6 Days in Spain in April!
January 12, 2020 5:05 PM   Subscribe

I've just booked a flight to Barcelona and after accounting for travel time, will have 6 full days in Spain. I'm trying to decide if I should fit in a couple days in Madrid and/or Valencia, or just stay in Barcelona the whole time (with perhaps a day trip or two thrown in).

We're two women in our 30's and this will be our first time in Spain. We like museums, food, wine, cocktails, vintage stores, architecture, and meandering through cities. One of us is queer, so finding queer-friendly spaces would be a plus. Also, I'd like to avoid super-touristy areas, save for the most compelling attractions.

We'll be there Thursday, 4/23 through Tuesday, 4/28.

Should we spend all 6 days in Barcelona, with a few day trips? If so, which ones? Or should we limit our time there and go to Madrid, Valencia (or somewhere else)? I don't want to spend all my time going to-and-fro, but I wonder if it would be a bummer to fly all the way there and only see one city?

Bonus question: any specific recommendations for things to see/eat/do while we're there?
posted by too bad you're not me to Travel & Transportation around Barcelona, Spain (14 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Well, you can go anywhere and the trains in Spain are very nice. BUT six days in Barcelona is not too much time. So, your choice: see a small bit of multiple cities or get a somewhat deep taste of Barcelona. My own preference would be to see more of Barcelona, but there's nothing wrong with having a taste of multiple places. Everything will be beautiful either way.
posted by tmdonahue at 6:05 PM on January 12, 2020

If you like spectacular views and also enjoy light hiking, I highly recommend a daytrip to Montserrat.
posted by TwoStride at 6:08 PM on January 12, 2020

There’s at least 6 days worth to do in BCN, but not if tourism bugs you. It’s VERY touristic in just about any/every aspect you’d want to explore. Much less so Valencia. Madrid is as touristic as any world capital, but has quieter elements of interest.

Sitges, a beach area some distance out of town, is a gay enclave, sort of Key West-ish.

Any day trips out of BCN will be either touristic or else dull. An afternoon in a Catalan village may/may not amuse, but two afternoons of them would be unnecessary. Dali museum up the coast in Figueras is fantastic, but mega touristic.
posted by Quisp Lover at 6:08 PM on January 12, 2020

You are a tourist; you gotta let go of the "wanting to avoid overly touristy" thing. The plummeting cost of air travel and the rise of Instagram means that everyone and their dog is now traveling to the same places you are. The things you like are the things that most people like. It would be a shame to miss Barcelona's sights because they appeal to tourists. (That said, you can and should time your visits as much as possible to miss crowds... it really is exhausting and unpleasant to get stuck in the midday shoulder-to-shoulder crush of places like the Parc Guell.) Staying longer in Barcelona will give you more flexibility in how you schedule your time there and what you get to see.

Valencia will have fewer tourists but there is also much, much less to see there. Some Roman ruins of middling interest as I recall.

Madrid is a big lively city with a world class art museum and offers a day trip to El Escorial, but just does not have anything like Barcelona's beauty or Mediterranean vibe.
posted by fingersandtoes at 6:46 PM on January 12, 2020 [3 favorites]

We just got back from Madrid! The one thing you should absolutely do is a good tour, and the one we took with Devour Tours was SO GOOD. Best part by far. They are also in Barcelona. You walk around eating and drinking a little at each place and getting tons of history. Super fun and tasty.

Be prepared for walking up steep hills if you go to Madrid btw. It's pretty but low key compared to some other parts of Spain.

Oh and they take their royal family pretty seriously there.
posted by emjaybee at 8:38 PM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

The high speed trains in Spain are great for going city-to-city, but they all go through Madrid and they still take time; it's about 3 hours Barcelona-Madrid (plus travel time to-and-from the stations). If you'd not already booked a flight, I might have suggested looking at an open-jaw trip into Madrid and home from Barcelona or the reverse, but since the flights are booked, then I don't think it makes sense to use up two half-days out of six just to see another city. (Barcelona's probably the best fit for you anyway). Barcelona is absolutely a city you can spend a ton of time in, especially with your list of interests. Enjoy the luxury of enough time to relax in Barcelona a little.

The most uber-touristy section is the Rambla, from Plaza Catalyuna down towards the ocean; it's probably worth a visit, but don't get a hotel near there because it is a tourist zone. However, tourists often go to places because they're actually really good places, so don't miss any of the big sites just to avoid them. (eg Parc Guell, Sagrada Familia, La Boqueria, the Modernist architecture in the Eixample -- note that the first two require reservations, so book that now). That said, go to a couple of neighbourhood food markets in addition to La Boqueria.

The metro is super efficient, so I'd try to stay somewhere near a metro stop. The last time I was in Barcelona, we stayed at Hotel Praktik Bakery, which is a decent. fairly-priced hotel with a top-class bakery on the main floor; every morning you wake up to the smell of fresh bread (and it's easy to grab a quick breakfast to get an early start to beat tourists).

If you're seriously, nerdily, into architecture, these guys do a series of tours. It's not cheap, but our tour guide was a well-informed working professional (we did urbanism, which was a 3 hour walking lecture on the history of the development of Barcelona's Eixample). The Gaudi tour is probably a good introduction to the Modernist school.
posted by Homeboy Trouble at 9:24 PM on January 12, 2020 [1 favorite]

What Homeboy Trouble said is accurate. La Boqueria, at an increasing pace over the last year, has fewer and fewer stalls that aren't geared to tourists...it's still amazing, and I still shop there for certain things, but I do most of my market shopping now in the MUCH less crazy Santa Catarina market.
If you want to do foody tours or side trips to the countryside, Memail me and I can recommend a good company. Message me anyway a couple of days before your arrival and I'll buy tell the managers in my bars to buy you a drink (if I still own them...currently looking for a buyer)...
posted by conifer at 5:05 AM on January 13, 2020 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I would say definitely pop along to Madrid if it's not too much of a faff. I love Barcelona, but it's a very european city. Madrid on the other hand just feels so intensely Spanish.

Plus, Madrid has the Museo Reina Sofía and Guernica, so there's that.
posted by Faff at 6:45 AM on January 13, 2020

Best answer: And the Prado has a bunch of hits worth seeing in person (Bosch, Bruegel, Goya, etc).

6 days is kind of on the border for me: less than that and I would just stay put, more days I would definitely look elsewhere. Are you and your travel partner the type to set up 2-3 visits each day taking your time, or do you prefer cramming your days/nights with as much as you can?

Similar to Faff (and this is obviously a broad generalization): Madrid feels like Spain Spain, Barcelona like Catalonia Spain. For what it's worth, if the question was reversed I would also try to do both cities.

Barcelona is great by bike.
posted by lowest east side at 7:41 AM on January 13, 2020

Response by poster: To clarify my comment about the touristy thing: I understand that to a certain extent, it just comes with the territory, especially for visiting certain museums or cultural sites. That said, when I travel I try to get out of the main tourist hubs and into the neighborhoods as much as I can. For example, a highlight of a trip I took to London a few years ago was a long walk through Shoreditch/Hackney and a visit to Violet Bakery. But we also went to the Victoria and Albert Museum and thoroughly enjoyed that, so I'm not totally opposed to going where tourists are. As someone mentioned above, sometimes those things are uber-crowded for a reason.

Thanks for the answers so far! I think we'll definitely consider taking a couple days in Madrid.

Any additional comments/recommendations welcome!
posted by too bad you're not me at 7:53 AM on January 13, 2020

Best answer: We did 7 days in Spain and split it between 4 days in Barcelona and 3 days in Madrid, and I wish we had done the opposite. Barcelona was amazing, but Madrid felt more like a real city to me.

Couple things to add for both cities -
- I mention them all the time on here, but I cannot get enough of the Culinary Backstreets food tours. We did the Barcelona one and it was incredible. Amazing food, learning about history, language, culture - especially at a time when Barcelona was going through their question for independence.
- Gaudi tours - we did a free walking tour with Runner Beans and it was great - gave us a good orientation to the city and allowed to pin point areas that we wanted to go back to.
- Book ahead for your tour/timed entry to Sagrada Familia
- We had an epic meal at Disfrutar - very expensive, very worth it, once in a life time opportunity.

- Also recommend the Devour Madrid Tour (maybe we learned about it originally from here?). It was super fun and we ended up booking a wine tasting with the same tour guide through Airbnb tours immediately after.
- Build in lots of time for the museums - they are incredible and there is SO much to see.

I have a full google spreadsheet/itinerary that I would be happy to share. Feel free to DM me!
posted by something_witty at 9:24 AM on January 13, 2020

I just got hack from a 5 day trip to Barcelona! I went with my brother to celebrate my dad’s life and I dunno, mourn but in more productive way? Anyhow, we stayed in the city the whole time and literally walked an average of 12 miles a day and still didn’t see everything we wanted. We considered taking a train elsewhere too but the times didn’t work out and it was ok, there is a ton of stuff to do and see in Barcelona. The Joan Miro house was my favorite thing. Tapas is a good way to eat. I have thing about riding funiculars too so yay, Barcelona has one.
posted by yodelingisfun at 11:50 AM on January 13, 2020

One thing to consider is that 23rd April is Sant Jordi, which is a very popular festival (though not a public holiday) in catalunya, and the plazas and points of interest in the city will be packed. The streets will be filled with people selling books and roses. Casa Battlo is normally decorated for it, and is worth seeing (you can do that from the street).

A day trip to Girona is nice, or Tarragona if you're a fan of Roman stuff.

If you like hiking, then there are lots of easily accessible options - Montserrat is the most well known, but with a 30 minute train ride you can find some great coastal walks, or explore the valleys in the interior.

The area just above Gran Via, between Aribau and Casanova is nicknamed Gaixample (l'eixample is the name of the larger district it's part of).

Happy to help if you have more specific questions.
posted by gregjones at 12:58 PM on January 13, 2020

when I was there a few years back we took a day trip to Montserrat Monastery and it was really lovely, highly recommended
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 8:49 PM on January 13, 2020

« Older I can't be the only one who's ever done this...   |   My laptop is poltergeisting. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.