first trip to spain Jan 2-Jan 9 2016

Old Nov 14th, 2015, 05:00 PM
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first trip to spain Jan 2-Jan 9 2016

My husband and I are going to spain for the first time leaving the states jan 1, arriving in madrid at 9:30 Am jan 2 and we fly home from barcelona Jan 9. So far thats the extent of our plans… We have both traveled in Europe before but neither to Spain. I know most people are very adamant about not doing too much on a trip but we are movers and it being winter time we want to get the highlights of Spain (as much as we can) with the crowds being somewhat thinned out. We aren't huge museum people so i'm a little lost with Madrid (basically what are the must sees). I would LOVE to go to the Alhambra but I am trying to figure out logistically how I can make it make sense. We love to eat, drink, and learn about the culture of a new place we have never been before. The museums and full tours are not our speed as much. We are upper 20's and fortunately budget isn't too much of a concern. Welcoming any and all itinerary suggestions and must sees!

thanks in advance! xo
vdixon2 is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2015, 08:07 PM
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I recommend that you consult a good guidebook or two, plot what YOU want to see and do on a calendar after checking opening hours on the internet (many things will be closed on Mondays, part or all of Sundays, and for a long lunchtime siesta, and remember that your hours of daylight will be limited), and then see what works for you.

Eating and drinking well in Spain will not be a problem!
kja is offline  
Old Nov 14th, 2015, 08:29 PM
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Well, I happen to think the Alhambra is the single best sight in the south of Spain, maybe in the whole of Spain... According to the RENFE site you can get to Granada from Madrid in just under four hours by a train and bus combo (although the usually reliable doesn't agree), but Granada to Barcelona in seven and a half hours by train, which will eat a day.

I would settle for Madrid and Barcelona with day trips. Toledo is a must from Madrid. You may find so much to see in Barcelona you won't want to leave.
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Old Nov 14th, 2015, 08:32 PM
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You'll be arriving during the last of the Christmas season, which ends on the 6th, when most restaurants will be closed. The 5th is the celebration of the Three Kings, so plan accordingly.
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Old Nov 15th, 2015, 12:01 AM
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My Mom is from Spain and I travel there often. While I love Barcelona, Madrid is not my favorite place to visit, especially if you are not into museums. I like the Plaza Mayor. Not sure if the Christmas market will still be open there. A great day trip from Madrid is Toledo. In Barcelona, one of my favorite places is the Palau de Musica Catalana.

My Momis from Sevilla and if Granada is too difficult, you might consider it. It is a 2 hrs train ride from Madrid on the AVE. The Alcazar, while not quite the Alhambra, is spectacular ( and if you are a GOT fan, even better) The Cathedral is the third largest in the world. Plaza de Espana, Marai Luisa Park, bullfight ring, etc. you will get the same moorish architecture but it is easier to get to. Córdoba is also about an hour away, and the Mesquita is unlike anything I've seen.

Hope this helps.
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Old Nov 15th, 2015, 02:08 AM
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Barcelona and Madrid are fabulous and very different big cities. And perhaps take the high speed AVE train from Madrid to Sevilla in just 2h 30 mins, city center to city center. Sevilla is the undisputed queen of the cities in the south. And Cordoba, once the most important city in the Western world, is just 42 mins from Sevilla with the high speed AVE train.

<love to eat, drink, and learn about the culture of a new place we have never been before>

In BARELONA, I recommend the medieval and vibrant Born district. A cradle of Catalan identity and culture and some fantastic tapas bars (and nightlife) here. Carrer Montcada, just behind the beautiful Gothic Santa Maria del Mar Church, was the most important street in the city from the 12th century on.

Two excellent and very different tapas bars at the start of Carrer Montcada:
Tapeo, a great food find on our last trip to Barcelona earlier this year:

And of course Cal Pep. Get in line 15-20 mins before opening to get a seat at the bar where all the action and fun is. Fabulous seafood tapas, the tortilla is to die for and a fabulous butifarra sausage. Make your own choices, don't go for the set menu. Expensive and worth every penny:

About El Born:

And perhaps go and see the archeological site of Barcelona anno 1700 in El Born Cultural Center, 200 meters from Carrer Montcada:

Close by you also find the Plaça del Rei where queen Isabella and king Ferdinand are believed to have greeted Columbus when he returned after the "discovery" of America:


Stroll around in Habsburg Madrid (Madrid de las Austrias), the oldest part of town and close to majestic Plaza Mayor.

Lots of great tapas bars and restaurants in and close to C/ Cava Baja, jut off Plaza Mayor:

Of course the famous Santa Cruz District. But to me the vibrant Alameda district and the very local feel Macarena district around Calle Feria are far more interesting:

You shold also visit the beautiful and local atmosphere Triana district on the other side of the city river Guadalquivir. Among many other things, also a cradle of flamenco culture:

Azahar lives in Sevilla, and she gives excellent advice when it comes to places to eat by district (barrio):

See real deal flamenco in Casa de la Memoria. No food, no drinks, just flamenco. Popular with tourists, but only top of the shelf artists perform here.

Or experience flamenco with the locals, the schedule for all kinds of concerts - from small clubs to grand thaters - is updated here:

No need to say more ;-)
kimhe is offline  
Old Nov 15th, 2015, 02:14 AM
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you know Madrid will be 4 to 10C from the wiki climate charts. Could be colder.
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Old Nov 15th, 2015, 02:29 AM
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One of your main sightseeing problems are the limited hours of daylight in early January. By the time you've had breakfast and got out of your accommodation, you might have only 6 hours or so of daylight to use.

Barcelona has so much more than Madrid to offer if you take out the museums, but the other problem could well be the weather. It will be cold, but also might be wet, snowy, windy, clear.

Have you booked hotels yet, or have you done any research into what you want to see? Your first day will be lost to jetlag and your last day is a travel day, so you really only have 6 days on the ground. This gives no time at all for more than your two cities, as you don't want to waste time by travelling for hours on trains.
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Old Nov 15th, 2015, 03:22 AM
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<you don't want to waste time by travelling for hours on trains>

My experience is that the high speed AVE train makes travel very seamless. I use to have lunch in one city, go on the train, relax, have a cup or glass in the bar, and in almost no time you are in the next city (Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Cordoba, Malaga, you name it) long before people even think about going out for dinner.
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Old Nov 15th, 2015, 03:38 AM
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Agreed kimhe and in the normal course of events it's a great idea. But in this case, the OP has only 6 days on the ground and apart from the necessary travel between Madrid and Barcelona, any other travel would be wasting time. You can't do justice to the two cities mentioned in 6 days, let alone tacking on other places.
Rubicund is offline  
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