When planning your Spanish vacation you need to work out how long to spend in each city. There are few things more frustrating than trying to kill days in a city that you've already 'done' just because you've got accommodation booked there when you'd rather move on.
How Long You Should Stay vs How Long You Actually Have
The answer to the question depends largely on how long you actually have. On the one hand, you could spend a week in Barcelona. On the other hand, if you only have a week in Spain but really want to visit both Barcelona and Madrid, then the suggestion 'stay a week in Barcelona' isn't what you want to hear.
Bearing that in mind, this page tries to answer the following questions:
- How long you should ideally stay in a city?
- Which pairs or groups of cities you could visit in a week or five days or a weekend break?
- What can you do in the principle cities in a shorter period of time?
Every major city in Spain has a number of smaller towns and villages around it that you should also visit. The number of days listed below takes into account the number of days you need to enjoy the city itself, plus a couple of the day trips.
What to Do With a Month in Spain
With a whole month in the country, I wouldn't recommend staying in one city the entire time unless you plan on Learning Spanish.
It would be impossible to list all of the permutations of how you could spend a month in Spain, but I would suggest roughly breaking down your time like this:
- A week to ten days in Andalusia (spending the majority of your time in Seville and Granada, with short stops in Cordoba, Ronda, Jerez, and Cadiz.
- A week in Madrid, with day trips to Toledo, Segovia, and other destinations nearby.
- Up to a week in Barcelona, with day trips to Montserrat and the Dali Museum in Figueres.
- A week in northern Spain, splitting your time between the Basque Country and Galicia with one night in Oviedo.
This, of course, involves a lot of travel time, so you might want to cut out one of the northern Spain sections and spend more time elsewhere. Consider taking the high-speed AVE train to dramatically shorten some travel times.
Ten Days to Two Weeks
Visit two regions of Spain—a week in each—when you have two weeks in the country. Common combinations are:
- Madrid and Barcelona Split your two weeks equally between the two cities. Read more about Madrid and Barcelona Suggested Itineraries.
- Madrid and Andalusia The high-speed train from Seville, Cordoba, and Malaga means you don't lose a day traveling.
- Madrid and the Basque Country Make a stop in the Rioja wine region on the way.
- Madrid and Galicia Making stops in Leon, Oviedo and perhaps Salamanca on the way. Read more about these itineraries here: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Madrid
- Barcelona and the Basque Country Stop in Rioja on the way.
- Barcelona and Andalusia Consider flying to make this possible. Details of these itineraries can be found here: How to Plan the Perfect Trip to Barcelona
Five Days to a Week
We are finally in single-city territory. Ideally, one would spend a week in Madrid or Barcelona, particularly if you include day trips.
Seville is another city you could visit for a week, but you definitely should take day trips if this is the case (to Jerez, Cadiz, and Cordoba).
Barcelona in Seven Days
You could spend at least a week in the Catalan capital just taking in the sights the city has to offer and then a second week seeing the countryside and towns around Barcelona. However, as so many of Barcelona's most impressive sights are best viewed from the outside, you could see the city as a day trip (for example, from Madrid or Perpignan)
Madrid in Seven Days
Madrid needs more time than Barcelona, as it is more of a 'slow burner'—its sights are less obvious. But I find most people like Madrid more the longer they stay. As a tour guide once said to me, nowhere in Europe has as many fantastic day trips within a 100km radius as the Spanish capital.
Seville in Seven Days
Everything traditionally associated with Spain—tapas, flamenco, and bullfighting—is at its best in Seville.
Bilbao and San Sebastian
Stay in San Sebastian and take a day trip to Bilbao or vice versa.
- Must-See Sight: The Guggenheim museum in Bilbao and the tapas in San Sebastian.
- Best Day Trip: The other city!
- How to Plan the Perfect Trip to the Basque Country
How to Spend A Weekend Break in Spain (Three or Four Days)
Some weekend break suggestions, some famous, some less so.
- Santiago de Compostela is the most beautiful city in north-west Spain. More: Santiago de Compostela
- Valencia Spain's third biggest city is the home of paella.
- Leon and Oviedo Stay in Oviedo and visit Leon for a lunch of free tapas.
- Cadiz and Jerez Fried fish in Cadiz and sherry in the city where it was invented!
- Granada The home to the Alhambra is also where you'll find the best free tapas in the country. Guide to Visiting Granada
A Weekend Break in Spain's Most Popular Cities
Though the cities listed below deserve more than a weekend break, they certainly can be appreciated in a shorter trip. Walking tours and hop-on-hop-off tour buses are a great way to get the most out a shorter trip. If you want to go on a day trip (or, better still on such a short stay, a half-day tour), take a guided tour.
Spend Two Days in These Cities
Most of these could be seen in a single hectic day or a more leisurely two.
- Cadiz and Jerez Stay the night in Jerez so you can drink lots of sherry and not worry about traveling home.
- Oviedo An afternoon or evening in Leon for its free tapas is adding a day for.
- Merida Once you've seen the Roman ruins, spend an afternoon in the UNESCO-protected old town of Caceres
- Valencia Spain's third biggest city doesn't have a huge amount to do, so a couple of days would be enough.
- Segovia and Avila Segovia is usually visited as a day trip, but I think it's worth more. Spend half a day in Avila en route to Segovia.
- Toledo Also usually seen as a day trip, but I recommend staying for longer, especially for a day in Consuegra.
Good as a Day Trip
Some of these cities could be visited in half a day, en route from one city to another.