I'm planning a solo trip to Spain at the end of September (my first visit to the country). Being alone, I'm thinking I will spend less time on dining and nightlife than I would ordinarily do if traveling with my husband or friends (how do you do a tapas crawl solo?), and I'll focus more on cultural sites and strolling around. I'm planning to rent apartments vs. staying in tourist hotels. That being the case, I'm torn between more of a whirlwind trip (Barcelona, train to Madrid, visit to Toledo, train to Cordoba, train to Sevilla and then home to Chicago - all in 9 days). Or option 2 - skip Barcelona and make Madrid a home base and stay a while with a day trip to Toledo and then Sevilla (stay for a while? possibly a stop in Cordoba?) Any thoughts on which approach to take? Thank you!
I always say...what does your gut tell you? Do you usually love whirlwind trips? I do. I like busy solo trips since I am super energetic and cover so much alone...no need to make compromise and be slowed down by a group.
I would suggest not skipping Barcelona even if you do go with a more slow paced trip. I find this is a very vibrant city and very unique.
Have you travelled solo before? Unless you want to spend lots of time alone on purpose, do not be too worried...You can meet people once you get to your destination... if you are open to it, it will come to you. Apartments may offer more options (you can cook your own meals...be more comfortable, etc) but perhaps B&B and hotels can offer the opportunity to meet more people. This also depends on your priorities I believe. I have stayed in different types of lodging depending on the country and for me it is more about the budget. (e.g. hostel in Norway since it is $$$ versus nice central hotel in Lisbon since it was so affordable).
You are correct since I do believe I cover more ground when travelling solo and focus more on sights to visit. Strolling around is the focus...but if a tapas crawl is what you want...I am sure when can meet someone who is up for it.
I would recommend missing some of the many sites and enjoying a more indepth visit in each one you visit. Madrid has the Prado, the Park Retiro, Plaza Mayor, The Royal Palace, Gran Via, The City Hall at Cibeles Circle, and much more. A leisurely visit would include all of these and more. Check out madridman.com for more suggestions, not just on Madrid, but much of Spain as well. The smaller Hostals in the city are usually an excellent choice. I have been pleased with each one and I have enjoyed the Airb&b and apartment rental as well. A wide variety of places to sleep and just as many in which to eat. Tapas...go alone and enjoy each one.
Toledo..you can do a day trip from Madrid's Atocha train station...less than one half hour on AVE high speed train...the only stop...but it is even better if you can do an overnight visit. Hostal Posada de Manolo is my favorite, located next to the Cathedral it is easy to find when you get lost!!
Sevilla is 2 1/2 hours via AVE from Atocha. Cordoba is a little less. Stop there, spend a night, and then on to Sevilla for two nights.
Barcelona is certainly worth a visit, but with the outline above, you will be pushing to make the 2/2 hour ride, again from Atocha, and then see the city. The flight time from Atlanta to Madrid is roughly leave at 530 pm and arrive at 900 am their time. From Barcelona, it was considerably longer due to layover in NYC...not a good experience!!! Check from your city and take that into consideration as well.
What do you enjoy doing while living in your hometown?
Libraries? Local art? Plays? Concerts? Long walks? Jogging?
Traveling alone provides the opportunity to totally be selfish with your agenda.
So I encourage you to determine what activities make you happy at home which you may explore doing while abroad. Then take the time to investigate places in Spain which offer the opportunity to pursue these activities.
Our first choice is to always rent an apartment, but suggest you also investigate renting a room within a home. Do your homework and carefully research options (we always communicate via email our desires and preferences with apt owners prior to making a decison), but renting a room may provide you with a great local resource and the opportunity to have some companionship. Plus a room rental provides another perspective of travel and culture.
With nine days I would suggest two options for destinations:
- barcelona train to madrid then train to seville using a 3-3-3 days Or
- madrid train to granada then train to seville using 3-3-3 days
I am focused on minimizing the number of times you need to pack/move/unpack to maximize opportunity to experience the culture.
September should offer great temperatures and a significant decline in tourist crowds (which have been at record numbers in Spain this year).
Either way, enjoy!
Have you flown overseas before? Do you adjust quickly to the time change? Sleep a lot on the long-haul flight? 9 days outside Chicago probably means more like 7 days on the ground in Spain - and possibly a slow first day as you recover from the effects of the flight. I would either split that between Barcelona and Madrid, or drop Barcelona and concentrate on Madrid and Andalusia.
Although you can get food any time, dinner in Spain is typically from 9 p.m. or even later. Many tourist sights close for 2-3 hours in the afternoon, so be sure to plan ahead for sightseeing. Tapas are mainly just smaller (and relatively more expensive) portions of whatever the restaurant/tavern serves. If you take a walking tour, you are more likely to meet people to spend an evening with. Couples are often very opening to adding a new person to the mix.
If you'd really like to go on a tapas tour in Barcelona, here is a way to do it with a small group, and it sounds like the guide (and others on the tour) would make you feel very welcome.
We stumbled across this company thru their excellent reviews on Trip Advisor. Our trip is not until winter, so we have not personally been on the tour. But, let us know if you do it, and how you like it.
With 9 days, you have a good amount of time to enjoy your travels. If you haven't watched some of the on-line Rick Steves' videos where he shows a bit of some of the cities, that might be helpful. One of his videos is what is luring us to the Andalusia region.