Trip to Spain/Portugal
June 1, 2009 1:35 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a trip to Portugal/Spain for late July/early August. Could use some tips/suggestions on locations/travel, etc...

I know that similar questions were asked previously, but I'm looking for some tips that are better suited for a 25 year old guy who will be traveling solo in all likelihood. I'd like to mix some culture, with good night life and beaches.

For some reason, I envision scenes from Sun Also Rises when I think of this vacation, so hopefully that paints a decent picture of the things I'd like to do.

I'd prefer to stay at mid to higher end hotels or hostels. I'm open to renting a car, traveling by bus, train or plane to get to different locations within Portugal and Spain. I have a working knowledge of Spanish (if that).

Any help/guidance appreciated.
posted by arm426 to Travel & Transportation around Spain (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
How long of a trip?
posted by smackfu at 1:43 PM on June 1, 2009

Wow, I am also 25 & traveling through Spain in mid July, and have been planning my trip for the last few weeks. Some musts on my itinerary so far:
- AVE high speed trains (esp in light of recent domestic developments)
- Alhambra, of course
- Cycling tour, maybe through this company
- Arabic Baths in Seville or Granada
- Watch Flamenco dancing, hopefully even take a lesson

You'll miss the Running of the Bulls in Pamplona (I am sad that I am missing it as well), but maybe you can catch one at another city in Spain, as they apparently happen all summer.

As you're a solo traveler, I'd also encourage you to find some people to hang out with via the very awesome community at Even if you don't want to stay with people, you can always email around to see if anyone would be willing to be your local tour guide (or sizzling Flamenco partner, if you're lucky!). I've used it a few times both abroad and to tour out-of-towners around my beloved NYC, and have always had great fun.
posted by gushn at 1:49 PM on June 1, 2009

Spanish and Portuguese have some big differences, although you'll be able to get by with your Spanish. I recommend staying at the Hotel Eden in Lisbon - it was charming and had the most amazing view of the city and castle from its roof. Also, visiting Sintra is a must if you're there. I also made a side trip to Cascais while I was there 2 years ago, but what was once probably charming, is now very touristy and unoriginal. I'm sure the southern part of the country has better places to spend some beach time. I relied on Rick Steve's guide while I was there and it was invaluable.
posted by Unred at 1:53 PM on June 1, 2009

Spend a night in Toledo.
The Alhambra is a must see.
Spend in a night in the Gothic quarter of Barcelona.
posted by Flood at 1:57 PM on June 1, 2009

I take back my hotel suggestion. If I was a 25 year old guy I'd find a place in the Barrio to stay.
posted by Unred at 2:03 PM on June 1, 2009

Response by poster: I'll be there for a week give or take a couple of days.
posted by arm426 at 6:02 PM on June 1, 2009

Spain is a big country as far as European countries go, and travel across it is made harder by its mountainous terrain. I'm not certain you could see everything you want to see in the span of a week, and that's before you even consider working Portugal into the mix...keep in mind Lisbon alone is a ways away from the main tourist circuits in Spain, and to get there and back would cost you at least a couple days or night of travel.

Mind you, I don't have a lot of experience travelling through the area, but I have some, and I know the place well. You'll want to plan ahead - a vacation where you're scrambling to hop on trains/buses only to be stuck on seven-hour trips, giving you next to no time to sightsee or enjoy yourself will be a waste of time and energy. You have to be strategic.

I think Spain can be broken down into certain "zones", with the main tourist spots grouped as follows:

- Madrid, Toledo
- Barcelona, Valencia
- Cordoba, Seville, Granada
- The North (Bilbao, San Sebastian, Valencia, etc.)

Of course I have omitted large swaths of Spain, but these are the main zones you could aim for and hit. I think seven days is not enough to see them all, at least not without a whole lot of stress. Flip through a travel guide, find which places you'd like to see the most, and make an itinerary. And if you want to include Portugal, you'll have to plan things a lot tighter.
posted by hiteleven at 7:46 PM on June 1, 2009

Sorry, that reference to Valencia in the North region should read Pamplona, where they run the bulls.
posted by hiteleven at 7:47 PM on June 1, 2009

What is your travel experience and preferred pace of travel? That makes a huge difference. For me, a little over a week for traveling would mean 3-4 cities, absolute tops.

If you haven't already bought the plane tickets, you might consider getting two one-way tickets rather than a roundtrip. That way you can avoid spending a lot of time making your way back to your startpoint, especially if you are planning to hit both Portugal and Spain. hiteleven's advice of choosing a region seems right on the mark to me.

I imagine the Spain of today is very different than what's described in The Sun Also Rises. In any case, this article on Pamplona might be of interest to you or this blog entry on reading Hemingway while traveling in Spain.
posted by Deathalicious at 8:44 PM on June 1, 2009

I live in Madrid and August is not a good time to come here. A lot of the city shuts down for the month and the local population flees. It's also insufferably hot and dry.

Great city though, just wouldn't recommend visiting in August.
posted by slimepuppy at 6:52 AM on June 2, 2009

I visited Madrid/Toledo last year for a week in April. I spent a full day just walking around Toledo on my own and absolutely loved the experience and the Alhambra was closed. So if you're in the region, go to Toledo. Given what slimepuppy said, Madrid may be worth skipping, although I fell in love with the museums there.
posted by Hactar at 6:53 PM on June 2, 2009

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