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Madrid and Andalucia October 2020 revised supposed itinerary

My supposed plan is to take 2 weeks off work in October to travel to Spain. I want to avoid renting a car if reasonably possible. If any of this matters: I am a 36 year old man solo traveler. This will be first trip to Spain and my 5th solo trip to Europe. I am trying to spend less than $3,500 US dollars total. Past trips cost me about under $2,700 to under $3,100. This is approximately what I think I will do. I have not bought plane tickets yet.

Saturday to Sunday, night 0: flights from Detroit to Seville

Sunday: Arrive in Seville. Find hotel, find a produce market or grocery store, walk past various monuments, possibly Metropol Parason /Antiquarium de Sevilla (museum of Roman remains). 1st night sleep in Seville

Monday: Royal Alcázar (open 9:30-5:00pm). If time, Hospital de los Venerables, Archivo de Indias, if time, other sites and/or walk past various monuments. 2nd night sleep in Seville

Tuesday: If not seen yet, Casa de Pilatos, Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, if time, Palacio de las Dueñas. Possibly some flamenco performance. 3rd night Sleep in Seville

Wednesday: Bus or train to Granada. Walk past various monuments, old wall, and so on. 4th night sleep in Granada

Thursday: Alhambra. If extra time, walk past other monuments. 5th night sleep in Granada

Friday: Train or bus to Cordoba. Mezquita, if time, Alcázar, baths of the Caliphate Alcázar. 6th night sleep in Cordoba

Saturday: Casa de Sefarad and Sinagoga, Museum of Al-Andalus life, if time Museo Arqueologico de Cordoba, Calahorra Tower, city walls, other monuments. 7th night cordoba

Sunday: Possibly monuments and/or a museum not seen yet. Train or bus to Madrid. 8th night sleep in Madrid

Monday: Prado Museum, walk past various monuments. 9th night sleep in Madrid

Tuesday: probably Thyssen museum and/or Reina Sofia. 10th night Sleep in Madrid.

Wednesday: National Archaeological museum, if time other museums. 11th night Sleep in Madrid.

Thursday: Royal palace, possibly other museums, parks, or monuments. 12th night Sleep in Madrid.

Friday: Day trip to Toledo. 13th night. Sleep in Madrid.

Saturday: flights back to Detroit

Posted by
6841 posts

Your plan looks good. I did something similar last year. I am in Zaragoza right now about to take the ALSA bus to get back to Madrid.

Posted by
582 posts

You have a wonderful trip planned, and you have obviously done your homework! We took a very similar trip in 2017. We had 15 nights, and that included every place you are visiting in addition to 2 nights in Malaga. So, based on my experience, I might tweak your itinerary a little bit.

You currently have 3 nights in Seville. I recommend 4 nights in Seville, which gives you 3 full days. Right now you only have 2 full days and a bit of your arrival day, when you will be jetlagged. Seville is a gorgeous city with lots of important historical and cultural sights. I don't know if you can see and do everything you want to do in 2 days. Of course, you are a lot younger than my husband and myself (we were 67 and 70 when we did our trip) so you might travel at a faster and harder pace than us. I am happy to see that you have included Casa di Pilatos, which is beautiful and definitely a hidden gem. Seville was very crowded when we were there in late September, but Casa di Pilatos was not crowded at all. It was so refreshing! I don't see the Seville Cathedral on your itinerary. Any reason for that? It really is beautiful! And please visit Plaza de Espagna. It is stunningly beautiful! We also enjoyed walking through Triana.

Two nights is the minimum for Granada, IMO, so good to see you have 2 nights there, which you need to see the Alhambra properly. I recommend the night tour, as well. It's magical! You didn't mention the Granada Cathedral.

And two nights is perfect for Cordoba. So many people visit Cordoba as a daytrip, and I think they are missing out on a lot. Cordoba is one of our favorite cities. If you have the time, I recommend seeing the Palacio di Viana with its 12 patios. Another hidden gem!

Madrid/Toledo: I notice you have 6 nights for Madrid, and you plan on a day trip to Toledo. I would take one night from Madrid and add it to Seville. I would take another night from Madrid and stay overnight in Toledo for one night. Toledo is EXTREMELY crowded during the day time with day trippers and large tour buses. Maybe it won't be as crowded in October? Not sure. Will you be there early or later in October? I was very happy to spend one night in Toledo because it is much quieter and also very pretty with its illuminated buildings. If we went for the day only, I think I would have left there thinking "what is all the fuss about"?

For sightseeing in Madrid, I would also visit Retiro Park which is very pretty and relaxing, a wonderful green space! We loved having sangria at an outdoor café by the lake.

I hope this helps!

Posted by
14326 posts

Hi Mike. You've done your usual job of thorough planning. Here are my thoughts, based on lots of time spent in all those cities, and having seen most of the sights on your itinerary.

The later in the month you can go, the less likely you'll have hot weather. I don't know if that's a consideration for you. Andalucia is the warmest, driest part of Europe and temps in the mid-90s aren't unusual in early October. Room rates may be lower in late October.

Sevilla. The Antiquarium is very well done, worth a short visit if you're already in the area. La Casa de Flamenco has very good shows in a patio setting, so you are close to the performers. Of the 3 sights on Tuesday, I've only been to Palacio de las Dueñas so I can't compare, but just as interesting as the buildings and grounds are the story and artifacts about the last resident, she was quite a character.

Granada. On your first evening, wander through the Albaicin and up (parts are steep) to the Mirador San Nicolás (Alhambra viewpoint for sunset). Don't worry if you get lost walking back down. As long as you're going downhill, you'll be fine.

Cordoba. The only really interesting part of the Alcazar is the gardens. Go if you want to see the gardens, or skip it. Skip most of the exhibits in the Arab Baths, just go to see the baths! The Archaeological Museum is worth your time, though. The guided tour of Casa de Sefarad is worth the money (it was only a few euros when I visited). The synagogue may still be closed for restoration, but you'll see much the same in Toledo. Don't miss the statue of Maimonides just down the street. While you're in the Al-Andalus museum, go up to the roof of the Calahora Tower for a nice viewpoint. Palacio de Viana has beautiful patios (skip the house tour). If there's a reasonably priced guided tour (the TI used to have them) to Medina Azahara, take advantage of it. Check for a horse show at the Royal Stables. You don't need to like horses to appreciate it.

Madrid. Too many nights. Spend 2 of them in Toledo instead. You could go from Cordoba, changing trains in Madrid (allow 20 minutes or more to transit the station). It's much better as an overnight stay (you can avoid the daytripping crowds at the most popular sights) and there's enough to fill a full day plus. The Prado really needs a whole day - and even so, you should plan in advance so you get to see everything you want - it is huge. The audio guide is good. I love the Thyssen (Impressionism is my favorite period), unless there's a special exhibition, 2 hours is probably enough. I haven't been to the Reina Sofia, but unless you are a big fan of modern art, you probably don't need more than a couple hours there either. The nearby Naval Museum is very interesting (you need to show your passport to enter because it's under the auspices of the Royal Navy).

In Cordoba, Don Paula may be in your price range. It's clean, comfortable, rooms have a kettle and small fridge (no breakfast service) and very well located - walk everywhere. There's a small grocery around the corner and a big supermarket about 5 minutes away. In Granada, Hostal/Pension Rodri was fine though a little quirky, it was in a very good location, a short walk to the minibus to the Alhambra. In Madrid, look at Hostal Acapulco. I haven't stayed there but it was highly recommended to me by one of the Forum folks. It's a good central location, a short walk to Puerto del Sol.

The most prevalent supermarket chain in Spain is El Corte Ingles. You will probably find one near wherever you're staying.

Posted by
18906 posts

I agree with the other respondents: I would take some nights away from Madrid. Staying a night or two (I stayed three) in Toledo would be great. Seville (especially) and Granada could also use an additional night. To get some extra time for Cordoba, I'd probably take a fairly late train to Madrid--though that would be affected by how many nights I transfer from Madrid to other cities.

Your itinerary is easily doable without a car. I don't know how much your flight will cost you, but I assume you'll be OK, cost-wise. Madrid's going to be the place where your hotel costs the most, I think, so shifting some nights to other cities will only help. Aside from Madrid and Toledo your trip sequence doesn't really matter, so you should be able to avoid any special events that don't interest you but would drive up your hotel costs.

Posted by
1250 posts

You probably know this, but in case not two ways to save money on the logistics part of the holiday are:

a) Stay in an hostal (not hostel), rather than an hotel. Hostal are, more or less, the Spanish equivalent of a guesthouse or pension. They won't have the facilities of an hotel and might be more spartan, but are perfectly adequate if you're not planning to spend much time in accommodation beyond sleeping, and

b) Since you seem to be a detailed planner, you'll probably know the journeys you want to make well in advance. Many trains and coach ("bus") services use dynamic pricing so you can save by booking in advance and committing to a particular time and date.

I'm not sure what produce you need to buy on arrival, but since its a Sunday you'll find most of the best markets and specialist food shops closed. Those open will be charging a "tourist premium". So instead I'd find a corner shop or mini-market, which will be open, to get any essentials and then do better food shopping the next day.

For Granada, it would be worth reviewing the Dobla de Oro ticket to see if the sights covered are of interest. Several of them are, in my view anyway, the city's top attractions.

PS I wouldn't bother with paying for a flamenco show. Flamenco is as enticing as watching paint dry whilst someone runs their fingernails down a blackboard. It's just shouting, screeching and stomping.

Posted by
1878 posts

Consider Segovia and El Escorial as day trips, but don’t do all three as you will short change Madrid. Careful on transportation back from Toledo, I have heard it can sell out leaving you with a very expensive cab ride. The transportation connections have improved in Spain since my last visit in 2005.

Posted by
657 posts

Thanks for your replies. I have stayed in both hostels and lower end hotels on past trips. I try to buy most of my food from grocery stores or markets when I travel. I plan to buy advance tickets online for the al-Hambra and some of the sites I will see. Whatever I don't have timed tickets for, I will fit in as time allows. I am aware that train tickets, and probably bus tickets, in Spain, have to be bought in advance.

I feel like archaeological museums, historic houses, or other monuments are more appealing to me than churches. If I happen to have extra time and one of the major churches doesn't have a long line, maybe I will go inside briefly or just be satisfied to view it from the outside.

So far, the best plane tickets I saw are from Detroit to Philadelphia to Madrid to either Seville or Granada; or Detroit to Charlotte-Douglas to Madrid to Seville or Granada, and returning from Madrid to Detroit, both sold by American Airlines, in the $1,220 to $1,290 price range. Delta's trips have layovers that are too short or too long. Other USA based airlines never has any good flights at a good price.

Posted by
3769 posts

If you’re wanting to keep the expenses low, the Reina Sofia museum in Madrid is free on Sundays after 1:30pm. But be sure to check if the portions open cover what you wanted to see. I was able to stop in and see the Guernica painting on a Sunday, and I was surprised to have a small crowd - no line to wait to enter the museum when I entered; saw a short line when I left.

Others have mentioned, but I’ll also concur - consider staying overnight a night or two at Toledo. We stayed near the Jewish synagogue and didn’t experience the crowds at all except when we went to the cathedral. We were enjoying the back lanes when the crowds were at the Zocodover Square during the day, and went there during the evening. Another advantage is that it’s typically cheaper for both lodging and food in the smaller towns.

We were in Spain during late September- mid October in 2017.

Posted by
657 posts

The trip I wanted (Detroit to Seville) was "unavailable" but I was able to purchase a similar trip - the same first two flights but the 3rd flight is from Madrid to Granada instead of Seville. As for spending a night in Toledo, the first old synagogue I listed is closed on Mondays and it wouldn't make sense to spend a night(s) in Madrid, then a night in Toledo, then a night(s) in Madrid again. For costs, I am never cheap on museums. If I got into a museum for free, I would give them 1 to 5 euros if they have a donation box. My supposed new itinerary is:

Sunday: arrive at hotel in Granada about 2 to 4pm. If time, walk past various monuments, old wall, Museo cuevas del Sacromonte, La Madraza. Sleep in Granada. 1st night

Monday: Alhambra complex. Sleep in Granada 2nd night

Tuesday: Bus or train to Seville. Walk past various monuments, if time, Metropol Parason, Antiquarium de Sevilla (small museum of Roman remains). Sleep in Seville 3rd night

Wednesday: Royal Alcázar (open 9:30-5:00pm). Seville Catedral. If time, Hospital de los Venerables, Archivo de Indias, if time, other sites and/or walk past various monuments. Sleep in Seville 4th night

Thursday: If not seen yet, Casa de Pilatos, Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, if time, Palacio de las Dueñas. Sleep in Seville 5th night

Friday: Itálica (Roman ruins), Archaeological museum of Seville. Sleep in Seville 6th night

Saturday: Bus or train to Córdoba. Casa de Sefarad (until 7pm), Sinagoga (until 8:30 if open), archeological museum (until 8pm), walk past various monuments. Sleep in Cordoba 7th night

Sunday: Mezquita (8:30-11am or 3-7pm), Alcázar (8:30-2:30 pm), if time, baths of the Caliphate Alcázar, Torre de la Calahorra, walk past other monuments. Sleep in Cordoba 8th night

Monday: Prado Museum, if time, walk past various monuments. Sleep in Madrid 9th night.

Tuesday: Day trip to Toledo. Sinagoga del Tránsito (opens 9:30), Sinagoga de Danta María la Blanca (opens 10am), Alcázar and Museo del Ejército. Bus or train back to Madrid. Sleep in Madrid 10th night

Wednesday: National Archaeological museum, if time other museums. 11th night Sleep in Madrid.

Thursday: Royal palace, possibly other museums, parks, or monuments. 12th night Sleep in Madrid.

Friday: Madrid history museum and/or naval museum, if time other museums, or day part day trip to Segovia?

Saturday: flights back to Detroit

Posted by
1250 posts

The new itinerary looks good and I'm sure you'll have a brilliant time.

I'm not suggesting you change anything but will comment:

  • If going to the Madraza, you might also consider the Royal Chapel opposite. Even if not interested in the chapel aspect, it's an impressive and historical building. I think both have late hours on Sunday;

  • Since you are interested in archaeology, Granada also has an archaeological museum worth considering: as well as the exhibits, the building is worth seeing;

  • I know others liked Italica, but I was disappointed. If you've previously visited Pompeii or Ostia Antica then I think it's unimpressive. On the other hand it is easy to get to from Sevilla, so not a wasted journey - but I think you'll find more to keep you in the city itself once you get there.

Posted by
657 posts

Would I be well occupied if I add a 3rd night to Granada or leave Granada in the afternoon or evening of my first Tuesday? If I add more time to Granada, I would either skip Italica (Roman ruins near Seville) or I would only see it if there is extra time. I visited the ruins of Pompeii, in Italy, in July 2017.

I used to think I didn't want to see churches, because I felt like they wouldn't be spiritually meaningful to me or worse, because I was not raised Catholic. Maybe I don't realize what I am missing. I know the Seville Cathedral requires advance tickets. Is it worth buying advance tickets?

When you move on to a new town, do you leave as soon as possible after you wake up or do you see sights and leave later in the day?

The Alhambra Museum is closed on Mondays. Is this something significant that I wouldn't want to miss or should I just not worry about it?

I know there isn't time to see everything that looks like it could potentially be of interest to me. I try to list things in approximate order of what seems most appealing to me. I know it is likely I will skip, miss, or not have time some of the sites I don't have advance tickets for.

Posted by
18906 posts

A general comment about churches: I am totally non-religious, but many of the most beautiful building interiors I've seen in Europe have been churches. The ones most prominently mentioned in guidebooks are definitely worth seeing for aesthetic reasons if you're already in the city.

I believe you'll find enough to keep you interested if you stay a 3rd night in Granada or leave late in the day after your second night there. You might research the places covered by the Granada Card, which hits a lot of secondary sights. One other sight (not on the card) not so often mentioned here is the Basilica of San Juan de Dios. It is totally-over-the-top Spanish Baroque. Mind-boggling. I travel to see things I cannot see at home, and the basilica is an excellent example of that.

The Seville Cathedral is another top sight. There's a way to avoid buying an advance ticket so you can be flexible as to when/if you see it. As Rick explains in his guidebook, you can buy a combo ticket at the Iglesia Colegial del Salvador, pop into the church briefly, then walk over to the cathedral (about 1/4 mile away), show your ticket to the person policing the endless ticket line, and walk straight in the door. It's like magic.

Personally, when I'm moving to a new town, I usually leave in the morning, because I can't help feeling just a little bit uneasy about missing my train or bus if I go off and do sightseeing beforehand. But that's just me; there's certainly no reason not to stick around to finish seeing sights and take a later train or bus. If my trips were shorter and I had to work hard to squeeze everything in, I'd be more likely to vary the times I chose to travel to my next town. I think it is Chani who has mentioned on the forum that she likes to move on later in the day after the sightseeing attractions have closed. That is very logical; it's a good way to maximize time available for indoor sightseeing.

The Alhambra Museum is located in the Carlos V Palace. I thought it was quite good. I'm sure I spent more than an hour inside. It has a lot of architectural elements from the complex. I am very fond of Moorish architecture, so I really enjoyed seeing those. I would therefore prefer not to go to the Alhambra on a Monday. However, if that's the only day that's practical for you, it's not the end of the world if you can't go to the museum.

Posted by
3219 posts

We generally have a rental car, so when we leave for a new location it’s 10-11am, but it depends on distance to the next stop, and how many places in between we plan on stopping at. When traveling by train, we try to arrive at the next destination at a time when we can check in right away at the hotel. You’ll have a fun trip.

Posted by
582 posts

We prefer to leave for our next destination in the morning. If we are traveling by bus or train, I choose an early to mid-morning train or bus, depending on the schedule, such as a 9AM bus/train or 10:30AM bus/train. If we have a rental car, we have breakfast, then check out of our hotel, and then leave.

These are my reasons for leaving in the morning:
1) We would have to leave our luggage in the hotel while sightseeing, which means having to return to the hotel to pick up our luggage.
2) I wouldn't be able to enjoy myself while sightseeing because I would be constantly looking at my watch to make sure we don't miss our train or bus. But that's just me. Everyone is different.

If we arrive at our next destination before check-in time, we leave our luggage with the hotel desk clerk. I've noticed that many hotels have a room to store guests' luggage if necessary.

Posted by
657 posts

Thanks for your input. Now I am thinking of putting off the Alhambra until the first Tuesday of my trip. So my time in Granada and Seville would be approximately:

Sunday: plane arrives in Granada 1:00 PM. If time, El Bañuelo, walk past various monuments. Sleep in Granada. 1st night

Monday: Guided or unguided walking tour; one or more of San Juan de Dios (Baroque church), Capilla Real, Catedral de Granada (renaissance church); if time, old wall, Museo cuevas del Sacromonte, La Madraza, Casa de Castril (mansion with small archaeological museum). Sleep in Granada 2nd night

Tuesday: Alhambra complex. Sleep in Granada 3rd night

Wednesday: Bus or train to Seville. If time, archaeological musem; walk past various monuments, Metropol Parason, Antiquarium de Sevilla (small museum of Roman remains). Sleep in Seville 4th night

Thursday: Alcázar (open 9:30-5:00pm), Seville Catedral, if time, Hospital de los Venerables, Archivo de Indias, other sites or monuments. Sleep in Seville 5th night

Friday: Casa de Pilatos, Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, if time, Palacio de las Dueñas, above museums if not seen yet. Sleep in Seville 6th night

Posted by
456 posts

Mike, you’ve really researched your trip! Just a few thoughts: in Cordoba you could stay at the Hospederia Banos Arabes de Cordoba which would also give you free access to their Arab baths. It’s located in the old part of the city within walking distance of the rail station.

I would also suggest you consider visiting Medina Azahara just outside Cordoba. It is easily accessed by a short bus ride.

Posted by
657 posts

Unfortunately, I probably won't have time to see Medina Azahara or Itálica. Unless I radically change my itinerary - which I guess in theory wouldn't be that hard because I haven't made any reservations yet except for the plane tickets - my chances of seeing Roman ruins in Spain seems low.... It looks like Spain has a lot of Roman era ruins... the town of Mérida, an approximately 119 mile drive mostly north and slightly west of Seville, contains an extensive collection of Roman ruins, the ruins of the Roman colony of Augusta Emerita. I guess in theory I could skip the two or three historic houses I was planning to see in Seville on the first Friday of my trip and drive up to Mérida as a day trip - but I have never rented a car on a trip. I do have a current Michigan drivers license. I understand that a rental car in Europe would have to be reserved in advance because most cars in Europe are manual transmission, which reminds me that I don't understand why manual transmissions should still exist - why would anybody purposefully want to make themself do more work than necessary to drive a car?... I have read about the international drivers license drivers from the USA would have to get from a branch of the American Automobile Association before attempting to rent a car in other countries ... I am vaguely aware that as much as I think I like museums, the most memorable sights on a trip are normally what is seen outside... Isn't 240 miles a lot of distance to drive in one day?...

Posted by
18906 posts

Mike, those houses are lovely. I wouldn't skip them to go to Merida, given the length of the drive and the fact that really Merida isn't otherwise (aside from the Roman ruins and good archaeological museum) a very interesting place. ViaMichelin estimates about 4 hours round trip, but that's just for the pure driving time and assumes no navigational issues, traffic tie-ups, etc. You'd be spending a fair amount of time picking up and dropping off the car as well. You might have to park some distance from the Roman sights and spend time walking to them.

Now that you're in full-scale travel mode and see that it is totally doable, how about a future trip to Extremadura that would include Merida, Caceres, Trujillo. That's a very interesting, historic area that sees very few American tourists. You could extend northware to the walled town of Ciudad Rodrigo and the lovely university town of Salamanca. You could rent a car for a few days and loop into Portugal to see some places like Guarda and Viseu.

Posted by
657 posts

Thanks for your input. You are probably right.... If I don't travel to Mérida on this trip, am I more likely to appreciate the two or three historic houses I have listed for for the first Friday of my trip, in Seville, or am I more likely to want to see the Roman remains in Itálica and the Archaeological museum of Seville?

Posted by
657 posts

(For our edification), Google maps estimates that driving from Seville to near the Roman Theater in Mérida (not including finding a place to park) is 119 miles and just under 2 hours.

Posted by
3219 posts

Don’t try to figure out why cars have mostly manual transmissions in Europe; they just do. If you want an automatic, specify it when making your online reservation, or learn to drive a stick. Chances are pretty slim that there would be an automatic on the lot if you just walked up to the counter without having pre-reserved one. Definitely get the international drivers permit. While nobody will probably ever ask to see it, it is required in Spain, and you’ll get a hefty fine if you’re in an accident or get stopped and don’t have it.
Yes 240 miles is a lot for one day. We try to keep driving to 100 miles or less per day. That allows plenty of time to stop and see sights along the way. If you’re referring to driving to Merida to see the theater there as a day trip, the upside is, the road is all interstate. The downside is, you’re wasting half a day of vacation time just going to see essentially a theater for a few hours. As someone stated, save Extremadura for a separate trip.

Posted by
18906 posts

I can't compare the houses to Italica or the archaeological museum since I didn't see either of the latter two. I like mosaics but am otherwise not that interested in classical ruins.

Posted by
582 posts

I wouldn't give up seeing Casa di Pilatos! It is beautiful, and a hidden gem. Seville will be crowded. It was the most crowded place on our trip to Madrid and Andalucia. Casa di Pilatos doesn't have the crowds like the Alcazar and Cathedral, so it was so refreshing to see such a beautiful place without the hordes of tourists.

Posted by
2 posts

Re Madrid:
Wander thru El Retiro, lovely, restful.
Palacio Real is the most beautiful royal palace I've seen in Europe, I like it better than Versailles.