Spain

My husband and I have 7 full days in Spain, arriving Barcelona on a sunday afternooon in August, flying out of Seville on a Monday midday. We plan to travel by train; at this point thinking Barcelona-Mardrid-Seville. Are looking at the Spain-Portugal eurail pass. My husband has limitations with walking distances..I was planning 2-1/2 days each Barcelona/Madrid and 2 days Seville. We are 50, foodies, divers, past the heavy party scene, not GREAT museum fans but are sure some are not to be missed. Any 'pearls' and fond memories will be greatly appreciated, as well as answers to below ?'s. 1. What travel passes are best to get around the cities? 2. **Attractions and sidetrips not to miss? 3. Budget but nice acommodations, would prefer just ourselves in the room, can share bathrooms. 4. Your favorite restaurants? 5. It is peak season...is it necessary to book accomodation ahead of time? I know reservations are often required for the trains. Thanks for any input.
Michelle

Posted by Sasha
Bainbridge Island
1590 posts

Why a Spain-Portugal pass? Are you also going to Portugal? Even if you are, youndon't need a pass. You have two travel days in Spain, and say you have one in Portugal. The 3-day pass costs $290, so $97 per travel day. And then you have to add reservation fees, which are very high for the AVE high-speed trains you will be riding in Spain. So over $110 per travel,day. You can buy tickets for WAY less than that. Buy on Renfe.com now to get these Promo fares: Barcelona to Madrid, 40€, and Madrid to Seville, 22€. I used August 14 to check fares. In Barcelona you can get a T10 travel pass. Two people can share this. It is good for ten rides on bus or metrom( so 5 trips for the two of you). Food is great, especially seafood. We loved going out for tapas and never made it til dinner time (10 pm or so). cerveceria Catalana was the place for us. I'll let someone else tell you about Madrid's attractions as we did not like it much and were only there one night. You will definitely want to book accommodations. ,look for hostAls ( not hostels) these are small family-run hotels usually under $100 a night.

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
7683 posts

The one thing you need to be fully aware of at that time in that area is that it will be HOT. H.O.T. I was in that area last May and it was 100-103 every day. Plan on lots of water breaks if you will be out walking around, and take hats and sunscreen. Try to plan some of your outside stuff for the evening. The plazas of the cities fill up in the evening with people strolling, having a drink, and socializing before their dinner at 9:00 or 10:00 pm. If you are only planning on going to those three cities, there is no reason to buy a railpass. It will probably be more cost-effective to just buy tickets in advance. As for lodging, look for hostals (with an A). They are small hotels, often on the upper floors of buildings in the city center. Every one I have stayed at was simple, clean, and had the basic amenities, and they all had free wifi, too.

Posted by H J
LaGrange, Ga, USA
923 posts

Madrid. Check the Madridman.com site...good for all information regarding the city, hostals, events, etc. Also has a site for Barcelona. Hostels in Madrid I have used: Hostel Phillip V, Hostel Montecarlo, both in the same building on Gran Via, both clean, reasonable, and central location as well. Adjacent to a subway stop (1/2/ block) so you could get there from Atocha Train Station without difficulty. The building even has a doorman. Check the Madridman site for a complete list of hostels. Things to see in Madrid. The Prado, even if you are not museum people, be sure to go in the great art museum. Plaza Mayor...excellent and full of history. Palace...good if you are into those. Cathedral Alumudena, adjacent to the Palace, and the Cathedral museum will give you access to the top of the building with great views of the city. Gran Via..now 103 or so years old, fantastic architecture. Park Retrio, amazing place. Restaurant El Buscon, near the Puerta del Sol has an excellent platter for two for 18 euros or so.
Atocha Train station. Be sure to see the tropical garden!!! Also, Garbos Restaurant in Madrid, one block off Gran via at Plaza Carmen Italian and excellent. The Cortes Ingles Store(s) on Puerta del Sol has a good restaurant on the top floor. And the VIPS chain offers reasonable eats as well. I like the grilled veg. platter. Sevilla Contact Really Discover Sevilla tours. Small groups, and excellent tours. Wander through the old Jewish Quarter. Museum Palace of the Countess of Lebrija has excellent collection and display of Roman, etc., tile work. A MUST see!!

Posted by David
Seattle, WA, USA
1414 posts

1. I hope you like the heat. It's going to be hot. 2. You don't need (or want) a rail pass. 3. Plenty of good food to be found (no diving). 4. Do budget some time in Madrid for the Prado (one of Europe's best museums) and maybe the nearby Reina Sofia (also good, but maybe too much for non-museum fans - check to see how good their air-con is - it might make a difference). 5. With just 7 days, 3 cities is about all you'll have time for. That said, I'd suggest a half-day stop in Cordoba, hopping off the fast train from Madrid to Sevilla (get back on the train late afternoon to arrive in Sevilla by dinnertime). It's an amazing place for a brief visit and it can be easily done on the way between Madrid and Sevilla. 5. You probably don't have time for side trips. The biggie side trip that everyone takes from Madrid is Toledo. Toledo is great, but it's not a good experience as a day trip, especially in August (due to crushing crowds, and stifling heat). I'd resist the temptation and save Toledo for another trip when you have enough time, and spend the night there (that beats both the crowds and the heat). 6. Recommendations for accommodations and restaurants are all in Rick's book, which you should have.
7. If you want the best places (nice, less expensive, or both), you need to book ahead. Actually, you should have booked months ago. Get cracking quickly or be prepared to be in lesser or more expensive places (or both).

Posted by Matt
Barcelona
6 posts

In addition to the advice mentioned above, a few personal tips: 1. I´d pick a few sights I´d really want to visit and spend the hours after visiting the attraction exploring the surrounding area. This way you´ll both include the must-see´s and a few surprises/unplanned adventures in your trip. For example, visit Gaudí´s famous buildings on Paseo de Gracia in the morning and then walk up to the Gracia neighbourhood to walk around and have lunch there. 2. Visit famous attractions in the early morning or late afternoon. At peak hours the lines can be really long. 3. Adapt yourself to the Spanish rythm. In other words: have a strong, warm lunch around 2pm, snack at 5pm and have dinner around 9pm. Most restaurants offer a "menu del día" for lunch which includes a starter, main dish and drinks for less then 10 euro. Great value! 4. Re accommodation: I used to go for the cheapest options, but nowadays I prefer to pay a bit more to make sure I sleep well and fully enjoy the city during the day. A good sleep makes all the difference in how much I enjoy my holidays. I usually try to find a new 3/4 star hotel that has good rates and reviews (new hotels often lower their rates to gain market share). I´d spend up to 130 euro p/night. 5. I don´t think you need a city card, especially if you´re not planning on visiting many museums. Have a look at the list of discounts, but it´s probably not worth the money. As said before, get the T10 instead. 6. Do pick a few restaurants in advance or ask the locals for tips. With only 2 days in the city you probably don´t want to take the risk to have a bad experience.
7. Be aware of pickpockets. These Spanish cities are pretty safe, but unfortunately they all have huge problem with pickpockets. My advice: Just don´t take anything with you you don´t absolutely need. My first post on RickSteves.com - I hope it helped :)