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Lisbon and Spain itinerary suggestions for 14-15 nights

All,

I am planning to travel to Lisbon and Spain with my family(wife and 12 year old daughter) in May 2020.
We love food, culture, history, architecture but not much into art....
In Spain, we want to mainly visit Barcelona and Andalusia region (Seville, Cordoba, Granada).
I am not too sure about Madrid but would like to squeeze 1-2 nights if possible.

Here is a tentative plan
D1 arrive in lisbon, relax, overnight lisbon
D2 lisbon local - overnight lisbon
D3 day trip to Sintra - overnight lisbon
D4 lisbon to seville (bus/flight) - overnight seville
D5 seville local - overnight seville
D6 seville-cordoba day trip - overnight seville
D7 seville-granada (train) - overnight granda
D8 granada local - overnight granada
D9 granada - madrid - overnight madrid
D10 madrid local - overnight madrid
D11 madrid-toldeo day trip - overnight madrid
D12 madrid - barcelona (train) - overnight barcelona
D13 barcelona local - overnight barcelona
D14 barcelona-girona-dali museum day trip - overnight barcelona
D15 barcelona local- overnight barcelona
D16 fly back

I am not sure if this is too much for 15 nights.
I am thinking I might need 1 more night in Seville and Lisbon. In that case, I can leave out Madrid.
Please suggest.

Posted by
1240 posts

It looks like a good itinerary to me. My only specific point would be on day 7 when you might consider using a coach (see Alsa website), from Seville to Granada rather than going by railway.

Otherwise, you don't seem too keen on Madrid. Personally, I think it's well worth visiting for itself, which is more than "just" art, plus the day-trip options such as Toledo. But if you are thinking about dropping Madrid, then I'd suggest
- Adding one night to Seville, which has a great deal to see
- Stopping overnight in Cordoba when travelling between Seville and Granada (by rail)
- Flying late from Granada to Barcelona, giving you more time in Granada and a much faster transfer time.

But, "perfect" is the enemy of the good. And I think your current plan is fine too. In the end you cannot do it all so Lisbon, Sevilla, Granada, Barcelona would be good for 15 night's variety..

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks for your suggestions.

Can you tell me other than art museums, what is the top attractions in Madrid?
We are not huge fan on big cities normally but may be I am missing something here.
Toldeo seems interesting but after spending time in Seville, Cordoba and Granada, I am thinking it's fine to give it a miss.

Any reasons why bus/coach is better from Seville to Granada?

I couldn't understand this - " Flying late from Granada to Barcelona, giving you more time in Granada and a much faster transfer time"
Can you explain?

Right now, the first decision is to figure out whether I want to skip Madrid altogether or just squeeze in a night or 2 at max? That way, I can add 1 night in Seville. I am also trying to avoid too many hotel changes and one-night stays. I read somewhere that we can probably keep the luggage in the Cordoba bus station. May be that's a good option like: Seville - Cordoba - Granada. It will be a long day but will probably maximize the time in Seville.

Are 3 nights in Lisbon good? or will it be too-rushed? The day trip to Sintra will probably be a half day only, so it should provide us time in the later afternoon/evening in Lisbon.

Posted by
1240 posts

Any reasons why bus/coach is better from Seville to Granada? Alsa run a regular coach service that goes direct and takes about 3 hours. There are faster railway services, but for those you need to change. Rail is better than coach in terms of comfort, but with a short journey like this it might be better to go direct. Only you can decide.

"I couldn't understand this - " Flying late from Granada to Barcelona, giving you more time in Granada and a much faster transfer time"
Can you explain? "
Granada to Barcelona by rail is a long journey, taking around 6 hours. Flying is much faster, though you have the additional time needed waiting at the airport. Overall, though, flying will be faster.

"Are 3 nights in Lisbon good? or will it be too-rushed?" Lisbon is a popular place for a long weekend of 4 or 5 nights, even including a part day trip to Sintra. Of course you could spend longer and see more, but I think 3 nights isn't unreasonable given how much else you want to see. Just focus the time on the main sights and don't expect to "see it all". But, yes, 4 nights would be better.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks Nick, makes sense.

Any suggestions about Madrid? While I am not too keen on Madrid based on my research so far, but I would like to hear your thoughts on what could be really unique and enjoyable for us given our interests. Since I am traveling so far, I will see if I can extend my vacation by a day or so to accommodate Madrid?

If I can skip Toledo, I can accommodate Madrid and add one day in Sevilla.
Please suggest.

Posted by
1240 posts

Look it can only be an opinion and they're going to be all different. If you had five nights available then I'd definitely recommend Madrid, certainly more so than Berlin or Stockholm. As well as Madrid itself, it is a great base for day-trips. But you don't have that time, so given the places you want to see I'd skip Madrid this time. But only you can choose! Personally, I think Lisbon, Sevilla, Granada and Barcelona would give you a more interesting and varied holiday. But Madrid certainly isn't a "don't bother" city like Brussels or Zurich.

I think Madrid's problem is that it's in Spain and has to compare to other Spanish cities. If Madrid were in Austria or America then there'd be no doubt it was a top place to visit. But compared to Seville or Barcelona, etc. it rather falls down.

Posted by
18766 posts

I think all of your planned stops are at least a day too short. For myself, I would spend (and have spent) more than twice as long. In addition, I don't think Sintra is a half-day trip. Combining Girona an Figueres into a single day-trip isn't what I would do, because I think Girona is a great place to spend a full day.

You can not see all the worthwhile places in Portugal and Spain in 2 weeks or 2 months, so I have no problem with omitting "important" places. I would not, however, eliminate Toledo in order to include Madrid if you are not art-lovers. Madrid is a large, vibrant city, but it's not particularly old or historic, and it's not--to me--very distinctive visually. The main attraction aside from the art museums seems to be the Royal Palace. I am biased; I do not like most palace furnishings. Therefore, I did not enjoy the Royal Palace at all. However, many (maybe most) other visitors disagree with me. There are of course other things to see in Madrid, the Naval Museum and the often-mentioned Retiro Park among them. I've only walked along the edge of Retiro Park, but I've always thought mentioning a large green space as a primary target for someone visiting a major capital city for just a few days indicates something about the dearth of other attractive options.

Opinions about Madrid vary. Some people prefer it to Barcelona because the tourist load is smaller--and perhaps for other reasons (hard as that is for me to believe). To me it is a perfectly nice place but--setting aside the art museums, of which I am a fan--probably not in Spain's Top 10.

The trip from Lisbon to Seville will be a slog. Although I try to avoid mixed-mode travel legs, that's a long enough trip (it looks like at least 7 hours on the bus, excluding the hour lost to the change in time zone) that I would compare that travel time to the train/bus combo (switching in Faro). I have not researched the schedules, and it's possible the bus is a clear winner. I would also consider flying. This border-crossing situation is the reason why many of use discourage people from trying to visit Portugal and Spain on the same short trip.

Edited to add: I agree with what Nick said (much more succinctly) about Madrid, but I think we differ about the value of an extra day in Lisbon-Seville-Granada-Barcelona vs. a day in Madrid.

Posted by
2180 posts

Madrid has many parks, gardens, and plazas which are all very charming and pleasant to walk through. Madrid also has a very good maritime/naval museum, that details Spain's prominent role in the age of exploration. There's also an excellent museum on the archaeology/antiquity of ancient Iberia. If you like sumptuous 18th century palaces, they have the Royal Palace (largest in Europe).

A pretty good food scene rounds it out, with great markets like the 100 year old Mercado de San Miguel. I also find most of the shops/restaurants the old centre of Madrid still caters to locals rather than tourists, as you'll find is the case in Barcelona. On top, you have some of the best day trips in Spain, from Roman ruins to fairytale castles and everything in between.

However, with all this great stuff to see and do in Madrid, I'd advise you to skip it on this trip, you simply don't have enough time, especially if you factor in 1-2 daytrips from Madrid. Like Nick, I recommend you just fly direct from Granada to Barcelona. It is the logical choice, that will save you precious time and potential a bit of money. Best come back to Madrid when you have at least 3 nights available and can combine it with another city or region of Spain.

If you eliminate Madrid, than that will free up some days, so you will have the flexibility to travel at a more enjoyable pace. I'd recommend a revised itinerary along these lines:

Fly in to Lisboa
Lisboa (4 nights) - day trip to Sintra or Evora
ALSA Bus or Fly to
Sevilla (3 nights)
AVE Train to
Cordoba (2 nights)
AVE Train to
Granada (2 nights)
Fly to
Barcelona (4 nights) - day trip to Girona
Fly out of Barcelona

I gave Cordoba a few nights because it's honestly my favourite city in Andalucia (beats out Sevilla and Granada). It would be a disservice to see this magical city as only a day trip from Sevilla. It's charm comes out in the golden hours of the afternoon, when all the day-trippers have left back for Sevilla and you have the whitewashed old-town to yourself.

Posted by
18766 posts

One other thing, about your logistics in Andalucía. Seville is the obvious arrival point from Portugal. Unless you decide to fly from Andalucía to Barcelona/Madrid/Toledo [edit--it wouldn't make sense to fly unless you are heading all the way to Barcelona], your best ending point will be Cordoba, because it gives you the fastest train route north. If you start back from Seville or Granada, you will pass through Cordoba on the train. Therefore, if your onward transportation will be by train, I would travel Seville-Granada-Cordoba. For those three cities, you'll spend about an extra hour on the train, but you'll end up about 2-1/2 hours closer to Madrid/Toledo/Barcelona in the end.

If you want to explore flying straight to Barcelona, you can check your options on skyscanner.com, which does a good job of corralling schedule and fare information for European budget airlines. Seville, Granada and Malaga all have airport. Malaga's not practical for your itinerary. Granada's airport is fairly small, but there might be a workable Granada-Barcelona flight. Cordoba doesn't have a commercial airport, I don't think. So if you ultimately decide flying to Barcelona is the thing to do, the route you proposed (Seville-Cordoba-Granada) might be best.

[I started writing this message before I read Carlos's comments.]

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks a lot for your replies.
I think my mind is a lot clear now.

The plan suggested by Carlos above is nice, the only choice I need to make if I stay a couple of nights in Cordoba or not. May be I can just stay for a night to get a vibe of the city.

For Lisbon to Seville, there is a direct bus by ALSA which takes 6-6.5 hours.But, I agree that flight might work out faster. Other option is to take a cab for a private transfer which can offer hotel-to-hotel service and overall will probably take less time than flight (around 4.5 hours without considering any stops). It also allows us option to stop anywhere in between.
For Granada to Barcelona, flight is the best option I think.
If I skip Madrid, Cordoba should not be the last place of the 3 Andulasian cities, as there is no direct connectivity to Barcelona.
There is a direct train between Granada and Barcelona which runs twice a day and takes 6.5 hours.
There is a direct train between Seville and Barcelona which takes 5+ hours.
What if I fly from Lisbon to Malaga airport and directly go to Granada? Then come to Seville (probably a day in Cordoba in between) and then take the direct train to barcelona from Seville?
Let me know.

I don't have any problems about leaving out Madrid but is there a way to accommodate Toledo? Since I will be anyway visiting the Andulasian cities which have a lot of Moorish influence and architecture, will Toledo be a lot different or appealing? One problem with Toledo is that there is no connectivity with other places and we need to come to Madrid to get there which will add more time in traveling.

Also, I heard that many attractions are closed on Monday. I might be in Barcelona and Sevilla/Granada on Monday. I will check the various places on the internet but please share if you are already aware.

EDIT - One more important question? I can travel in last week of April or in May. I am thinking early May will be a good time considering the weather etc.

Posted by
18766 posts

You can easily take the train from Cordoba to Barcelona, sometimes with a change in Madrid. There are quite a few trains each day that take between 4-1/2 and 4-3/4 hours. I think you'll find that all the trains from Granada and Seville go through Cordoba on their way to Madrid and Barcelona. Ending up in Cordoba makes the exit train trip shorter.

You could fly from Lisbon to Malaga and then travel on to Granada. If you do that, I think you'd do best to travel from there to Seville and then Cordoba, because Cordoba positions you closer to Madrid/Toledo/Barcelona.

It's true that Mudejar architecture is a good part of what makes Toledo special. Only you can determine whether it's best to hold off on Toledo and spend the extra time at one of your other destinations. It's not a tragedy to miss a place (which is a good thing for all of us). Trains between Madrid and Toledo are fast and relatively frequent, but it is extra travel time.

A lot of the most popular attractions in Barcelona are privately owned and open seven days a week. Quite a few are open into the evening, which provides extra sightseeing hours. I don't think you'll have any problem filling your Monday there. Rick's good about summarizing the operating hours of top sights in major cities in his books. That's a good place to start for Barcelona. There are quite a few places in Barcelona for which you should buy a ticket in advance to avoid a potentially very long ticket line and possibly a sell-out. So you're going to need to visit those websites anyway and can check on the closing days at the same time.

The two Andalusian sights for which you'll want to buy tickets in advance are the Alhambra (which sometime sells out months in advance, so pin that one down as soon as tickets go on sale for your date) and the Alcazar in Seville. The Seville Cathedral also suffers from long lines, but you can avoid them by buying a combo ticket at the Iglesia Colegial del Salvador not too far away. You'll find opening days and hours for those and other local sights in Rick's guide book, but such things do change, so you really should hit the individual websites for the latest information.

It warms up early in Andalucía. You'll probably happier if you aren't there in late May. A lot of folks would find that area more comfortable in late April The perfect time will vary from year to year. You can take a look at actual, day-by-day weather statistics for your destinations on the website timeanddate.com. Check out May 2019, May 2018, etc. I see that Seville hit 91 F on May 1 this year, and the high was in the 90s every day from May 22 through May 31. A lot of the monthly-average temperatures floating around seem to be based on a period prior 2010; climate change has had a major impact since then, worsening the extremes.

Granada will probably be cooler than Seville and Cordoba because of its altitude.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks .. there are 3 trains daily between Cordoba and Barcelona which takes around 4.5 hours.
I am thinking of adding 1 night in Cordoba instead of a day trip to experience it in the evening. Also, there seems to a patio festival in Cordoba between May 5-17 which sounds interesting
3 nights in Seville should be good but are there any other day trips from Seville worth doing - ROnda/Arcos/Cadiz?
Also, do we need 4 nights in Lisbon or 3 nights are good enough?
I am pretty convinced about 4 nights in Barcelona as there are lots to see.

Please suggest - I am pretty close to locking down the plans I feel
This forum has been super helpful

Posted by
18766 posts

I think the Patio Festival would be great. I was in Cordoba too early for it this year, but I did track down some of the patios anyway, and that was fun. You'd be able to see them when they are all dressed up for company.

If I had just 3 nights in Seville, I don't think I'd want to take a side-trip. By the time you get settled in at your new hotel, your 3 nights may turn into just 2-1/2 days, and there's a lot to see in Seville. Plus it's a large city, with sights quite scattered. Each of the three potential day-trip destinations you mention will mean at least 3 hours' worth of round-trip transportation, and that doesn't include the time you spend getting to the train station, bus station, or dealing with a rental-car company. If you stay in Seville those 3 hours will be sightseeing time. But they are all interesting destinations; Arcos is the smallest.

I'd find 3 nights very short for Lisbon, and that's without going to Sintra. Lisbon has multiple interesting neighborhoods in addition to the specific sights. One of Rick's 2018 TV shows is on Lisbon. You can watch it on this website to get an idea of the city. Click on my link, scroll down, then click on "Portugal".

I sort of feel like if you're going to go to Portugal at all, you should take the time to see at least one place fairly well, rather than rushing through it. Choosing to include Lisbon consigns you to either a painfully long bus ride or a trip back to the airport when you've only had your feet on the ground for a very few days. At some point you might ask yourself, "Why am I doing this? It would have been easier to spend these too-few days in Spain."

Posted by
24 posts

There are many kinds of travelers - there are people who will spend 2 weeks in Barcelona and say it's not enough.
I am not that kind and I have no shame about it.

I have already dropped Madrid and Toledo from my initial plan... and I am comfortable with the pace of the new plan.
Lisbon - I will keep it to 4 nights which should give us a decent feel of the city.
Barcelona is also 4 nights.

The only decision to make is Cordoba, Granada and Seville. I have to see if I can have 6 or 7 nights, though 7 should be better.
Anyways, there are a few options I can think of -

Option 1 - 7 nights - 3 Seville, 2 Granada, 2 Cordoba
Option 2 - 7 nights - 4 Seville, 2 Granada, 1 Cordoba
Option 3 - 7 nights - 5 Seville, 2 Granda (cordoba day trip from Seville, other day trips from Seville possible)

Option 4 - 6 nights - 4 Seville, 2 Granada (cordoba day trip from Seville)
Option 5 - 6 nights - 3 Seville, 2 Granada, 1 Cordoba.

I am thinking Option 1 for 7 nights and option 4 for 6 nights.
Do you thinking Option 5 makes sense?
Please suggest.

Posted by
18766 posts

Cordoba is geographically on the way back to Barcelona, so spending a night there isn't necessarily a bad choice. If you plan to proceed by train, it saves you from two trips along the rail line between Seville and Cordoba. In exchange, you have the extra hotel check-in/check-out. It gives you an opportunity to be in Cordoba one evening and early the next morning. Probably worth it.

As you note, travelers move at different speeds. I would not like a 2-night stop followed by a 1-night stop. It seems as if that doesn't bother you.

Seven nights would be a lot better than six in this situation, but that's always true.

Posted by
2180 posts

Agree with Acraven above, if seven nights option 1, if six nights option 5.

Posted by
1240 posts

Any of those options would work, so the short answer is pick which you like best and go for it.

Longer answer -

Clearly, seven nights is better than six if you have the time. It's not as if you will run out of things to see at any of the stops.

Without wishing to belabour the point have you dismissed the option of flying from Granada to Barcelona? You could go Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada then fly - avoiding the backtracking.

Cordoba is delightful in the evening, wandering around the old Judería. But so are Sevilla and Granada - especially with the similar Seville old Judería or Granada Albaicín. If you're content to change hotel twice in six days then do stop overnight in Cordoba. But it would also be fine to make Cordoba a day-trip from Sevilla or a day's stop-off between Seville and Granada. I prefer options 3 and 4 for this reason, since I'd be reluctant to change hotel so often.

Posted by
24 posts

Thanks for your replies.
I will update the thread once I am done with the flight bookings.
I will need further suggestions on hotels, places/neighborhoods to stay, detailed itinerary in each place.
I will ask more detailed questions after doing some more research but please feel free to provide any travel tips, attractions, hotels which you recommend. My budget is typical mid-range ($150-250 per night). We would like something nearby to the central areas, which is safe to walk around, good family-friendly eating places (not late night party places).

Posted by
1240 posts

This is just me being lazy, but may I suggest once you have a final itinerary, you start a new thread asking for detailed recommendations on accommodation, sights, etc.?

It's just that I find long threads with multiple itineraries a bit confusing and I get "lost" in remembering what's been decided and what discarded. Also with a new thread, it'll be a reminder to people to mention things like what to book early (I know Acraven has already helped on this, but it might now be lost amongst everything else). And, since I'm very lazy, could you quote your budget in euros as well as dollars?

Posted by
24 posts

Hey , will do so..budget is around $150-$250 per night.
Not sure if that will be sufficient.

discussed with family, nobody is in favor of 1-night stay in a place.
So, it will be option 3 (7 days) or option 4(6 days).

How is the safety during evening/night?
Like, if I go to Cordoba on a day trip, what time can I stay there till evening? Seville is only 1 hour by bus or so.

Posted by
18766 posts

A bus from Seville to Cordoba will take closer to two hours. The fast trains take just under 45 minutes. There is a good bit of inaccurate data about transportation schedules on the Internet, especially on the website Rome2Rio.com. It's very important to get your information about schedules, travel times and fares from the websites of the bus and rail companies.

The Spanish live their lives on a schedule very different from ours. Lunch tends to begin at 2 PM; dinner, at 10 PM. There will be plenty of folks on the streets between midnight and 1 AM, walking back home from dinner. I wouldn't expect any significant safety issues. That said, I am not cut out for Spanish hours and am back in my hotel room by 10 PM, so I haven't been wandering the streets any later than that.

Posted by
2180 posts

How is the safety during evening/night? Like, if I go to Cordoba on a day trip, what time can I stay there till evening? Seville is only 1 hour by bus or so.

Cordoba is very safe at night, no need to worry, pickpockets won't be an issue, as you find in Barcelona. You can stay out as long as you like, remember we Spaniards don't start dinner until 9:30 pm at the earliest ;-)

Just as long as you are able to catch the last AVE back to Sevilla, I think the last ones are usually around 9:00 pm. Sevilla to Cordoba is about 2 hrs by bus and only 45 min by the AVE high-speed train.

Posted by
24 posts

LOL :)
I am from India and though India has too many diverse cultures, we are pretty late eaters as well. Like, I just had my dinner at 10:30 PM. Actually, I find it hard to adjust to US schedule when I travel there.

I guess then it's pretty easy then. Stay in Cordoba till 8-9 PM and come back to Seville by the last train or so. Problem solved

Posted by
24 posts

I just realized there is no direct train between Granada and Seville which is a bummer.
It looks like the construction is going on forever. Is there any latest update on this? Will it get complete soon?

Also, I am find train fares in Andulusia super expensive.
The Granda-Cordoba train costs $80 which is insane and actually more than Madrid-Barcelona train (that probably covers 2-3 times the distance). Is it because there are less trains? Is there a secret to booking the trains so that I can get the tickets at cheaper rates?

With these rates, bus seem to be the only viable option as it is absolutely not worth it.

Posted by
582 posts

When we traveled through Andalusia in September 2017, the train tracks to/from Granada were not completed. So we used the ALSA bus to travel from Cordoba to Granada, and then from Granada to Malaga. I highly recommend ALSA bus if you cannot find a lower train fare. The bus is very inexpensive, and it is modern, clean, air conditioned, and very comfortable. We have no complaints at all about the bus.

Which site did you use to check the train fare? I used Loco2 at the time, and they were very reasonable. I seem to remember reading here recently that unfortunately Loco2 was bought by another company, so I don’t know its new name or if the rates would be as reasonable as they were in 2017.

Posted by
1240 posts

Where are you looking for rail tickets? Looking on Renfe - the people who operate the services - I can see advance tickets for January on Granada - Cordoba trains starting at €25. You won't see May tickets advertised yet, so to get an idea of cost search next month.

The new fast line connecting Granada to the AVE network at Antequera opened in the Summer, so that shouldn't be an issue for services to Cordoba.