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10 days in Spain (Madrid and ???)

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I am planning a last minute trip to Spain in late June/early July for my family. We have 2 boys (9 &12). We are looking to plan about 10 days in Spain. We plan to fly into Madrid, but can leave from there or Barcelona. Initially I was thinking we might split the time between Madrid and Barcelona (mainly b/c those are the most well-known and talked about cities); however, I have recently read some very negative reviews of Barcelona (?). Certainly, everyone has different interests and likes, but I'm looking for some advice on where first-time visitors to Spain should spend 10 days. We are not huge art fanatics, but will probably want to visit a few famous must-not-miss museums. We want to see major historical sites, but we also want to get a feel for and immerse ourselves in the real culture of the region. It's not critical, but we also always love time on the beach....

I hadn't planned on a car unless absolutely necessary, but am open to it if public transportation is not efficient. We will be looking for 4* type accommodations (whether it's a hotel, b&B, apartment, etc). We'd love to find any fun festivals (last week June, 1st week July).

I'm interested in hearing thoughts and suggestions on where to spend our time in Spain to give us the best overview of the country and culture possible in a 10 day tour. Thank you in advance!! I really appreciate any help you can give!

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