Help with Spain Itinerary

Old Apr 5th, 2024, 08:03 PM
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Help with Spain Itinerary

Hello, I am planning our (husband and I) first trip to Spain. We will arrive mid-November. Airline reservations have not been made but from looking at the flights it seems that it will be easiest to fly into Madrid.

We will have 2 weeks not including travel days. We are thinking it would be best to spend a good bit of our time in southern Spain - both because of weather and because of interest.

I would love to get some suggestions for an itinerary. We are interested in museums, art, wine (or the local beverage), food, and simply wandering. Of course, we will travel by train, but we are also open to renting a car when necessary.

Admittedly, I have just started researching but, so far, I think Granada and Sevilla are a must for us after a few days in Madrid. We also would like to see some of the smaller Andalusian cities - which I assume will require renting a car? Is there a good place to base to see some of the smaller towns? I would like to not be completely in large cities.

At the end of the southern section of the trip perhaps we would fly to Barcelona for a couple of days? Or maybe not...I am totally open to suggestions.

Another note - after we end our time in Spain we have 5 more days and it is on both of our bucket lists to visit a few European Christmas markets so we plan to fly from our ending spot to where-ever we decide to go to see markets. Haven't even started planning that part of the trip yet.

I look forward to your suggestions and appreciate it so much.
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Old Apr 5th, 2024, 08:34 PM
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Hi!

I am a big fan of Granada and Sevilla. We spent December 2023 there and if you search my name, you will find my trip report.

I wish we had gone to Cadiz and Toledo so you might want to look into those two towns as well,
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 01:57 AM
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Do not assume that the car is the best way to go, there are parts of Spain for which the car is a great idea but really the train is far easier for many places especially as the stations are normally right in the city centres.

seat61.com is a great way to understand the opportunities

I'd look at Madrid and Toledo, but note their altitude it may well be pretty cold, though with Climate Change they might be very hot, who knows.

Then Seville and Cordoba, with a side order of Malaga before Grenada. You could consider Cadiz as well or Jerez.

The car comes into its own for Rhonda or the White Towns

Wine interest is a completely different story, wine is grown just about everywhere with some fascinating local vines and production processes. Jerez is special but then so are so many places. I could not visit Spain-Wine without time in Rioja so alternatively you could avoid the south completely and focus on the north instead. Up to you

Last edited by bilboburgler; Apr 6th, 2024 at 02:03 AM.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 06:18 AM
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With two weeks, given what you wrote, I would not try to fit in Barcelona.

Stay a few days in Madrid, then take train to Cordoba and stay 2 nights. Then train to Sevilla. Stay about 5 nights, Then train to Jerez, a gorgeous small "white" city.
If you want to explore even smaller places--towns, you might think of renting a car in Jerez and driving to the white town of Vejer de la Frontera. Or you could take train to Cadiz or to Sanlucar de Barrameda.

At the end, fly home from Jerez or Sevilla, with a connection in Madrid.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 06:47 AM
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Originally Posted by lrice
Hi!

I am a big fan of Granada and Sevilla. We spent December 2023 there and if you search my name, you will find my trip report.

I wish we had gone to Cadiz and Toledo so you might want to look into those two towns as well,
lrice - Thank you so much! I have already started looking at your trip report. It sounds like you are your family had a wonderful trip! I wish we could stay longer. The trip report is going to be very helpful and I also saw that you had asked several questions so I will be reading through all of those as well.

I had been thinking about visiting Toledo but hadn't considered Cadiz so I will definitely look into that town as well.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by bilboburgler
Do not assume that the car is the best way to go, there are parts of Spain for which the car is a great idea but really the train is far easier for many places especially as the stations are normally right in the city centres.

seat61.com is a great way to understand the opportunities

I'd look at Madrid and Toledo, but note their altitude it may well be pretty cold, though with Climate Change they might be very hot, who knows.

Then Seville and Cordoba, with a side order of Malaga before Grenada. You could consider Cadiz as well or Jerez.

The car comes into its own for Rhonda or the White Towns

Wine interest is a completely different story, wine is grown just about everywhere with some fascinating local vines and production processes. Jerez is special but then so are so many places. I could not visit Spain-Wine without time in Rioja so alternatively you could avoid the south completely and focus on the north instead. Up to you
Bilbo - Thank you so much! I will definitely check out the Seat61website. I used it on our last trip to Europe but that was several years ago but had forgotten about it. I think for this trip the focus will be less on wine and more on sightseeing so we will probably not go to the wine region. However, perhaps a visit to Jerez will be in order. I appreciate your thoughts!
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 08:07 AM
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Originally Posted by ekscrunchy
With two weeks, given what you wrote, I would not try to fit in Barcelona.

Stay a few days in Madrid, then take train to Cordoba and stay 2 nights. Then train to Sevilla. Stay about 5 nights, Then train to Jerez, a gorgeous small "white" city.
If you want to explore even smaller places--towns, you might think of renting a car in Jerez and driving to the white town of Vejer de la Frontera. Or you could take train to Cadiz or to Sanlucar de Barrameda.

At the end, fly home from Jerez or Sevilla, with a connection in Madrid.
Thank you ekscrunchy! By the way I have been reading your trip report and it is wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to write that out!

Yes, I do think that it would be rushed to visit Barcelona and we would have to skip something else. Sure wish we had more time!
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 08:35 AM
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KayTKay,
I agree with my friend ekscrunchy.
I would not try to fit in Barcelona.
Many Fodorites who love Andalucía might tell you than 14 nights on the ground there is just perfect for a first time visitor. Andalucía is a very large, wide area, larger than most expect.

I would fly into Madrid, spend 4 nights nights there, as ekscrunchy says, then move on via high-speed rail to Córdoba (1 hr. 50 min) for 2 nights, then high-speed rail down to Sevilla (54 min), for 4-5, that many Fodorites love (me included!), from Sevilla take an easy day trip via MD train down to Jerez, then from Sevilla, take Renfe's high-speed rail (2 hrs. 40 min) or Alsa bus (3 hrs.) to Granada (whichever schedule fits you best) and stay for 3 nights.

Or Madrid for 3 nights and Toledo for 1 night, as a Toledo visit is much more rewarding, ime, than a day trip. You will need to backtrack to Madrid to catch your train to Córdoba, but it´s only a 30 min. ride.

Or pick up a rental car at the rail station upon leaving Sevilla and drive to Granada through the perched white town of Ronda, (no h), turning in your car at the Granada rail station before hitting the Granada historic city traffic restrictions (a Moorish maze).
That's 13-14 nights, leisurely. Now you've done the glorious Golden Triangle of Al-Andalus, that most first timers want to visit.

"Another note - after we end our time in Spain we have 5 more days and it is on both of our bucket lists to visit a few European Christmas markets so we plan to fly from our ending spot to where-ever we decide to go to see markets. Haven't even started planning that part of the trip yet."

Now, about the Northern European Christmas markets after Spain...

Because you want to move from Spain to a Christmas market, a side order to Málaga before Granada won´t work, as there are flights from Málaga to Basel, Switzerland or to many German cities but not a single one from Granada.
Granada´s airport is tiny and won´t get you by air to Switzerland or Germany. There´s the rub.
So I would bus, train or private transfer from Granada to Málaga to make that your "ending spot" for a flight to a Northern European city to fulfill your Christmas market wish.

You can see all the destinations of all of Spain's airports at
https://www.aena.es/en/passengers/passengers.html
Click on "our airports",
Choose the airport, for example Málaga-Costa del Sol AGP
Click on "destinations".and go through the alphabet to see the Northern European airport you´re seeking.

Alternatively fly directly from Madrid into Sevilla, then on high-speed rail to Córdoba, then high-speed rail or bus to Granada (or that detour by rental car to Ronda), then back to Madrid to put your Madrid nights at the end (with an overnight or day trip to Toledo---I prefer overnight), then be in Madrid at the end for your flight to your Christmas markets.
Madrid's Barajas certainly has more Northern European flights than Málaga, but your Málaga options are pretty varied these days. (21 million people flew into Málaga in 2023, says the local press).

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 6th, 2024 at 09:16 AM.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 10:38 AM
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Wine---
The reason I mentioned a day trip via the inexpensive MD train (1 hour) from Sevilla to Jerez de la Frontera is the opportunity to visit one or more sherry producers---Lustau, Tradición, Rey Fernando de Castilla, Fundador, González Byass Tío Pepe, etc. as you expressed an interest in wine, but these are fortified wines.
(Rioja wine touring would send you in an entire different direction, to the north, not the south)

If you have any interest at all in a 90-minute horse ballet (dressage), "How the Andalusian Horses Dance", at the Royal School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, the shows in November are given at noon on Tuesdays and Thursday only. These Cartujano horses are cousins to the Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

A day trip from Sevilla to Cádiz is also possible on the inexpensive MD train (1 hr, 45 min.), as I chatted with lrice about in her December trip report, but it makes for a much longer day, remembering that your mid- November days will be much shorter.

Last edited by Maribel; Apr 6th, 2024 at 11:35 AM.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 10:53 AM
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Let me add to the above excellent suggestions by saying Valencia gets insufficient love from travel writers. It's an incredible city; one of my all-time favorites. Beautiful parks, great food (probably the birthplace of paella), home to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) and the magnificent Oceanogràfic aquarium, and the most wonderful arboretum. Whether it works well into the OP's itinerary is open to question, but I personally prefer Valencia to Barcelona by a wide margin.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 06:19 PM
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Originally Posted by Maribel
KayTKay,
I agree with my friend ekscrunchy.
I would not try to fit in Barcelona.
Many Fodorites who love Andalucía might tell you than 14 nights on the ground there is just perfect for a first time visitor. Andalucía is a very large, wide area, larger than most expect.

I would fly into Madrid, spend 4 nights nights there, as ekscrunchy says, then move on via high-speed rail to Córdoba (1 hr. 50 min) for 2 nights, then high-speed rail down to Sevilla (54 min), for 4-5, that many Fodorites love (me included!), from Sevilla take an easy day trip via MD train down to Jerez, then from Sevilla, take Renfe's high-speed rail (2 hrs. 40 min) or Alsa bus (3 hrs.) to Granada (whichever schedule fits you best) and stay for 3 nights.

Or Madrid for 3 nights and Toledo for 1 night, as a Toledo visit is much more rewarding, ime, than a day trip. You will need to backtrack to Madrid to catch your train to Córdoba, but it´s only a 30 min. ride.

Or pick up a rental car at the rail station upon leaving Sevilla and drive to Granada through the perched white town of Ronda, (no h), turning in your car at the Granada rail station before hitting the Granada historic city traffic restrictions (a Moorish maze).
That's 13-14 nights, leisurely. Now you've done the glorious Golden Triangle of Al-Andalus, that most first timers want to visit.

"Another note - after we end our time in Spain we have 5 more days and it is on both of our bucket lists to visit a few European Christmas markets so we plan to fly from our ending spot to where-ever we decide to go to see markets. Haven't even started planning that part of the trip yet."

Now, about the Northern European Christmas markets after Spain...

Because you want to move from Spain to a Christmas market, a side order to Málaga before Granada won´t work, as there are flights from Málaga to Basel, Switzerland or to many German cities but not a single one from Granada.
Granada´s airport is tiny and won´t get you by air to Switzerland or Germany. There´s the rub.
So I would bus, train or private transfer from Granada to Málaga to make that your "ending spot" for a flight to a Northern European city to fulfill your Christmas market wish.

You can see all the destinations of all of Spain's airports at
https://www.aena.es/en/passengers/passengers.html
Click on "our airports",
Choose the airport, for example Málaga-Costa del Sol AGP
Click on "destinations".and go through the alphabet to see the Northern European airport you´re seeking.

Alternatively fly directly from Madrid into Sevilla, then on high-speed rail to Córdoba, then high-speed rail or bus to Granada (or that detour by rental car to Ronda), then back to Madrid to put your Madrid nights at the end (with an overnight or day trip to Toledo---I prefer overnight), then be in Madrid at the end for your flight to your Christmas markets.
Madrid's Barajas certainly has more Northern European flights than Málaga, but your Málaga options are pretty varied these days. (21 million people flew into Málaga in 2023, says the local press).
Maribel, I appreciate your thoughtful suggestions. We have discussed and LOVE the idea of starting in Seville. Why didn't I think of that? Haha. The travel day is basically a wash anyway so why not add a third flight.

We could start in Sevilla, train to Corboba, train to Granada, then to Madrid to finish. Fly from Madrid to...wherever we are going.

It looks like we could do day trips from Sevilla to Jerez and then either rent a car or hire a driver to see Ronda and some of the other white cities. I'm thinking 5 nights in Sevilla, 2 in Cordoba, 3 in Granada, and 4 in Madrid? How does that sound?

Since Toledo is recommended as an overnight we could do also go from Granada to Toledo for 1 night and then 3 nights in Madrid (I'm guessing that we might have to train to Madrid and then backtrack south to Toledo for that - but I haven't checked.)
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 06:23 PM
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Originally Posted by Maribel
Wine---
The reason I mentioned a day trip via the inexpensive MD train (1 hour) from Sevilla to Jerez de la Frontera is the opportunity to visit one or more sherry producers---Lustau, Tradición, Rey Fernando de Castilla, Fundador, González Byass Tío Pepe, etc. as you expressed an interest in wine, but these are fortified wines.
(Rioja wine touring would send you in an entire different direction, to the north, not the south)

If you have any interest at all in a 90-minute horse ballet (dressage), "How the Andalusian Horses Dance", at the Royal School of Equestrian Art in Jerez, the shows in November are given at noon on Tuesdays and Thursday only. These Cartujano horses are cousins to the Lipizzaners of the Spanish Riding School in Vienna.

A day trip from Sevilla to Cádiz is also possible on the inexpensive MD train (1 hr, 45 min.), as I chatted with lrice about in her December trip report, but it makes for a much longer day, remembering that your mid- November days will be much shorter.
Yes! We have watched some videos of the horses and it looks so interesting. We haven't finalized exact dates but it appears that most of the Christmas markets open November 28 or 29 of 2024 so we are thinking about arriving in Spain on the 16 or 17 November. If so, and we follow the above itinerary, we could be in Jerez on a Tuesday.
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Old Apr 6th, 2024, 06:25 PM
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Originally Posted by jeffhullinger3220
Let me add to the above excellent suggestions by saying Valencia gets insufficient love from travel writers. It's an incredible city; one of my all-time favorites. Beautiful parks, great food (probably the birthplace of paella), home to the Ciudad de las Artes y las Ciencias (City of Arts and Sciences) and the magnificent Oceanogràfic aquarium, and the most wonderful arboretum. Whether it works well into the OP's itinerary is open to question, but I personally prefer Valencia to Barcelona by a wide margin.
That's great to know! It probably won't work out this trip, but hopefully we will return and can include Valencia with Barcelona on a future trip.
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Old Apr 7th, 2024, 03:04 AM
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Yes, the travel day is a wash, and it would be nice to start in Sevilla, as it's a more relaxing city to shake off your jet lag and then end your stay in Madrid, when you'll have an incredibly festive atmosphere.

"It looks like we could do day trips from Sevilla to Jerez and then either rent a car or hire a driver to see Ronda and some of the other white cities. I'm thinking 5 nights in Sevilla, 2 in Cordoba, 3 in Granada, and 4 in Madrid? How does that sound?"

That sounds like a solid plan.
To make better advantage of your Ronda & white towns day (a very full day), if budget allows, I would hire a car/driver who can maximize your time the way you can't, as you'll be losing time going to Santa Justa rail station to pick up a rental, then finding your way back to Santa Justa to return the rental (car rental offices are plentiful there), whereas, an experienced driver can pick you up at your lodging and return you directly to the door, saving you touring time,

If you want to add a Toledo overnight, I would remove a night from Granada (2 nights) and take the afternoon AVE train from Granada to Toledo through Madrid (change of train from AVE to AVANT at Atocha), then the next afternoon go back to Madrid on the 30-min. AVANT. (But that may seem more of a chore than it's worth...)
I wouldn't take a night from Madrid to do this, but instead a night from Granada. Why? Madrid will be particularly festive during the days leading up to Christmas. It's really memorable.

Or...You may want either to skip Toledo or go on a day trip (preferably not a Sun. or Mon. if possible, when monument hours are truncated Sun. or some monuments closed on Mondays). If you decide on a day trip, please purchase your round-trip AVANT tickets a few days or more online in advance at www.renfe.com, as during Nov./Dec. some departures & returns do indeed sell out!

Yes, I find the Jerez horse ballet interesting. Glad you've seen some videos to know what it's like. And afterwards you can tour the stables to see these Carujano horses up close and personal.

About Spain Christmas markets:
The Madrid Arts and Crafts fair on Paseo de Recoletos begins on Dec. 1 and closes on Dec. 30
The Nativity Scene market (Feria de Belén) in Sevilla began last year on October 28 and lasted until Dec. 23
In Sevilla the Christmas market on the Plaza de la Magdalena occurred between Dec. 1 and Jan. 6

About the Christmas lights:
In Sevilla last year the Christmas lights were illuminated on Sat. Dec. 2.
The Christmas carousel at the Puerta de Jerez started on Nov. 27.

Madrid''s Christmas lights were illuminated last year officially in the Puerta del Sol on the evening of Nov. 24. They're magnificent. We see them all by taking the 50-min. Naviluz bus ride that began its service last year on Friday, Nov. 24 and ran until Jan. 6.
This year the lights should go on officially at the Puerta del Sol on Thursday, Nov. 28 and on Friday, Nov. 29, the Naviluz should start (usually coinciding with Black Friday), but check here when tickets go on sale in mid Nov---they sell quickly. Revulgo will tell us ahead of time the exact date.
For others; The bus doesn't run on Jan 5 (Three King's Parade) or Christmas Eve or NYE.

Hope this helps you in your planning.



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