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9 nights in Barcelona, Granada, Cordoba and Seville

Hello all!

I'm relatively new to these forums but everyone here has been super helpful with my trip planning thus far. I went on my first European trip in October, with 9 nights in Spain spread out across Barcelona, Granada, Cordoba and Seville.

I took some diligent notes throughout my trip to not just serve my memory better, but for you folks to help plan future trips around. I've provided just bullet-points and some occasional commentary to keep things succinct.

BARCELONA (3 nights, October 18-21)

-- Stayed in a Airbnb in El Born on Carrer de Sant Pere Mes Alt, right down the street from Palau de la Musica Catalana and near the Urquinaona station. This is a fun neighborhood if you want to be in the thick of everything while not surrounded by the Ramblas hoopla.

First day

-- I arrived in Barcelona fairly late in the afternoon. By the time I was settled, it was already approaching dusk. I completed the Barri Gotic walk, on which I had my first tapas experience at a lively bar near Palau de la Generalitat.
-- I had a unique experience at the Roman Temple of Augustus, which was closed when I meandered past. However, a woman noticed me snooping around the building and invited me in. There was some type of board meeting going on in an adjacent room, but I was allowed to briefly observe the Roman columns completely alone. Pretty awesome moment, and the woman who let me in joked that I had "won the lottery."

Second day

-- La Sagrada Familia (did not disappoint at all)
-- Spontaneously walked up to Hospital de la Santa Creu i Sant Pau for a quick tour (well worth it!)
-- La Pedrera
-- I had my best meal in Barcelona at a somewhat upscale restaurant (the name escapes me) on Passeig de Gracia in Eixample. I had a salmon roll, filled with cheese, wrapped with ham and placed on potato slices. The servers aggressively pushed me to buy dessert. I acquiesced and ordered a crema catalana glazed with a sweet chocolate swirl. Delicious.
-- Casa Batilo (not as interesting as La Pedrera, though it has a very cool video guide)
-- Las Ramblas walk (not worth it)
-- I met a trio of French women who spoke no English at a wine bar directly across from Palau de la Musica Catalana. I know un peu de francais from my high school days, so we had a fun, broken conversation about politics, soccer, my hometown in the U.S., the best places to visit in Europe and more. An enjoyable way to end the evening.

Third day

-- Took a cab to Park Guell. The main sights in the Monumental Zone are crowded, but it only takes a bit of wandering and climbing up the hillside to find solitude among gardens and Gaudi's architecture.
-- The neighborhood directly beneath Park Guell is well worth exploring if you want a brief glimpse of "everyday" Barcelona.
-- Funicular to Montjuic, a place where I sorely wished I had spent more time.
-- Museu Nacional d'Art de Catalunya. Most people seemed happy to just sit on the steps and enjoy the views, but I visited the actual museum. I am not much of an art guy, so I found grew weary after an hour or so. The frescoes are lovely.
-- I had a fun dinner at La Flauta in Universitat. This is a lively place where the bartender and guests are half of the entertainment. I met a Taiwanese photographer, a pair of Swedish women and a local couple. The Taiwanese photographer snapped a picture of the group of us enjoying tapas together. A lovely moment!
-- Went to Camp Nou for an FC Barcelona match. Very expensive and crowded, but highly recommended. European soccer matches are not at all like American sports experiences. Much less frills and crowd-pleasing mass entertainment, much more serious enjoyment of the action.
-- Finished my night with wine and champagne near Santa Maria del Mar

Departure to Granada

-- I did not get to see Picasso Museum, Palau de la Musica Catalana, Santa Maria del Mar, Fundacio Joan Miro, Montserrat and others...

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GRANADA (2 nights, October 21-23)

-- Stayed at an Airbnb on Gran Via near the cathedral. Fantastic location and was surprisingly quiet on the third floor.
-- Wandered through the Albayzin upon arrival, finding my way to San Nicolas viewpoint to catch my first glimpse of the Alhambra.
-- Late tapas/drinks at Bodegas Casteneda (a wonderful, lively place that feels a world apart from Barcelona)

First day

-- Dropped off my laundry at Tintoreria-Lavanderia Duquesa. Great service, reasonable prices and very much worth it!
-- Old Town walk
-- Cathedral, which was nice but not spectacular
-- Royal Chapel
-- Alhambra, which surpassed even my widest expectations. If you're going to Spain, you have to visit the Alhambra. It is utterly mesmerizing.
-- Lots of seafood at Los Diamantes
-- Deliciously thick and creamy hot chocolate on Calle Elvira

Second day

-- Wandered through Albayzin up to Sacromonte
-- Took minibus to modern Granada (specifically at Jardines del Triunfo), a great place to catch a glimpse of Spanish urban life for a couple of hours.
-- Took bus to Antequera, then train to Cordoba

CORDOBA (1 night, October 23-24)

-- I spent most of the evening wandering for an evening paseo. This was one of the highlights of my trip. There were a lot of people walking across the Roman Bridge, many of whom were in formal attire. Grandparents, parents, children, sisters, brothers, entire families were dressed up and strolling across this bridge. In the middle of the bridge, a statue of St. Raphael was surrounded by people lighting candles and placing them at the patron saint’s feet. The entire scene felt very, very Spanish.
-- Explored the Judeira, climbing higher and higher until I reached Plaza de Las Tendillas. This is a lovely square, with a charming fountain in the middle amid some towering Art Deco architecture. Restaurants, cafes and bars line the perimeter, encouraging tourists and locals alike to dawdle. A group of small children kicked around a soccer ball in front of the fountain, while families contentedly licked gelato while encircling the plaza like some type of slow-moving human parade.

Sole day in Cordoba

-- Alcazar (the gardens are worth it, but the fortress is not)
-- Mezquita (absolutely wonderful)
-- Wandered through Barrio San Basilo, a lovely, whitewashed neighborhood that feels miles away from the tourist zone
-- I stumbled upon an impromptu art gallery, where a handsome painter with unruly hair dutifully worked as I browsed through his many creations. I bought a trio of small paintings for my mother, telling the artist they were para mi madre en los Estadio Unicos. For this, I received a smile and a small card that he had hand-painted some flowers on. Feeling brave, I asked to take a photo of him so I show my mother the artist of these creations, to which he obliged. This is easily one of my favorite moments in Spain.
-- Swordfish at casa de comidas La Posada del Caballo Andaluz. A lovely restaurant with a great interior.
-- Took the train to Seville

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SEVILLE (3 nights, October 24-27)

-- Stayed at a Airbnb that was similar to a hostel near an elementary school in Barrio Santa Cruz. My room was on the ground floor, so it was slightly louder here with the noise of kids playing and bells ringing.
-- Barrio Santa Cruz walk upon arrival
-- Crossed bridge to Triana
-- Seafood at Taberna Miami (so delicious and very filling)
-- Relaxed along the waterfront

First day

-- Bullfight Museum. The bullring alone is gasp-worthy, while the museum is quite interesting and visually attractive.
-- Alcazar. Unlike the Alhambra, the gardens outshine the structure here.
-- Ventured to Plaza d'Espana in the evening.
-- Flamenco at La Casa de la Memoria. I was put on the wait-list when I arrived because I did not have a reservation but I was admitted to the first show. Somehow, I managed to finagle a front row seat. The dancing was spectacular and very powerful because everyone is so close. Highly recommended!
-- Tapas/beer at Bar Estrella. A lovely, atmospheric place, great for a nightcap.

Second day

-- Seville Cathedral, probably my favorite cathedral that I toured in Spain.
-- Triana market, which was really only interesting for the fish.
-- Tapas at Bodega Morales, an eye-catching spot bot too far from the tourist scene. You will notice the unusual typeface on the building's exterior.
-- Did the impromptu Plaza Nueva walk, including a stop at the wonderful Confiteria La Campana. This place looks so old-fashioned and the chocolate treats are exquisite.
-- Had phenomenal pulpo a la gallega (Galician octopus) at El 3 De Oro. Perhaps my tastiest meal in Spain.

Third day

-- Early flight back to the U.S.
-- I didn't get to see Hospital de la Caridad, Basilica de la Macarena, Flamenco Dance Museum and others...

Overall, a wonderful trip! Feel free to ask questions or provide comments.

Posted by
4249 posts

We ate at a Posada del Caballo Andaluz, as well! LOVED it, and highly recommend. Good food, great interior, intentive, thoughtful staff and great neighborhood to explore. Also agree that walking around the Jewish quarter of Cordoba is a lot of fun. Also at Bodegas Casteneda in Granada. Good food, crowded, great time. A couple people helped walk us thru the process of ordering.

Posted by
49 posts

Thanks for sharing! My adult daughters and I are planning our first trip for March and this helped a lot. How did you travel from Granada to Sevllle? I’m torn between the bus and train. Did you find all the places to eat on your own or did you just stumble upon them?

Posted by
436 posts

Thanks for sharing. Spain is on the list and first hand experiences are helpful. Sounds like s wonderful trip.

Posted by
681 posts

The places you didn't visit just means you have to go back. Glad you enjoyed your first trip to Europe, I enjoyed reading about your experiences.

Posted by
810 posts

Enjoyed your report! I visited all the cities on your itinerary. You saw a lot! Good job!

Posted by
2328 posts

Hey Nathan, wonderful trip, and a great and concise report! You bought back many memories of my own times in Spain.

Posted by
4451 posts

Thank you for sharing your trip report! Very nice details that bring back some wonderful memories of our trip to Spain last year.

Posted by
7182 posts

Great! I am leaving December 26 landing in Madrid 27 going to Cuenca Cordoba Seville and Granada and finally flying out of Malaga on January 6th.

You show to the old set in their ways travelers here that it is possible for a person not retired or of means to cover a lot of ground and to have a good experience.

Posted by
11286 posts

Thanks for taking the time to post these details. It sounds like a great first trip!

Posted by
14891 posts

Your report made me feel like I was back in Spain. Thank you!

Posted by
162 posts

How did you travel from Granada to Sevllle? I’m torn between the bus and train.

Train service from Granada is currently very limited due to construction. If you do buy train tickets from Granada (as I did), you will be transferred to Antequera via bus from the train station, not the bus station.

I should note that I did not travel directly from Granada to Seville. I took the bus/train to from Granada to Cordoba, stayed a night, then took the train from Cordoba to Seville. The transfer in Antequera was easy, and there is a very basic cafeteria in the station if you're looking for a quick bite.

Did you find all the places to eat on your own or did you just stumble upon them?

I did a combination of wandering and leafing through Rick Steves' recommendations. I think it's important to be flexible when looking for the best tapas spots in the evening. A lot of the enjoyment of tapas hopping comes from the scene itself, which can change on a nightly basis. If there is a large, raucous crowd with music playing and drinks pouring, that's usually a place to try.

Posted by
988 posts

I enjoyed reading your report. So concise but very descriptive!

Posted by
5 posts

Thank you - this was great. Question for you: We are going for 9 days with our 2 kids (9 and 13) at the end of March. We fly in/out of Madrid and our current plan is arrive and go straight to Toledo, then on to Granada, Seville, and then back up to Madrid. I was sharing this with a coworker who just spent a few weeks in Spain. She also went to Barcelona, Granada and Seville (as well as others, including San Sebastian). She said if there's one place they would have skipped, it would have been Seville. She said it was fine, but overall they found it underwhelming, especially after having just been to Granada. And, we talked about how surprising that is given that it's clearly one of the most recommended cities in Spain. She said they really loved San Sebastian.
So, now I'm rethinking our itinerary to cut out Seville, and maybe instead do Barcelona or San Sebastian. Curious your thoughts on the commentary on Seville? Full disclosure: I spent a year in studying in Granada (Madrid for 6 weeks) in college, so have technically been to all these places, but that was about 27 years ago. For this reason, Granada is a must-see for us, but I think what also struck me about my coworkers comments is that as long ago as my time in Spain was, I do recall not having a particularly memorable impression of Seville.

Posted by
4249 posts

@Melinda, that's interesting, We were in Spain at the beginning of November. I had already been to Barcelona, which is pretty great. This trip we landed in Madrid and immediately took a train to Sevilla, stayed three days, then spent a couple days in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, 2 days in Granada, 2 days in Cordoba and then 1 day and night in Toledo. I loved just about everything about the trip and don't feel you really could "go wrong" with any of those places. That said, if you forced me, I'd say my favorite "attractions" were the Alhambra, Mezquita and the Alcazar in Sevilla, in that order (we also saw/visited a whole lot more). HOWEVER, in terms of the cities themselves, we really enjoyed Sevilla and Cordoba the most. In Sevilla, I wonder if it matters where you stay. We stayed in the Jewish quarter close to the Alcazar. Really narrow streets and great tapas places close. The cathedral is also very close. We walked everywhere except we took a bus to see the Basilica de la Macarena, and walked, but some might take a bus to Triana. We also walked over to the amazing Plaza de espana and along the river. In Cordoba, the Jewish quarter is just beautiful. Lots of white homes with blue trim and window boxes and amazing courtyards and patios. We also walked over the roman bridge and along the river. I took soooo very many pictures in Cordoba. In Granada the Albacin is nice and fun to walk around, but we enjoyed the quirky Sacramonte area more, however, we missed the super quaint area where we stayed in Sevilla. Everyone will have different opinions, but most people really like Sevilla. I wouldn't take just one person's opinion, I would dig a little deeper. And just know, that anywhere you do end up in Andalusia is very interesting and a whole lot of fun!

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4249 posts

also, Melinda, just so you are aware, you can only travel to Toledo and back via Madrid. So when you are leaving Toledo, you have to go back to Madrid to catch at train to Sevilla or Granada. And with the amount of time you have, I wouldn't add Barcelona or San Sebastian because they are so far away

Posted by
488 posts

@MelindaOR -- we went to Spain last April (my third trip there), and our itinerary was very similar to what you have planned. Sevilla is not my favorite city, either -- my thoughts are in my trip report here. But lots of people really love it, and I think it's just up to individual preferences. So I'd recommend you go this trip, and if you find that Sevilla isn't for you, at least you'll know for yourself. And if you find that you love it, then even better!

P.S. — thank you, Nathan B, for your trip report! I enjoyed reading it very much.

Posted by
162 posts

I liked Seville but I preferred both Cordoba and Granada.

Seville is very touristy but has some wonderful sights, notably the Alcazar and the cathedral. A lot of people like Triana but I wasn't too impressed by it. The Plaza d'Espana is lovely to wander through and snap some pictures of, but there's not much of substance there.

I have heard that the best flamenco is in Seville, but I'm not sure how one could really tell the difference. I'm sure Madrid and Granada both have great flamenco shows as well.

I enjoyed Seville but it wouldn't be on the top of my list of places to return to. I preferred the smaller towns of Granada and Cordoba and think their quaintness best reflects the culture and pace in Andalusia.

Posted by
183 posts

Nathan, thank you for all this. I'm taking notes as we plan for our trip in May. So helpful. Thank you!

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the trip report! Definitely taking notes on your itinerary. Sounds like you traveled by yourself. Any solo travel tips for meeting people?

Posted by
162 posts

I did travel solo! It was surprisingly easy to meet people.

I taught myself a little bit of Spanish, which was super helpful because not many locals speak English. I also know a bit of French, so I met more tourists that way (the trio of French ladies that I met in Barcelona could barely understand my accent, however).

I usually frequented the loudest, most crowded bars/restaurants in the evenings. You're basically guaranteed to meet people as you try to squeeze your way through the crowd to the bar.

Also, hanging out at the bar while drinking and munching on tapas is a great way to spark some conversation.

Posted by
7 posts

Hi Nathan,

Thanks for your detailed trip report. It's really helpful and encouraging. I am traveling solo to Spain for 3 weeks in August. Was the mini bus trip into modern Granada worth it? Also, I will have a car. Do you recommend using a car to to get around Granada or taking taxis and mini bus, leaving the car parked?

Since you said the Las Ramblas walk wasn't worth it, do you recommend spending any time in that area or skip it all together?

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162 posts

Was the mini bus trip into modern Granada worth it?

Definitely! Granada is a modern, energetic city with a lot of students. It's a great way to see an "authentic" Spanish city outside of the tourist zone. I'd highly recommend it.

Do you recommend using a car to to get around Granada or taking taxis and mini bus, leaving the car parked?

I would park the car and use public transit. Granada has a lot of taxis and buses that can get you around quickly. The main tourist zone is also largely pedestrianized -- you won't be able to drive a car there even if you wanted to.

Since you said the Las Ramblas walk wasn't worth it, do you recommend spending any time in that area or skip it all together?

Maybe a brief stroll, but it won't take you long before you realize that Las Ramblas is just a big tourist trap. Lots of restaurants with the same overpriced imitation food. Also, I could see plenty of pickpockets lurking. There are just so many more interesting and authentic parts of Barcelona than Las Ramblas.