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killscoote Aug 2nd, 2016 09:14 PM

Yet Another Spain Itinerary Post
We are a couple in our early 30s planning a trip to Spain in late August and September. I've been to Europe several times, but never to Spain; my girlfriend has never been to Europe. We both love to travel and don't mind an energetically paced vacation. We're flexible in terms of budget and don't mind an occasional splurge.

We both love great food and good drink, though our taste in nightlife tends to be towards the quieter people-watching end of the spectrum, not towards night clubs. We enjoy museums, but we're more interested in seeing the highlights than truly getting lost in a museum for the entire day. We want to see as many historical sights as we can fit in without feeling rushed. We also love to hike and, although it's not a requirement since I don't think we're visiting any part of Spain particularly well known for hiking, if we can fit in a day to get out into nature, we'd enjoy that.

We will arrive in Madrid on Day 1 and depart from Barcelona on Day 16. We live in a big multicultural city and have heard that Madrid can feel a lot like other big cities, so we don't plan on spending a lot of time there.

Our thoughts so far are as follows:
Madrid: 2 days (not counting arrival day and using one of the days for a day trip to Toledo)
Cordoba: 2 days
Seville: 2 days
Granada: 2 days
Barcelona: 5 days (not counting departure day and using one of the days for a day trip to Figueres for the Dali museum)

It looks like we can catch a flight from Granada to Barcelona that departs at approximately 10pm, so we can avoid losing a day in transit between the south and Barcelona.

We're wondering if 6 days is necessary for the combination of Cordoba/Seville/Granada--we've seen guidebooks that only do one day in Cordoba, but I hate to check into a hotel for only one night since it seems to waste a lot of time. Alternatively, is it feasible to take the train from Madrid to Cordoba in the morning, see most of what Cordoba has to offer and continue on to spend the night in Seville?

This leaves one day unaccounted for (or two if we end up shortening Cordoba) and I'd appreciate any input on where best to allocate it. Any other advice on the itinerary given our preferences is also appreciated. Given that we may not be back to Spain for some time, we wanted to hit as many highlights as possible without setting a pace that will wear us out. Thanks in advance!

RonZ Aug 2nd, 2016 10:40 PM

The evening flight to BCN [10:35 on Vueling] is a pretty brilliant idea, something I wish I'd thought of last time.

kja Aug 3rd, 2016 12:42 AM

JMO, but if you don't want to feel rushed, I think you need to cut your itinerary by at least half. And even if you cut it in half, you will (a) be spending a very large proportion of your time in transit, rather than actually seeing things and (b) will need to be very selective in what you see. Have you actually confirmed that you would be able to see or experience any of the things you want from this trip, keeping in mind that many things in Spain are closed on Monday, and often for all or part of Sundays too; and many things in Spain will also be closed daily for a very long mid-day break?

There are, of course, many areas of Spain where hiking is a major activity. The <i>Lonely Planet</i> and <i>Rough Guide</i> generally provide a good start for planning outdoor activities.

I trust you realize that parts of Spain, and Andalusia in particular, can be horrendously hot in August? Good guidebooks will give some idea of what to expect, or consult for some basic historical statistics.

Re: the flight from Granada to Barcelona -- it's only few hours, right? so does that really mean avoiding a day of transit? Will you be able to check into a hotel at 2 or 3 a.m.? What are you going to do until you can check in, and what are you going to do to catch any rest?

Yes, Madrid is a big city, and some people think it like other big cities. At the same time, many of us find that perspective puzzling, as we find it unique.

And many people visit Cordoba en route between Madrid and Sevilla (or vice versa), but please do NOT mistake that for thinking that you can "see most of what Cordoba has to offer" in just a part of a day. You can choose to see just the Mezquita, and maybe another site or two, but do NOT tell yourselves that you have experienced what Cordoba (or any other place on this fast-paced itinerary would include) has to offer in the time you are contemplating! I'm not saying what you should do -- your call! I'm just asking that you place it in proper context.

Please remember: hitting only what you think will be the "highlights" means that you could easily many things that would otherwise be lifelong memories.

Good luck!

bilboburgler Aug 3rd, 2016 12:53 AM

I'd do 2 nights in Cordoba, I might catch the train from Seville to Malaga and visit the art down there, the trouble is the train takes 2.5 hours but the views are good, catch a taxi into town.

kimhe Aug 3rd, 2016 02:02 AM

Don't short-cut wonderful Córdoba, this video will give you an idea of what to expect:

And you are then close to 3000 year old Málaga city by the Med, now on New York Times list of "52 Places to go in 2016". The two other Spanish cities on the list are Barcelona and San Sebastián. "Beauty, but now a cultural capital, too."

Málaga is 50 mins by the high speed AVE Train from Córdoba, 2h 30 mins from Madrid. Right in the city center you'll find the Roman theater, the Moorish 8-11th century fortress/palace, the huge 16th century cathedral, the Picasso museum and the Picasso birthhouse, tons of other excellent museums, fabulous cafés, tapas bars, restaurants, food markets, theaters, concerts, nightlife and genuine, laid-back Andalucian atmosphere.
"Málaga: Spain's best kept secret":
"City of museums: Málaga bets on culture to draw tourists and talent":

Excellent food scene, and just to give you an idea:
"Warning: Malaga's Atarazanas market will explode your sensory perception"
The new gastro market, next door to the house where Picasso grew up:

Málaga is also normally milder and much more pleasant than inland Andalucía in August/September, and there are plenty of excellent hiking possibilities close by.

The spectacular Torcal limestone mountain is just north of Málaga city. Several hiking routes up here. On a clear day you can see to Morocco from the top:

The Caminito del Rey (The King's trail) will take your breath away:

The beautiful Axarquia region just east of Málaga city:

kimhe Aug 3rd, 2016 05:05 AM

<our taste in nightlife tends to be towards the quieter people-watching end of the spectrum>

Then you should spend the evening and night in one of the two wonderful plazas in the heart of Córdoba, Plaza de las Tendillas and/or Plaza de la Corredera.

Both are close to eachother and some 300 meter North/nort-east of the famous Mezquita. Groups of families and friends crowd the plazas long into the night in the warm summer months, and August and September will be fabulous and laid-back atmosphere at least until some 3am in the weekends.
Plaza de las Tendillas:

Plaza de la Corredera:

bilboburgler Aug 3rd, 2016 05:40 AM

sorry kimhe, by train times were out, Malaga is very attractive with those times

kimhe Aug 3rd, 2016 06:17 AM

bilbo, ;-)

killscoote Aug 4th, 2016 08:30 AM

Thanks everyone for the helpful feedback! Given the feedback here as well as elsewhere in the forums to avoid the temptation to try to fit in too much, I'm disinclined to try to squeeze in Malaga, as much as it sounds like another place we would enjoy. I am thinking we will either (1) forego visiting Toledo, leaving us two full days in Madrid and add the extra day that we currently have unplanned on to our stay in Seville, so we get a bit more time there or (2) keep Toledo and add our one extra day to Madrid. Either way, we'll get a bit more time to explore Madrid. One way we'll get to see Toledo, which looks beautiful, the other way, our visit to Andalusia will feel less rushed. Any thoughts on which is the better approach?

ThomasSchwarzmann Aug 4th, 2016 08:58 AM

Having taken a day for a side-trip from Milan to Toledo, I would definitely check out this quaint, easily walked town - the short train ride is also a 'visual education' - also, consider visiting Girona, near Figueres - have you considered renting a car for part of your visit?

kja Aug 4th, 2016 06:26 PM

Toledo is amazing, and although many people visit it as a day trip from Madrid, it easily deserves two full days.

Again, you are, IMO, trying to do too much. Painful as it is, try to pare your itinerary!

maitaitom Aug 4th, 2016 09:03 PM

" We live in a big multicultural city and have heard that Madrid can feel a lot like other big cities, so we don't plan on spending a lot of time there."

I'll politely disagree with you on that. We had heard the same comments, but Madrid has lots of green space and the cafe scene was terrific. The palace is spectacular. The Prado is my favorite art museum ever!

Here is my trip report (with tons of photos from last year). We had five nights in Barcelona, three in Granada, one in the Pueblos Blancos, three nights in Sevilla, one night in Cordoba, three nights in Toledo (great town) and four nights in Madrid (should have bagged the Puebla Blancas and added a night in Madrid)

Personally I would add a day to Madrid and a day to Sevilla (and do a day trip to Cordoba to see the Mezquita from Sevilla).



Have fun!

kimhe Aug 4th, 2016 11:51 PM

Agree with maitaitom, Madrid is something special, fabulous vibe and the city centre feels like it's made up of many villags with very different atmosphere and identity. And then the parks, the museums, the tapas bars, the cafés, the restaurants, the theaters, the nightlife, buuuufff what a city!

With 16 days I would do 4 days Barcelona, 4 days Madrid and the rest in Andalucía, will give you an excellent mix of three very different parts of Spain.

And Barcelona, Madrid, Sevilla, Málaga and Córdoba are on the high speed AVE train line, from city center to city center in no time, as comfortable as it gets.

kimhe Aug 5th, 2016 01:50 AM

Just a warning, eight days inland Spain (Madrid, Sevilla, Córdoba, Granada) in late August/early September could be extremely hot considering that you'll be on the move almost all the time. I don't normally mind the heat, but I would never go to these four cities in a row at this time of year without going down to the sea in between, expect highs around 100F in all places. If you go for this route, do as the locals and have your main meal of the day at lunchtime in an A/C restaurant, then have a siesta in the A/C hotel room, and live at night when the temperatures go down a bit.

But Barcelona by the Med for four days, Madrid for four days and 8 days Andalucía with a couple of days in either Cádiz or Málaga by the sea (the two oldest cities in the region) would be perfect. Don't try to squeeze in both Sevilla, Córdoba and Granada. Sevilla is the undisputed queen of these cities, Córdoba was once the most important city in the western world, and Granada is of course the Alhambra but also tons of tourists.

Egbert Aug 5th, 2016 08:43 AM

3 nights in Madrid is usually the minimum but if you only have two it will have to do. Seville and Granada might be the best part of your trip. I would spend 3 nights in Seville and visit Cordoba as a daytrip from there. Granada needs two nights. At that time of year I would skip Barcelona and go to San Sebastian but that's just me. I can only take so much Modernisme.

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