I have about 9 days including travel days and would like to visit Spain and at least one other country - Brussels perhaps. I would like to visit Barcelona and most likely Madrid. How many days would you recommend in each city? I've heard that Madrid is a big city and not necessarily a great place to see. Is Spain comparable cost wise to other european countries like Germany for example? What about safety? Are there any safety issues I should consider? Thank you.
Ok, so 9 days including travel days is really 7 days for sightseeing. Realistically, you could spend almost that much time in Barcelona alone (it was 10 years ago, but I spent 5 days there and didn't run out of things to do)...why is it that you want to visit another country? And why Belgium? If if were me, I'd stick to one country with a week.
Thank you, for various family reasons, I do not believe I'll be traveling to Europe for a while and would like to take advantage of seeing at least two places while I'm there. Am I correct in assuming that Barcelona is a better city to visit than Madrid? What about other recommendations? I am a fan of public transportation but I'm going to be staying in Spain, is it worth renting a car?
Madrid is a fascinating city, with tons to do....plus the opportunity to visit centers of Spanish culture like Toledo and Segovia on easy-to-do daytrips. Barcelona's OK, but more "international" a city....it won't give you nearly as much of "Spain" as Madrid will. Personally, if I was picking a second city, I would pick Paris. You could spend 3 days in Madrid, fly to Paris for two days, then one last day in Madrid before heading home. Easyjet flies Madrid-Paris at 7:15 in the morning for about 37 Euro all in...vueling flies back at around 9:50 at night for about 65 Euro, giving you most of two days and one night. Spain itself is generally less expensive than other western European countries. You can find excellent accommodations for less than 50 Euro/night, public transit in Madrid can be had for less than a dollar/ride, and transportation to sites like Segovia and Toledo are inexpensive. Others will argue this is too busy....yes it is. But if you don't think you'll be returning soon, this is do-able for that reason.
If you haven't been to Paris, I really like Norm's suggestion. You would get to spend time in two wonderful but very different cities. You should read (guidebooks or Internet sites) about both Barcelona and Madrid to see what sites appeal most to you but I like the idea of Madrid with day trips if you feel you have the extra time--Madrid also has some excellent museums.
I think that you'll find Spain to be less expensive than Germany or France. As far as safety, you would need to take the same precautions as you would in any large city (i.e. be aware of your surrounding, wear a money belt, etc.)
Also, if you stay in Madrid and take daytrips out of the city you can easily use public transportation (bus or train) and will not need a car. It's also easy to get to the city center from the airport using public transportation.
Excellent idea about visiting Paris - I think will plan taking that into consideration. Would you all recommend that I fly into Madrid, spend a couple of days there - do some sightseeing in nearby cities, head over to Barcelona; fly to Paris and then fly back from Paris? Any insight on what is the most cost-efficient approach will be appreciated.
Also, is there a train from Barcelona to Paris? If it's cost effective, that would be a fun thing to do.
Lastly, any recommendations on hotels in any of the 3 cities mentioned already would be nice.
The open-jaw suggestion that Nick made is a great one and the suggestion of Barcelona, Madrid, and Paris is good as well.
I'm thinking however, that the travel time on the train between Madrid and Barcelona plus the travel time to Paris, will take up a significant part of your vacation. I'd consider 3 nights in Madrid and 5 nights in Paris--or some combination that cuts down the time you spend traveling between destinations. Spend quality time and relax in each location. There is certainly enough to do for 5 days in Paris!
Thank you all for your input - I knew this was the place to get quality information. Since my initial posting, I've booked LAX-Paris-Madrid-LAX tickets on USAir for $552 round trip! Great deal in my opinion. I will look into transportation from Paris to Madrid via low budget airlines.
I would love to hear any input on hotels at any of these cities from the experts. Thank you in advance.
The Paris idea is a good one...well, any plan that gets to you Paris is a good one in my book...I will let the Spain experts confirm, but I think 3 cities (ie Barcelona, Madrid and Paris) in a week might be a bit much...you might want to pick Barcelona or MAdrid.
I would suggest you fly "open jaw" which means that you fly into once city (like Madrid) and fly out of another city like (Paris). It's just as cheap or maybe even cheaper than flying in and out of the same city. It will also eliminate a lot of unnecessary travel time.
Regarding the Madrid vs Barcelona discussion, here's what I would say: Madrid does feel very Spanish. It is a big European city with an excellent metro, but it feels much more like "Spain" then "Europe" in that it's somewhat isolate from central Europe by the Iberian Peninsula.
Barcelona, however, feels more euro in the hip/international sort of way. A lot more bohemian and artsy people there. It is very different from the rest of Spain and truly feels like a its own little Catalan micro-country (which I know they would like to have).
I suggest 2 nights in Madrid, 3 nights in Barcelona and 2 nights in Paris. Paris is such a beautiful city that if you have the opportunity you need to see it.
That sounds great Sergio! Here's a budget option (not fancy) in Madrid Hostal Cervantes
and in Paris everyone has a favorite area to stay in...I like the Marais. We recently stayed in Grand Hotel Jeanne d'Arc
I'm sure others have good suggestions--if you have Rick's Paris, France, Spain, or Best of Europe book(s) you can check out his suggestions as well.
I second Sharon's recommendation of Hostal Cervantes. We stayed there for a week and loved the location. No, it's not fancy but it's clean with a comfortable bed and hot shower and a nice guy running the place. What else do you need, really?
Another couple of places in Madrid...Hostal Cruz Sol and Hostal Santa Cruz, on Plaza Santa Cruz between Puerta del Sol and Plaza Mayor....close but quiet. In the same building, both 2 star hotels that have been nicely renovated in the past couple of years (probably owned by the same people!) Go to maps.google.com , copy and paste the following coordinates (40.415285,-3.705611), switch on "street view" and see it all!
Sergio, that is a fantastic price for your airline ticket! A great website to use for information on Madrid, Barcelona and Spain in general is www.madridman.com. It's a site maintained by an American who fell in love with Spain and moved there, he has links to dozens and dozens of places to stay. Just a great webiste altogether with message boards too that he pays close attention to.
Sergio...I gotta agree with Nick. Madrid is the heart of Spain..Barcelona feels very much "European" . Both are fantastic cities in theiir own way.
Open jaw's the way to go..into Madris out of Paris (or vice versa)
I'd fly to Madrid, train to Barcelona(overnight-book way in advance to get a good deal)and then overnight train or flight to Paris, whichever made the most sense time/moneywise
Great advice and very much appreciated. I think I'm going to fly Paris-Madrid and try to include Toledo to the itinerary. I've looked at some of the suggestion for lodging but cold use more tips if anyone has them in relation Paris and Madrid - can't wait to be there:)
Thank you all for your wonderful advice. I'm flying LAX-Paris and Madrid-LAX. Flying Paris-Madrid on Vueling and I will check out the website in Madrid recommended as a place to look for advice.
In regard to staying in Paris, I will be there 3 nights and would ideally not spend more than $150 a night - I'm sharing a room with my brother. Any advice on where I should look? I've started checking out Rick's book for recommendations.
On a different note, I speak zero French, but fluent in Spanish. I've often heard that French nationals are not keen on going out of their way to help Americans (my deepeste apologies if this is a stereotype). I have three options: 1. bite the bullet and hope that I can get some help in English? 2. Try to get help in Spanish?, or 3. Find a way to learn as many phrases in a month to get by.
Sergio...you won't have any problems in Paris with language. Start out each contact with a smile and a "bonjour," and you're halfway there!
Regarding accomodation in Paris, I would first identify a location that interests you. This is based on personal preference, so ask yourself what kind of neighborhood "feels" good to you.
I will be spending 6 nights in Paris in April and I will be staying at Hotel Sevigne in the Marais, which is located in the 4th. I chose this hotel because it's a 15 min walk from Notre Dame, which is in the historic core of Paris. I will also be a couple blocks from Place de Vosges, the oldest square in Paris. This neighborhood still retains a bohemian vibe, although it is becoming more and more like the touristy Latin Quarter.
Marais: Similar to SOHO in NYC, funkier side of West Hollywood, etc
Latin Quarter: On the left bank, which has a generally slower pace. Also pretty funky, but more touristy and prices will be higher in cafes, etc
Rue Cler: A favorite spot of Rick's. This area is closer to the Eiffel Tower, which is toward the nw side of Paris. For me, it's too far from the historic core and far too many Americans.
Bastille: If you want something similar to the Marais 15 years ago, you'll find it here. A less commercial area that will have more of a residential feel and is still relatively close to the center.
I hope that helps! If you have any other questions about neighborhoods, etc, let me know.
Does anyone have good hostel/hotel recommendaitons for Barcelona?