Spain in 9 days - Planning and Trip Itinerary

Tripoto
30th Aug 2019

Poble Espanyol

Photo of Spain in 9 days - Planning and Trip Itinerary by Moushumi Ghosh

Planning

We are a family of three and this trip was planned over 4 weeks leading up to the trip.

We needed a break and Labor day weekend was coming up. We had just enough time for a short Europe trip. We settled on Spain as we have already done trips in Italy and France of similar duration. We have a large travel bucket list but that's for exploring some other day!

Booking Flights

First we made airline bookings. We used Google Flights extensively for price shopping and comparing as it was pretty convenient to see prices to multiple destinations from an origin and departure date. E.g. we could compare flights to Barcelona or Madrid easily by providing destination as Spain and opening the calendar we were able to see prices for multiple start and end dates.

Then we found per Google's suggestion that it was cheaper (not easier though) to book the flight as one-way tickets rather than a round trip from different points of sale of Norwegian airline's website. Onward was booked on Norwegian's US POS and Return flight was booked on Norwegian's Spain POS. Of course we had to use Google translate to help us with the booking process on the latter site. We booked flights from Chicago to Barcelona. Flight to Madrid were a wee bit expensive. Note on Norwegian everything is an upsell. As we were going for an almost last minute trip, this airline was the most viable option. I won't say cheap as we did pay through our nose. We paid extra for reserving seats together and getting meal options. We packed lightly and didn't have any checked bags. This is important if you want to travel by train between cities in Spain. Pack light!

Itinerary

Once the tickets were out of the way, hubby was out of the picture and it was left to me to come up with an itinerary for how to utilize our time in Spain. I read a variety of blogs and watched tons of Youtube videos especially the ones by Rick Steve. Slowly a plan formed of what I wanted to do.

Pro tip - use a Trello Board. You can sign up for a free account and organize all the details of your trip into nice lists.

I created a list for each city we wanted to visit. The cities I thought would work for us in terms of the time we had and what we like doing were:

Barcelona, Madrid, Seville, Granada, Cadiz, Toledo.

For each of these cities, I added all the relevant info that I found useful under each list. e.g. Things to do, Things to see, Where to Stay, What to eat, What to avoid etc.

Next came the question of how much time to spend in each city. The "Things to do" and "Things to see" sections helped us (Note: hubby and I joined forces again!) understand how much time we needed in each city. We reserved 2.5 days for Barcelona, 2 days for Madrid and 1 day each for the other cities. Remainder was for travel time etc.

Next using Google maps, we tried to determine what order of travel would be easier from one city to another.

Trains

We decided to use Renfe High Speed Trains to travel between cities. So that made us time bound to a certain extent to train timings. Pro-tip use the Renfe website. Try to do a simulated booking using Google Translate to understand the various options in english as not everything is translated properly when you switch to Renfe's english version of the site they offer. Especially the account creation process. Pay close attention to that. There are other sites for booking train but they charge fees etc. that you don't really need to pay when booking directly through Renfe and in addition you can accumulate loyalty points in Renfe.

Hotels

With all the train tickets in place, we now knew which nights we were going to be in which city. This helped us understand what hotel bookings were needed. Pro-tip for families - I know a lot of folks use AirBnB but we stayed clear of that. Primarily because I don't want to take a risk of the unknown in a foreign country especially when traveling with family. I'd rather go with reputed/chain hotels. With AirBnB and such you don't know who else has access to the rooms etc. I had points on Orbitz and used them up on this trip. It pays to have loyalty points on a credit card or travel website you use often for such last minute trips. When shopping for hotels, try to be either near the attraction you are going to visit first, last or be near the train station (if you are traveling by train between cities). We used filters to look at hotels in specific neighborhoods and amenities such as breakfast or wifi etc. I also called up the hotel to see if they would hold our luggage till check-in time if we arrived a city in the morning and didn't have check-in until later in the afternoon.

Highlights of each city visited.

We arranged the order of sight seeing places in each city based on distance. This itinerary below is really a fruit of our labor, so to speak! If you follow the same order you should be able to cover more ground each day of your vacation. Tried and tested!

Day 1

Barcelona, Day 1

1. Placa de Catalunya - More Info

2. Cathedral de Barcelona - Open till 12.30pm - 5.30pm - Ticket Info

3. Gothic Quarter - More Info

4. Placa Reial - Plaza with Gaudi Lantern - More Info

5. Mirador De Colum - Columbus monument - More Info

6. Telerefic Montjuick - Ticket Info

7. Montjuick Castle - Montjuic Castle is open until 8 pm - Ticket Info

8. Spanish Village - Poble Espanyol - Open 9.00am - 4.00am - Ticket Info

9. Magic Fountain - Show Times

Day 2

Barcelona, Day 2

1. Casa Batllo - Ticket Info

2. Casa Mila (La Pedrera) - Ticket Info

3. Casa Vicens - Gaudi's first house - Ticket Info

4. Parc Guell , Main entrance and Porter's Lodge, Dragon Stairway and Sala Hipostila - Ticket Info

5. La Sagrada Familia - Ticket Info

6. Arc De Triomf - More Info

7. Ciutadella Park - More Info

8. Martyr of Independence in Gothic Quarter - Monument als Herois del 1809 - More Info

9. Carrer del Bisbe - Bridge in Gothic quarter - More Info

10. Font de Canaletes - Fountain in La Rambla - More Info

11. Picasso Museum (open - First Sunday of each month, from 9am to 8.30pm) . - Ticket Info

Train to Madrid in the evening from Barcelona

Day 3

Madrid, Day 1

1. La Puerto Del Sol - Old post office, King Carlos the 3rd statue and Bear eating strawberries (symbol of madrid). While in Puerta Del Sol do not miss out on visiting the most peculiar of attractions - Kilometer 0, which is the spot from which all distances in Spain are measured.

2. Plaza Mayor - 1670 - Rectangular square has 9 gates, Statue of Phillip the 3rd - 1616 - More Info

3. San Miguel market - More Info

4. Royal Palace of Madrid - Ticket Info

5. Almudena Cathedral - More Info

6. Sabatini Garden - More Info

7. Temple of Debod - More Info

8. Buen Retiro Park - Most central park in the city. Sailing on the lake, Fountains, Crystal Palace - 1887 - Greenhouse for exotic plants. Crystal Palace and Fountain of the Fallen Angel and Rose Garden - More Info

9. Puerte de Alcala - More Info

10. Plaza de Cibeles - Fountain and square and Cibeles Palace - More Info

11. Circulo de Bellas Artes - Rooftop, Great view of the city - 4 euros. Closes at 9pm. - More Info

12. Metropolis Building - in Calle de Alcala. Most photographed building in Madrid - More Info

Train to Seville in the morning from Madrid

Day 4

Seville, Day 1

1. Cathedral of Seville - Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried here. - More Info

2. Giralda - best views of the city - More Info

3. Real Alcazar - serves as a Royal palace - Game of Thrones - Gardens full of Tropical flowers and tourists! Open till 5pm - Ticket Info

4. Torre del Oro - More Info

5. Plaza de Espana - Star Wars - More Info

6. Maria Luisa Park - More Info

7. Metropol Parasol - More Info

8. Cathedral of Seville for night view - More Info

9. Casa Riccardo (for specialty- Spinach and Chick Peas) - More Info

10. SantaCruz neighborhood - Jewish quarter - kissing lanes designed to maximize shade. - More Info

Train to Cadiz in the morning from Seville

Day 5

Cadiz, Day 1

1. Roman Theater

2. Catedral de Cadiz

3. Torre Tavira

5. Oratorio de la Santa Cueva - Goya, Valesquez paintings

6. Plaza de Espana

7. Monumento a la Constitution

8. Alameda Apodaca - Walk to Paseo Alameda Marqués de Comillas through the park - 100 year old fig trees

9. Iglesia del Carmen - Beautiful Front facade

10. Plaza Mentidero

11. La Caleta beach

12. Castillo de San Sebastian

13. Playa Victoria

Train to Seville in the evening from Cadiz

Train to Granada next day morning from Seville

Day 6

Granada, Day 1

1. Alhambra - More Info

2. Alcaiceria - former Moorish Silk Bazaar (market) - More Info

3. Gypsy Dance - More Info

Train to Madrid in the evening from Granada

Train to Toledo in the morning from Madrid

Day 7

Toledo, Day 1

1. Plaza de Zocodover - More Info

2. Puerta del sol - More Info

3. Alcazar de Toledo - More Info

4. Cathedral Primada - More Info

5. Iglesia de Santo Tome - The Burial of the Count of Orgaz - El Greco - More Info

6. El Greco Museum

7. Monasterio de San Juan de los Reyes

8. El Puente de San Martin

9. Mirador Ermita / Mirador de Valle

Train to Madrid in the evening from Toledo

Day 8

Madrid, Day 2

1. Prado Museum - masterpieces such as Velazquez’s Las Meninas and Goya’s The Family of Carlos IV - Ticket Info

2. Fuente de Neptuno (Neptune Fountain) - More Info

3. Fuente de Apolo - (Apollo Fountain and four seasons) - More Info 

4. Reina Sofia museum - Ticket Info

5. Thyssen Museum - Ticket Info

6. La Casa del Abuelo - Famous for their Shrimp Tapas since 1906 - More Info

7. San Gines Chocolateria since 1894 - Churros and thick Hot Chocolate - More Info

8. Salamanca neighborhood - More Info

9. Malasana neighborhood - More Info

Train to Barcelona next day morning from Madrid

Day 9

Barcelona, Day 3

1. La Barceloneta - Sandy Beach along boardwalk and good food. - More Info

2. La Boqueria Market - Fresh fruits or Goat - More Info

3. Botero’s Cat - In Rambla del Raval - More Info

4. Camp Nou - 2nd largest football stadium in the world - More Info

Flight back home

Pro-tip: We used cabs from point to point as that was just super easy and not too expensive. If you are running short on time this is the best way to travel as taking other modes of transportation for example a hop on and hop off or trains/buses takes away from your precious holiday time. If trains are easier you can do that too. Often we found we were far from a train line, so we just chose cabs, Madrid and Barcelona are well connected by local trains though. Note: in Madrid if the starting destination for a cab ride is the railway station, then the meter starts at 7.5 euros which is double than the regular meter amount.

Planning is as much fun if not more than traveling itself!

I'll follow-up this post with our actual experience in the six cities and pics. Stay tuned!

Update: Barcelona post.

To all travel enthusiasts, happy exploring!

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