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January in Spain - Itinerary Help

January in Spain - Itinerary Help

Old Oct 30, 19, 11:57 pm
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January in Spain - Itinerary Help

We're planning a January getaway to Spain and I'm struggling a bit with figuring out an itinerary -- too much choice! So far all we have set in stone is our transatlantic flight -- into London on 1/1 and out of Madrid on 1/19. Our plan is to visit friends briefly in London and fly to Spain on the 4th or 5th. That gives us 15 days to divide up.

My initial thought was to fly into BCN, spend a few days there, rent a car for a week and drive to Seville, take the AVE to Madrid (maybe with a stop in Toledo), and spend the last few days in Madrid before heading home. None of that is set in stone, though.

I have been to Barcelona and Madrid before (though my partner has not), so I think I have a good sense of what I'm getting into there. It's everything in between that has me a little stumped. I'm trying to figure out to what extent (say) Cordoba, Granada, and Seville are complementary or redundant, where's worth stopping along the coast that time of year, and so on. I know we want a mix of big city, small city, and coast.

We are generally interested in city walks, museums, historic sites, food and wine experiences, culture and shopping. The one caveat is that I've got a problematic ankle right now; I'm good for a few miles a day on reasonably flat ground, but rustic hikes or very taxing sites are probably not on the agenda. We'd also probably like to have a couple of quiet days somewhere with a nice ocean view -- I know it's not going to be beach weather, but we're both Great Lakes natives so we're happy to enjoy the view in a dashing sweater.

What should we not miss, and what should we avoid?

Thanks in advance.
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Old Oct 31, 19, 1:35 am
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Why drive to Sevilla? I do not see anything in your plan that requires a car. From Barcelona, take the train (or maybe fly) to Granada or Sevilla.
(If you'd use the car for the entire holiday, I'd understand the logic. But why train for some parts and not for others?)

And Toledo is not on the train line between Sevilla and Madrid. (Cordoba is, and is absolutely worth a stop, including for a night.) The best way to visit Toledo is as a day trip (by train) from Madrid.

Between Granada and Sevilla you can also visit Ronda. But it does complicate the logistics a bit because Ronda <> Sevilla has to be done by bus.
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Old Oct 31, 19, 2:04 am
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OP has Tit status with Starriott/Bonvoy, so I highly recommend staying in Seville in the Alfonso XII (or some other Roman numeral) which is a stunning historic LC property in the center of town.

In Granada there's a nice but expensive Parador that tends to book up very very early. Similarly, Guadalupe has a very nice historic Parador or there's a similar privately run historic boutique hotel. IIRC there are good Paradors in Toledo too (overlooking the city) and Segovia (also a bit outside of the center), where there are roman aqueducts and other ruins. Years ago I was impressed by a Parador about an hour (east along the main road???) from Seville in a Morrish-style palace with a beautiful blue tiled pool down a flower filled hill from the hotel; IIRC it was outside of a village called something like Christiana (???), where I saw some real flamingo dancing at a street festival.

Much of Spain's southern coast is overbuilt with housing for retired Brits and ugly resort complexes, so I would generally avoid, although at this time of year it might be nicer to focus on southern Spain. There's some nice scenery where sherry is made, around Ronda and Jerez de la Frontiera, but you need a car here. Along the coast, I think Valencia is interesting for a historic city and also Alicante (but definitely avoid Benidorm (spelling?) and the surrounding coast.

Now might not be the best time to go to Catalonia with the recent disturbances, especially in Barcelona, although the problems might be over by now and certainly by the time of your trip.

If you're flying into BCN and out from MAD, I'd be tempted to rent a car for most of the way and head south from BCN along the coast initially to Valencia (rather than spending time in Barcelona, although you could take the train for this part) and Alicante and then go inland to Seville, Granada, Toledo, and Segovia (maybe add Guadeloupe along the way, but it's a long tough drive on small winding roads), almost circling back to MAD. If you're interested, check whether it's bull fighting season near Madrid, but I suspect the answer is no.
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Old Oct 31, 19, 8:57 am
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Thanks to you both for the speedy replies. Koby -- I figured getting to Seville by car would end up being the easiest, as it would let us stop a number of places on the way. I know we'd like to get off the beaten path a bit, and see places like Ronda and Jerez, and maybe a pueblo blanco. And I figured the drive along the coast would be nice.

I'm starting to wonder if maybe the stuff between Valencia and Granada is the least essential, though -- maybe we should skip that drive, get to Seville by train (from Barcelona or Valencia), and just rent a car in Seville to putter around Andalucia for a few days.

We could fly somewhere else, but the flights to BCN on Vueling are well-timed, affordable even with extras, and offer extra legroom seats that aren't exit rows (which I think my ankle brace disqualifies me from right now). And assuming the political situation permits it, I would like my partner to at least see the Sagrada Familia, and I'd like to hit up the market I missed last time.

MSPeconomist -- thanks for all the great advice. We definitely would like to avoid the British tourist towns; we generally like less touristy areas, and although my Spanish is pretty clunky it's enough to get directions and get through hotels and restaurants. Sounds like I need to start reading up on paradores! The Alfonso XII sounds like a great plan for Seville itself.

Is there anyplace along the Andalusian coast that's still relatively Spanish that would be a nice quiet stop for a couple of days? (Or even across the border into Portugal?)
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Old Oct 31, 19, 4:31 pm
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Remember that on the evening of the 5th of January the Three Kings are simultaneously visiting every city and town in Spain (they can do this as they are ďmagicianĒ kings). The central areas of each urban area will be closed to traffic and impassable to a lot of pedestrians due to the parades. There will be firework displays in the evening.

Bear this in mind if trying to arrive in lodgings or transfer from one location to another.
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Old Oct 31, 19, 7:36 pm
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
Remember that on the evening of the 5th of January the Three Kings are simultaneously visiting every city and town in Spain (they can do this as they are ďmagicianĒ kings). The central areas of each urban area will be closed to traffic and impassable to a lot of pedestrians due to the parades. There will be firework displays in the evening.

Bear this in mind if trying to arrive in lodgings or transfer from one location to another.
Oh, thanks for the heads up. I knew the 6th was a holiday, but hadn't figured on the parade on the 5th. Very good to know if we're planning flights.

Other than the parade, would most things be open normal hours that day? And how much tends to be closed on the 6th? I'm sure we can work around some closures but if everything is going to be closed but the hotel restaurant we might just stay in London longer
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Old Nov 1, 19, 2:52 am
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Originally Posted by dtremit View Post
Oh, thanks for the heads up. I knew the 6th was a holiday, but hadn't figured on the parade on the 5th. Very good to know if we're planning flights.

Other than the parade, would most things be open normal hours that day? And how much tends to be closed on the 6th? I'm sure we can work around some closures but if everything is going to be closed but the hotel restaurant we might just stay in London longer
It really depends where you are.
I have family in Spain (my mumís lot) and Three Kings is a family celebration, so whenever Iím in Spain at that time it is specifically to be with family. Means that Iím in Alicante city or Alcoy and at the parades or having Roscon cake (pre-ordered days before) at gatherings.
Itís a very similar atmosphere to Christmas Eve but with a bit of USA New York Day parade pizzazz!
In practice, this means that although shops donít close as standard practice in the way they do on the 6th Jan, many might close early, or might close due to accessibility issues because of the parades (cabalgatas) or might close if too many staff are involved with the events and cabalgatas. As I said, itís not a shopping day for me AND every town is different.

I love it, think itís great that there is still an event that celebrates children and childhood. Alas for us, kids in England are back at school before the 6th, so taking my child to the cabalgatas is tricky. Weíve managed it a few times though and each time was wonderful, well worth the effort.
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Old Nov 1, 19, 8:18 am
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Originally Posted by LapLap View Post
It really depends where you are.
I have family in Spain (my mumís lot) and Three Kings is a family celebration, so whenever Iím in Spain at that time it is specifically to be with family. Means that Iím in Alicante city or Alcoy and at the parades or having Roscon cake (pre-ordered days before) at gatherings.
Itís a very similar atmosphere to Christmas Eve but with a bit of USA New York Day parade pizzazz!
In practice, this means that although shops donít close as standard practice in the way they do on the 6th Jan, many might close early, or might close due to accessibility issues because of the parades (cabalgatas) or might close if too many staff are involved with the events and cabalgatas. As I said, itís not a shopping day for me AND every town is different.

I love it, think itís great that there is still an event that celebrates children and childhood. Alas for us, kids in England are back at school before the 6th, so taking my child to the cabalgatas is tricky. Weíve managed it a few times though and each time was wonderful, well worth the effort.
It sounds like it would be fun to catch a glimpse of! I think that day we would still be in Barcelona, so I'm guessing the closures wouldn't be as extensive as in a smaller town. I just checked the Sagrada Familia and Parc GŁell websites and they both appear to be on normal hours on the 5th; the SF closes early on the 6th but not on the 5th.

We don't mind navigating a few closures and inconveniences -- particularly to accommodate a wonderful tradition. Just wanted to avoid a situation like Christmas in Munich several decades ago where literally every restaurant and shop was closed except a single convenience store in the Hauptbahnhof.

The only downside is I think I would miss seeing the Boqueria Market again -- last time I was there I missed it because of some random bank holiday I hadn't planned for. But it sounds like the market in Valencia is quite lovely too :-)
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Old Nov 1, 19, 8:54 am
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Originally Posted by dtremit View Post
It sounds like it would be fun to catch a glimpse of! I think that day we would still be in Barcelona, so I'm guessing the closures wouldn't be as extensive as in a smaller town. I just checked the Sagrada Familia and Parc GŁell websites and they both appear to be on normal hours on the 5th; the SF closes early on the 6th but not on the 5th.

We don't mind navigating a few closures and inconveniences -- particularly to accommodate a wonderful tradition. Just wanted to avoid a situation like Christmas in Munich several decades ago where literally every restaurant and shop was closed except a single convenience store in the Hauptbahnhof.

The only downside is I think I would miss seeing the Boqueria Market again -- last time I was there I missed it because of some random bank holiday I hadn't planned for. But it sounds like the market in Valencia is quite lovely too :-)
Lots of families with kids will be strolling around and there will be plenty of businesses catering to them on the 5th January. Itís just not a day to take out a loan or get your dry cleaning done. Hairdressers might be a problem too People will be collecting large round ďdonutĒ cakes with glazed fruit filled with tooth-cracking ceramic figures and taking them home or to visits. Parking will be horrendous and getting a taxi could be more than challenging. Other than that, there isnít anywhere Iíd rather be.
If youíre at a cabalgata, my only other warning is to watch out for flying candy. I mean this seriously. Eye injuries are not uncommon.
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Old Nov 8, 19, 12:21 pm
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OP - just keep in mind the weather in January. I know you said you are used to bad weather but still - people think of Spain and sunshine comes to mind...

Madrid can be cold in January, even snowy. Barcelona has better weather but it's unpredicable - you could be having lunch in the sunshine one day and buttoning up your coat the day after under overcast skies. The Sagrada Familia looks a lot more beautiful on a sunny day.

Valencia and Alicante are safe choices from a weather perspective. Alicante is also a good base for exploring some lesser known towns.

In Andalucia, I would go for Seville, Malaga and Cadiz is a really underrated town, easy to get to by car, with a rich local culture and great food.

You could also consider flying for a few days to Tenerife or Las Palmas in Gran Canaria. These islands have a lot to offer, and being closer to Africa you could really enjoy the outdoor lifestyle.
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Old Nov 8, 19, 12:40 pm
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I would recommend going in the opposite direction and driving to San Sebastian, passing through Asturias (Huelva etc..), heading to Bilbao and what not. Gorgeous Atlantic ocean views, lush greenery, and probably some of the best food (seafood in particular) anywhere in Spain. Depending on how long you are in Spain for you might even get to enjoy the Tamborrada in San Sebastian....
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Old Nov 8, 19, 2:19 pm
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Sidecar Tour recommended

We (2) visited Barcelona last October - 3 days prior to a transatlantic cruise.
The highlight of our visit was a motorcycle/sidecar tour (https://brightsidetours.com/tours/ha...ona-city-tour/). Half a day was long enough to see the highlights & our English-speaking guide was excellent! No need to go inside Sagrade Familia - still under const'n after my last visit 30 years ago! Now that Franco's remains have been removed, it might be interesting to try and see the family crypt?
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Old Nov 8, 19, 7:09 pm
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Originally Posted by Antonio8069 View Post
No need to go inside Sagrade Familia
I'll just simply say that if you haven't been inside La Sagrada Familia recently, it has so dramatically changed with the recent (almost complete, hah!) installation of the stained glass windows. On a sunny day, it's stunning.
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Old Nov 10, 19, 5:51 am
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Originally Posted by ukinny2000 View Post
I would recommend going in the opposite direction and driving to San Sebastian, passing through Asturias (Huelva etc..), heading to Bilbao and what not. Gorgeous Atlantic ocean views, lush greenery, and probably some of the best food (seafood in particular) anywhere in Spain. Depending on how long you are in Spain for you might even get to enjoy the Tamborrada in San Sebastian....
Normally yes... NOT January... (unless you enjoy rain)
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Old Nov 10, 19, 12:52 pm
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Originally Posted by HalconBCN View Post
OP - just keep in mind the weather in January. I know you said you are used to bad weather but still - people think of Spain and sunshine comes to mind...

Madrid can be cold in January, even snowy. Barcelona has better weather but it's unpredicable - you could be having lunch in the sunshine one day and buttoning up your coat the day after under overcast skies. The Sagrada Familia looks a lot more beautiful on a sunny day.
I'm under no illusions about the weather -- the last time I was in Madrid and Barcelona was in December. Personally I find it easier to walk more when it's cool, so I think we'll be OK. Just crossing our fingers that we won't get too much rain -- that's the only thing that would really put a damper on for us.

Originally Posted by HalconBCN View Post
Valencia and Alicante are safe choices from a weather perspective. Alicante is also a good base for exploring some lesser known towns.

In Andalucia, I would go for Seville, Malaga and Cadiz is a really underrated town, easy to get to by car, with a rich local culture and great food.
We've cut down our ambitions a bit -- for various reasons we're likely to find ourselves back near Barcelona in the next couple of years, so we are just making a brief stop there and then taking the train to Seville. Saving Valencia for that next trip as well.

We are trying now to balance what all we want to do in Andalucia -- I think we will have seven nights there in total before heading to Madrid. Still working on figuring out how to divide up that time, although we both think Cadiz sounds really lovely. The hardest decision has been trying to decide whether to spend a few days in Granada, stop there for a quick trip to the Alhambra, or save it for another trip entirely.

Originally Posted by BeachRat View Post
I'll just simply say that if you haven't been inside La Sagrada Familia recently, it has so dramatically changed with the recent (almost complete, hah!) installation of the stained glass windows. On a sunny day, it's stunning.
Crossing our fingers that we get one! I was last there about ten years ago, and my partner has never seen it.
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