“This is the dream of all the world. The dream is to live in Granada. You know, work in the morning, have a one-hour nap in the afternoon, and at night go out and have that life. Go out and see your friends and eat tapas and drink red wine and be in a beautiful place.”
— from Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown (Spain)
Our itinerary took place over 16 days if you include flying time. We flew out of San Francisco on the 17th of December (yes, December is a fabulous time to visit Spain when the rest of Europe is snowed in and unbearable) and flew back on the 1st of January. If you need a detailed version of the map, including zooming in to every city, alleyway, plaza, restaurant, monument – please contact us and we will send you a .kml that you can open in Google Maps.
Days 1-3: We flew into sunny and crisp Madrid on the afternoon of the 18th, and had a 3 night stay at Apartosuites Jardines de Sabatini – a small but very modern hotel stone’s throw from the Palacio Real. In fact, the hotel had a terrace view of the Palace and the surrounding gardens and majestic buildings which was absolutely fabulous. It was walking distance to Plaza Mayor and Puerta del Sol, and even with a 6 year old, we could easily make that trip twice a day. Over the next 2.5 days, we explored Madrid in our jet lagged state of mind.
Day 4: Checking out on the 21st, we drove north to Penafiel for the morning, and explored Segovia on a foggy chilly evening before retiring to the smallest town we have ever stayed at, Anaya. The Solaz del Moros was an absolutely charming villa in the middle of a disappearing 135-person town. Very safe, idyllic, and an experience that we will never forget.
Day 5: The following day, 22nd, was spent driving down to and exploring Toledo – the erstwhile capital of Madrid, and the most fascinating old town view I have ever come across in my years of traveling. It is a MUST that you stay at the Parador de Toledo, a government owned hotel that is beautiful, well managed, luxurious, relatively inexpensive and has one of the best views that you will ever come across in your lifetime.
Day 6: For the next 5 days, we were in a different world altogether – Andalusia. On the 23rd, we drove down to Cordoba and that evening and the following morning were spent exploring the Church-Mosque (Mezquita), the Alcazar and the Roman Bridge. We stayed at the literally royal Las Casa de la Juderia, where the King and Queen of Spain had come down to stay as well.
Day 7-8: For the next two nights, we parked ourselves at Barcelo Sevilla Renacimiento, an extremely modern hotel with plentiful hotel rooms in the somewhat modern part of town. We had a car with us and wanted free parking so this was perfect. Plus, driving into the center of Seville was clean and simple. If you are walking or taking public transportation, this hotel’s location is definitely not for you. Using this hotel as our base, we explored the sights and sounds of Seville and also took a full day driving through the white Andalusian villages – Pueblo Blancos – from Arcos de la Frontera to Olvera. Seville and the white villages take up quite some time and I wish we had stayed there longer.
Day 9: We checked out of Seville on the 26th and drove east towards Osuna at night. Osuna was another fabulous surprise, without hotel, Palacio Marques de la Gomera, being the biggest baddest palatial hotel in town with a very interesting background related to HBO’s Game of Thrones. Read the eBook for the juicy details.
Day 10: The 27th was spent driving down to Granada and exploring the Alhambra, and the evening spent at Mirador San Nicolas in El Albaicin at my second most favorite spot in all of Europe. We retired for the night at a somewhat removed Hotel Granada Palace in Monachil – getting lost a couple of times along the way in the night because of some construction.
Day 11: The next day was spent driving up the Spanish coast (Costa del Sol) towards Valencia for an overnight stay – we didn’t have much time for sightseeing here – on our way to our final stop, Barcelona. Along the way, we did stop at Guadix to see the unique cave dwellers that live in the porous mountains surrounding the city. Valencia was an uneventful yet pleasant stay in the modern part of town at the TRYP Valencia Oceanic Hotel – a hotel similar to the Holiday Inns in the United States.
Day 12-14: For the next three nights, the 29th – 31st nights, we explored Barcelona from our central vantage point in Las Ramblas, the Royal Ramblas Hotel – probably the most expensive hatel on the trip, and yet somewhat forgettable. Clean, modern and centrally located but nothing great otherwise. 3 days in Barcelona before flying out on the 1st of January back to San Francisco.