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Looking for advice: 10 days in Spain

My wife and I are starting to plan a 35 or so days in Europe next year. We're thinking something like 10 days in Portugal, 10 in Spain, 10 in Italy and then end it with a few days in Athens/Santorini. We've done some travel but none in Spain. Our goal is balancing being active and seeing many things with being able to relax and take in the culture (we'd like to have some slower days to get to know the neighborhood, people and culture). So our goal is to not jump from city to city every couple days. We're thinking one to two locations per country and then take day trips. We think we've got Portugal figured out (a few days in Lisbon and Porto with a day trip to the Douro Valley). My question to you experienced Spain travelers. At this point we're thinking of around 10 days in Madrid with day trips outside of the city (could even double pay for an overnight side trip if it made sense). The other thought is 7 days in Madrid and 3 in Barcelona.

If you had to pick 2 locations for 10 days do you have any thoughts or suggestions? Or do you have opinions in the full 10 in Madrid.

Note: my wife and I are very healthy and active. Again we also have a desire to not run ragged on this trip and take in the culture.

Thanks all!

Posted by
3449 posts

I’ll start by saying that in my opinion you need to rethink many parts of your plan. Travel connections between Portugal and Spain are not easy,so you need to count getting between them as a lost day. Tacking Greece on to your trip will also consume a day. In fact, you should count every change of venue as a lost half or full day.
While Madrid has much to recommend it, including a couple of day trips, 10 days, even 7, is way too much. Hands down, Madrid’s major attractions are its art museums. Does that interest you?
Barcelona, otoh, is part of a large culturally distinct region, You need to allot more time there. A week, including travel time, with one day for Girona and another elsewhere, wouldn’t be too much.
Have you visited Italy before? 10 days for the most attraction-rich country in Europe just doesn’t make sense to me. Our first time there was for 17 days, and we limited ourselves to Rome, Florence, and Venice.

Posted by
2669 posts

I enjoyed Madrid (and have never been to Barcelona) but for me, the best parts of Spain wer the beautiful towns and cities in the regions of Andalusia and Extremadura. Places like Granada, Merida, Seville, Ronda and Caceras. I loved these areas and hope to go back one day.

Madrid has some wonderful sights and museums and is certainly worth a stop, but I would only spend 3 days there and then head south.

FWIW, I would leave off Greece - you just don't have enough time to add that in. Three countries are enough, although two would be better.

Posted by
1525 posts

There are lots of folks here who don’t think Madrid is worth more than a day or two, only to see a few famous paintings. I disagree with them, and feel sorry they’ve missed out on so much. The city is rich with broad histories. It’s also the second largest city in Europe, the seat of a thriving, contemporary society that is very worthy of exploration.

7/3 split between Madrid and Barcelona would be fine, but the 10 days could easily be spent with a relaxed base in Madrid and 2-4 day trips.

This maybe goes out the window if you’re looking at July or August, when walking the city’s streets is like standing in front of the devil’s hairdryer. And that’s before a bus blows its exhaust on you.

Posted by
5414 posts

It really depends on what you’re wanting to do in the cities, but I would tend to recommend Sevilla & Barcelona if you were just wanting to get a good first experience in Spain. Personally, I find it much easier to attain your goal of being able to relax and take in the culture in the middle-to-small size cities.

In Sevilla, we enjoyed the city bike tour to learn the history & cover several locations in the city. Also, we took a cooking class in the Triana neighborhood. And there’s several flamenco choices. There’s a lot of day-trip options from Sevilla to select one or two that interest you.

Posted by
4939 posts

To me, 10 days in Madrid by itself is a lot, but it depends on which and how many days trips you plan to take. Four or five days in the city with an equal number of days trips could work out just fine especially if you alternate the city with the day trips. I wouldn’t shortchange Barcelona by only going there for three days. Maybe you could stop for a night or two someplace between Porto and Madrid. Potential day trips might include, Alcalá de Henares, Toledo, Segovia, Cuenca, Ávila/Salamanca, León, Burgos, or even Zaragoza.

Posted by
16 posts

We just got back from a 5-week trip to Spain & Portugal. We flew into Barcelona - Madrid - Porto - Lisbon - Algarve - Tarifa - Cartegena - Valencia - Barcelona.
3 nights in both Barcelona & Madrid
4 nights: Porto
6 nights in both Lisbon & Algarve
5 nights: Tarifa - (took the ferry to Morocco overnight) & day tripped to Gibraltar
2 nights: Cartagena, Valencia & Barcelona

I wish I had another night in Porto, I would have taken Madrid down to 2 nights. By the time we hit the Algarve, which was booked as a vacation from our vacation we needed it. Porto and Lisbon were go go go!

In my opinion, 7 days in Madrid is a waste. South of Spain is so beautiful - Seville, Malaga. Are you driving, plane or train around?
3 in Barcelona is perfect.
If you have your heart set on the 10/10/10, would suggest taking away from Greece - do that on another trip and add the Greece days to Portugal and have a rest in the Algarve. You will need a rest before tackling Italy.
If you want suggestions on an itinerary for Porto and Lisbon let me know. Douro Valley is beautiful!

Posted by
6222 posts

Stepping back, and looking at The Big are planning roughly 4 weeks. You are going to "do" four countries (or parts of four countries). For me, that's one or two (maybe three) countries too many.

You could easily spend all 4 weeks in just Spain and Portugal (heck, 4 weeks in Spain alone). Or 4 weeks in Italy alone. Greece would be a great 4 week trip, too.

Are you really sure you want to split your time among four countries? Each has enough to see to keep me happy for 2, 3 or 4 weeks without crossing any borders.

Posted by
2 posts

Thanks to all of you for your input. We're early in the planning process and have given us wonderful things to consider. VERY helpful.

Many of you got me thinking about reducing the number of countries we visit. We've spent 2 weeks in Italy previously and had loved it...hence a reason we added it into our thinking. Maybe we consider reducing our trip to 2 countries. We've been to Italy, Austria, Netherlands and Prague. So maybe we limit our countries to Portugal and Spain. Also replacing Santorini with a Portugal beach destination.

Head is spinning but that is because I'm just now pulling ideas together. Thanks!

Oh, and we're planning on May/June

Posted by
127 posts

I've made several trips to Spain, for work reasons all confined to 12 or 13 complete days (not counting the days I fly in or out), and have usually confined each trip to Madrid, plus two other cities or towns. My goals are similar to yours: getting to know a "neighborhood, people, and culture," without jumping "from city to city." I have enjoyed each of my trips to Spain, and hesitate to pick favorites, but if I were to, I would say that in some ways my two best were the trips devoted to Madrid--Zaragoza--Teruel (2009), and the one devoted to Madrid--Cordoba--Jerez de la Frontera (2019). I should point out that large tourist crowds, and the global tourism-consumer culture that seems to arise wherever you find such crowds, repel me, so my suggestions will rarely involve the Famous Tourist Spectacles that most people travel to see.

Though the writer was careful enough to note that it was just his opinion, I would not consider seven days in Madrid to be a "waste," as someone mentioned above. I find Madrid to be a fascinating city, and I could easily spend that much time, or more, there; and if I haven't yet, it's not because it would be time "wasted," but because, as the writer correctly pointed out, there are other places I want to see among my relatively few vacation days.

Finally, I will put in a vote of agreement for those suggesting you confine your trip to Portugal and Spain. Ultimately it depends on which of the two competing travel approaches one prefers: running around in an effort to see everything (even if you just glimpse some of it), versus seeing fewer, careful-selected places and getting to know them; the latter being my preferred mode.

Posted by
15359 posts

Well done. Much better to reduce the number of countries. You can see quite a bit of Portugal in 2 weeks, 3 is better if you are okay with renting a car. I could spend 35 days in Spain (and have done nearly twice that, the longest were 3.5 weeks). Go to Spain first, since especially Andalucia but also Madrid get quite hot as the days grow longer.

I try to avoid hot weather as much as possible, so I'd start in Madrid, then Andalucia and finally Barcelona. Then fly to either Porto or Lisbon and home from the other (unless you loop through Portugal, more likely with 3 weeks than 2).

Posted by
7175 posts

This would make for a leisurely in depth exploration with a minimal # of hotels necessary.

5 nights in Porto & northern Portugal
2 nights in Coimbra
5 nights in Lisbon & southern Portugal
5 nights in Sevilla
3 nights in Granada
5 nights in Madrid
5 nights in Barcelona
5 nights on the Costa Brava (Llafranc perhaps)