Good town to visit in Spain in the summer with young kids?
July 19, 2014 2:24 PM   Subscribe

What's a good town or smallish city in Spain to visit in the summer with kids (ages 2 and 5) in tow? We're looking at 3 weeks in late July/August, and would prefer a walkable place that's on a train line (or are they all?) so we wouldn't have to rent a car to explore locally or beyond.

Bonus points: not crazy expensive, crowded or chaotic; fun stuff for the kids/family to do (so maybe on the coast or in the mountains?); and a good overall cultural vibe for a foreign family that doesn't speak much Spanish but would love an immersive experience anyway.
posted by gottabefunky to Travel & Transportation around Spain (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
During late July/early August anything on the southern coast will be crowded, expensive, and chaotic. Up north will be very slightly less so. Bilbao has really fantastic weather in the summer, for example.

Really tho if someone said to me right now "get your passport we're getting on a plane right now" I would go without hesitation so long as the destination was Andalucia. But anything on the coast will be hectic and anything in the interior will be hot as fucking hell. Alas.
posted by elizardbits at 3:23 PM on July 19, 2014

I loved Valencia in the winter and thought it might be a good place to take kids, but perhaps summer is different.

Are you aware that most Europeans have vacations in August? Huge swathes of stuff close in August b/c people are travelling. What's open is primarily for tourists and there are tourists everywhere.
posted by sockanalia at 4:17 PM on July 19, 2014 [1 favorite]

How about Cádiz? Beautiful and nicely Andalusian, fairly hot in the summer but not suffocating thanks to the proximity of the sea, decent beaches and not hypertouristy as far as I recall. The old town is really lovely, and it's the ideal size to walk around everywhere.

Did I mention the food? The food is amazing, particularly if you like seafood. Andalusia is one of the few places left in Spain where you can still expect to get a free tapa with your drink, too.

Bonus points if you hit Gibraltar at some point, just for the mindfuck of hearing BBC English spoken in what looks, for all effects and purposes, like a small Andalusian town.
posted by doctorpiorno at 4:24 PM on July 19, 2014

Hondarribia! We went for a wedding in August of 2010. It's a great little town with delicious food on the water. Plenty of English speakers but still "authentic." It will be nicely warm but not oppressive.
posted by melissasaurus at 5:11 PM on July 19, 2014

Pamplona might be a good choice. It's a small, compact city with lots of nice historical architecture, assortment of museums, etc., at the foothills of the Pyrenees, an hour's drive from the beach at San Sebastian (water temperatures a few degrees cooler than temps on the Mediterranean coast but still swimmable and much milder air temperatures), and surrounded by tons of great natural parks. The running of the bulls is in early July so all that craziness should be cleared out.

There are local, regional, and national public transportation options, but personally I'd recommend reconsidering the car rental thing. If you're not going to hop from big city to big city, one of the joys of Spain is getting out in the countryside and visiting the natural parks and small towns. While it may be theoretically feasible to do that on trains and buses, you may spend a lot of your time waiting for infrequently scheduled regional routes and I can't image that to be a whole lot of fun with small kids.
posted by drlith at 5:41 PM on July 19, 2014

We just went to Seville and it was great, but it will be boiling hot and touristy in August. It's very walkable and you can take trains to other nearby towns like the already-mentioned Cadiz, where you can go to the beach (it's only about a 75-minute train ride from Seville to Cadiz). Seville is much larger than Cadiz and there's so much more to see there. The food is great, too. (However if you want to be at the beach, and you just might, then Cadiz might just be the right place).

also, as suggested, consider Valencia (I haven't been).
posted by DMelanogaster at 7:59 PM on July 19, 2014

Elizardbits and melissasaurus have the right idea - you want to go to the north. All the costal areas of Spain are crowded in the summer, but the north is less so, with a higher proportion of natives to tourists, and with better weather to boot (i.e. cooler and not relentlessly, oppressively sunny, but ymmv). I think you should definitely check out Comillas, in Cantabria. It's small and beautiful, and it's on the coast but very close (an hour, maybe?) to the fantastic Picos de Europa national park.
posted by lollymccatburglar at 10:47 PM on July 19, 2014

The biggest problem is that regional commuter trains ("Cercanías") tend to cluster around the big cities. I'd almost recommend you to stay in Madrid so you can hop to Toledo, Segovia (you can't miss the Alcázar), Ávila, Alcalá de Henares or Salamanca with a short-ish train trip, or even take the high-speed train to Sevilla. Besides, you have lots of kid-friendly stuff to do.

Cons: it can be moderately hot in July-August, and there is pretty much nobody on August and Sundays except in the touristiest places. But towns like Ávila or Segovia are cooler.

Barcelona is similarly fun, but there aren't as many interesting places nearby unless you hire a car and go exploring around. But both Madrid and Barcelona have excellent public transportation, so you wouldn't need a car to get around inside the city.

My other recommendation would be to go to some small town in the seaside in Girona (northern Catalonia), Galicia or the northernmost part of the country from Galicia to the Basque Country, because the weather is milder and it's not as overpopulated. Cons: you might need to hire a car to go to other places.
posted by sukeban at 3:27 AM on July 20, 2014

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