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Travel to Spain Early May

We are traveling to Spain arriving May 1 for 16 days. We have found that we prefer making less overnight stops but taking side trips. Our base plans are to fly into Madrid then take the fast train to Seville, staying there for 4-5 nights (we have reservations at the Hotel La Musica de Sevilla) then making side trips, so I would appreciate suggestions on side trips-what to see in Seville. We then plan on flying to Barcelona staying there for 4-5 days and from there taking the fast train to Madrid staying 4-5 days before flying home.
I would appreciate any input as to where to stay, side trips, and tours. I know that this is a lot to ask for but would really appreciate your input.

Posted by
3203 posts

Maybe someone can recommend good side trips from Barcelona. If not,you might find 3 nights there enough. That is what we spent there. Two full days and a half another were fine for seeing and doing all we wanted to, including Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell. la Boqueria, Montjuec and the Olympic stadium, the beach and Gehri sculpture, Las Ramblas, wandering Barri Gotic, etc. We stayed at Hotel Jazz near Placa Catalunya and highly recommend it. The rooftop pool terrace was great for relaxing with a glass of cava in late afternoon.

Posted by
3203 posts

It is not a lot to ask! Happy to help, or try to. I assume you will want to see the Alhambra, and Granada is not really a side trip from Seville, unless you do a really long day. I suggest you take a night each from Seville and Barcelona so you can spend 2 nights in Granada. Try Hotel America which is in the Alhambra but not as expensive as the parador. Then fly from Granada to Barcelona. Rest of the trip looks good, pace-wise. Buy your AVE tickets 62 days in advance on Renfe to save 60%.

Posted by
9363 posts

Cordoba is an easy side trip from Sevilla, about a 90 minute drive. When I was there in May last year, we took a walking tour of the beautiful patios that Cordoba is famous for. The tour was in Spanish, which may or may not be an issue for you, and it cost 12 euro. The patios, with their massive floral displays, were stunningly beautiful. Also in Cordoba is La Mezquita, which I think is a must see. If you are interested in the patios tour, I could get the website for you. One other thing you might want to be prepared for - when I was in Sevilla and Cordoba at about the same time of the month as you will be, it was beastly hot (100 and 102 degrees). The locals said it was unusual for it to be so hot so early in the year, but you might want to throw in some sandals and shorts, just in case. From Madrid, you can take side trips to El Escorial, to Segovia to see the Roman aqueduct, or to Toledo.

Posted by
32 posts

Don't miss the flamenco show in Sevilla. The location of the one that Rick suggests (and that is fantastic) has changed. It is now at 6 Cuna. Buy tickets in advance and arrive 30 minutes early.

Posted by
12172 posts

I tend to do the opposite, make day stops enroute to shorter stays, but here are some good potential side trips: From Seville: Jerez (best tours of Bodegas) and Arcos. I think there are also some Roman ruins in the area but we didn't visit them. Cordoba makes a good intermediate stop between Seville and Madrid (take a four hour or so stop between trains). From Madrid: Toledo (great medieval center), Aranjuez (small, less touristy version of El Escorial with great gardens), Avila (best wall), Segovia (castle, aquaduct, small Templar era church), El Escorial. Further afield from Madrid are Salamanca, Valladolid (some great castles around this area), Burgos or - the opposite direction - Cuenca. Granada isn't a day trip. You need two nights just to give yourself a full day at the Alhambra - more time to see the rest of the city. From Barcelona: Montserrat is a natural. You could also take a train up or down the coast. Girona (medieval town), Figueras (Dali home/museum) and Sitges (beach/gay community) are all popular.

Posted by
88 posts

Thanks for your advise. I think we are going to modify as Sasha suggested and cut a day out of Seville and Barcelona and go to Granda for 2 nights and 1 day, then fly out of Granada to Barcelona. We plan on taking a day trip to Cordoba from Seville,a day trip to Monserrat(sp) from Barcelona and a day trip to Toledo from Madrid. Does that sound reasonable? Any other suggestions?
Also, in the past we have taken/gotten small group or individual tours to some of the locations. Are the guides Rick suggests really good or do any of you have other suggestions? And are there certain areas that a guide would be helpful, i.e. Alahambra or Monserrat? Again thanks.

Posted by
112 posts

I highly recommend a trip to Cordoba - it was a really interesting place to visit and well worth the time. I also took a day trip from Madrid to Cuenca it's not terribly popular, but if you like art and architecture it's got a very lovely little old (historical) town centre. I enjoyed my visit there and don't regret going "off the beaten path" to someplace less common. From Barcelona, I think a trip to Figueres is a must-do day trip. The Dali Theatre-Museum is wonderful (along with the Dali Jewels exhibit), even for someone who is not a huge Dali fan (as I am not, but still thought the Museum was incredible. If you are there for lunch, I recommend the local restaurant Onix. I did a 2 day trip from Barcelona to Bilbao, but you might find that too much traveling for you. I loved Bilbao and wish I'd planned more time to spend there.

Posted by
8 posts

Carmona is an interesting, monument packed town with a fabulous Parador not far from Sevilla which is worth a visit by car or bus. Rachel Andalucia Explorer

Posted by
182 posts

i think barcelona and granada are the home run. all of the gaudi sights then add on the alhambra. that fires me up. seville i thought was big and almost heartless. almost. i love cordoba. smaller, cuter, better sights and food. i did madrid and barcelona and toledo and granada in 2010. awesome. toledo is nasty during the tour bus time. in october did san sebastian and bilbao plus a big soccer match in barcelona plus sevilla, cordoba, and ronda. cordoba and barcelona my favs. ronda is incredible even though small. the views.........

Posted by
265 posts

Just a reminder about arriving on May 1. That is their Labor Day and almost everything was closed when we were in Spain in 2007. Public transport was to a minimum, stores were closed and most restaurants were closed.

Posted by
88 posts

Does any one know if there will be changes in the AVE schedule? We plan on taking the AVE from Madrid to Sevilla on May 1st. Also what about taxi service or bus service from the Airport to the train station. Thanks, we are really beginning to finalize our plans and your advise has been extremely helpful.

Posted by
9363 posts

For getting to the train station from the airport you have these choices: taxi, van service (Aero City), metro, or bus. The Airport Express bus only makes a couple of stops before it gets to the train station. It's also the least expensive option. The trip takes 30-40 minutes.

Posted by
32 posts

Here are some tips split in two messages - send me a personal message if you have more questions. We just spent 2+ weeks in this area. Sevilla - Go on Concepcion walking tours on your first day. This will orient you. If you have already walked around the shopping and touristy areas then skip her walking tour, but go with her on the tour of the cathedral or alcazar that starts later in the day. You will skip the ticket lines and, her information during the tours is just great. http://www.sevillawalkingtours.com/ Must do in Sevilla is the flamenco show at Case de la Memoria: http://www.casadelamemoria.es/

Posted by
32 posts

Part 2: Granada - You can do the Alcazar all yourself with the audio tour. A good plan for Granada is to get there mid day and then walk up and around (and through the grounds of) the alcazar then down across the valley and up through St. Nicholas. Having done this you will have the lay of the land. Then start exploring the interior streets. MUST DO: buy your alcazar tickets well in advance. It really does sell out. If you have your ticket in hand you don't need to walk all the way to the main entrance. If I were doing it again I would buy the ticket that gets you into the gardens and fort on day 1 and then the alcazar itself on day 2 at 8:30. Tip: the restaurant up by the main ticket entrance is a fun place for a lunch for two. We ditched the kids and had a memorable lunch with a bottle of local wine. Barcelona - stay at a hotel near Place Catalan and use the bus from the airport. The bus runs every 6 minutes and it is super easy to use. You can walk to your hotel from Pl. Catalan. The cab is 40 euros one way! Montserrat - one of the highlights of our trip. Get you tickets for this the night before at the TI at Pl. Catalonia. Or, get to the Pl. Espana metro stop early to get tickets. Be sure to get the FIRST train to Montserrat. Use the rack railway option - it meets the train. Go see the virgin and the chapel behind her first. Then relax and wander. Buy sandwiches in the AM with your coffee and picnic up top.

Posted by
12172 posts

In Barcelona, I'd recommend the Barri Gotic walking tour provided by the TI. It's reasonably priced (I think 14 euro) and well done.

Posted by
16890 posts

The above reference to the "Alcazar" at Granada is a little confusing. The Alhambra is a large complex with public areas (no ticket required) and three "ticketed areas": The Nasrid Palaces, the Generalife (summer palace and gardens) and the Alcazaba (old fortress, mostly ruins). A "general visit" day ticket includes all three, with a specific time for entry into the Nasrid Palaces (don't be late). You can also buy a ticket for just the Generalife and to the Alcazaba. The only "Palace only" ticket is for a night visit to the palaces (a great experience). Or you can buy a "blue circuit" ticket which includes a night visit to the Palaces followed by entry to the Generalife and to the Alcazaba on the following day. There are other possibilities for tours, such as a guided tour of the Palaces and other areas, or the walking tours called "Tour of the Landscape and Urban Environment" which are well worth the time. Advance purchase is recommended because the Palace tickets sell out. You can buy online from the official ticket vendor: http://www.ticketmaster.es/nav/landings/en/mucho_mas/entradas_alhambra/index.html

Posted by
88 posts

Okay, I have taken a lot of your advise, but still have some questions. We have decided to spend 4 nights in Seville, with a trip to Cordoba, one day in Seville(going on a tour with Conception) but are considering a side trip to Gibraltar (our original idea was to go to Morocco but that seemed almost impossible). Would a trip to Gibraltar from Seville be a reasonable trip? We are then going to spend 2 nights in Granada (spending a day on Alhambra tour) Casa 1800 From Granada flying via Vueling airlines to Barcelona (4 nights) with a side trip to Monserrat (sp). Other suggestions? Nouvel Hotel Then taking the AVE back to Madrid with a side trip to Toledo. Hotel Europa How does that sound? More reasonable? Again, thanks for your input.

Posted by
2397 posts

Not sure if it is possible but can you fly into Madrid and home from Barcelona or just the opposite?

Posted by
951 posts

I just got back from my 17 night spain trip last night. It was our first trip to have both a carry on and a checked bag, all due to a 5 night mountain bike guided tour in the southern Sierra Nevada mountains. Because of the baggage issue, we proclaimed to never go on a trip and do a bunch of moving around. Even with our carry on being a back pack (Osprey Porter), what a mess it was to wheel our checked bag, and carry our backpack in the back and our day pack in the front, down cobble stone roads, during a very holy time in spain, with mobs of people everywhere; just to have to lug it up 3-4 flights of stairs. I am sweating just thinking about it. Three nights in Seville is enough time to soak in this city, which I love; 3 nights doable even with a side trip to Cordoba. Do not miss a Los Gallos Flamenco show. It was my second time seeing their production (first time 8 years ago) and it still was spine tingly.
Yes, Granada deserves 2 full nights. And yes, see the Alhambra. But do (Now I am going to go all caps because it was fantasitc), GO TO THE ARAB BATHS FOR A 90 MIN SOAK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!It was so worth the 24 euros. The smell of the place, heaven. The tea, heaven. The medium temp pool, heaven. The Hot pool, heaven. The cool pool, well not heaven but feels good to cool down again and go right back into the other pools. We went at 8pm at night, was wonderful after our 5 night mountain bike adventure.

Posted by
951 posts

And it is worth it to fly from Granada to Barcelona. We took a cab from Plaza Nueva (22 euros). Got there too early, and the desk wasn't open to check us in til 8am. Got on a full flight at 9:30, and we were in Plaza Catalunya by 12pm. Beats that 12 hour train ordeal.
We found 4 nights in Barcelona perfect; we side tripped to Figueres as we are Dali fans; we have the 2nd best museum here in St pete. But his Theatre is mind blowing. So yes, I am with the "limit the movement team", especially in Spain. One side trip, per big city. Have fun. Eat tapas. And consider the Arab baths in Granada. You may need it after you battle the city terrain lay out and that walk up to the Alhambra!

Posted by
334 posts

Kelly, Were you transporting bikes or just biking "stuff" in your checked bags? What kind of costs did you pay for the checked bag from Granada to Barcelona? What weight limits? Airline? We won't be making that actual connection, but plan on several long-distance train trips with bikes in suitcases (we've done it before in other countries and know the hassle - but do a lot of our sightseeing by bike, so want our own bikes with us). thanks for the recent info (I'd seen the Arab Baths mentioned other places,but couldn't tell if they were baths you went into, or just visited and looked at - thx)

Posted by
951 posts

@Karen,
We were lugging just bike gear; had lots of it because we didn't know just how cold we would be so we brought a lot of clothing (used75% of what we brought thought). We were not charge to check our heavier bag on Vueling; we checked one a piece. I don't recall what their weight limit was. There are 2 baths; one is a ruin and the other is a functioning arab bath with real water! Hammam is the name, I think.

Posted by
1178 posts

Alhambra - if you have this on the places to visit, you might want to see if you can get your tickets NOW! I have not been, but from what I know they sell out quickly. Sevilla - Really Discover Sevilla Tours is the best..small groups, various type tours available..check their website...also, they can arrange flamenco tickets at a first rate show..get there early to get a seat on the front row if possible. Madrid - Hostals: Phillip V, and Montecarlo are both in the same building on Gran Via..clean, reasonable, good locations, safe. See the Palace, and be sure to include the Royal Armory, the small building on the corner of the courtyard...And at the Cathederal Alumedna, adjacent to the Palace, go into the Cathederal Museum...you will be able to get to the roof of the cathederal and have fantastic views of the city..inexpensive and worth the climb up the steps...Plaza Oriente, in the front of the Palace is an excellent place to have lunch. Toledo - 25 minutes via AVE train from Atocha Train Station...a must see...if possible, work in an overnight stay at the Hostal Manolo, adjacent to the Cathederal. The city changes at night when the tourist are back on the train to Madrid. I can give more specifics if you wish...just drop a message.