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Madrid, Barcelona, Seville - help and advice needed

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Hello, Spain experts,

I am planning our first trip to Spain from June 22-July2 (9 nights). The cities I am most interested in are Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville. However, it is very important for me to have enough time to really explore the cities, not just hit the major tourist attractions. Hence, I have some trouble deciding which of the 3 cities I should visit, and how much time I should allocate for each. I have done a lot of research, but still need some help finalizing the itinerary. Here are the questions:

1. Which combination of cities would you recommend?
a. 3 nights Barcelona, 6 nights Madrid (+ possibly 1-2 day trips)
b. 3 nights Seville, 6 nights Madrid (+ possibly 1-2 day trips)
c. 4 nights Barcelona, 5 nights Madrid (including only one day trip)
d. 3 nights Barcelona, 2 nights Seville, 4 nights Madrid (no day trips).

Options (a) and (b) appeal to me because they offer a more relaxed pace in Madrid… Options (c) gives more days in Barcelona, but do you think it is worth to sacrifice one night in Madrid for a night in Barcelona?
And option (d) looks good because I cover all of the three cities I want to visit… BUT, I don’t want to end up rushing. Do you think that seeing 3 cities in 9 nights is too much?

2. If we do end up staying in Madrid for 6 nights, which of the neighborhoods in addition to the “main” tourist attractions would you recommend? Something off the beaten path, more authentic, less crowded, and SAFE?

3. With regards to the hotels. Since this trip is a break from our hectic lives in NYC, sleep is very important to us. We are not all-nighters, and thus we are looking for a hotel that would be located on a quieter (but SAFE!) street not too far from the center. What would you recommend?
So far, I have the following accommodations in mind:

a. Madrid – Hotel el Prado. The location is great, the price is not too bad… But I am not sure about the noise level in that area. What other hotel would you recommend not too far from the Hotel el Prado area, but not in the middle of all the night life?

b. Barcelona – two options, Barcelona Center Hotel (looks like a central location, but is it noisy?) and Gran Hotel Torre Catalunya (looks like peace and quiet is guaranteed there, but it is further than I would like). Would you be able to recommend a nice and quiet(er) hotel in Barcelona closer to the center?

c. Seville - I haven’t found anything in Seville yet, so if you can recommend something keeping the serenity and central location criteria in mind, that would be great.

4. How safe are the metros in Barcelona and Madrid? If we find ourselves on one at around 2am, should we be worried? Do they operate 24/7?

Thank you thank you thank you for your input!

Elana

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