Your opinion: Best of Spain

Old Mar 6th, 2002, 01:18 PM
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Your opinion: Best of Spain

I've done most of Europe, and am in love with Italy, but have never done Spain. Please tell me your best bets for cities, drives, beaches, etc. in Spain and Portugal. Any and all suggestions welcome.

Old Mar 6th, 2002, 01:48 PM
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I was much like you when I took off for 30 days in Spain in September 2000. Sort of hated to miss out on Italy and France to take time to see this "new" country. It was fabulous and we saw a lot of it. Madrid, Barcelona, Toledo, Aranjuez, Segovia, Salamanca, Burgos, San Sebastian, Bilbao, Hondarribia, Rosas, Cadaque on the Costa Brava, Figures, Rhonda, Granada, Sevilla, Cordoba. The only area I was not crazy about was the Costa Blanca on the eastern side. We stayed in Villajoyosa at a lovely place, but the areas in the vicinity were just too overtouristed. I understand that the Costa del Sol can be somewhat like that also. That and the far western areas near Santiago de Campostelo were the only places we missed. Spain is almost all wonderful IMO. Did Portugal in 1997. It's kind of mixed by my standards. Certainly poorer than Spain (you can tell exactly where you leave one country and enter another by the maintenance of their roads)it's almost like a third world country in some rural areas. It has beautiful monasteries with especially lovely cloisters--at Batahla and Alcobaca. The Palace Hotel in Bucaco is my favorite in all my travels. Lisbon and the areas around it are wonderful--but not as good as Sevilla or Barcelona and the areas around them. But some areas are just so poor that they're sad, and I admit I don't like sad when I want to see beautiful things in my travels.
Both countries are interesting and offer much variety. Probably best to sit down in the library or your nearest bookstore and grab a few picture travel and coffeetable books and select some places that appeal to you. Then start stringing them together. If I were to guide you, I'd say start in Andalusia to see Sevilla, Granada and Cordoba. If you have more time, look at Barcelona and the Costa Brava as well as the areas directly around Barcelona, then add Madrid, and the towns around it.
Old Mar 6th, 2002, 02:37 PM
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I really loved Spain and what little I saw of Portugal outside of Lisbon. Drinks in the evening in the Plaza Mayor (Madrid), Goya and El Greco paintings, wandering the back alleys of Toledo, roast suckling pig at a wonderful restaurant in Segovia (can't recall it's name but it's near the base of the Roman aquaduct).

Sevilla, Sevilla, Sevilla. The Alcazar, the Barrio de Santa Cruz, a quick tour of the Plaza de Toros, the evening stroll along the river front. If you're there for the bienial flamenco festival see as much as you can. All of Andalucia is great, but outside of Sevilla I'd say Granada is another must-visit place. Tapas in the early evening (heck, all day long if possible). Very friendly people all over.

In Portugal an evening in Obidos was a highlight. All the day trippers gone, sitting with a friend on the town walls sipping port looking at the lit-up castle under a full moon. If I can ever go back to Portugal I'll try to see much more of the northern countryside; that little taste was terrific. Hiking up the hill in Sintra to the Moorish castle ruins was work but enjoyable and a great view (the view's just as good if you ride the bus up I've heard).
Old Mar 6th, 2002, 02:53 PM
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Liked Madrid and Toledo, loved Barcelona and Tossa de Mar (beach on Costa Brava) and was completely enchanted by Sevilla. It's all wonderful. Spain is a fabulous country.
Old Mar 6th, 2002, 07:00 PM
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I loved Granada and Toledo. Both towns have fascinating sites and wonderful natural beauty.

In Granada I did both the day and the evening tour of the Alhambra and I highly recommend the evening tour -- they only let in a very small number of people. If you love gardens, you'll love the Generalife (Alhambra gardens).

Most overrated: Costa del Sol. It was really over-built and full of British pubs and fast food.

Have fun!

Old Mar 6th, 2002, 08:56 PM
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Hi. I also did Spain for 30 days last September...geez it makes you realise how many of 'us' there are out there!

Well you've already received some good advice but here is what I think is some more...
Don't miss San Sebastian in the North. It is a beautiful little town, gorgeous beach, amazing food (said to be the best in Spain), so pictureque and completely typical of the North of Spain. Bilbao was fantastic also for the food and the people - so friendly, and if you have an appreciation for architecture and museums, you cannot go without seeing the Guggenheim in Bilbao - wow.

Barcelona, Sevilla and Granada were also favourites, and you simply must eat something called "jamon jabugo" while you are there. It is an out of this world ham only found in Spain - to die for!

I would recommend that you use the train for most of your travels and stay off the roads however. Spain has one of the highest rates of road mortalities in Europe. The trains are very efficient and get you to places for less money and without you having to worry about getting lost.
Enjoy - I am so jealous.

Old Mar 7th, 2002, 09:58 AM
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Hi Daniel,
I lived in a small town south of Barcelona in the late '80s, also did some traveling in Portugal a few years later.
Some personal favorites in Barcelona were:

The farmer's market on the Ramblas, a bustling, vivid place to shop for food and spices and coffee. The Opera Cafe across the Ramblas from the opera house, with its full-length etched mirrors depicting various operatic heroines. The Gaudi god, that man had an imagination! The cathedral in the Gothic Quarter with geese wandering in from the cloister gardens. I've heard that Barcelona has had a severe increase in street crime in recent years, so please do be careful.

Lisbon is one of my favorite cities, ideal for a dedicated urban walker and explorer. Since it's very hilly, everywhere you go there's an interesting view. I loved to sit in one of the cafes near the harbour, sipping a glass of port and watching the ships. Lisbon has that lovely "washed" looking light that is so similar to other cities on the water, such as San Francisco and Nagasaki. Take a side trip to the town of Sintra - gorgeous palaces and old houses in a forested mountain setting.
Also, take a short train ride outside of Lisbon to Belem - there are several worthwhile museums there. My favorite was the Jeronimos Monastery, beautiful cloister buildings.

In terms of development, previous posters are accurate in comparing Spain and Portugal. Lisbon is very much a modern city, but one with an endearingly funky, soulful aura to it. I remember taking the train heading for the south of Portugal, and the very minute we left the city limits, I saw things like an elderly couple leading a donkey down a dirt road, and a shepherd keeping his flock off the tracks using nothing but his wooden staff and one very well trained dog.

I ate well, drank well, and developed a serious coffee habit during my time in Iberia. I think you'll like the people and culture of these two countries.
Happy traveling!
Old Mar 10th, 2002, 12:14 AM
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GGinSF....the name of the restaurant you ate in Segovia (the suckling pig) was Candito' of my most enjoyed meals in Spain.

Old Mar 10th, 2002, 05:13 AM
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Sorry Melodie, the name of that restaurant is Candido, not Candito's, but if you ask for Candito's, sure everybody will understand. Another great restaurant in Segovia is 'Jose Luis'
Old Mar 10th, 2002, 06:41 AM
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Dan, I have done Portugal twice and Spain 3 times. What I have learned is that you need to plan geographically. For instance, Andalusia fits with Portugal, Catalonia fits with the Pyrennes, Pampalona & San Sebastian. It would take about 6 weeks to see it all.
Assuming you may have less time it pays to get a good map and figure out times and distances. You will love them both.
Old Jan 14th, 2003, 05:43 PM
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Jade- a second On San Sebastian. A totally romantic city IMHO with great villages around it and the food.....and the people..
also love Barcelona- Gaudi the ramblas,the summer music festival[Festival Grec?]
The Guggenheim
Valencia [in artichoke season]
and always the people..
Old Jan 14th, 2003, 07:22 PM
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I'm almost reluctant to mention it for fear that it will be too 'discovered', but how gorgeous is San Sebastian? I agree with the above posters that Barcelona for its 'Gaudi' works is a must-see, and the Cathedral in Sevilla is also beautiful. Christopher Columbus' sarcophagus is in there.

The Guggenheim museum is indeed a modern marvel, and the food in Bilbao I second as a must-try in Spain.
I've got to go back there again! Ole!
Old Jan 14th, 2003, 07:51 PM
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Step back in time and go to Toledo. This is where a lot of movies set in 'old' locations are filmed.

Dine in 'El Botin' in the Plaza Mayor in Madrid. The oldest restaurant in the world and worth it!

Old Jan 15th, 2003, 06:36 AM
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Check it out at
a talkforum for everithing about Spain.
Old Jan 15th, 2003, 06:39 AM
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You have never "DONE" Spain?
I "DID" Portugal????????

What a bunch of worldly travelers!
Old Jan 15th, 2003, 09:33 AM
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I have been to many European destinations and I found Spain to be the most underrated (in my opinion) of them all. Spain does not get all that much action on this message board but in my experience it is a better destination than France or England and at least as good as Italy. Andalucia region and San Sebastian are my favorites. Come to think of it, "what is the most underrated European travel destination" would make a good thread. I wonder if it has been done?
Old Jan 15th, 2003, 11:37 AM
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Daniel, if in Andalucia, please don't miss Cordoba. Between the exquisite mezquita and the tiny, ancient synagogue, I found it a truly spiritual experience.

I'm going to Italy for the first time in April. (Rome, Tuscany, Florence and Veice) Other than the obvious, any "must sees" you recommend?
Old Jan 15th, 2003, 03:39 PM
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When one comes to Spain, I would suggest to hire a car and try to visit with the help of excellent books and maps, as many of the historic castle paradors that you can, on and off the beaten path, on your way to your larger cities. This is an experience you will never forget.
There is nothing like arriving in the evening and seeing a caslte lit up in the distance on the crest of a hill, and knowing you have a wonderful room and dinner waiting for you there.

Winding on and off your major roads will take you through some of the most curious and unique parts of this country.

Each region has its gems, so you cannot go wrong wherever you begin and end.

I believe the website for the paradors ( government owned and managed hotels) is
One observation.. not all "paradors" are historic renovated castles or convents. some are new, but are usually in a beautiful setting (Toledo) El Saler ( Valencia beach), etc.

enjoy your trip!
Old Jan 15th, 2003, 03:52 PM
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I listed our 2 1/2 week itinerary in Spain followed by a few specific recommendations.

Itinerary: Flew into Madrid. Spent a few days there then took the overnight train to Barcelona (not comfy). Spent a few days in Barcelona then flew to Granada (surprisingly easy). Spent a couple of days there touring the Alhambra (make sure to give it enough time) then rented a car and drove around Andalucia, ended up in Seville, then flew back to Madrid.

Do not miss the night tour of the Alhambra in Granada. A great way to miss the crowds. If you can get into the Hotel America, it's one of two hotels on the Alhambra grounds and a less-expensive alternative to the Parador (which is tough to get into but also thought to be the best in Spain).

Casa Mila and Parc Guell (both Gaudi) in Barcelona. Goya's late paintings in the Prado in Madrid.

Off the Beaten Track: The Templo de Debod-- a transplanted Egyptian temple in the middle of Madrid. Wonderful looking. Also, if you do a drive through Andalucia, consider stopping at the Parador in Jaen. It's a reconstructed Moorish fortress at the top of a hill. Have dinner there, the tasting menu. One of the best meals you'll have in Spain. Wonderful service.

Casas de la Juderia is a gorgeous little hotel in Seville. See Karen Brown's Spain for more wonderful lodging recommendations. I've never been disappointed in her recs and they cover most budgets.

Good luck,
Old Jan 16th, 2003, 05:55 AM
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I highly suggest you incorporate a few of the paradors into your trip. The website is and they have an english translation. We got some absolutely fabulous deals by booking and planning using their 5 Night Card strategically. Or even their Half Pension deal for meals in the dining rooms are a great value. We almost always choose historical paradors over the modern ones as the settings are so unlike anything else available.

In Portugal, I believe, the equivalent system is called Pousadas and is probably on the web as well.

Good Luck and write if you have any more questions.

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