, so find out when the tickets go on sale for your date there, and be ready to buy them right away.

Posted by djp_syd
David in Brisbane, Australia
7017 posts

Eight nights is a perfect amount of time for Andalusia alone. I would leave Barcelona for a future trip, as it’s so easy to fly in to. Concentrate on Granada - Cordoba - Sevilla.