Please sign in to post.

Trip Report SPAIN Sep: Seville, Ronda, Granada, Cordoba, Madrid (arriving from Portugal)

My wife and I traveled in Portugal and Spain for 3 weeks, beginning in Porto and ending in Madrid; this report covers our 11 nights in Spain from Aug 31 to Sep 11, 2023, and is in 6 parts, linked as replies to this Part 1. (Our Portugal trip report is posted in the Rick Steves Forum here.) The towns we stayed in:

  • SEVILLE 3 nights – Part 2
  • RONDA (with visit to Setenil de las Bodegas) 2 nights – Part 3
  • GRANADA (with visit to Montefrio) 2 nights – Part 4
  • CORDOBA 1 night – Part 5
  • MADRID 3 nights – Part 6

Temperatures were in the 70s and 80s throughout our stay.

For transportation within Spain:

  • Seville to Ronda, and then to Granada: rental car.
  • Granada to Cordoba: ALSA bus. Purchased tickets on the ALSA website 5 months in advance.
  • Cordoba to Madrid: IRYO hi-speed train. Purchased tickets on the IRYO website 10 months in advance.

We had no disruptions due to strikes, weather, accidents, or illness.

Special thanks to Rick Steves Forum contributors gacllc1997 and larry42 for their helpful trip reports and replies to my messages.

TWO OF OUR PLANNING RESOURCES:

OUR 5 FAVORITE ACTIVITIES:

NOTES:

  • Taxi. We used the PideTaxi mobile app in Seville and Madrid to arrange a taxi a day in advance; one can also use it to summon a taxi for immediate pickup. English interface worked great.
  • (Cellphone) Contactless Payment. Almost everyplace accepted contactless payment. Since I had attached my credit cards to Google Pay, rather than pull out a credit card I was able to simply wave my Android cellphone over the payment terminal.
Posted by
249 posts

PART 2: Aug 31 (Thu) - Sep 3 (Sun) SEVILLE 3 nights

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Flamenco performance at La Casa del Flamenco

LODGING: Satisfactory apt in excellent location right at Triana Market; 15 min walk to Old Town. With a few simple improvements this apt would be great. Equipped with clothes washer. If you would like a link to this property, message me.

Aug 31 (Thu): Flight from Lisbon landed at 3:40pm, and we were at our lodging by shortly after 4.

Walked to La Casa del Flamenco for an excellent hour-long performance from 8:30pm; when we arrived at 8:05 there was already a line. People were seating according to their time of arrival. After dinner at a nearby restaurant we did the Rick Steves Santa Cruz Walk in the darkened streets under a smashing blue moon, arriving back at our lodging just before 1am.

Sep 1 (Fri): At 11:20am we arrived 5 min late to the location within the Alcazar for our 11:30am upper floor guided tour; we were allowed to join the noon tour. We witnessed a few others also arriving late. LESSON LEARNED: be at the tour starting point – not the Alcazar ticket entry gate – at least 15 min before your reserved time, which suggests being at the Alcazar ticket entry gate about 30 min before the reserved time. NOTE: If you have ANY handbags etc, bring a 1€ coin for the upper floor tour storage lockers. We found the 30 min upper floor tour worthwhile. Afterwards we wandered about the rest of the Alcazar.

Next, from 2:10pm we visited the Seville Cathedral with the audioguide for 2 hours.

Had dinner in Triana, followed by walking the paseo among the multi-generational crowd along the Triana riverfront and across the Puente de Isabell II on the warm night below an almost-full moon.

Sep 2 (Sat): Visited the small but interesting museum in the Ceramics Centre of Triana (free with our Alcazar tickets) followed by lunch at Alfareria 21, located in the former HQ of a tile company. After lunch we did a self-tour of the restaurant’s building with its tiled walls and three underground private rooms located in former kilns. Very cool.

Later we walked to the lovely Plaza de España. Among the crowd were a couple having wedding photographs taken and amateur Flamenco performers earning tips. The atmosphere was pleasant and relaxing.

Dinner was 15 seconds from our lodging at the unpretentious Restaurante La Entrañable; the French gentleman who seemed to own the place resembled the actor Vincent Cassel – which earned us a free beer when we mentioned it to him. It began to rain and many customers crowded into the bar as umbrellas were raised over the outside tables.

Sep 3 (Sun): At 9:50am, in the rain, we left Triana by a taxi (arranged a day earlier using the PideTaxi mobile app) and picked up a rental car at Santa Justa Train Station.

Posted by
249 posts

PART 3: Sep 3 (Sun) - Sep 5 (Tue) RONDA 2 nights

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Simply viewing the beautiful sights Ronda offers due to its geography. The days were sunny with a clear blue sky, despite late night thunderstorms.

LODGING: Splurged for a Double Room with Views (#103) at Hotel Montelirio. The small balcony had a magnificent view of Puente Nuevo bridge and the Tajo of Ronda.

Sep 3 (Sun): Picked up rental car (Budget) in rainy Seville and drove to Ronda, with three stops in-between. The sky soon cleared, and our first stop was the Oleum Viride olive farm with a gorgeous view of the village of Zahara. We were the only two visitors for a tour of the production facility followed by olive oil tastings and ending with a glass of the farm’s wine. We especially enjoyed learning the production process.

From there we drove to Setenil de las Bodegas for late lunch, a unique village with buildings built into and under cliffs. Though interesting, the restaurants were very crowded with visitors.

Our last stop before entering Ronda was the Mirador La Hoya Del Tajo viewpoint facing Ronda’s famous Puente Nuevo bridge. It is accessed by a lane branching off a roundabout at the southern end of Ronda. We first took a wrong exit that ended in a virtual dead end on a downhill narrow lane. I and Google Maps had missed that cars are not allowed on this lane, but several older concerned Spanish ladies and an upset Spanish gentleman made it clear to us in gestures. I was able to back up the narrow lane (fortunately we rented an automatic) and weave between the very closely parked local cars at the top of the slope to extricate ourselves. The women smiled and cheered our success.

After visiting the viewpoint we checked into our room, and then (thanks to someone who cancelled) had a solid dinner at the edge of the terrace in the hotel’s restaurant, with a breathtaking view of the sunset over the gorge. Afterwards we walked over to the Puente Nuevo bridge.

Sep 4 (Mon): A full day walking about Ronda. We visited the Bullring and its museum (renting its useful audioguide); the museum was about much more than bullfighting. After lunch we followed the scenic cliff edge walkway from the Alameda del Tajo park back to the bridge. Next was a walk down to the ruins of the Arab Baths with its good explanatory video. At 7pm we attended an intimate 50 min Flamenco/Spanish guitar performance by Emilio Caracafé at Casa Museo Don Bosco with its scenic views.

Sep 5 (Tue): We checked out of the hotel and drove to Granada with a stop at the village of Montefrio and its National Geographic Mirador del Paseo Viewpoint. There were very few tourists and no public WCs, though (as the TI told us) one can use the bathroom in the City Hall. We visited the cute Iglesia de la Encarnacion, reputed to be the only round church in Spain. (NOTE: at the right side when facing the altar from the entry, there is a Spanish-labelled 1€ coin-operated switch that illuminates the interior in a pleasing glow.) We drove out of Montefrio after having a picnic lunch on a bench at the small park at the entry to the ruins of the Moorish castle.

We dropped our car off at the Granada train station at 3:40pm; a short taxi ride delivered us to our lodging.

Posted by
249 posts

PART 4: Sep 5 (Tue) - Sep 7 (Thu) GRANADA 2 nights

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Visiting Alhambra

LODGING: Romántico y céntrico, vistas a la Alhambra AirBNB. Unique two-level unit with clothes washer. Excellent location near Plaza Nueva with gorgeous terrace view of Alhambra.

Sep 5 (Tue): After arriving at our lodging around 4pm, we canceled a restaurant reservation in order to dine on the apt’s terrace with an entrancing view of Alhambra transitioning from daylight to dusk to night.

Sep 6 (Wed): In the morning we strolled the Rick Steves Granada Old Town Walk – the highlight was the 1300s-era Moorish entrance to Corral del Carbón. After lunch we walked 20 min to Alhambra, entering via the Justice Gate at about 12:30. We rented the useful audioguide and spent over 5 hours walking throughout the complex, including our 2pm reservation at Nasrid’s Palace. The visit met our high expectations. We then took the C30 red shuttle bus down into the city. NOTE: the driver accepted neither credit cards nor high-value (eg 20€) bills.

Sep 7 (Thu): Departed Granada on an ALSA bus at noon; arrived Cordoba at 2:40pm. This bus ride was an unexpected delight. We had planned to travel by train, but (due to rail construction) the bus schedule worked better for us. Seated in the second row on the right side, we were rewarded with good views to the front and the side. It was a blissfully relaxing ride that wound through mildly rugged terrain among rolling hills covered by endless olive groves, with an occasional picturesque village crowned by a church and/or ruined Moorish castle.

Posted by
249 posts

PART 5: Sep 7 (Thu) - Sep 8 (Fri) CORDOBA 1 night

We generally shy from one-night stays, but this stop between Granada and Madrid went very smoothly.

FAVORITE ACTIVITY: Visiting Mezquita

FAVORITE RESTAURANT: Patio Romano. Outstanding dinner in a pleasing environment.

LODGING: Hotel Córdoba Centro. From the Rick Steves guidebook. Basic and clean. Great value (esp. with an early booking discount) strategically located midway between the bus/train station and the Mezquita; excellent location for our one-night stay.

Sep 7 (Thu): Arrived at the Cordoba bus station at 2:40pm and walked 15 min to our hotel, mostly through a park; a later walk of 5 min brought us to the Mezquita for our 4:30 reserved entry and 6pm reserved Bell Tower climb. The Moorish design of the Mezquita was beautiful; the audioguide was helpful. The Bell Tower was worth the climb and cost. TIP: understanding the stages in the expansion of the Mezquita footprint before visiting will make the audioguide easier to follow.

Afterwards we strolled across the Roman Bridge before an excellent dinner at Patio Romano near the Mezquita. The name of the restaurant comes from an inscribed centuries-old Roman pillar found on the site; it now stands in the restaurant next to a fountain in the open-air courtyard.

After dinner we walked the Roman Bridge again, this time illuminated in the nighttime darkness; the view from the far side back toward the Mezquita was dreamy. After walking back from the far side we enjoyed a live Flamenco performance projected onto a large wall behind the Mezquita.

Sep 8 (Fri): In the morning we wandered thru the Juderia (Jewish Quarter), and were at the Zoco Municipal de Artesanía when it opened at 10am; we bought several unique items from local artisans. (In contrast to our experience at Seville’s El Postigo Arts and Craft mkt, where we bought nothing.) At 10am we were alone in the small market; by 10:30 tour groups were coming through.

We checked out of our hotel, walked to the train station, and caught the 12:47pm IRYO hi-speed train to Madrid.

Posted by
249 posts

PART 6: Sep 8 (Fri) - Sep 11 (Mon) MADRID 3 nights

The days were mostly sunny, despite late evening thunderstorms.

FAVORITE ACTIVITIES:

  • The Prado Museum’s guided tour in English
  • Temporary exhibition Sorolla a través de la luz (Sorrola thru light) at the Royal Palace.

LODGING: Apt in Central Madrid, Barrio Letras VRBO or AirBNB. Excellently furnished and conveniently located. Easy walk to the Prado Museum, the Royal Palace, Santa Atocha Station, the Gran Via, etc. Includes a small glass-enclosed balcony and a clothes washer.

Sep 8 (Fri): At 2:50pm our train arrived at Santa Atocha Station in Madrid, where we found the metro station was closed for construction. We therefore walked 20 easy minutes to our lodging.

We did the Rick Steves Gran Via Walk. During the walk we stumbled on an unexpectedly interesting “Fake News” exhibit (in English and Spanish) at the free Telefónica Museum, perusing it for almost an hour. It included a fun AI device that allowed us attendees to dynamically display our faces in the guise of celebrities whose expressions changed in sync with ours’.

Sep 9 (Sat): Walked to the Royal Palace via some stops on the Rick Steves Historic Core Walk, and viewed three exhibitions:

  • 10am-11:30. Royal Palace of Madrid with audioguide, followed by lunch at the Royal Palace’s café. The visit was worthwhile.
  • 12:30pm-2:30. Royal Collections Gallery with audioguide. It was ok. English audioguide added little value, as it only repeated what was written on the placards describing each major section.
  • 2:45pm-3:30. Sorolla a través de la luz temporary exhibition. Of the three, we most enjoyed this. Well-organized, starting with timeline of Joaquin Sorolla’s life and ending with an enchanting Virtual Reality room. Scheduled to end Sep 24, but has already been extended once.

We walked back to our apt via the remaining stops of the Historic Core Walk, with a stop at Chocolatería San Ginés for a luscious treat of hot chocolate with churros. Later we walked to Centro de Arte Reina Sofía to view Picasso’s Guernica during the free entry hours (7-9pm); we entered after queuing for 30 min.

Sep 10 (Sun): After excellent pastries with espressos at the small and friendly Motteau Pasteleria, we walked to the Prado Museum for its 1pm English Guided Tour. This 90 min tour exceeded expectations and is a highlight of our Spain trip. Afterwards we used the helpful audioguide to view more works, leaving at 6:50pm. NOTE: the Prado’s "Mona Lisa" is not in the Audioguide nor a part of the Guided Tour; to locate it quickly we asked the information desk.

Sep 11 (Mon): Flew out of Madrid airport (MAD) at 12:20pm via Air France / Delta flights to Seattle. We had a 1hr 15min layover at CDG where we were able to easily transit to the connecting gate, and our check-in luggage made the connection. At SEA we used the Mobile Passport Control (MPC) mobile app to pass quickly through immigration/customs.

Posted by
3887 posts

Great trip report, very in depth! I'm curious to hear more about your thoughts on the Royal Collections Gallery, this is the museum that opened recently just this summer? What do you mean by "it was ok"?

Posted by
249 posts

I'm curious to hear more about your thoughts on the Royal Collections Gallery, this is the museum that opened recently just this summer? What do you mean by "it was ok"?

Hi Carlos. Yes it is the museum that opened this summer. The limit on the number of characters allowed by the rather clunky technology underlying the Forum prevented me (unless I split the Madrid portion of the report into 2 parts) from providing a more detailed critique than "ok" of the museum.

Of the three sites we visited at the Royal Palace that day, on a 5 star scale I would assign 5 to the Sorolla exhibition, 4 to the Royal Palace, and 3 to the Royal Collection. I would not travel to the Royal Palace just for the purpose of seeing the Royal Collection; however, it is worthwhile if one is already visiting the Royal Palace and has time.

The collection is certainly vast, and the 3-4 videos that described the evolution of Spain and its empire were interesting. While there were many interesting items, I had the (probably wrong) impression that the best pieces of art acquired by the Spanish ruling families are in the Prado.

Assuming the Spanish audioguide provides more detail than the weak English audioguide, I might have had a better experience if I understood Spanish. The weakness of the English audioguide was aggravated by the difficulty of reading some of the written English descriptions associated with the pieces as they were often in light grey font and dimly lit.

I hope this answers your question.

Posted by
249 posts

Which place do you wish you could gave spent more time?

I would not have shifted any nights around among our stays.
If I had an extra day, probably would have spent it in Cordoba or Granada.
If I had two extra days, I would have been tempted to add Toledo.

Posted by
2317 posts

Thanks for this detailed report! I've made note of the PideTaxi app.

Posted by
3887 posts

Thank GeoffB for your answer, very informative! The Royal Collections is definitely on my list for when I am back in Madrid.

Posted by
18 posts

Brilliant trip report. Thank you. Curious about a day trip Seville to Cordoba: The earliest departing flight seems to be 9:30a on Alsa arriving at noon. And last trip from Cordoba to Seville is at 6:30p? Is this because we are traveling in December and it is limited availability?

Also, what car company did you rent from? Looking for automatic transmission one-way from Seville to Granada.

Thanks so much.

Posted by
249 posts

Curious about a day trip Seville to Cordoba: The earliest departing flight seems to be 9:30a on Alsa arriving at noon. And last trip from Cordoba to Seville is at 6:30p? Is this because we are traveling in December and it is limited availability?

Also, what car company did you rent from? Looking for automatic transmission one-way from Seville to Granada.

I don't have much insight into daytrip from Seville to Cordoba. I think I read that it could be done via train as well as bus. If you have the chance to spend an evening in Cordoba, the illumination of the Roman Bridge and the Mesquita are a lovely sight from the far side of that Bridge.

We used Budget, and rented an automatic. Avis and Budget are the same company and have a shared area at Santa Justa Train Station in Seville, but Budget rates were lower for the same vehicle (unless one pre-paid Avis). (BTW, according to my reservation the Budget/Avis office at Santa Justa has a free pickup service. However, when I tried to call both of the numbers provided -- many times -- as soon as I selected the option to connect to the office the phone disconnected.)

FYI, here is the gas station in Granada that I used before turning the rental car in at the Granada train station: https://maps.app.goo.gl/6tT7JuRzDdP5xiAS9

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
951 posts

Geoff, thank you so much for your wonderful trip report. I love the way it is set up and appreciate your comments!

We will be in Seville for about three weeks after a few days in Granada. Our young adult kids are coming for part of this trip, including the week between Christmas and New Year's.

Can I ask you about the Royal Alcazar -- the website is a bit complicated. We definitely want a guided tour when our kids all arrive from the US. Did you book the guided tour to the Upper Floor right on the Alcazar website? Also, is it the "upper floor of the Grutesco Gallery and the Balcony of Carlos V"? Did you use an audio guide for the rest of the Palace?

You also mentioned buying ceramics in Cordoba. Were there good shops in Triana or did it seem commercial and over-priced compared to Cordoba? We are going to take a Day Trip to Cordoba.

Posted by
249 posts

Can I ask you about the Royal Alcazar -- the website is a bit complicated. We definitely want a guided tour when our kids all arrive from the US. Did you book the guided tour to the Upper Floor right on the Alcazar website? Also, is it the "upper floor of the Grutesco Gallery and the Balcony of Carlos V"? Did you use an audio guide for the rest of the Palace?

You also mentioned buying ceramics in Cordoba. Were there good shops in Triana or did it seem commercial and over-priced compared to Cordoba? We are going to take a Day Trip to Cordoba.

Hi CaliMom.

Royal Alcázar. We did book the guided tour on the Alcázar website. It was the Visita Real Alcázar + Cuarto Real Alto (English: Visit to the Real Alcázar + Royal Bedroom). For the unguided portion of the Alcázar, we should have used the audioguide, but overlooked its availability: according to the RS guidebook the 1 hour audioguide is available as a free mobile app download by scanning a QR code at the ticket office. I think we missed it because when we arrived at the entry gate and showed our ticket, (as it was 15 min before the start time of our guided tour) the staff directed us to proceed immediately to the start point of the guided tour (and hurriedly provided rather unclear directions). Thus we did the unguided portion using signage, a map, and the RS guidebook.

Ceramics in Triana. We visited a few of the ceramics shops in Triana, but those we entered were carrying the same mass produced items -- none of which appealed to us. We saw the same items in some tourist shops in Cordoba. However, in Cordoba we did find some unique and attractive pieces that we purchased (for gifts and for ourselves) at the Zoco Municipal de Artesanía. In Seville we saw some pieces at the El Postigo Arts and Craft mkt, but none appealed to us.

Posted by
1 posts

Hi
Thanks for all the info.
Did the car rental agency require the international drivers incense?
John

Posted by
249 posts

Did the car rental agency require the international drivers incense?

Before they even asked, I handed my international drivers license over together with my US state license, so I don't know if they would have required it.

Posted by
951 posts

Thank you Geoff. We are in Madrid for 2 1/2 days/3 nights and do much to see! We also are staying in Las Letras in an apartment right on Plaza Santa Ana.

Was the restaurant at the Palace the Cafe de Oriente? I am looking for a restaurant near the Palace.

Our plan that day is:

9:00 am Coffee and pastry in the downstairs gourmet deli of Lhardy
10:45 am: Walking Tour of Old Town (ends at Opera House).
1:45 pm: Lunch near Royal Palace (La Mi Venta, Spanish restaurant at Plaza de la Marina Española 7)
4:00 pm: Tour of the Royal Palace.
* Stop at El Riojano for cup of chocolate with a piece of 'roscón' (or 'soletilla' cookies) in a coffee room at the rear.
7:30 pm: Reina Sofia Free Night to view Picasso's Guernica.
9:30 pm: Vermut and dinner at Casa Alberto.

Yes, everyone, I know the day is packed. This is three days after having a month of slow travel in Sevilla. :)

Posted by
249 posts

Was the restaurant at the Palace the Cafe de Oriente?

Hi CaliMom! I assume you are asking where we had lunch on the day of our visit to the Royal Palace.
No, it was not the Cafe de Oriente. We had lunch at the cafe that is AT the Royal Palace. It is a very basic cafeteria, without tablecloths and without table service.

Posted by
4058 posts

I meant to leave a comment on your Portugal Trip Report but it slipped my mind. Let me compliment you on the organization of both of these TR's, I could learn something from you about making them less wordy and more organized. Both are timely reports as we are leaning toward Portugal next Fall with friends and after that, the Andalusia is one region we're considering among a few. I've bookmarked your report for future planning.

Posted by
634 posts

Another great trip report, Geoff! I had the same question as Tammy about where you would have liked more time, so I was glad to see your answer.

Posted by
35 posts

Thank you for posting your detailed itinerary. This is very useful to me as I plan my own trip. The link to the gas station is fantastic. I have a question about Alcazar tickets. Unless I am looking at the website incorrectly, they only have tickets through December 31, 2023. I do not see that they have released 2024 tickets yet. Am I correct? We are going in January. Thanks.

Posted by
249 posts

I do not see that they have released 2024 tickets yet. Am I correct?

Hi jill. I am seeing same as you: tickets for Jan and later not yet being sold on the website. I bought our tickets as soon as they became available about 2.5 months in advance of our visit: 17Jun purchase for 01Sep visit.

Perhaps the Jan calendar will open up on Dec 1?
Seems odd that they are not yet available. If I was in your place, as a first step I would try to email the address (ventas@pra.cliqueo.es) provided in the contact link at the bottom of the page.

I appreciate hearing that the trip report is helpful to your planning. Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
11 posts

GeoffB - Thank you for this post! Excellent information and we appreciate the links. We will definitely use the information when we travel there.

Posted by
26 posts

Geoff just want to let you know your recommendations were spot on. We did the English tour at the Prado Fabulous no one talks about it and it is so good and we went to the little cafe in Madrid you mentioned, the absolute best. They had 3 people in the am. All they did was bake fresh items. Thanks again, jim