Dec 1st, 2008, 04:57 PM
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We are planning to spend a few days in Madrid in late March. We have been to Madrid many times, and have also visited Toledo, Ávila and Segovia. I just became aware that you can reach Zaragoza on the AVE route in a little over an hour.

I would appreciate any comments/opinions about Zaragoza as a day trip destination from Madrid.

Thank you!
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 1st, 2008, 06:29 PM
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Hi cruiseluv,
Before the inauguration of the Madrid-Barcelona AVE, I never would have considered Zaragoza as a day trip destination, but now it's certainly within reach.

What to see?
The Basílica de El Pilar, started in the 17th century and actually not finished until 1961 (with Goya frescoes and an amazing alabaster altarpiece), La Lonja (the old silk exchange that hosts temporary exhibitions), La Seo del Salvador (cathedral), the Museo Pablo Gargallo (local sculptor), numerous mudéjar style churches, and one km. west of town, the Palacio de la Alfarería, a former 11th century Muslim palace. And the city has received a recent face lift thanks to its hosting of Expo '08. I didn't visit during the Expo nor after, so I can't tell you how the city has been remade. Our last visit was June, '06 (with intense summer heat).

I do love to shop for the lovely blue and white ceramics from the village of Muel at the Diputación Provincial shop on Calle del Coso 44, which one of the reasons we made the trip (followed by a visit to the Tena valley in the Aragonese Pyrenees).

But...have you been to Valladolid lately, only an hour away on the new AVE? (I can't remember if you stopped there on your bus trip up to Picos de Europa).
Valladolid might be my choice rather than Zaragoza because I love the magnificent National Museum of Sculpture there (just love the polychromed wood religious sculptures of masters such as Juan de Juni, Pedro Berruguete). Plus one can visit the Casa Museo de Cervantes and the Casa Museo de Colón. In addition the city has a new Contemporary Spanish Art Museum which I have yet to see.

More info about the city at

I readily admit to being very partial to Castilla y León!

Just some thoughts...

Maribel is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 06:06 AM
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Hi Maribel,

Thanks a lot. Yes, I was about to post also about Valladolid , so you saved me the trouble! Maybe I'm misinformed, but would you consider Valladolid an industrial city? Does it have an attractive old part of town?

On a different note, do you know of any plans to extend the AVE to Galicia? My mom was telling me she thinks the Valladolid segment is part of it?

Thank you for any info
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 06:08 AM
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From Madrid try Avila.

And if you want to stay more than a few days fly to San Sebastian.
Aduchamp1 is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 06:29 AM
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Having spent time in both Valladolid and Zaragoza, Zaragoza would get my vote over Valladolid any day. Apart from all the things to see that Maribel mentioned there are also many Roman sites to see near the old quarter of the city. And not forgetting all the fab tapas bars in the small lanes of the old quarter.

Enjoy your trip

SpanishFootsteps is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 09:56 AM
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Hi cruiseluv,
Would have mentioned Avila, but I assumed you had already been there. Train takes about 1 hr. 15-20 min. on a regional express or TRD (one class of service).

Some used to call Valladolid a very ugly city (yes, sprawling industrial outskirts), but now it's considered quite an up-and-coming one with really an interesting historic quarter. And the new AVE plus the MPH (Museo Patio Herreriano) and the Museo de la Ciencia
have put it on the map in a very good way.

I believe lincasanova posted in the not so distant past about its being very handicapped accessible as well. I threw it out because it's so easily reachable in one hour 7 min. from Chamartín station. There are non-stop AVEs that make the trip in one hour flat, but times aren't so convenient for the casual tourist. But the WEB fare is only €13 on the 8:30 am. train.

And the Museo Nacional de Escultura (housed in several buildings now) is one of Spain's finest art museums, I think. Everyone I've taken there has been mightily impressed.
If you admire the polychrome wood sculptures of the Holy Week processions, you'll be enthralled by this collection (my post should have read Alonso not Pedro de Berruguete, one of Spain's most extraordinary 16th century sculptors). The historic quarter abounds in fine Renaissance art.

And the cathedral (with elaborate altarpiece by Juan de Juni) was designed by Juan de Herrera, same architect who designed the Monasterio de El Escorial. History is the draw here-Valladolid was where Fernando & Isabel were married, Felipe II was born there and was José Zorilla, Felipe III made it the capital for several years, Cervantes lived there for 3 years, Columbus died there, etc.

It's also a university town with a lively nightlife and plenty of tapas bars around the Plaza Mayor and Calle Correos (Caballo de Troya and Bar El Corcho, naming just two).

I actually drove right past Zaragoza on the A2 last week (not by design, it just happened), but we couldn't stop to tour because of time constraits, and it was Sun. afternoon so many sites had already closed (including my Muel ceramics shop!).
On our last visit we spent the night so that we could enjoy the evening tapas scene.

The speediest AVE to Zaragoza takes 1 hr. 18 min., while those that make intermediate stops take 1 hr. 24 min., I think. If you do decide on Zaragoza, just try to purchase your AVE tickets two months in advance (yes, wishful thinking on the "new and vastly improved" Renfe site!!!) so that you can snag a €20.30 WEB fare rather than the €50 fare in tourist class.

Read more about the city and its attractions at

And have fun choosing!
Maribel is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 10:42 AM
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me again,
I completely forgot about Valladolid's Oriental Museum.

More info-
(for the entire province)

We're going to overnight in the city on our next driving tour along with visiting some wineries, as wine tourism has taken hold in the province. We've already visited the wine museum in the Castle of Peñafiel.

It certainly wasn't a major tourist destination before, but now because of the Ryanair flights coupled with the new AVE,
it's getting lots more visitors.
Maribel is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 04:51 PM
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Thank you so much for all this detail.

You are right, I have been to Avila which I really like. But if I repeat any of the possible day trips from Madrid I think I would do Segovia.

It's tough deciding where to go this time because I'm bringing my daughter(14) to Spain for the first time. So I have to balance my desire to seeing something new with the fact that she has never been to Spain.

I love those wood sculptures, so I'm glad you highlighted that.

Having read recently of all the troubles some posters are having booking with the Renfe site I'm not looking forward to it! I will certainly refer to the handy step by step you have in your website!

Again, thank you so much!
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 05:46 PM
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Hi cruiseluv,
I think your daughter would really love Segovia, especially the Alcázar!

Isn't it hard to choose? So much to see, so little time!

Does your daughter have any Spain study plans in her future, like your son?
Maribel is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 07:57 PM
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Hi Maribel,

I hope after this trip she gets to love Spain as much as my son and I do, and that she will want to spend time studying there. It is such a great excuse for me to go back!
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2008, 11:50 PM
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Hi Maribel and Cruiseluv,

As usual Maribel gives so much great information, it is amazing!
I agree on Valladolid. We loved it. It might be an ugly city but the historic center is full of interesting buildings and the Museo Nacional de Escultura they say it is the equivalent of el Prado regarding sculpture.
( a little exaggeration for my taste , but nevertheless worth the trip)
Our hotel was facing Campo Grande,a huge green park, and it was at walking distance to everything. I highly recommend Valladolid and the wonderful thing is that it seems there is not much international tourism . Have fun. ( the ugly parts of the city I didn't see them)
Graziella5b is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 04:59 AM
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I wish to add for those going to Valladolid there are least two nice hotels facing Campo Grande on
Calle de la Acera Recoletos, a walking street, the good news is that you can roll your luggage to and from the train station. The area is very nice, and my hotel room had a beautiful view on Campo Grande.
We stayed at Boutique Hotel Lasa, in Acera Recoletos 21,
next door the Melia Recoletos which is also a good option. Similar rates.
We were there during a week end, the Lasa offering a week end rate. For parking they have a garage but they told us to park on the street near the train station for free on the week end. I thought they were so very nice for that. This is what you would expect in a Spanish nice town not yet spoiled by tourism.
Graziella5b is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 12:58 PM
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Hola Graciela!

Thank you for chiming in about Valladolid. Seems like a good alternative for a day trip. It will all depend how many days we stay in Madrid.
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 01:03 PM
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hi, luv,

here's another vote for Valladolid and that amazing sculpture museum.

we ended up there by mistake about 25 years ago, and we still talk about it.

if you're only going for a day trip, the industrial environs won't matter too much.

regards, ann
annhig is online now  
Dec 3rd, 2008, 01:31 PM
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Hi cruiseluv, ann and graciela,

A coincidence. I just received my British version of Conde Nast Traveler, which has a 6 page article on Valladolid (increased British traffic to the city due to Ryanair-it's becoming, I guess, a short hop weekend destination). And there are three new 5 star hotel projects in the works!

The author calls it "a Spanish treasure" and recommends all the museums I listed above. He says, "as you cross the River Pisuegra and approach the centre, the truth begins to dawn: the capital of Castile is a handsome town."

For tapas the author recommends Cervecería El Trebol on Calle Turina 18, El Caballo de Troya on Correos 1, Vino Tino Joven and Vino Tinto on Campanas 1 and 4 respectively, La Teja and Milvinos both on Plaza Martí y Mansó, and Mar Cantábrico on Caridad 2. For sit down dining, he finds La Parrilla de San Lorenzo on Pedro Niño 1 to be the most atmospheric.

For lodging, the Melía Recoletos (or Atrio for those on a tight budget).
Just so you know...
Maribel is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 02:29 PM
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This thread was called: Zaragoza (i.e., not Valladolid, Avila or Salamanca).

If you want a Valladolid thread, I suggest you start one devoted to that City; but please allow people interested in the Aragones Capital have a Zaragoza thread.

I agree with Maribel's post re Zaragoza but I would add a visit to nearby Fuendetodos to see a small museum/art gallery at the home of Francisco de Goya y Lucientes and dedicated to that famous Aragonés

Sundays, you may even see Grupos of Dancers Bailando Jotas Aragonesas in front of the Cathedral. That's my favorite Spanish Dance
NEDSIRELAND is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 04:26 PM
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Ok, let's get this thread back on track to ZARAGOZA!

If this city is your choice, and you'd like to see the major monuments without using too much shoe leather, Zaragoza now has a hop-on, hop-off Bus Turístico that will be running from March 15-30 (from March 15-23 only in the mornings). It does two itineraries, 12 stops in each itinerary, and ticket for the entire day, both routes, costs €6.

In addition the tourist office offers several 2 1/2 hr. guided walking tours, but in Spanish only (which is definitely not a problem for cruiseluv!), all costing €5 each:

Roman, Mudéjar, Renaissance, Goya, Baroque and Contemporary.
They all depart from the Plaza del Pilar at either 10:30 or 11 am.

Read all about the above and see a list of what to do during a 24, 48 or 72 hr. visit at

Maribel is offline  
Dec 4th, 2008, 08:12 PM
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Well, since I was the OP, I must say that I don't mind at all that other areas of interest have been suggested. It is true that I titled the post "Zaragoza", but as Maribel and others correctly picked up, is my interest in "new" destinations as day trips from Madrid.

So, thank you again to all that have enlightened, me not only about what is worthy in Zaragoza, but in other potential destinations from Madrid.
cruiseluv is offline  
Dec 8th, 2008, 09:21 AM
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If I were to have a perfect day trip in Zaragoza, it would include a visit to the Cafe Moderno (Gran Via, 34), which is a red velvet-clad fin de siecle cafe where you can get breakfast como Dios manda, and enjoy copas at night.

Building on that (but not to take the thread away from Zaragoza), I highly recommend going to the Cafe Gijon on the Paseo de la Castellana in Madrid.

laclaire is offline  
Dec 8th, 2008, 10:47 AM
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Hi laclaire,
Agree completely! Café Moderno is a classic.
Maribel is offline  

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