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Recommendations for 10.5 Days in Spain - First Timers

Hello, We are an active couple in 50s & 60s visiting Spain for the first time this summer. We'll have 11 days, flying in and out of Barcelona. We already have reservations for the Sagrada Familia the day after arrival, but rest of the trip is fairly open. Wanting to know high points and best itinerary for our trip? Here is initial thought on itinerary:

Day 1-3: Barcelona
Day 4-6: Madrid
Day 7-8: Seville
Day 9-10: Valencia
Day 11: Return to Barcelona

Are we trying to do too much, should we stick with Northern Spain and save Southern Spain for another time? Would Bilbao be a good replacement for Seville? If Seville, is the Corpus Christi festival worth seeing?

Finally, we typically rent a car and drive between destinations, but it's looking like high speed train is recommended for this itinerary?

Thank you in advance - we welcome any and all recommendations (including mid-range lodging recommendations, preferably with good breakfasts)!

Posted by
6402 posts

Southern Spain is really hot in summer, especially Seville. And it is a shame to just see Seville while you are in the region. So, yes, I would be inclined towards skipping Seville. And instead of adding a destination (Bilbao is far away), I would just add a day in Barcelona and a day in Madrid, because there are tons of day trip options from each.

Posted by
25602 posts

Is Day 1 the day you arrive in Barcelona?

I, too, would suggest holding off on Seville; 1-1/2 days is nowhere near enough time for that city, and the weather is likely to be miserable (many, many days are over 100F there). Madrid will be hot enough, as it is.

There are great side-trips possible from Madrid (Toledo, Segovia, Salamanca, Cuenca) that I'd choose before Valencia except for the weather consideration. Valencia's on the coast, so it should be more pleasant than the area around Madrid.

Summer's a great time to go to the Basque Country, because that area tends to cool, overcast and even sometimes rainy when much of the rest of Spain is miserably hot. On the other hand, it takes a lot more time to get to Bilbao from Barcelona than to Madrid or Valencia, so that's a consideration on a short trip. Depending on how you feel about sightseeing, day after day, in the sort of temperatures you can expect in the area around Madrid, you might consider making this a trip to Catalunya (Barcelona, etc.) and the Basque Country.

Posted by
2151 posts

10-ish days would allow for a reasonable exploration of Barcelona and Madrid including a day trip (maybe two) from each.

Anything more that two major cities and it would be rushed.

Posted by
5295 posts

Day 1 - travel day, arrive in BCN
Day 2 - explore BCN
Day 3 - explore BCN
Day 4 - train travel from BCN to Madrid (3 hours travel plus extra time to check out/check in/find hotel)
Day 5 - Madrid
Day 6 - Madrid
Day 7 - train travel from Madrid to Sevilla (3 hours travel plus extra time to check out/check in/find hotel)
Day 8 - Sevilla
Day 9 - train travel from Sevilla to Valencia (6 hours travel plus extra time to check out/check in/find hotel)
Day 10 - Valencia
Day 11 - Valencia to BCN (3 hours travel plus extra time to check out/check in/find hotel)

So 5 of your 11 days would be sitting on a train. Doesn't appeal to me at all. If it were me, I'd do only BCN and Madrid with side trips to Girona, Segovia and Toledo.

Posted by
339 posts

I would do only Barcelona and Madrid.
If I could change plane tickets, I would enter at BCN and exit from MAD.
Our trips are normally 23 days with 4-6 nights per city.

Posted by
4104 posts

We had a similar itinerary, thought we’d break up the long train ride visiting Valencia. Ended up dropping it and taking 1 :40 flight (Vueling) from Sevilla to BCN.

Posted by
3741 posts

I'd leave Andalucia for another time and do Barcelona (5 days), Zaragoza (2 days), Madrid (3.5 days) using the AVE train. Zaragoza was the capital of its own Islamic Kingdom and much Moorish architecture still survives including the Moorish Palace called the Aljafería, so may give you a "taste of Andalucia".

Posted by
6402 posts

I like Carlos' suggestion of Zaragoza, but in the middle of summer it can be boiling hot (almost Andalucía-like), so I think Valencia is a better call in that case!

Posted by
339 posts

We really enjoyed Zaragoza. Firefighter museum, origami museum and the Aljafería Palace.
Spent 3 days there.

Posted by
1495 posts

"Slow down, you move too fast, you got to make the moment last."
Simon and Garfunkel

I get it, gotta make the most outta of the expense and invested time, but......
Barcelona alone offers a HUGE menu of opportunities to explore.

Some thoughts............

Barcelona, Madrid and Seville are top tourist locations with peak visitation during summer months. Impact is upon waiting times and crowded venues depleting quality of time spent enjoying the sites.

The heat will bake your meat. Impact is upon energy levels constraining number of daily events able to enjoy. BTW: evenings are your friend for adding time to enjoy events.

Have you examined a map in relationship to the geography you propose to cover? HUGE!
You have four transfer days consuming a half day of travel time from hotel door to hotel door. So two of your vacation days are consumed on travel.

Strongly recommend staying in Barcelona five days and take a minimum of one day trip via train.
Then take evening train to Madrid and spend five days with two day trips.
Train back to Barcelona ad catch flight.

Please ask the forum how their experiences would fill five days in Barcelona and recommend day trips and do the same for Madrid.

You will enjoy a far more pleasurable journey by visiting two countries, Catalunya and Spain.

Posted by
3741 posts

You will enjoy a far more pleasurable journey by visiting two countries, Catalunya and Spain.

Hey let's not pass along the wrong info here to a first time visitor to Spain, Catalonia is not a country, and never has been.

It's an autonomous community and legally recognized nationality within the country of Spain.

I can say Florida is an independent country all I want, but that doesn't change the fact that it's still a state within the United States.

Posted by
1495 posts

Hola Carlos,
I enjoy your posts and appreciate your comment, however I also seek to honor the history of Catalunya by observing to the OP there is SOOOOO much to learn and do by visiting just two distinct regions. Massive menu of opportunities within each city offering rich rewards for creating wonderful memories of a journey in lieu of making multiple stops leading to memories of taking trips.
While the current geopolitical structure may not recognize separate nations, we have found a wonderful appreciation of the distinct cultural and political differences between the two. Hopefully this response to your comment will serve to intrigue the OP to take a deeper dive in exploring the differences and recognizing the multitude of options to explore in Barcelona and Madrid.

Posted by
25602 posts

Catalunya has some mountains, the typically-overcast Basque Country is really very attractive, and Madrid isn't going anywhere. Nor are Zaragoza, Toledo and Segovia.

This is the voice of experience, because I went to Zaragoza in late July 2016. I thought it odd to get such a great rate at a nice hotel. Upon arrival I realized that no informed person with an option would visit Zaragoza in the summer. The hotel was so empty its restaurant was closed; there was a very limited menu available from room service, and that was it. (This mattered because, unbeknownst to me before I arrived, there were no restaurants near the hotel.) I did like Zaragoza, but I'd have liked it a lot more at a different time of year.

I can't give a personal testimony about Madrid in the summer because I hit that city at the beginning of my trip, in mid-May. But I figure the climate-summary chart in Madrid's Wikipedia entry tells the tale: Average high temperature in July is 89.8F, but that's based on the years 1981 - 2010. Any guesses as to how the numbers may have changed in the last 12 years? Last July there were only four days when the temperature failed to reach 93F, and ten hit 100F or higher. That data's from, which provides actual, historical, day-by-day weather data for most cities of any size. Madrid's weather July 2022. July 2021 was cooler, but July 2020 was closer to 2022.

Posted by
8 posts

I'd recommend what others have stated...stick to Barcelona and Madrid and explore around. My trip late last year for my daughter's wedding had me hoping on trains quite often and I found that the day I took the train was taken up both from getting settled once the travel energy/time was applied, meaning I was zapped after the process of traveling...finding the hotel/Air B-n-B etc. I also took public transport a lot and didn't have the best cell phone experience so that may have been part of my problem?
Have a blast and I look forward to hearing how it went if at all possible!

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all for the wonderful advice! @Steven, especially appreciated the Simon & Garfunkel lyrics! :) I have been accused (by my husband) of trying to pack too much in on trips, and then it seems we're always on the go and don't get to enjoy. And yes, it is a wide swath of geography we're trying to cover, likely best to split it into at least a couple trips, returning when I retire and we have more Lonely Planet book has also arrived (on no, here comes FOMO)! I will circle back upon return and let you all know how it went, including the gems and recommendations! Again, many thanks, everyone!