Best of Spain in 8 days April?

Hi! We are traveling to Spain in April 2013. Where would be the best places to see in just 8 days. I know that it's short, but we just came back from a 2 week trip to Paris, Rome, Florence and will be going to England in November 2013. We would like to know what the MUST SEES are in Spain. We are in our late 20s, active, outgoing and always up for anything! Help! Thanks for your time:)
Stephanie

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

Definitely Madrid! From there, you could easily get down to Toledo, Granada, and Sevilla.

Posted by Kerry
Tinton Falls, NJ
615 posts

I haven't been, but I would think people in the 20's would like Barcelona. It sounds like an exciting city. I personally love Granada in Southern Spain! The Alhambra (Moorish Palace) is amazing, but it's Gardens are spectacular (the most beautiful I have ever seen!). The Albayzin neighborhood is also exotic and charming. You can go to a Flamenco show in the Caves in the evening. You could base 3 nights in Barcelona, 3 nights in Madrid with a side trip to Toledo, and two nights in Granada, or vice versa. Fly open jaw. I wouldn't want to cram any more than that in.

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
2852 posts

The MUST SEES are what you, personally, must see - nothing more. If someone asked what are the "must sees" of the US (or any other country) the answers will be quite divergent. But I know what you're driving at. However, the standard answer to your question is actually 3 answers: 1. Madrid and the region around it - Toledo, Avila, Segovia, El Escorial, Valley of the Fallen. 2. Barcelona and the region around it - Sitges, Monserrat, Girona.
3. Andalucia - Seville, Granada and the Alhambra, Cordoba, white towns like Ronda. I have seen quite violent arguments about the merits and demerits of each of these three. So, with 8 days, pick one (or, if you just want to focus on cities, you can pick two in different regions, as Barcelona to Madrid or Madrid to Seville are each about 3 hours with high speed trains). Have a look at books and videos about these places, to see which one calls to you.

Posted by Julie
Frisco, Texas, US
54 posts

My daughter (age 20) is studying in Seville this semester and she absolutely loved her weekend in Barcelona. I have been to Madrid, Toledo, Seville, and I would recommend Toledo and Seville. Based on what I have heard of Barcelona, I would say it is more exciting than I found Madrid to be. Also, Barcelona is on the Mediterranean, and Madrid is not anywhere near the coast. Ronda, Cordoba, Granada, are all places that could be added if you have time and depending on your mode of travel. I agree with Harold, read about these places and see which calls out to you. If I was picking for you I would say fly into Barcelona, then go to Seville, take a side trip to Granada (or another smaller town), go to Toledo (which requires you go to Madrid first, if by train). Fly home from Madrid, you can get a taste in a few hours. Make sure you take in a flamenco show!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7682 posts

A few points: 1. If you want to go from Barcelona to Seville, you should plan on flying. It's at least an 11 hour drive. 2. Make sure you factor in travel times between locations. A lot of time can be eaten up in waiting on the next train, traveling, orienting yourself in the new place and finding lodging, checking in, etc., plus doing it all in reverse when you leave. Do your 8 days include your travel days getting to Spain and leaving? Then you really only have six days on the ground. 3. It's generally cheaper to fly to Madrid than to Barcelona, if that is something you need to consider. But you could probably find a multi-city flight so you could avoid backtracking.

Posted by Stephanie
Chicago
15 posts

Thanks everyone! Our travels will be 8 days total. We will leave Chicago on a Saturday and arrive in Spain on Sunday then will leave the following Sunday. Hope this helps! Thanks again! Really helping with narrowing down our options:) Stephanie

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
17779 posts

Stephanie, Given the specific time frame of your trip, you might get some good ideas by having a look at the Itinerary for the Rick Steves 8-day Barcelona & Madrid tour. Spain is a large country and with such a short time, you won't be able to cover a wide area. Focusing on a more limited area would be my suggestion, and there's more than enough in those two cities to keep you busy for eight days. Happy travels!

Posted by Kelly
St Petersburg Florida
948 posts

I would only do Madrid and Barcelona. I would spend 3 nights in Madrid and 4 in Barcelona.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

I like Harold's post. Pick one of the three and spend eight days in just that one area. Madrid is personally one of my least favorite places in Europe, but the towns and cities around it are wonderful. Barcelona is nice and offers variety from Gothic to Modernismo, churches, shopping and beaches (April may not be beach weather, though). Personally, I'd go to Andalucia. We were there this April and had unusually cold weather. Normally the weather is reliably nice in April so it's a good time to visit (it's also considered high season so buy tickets to the Alhambra in Granada ahead of time).

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
923 posts

Madrid The Prado, The Royal Palace (be sure to see the armory, a small outside building, ad go to the top of the Alumedena Cathederal, adjacent to the Palace for the best views of Madrid to be found), Plzaz Mayor, Park Retiro, Gran Via, and many more interesting sites. Side trip to Toledo 25 min via AVE from Atocha Station -overnight a MUST -it is a different environment when the crowds are gone back to Madrid - Posada De Manolo Hostal by the Cathederal is great...Lots of Greco, and history on top of history...Day trip to Segovia (Bus or car) The Alcazar, Cathederal, Acqueduct, et al...Can be explored in a full day....Salamanca, college and other sites - 1 hour approximately via AVE from Charmartin station. Barcelona is good as well..3 hours vis AVE from Madrid The Paris of Spain. (Madrid, inland, is actually the seaport of Spain All the eeafood in the country comes to there first!) Gaudi, Gaudi, Gaudi in Barcelona as well as Las Ramblas, Picasso Museum, Cathederal, and many other attractions. I have been to Spain many times in the past few years and love the country and its people!

Posted by Charles
Austin, Texas, USA
308 posts

Madrid and surrounding area is more authentic Spain, in my opinion, with bull fighting and tile roofs, etc. You could easily spend 4-5 days here. Barcelona is more artsy and sort of a cosmopolitan / New York type of feel. You could easily spend 3-4 days here too. It depends on what you prefer and how deep you want to go. I liked them both for different reasons.

Posted by Stephanie
Chicago
15 posts

Thank you everyone! Great suggestions. I want to know if there is a website someone can recommend and get more info about Madrid/South Spain/Barcelona. Maybe a website that can provide the "gist" of each town/area. This would only be our second time vacationing in Europe. I really enjoyed the atmostphere in Paris. Laid back and friendly (thats if you are friendly to them, of course). We are not too high maintenance, as far as accomodations/food, but we also want to absorb the culture. The reason why my husband and I really enjoyed Paris is because we did not have to be sightseeing all the time to enjoy the culture. Part of the culture, from was we saw, was sitting at an outdoor cafe reminicing or even finding a spot to picnic and read/sketch. To us, that is a vacation! Of couse we love the sightseeing too! Thank you again for your time! Stephanie

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
7209 posts

When in April did you plan to be there? Easter week, Semana Santa, has some pretty great celebrations around the country. If you're there then, I'd skip Barcelona, it's the least traditional/religious and doesn't have anything going on. Sevilla is famous for their celebrations. Our favorite was in Zaragosa, which had incredible processions until at least 3 am on Holy Thursday (we spent Holy Week between Barcelona, Zaragosa, Pamplona and San Sebastian - so missed most of the well known celebrations). At the end of April, Sevilla has their annual fair. If you can attend that, you should. It's an amazing cultural experience - horses, carriages, music, traditional dress - a couple days there and wearing polka dots/drinking sherry start to make sense. Most bullfighting hasn't started by April. Seville starts during Semana Santa, has weekend Coridas through the month, then daily during the fair. Madrid has a longer season that I think includes April (but I think Sunday nights only).

Posted by Phyllis
Agoura, California, U.S.
23 posts

Stephanie: If you are still gathering ideas, I wanted to say that I related heavily to your comment about what constitutes a "vacation" for you. In light of that, I'll tell you that I chose one place to stay and really explore and soak it up, rather than checking off a long list of other people's "must see" sites. Soak up Spain best, in my opinion, in a smaller truly old town with layers of pre-history, Visigoth, Roman, Moorish and Reconquista all in place. I might choose Granada: Alhambra (breathtaking, including the walk up there),walking up the Albecin and Sacromonte, down to the Catedral and Royal Chapel. Flamenco at the small Chau de Andalus, off the Plaza Nueva, is more authentic than some of the expensive Sacromonte "tourist shows." You cannot forget for a minute that you are in Old Spain, unlike more modern cities. McDonald's and Starbuck, anyone? You will have a wonderful trip; Spain is amazing. Phyllis
(currently in Antequera, Andalucia)

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

For a very well-informed guide online, you could consult Maribel's Guides: http://maribelsguides.com/ She has city guides for Madrid, Barcelona, Sevilla, Segovia, Granada, etc. that will give you an overview and some of the flavor of each city. If you like to move fast you could fly into Barcelona and out of Madrid; spend 2 nights Barcelona, train to Toledo, 1 night, train to Seville, 2 nights, and back to Madrid for 2 nights. Or you could go to Granada instead of Sevilla but that takes more travel time.