My husband and I recently returned from a two-week trip to Spain. We loved the people, the tapas and all the beautiful tile! Plus, compared to France and Italy, Spain is a bargain. Our itinerary was adapted from Rick's guidebook, omitting Barcelona, as we'd already been there. We spent five days in Madrid, which was just about right. For a stay this long, we prefer to rent an apartment and we found a great one on VRBO, on Calle de las Huertas, the historic district. We did a day trip to El Escorial, which was interesting, but I think Toledo might have been a better choice. We also experienced a bullfight, which I do NOT recommend. The matadors were novices; we left after the first two (of six) bullfights. It seemed terribly cruel and bloody. Our favorite restaurant was Vi Cool, for its fixed price tapas selection (20 euro pp). Delicious food, beautifully presented.
Our next stop was Granada, by bus. We spent two nights at the Hotel Anacapri, recommended in Rick's guidebook. Our room on the first floor was too noisy, so they moved us to the fourth floor for our second night. The breakfast here was one of the best and included in the price. The Alhambra and San Nicolas Viewpoint (go at sunset) were the highlights of Granada for us. We had dinner at Carmen de Aben Humeya (quite good, but pricey). The view is good here, but not spectacular, like the one at San Nicolas. We also enjoyed Rick's self-guided walk, especially the baths and market.
We rented a car when we left Granada and drove to Nerja, on the coast. What a beautiful spot! Great views on the Balcon de Europa. We stayed (and ate) at the Hotel Carabeo. Unfortunately, we didn't get a room with a view (as we were only there one night), and our room was very small. However, it had a nice coffee maker and hairdryer. Our meal at the restaurant (outside, by the pool with views of the water) was delightful. After one night, we drove on to Ronda, one of the white hill towns. The gorge and Puente Nuevo (New Bridge), the Bullring, the Santa Maria la Mayor Collegiate Church and Alameda del Tajo viewpoint were all worth seeing. We hiked to the bottom of the gorge for photos of the bridge at sunset--well worth it! We stayed at the Hotel San Gabriel, a lovely, small hotel with traditional decor. Tragatapas had the most creative tapas here!
After two nights in Ronda, we drove to Seville and dropped off our car. It was extremely hot, so we tried to get our walking done in the morning. Alcazar is gorgeous, but there are no arrows to follow for the audioguide. The cathedral was not one of my favorites, but it's worth visiting, and the views from the bell tower are fantastic. We stayed at the Hotel Amadeus. It was our most expensive hotel room of the trip, and I don't think it was worth it. We had an upgraded room (with a piano), but it was still very small. (The bathroom was big, though.) Breakfast is an extra 8.5 euros pp. Nice, but not really worth it. We didn't have any great meals in Seville. Two of the ones we were looking for (recommended on TripAdvisor), were closed.
We took a train back to Madrid for a final night before flying home. We stayed at the Hotel Europa, which I'd only recommend for a very short (one or two-night stay). Overall, our trip to Spain was fantastic, thanks to our Rick Steves' guidebook and videos. (We watched all of Rick's relevant Spain videos while planning this trip, and again just before we left.)