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2 weeks, mostly Andalusia March 2023

When I visited Andalusia for the first time in 2016 with my youngest daughter, in addition to wonderful things to see, it just felt like the perfect place to relax. I knew the time would come for a return - and that time was this year as the last 2 weeks of a 5 week trip. So I arrived from Budapest with no jet lag, ready to enjoy, and my oldest daughter joined me for the Cordoba - Madrid portion.

Segovia, a new stop for me: 2 nights on my own.
I arrived at the Madrid airport Terminal 1 early afternoon and it would have been easy to take the bus to Terminal 4 and the train from Terminal 4 to Chamartín-Clara Camoamor, then catch my train to Segovia. But I splurged on a taxi (€30 flat fee) straight to the station from Terminal 1 and then took my train to Segovia Guiomar, which sits quite a ways out from the city. Bus 11 (€2 to the driver) meets the train and whisks you 3 stops to the old city - get off facing the aqueduct!
Highlights:
The aqueduct absolutely. To see this is why I came. It is a lovely city and I am happy I gave it 1 full day.
Also Saw: the Cathedral, views of the Alcazar, and wandered streets.
Stayed: Hotel Infanta Isabel right on Plaza Mayor.
Travel onward: Bus 11 to the station, train to Chamartin, then a Cercanius to Atocha, then my train to Toledo. It sounds complicated but was actually very simple.

Toledo a new stop for me: 2 nights on my own. Because of the distance and hills, I took a taxi from the train station to my hotel.
Highlights:
The streets. Uphill, downhill, narrow. On one particularly narrow street, I noticed a trough had been hollowed out of the stone building that allowed the right mirror of the taxi to just fit. I had a day and a half here and wouldn’t have minded more.
El Greco. When I was in about 5th or 6th grade, I read a biography of El Greco that somehow made him real for me in a way most painters aren’t. I was here for that.
Saw: Museo del Greco, Sinagoga del Tránsito (museum) - these two were free on Sunday - and Iglesia de Santo Tomé for “The Burial of the Count of Orgaz.
Also Iglesia de los Jesuitas, Ermita "Mezquita" del Cristo de la Luz. These were €4/each but you can buy a wristband for €12 that gives you entrance to these and several other places. And the Cathedral. Of course, I walked a lot more but this is what I fit into (almost) 1.5 days. And so much I missed.
Stayed: La Posada de Manolo, the cutest place!
Travel onward: taxi to the station and train to Madrid Atocha, where I met my daughter who flew in for the next 10 nights. We took an afternoon train on to Cordoba.

Cordoba: 1 night.
Highlights:
The Mezquita. This was my second visit and it’s just as impressive. Row after row of arches and the elaborate elements of the original mosque, then to suddenly find the cathedral in the center…. Of course, there is more here and we wandered some of it, but this remains the highlight for me.
Stayed: Hotel Eurostars Maimonides, right by the Mezquita.
Travel onward: Short train to Seville.

Seville: 4 nights.
Highlights:
the graciousness of the old city. It is a place to enjoy and relax. However, places I love are:
the Plaza de España, for its architecture, beauty, color, and vibe. Tiles, music, fountains, trees…. Simply gorgeous at sunset.
flamenco at La Carboneria - not a fancy show but 3 30-minute performances a night with guitarist, dancer, and singer in an intimate setting. Buy your inexpensive drinks and tapas and stay for one performance or all three. We stayed for two.
Cathedral - this was my first time to walk the 35 short ramps up for views of the city. Each cathedral I visited seemed to be trying to outdo the previous. :)
Of course, there is so more: the Alcazar, Triana, sitting by the river, museums, churches…..
Stayed: an apartment 2 blocks from the cathedral.

Cont.

Posted by
4293 posts

Seville continued
Travel onward: a 3 hour bus to Granada. No bathroom on the bus, but it stopped at precisely 1.5 hrs for anyone who needed a stop.

Granada: 4 nights
My favorite city of all of these. It feels like both a city for visitors and a city those who live there are proud of - and they aren’t tired of visitors. The city center itself is the highlight for me, but it is filled with moments that fill the soul and should be savored. I know we are all different, but I don’t understand when people say 1 night is enough. I was not ready to leave after 4 nights.
Highlights:
The Alhambra is the crown, of course.
In 2016, I had been both at night and during the day. This time we just went in the afternoon, with a 2:00 entrance to the Nasrid Palace. With the online ticket purchase I had made, we received a QR code and I did not need a printed ticket, unlike last time. Upon our initial entry, we showed our ticket and our passport to be scanned. For each place after that, including the Palace, they scanned our passport - we never showed our ticket again. We stayed about 4 1/2 hrs (without stopping for food) and could probably have used another half hour or so. We took the mini bus up and down from Plaza Isabel la Católica.
Also visited: the Cathedral (of course) - I love the lighter feel of this cathedral; the Royal Chapel; Basílica de San Juan de Dios - oh my goodness, the overwhelming elaborateness; Monasterio de San Jerónimo; the Mirador de San Nicolás just before sunset; and a visit to Elvira Traditional Hammam. Not to mention tapas every night.
Stayed: an apartment just off Carrera del Darro.
Travel onward: morning train to Madrid (we changed trains in Cordoba)

Madrid: 1 night
This night was just for being there to catch our flights. But we spent several hours at the Prado, had a final dinner of seafood paella at a cute little restaurant called Puerto Rico, and then walked for churros & chocolate at Chocolatería San Ginés, founded in 1894. The Puerta del Sol was a mess, yes, but it was still bustling.
Travel onward: The next morning it was a very early taxi to the airport and a long day of travel home.

Posted by
4869 posts

Oh cool, you wrote a Trip Plan for me. Can't wait to see where I'm going in Spain!! 😁😁

Posted by
1524 posts

Thanks, TTM for a great report! Though we’ve been to some of these towns you make me want to return. We didn’t get to Plaza de Espana thanks to COVID lockdowns so is a return visit to Seville in the future? Segovia? We haven’t been there. Grenada again? Without the flu hopefully. It’s pretty good weather there in February. Oh dear. You’re messing with my head. 😁.

Posted by
3966 posts

Sounds like a fun trip, how you feel about Granada is how I feel about Cordoba lol!

Next time you are in the area, make sure to stop by Cadiz, this is the most popular destination for local Spanish in Andalucia. Think of it like Cordoba by the sea, excellent tapas and seafood there too.

Posted by
4293 posts

Thanks, everyone. This is a well-loved area for a reason…. and it helps to have perfect weather.

@ Carlos, I had Cadiz on my first draft, along with Valencia. But then I figured out I would be in Valencia during Las Fallas (which I loved last year - but also why I wanted to come back without it). So I rearranged to see Segovia and Toledo instead. So a return will be in order at some point. Plus I still have all of northern Spain to see.

Posted by
3966 posts

Oh yeah Northern Spain is a really cool place to explore, like nothing you have seen, think Ireland combined with the Alps with a fraction of the tourists :)

Posted by
2565 posts

Our daughter did a semester abroad in Granada and we went and visited her. We stayed 4 nights and absolutely loved it. We visited Sevilla and Cadiz as well and liked Granada best.

Posted by
2462 posts

Great info in this report! Nice to hear 4 nights is not too long for Granada. I'm re-working my recently postponed Spain trip and have Granada down for 3 nights as of now. 😊

Posted by
4293 posts

Oooh, Beth, a whole semester in Granada…. Although, of course, living anywhere isn’t the same as visiting, but it could be a lot of fun!

roubrat, I hope you get a new and improved trip to Spain after having to postpone!

Barbara, thank you. :) I write them more for me to have as a happy memory than anything else.

Carlos, Ireland combined with the Alps. What a mind-blowing description of northern Spain! I think that moved it up on my list by a few years. Lol!

Posted by
6850 posts

TTM, wonderful reading so far! I’m glad you enjoyed Segovia. My daughter and SIL were there and loved it so much they named their daughter after it. :).

I will read more when I get home - I’m on a quick trip to the Twin Cities this week. Can’t wait to read the rest!

Posted by
755 posts

Thank you, TexasTravelmom, for posting your trip report. I'm planning a very similar itinerary for Oct. 2023 and this is very helpful!

I'm trying to figure out the best way to include Granada using public transportation in Andalucía. How long was the train from Granada to Madrid? Did you consider any other train routes for arrival in Granada? Do you know what is happening with those high speed train lines to Granada that they have been working on for so long?

Posted by
4293 posts

Hey, Christine!

I am not sure where you would be coming from but I just looked 3 weeks out from today (on Renfe) and saw 6 trains Madrid to Granada on a Monday. Some are direct (stops but no changes) and some require a change of trains in Cordoba and take 3 1/2 to slightly under 4 hours. That also means you can catch a train from Cordoba to Granada.

I went from Seville to Granada by bus instead of train. The time it took was about the same and there were more choices of times. Then we took the train Granada to Madrid for one night before flying home. We did that with a change in Cordoba, because of the times - I wanted to leave early with a full afternoon in Madrid - but there was also a slightly later no-change train option. Edit* I looked at the Granada to Madrid 3 weeks out on a Monday as well. There are 3 AVE with no changes and 3 Avante-AVE with a change in Cordoba (it was easy). 3 1/2 hrs for the no-change.

I like a soft landing in Cordoba after arrival in Madrid because it’s a shorter journey after a flight. You can follow that up with Seville or Granada next - I don’t know that it makes a big difference. But of course, it depends on where else you will be stopping.

Posted by
3944 posts

TexasTravelMom, we stayed at the same hotel in Toledo. It was in the best location for strolling around the city. We stayed 3 nights in Toledo and were busy every day.
We liked Granada but thought the mezquita in Cordoba was our WOW moment.

Anyone going to Madrid try El Riojano for better hot chocolate with a soft cookie, not churros. They do have churros also. It is right around the corner from San Gines. Our tapas tour guide, recommended in Rick’s book, took us there. From the windows it just looks like a pastry shop, but they have a roomy cafe in the back. No lines. Try both and compare.
We too want to return and tour the north and the coast. A beautiful country with so much to offer any visitor.

Posted by
755 posts

@ Barbara. Thanks for the recommendations. The Toledo hotel looks like a great location!

@TexasTravelmom. I don't have my exact travel dates yet, but planning on flying roundtrip in and out of Madrid from the California in October. I will need a few days in either Toledo, Segovia or Madrid to get over jet lag before hopping on trains to explore Andalucía. I agree about needing a "soft landing" on arrival.

Posted by
963 posts

Planning our Sept/Oct trip to Andalusia and Madrid as well! Thank you TexasTravelmom -- very helpful!

Can I ask where you stayed in Granada? I have a reservation at Casa 1800 Granada but am rethinking it.

Thank you!

Posted by
4293 posts

Hey, Calimom - I am probably not very useful in the lodging department. My daughter and I stayed in an apartment: https://abnb.me/k00ENdfacvb

I stayed in the same area in 2017 but on the other side of the river, also in an apartment and I just like the area, and I often like an apartment for more space. 2 or 3 flights of stairs and no elevator either time and it can get a bit noisy on weekends. 🤣 But for this one, we opened the front door and there was the Alhambra looking at us each day. :)

Posted by
963 posts

Thanks TexasTravelmom -- the apartment looks darling! Is it on the north or south side of the Darro?

Looks like the Casa 1800 Granada is a couple blocks north of this apartment. The apartment would be so much more room. :)

Did you like where you stayed in Madrid your last night?

Posted by
4293 posts

@CaliMom, our apartment in Granada was north of the Douro and just a few steps up (I had thought more). I would definitely stay there again and will PM you more info later. Our Madrid hotel, while perfectly fine, is not one I would repeat. Nothing wrong with it at all - it was easy walking to the Prado and staff were really nice - just not particularly memorable.