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rmgood Jun 16th, 2019 05:41 AM

Spain: 15 cities in 15 days
Spain Trip Report

SPAIN: 15 cities in 15 Days

Part I Central Spain

Days 1-4 (Madrid, Toledo, Segovia, Avila, Salamanca)

If you like to pack a lot in to your days, this worked out perfect for us.

Day 1: We flew overnight landing in Madrid at 7:30AM; dropped our luggage at our Hotel Only You Atocha

+ Only You was very nice upscale boutique hotel. Great Location right next to the Metro and Train stations; very courteous staff; small, but nice rooms with a great shower; underground parking.

- Short on amenities: Instant coffee in the room; Good coffee 6AM to 7AM only in the mornings.

Took the hop-On-hop off bus (note; turn right out of the hotel; walk .25 miles to the McDonalds where there is a stop for Route 1) And explored plazas Sol and Mayor.

Day 2: Early train to Toledo. Exit the train station to the right; DO not cross the street; take the bus to the Plaza de Zocodover (plenty of places for breakfast, or get a coffee at McDonalds so you can use the restrooms(scarce in Toledo); Arrive before 10AM to catch the TRAINVISION tour. You will only find this tour when they bring out their table promptly at 10AM; near the large post painted yellow. This (or the hop-on) is a must; they take you outside the city for great views back to the city. The highlight was the Cathedral. Toledo is not tourist friendly; few toilets; Returned to Madrid on 4PM train for more touring. Not being museum fans, there were no highlights for us in Madrid.

Day 3: 8AM train to Segovia; a very friendly town for tourists. Well-marked with plenty of banos. The Alcazar is a must. We took the bus to city center and walked to the Alcazar; GO THERE FIRST; beating the crowd is a MUST if you plan on climbing the tower. The cathedral was breathtaking! Ended our tour at the Aqueduct where you can catch Bus #11 back to the train station. We were back in Madrid by 5PM.

Day 4: Drove our rental car to Avila; arrived about 9:30; Visited St. Teresa’s; walking the wall is a must. After lunch we headed for Salamanca. We stayed at the Salamanca Luxury Plaza; a Great location right on the Plaza Mayor!

+ Great location and VERY nice room.

- The hotel has an arrangement with a parking lot. But they failed to tell us that we could not use the GPS to get there. Make sure you get details from the hotel.

The Cathedral was closed until 10AM the next morning; We waited, but It was not worth the wait to tour it. we did enjoy walking around this old city.

Part II: Andalusian Region

Day 5: Drove 5.5 hours to Cordova. (Note: The drive was not pretty. If I had to do this trip again, I would drop Salamanca; see Avila by train out of Madrid; take the train to Cordova and Seville and rent a car there). We stayed at the Balcon de Cordova.

+ Excellent location; beautiful 3 room suite. Decent breakfast.

- You will never find this hotel by car! We go lost which cost us a couple of hours. Make arrangements with the hotel ahead of time.

A guided tour of Mezquita is a must. We took the night tour which was very interesting. Very frustrating that they would not allow pictures and had many guards there to insure you did not.

Day 6: Explored the Alcazar before driving to Sevilla. We stayed at the Mercer hotel, which was easy to find (make sure you have Calle Castelar in your GPS NOT Castellar!).

+ Top rate hotel with great service. Very nice room with balcony. Great location – 10-minute walk to the cathedral.

- No buffet. Order off a menu. Few pastries.

We saw the Flamenco show at Casa de Memoria; GREAT; highly recommend it.

Day 7: The guided tours of the Alcazar and Cathedral (together) was very informative. Also don’t miss the Plaza de Espana.

Day 8: Drove to Arcos de la Frontera. Walk up the hill to Plaza del Cabildo – great view. We had lunch at the Burger King on the way out, then drove to Ronda; we stayed at the Colonia Ronda. Easy to find and park; the hotel is on the left and temporary parking is on the right, just past the bullring. Tour the parks across from the hotel, then the old bridge – you’re done.

Day 9: Drove to Gibraltar. This stop does not get much favorable press on Tripadvisor nor Fodor’s; but for us it was a very worthwhile stop. We parked just this side of the border and took the bus to the cable car. BUY YOUR TICKETS ONLINE beforehand and skip a very long line!!

Again a late lunch at Burger King across the street from the border crossing, and then drove to Marbella for a days rest. We stayed at the Gran Melia Don Pepe

+ beautiful high-end resort. Easy to drive to and park.

- $$$$$

Day 10: This was a day to rest; we walked into town on the main road and back along the sea. The town is upscale, and the ‘old town’ decorated with lot of flowers. The Plaza de los Naranjos has a Sundial!

Day 11: After breakfast we drove to Malaga to see the Roman ruins; unfortunately there was some type of celebration going on, roads were blocked, and we could not get to our destination. We continued to Granada, were we stayed at the Melia Granada.

+ We upgraded to a large room with a good size balcony. Good location, free minibar (beer and soda), and a VERY good breakfast with short order cook.

- A/C had a hard time keeping up; they missed one wakeup call.

The stop in Granada is to see the Alhambra Palace. There is really nothing else to see. We spent a few hours on the Hop-on Hop-off and ate dinner at the restaurant across from the hotel; very good spaghetti.

Day 12: Took a taxi up the hill to the Alhambra Palace for our tour. The Palace is huge and justifies the stop in Granada. Afterwards we walked back down the hill (follow the road until you see steps off to the right) to Plaza Nueva where the action is.

Day 13: We took the 9:50 Vueling flight to Barcelona and checked in to the Casa Camper Hotel

+ Excellent location; One block off of La Rambla; 5-7 minute walk to the Catalunya Metro station; Then 10-15 minutes to Sagrada Familia.

We upgraded to a Corner Suite; a very large room with 3 small balconies. Great shower; separate room for the toilet.

Very good breakfast with cook and 24 hour snacks – small sandwiches, deserts, pop, orange juice, nuts, candy…

- No negatives at this hotel.

We spent the next several hours gaining knowledge of the metro and train stations that would connect us to our planned points of interest. As recommended, we purchased the T10 card.

We had tickets to enter Sagrada Familia at 6:45pm; with audio guide (a must) and ride to the Nativity Tower. This church is mind boggling! When we surfaced from the metro next to the church my wife gasped!! You can spend many hours here, but the Nativity Tower was a bust; don’t waste your money. No real good views; no good picture opportunities.

Day 14: Early train to Montserrat. In our opinion, this is a must see during your stay in Barcelona. There is a good review of this destination here But it leaves out one key fact; there is a ticket booth labeled with a large “Montserrat” sign; but this both does not sell tickets for the cable car; they only sell tickets for the Rack Rail. You should buy your tickets from the machines near the booth. Folks are there to help. My ‘helper’ told me I needed a debit card. I am not sure that is true, but I did use cash. Make sure you have enough cash just in case.

I would highly recommend you take the second funicular up higher to get a scenic walk and great views of Montserrat from above.

Day 15: We took the morning tour “The Awakening of La Pedrera” of the Gaudi designed Casa Mila (aka La Pedrera). If Sagrada Familia made you a fan of Gaudi, then you should surely take this tour. It was very interesting.

Long walks along La Rambla down to the pier, the Montjuic Funicular, and the Temple of the sacred Heart of Jesus rounded out our visit.

We returned to the states on a flight the next morning.


We used “Welcome Pickups” for all our transfers to and from airports and hotels. They proved to be very reliable and less expensive than the standard limos.

Believe the reviews that toilet paper is not usually available in any public bathroom. Carry what you might need.

Driving was no issue. There was plenty of available parking in all cities/towns we visited, including Toledo and Segovia.

No, we did not rush at any time. But both my wife and I move quickly and tirelessly. Typically, we are at breakfast at 7AM and back in our room by 8 of 9PM. And we do not spend a lot of time dining (we use a fair amount of fast food because it is just that, fast.

My wife and I rated these 15 stops. Here are our top 10. Madrid was dead last in both our rankings.

1. Barcelona 1. Barcelona

2. Toledo 2. Cordova

3. Sevilla 3. Sevilla

4. Segovia 4. Toledo

5. Cordova 5. Segovia

6. Rock of Gibraltar 6. Avila

7. Granada 7. Granada

8. Salamanca 8. Rock

9. Marbella 9. Marbella

10. Ronda 10. Ronda

danon Jun 16th, 2019 08:00 PM

but you never saw Madrid ..oh, yes Mc Donald and Sol

Robert2016 Jun 16th, 2019 10:07 PM

Why bother?
Makes absolutely no sense.

StCirq Jun 17th, 2019 02:08 AM

<<The stop in Granada is to see the Alhambra Palace. There is really nothing else to see>>

This pretty much summed up this OP's approach for me.

All $$$$$$ accommodations, yet Burger King and MacDonalds. OK, if that's how you roll, but few people will want to emulate this, except maybe Donald Trump, who probably travels this way all the time.

Is this how you always travel, or did you have some particular holy grail trip in mind just for Spain?

He seems to have enjoyed it, though. How, it's hard to fathom.

Nikki Jun 17th, 2019 06:05 AM

Wow! Now there is a trip that was completely tailored to the interests of the travelers and worked successfully. They enjoy long walks, comfortable hotels, seeing interesting sites and covering lots of ground. They do not enjoy leisurely dining or museums. For what they wanted to do, they packed a lot in and seem to have enjoyed it thoroughly. Just goes to show that not everybody enjoys the same things.

They did take a hop on and off bus tour of Granada before coming to the conclusion that the most worthwhile part of the city for them was the Alhambra.

Could I have suggested other things they might enjoy, especially in Madrid? Sure. But you can’t do everything, and these folks seem to have done a lot of things they wanted to do.

danon Jun 17th, 2019 07:05 AM

Nikki, you have a point..but , “ rating “ the cities they have hardly seen( especially at night)
is kind of funny .

HappyTrvlr Jun 17th, 2019 08:32 AM

They really only slept in Madrid, none of the top museums were seen. Each to their own but I prefer Madrid to Barcelona.

rmgood Jun 17th, 2019 10:53 AM

Danon, so sorry I dont like the things you do. Most people I have talked to have the same opinion of Madrid. You need to find a psot you can make a contribution on.

rmgood Jun 17th, 2019 10:54 AM

Robert2106, nor does your post. Find a post where you can make a contribtion.

rmgood Jun 17th, 2019 10:57 AM

StCrq, wow, thanks for your valuable input. :Like most liberals, you know what is best, So sorry I did not follow your planning. I could still be in Madrid eating paella.

rmgood Jun 17th, 2019 11:07 AM

Bravo Niki, a positive post. Thanks. We did scour Fodors and Trip Advisor for the top things to do, and picked the ones we wanted to see.
For us it is simple; we would rather walk the walls in Avila, and dine at the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, than spend the day in Avila experiencing all it had to offer.
And you are correct, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.

Buenos viajes

StCirq Jun 17th, 2019 11:10 AM

Madrid is not where one goes to eat paella. And you didn't ask for, and no one offered, any planning. And that's fine. As most people said, if you enjoyed this, that's what counts.

danon Jun 17th, 2019 12:07 PM

You and people you talk to don’t know Madrid or Spain .

They probably visit six countries in six days..

IMDonehere Jun 17th, 2019 12:20 PM

Which McDonald's in Madrid, that makes a difference to the entire stay.

There is a good, but very expensive place to get paella in Madrid. While the decor is modern it is 50 years old restaurant with old school continental service. It was recommended by madrileños and has the curious name of St. James.

A SIL moved to Madrid, near Sol, and we spent three weeks there last year and much time over the years. It was fun living like a madrileño but if you do not visit the museums in Madrid, it is like going to Venice and ignoring the canals.

One museum that is most interesting is the Royal Tapestry Factory.

isabel Jun 17th, 2019 12:44 PM

Actually I think it's kind of interesting that most people seem to think the "main/best/only worthwhile" thing to do in Madrid is the museums. That alone says something - which is that many people don't feel Madrid has much to offer besides museums. I actually disagree with that line of thinking, but this is far from the only thread that implies that. So if the OP isn't in to museums then it makes perfect sense to only spend one day there, and he's right in line with a whole lot of other people in feelings about Madrid.

Having said that - I have visited Madrid twice, one for about a week and did all the main museums, plus a lot of other things. The second time I was just spending a night before a flight but was able to get there by mid afternoon and spent a lovely 6 hours or so walking around (no museums) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. Still, after many trips to Spain including all the places the OP visited I would rank Madrid near the bottom - but that says more about how wonderful the other places are than it does about Madrid.

Obviously the OP missed an enormous amount by spending only the time they did in the places they went (did you even see the Bari Gothic in Barcelona for example?) but had they spent more time in fewer places they still would have missed out on a lot.

danon Jun 17th, 2019 01:05 PM

Madrid , like most big cities, is about neighbourhoods, city vibe, the night life, fab. restaurants,
in addition to museums and galleries.
I would bet those who “know “ Madrid have no idea a river runs through the city.

Rating cities is silly anyway..what we like is truly subjective.

Sassafrass Jun 17th, 2019 01:06 PM

Glad you had an enjoyable trip and saw the things that interested you. You walked and had some great views, which was perfect for you. I would not downplay that.

For others who might be reading for information and advice, however, Spain really comes alive at night. Locals do not have dinner until around 10:00 pm, and the evening walks, music, dining and socializing with friends and family are an important part of Spanish culture. That is where you “experience” Spain.

Our most memorable experiences took place in the evenings. Plaza Mayor, late one night, gave us the gift of young flamenco musicians and dancers showing off their skills. Seville, another evening after dinner, a gentleman saw us looking at a guide book and invited us to join him for his evening walk. What a history lesson we had, from a local teacher. Speaking English and Spanish with young children on a beach train at night was so much fun. No need for more examples, but this was repeated over and over in different ways. Again, my personal opinion, my advice to most people is not to rush around so much seeing things that you are not open to experiences and interaction with local people.

The Madrid I saw was elegant, beautiful and fun, filled with parks, plazas, music, bars and history. A history tour of Madrid teaches a lot about Spain. Even people who have little knowledge or express little interest in art are often blown away by how much they enjoy and learn from a tour of the Prado. An evening Tapas crawl in Madrid introduces you to locals and culture, and food!

misskdonkey Jun 17th, 2019 06:18 PM

The amazing race?
People travel for lots of reasons or none. This is completely nuts but if it works for you, great.
Hopefully other readers will see your trip report for what it is, a wasted oppotunity to actually engage
in another culture, and maybe learn something, rather than ticking off photo ops.

whitehall Jun 22nd, 2019 12:07 PM

Originally Posted by rmgood (Post 16938088)
Bravo Niki, a positive post. Thanks. We did scour Fodors and Trip Advisor for the top things to do, and picked the ones we wanted to see.
For us it is simple; we would rather walk the walls in Avila, and dine at the Plaza Mayor in Salamanca, than spend the day in Avila experiencing all it had to offer.
And you are correct, we thoroughly enjoyed our trip.
Buenos viajes

Don’t fret the critiques. They come in part from people who believe their style of travel is the only way to go. And, those of us who have tried different types of travel (slow and fast, in our case) know that travel, which is largely going somewhere where we are not, can take many forms. This forum would be better if all those who post could respect that. When we are traveling, we see many people our age spending the requisite (according to many here) 3, 4 or 5 nights in a new place. Often, these people have way more luggage than we would ever dream to have. They move slowly. Have a long breakfast. Manage to see one new thing in the morning before a long lunch. And, then on to their second and final site of the day. They finish the day with wine and a leisurely dinner and then back to their hotel room. And, there is nothing wrong with any of it, especially if they are enjoying themselves. They may write a trip report extolling the wonderful restaurants and the places they have been. And, they earn praise because they followed the formula some posters here seem to follow. But, I still respect their type of travel, even though it’s not my style.

StCirq Jun 22nd, 2019 12:30 PM

<<Often, these people have way more luggage than we would ever dream to have. They move slowly. Have a long breakfast. Manage to see one new thing in the morning before a long lunch. And, then on to their second and final site of the day. They finish the day with wine and a leisurely dinner and then back to their hotel room. >>

I really don't think that characterizes the vast majority of Fodorites who argue for a reasonably paced approach to travel.

I'm not a fan of these run-all-over, sleep-in-a-different-pace-each-night itineraries, but I travel with one small bag, don't move slowly, rarely have a long breakfast if I have one at all, see lots more than one thing in a morning, don't have a long lunch...I do often finish the day with wine and a leisurely dinner, but it's usually either something we cook in our rented apartment or at a neighborhood café or similar place that isn't fancy. From what I've read over many years on Fodors I think the vast majority of people here tend toward this middle-of-the-road, reasonable approach.

Your stereotypes about the way that you seem to think the "slow travelers" of Fodors plan and execute their trips are just as formulaic as any others. No one here that I'm aware of heavily promotes their style of travel over any other. But you can't deny that plenty of newbie travelers show up here thinking they can do a whole lot more with their time than is humanly possible, and it's not wrong to point that out.

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