Where do we go on our honeymoon in Spain?
February 27, 2013 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Help me choose three places in Spain to go for our honeymoon.

My fiancee and I are planning a honeymoon in Spain in June, we've been talking about trying to visit three cities/places while we're there. I'd like to try something different here and ask people to suggest three places as one unit (so for example, something like "Philadelphia - Amish Country - Pittsburgh" if this question were about visiting Pennsylvania).

If you only had three places to visit on one trip, where would you go?

Some information (none of which is set in stone):
-We're planning for two weeks total but it's flexible.
-We'd ideally like a mix of beach time and culture time, preferably with beach being the first leg to relax after wedding stress.
-Leaning towards Madrid as the 2nd or 3rd leg due to a great hotel deal we can get through her brother.
-We're not super adventurous people, but do enjoy food, history, culture, art, nature, etc.
-Suggestions on best way to travel between places would be helpful (I can drive stick if necessary)

After suggesting three places, feel free to challenge any and all assumptions. If you want to include a 4th place, think we should skip Madrid, or think we shouldn't even go to Spain at all, that's totally fine. The more information the better.

Thank you so much!
posted by cali59 to Travel & Transportation around Spain (19 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
I can speak to two places that I thought were amazing.

Palma de majorca.

We toured the cathedral, then we went into the hills into a small community where we walked around and looked at centuries old houses. Amazing.

Barcelona. Gaudi. Need I say more? Actually there are a bazillion things to see and do in Barcelona.

Both places are beautiful, and on the ocean, so if there are days where you just want to hang out on the beach you can. But both have plenty to see and do.

I'd love to see other parts of Spain, but I was in love with both of these places!

You could start in Ibiza. I've never been, but I understand the beach is great! Great for decompression and getting accustomed to the area.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2013

Personally, I'd do Cordoba, Madrid, and Barcelona.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 2:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Barcelona (as mentioned, Gaudí). Madrid (the Prado is excellent, and the Reina Sofía is also quite good). Granada.

Seriously, though, Granada, because the Alhambra is one of the most beautiful, amazing places ever and everyone should see it at least once. I've been to Spain twice, and if I had to pick three, those are the ones I would do in a heartbeat.
posted by pitrified at 2:41 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Madrid was absolutely amazing when we were there - you could easily spend a week lost in the three big art museums there if you wanted to. Also, if you like food you will like Madrid. I'm fairly certain we spent the majority of our time there in various bars and restaurants. When you're there, go to this sherry bar. Seriously. This is the only photo I could get of the inside, they don't allow cameras. It's worth it. Go there. Several times.

One suggestion - you may enjoy staying in a parador, which means YOU GET TO STAY OVER IN A CASTLE. They are not cheap, but for a night or two as part of a honeymoon it would be an excellent "decompression" stay. Most are luxury accommodations, many have extra features like spas and whatnot. We stayed in the one in Siguenza for a night, which was a real treat (and an awesome breakfast - champagne and red wine with a gourmet buffet? Why not?).
posted by backseatpilot at 2:55 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cordoba, Granada, Seville. I did these three with Madrid and Barcelona on either end. While the two big cities were cool, but it still would have been a great trip without them. Madrid is far from the beaches, but the high speed trains make short work of the distance.
posted by soelo at 3:05 PM on February 27, 2013 [2 favorites]

Barcelona is utterly wonderful (and you could do both beach stuff and culture stuff there). Granada (and, specifically, the Alhambra) is high on my list of Great Places I must See Before I Die), so even though I've never been there, I'll nth that. Madrid has its charms, to be sure, but really the single greatest reason to go there is the Prado. For me, that's enough reason to go there for weeks; I could happily go back to the Prado day after day after day for almost any imaginable amount of time. If you're that way about great historical collections of Western art too, then yes, Madrid is a must. If you're not, though, you might consider skipping Madrid. Outside of the Prado (and, to a lesser extent, the Reina Sofia) it's not the greatest city in the world. It has its charms, to be sure, but it's not the endless parade of charms and marvels that, say, Barcelona is.

Cordoba, Seville and Granada are all pretty close together. You could do a lot worse than spend one week exploring two or three of those (with the Alhambra a must) and then one week in Barcelona.
posted by yoink at 3:14 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

We did a two-week trip through Spain in June of 2011 for our honeymoon, and I think your time frame and limit of three places to visit should work quite well. We went all over the place (stayed at least one night in Alcala de Henares, Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia, Granada, Jerez, Sevilla and Cordoba) and it got a bit hectic, which was OK, but we didn't really have time to unwind. If you want to hit the big stuff, you're probably looking at Madrid and Barcelona for two of your stops. The third can depend on what you want to do. We drove all over, but could have easily done our trip via train. Once you get to a city, you probably won't want to drive too much around town unless you're using it as a base to explore other areas outside that town. Maybe take the train between your three bases and then rent a car for a day if you want to explore? Note that most hotels will charge for parking, which was around 18 Euros a night when I was there. Otherwise, most hotels we stayed at were really nice and pretty cheap by US standards - $100 for a 4-star place most of the time, a bit more expensive in Madrid and Barcelona.

We'd ideally like a mix of beach time and culture time, preferably with beach being the first leg to relax after wedding stress.

I think Madrid is the big international airport, but Madrid is obviously nowhere near a beach. Barcelona has a beach, so you could use that as an excuse to head straight there from Madrid, or get a flight into Barcelona, which might not be as common as flights to Madrid, but shouldn't be a problem.

So, maybe Barcelona is your first stop, then Madrid. Both those cities offer a pretty metropolitan experience, with Barcelona being a bit more modern, and Madrid being a bit more of a historical cultural center. For the third, I think I'd do something in the south, where the sights tend more towards the historical. If the one-day car rental thing sounds OK, this might be the area to do it - use Cordoba as a home base and take short day trips to other nearby cities like Granada or Sevilla, or exploring little "white towns" up in the mountains. There's not a whole lot of touristy stuff to do in Cordoba itself beyond the Mosque and exploring the old quarter, but it's a really beautiful town and nice to just hang out it. I really enjoyed Granada as well, but it's sort of on the eastern side of major sites in Andalucia.
posted by LionIndex at 3:19 PM on February 27, 2013

Galicia. So few people go, and Santiago de Compostela, Pontevedra and others are such wonderful cities to visit. Freshest seafood, welcoming culture, good (traditional) fashion, beautiful buildings, stone cities, sailing, good hiking, waterfalls.
posted by cior at 3:31 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, and wonderfully cheap compared to the rest of Spain.
posted by cior at 3:37 PM on February 27, 2013

For a first time visit of two weeks I would drop it to two and do BCN or Madrid and then Andalucia - which is all of the towns mentioned by others- Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, Ronda, the White Towns.

Or I'd suggest Madrid, Rioja, Pays Vascos.

But what I personally would do is Madrid, Asturias, Galicia.

Don't view BCN as your beach destination. But you could go to Cadaques or something like that paired with BCN.
posted by JPD at 3:40 PM on February 27, 2013

If you go to Madrid, go see the museums near Atocha. The Caixa Forum, the Reina Sofía, and the Prado are all worth more than the money. (Admittedly, the Caixa Forum is free, if I remember right.)
posted by Rustic Etruscan at 4:19 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you go to Madrid, go see the museums near Atocha. The Caixa Forum, the Reina Sofía, and the Prado are all worth more than the money. (Admittedly, the Caixa Forum is free, if I remember right.)

There's also the Thyssen, which we missed on our trip, but is pretty famous. I think the Reina Sofia was actually free for us when we went. Both the Sofia and the Prado have some monumental works - Guernica is at the Sofia, along with a lot of other modern Spanish painters. The Prado's collection has a lot of work by Spaniards, with some from other countries, and is world-class. All those crazy Bosch works are there, as are pretty much every major work by Velazquez and Goya.
posted by LionIndex at 4:32 PM on February 27, 2013 [1 favorite]

Cordoba is extraordinary and is just a day trip from Seville (and doesn't warrant more than a day), so you can easily combine those into "one" spot.

I made a point of making my way to the Alhambra when I toured S. Spain and was disappointed. YMMV.

Barcelona is amazing and can take as much time and attention as you can give it.

The beaches of southern Spain - Marbella etc - are reputed to be sleazy. I will leave it to MeFi'ers who have been there to comment as to whether this reputation is deserved.

Madrid is interesting for the museums. If you like art, don't miss it.

My top 3: Barcelona; Seville/Cordoba; Madrid.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:02 PM on February 27, 2013

We went to Spain a few years ago, and this is what we did:

Flew into Madrid, overnight 1 night. (We had both been to Madrid previously, didn't feel the need to spend a lot of time there again.)

AVE to Cordoba, day trip in Cordoba then continued to Seville for 3 nights. Then we rented a car, drove to Granada, 2 nights there. The Alhambra is extraordinary, and also make sure to check the Gardens of the Generalife which add a whole additional layer to the experience. Then we spent a couple of days driving around the White Hill Towns (Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera, Zahara, etc.) After that we went to visit very dear friends living in Extremadura and then ended up in Lisbon, and spent three nights in Lisbon. We then flew home from Lisbon. Definitely consider Lisbon- it's got a lot to offer.

We loved, loved, loved this trip, just about every minute of it, except for when our 18 month old came down with a tummy bug and we learned that high speed rail allows your toddler to puke on you in three different cities all in one day. My top three: Seville, Granada, Lisbon.

I heartily second staying in a Parador- a really special experience, and since this is a honeymoon you should definitely stay a night or two in a place with real character.
posted by ambrosia at 6:25 PM on February 27, 2013

Background: married to a Spaniard, lived in Madrid for years and have traveled extensively throughout Spain.

I third going to a Parador. Not all of them are castles, but they are all luxurious. The parador restaurants all feature local foods as well. Even if you can't afford to stay every night in one, it is possible to just go to the bar, order a drink and some tapas and get a feel for the place.

I lived in Madrid and love Madrid and it is a great place to view art (as others have said) and also for shopping (everything in Spain is expensive, though). For cheap shopping, I am fond of the Sunday flea market in Madrid, El Rastro. Madrid is also near Toledo, which is definitely worth seeing (but buy damascene in Madrid not Toledo) and not far from Segovia, which has the magnificent Alcazar and the three-tiered aqueduct. Another day trip from Madrid is Aranjuez, famous for strawberries, has the old summer palace and an interesting boat musuem. A longer trip from Madrid, but still worthwhile, is Avila, a medieval walled city.

The most magical place I have ever visited in Spain is Santiago de Compostela, as recommended above. I have stayed in the parador there (a former palace, not a castle, but very nice). Galicia has a quite different feel that the rest of Spain - green, lots of trees, men in kilts, with bagpipes! and ffordes.

You are pretty much going to have to fly into either Madrid or Barcelona so I'd make one of those cities the starting point. And me, I'd make the other the ending point, so it's just choosing where to go in between.

Barcelona is gorgeous; prettier than Madrid. I find the beaches there so-so. If I was going to Spain for beaches, I recommend the ones on the southern coast. Personally, I am not all that crazy about any Spanish beaches so take that with my proviso.

As I said, I think Santiago de Compostela is magical but my other recommendation is, as others above have recommended, Andalusia. I think Grenada is special and I love love love Cordoba. I think Ronda is worth a visit and I find Gibraltar fun for a day trip.

You could easily spend the whole two weeks in Madrid, with some of the side trips I listed above.
posted by daneflute at 7:23 PM on February 27, 2013

I saw Granada, Cordoba, and Ronda when I went to Spain several years ago, and they were great. Haven't seen the rest of the country, but you would not be disappointed at all. I wish we had been able to go to Seville, but we didn't have time and it was a bit far from our base in Almeria, where we were visiting family.

One thing that I liked in Granada--and this is very likely an option in the other cities--was buying a day pass on a hop-on, hop-off bus tour by Viator. Basically, the bus made the rounds once an hour, and you could get on and get off at any site. There may be better/cheaper options, but it was an easy, efficient way to hit the sights you wanted to see if you didn't want to deal with cabs/public transit. (Of course, taking cabs and transit are a great way to get to know a country too--but I was only there for a couple days and really wanted to see all the things.)

We rented a car and drove from city to city. I would only recommend this if you are comfortable driving (and parking) a stick shift on hills, especially in the smaller towns--which we were decidedly not. Hilariously, at one point we got stuck and had to ask some guy on the street (who, it turned out, didn't know how to drive, but he was happy to oblige us anyway) to back us out of a tight spot. Another time we took out a taillight rolling backwards into a police officer's house. Fun times.
posted by elizeh at 7:39 PM on February 27, 2013

Don't view BCN as your beach destination. But you could go to Cadaques or something like that paired with BCN.

Agreed, and also Cadaques has Dali's house, which is definitely worth a visit, and you could hit the Dali Museum in Figueres as well. If you like Dali at all, it's worth seeing.

I've only spent time in the Barcelona area and Madrid, I'd recommend them both but don't have much to add to what everyone else has said. Madrid is better for art, but Barcelona is a more interesting city IMO, especially with all the Gaudi architecture.
posted by Infinite Jest at 12:01 PM on February 28, 2013

Basque Country: San Sebastián - Getaria - Bilbao

San Sebastián and Getaria have beaches, San Sebastián and Bilbao have culture. Amazing food in all three places. You can travel easily between them by train and bus.
posted by janecr at 4:07 PM on February 28, 2013

Ibiza is a party island. Especially a singles party island. The beach might be good, but not a place to chill out after the wedding.

Barcelona is a must see ~ the Catalan culture is decidedly a different and special; los ramblas and the Gaudi buildings you shall bever see elsewhere.

The regions in the north west are really worthwhile considering as others have mentioned - Santiago de Compestela, and through Galacia and Asturias will give you another different view of Spain. San Sebastian is a fabulous town, and the Guggenheim in Bilboa well worth a visit if you're into that thing (I am).

To round out a third, head south as suggested. Take your pick from whether you feel like city or country. Beware that a lot of places further south are a little Britain of ex-pat communities and not a great place to hang around for a holiday.

I've always driven in Europe, but then you must understand that driving in towns is not like the US, and parking is often extremely difficult. You shall have a manual town (stick shift). There will be impatient drivers. Trains are pretty good, and quite a bit of fun if you don't load yourself with luggage.
posted by Flashduck at 2:05 AM on March 2, 2013

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