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Southern Spain tour

This is my first post and the first time I'm going to visit my daughter who lives in Marbella, Spain. I'm planning on flying into Madrid 11/8-10/22, staying there for 3 days (would LOVE to get suggestions on affordable places to stay where I can take in the museums as well as the local culture while settling in nicely from the long plane ride, thinking hotel here and then hostels and air b-n-b's for the remainder of my trip besides Marbella where my daughter has booked a nice hotel for me already) the remainder of the trip looks like this so far:
Cordoba (3 days/3nts - 11/10-13) - Victoria Gardens, Palacio de Viana, Roman Aquaduct, Medina Azahara, Calleja de Salmorejo, Plaza de la Corredera, Mezquita de Cordoba
Granada (2days -11/13-15) - La Alcaiceria - spice market, Albaicin and Mirador of San Nicolas - Views/hill to climb, sunset!, Cathedral Santa Maria de la Encarnacion, Granada Cathedral, Basilica de San Juan de Dios, and Monastery of San Jeronimo, Arab Baths (Hammam)
(between Granada & Malaga - Pitres)
Marbella (6 days - 11/15-20) - My kiddo is getting married and will show me around! Yay!
Malaga (3 days - 11/20-23) - La Alcazaba - ruins and gardens, Picasso Museum, Mercado, Central de Atarazanas, Ronda - new bridge, Grazalema - hiking, Frigiliana, Nerja - underground caves, Setenil, El Camino del Rey, Zahara / Arcos de la Frontera, white village of Mijas pueblo, Gaucin
I have until 11/30 when my flight leaves Madrid so I'm trying to fill in the last few days between the 23rd and say the 29th when I'll need to get back to Madrid. Thinking Seville.
Some of these ideas are not necessarily viable or listed in the correct order/region. So this time around I'll get to what I can knowing that I'll be visiting semi-frequently so I'll be able to chip away at the list.
Thank you so much! I love listening to Rick's radio shows and have found a lot of valuable information and suggestions in this forum!

Posted by
4289 posts

At a first glance, I am wondering if there is a reason you have left out Seville. It would seem to be an obvious choice for me to fill most of those days.

The next thing I would wonder is if these are really the NIGHTS you will be in each city. If so, that gives you only 1 1/2 days in Granada and my choice would definitely be another night. I haven’t looked at all at order of the trip, but if you do need to go to Granada before Marbella, you may not have an extra night then. If that is the case, I would give Cordoba 2 nights and Granada 3 nights. But not everyone loves Granada like I do. If you CAN give Granada that extra night, then give Seville the remaining 5 nights.

But take all this with a grain of salt. We all enjoy different places and what you like is what matters.

Posted by
8 posts

Great input! I added Seville to my post and appreciate your ideas about nights spent in Cordoba...still trying to determine transportation between places too....seems like the train is my best bet...anyone have suggestions about when to rent a car or if I'm better off having one for the entire time?

Posted by
4289 posts

A car would be a bother for most of those places, but others will weigh in on feasibility for the Malaga portion. Trains are nice and easy Madrid-Cordoba-Granada and Seville-Madrid. I would take a hard look at actual schedules to help you decide order.

Posted by
6619 posts

I don't see the Alhambra among your Granada sights. Was it too late to get a ticket? Too bad to miss it.

Under Malaga, you have at least five other towns and three days. I haven't been to Malaga but I don't think it's realistic to expect to also visit Ronda, Grazalema, Nerja, Zahara, and Arcos from there in that timeframe. You could use some of the post-Malaga days to drive through some of the white villages on your way to Seville. Either Ronda or Arcos could be a good overnight stop. Then turn in the car at Seville, spend some days there, and take the train to Madrid -- or, if the scheduling works, fly from Seville to MAD to connect directly with your homebound flight.

Congratulations on your daughter's marriage. What a great occasion for a memorable trip.

Posted by
266 posts

Granada: Agree with hill climb to San Nicolas and viewpoint; low priority on Granada Cathedral; very high priority on Basilica; Alhambra a must if available; evenings in Plaza Neuva and west of Cathedral areas. Took bus from Granada to Seville - fine trip.

Cordoba: Evening paseo on Roman Bridge; Mesquita (0830-0920 free entry too short but good as no guides or tour groups); Jewish Quarter with both sides of Old Wall.

Seville: Cathedral ! ; Alcazar & nearby old town; evenings on Imagen & Cuna streets (high end shopping areas for locals).

Have a great time.

Posted by
6442 posts

Hello and welcome!

I am in the midst of planning an almost identical trip as yours. Still early planning, not very detailed yet, nor connections completely confirmed.
From what I understand, bus travel in Spain is quite nice and often the better choice. I’m looking forward to these bus rides.

I think this route—train/bus/train— makes most sense (at least for us)

Our tentative plan- next April-
Madrid 3
Train to Cordoba 1hr45- 3n
Train to Granada 1hr45- 3n
Bus to Marbella- change in Malaga- ALSA bus? 3hr 4n
Bus to Ronda 1hr- 2n
Bus to Sevilla 2.5hr- 4n
Train to Madrid 2.5hr- 1n

(Hopefully our experienced Spain travelers will let me and you know if makes no sense at all!) is a fun tool for figuring out transportation options. Follow the links to get to actual bus or train site.

Good luck.
Congratulations to your daughter!

Posted by
8 posts

Hello Christine and other folks who've chipped in!
I'm grateful for the input and have really benefited from the advice and ideas! Thank You!!
I've booked my AirBnB for Madrid, 2 days 11/8-10 (found one for $40 a night and chose that over a hostel) and then also locked in the train tickets from Madrid to Cordoba 11/10-13! Then on to Granada 11/13-16 & finally to Malaga where my daughter and future son-in-law will pick me up for my stay in Marbella 11/16-20! I'm SO excited!!
I figure from there I'll rent a car to be able to travel to some of the smaller romantic villages and get advice from the kids as to which ones I'll benefit the most from....I'm very interested in underground cities and tunnels so that may be a focus at some point since I understand Nerja has some interesting caves...any thoughts are welcome!
Anyway....the traveling through villages will/should lead me to Seville, where a very bright individual here recommended that I stay there as long as I can and book a connecting flight from there the same day I fly out of Madrid! Genius!!!
Also....thanks for the input about Granada and visiting Alahambra! Great point and one that I'd surely be salty to miss out on! Looking into that ASAP!

Posted by
27349 posts

Here's the official website for Alhambra tickets: At the time I checked there were still some Alhambra General tickets available for November 14 and 15. The ticket time is for the entry into the Nasrid Palaces (the most beautiful part of the complex); you can visit other areas before and/or after the Palaces. The entire Alhambra is not a quick visit; I spent well over half a day there.

If there are no Alhambra General tickets left by the time you are ready to buy, the best alternative is the slightly more expensive Dobla de Oro ticket, which usually doesn't sell out quite as fast. A commercial tour that covers the Alhambra would be considerably more expensive. Don't be tempted by the "Gardens, Generalife and Alcazaba" ticket, because it doesn't provide entry to the Nasrid Palaces.

The Alhambra is the most important sight in Granada; some would consider it the most important sight in Spain. Be sure to allow yourself adequate time there.

Posted by
11350 posts

Book your Alhambra tickets ASAP! And also get tickets booked for La Mesquita in Seville.

Posted by
6619 posts

I think Suki is referring to the Mezquita in Cordoba. I don't know of a big historic mosque like that in Seville, but it might be wise to book for the Alcazar there.

Posted by
8 posts

So, after tons of last minute planning and hours behind the keyboard researching and booking here's what I've been able to come up with:
Fly SF to JFK Nov. 7th to Madrid - arrive 6am Nov. 8th - bus/metro from airport to breakfast (possibly Frutas Prohibidas, vegan eggs benedict), get sim card (I've notified ATT and have international roaming but its $10 a day!), drop off luggage at room at 10 am, head to museums: Prado, Thyssen-Bornemisza and Reina Sofia (got tickets!) - Get good nights sleep for next day!
Nov. 9th - El Retiro: Palacio de Cristal - park with glass greenhouse, El Rastro open market, Museo Lazaro Galdiano, Prado, Museo des Bellas Atres, then...I have a job interview in the USA....PHONE INTERVIEW AT 5PM!
Nov. 10th - Train: 14:35 Madrid Atocha, to Cordoba
Nov. 10th - go to hotel drop off luggage, grab lunch, Roman Bridge, Jewish quarter/Cordoba Synagogue, Calleja de Salmorejo, Museo Julio Romero de Torres, Centro de Creación Contemporánea de Andalucía (modern art), Roman Mausoleum
Nov. 11th - Mezquita (Puerta del Perdón - Mezquita-Catedral de Córdoba {got tickets!}), Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos, Palacio de Viana, Centro histórico de Córdoba
Nov. 12th - Baños del Alcázar Califal, Torre De Calahorra, Sotos de la Albolafia
Nov. 13th - Train to Granada, 13:30 - 14:52
Nov 14th - Alahambra - Access time to the Nasrid Palaces: 09:00 (got tickets!)
Nov 16th - Depart 13:30 arrive Malaga, stay in Marbella until Nov. 21st
Most likely train or rental car to Seville (maybe try to stay at a cave hotel on the 21st) where I've booked an AirBnB 22nd until the 26th, train to Madrid where I'll book another AirBnB until I fly out the 30th!
I realize I still have a lot of gaps to fill after Cordoba and plan on getting ideas/guidance from folks/locals, etc along the way as I meet people and travel around solo. Its been so darn time consuming doing this last minute and luckily I've been able to get a lot of time off from work to hunker down and research FOR HOURS!!
Whew! Thanks SO much to all the contributors on this feed!! I couldn't have done it without you all and appreciate your input/suggestions and guidance more than you can ever know!
Feel free to add suggestions and details about the various cities, sites and ideas you may have for them! I'm anxious, excited and giddy with anticipation!

Posted by
27349 posts

You've identified a lot of great sights; I suggest thinking about your priorities, because in some cases I think you may have too much to squeeze into one day.

El Rastro market operates only on Sundays and public holidays as far as I know, so I believe you're going to have to postpone it until you return to Madrid at the end of your trip.

Posted by
6619 posts

I think three big museums on your arrival day is a mistake. I wouldn't even do one, but you obviously have more energy than me. The Retiro and Crystal might be better for that first day, though it will likely be cold. Try to stay outside to stay awake.

If I had a job interview in the late afternoon of the day after arrival from a transatlantic flight, I'd want to be well rested for it. You know yourself best, of course, but maybe just the Prado or another museum that day.