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Spain itinerary help

I'm planning a trip for my husband and me to Spain the first week of October. We are flying in and out of Barcelona (tickets already purchased). We will be there for 9 days not including flights. My husband has never been to Spain and only I've spent a few days in Barcelona a few years ago. We are looking to see as much as possible in Spain at a pace where we can still enjoy some down time. We'd like a mix of culture, history, architecture, food and art. Based on Rick's recommendations I'd like to see Barcelona, Madrid, Seville and Granada. I'm not sure if it's too much given our short amount of time and am I'm kicking around a couple of ideas. What feedback do you have? Anything you would cut, add, move? Thanks in advance Option 1 1) Land Barcelona early, train to Madrid (2.5hrs) 2) Madrid 3) Train to Granada (4.5 hrs) 4) Granada 5) To Seville (maybe rent a car and visit a pueblo blanco) 3 hrs + exploring 6) Seville 7) Seville (late train to Barcelona) (5.5 hrs) 8) Barcelona 9) Barcelona Option 2 1) Land Barcelona early, train to Madrid (2.5 hrs) 2) Madrid 3) Evening train Seville (2.5 hrs) 4) Seville 5) Seville (long day trip to Granada 6 hrs round trip) 6) Seville 7) Seville (morning train to Barcelona) (5.5 hrs) 8) Barcelona
9) Barcelona

Posted by
9363 posts

Your second possibility isn't very workable. You will want to reserve tickets for El Alhambra in Granada in advance. Entry to the Nasrid Palaces there are at specific times. It would be pretty impossible to take a 3 hour train trip, make it the complex on time for a tour, then take a 3 hour train back. And I think it's too much time in Seville, not enough in Granada.

Posted by
97 posts

Well, I'll be the odd woman out in that I don't find either itinerary nearly as overwhelming as do others here. Yes, I'd likely cut out one city, perhaps replace one with something smaller & closer to your other destinations. But in general, I think you're on the right track. Its' true that you have be honest about how many vacation days you actually have, as someone else noted, but it seems to me you've done that. You mentioned in your original post that you have 9 days not including flights. I take that to mean that the travel day on each end is not included in the 9 days. Hope you have a great time!

Posted by
4535 posts

Let me put this another way: In a vacation, time is precious. With only 9 days, time is extremely precious. Why waste it traveling when you can be out seeing things? Since you are flying in and out of Barcelona, it just doesn't make sense to spend significant time in transit to and from southern Spain. Plus all the extra expense of long trips just to spend 24 hours in a major city. In each option, there are 3 days total that are almost completely consumed by travel. Plus large parts of many other days. Don't forget travel times must include transit to/from stations, checking into hotels, orientation for the new city... Cutting all that back isn't just about smelling the roses, it's about making good use of the time and money you spend for your vacation. That's why I suggest skipping southern Spain altogether. There are SO many places and things to see in Madrid, its environs, and northeastern Spain. That loop would be much tighter, thereby minimizing transit times and costs. Plan Andalucia for the next trip. There WILL be a next trip :-)

Posted by
5750 posts

Colleen, read the proposed itinerary: "1) Land Barcelona early, train to Madrid (2.5hrs)" That is "Day 1" of the alleged "9 days not including flights" - I belive that's the day she lands in Europe (and which also includes dragging the jetlagged OP off the plane and on to a train to Madrid). Bzzzzzzzt. Such excessive optimism is a red flag to me - which is why I suggested the OP start being honest with herself. Not sure about "Day 9) Barcelona" and if any part of that day includes flying back to the USA, but already this alleged "9 day" trip looks like 8 days, maybe 7. Given that, I think both plans are a fantasy. Granada as a day trip from Seville? I don't think so. The problems I see here are: 1. Beginning and ending the trip in Barcelona. Barcelona is a long way from everything else, and I think most people should probably just treat Barcelona as if it were in another country - it does not fit well into short trips to Spain. This trip would be possible - although still very rushed - if they cut out Barcelona entirely and flew into/out of Madrid. 2. Not flying open jaws - that effectively doubles the challenges of including Barcelona - they pay the penalty twice. 3. Unrealistic expectations about one-night stands. I do one-night stands, too, but I try to do them in places where the time/distance from the previous place are short. 4. The old "night train" gambit. Hope you sleep well on trains, if not, expect your next 2 days to be lost in a fog.
5. The way this trip is structured, there is no chance to catch your breath - beginning on arrival day, the pace is just brutal. They'll never recover from the initial jetlag of the outbound flight - their first chance to catch up will be to sleep on the flight home!

Posted by
984 posts

I have not read anything of RS' guide to Spain. From the little I have read for elsewhere in Europe and the impression from others and posts I find on the www the pace of some 'tours' is foolish. With 9 days I am going to suggest it is a city too much. Do neither of you suffer from jet lag? Why Barcelona at the end of the journey and not the beginning?

Posted by
10 posts

What city would you cut out of Madrid, Sevillle and Granada? And why? We tend to like smaller towns and would like to visit one as part of this trip if time allows. If we cut our a city and added a day trip to a smaller town- what would you recommend? (Montserrat, Toldeo, Las Alpujarras, other?) We want to end in Barcelona to make sure we make it back in time for our flight and allow a little down time at the end of our trip. Thanks for your help

Posted by
54 posts

Both of your suggested itineraries look exhausting to me! Every other day has travel, and while train travel can be relaxing, there is still time getting to the station, waiting around to board, getting from the station to wherever you are staying, etc. Even the simple process of picking up a rental car takes longer than you might think! I was just in Spain for two weeks in May; we spent 5 full non-travel days in Madrid, one of which included a day trip to Toledo. Our second week we rented a house in the tiny white village of Jimena de la Frontera and had a rental car for multiple day trips, including Gibraltar, Jerez, and Granada for one couple who had not been to Spain previously. That was an extremely long day for them. I would eliminate either Seville or Granada from your plans, and if it were me, I would go to Granada first.

Posted by
4535 posts

"We are looking to see as much as possible in Spain at a pace where we can still enjoy some down time." A worthy goal but in your timeframe, you'll have to sacrifice one or the other. Both of your options sacrifice downtime. Spain is a much bigger country than most people realize. I suggest you cut out Andalucia completely and stick to Barcelona and Madrid, with smaller nearby cities and/or northern Spain mixed in. Near to Madrid is Toledo and Segovia, both of which are worth at least one night a piece. Otherwise they make for very long daytrips due to how much there is to see in each. Northern Spain could include San Sebastian, Pamplona or even Bilboa.

Posted by
964 posts

Both those schedules look pretty exhausting to me too. I agree with previous posts, one city less would make all the difference. I love Andalucia, so I think I'd pass on Madrid.
There's so much to see everywhere you've mentioned, and it would be a shame to see everything but miss the atmosphere and character of Spain, which I think might be sacrificed by racing through it. Just my opinion.

Posted by
9363 posts

Looking it over again, I would skip Seville in favor of Segovia. Much closer to Madrid (and I love Madrid), and it has a lot to see. Seville is the geographic outlier here, and it will take time that you don't have to get there and back.

Posted by
5750 posts

Neither plan looks remotely realistic to me - and I travel at a frenzied, breakneck pace that most here think is crazy. You should start by being honest with yourself. How many full days do you have there - not counting your arrival or departure days? Looks like you have maybe 7 or 8 days there, not 9 as you stated? Be honest. Don't count on anything for the day you arrive in Europe, nor the day you depart. It's just not realistic. If you try and schedule anything for your arrival day, you will not remember any of it, and you will be a zombie the next day or two (or three) further wrecking your plans. Your arrival day should involve getting out of the airport, getting to your hotel, and walking around trying to keep yourself awake until dark. If you can take in some light sightseeing, great, but don't schedule it as a day to do/see anything. Your return day will also be dedicated 100% to getting you and your stuff to the airport. No "see Barcelona from 6-10 am, then to airport nonsense" - that's a fantasy. It's a shame you are flying into and out of Barcelona - that's really going to be a tremendous handicap. Even if your tickets are already purchase, you should investigate how much it would cost you to change them (fly open jaws, eg in to BCN, home from MAD) - might be worth it even with a fare increase/penalty, as it would effectively "buy you" an extra 2-3 days in Spain - which you would really need in order to see even 75% of what's on your list. I know, not what you want to hear. Hope it helps.

Posted by
9110 posts

Jessica, here's what I think's happened: - - You've been to Barcelona before so it's in your comfort zone and now you want to show your husband around. Good. - - You've read a guidebook with focuses in one aspect of Spain which sounds neat. Good. - - You're trying to link the two together. Bad. Really, really bad. It ain't going to work. Of nine days, you're going to devote the better part of four to travel - - probably almost all of the four considering hotel-to-hotel times. Ditch the south of Spain. Work on Barcelona and Madrid, with maybe a loop (Segovia, Avila, Toledo) with one night in there somewhere outside of Madrid. There's a lot more to Spain than Andalusia. Make the best of what's actually possible.

Posted by
10 posts

Thank you all Ed's assessment is pretty accurate. I'd been talking about wanting to take a trip to Spain and my husband surprised me with plane tickets for Christmas. Barcelona was the least expensive city to get to so that's where we are flying in/out. Since I've already been to Barcelona I'd like to spend most of the time seeing new places and making memories together. We went to Italy for our honeymoon and had the most fun in the places neither of us had been before. That said, it probably makes sense to save Andalucía for another trip and stick to Barcelona and Madrid with day trips or a night in a closer smaller towns. Any thoughts on recommended day/side trips – from Barcelona Girona, Sitges , Montserrat? From Madrid Segovia, Avila, Toledo?

Posted by
9110 posts

From Barcelona: Cape de Creusis Natural Park and Cadaques will knock your socks off. Monserrat will probably get the most votes. Sitges is a bit over-populated with guys vacationing with guys. Mataro is a pretty nice little beach town.

Posted by
97 posts

Ed (or others), what do you think of Tossa de Mar and/or Empuries? During our time near Girona, I'm interested in both the Cape de Creusis Natural Park and Cadaques, as you suggested. For whatever reason, those both sound more appealing to me than Monserrat....

Posted by
3329 posts

I'll just comment on Monserrat and Empuries. I was bored by Monserrat. The monastery is not medieval - - that one was burned by Napoleon - - so what you see is a 19th century rebuilding. The main attraction seems to be a small statue of a black madonna. The faithful (?) stand in a long line in order to get their picture taken alongside it. This despite signs clearly forbidding photography. I considered the day spent there a waste.
If you like ancient sites, Empuries is a good one. There are the remains of both a Greek and a Roman town. A museum house finds from both.

Posted by
9110 posts

Empuries is a winner. Monserrat sucks, I was just pointing out its existence since I lot of people here seem to tout it. I've only been to Tossa once and that was trying to find some neolithic stuff. I didn't think it was that great of an example of a walled city. Probably wouldn't go back.

Posted by
97 posts

Thanks, Rosalyn & Ed. I just haven't had the sense that Monserrat is worth our time & your comments are the extra nudge I need to make the decision on that one. Will probably get to Empuries, though.

Posted by
3 posts

About an hour and twenty minute drive from Grenada is Nerja, along the coast in Andalucia. It is a wonderful town with great weather, good eating, with pleasant beaches on one side, backed up by scenic mountains on the other side. It's a great place to relax and unwind after the other cities you will be seeing. It's the wonderful "old" Costa del Sol before they ruined it on the other side of Malaga. Up in the hills is near-by Frigiana, an old white pueblo village that celebrates its' 'Tres Culturas' history (Moorish, Jewish and Christian). If you like to hike, see the web site 'www.hikingwalkingspain.com'. Nerja is about 45 minutes drive from Malaga, an under-appreciated destination with a fine Picasso Museum as well as his birthplace home, a fantastic Mercado, and other attractions. There are frequent low priced bus services between Nerja and Malaga and Grenada if you aren't driving. We love living in Nerja! I think you would have a great time here!

Posted by
6 posts

Ditto re: Nerja. What a jewel! We took a bus, very inexpensive though an adventure. The locals were quite friendly. Be prepared to walk a few blocks even with a taxi. A true find. Thanks to RS for suggesting it ten years ago. I would head back in a heartbeat.