Spain First Timers

Old Jun 15th, 2024, 09:12 AM
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Spain First Timers

Hi. My husband and I are planning a 30th anniversary trip to Spain in Late Oct/early Nov. Some details: first timers; we're flying from NYC and we're planning on about 12 days give or take; we'd rather stay in fewer places longer than travel a lot of places for 1 or 2 nights; we're big foodies. I keep going down an ADHD rabbit hole in my searches trying to narrow down a geographical focus; one minute I'm looking at the north and the next I'm convinced I should look south. I'm looking more for overview itinerary suggestions. Once we narrow that down I'm good with specifics. Any advice is appreciated. Thanks!!
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 10:35 AM
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Besides being foodies, what else do you enjoy? For example, do you like history, art, architecture, museums and churches, shopping, strolling, etc.? Are there any locations particularly calling out to you that you've always wanted to visit?
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 11:46 AM
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My husband's big into history, I'm into art and architecture and who doesn't like to shop and stroll lol. so we'll do a little of it all.
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 12:18 PM
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I’m fully in favor of your seeing fewer places, but spending more time in each. That’s always been my approach, and I’ve found it very rewarding.

Nevertheless, your time in Spain is short. Though your “12 days” was an approximation, if we take it literally, and assume they include the days you fly in, and then out, you have only ten full days in Spain, or eleven nights — and your last night (and maybe your first) will probably be spent in the airport city (Madrid or Barceloina).

So with even a mere three nights for each destination, you’re down to only about three of them. As a start, bearing your requirements in mind (history, art, architecture, strolling, food), one obvious itinerary — too obvious to need much comment — would be Madrid—Seville—Granada, which contain several of what are regarded to be Spain’s “must sees.”

For an alternative which would also satisfy most of your requirements, I would suggest that the first two destinations be Madrid and Zaragoza (Madrid’s status in art needs no further comment; note that Zaragoza is a Goya city.) From Zaragoza, either head on to Barcelona, or if one big city is enough, head south by train to Teruel, a beautiful medieval town with its own unique archetectural style (Mudejar).

In fairness, I should point out that my visit to Zaragoza and Teruel was in 2009, so I don’t know whether much has changed since I saw them. Also, I can't comment on the "food scene" in those two cities, since food is not a priority of mine.

Last edited by Faedus; Jun 15th, 2024 at 12:24 PM.
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 03:23 PM
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Have you decided the cities, you will be visiting?
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 03:43 PM
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That's what I'm asking for advice on as first timers. Stay more north: Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, etc or South: Madrid, selviile, Granada.
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 04:36 PM
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While looking for an overview itinerary may seem the best start, I personally think it is best to start with those two or three specific things or places you most want to see. Then put together an itinerary that allows you to see them in a comfortable and efficient, but relaxed way. After settling on your first priorities you can make a first draft itinerary. You may add things and may sadly realize you have to cut some, especially in a country as large as Spain, but that might mean a second trip.

We are kind of slow travelers so we try to give as much time to priorities as we want, knowing we will miss a lot of other things. You might want to plan for more things than we do.

Our first trip to Spain, the city of Toledo (because of El Greco and the history as well as the Cathedral) and the Prado in Madrid were my priorities. I wanted a day and night in Toledo and three nights in Madrid. Much as I regretted it, we decided against Granada that trip and instead visited just Seville and Cordoba and some smaller beach towns.
With architecture being important to you, Barcelona for Gaudi might be a priority.
Madrid might be important for art.
Granada and Cordoba for architecture.
Andalucia area works well with Madrid.
Barcelona works better with more Northern areas, but with the fast train between you could combine Barcelona and Madrid, flying Into one and out of the other.
There are just so many important and interesting things in Spain. History is amazing, from Columbus to Isabel to Napoleon, the inquisition, etc. Have you read Tales of the Alhambra or Battle of Trafalgar? You have to pick what is most important to you. Coastal cities and towns and beautiful. Pick a few number one things. People on here can then suggest itineraries.
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 07:00 PM
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I recommend going to Cordoba. Pictures cannot do the Mezquita justice. It's something that begs to surround you. The city is gorgeous. Of course, once you are in the heart of Andalusia, there are so many directions you can go in. Can't go wrong. It's a good time to go, and the cuisine from humble places on up is one great discovery after another.
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 09:03 PM
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Madrid and Andalucía

I recommend Madrid and Andalucia as first time visitors to Spain: Madrid, Cordoba, Seville, and Granada. You can visit the Prado and several other museums, etc in Madrid; the Mezquita and Roman Bridge among other sights in Cordoba; too many places to mention in Seville, and the Alhambra in Granada. Train and bus connections are very good.

Last edited by Ez73; Jun 15th, 2024 at 09:05 PM. Reason: Didn't finish and accidentally posted
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Old Jun 15th, 2024, 11:50 PM
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In Madrid, Las Letras is a convenient neighborhood to stay near museums
https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer...G2lzBlvQ77iSvY
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Old Jun 17th, 2024, 11:11 AM
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Foodies in Madrid. For a more authentic, non-touristy tapas crawl —yet— or gourmet meal, head to the upscale residential area just east of El Retiro Park. This neighborhood has by far the best taverns per square meter in the entire city, it is the “golden mile” if you will, for casual small plate style dining, tapas more elaborate and good wines by the glass. The cuisine and atmosphere are more sophisticated and less kinetic than those found in the more traditional bars, often tourist-filled, that line the Cava Baja street. Their prices are higher than in other areas, but who is not going to pamper himself on occasion? You can order half portions of many of the dishes and if you are traveling with a few people, this is the perfect place to meet for a few drinks and some delicious plates to share.

These gastrobars, in the area bordered by O'Donnell Street to the north and Ibiza to the south, cater to a wealthy, food-savvy local crowd, bloggers and professional food critics. It's a bit east of the city center, but can easily be added to a day after exploring El Retiro Park, hopping around a few bars to round out lunch, but keep in mind that many are closed on Sundays or Mondays.

What I like best about tapas there: mejillones en escabeche (canned pickled mussels) and ensaladilla rusa at Hermanos Vinagre, milhojas de ventresca (layered tuna belly and red pepper salad) at La Castela, potato and truffle croquettes at La Catapa, gambas gabardina invertidas (coated shrimp) at La Montería, chuletitas de conejo (rabbit cutlets) at Laredo, callos (beef tripe in spicy sauce) at Taberna & Media...

Map: https://www.google.com/maps/d/viewer...nkNBMFEdSJM8JQ


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Old Jun 18th, 2024, 06:49 AM
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A huge ditto to what Revulgo has told you about the unbeatable dining in the Retiro district! And just follow his map to find the best for a great evening of tapas sharing.

We always have our aperitivo at Hermanos Vinagre at Calle Narváez on Sundays before going to lunch at one of these neo-tabernas in this food-rich Retiro district. We love their Russian salad served in a Russian doll.

This is my "cheat sheet" for tabernas/restaurants open in the Retiro district on Sundays for lunch:
For Sunday afternoon sit-down dining, reservations are absolutely essential
  • La Monte (sibling of La Montería) at Dr. Castelo 9, open 1-5
  • Marcano at Dr. Castelo 31, open 12-4
  • O Grelo at Menorca 39, open 12-5, for seafood, crustaceans, Galician fare
  • Can Bonet-Sa Brisa at Menéndez Pelayo 15, open 1-4, for Catalán cuisine
  • Arrocería Berlanga at Menéndez Pelayo 41, open 1:30-6:30, for outstanding paella and other rice dishes
  • Taberna Arzábal Retiro at the corner of Menéndez Pelayo and Dr. Castelo, open 12:30-midnight
  • El Talgo Bar at Alcalde Sainz de Barranda 21, open 1-3:45
  • Zalamero at Narváez 67, open 1-4, for some of the city's best croquettes and superb wines
  • Taberna y Media at Lope de Rueda 30, open 12-5:30
  • Barrio Húmedo at Menéndez Pelayo 37, open 1:30-4, for specialties from the province of León and fine Bierzo wines
  • Casa de Fieras at Menéndez Pelayo 15, open 12:30-5
  • Rafa at Narváez 68, open 1:30-4, for some of the city's best seafood, Russian salad with albacore, lobster salad taken at the bar or in the dining room (expensive)
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Old Jun 18th, 2024, 03:41 PM
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My trip to Spain was flights to Madrid, train to Seville, first 4 nights in Seville, bus to Granada, 2 nights there, Alhambra on the day after my first night; 2 nights in Cordoba but I took a day trip by bus to the castle of Almodovar - its a good castle but with only 12 nights just skip the castle and maybe 1 night in Cordoba would be fine; and 5 nights in Madrid but that included a day trip to Toledo, but depending on your interests you could skip Toledo and just reserve 4 nights in Madrid. But What are your interests? Spain has at least 2 or 3 big or semi-big art museums, + the Joaquin Sorolla house and a royal palace. If art museums are not in your interest, you could even skip Madrid and add another place in Southern Spain.
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Old Jun 20th, 2024, 12:53 AM
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Few in the US probably know more than Maribel about travel in Spain and there are others here who also live in Spain who are very knowledgeable.

Last edited by Moderator1; Jun 20th, 2024 at 07:54 AM. Reason: removed response to a deleted post
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 03:01 AM
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Originally Posted by greenbach
That's what I'm asking for advice on as first timers. Stay more north: Barcelona, Madrid, Bilbao, etc or South: Madrid, selviile, Granada.
My top picks:
  • Seville
  • Granada
  • Barcelona
  • Madrid
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 03:25 AM
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In late October/early November you will have far better weather in the south. The soaring (actually scorching) temperatures of the summer in Andalucía, that even last up to the first weeks of October, ime, will have abated, and it's just much more pleasant to be in the south in the fall.
Traveling around southern Spain these days really is weather dependent.

I agree with Ez73
Madrid + Andalucía (the famous, monument-filled, golden "Al Andalus triangle" of Córdoba-Granada-Sevilla, that most Spain first-timers want to visit)

Although, with only 12 days (12 days or 12 nights?), because Andalucía is such a large region, you´ll really need to pick and choose if you hope to have time for 4 nights in Madrid even to do it justice at the end. With 12 nights, expect to have just 2 night stays in Córdoba and Granada, for example, which you mention you would rather avoid.

If you could extend your stay to 14 nights on the ground, you would find your trip more relaxing. I mention that because you say "give or take".
It can be done in 12 nights, and many Fodorites, limited for time, have done so, while others have dedicated a full 14 nights to Andalucía alone. It depends on the travel pace you prefer. Spain is a very large country.

As for food, there are great restaurants in the south now as well as in the north these days.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 06:55 AM
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Thanks everyone for your advice. We finally decided to stick with Barcelona and Madrid for this first trip. We're excited.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 07:47 AM
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The choice of Barcelona and Madrid for your first time visit makes your planning much simpler. Two locations, only one hotel change and possibilities for several interesting day trips.

Since you mentioned that you're big foodies, you'll find many great recommendations for both cities on the Italy, Spain, Portugal board of Hungry Onion. Many members of the former Chowhound have migrated there and have left lots of valuable tips on dining in these two cities. You also may want to check out the recommendations of the Repsol Guide (Guía Repsol) and the Macarfi guide, www.macarfi.com, which cover both cities' dining extensively (as does Michelin). And plenty of recommendations here if you do an advanced search.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 08:01 AM
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Originally Posted by greenbach
Thanks everyone for your advice. We finally decided to stick with Barcelona and Madrid for this first trip. We're excited.
A good decision, imo. Two great cities : different cultures , many options for day trips , foodies’ paradise ( like all of Spain).
Andalusia is better enjoyed in a less hurried way.

Last edited by danon; Jun 22nd, 2024 at 08:03 AM.
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Old Jun 22nd, 2024, 11:31 AM
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Just in case people are puzzled by my post above, it was in reference to a now deleted post advising the OP to see a travel agent
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