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Best place for a first trip to Spain - one city.

Have a short amount of time in March for a short trip (less than a week) and not interested in Florida. Have never been to Spain. Thinking of flying in Wednesday p.m. and leaving Monday. What city? What neighborhood in the city? We like charming, old Europe. Thanks!

Posted by
21660 posts

What an impossible question !! Like asking what city in western US to visit. It all depends. Go for Barcelona !! Or Madrid with a day trip to Toledo. Since Madrid is the newest of the European capitol cities it doesn't have the same amount of charming, old Europe feel like Paris or London but Toledo makes up for it.

Posted by
864 posts

If I had to pick one city (and I'm assuming you mean the word literally - as opposed to a town or village), I would probably pick Granada. Hands down, it was my favorite city in Spain (although I have not been to Barcelona, which I know many people love). But seeing the Alhambra, which is worth the trip alone, strolling through the haunting Albaicin area, shopping in the narrow back alleys filled with middle-eastern goods and shops, walking up to see the gypsy caves in the Sacromonte area - it was an experience I will never forget!

Posted by
661 posts

Barcelona, Bari Gothic neighborhood. Barcelona has lots of nice sites to visit, and you could cover a lot in 5 days, you even would have time for a day trip to Montserrat.

Posted by
21660 posts

While I would concur about Granada and the Alhambra it is more difficult to get to and given you short time window not the most convenient. It is a two hour bus ride from Malaga which is the nearest international airport. Or a 3 hour or so train ride from Madrid.

Posted by
2818 posts

But they can fly into Granada from Chicago on Iberia with one stop in each direction (in Madrid). They don't have to take the bus or train.

Posted by
31435 posts

Marie, I'd also suggest Barcelona. With such a short time frame for the trip, and also the fact that March is a bit "early" in the season, you'll probably find the best availability for flights to Barcelona and Madrid. Another area you might look at is the Algarve in Portugal, as it's also very popular with the "winter sun" crowd. Cheers!

Posted by
12942 posts

Speaking of early season, Madrid can be quite cold due to the altitude. We were there in June and I froze. It was a good excuse for a shopping expedition to buy the sweaters I neglected to bring, thinking it would be summer there. I wonder how the weather is in Barcelona and/or madrid in March? It sseems like Granada, in the south, might offer more warmth as well as old world charm.

Posted by
4555 posts

For a Spanish experience, I'll cast my vote for Madrid....easy to get into and out of, without spending any time changing planes or taking trains. A highly undervalued city, IMO, with tons to do...and with Segovia and Toledo easy day trips. Lots to do to keep you busy for 4 or 5 days.

Posted by
4555 posts

As for neighbourhoods....anywhere around Puerta del Sol, the Royal Palace, Plaza Mayor, Gran Via, the Prado Museum area, or slightly farther afield in Chueca.

Posted by
629 posts

Madrid es magnifico!! So much in the central area is within walking distance. The Prado on one side and the Palace on the other. Day trips to Toledo, Segovia, El Escorial and much more. This is the heart and center of SPAIN, not Barcelona or Sevilla or Grenada, although they are delightful too.

Posted by
2 posts

I lived in Spain for a year and while I LOVE Madrid, for a short trip, I'd recommend Barcelona - its charms are easier to appreciate in a few days - it is smaller, more concentrated, and has amazing architecture, food, and nightlife.

Posted by
1878 posts

My vote is for Madrid. It's probably the most underrated city in Western Europe. Great art city, lively night life (or so I am told), great day trips. And very very Spanish. As nice as Barcelona is, it's overrated if you consider the actual sights to see. In Madrid, stay in the Plaza Santa Ana area, near Calle de Huertas pedestrian boulevard. Walking distance to Plaza Mayor (grand square) and Puerta del Sol (shopping). Also walking distance to the Palacio Real and the Prado, one of the top five art museums in all of Europe. Consider a day trip to Toledo too, perhaps El Escorial or Segovia too.

Posted by
951 posts

BARCELONA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!And a day trip to Figueres to see the Dali museum.

Posted by
271 posts

May I say how much I enjoy - and appreciate - the group of people who use this webpage. Thank you all fellow travelers! I have some dreaming and planning to do based on these posts. Marie

Posted by
28 posts

If you want to experience Spain, then Madrid is the place to start...

Posted by
1068 posts

Tough choice....Madrid is certainly a good option. Lots to do in the city with very good day trips. I would also consider Seville. The Alcazar gives the Alhambra a run for the money with a great cathedral nearby. There are day trips possible to some White Hills villages and Italica (a Roman Ruin) is also nearby. Wherever you go in Spain, it is hard to have a bad time. Enjoy

Posted by
4529 posts

There is no answer to this question. Spain is really a national government with very different regions - so there is no typical "Spain." I think Barcelona is one of the best cities in Europe - so you won't go wrong with that - but it is not "Spain." Madrid is charming and has lots of day trip possibilities and the Prado. Sevilla has all the charms of Andalucia and that old-world feel with lots to do and some day trip possibilities.

Posted by
497 posts

It is so hard to choose just one city. My vote is for Sevilla or Granada and the area of Andalucia. To me Andalucia just fits my image of "traditional" Spain and I think it fits in more closely to your desire to see "charming, old Europe." The Alhambra is stunningly beautiful. For that reason I would not choose either Madrid or Bracelona as my base. From Sevilla you could fit in a daytrip to Cordoba or Granada or Ronda or Jerez. There is easy to use bus or train transportation in all of Spain so transportation for a daytrip shoudn't be an issue no matter where you go. If you do choose Madrid, you absolutely need to do a daytrip to Toledo. The AVE high speed train will get you there in a half hour and it is cheap. Or base yourself in Toledo and do a daytrip into Madrid. If you have a rental car and are based in Toledo, take a drive out to the town of Consuegra to see the windmills on the route of Don Quijote.

Posted by
45 posts

I have noticed that everyone has mentioned most of the major cities. I have been to Spain several times and have enjoyed each place I have stayed. However, one of my favorite places was Salamanca. It is maybe a 2 to 3 hour drive from Madrid. Lovely old city with a beautiful university!! One of the oldest in Europe actually. It was the highlight of my trip, not to mention the lovely architecture! Wherever you decide to go in Spain, you will not be disappointed! Good luck! Manda

Posted by
1178 posts

If you want to see Spain [INVALID] Madrid is the choice. If you want to see a big European City - Barcelona is the choice. Either way you will not go wrong!

Posted by
2023 posts

Barcelona remains my favorite[INVALID]and Seville would be second choice. Both are full of charm and quite walkable. Maybe you could combine Barcelona with San Sebastion? That is what I will do on next trip to Spain. In Barc we stayed in Eixample neighborhood and found it convenient to everything except Parc Guell and we took a bus out there.