Southern Spain in January
October 5, 2017 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Thanks to your input, Ireland is out, and although Italy was a close contender (when you ask a Florentine where to go for vacation, you should not be surprised at the answer, nor the fact that they know of a great agroturismo to recommend) we have opted for Southern Spain. So, questions for the more Spain-experienced among you...

I'm trying to figure out whether to fly into Madrid or direct to Malaga. Any thoughts? My flights are slightly complicated by my hope to fly out of my local tiny airport as opposed to the bigger one an hour away, but it's still definitely an option.

What would be the best cities for a basecamp? Does Malaga make the most sense, with day trips out of it? Are there smaller places where you had a great apartment and had a good time blending into the neighborhood?

I'm most interested in seeing Cordoba, Granada, Seville, but I'm also hoping for quiet places to just walk around amid pretty buildings, sit for a while, people watch, shop, eat - this is supposed to be a peaceful trip. I'll require a few museum/Alhambra visits, but that's not the goal. I'll likely be looking for Airbnbs but would happily take recommendations for other options.
posted by PussKillian to Travel & Transportation around Spain (10 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Check out the Albaycin and Jardines de Triunfo in Granada--really lovely, calm places to walk around especially in the mid afternoon when most locals are taking the siesta.
posted by capricorn at 10:46 AM on October 5, 2017

Mrs. Dr. Wu and I took our "babymoon" to Málaga, and enjoyed it. I would not call it an exciting city, though. It seemed to us ... normal. Like taking a trip to Indianapolis. Nice beaches, decent restaurants, and a generally low-key vibe, but not a super vacation place.

We preferred our weekend in Granada (which is easily accessible via a 90-minute-ish bus ride from Málaga). Granada had the Alhambra, which was of course the highlight. It's incredible. Set aside a full day. And you MUST book tickets in advance! Otherwise you will not be able to visit. On the whole, Granada seemed livelier, more cosmopolitan, and cleaner. We also had our best meals of the trip there. In retrospect, we would have made Granada our basecamp, and visited Málaga for maybe three days.

We were unable to fly directly into Málaga. Had to connect via Madrid, even arriving via a major airline from NYC.
posted by Dr. Wu at 10:48 AM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

I quite like Madrid. If you can swing an overnight or two there, it may be worth your time, particularly if you like art, because the Prado and Reina Sofia are really excellent. Even if you only saw either the Guernica or the Garden of Earthly Delights it might be worth it. The train to Seville from Madrid is 2.5 hours.

I found Malaga to be pleasant but mostly a beachy tourist town catering particularly to British beachgoers. Seville is very charming - if you stay in the twisty old center (get a little away from the cathedral and more into the narrow streets), it is pretty charming and not too hectic (easy to get lost in, not necessarily in a bad way).

I liked Jerez for a small Andalucia town (the chief feature is sherry tasting). Look other pueblos blancos for other ideas.

In Seville, I like this particular flamenco show at the Casa de la Memoria a lot.

I thought Cordoba was kind of dull, but it's even less urban than Seville and Granada, so it might offer some enjoyable mellow wandering around.

Note that Granada in January will be cold, possibly with snow, since it's in the mountains. Madrid may also be quite cold. Seville and Cordoba will likely be pleasant.

(Caveat: some of my info [Malaga/Jerez] is ... really old so double check, some [Seville/Granada/Madrid] is less old).
posted by vunder at 11:11 AM on October 5, 2017

In January 2016 I stayed in Seville in January, and took day trips (by high speed train ) to Cordoba and Malaga, Seville-Granada is a bit far to do in a one-day-trip by train. I found Seville the place with the most things to see/do so was happy that it was our 'basecamp'. But missing Granada and the Alhambra was a shame, so I would suggest doing one or two days there at the start or finish of your trip. The train yourneys where enjoyable, so flying to Madrid if this is cheaper/more convenient is a good option.
posted by PaulZ at 11:25 AM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Seconding the recommendation to take the AVE high-speed train from Madrid to Cordoba - it's only 1h50m. Cordoba is charmingly sedate but it's definitely worth a stop for the Mezquita and the rest of the historic centre; Seville and Granada have more going on for sure.

(As an aside: Spend some time in Granada beyond just a day trip. The Alhambra/Generalife and nearby Albaicín was, for me, probably the most incredible set of buildings I've ever been in, and cannot be missed. And coming from southern California, it was like being in the Ur-version of our vernacular architecture!)
posted by mdonley at 11:28 AM on October 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Granada is also good to go to the Sacromonte neighborhood as well. I had some wicked good food there, and the cave museum is pretty cool.

Fly into Madrid (it's probably cheaper!), AVE to Córdoba, chill [NB, I LOVE Córdoba, it's probably my favorite Andalusian city, it's so chill - so many fun little shops! such great food! the Mesquita! Arabic baths!), then a bus or train to Granada for something more hip.
posted by chainsofreedom at 1:28 PM on October 5, 2017

We stayed in Seville - flew there from Madrid. We stayed in an Air BnB in a neighborhood that had been considered "questionable" but was really just our kind of thing. Quiet, cobblestone streets, lots of university students around.

I LOVED Seville. It's a great walking town, fantastic food. Our day trips were to Cadiz (the ocean! and, nearby, a tour of a sherry factory), Grenada, and a fantastic individual tour of some of the White Towns -- maybe this one. We were too tired to get to Cordoba and I really don't think we missed much (but who knows). After awhile, you get tired of tiles. However, that said, the Alcazar in Seville is amazingly beautiful.
posted by DMelanogaster at 1:35 PM on October 5, 2017 [1 favorite]

Last year, in November, we flew in and out of Madrid and took the train south to Andalusia. We spent four days walking between Pueblo Blancos (ending in Ronda which is worth a visit) before heading to Malaga and then taking the train back to Madrid. I wouldn't base yourselves in Malaga. It was fine, but it's a beach town where cruise ships stop. That doesn't sound like what you want.
posted by TORunner at 2:38 PM on October 5, 2017

A strong vote for Seville as a base!

But do spend a couple nights in Granada's Albaicin neighborhood and visit the Alhambra (the night visit is great--we did both).
posted by mkuhnell at 3:06 PM on October 5, 2017 [2 favorites]

Agree, Seville & sacromonte area of Granada! The tiny bus ( C1 or C2) from the centre up to sacromonte is a great experience as it flies thru some of these narrow medieval streets with inches to spare ( C2 in particular)
Obviously the driver knows what they are doing but for us it was thrilling! Granada could be very cold as mentioned above & Seville is milder, daytime averages are 11c.
posted by Wilder at 7:47 AM on October 7, 2017

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