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August 2019: Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, Madrid

August 2019: Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, Madrid

Nov 13th, 2019, 01:56 PM
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August 2019: Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, Madrid

I wanted to wait until I had pictures to accompany this post, but I'm still working through them so have my words and I'll hopefully post the photos later!

I used these forums and your advice as a vital resource when planning a trip to Spain – now hoping to return the favor and pay it forward! My husband and I spent approximately one week in Burgos, Valladolid, Salamanca, and Madrid in mid-August this year. Our main round trip tickets were out of London and we spent a bit of time at the beginning and end of the trip there, but I can’t imagine anything we did hasn’t already been covered in these forums, so I’ll just focus on Spain for this report. My husband ended up getting less time off than I planned for and not over Labor Day, so the trip looks a bit different from what I was originally planning and asking advice on, but overall I’m really thrilled with how it turned out!

Sunday, August 18 – Wednesday, August 21: Madrid → Burgos
We landed in Madrid around 12:45 p.m. and made it through passport control and baggage claim in less than a half hour. Amazing! We probably could have made the 1:15 bus, but ended up waiting for the 3:15 p.m. bus that I bought tickets for (alsa.es) at a cafe near the ALSA desk inside the T4 terminal. A bunch of busses departed at 3:15 so it was a bit chaotic trying to find ours - it ended up not pulling up in one of the designated spots, so it was hard to see? I’m glad I was asking around trying to find it otherwise I might not have noticed it. Anyhow, we arrived at our AirBNB in Burgos without incident later that evening (it was within walking distance from the bus station) and the city is just magical. I chuckled reading through my old forum posts here, because I was looking for “a smaller, picturesque town that has a few really solid restaurants and pinxto bars within walking distance” – and that’s EXACTLY what Burgos felt like to me.

On the first evening, we passed by the cathedral on our way to the Plaza Mayor to orient ourselves, and I was immediately drawn to the buzz of Calle San Lorenzo, where we ended up spending a lot of our time. We were floored to find how cheap the food (and wine and beer) was, and more than that, everything we ate was INCREDIBLE. I made it a point to have dinner at Casa Ojeda and while it was an unforgettable experience, I honestly don’t know that I enjoyed the food any more or less than the tapas, raciones, and menus del dia (for much cheaper) that we stumbled upon throughout our time there. I don’t think there is a bad bite of food to be had in the city! We certainly ate our weight in morcilla, yet still never enough to satiate me...

Over the course of two and a half days and three nights, the main attractions we visited, all of which I would recommend, were:
-Walking up to the Mirador del Castillo and taking a self-guided tour of the Castillo (free)
-Touring the breathtaking cathedral (7 euros, includes audioguide)
-Visiting the Museum of Human Evolution during the free hour on Tuesday evening – we made it through a little less than half of the museum at a brisk pace before they closed. If we’d had another day, I would have liked to go back and see the rest!

The rest of the time was spent shopping (I had no idea summer rebajas were a thing – I thought they were only in winter – and oh, did I take advantage of those clothing sales!!) and just wandering around, admiring the views. I love how the spires of the cathedral can be seen peeking out over buildings throughout the city, and how safe and relaxed I felt there. Burgos was really the essence of what I hoped to experience on this trip and would have gladly spent more time there, though it was sufficient to get a taste (figuratively and literally) of the city. 10/10!

Wednesday, August 21: Burgos → Valladolid → Salamanca
I called a taxi on Wednesday morning to take us to the train station in Burgos. It arrived in the time it took us to walk down three flights of stairs with a large suitcase - perhaps two minutes or less? INCREDIBLY speedy! For the rest of the trip, we took trains between cities that I booked online (renfe.com) ahead of time, ranging from a few weeks out to the next day. (I would have booked them all several weeks out, but Renfe was being fussy about processing my American credit card online, an issue I’ve heard is relatively common). You’re also able to buy the tickets on the train, but the paranoid planner in me needed to have the tickets in hand a bit sooner than that. All the trains we took were on-time, comfortable, and had plenty of empty space, so we would have had no troubles buying our tickets on the spot!

In total, we had about 7 hours in Valladolid. We stored three pieces of luggage at the ALSA bus station, a few minutes’ walk away from the train station, for less than three euros during that time. The highlights:
-Began the morning in Plaza Mayor for desayuno to orient ourselves (as one does), and passed by the lovely Fuente de Plaza Zorilla and through a vibrant shopping district en route. (Having already spent all my extra money and luggage space on clothes in Burgos, I was able to refrain temptation!)
-Wandered east, towards the Plaza de Portugualete and cathedral, but didn’t go inside.
-Stopped briefly at the Pasaje Gutierrez, a small(er than expected) arcade of shops and bars that were mostly empty or closed when we arrived around 11:15 a.m. I loved the art deco style!
-Also stopped at the Mercado de Val to have a quick cry over all the meat, fish, and cheeses that would never last the week nor make it through customs
-Toured the Casa de Cervantes (3 euros) and opted not to add on the sculpture museum because we didn’t want to worry about rushing to catch our train (this likely would not have been an issue). The gardens out front and the plaza inside are lovely, but the inside of the “museum” is mostly just a library, and a recreation of what the furniture would have looked like (and a demonstration of how short doorways and people used to be!) We were in and out in less than 30 minutes.
-Found a free temporary Picasso exhibit at the Sala de Exposiciones Las Francescas, a lovely old church.
-Spent the afternoon strolling through the Campo Grande park and hanging out with the casual wild peacocks!! This was such an unexpected treat for someone who only expects to see peacocks in a zoo - to see them so up close and personal was amazing. The rest of the park was equally stunning.

Having written this all out, it sounds like a lot, but we spent a lot of time just relaxing by the river and in Campo Grande, and took a very long lunch break as well. We could have easily accomplished this all in 4 hours rather than 7, but it was nice to explore at a leisurely pace. I’m glad we stopped but wouldn’t necessarily go out of my way to visit again. 6/10.

Wednesday, August 21 – Saturday, August 24: Salamanca
We arrived at the Alamedilla train station around 8:30 p.m. and were able to walk to our AirBNB, which was just a few blocks away from the Plaza Mayor. The first thing I noticed was the vibrant, infectious energy of the entire city enjoying dinner or tapas on restaurant patios – I loved it! And the plaza mayor lit up at night… WOW. It was definitely my favorite of the four we visited this trip!

Unfortunately, on the whole, our time in Salamanca felt a bit underwhelming to me… and I am DEVASTATED to say this because I adored the vibe, the views, the lore, the beautiful historical buildings we visited. Maybe I built it up too much in my mind, and I expected to love it unequivocally. I think it felt more touristy to me than I expected - and I think we got spoiled by Burgos. Food is such a big part of the experience for me, and I couldn’t help but feel like all the restaurants in the central area were trying to sell sub-par food at big city prices. We did have a couple good meals, but I kept hoping to find a cool side street like the one we adopted in Burgos - the one where all the “real” restaurants that weren’t overpriced and catering to tourists were - but never found it. And that was a bummer. Maybe we should have gone further away from the touristy zone, maybe I should have done more research… maybe we walked right past some or all of them and I didn’t realize it, I have no clue. But alas, it is what it is, and I can at least focus on all that we enjoyed there (which was plenty!).

Over the course of two and a half days and three nights, we visited:
-The mercado (more crying over food I can’t bring home or use) with its stunning stained glass windows and architecture
-The breathtaking old and new cathedral (6 euros) - there was a service going on in the new cathedral when we arrived and that was an amazing experience as an observer. We actually got to hear the organ play and the choirs sing - goosebumps! We were still able to tour the old cathedral while the service finished and they eventually let us into the new cathedral as well. We also spent plenty of time admiring the exterior and finding the astronaut!
-Scala Coeli - ended up here on a whim, not really knowing what it was - and it was one of my favorite experiences. The views at the top are unparalleled!
-Casa de las conchas/biblioteca - we LOVED that many old buildings are still being used for modern purposes, like in this instance. So very cool to see.
-Walked across the roman bridge, and followed the footpath along the Rio Tormes towards the Puente de Enrique Estevan. This was another one of my favorite experiences and views - so peaceful and picturesque!
-Cueva de Salamanca (free) - super cool lore and beautiful view at the top. Well worth a quick stop!
-Huerto de Calixto y Melibea (free) - beautiful rose garden and orchard
-Casa Lis (4 euros) - art deco museum, awesome to look around. It KILLED me not to be able to take pictures inside. I was swooning the entire time!
-University - found the frog (with a little cheating), and the patio and cielo are so gorgeous!
-Convento de las duenas (3 or 4 euros)
-Archivo General de la Guerra Civil (free)

All in all, a solid 7.5/10, would definitely recommend and am happy we visited, and the amount of time there felt more than adequate, if not a little too much. I would definitely go back to check out the nightlife and if armed with specific restaurant recommendations

Saturday, August 24 - Monday, August 26: Madrid
So I was never enamored with Madrid when studying abroad, for no reason that I can pinpoint - which is why I didn’t allot a ton of time there on this trip. Turns out, I somehow missed the memo that Madrid is a food hall mecca, which means it’s now top on my list of cities to return to, and I would have happily traded a few hours from Salamanca for a few extra hours at the Mercado de San Miguel. (Have I mentioned food is important to me when I’m on vacation?)

I think the trick with Madrid is to do a little more digging – I used to compare it negatively against Barcelona, a city I instantly fell in love with because it is so effortlessly and immediately stunning and charming. I think Madrid is a little more unassuming, with more hidden gems… and I think spending time in other northern cities on this trip helped me to appreciate it more this time around!

I should also mention, we got a three-day unlimited tourist ticket for the metro, but I’m not really sure we needed it - I’d need to do the math, but I don’t think we quite broke even. Our hotel was very centrally located and we ended up walking almost everywhere. We never traveled further than 2 or 3 stops away, except to get to the airport of course. But, it was nice to have the peace of mind to not have to worry about buying a ticket for each trip, or paying the additional airport fare!

Anyhow, we arrived on Saturday afternoon and did a bit of exploring before heading out to Corral de la Moreria for dinner and a flamenco show. The food was OUTSTANDING. The service, however, was some of the worst I have EVER encountered in my life - at least at first. Everyone who arrived for the show got seated at the same time, but literally everyone else in the restaurant had their order taken before us. We were asked if we wanted sparkling or still water, and then ignored for a good 30-40 minutes… others had finished their first course by the time I managed to flag our waiter down and ask if we could also order! And he was doing ancillary things for other tables, like dropping lemon wedges in water glasses and serving complimentary bread, while we sat there feeling like idiots with our menus still in plain view. To his credit, I noticed there was some sort of VIP a few tables away from us, who clearly knew many of the performers – so maybe our server was trying to focus on him more? Or maybe he was new or having a rough night, I don’t know, we weren’t the only ones getting slow service from him, but it was still humiliating and my husband was ready to just walk out at one point, he was so incensed…luckily everything turned around once the food actually arrived. The show was incredible! I think there are a lot of tablao options in Madrid and I’m happy we chose this one. Just try not to be so unlucky as to have a bigwig sit in your section or a newbie waiter, whatever the case was!

Our second dinner in Madrid and final meal in Spain was at Inclan Brutal Bar. I CANNOT RECOMMEND THIS PLACE HIGHLY ENOUGH. Absolutely one of the best meals of my life! The amazing thing was, we only found it because we were waiting for a table at Rosi La Loca, and overheard the hostess telling someone that they have a sister location. We decided to check it out and were absolutely BLOWN AWAY by the tapas menu - 4 tapas, two raciones, dessert, and 2 drinks for 25 euros a person. Not even the most expensive meal of the trip! The presentation was so creative and phenomenal, the flavors were outstanding… I can’t say enough good things! Plus we sat at the bar and I was just mesmerized by the bartenders the entire night, who were making all kinds of crazy inventive drinks. JUST GO THERE, please!

For food halls, we visited San Miguel (our hotel was conveniently located right across the street, excellent planning if I do say so myself ), San Antón, and San Ildefonso. We would have gone to Antón Martin, but it’s closed on Sundays. Wish we’d had more time to do a more extensive tasting at each of them! We also got the traditional churros con chocolate at Chocolateria Sin Gines. I love that it was our final breakfast and not an abnormal concept by any means!

We filled the rest of our non-eating time with an abbreviated selection of pretty standard Madrid stuff. We were there for a total of approximately two days and two nights:
-Parque de Retiro
-Rastro market
-Free entry to the Reina Sofia museum on Saturday evening
-Exploring the Malasaña neighborhood
-Enjoying the view from the terraza at the Circulo de Bellas Artes

I wanted to visit the Tabacalera art space but didn’t do my research - it’s only open in the evenings and we weren’t able to make it back. I had also hoped to see the Palacio Real and surrounding gardens up close and personal, but we were paranoid about checking out of the hotel in time to get to the airport, so we skipped it. Overall, I wish we’d had more time to explore and eat, but still really enjoyed what we were able to accomplish and the city as a whole. 8/10!
amandarawrrr is offline  
Nov 13th, 2019, 04:45 PM
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Thanks for posting .
Were you bothered by the hot weather?
danon is online now  
Nov 14th, 2019, 02:32 AM
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We lucked out with mild weather! It was in the 60s/70s and even a little rainy for the first half of the trip. It wasn’t until our second day in Salamanca that it got into the 80s and Madrid was warm as well. By that time we were ready for it!
amandarawrrr is offline  
Nov 14th, 2019, 04:02 AM
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Thanks for your report. We’re planning a return trip to Madrid so I appreciate the recommendations.
indyhiker is online now  
Nov 17th, 2019, 09:47 AM
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Nice TR, thanks for taking the trouble to post it. You're right about the food in Spain - I was there for 10 days or so in March and it was terrific, making me wonder why I hadn't been to Spain more often.

Your itinerary brought back many memories of places we went to over 30 years ago including of some of the things you didn't see, most notably the sculpture museum in Valladolid which remains imprinted on my mind all these years later. Should you have the chance to return, I strongly recommend it.

Indyhiker - I had a lot of success using "the Fork" to locate restaurants with deals that make some places even cheaper than they already are. I found some great places in Madrid that way, and it's a very easy App to use. I would also recommend going to see the Sorrolla museum which was wonderful.
annhig is offline  
Nov 17th, 2019, 11:08 AM
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Thanks for the tips, Annhig. I haven’t starting planning yet in earnest, but am so excited to return. As much as I’ve loved many of our trips to Europe, I have to say that our 2017 trip to a Spain has been my favorite.
indyhiker is online now  
Nov 17th, 2019, 11:59 AM
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I keep noting Spain trip reports, one day I’ll get there!
Thanks for posting.
Adelaidean is online now  
Nov 18th, 2019, 10:23 AM
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indyhiker every time I go to Spain I ask myself why I don't go there more often.
annhig is offline  
Nov 18th, 2019, 05:16 PM
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I’m trying to talk some friends into choosing Spain as their first European destination. The irony is that it was my first destination about 20 years ago. I had a terrible time, mostly because I made some incredibly rookie mistakes. I put off returning for years but thanks to a few really positive trip reports (progol, ekscrunchy and maitaitom) I finally planned a return trip with my husband. I was a lot less green by then and had the benefit of so many resources. What struck me is just how friendly Spaniards are. The places we visited felt festive. Granted it was a week before Semana Santa, but that exuberance has stayed with me. It’s certainly one of the more affordable places we’ve visited.

indyhiker is online now  
Nov 18th, 2019, 09:50 PM
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I am another Spain” addict” . A yearly visit to Madrid and...? is a must.
Already thinking..first week in May 2020.
danon is online now  
Nov 19th, 2019, 12:57 PM
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lol, so glad I'm in good company here - this was my 30th birthday trip and started out the planning telling myself "I can go anywhere in the world I want!" ...and ended up going back to Spain for a third time. (And I've only been out of the U.S. a handful of times in my life.) I will add the sculpture museum to my list for next time for sure! Always happy to inspire more Spanish traveling
amandarawrrr is offline  
Nov 19th, 2019, 03:00 PM
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We had lunch at Inclan Brutal Bar last year and also loved the food and lively atmosphere. The food was tasty and the presentations were inventive, such as cheese filled pastries in the shape of cigars, goat cheese in the guise of glistening red tomatoes.
Diamantina is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 06:27 AM
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Thanks for the great trip report! We just booked tickets to Madrid on a huge sale from Phila for 10 nights in February. We have been to Barcelona several times but not to Madrid or other non-Med areas in decades. Bilbao has been on my radar but I'm thrilled for these additional ideas, especially Burgos. Time to plan!
GinnyJo is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 08:14 AM
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Ginny, I just booked 2 nights in Madrid in June as the start of a trip to Galicia and the north coast. It turns out that there is a great exhibition on in the fundacion-maria-cristina in the Chamberi district from now until December 2020. [free till 5.1.20]


As you mentioned Bilbao I'll just mention for the sake of anyone else thinking of going there later in the year that the European Cup [football] will be taking place there from 15-28 June. I tried to book a few days there at the end of my trip but gave up because the prices are horrific, and then I discovered why. It won't affect you but it may well affect others.
annhig is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 10:36 AM
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Thanks, annhig! We do need help planning, and it will be here before we know it. I'll likely start another post so I don't accidentally highjack this TR.
GinnyJo is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 11:49 AM
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Thanks for the mention of the new Fundación María Cristina Masaveu Peterson, another addition to the great Madrid museum scene.
It's funny that I used to stay in that very building long, long ago when it was the small Hotel Galiano, an old palace filled with antiques.

Speaking of Sorolla, there will be a special exhibit during your June Madrid stay, "Sorolla Femenino Plural" at his museum, starting May 25, 2020 that will run until September 29. *The Sorolla is my favorite Madrid museum.

Kudos to you for being able to see so much during your short trip. *You really made great use of your time, and you really lucked out on the weather in late August! *I agree that Burgos is a lovely, relaxing, very attractive city to spend time in these days.

Since you enjoy food markets, on your next visit you might like to experience more dining in them.*
Lunching at the markets has been a recent theme of ours, spurred on by many articles in the food blogs.

We've had memorable (& gourmet) meals at the tiny Tres Por Cuatro in the Mercado de Torrijos (Salamanca district), the Spanish-Peruvian-Southeast Asia hybrid Tripea with18 seats at a communal table and the Kitchen154, both in the Mercado de Vallehermoso (Arapiles district), Yokaloka (Japanese) & Cuztzamala (Mexican) in the Mercado Antón Martín (Lavapiés) and Casa Dani in the Mercado de La Paz (Salamanca District) for its scrumptious tortilla española.

Thanks for taking the time to write your trip report. *It was a very enjoyable read.
Maribel is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 02:40 PM
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Maribel, I found the fundacion semi-accidentally by searching the Madrid TI website, and then noticing that it is very close to my hotel, itself chosen for its proximity to the Alonso Martinez metro stop, which should be convenient for getting to the Charmartin station to get my train to Santiago di Compostella on the morning i leave. It also happens to be close to the Sorolla museum which I was intending to visit again anyway, but you've now given me another reason to go so thank you!
annhig is offline  
Dec 1st, 2019, 02:53 PM
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Enjoy your trip to Galicia and the beautiful north coast!
Maribel is online now  
Dec 1st, 2019, 07:36 PM
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Originally Posted by annhig View Post
Ginny, I just booked 2 nights in Madrid in June as the start of a trip to Galicia and the north coast. It turns out that there is a great exhibition on in the fundacion-maria-cristina in the Chamberi district from now until December 2020. [free till 5.1.20]


As you mentioned Bilbao I'll just mention for the sake of anyone else thinking of going there later in the year that the European Cup [football] will be taking place there from 15-28 June. I tried to book a few days there at the end of my trip but gave up because the prices are horrific, and then I discovered why. It won't affect you but it may well affect others.
Hello Annhig! I also had the same roadblock of going to Bilbao after my planned sojourn in Santiago de Compostela in June! Where in Galicia are you traveling to?

Thank you Amanda for your trip report! I must get back to Burgos sometime, I loved it some years ago!
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2019, 08:46 AM
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Not decided yet, cruiseluv. I have a week or so between Santiago and Bilbao. i may just wing it! All I have booked so far are my two nights in Madrid beforehand, and 3 nights in Santiago.
annhig is offline  
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