38 Chapters
Medium 9781628870046


Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub



This chapter is a guide to scheduling your stay in Madrid and Barcelona. In each city, we start with 1-, 2-, and 3-day itineraries to help you prioritize your time and set your pace. Even if you’re normally a go-go person, you will enjoy Spain more if you find a rhythm that lets you pause on a hot afternoon at a shady cafe for a lemon granizado or a glass of cava or duck into a taberna to escape the winter chill with a glass of vermut or a quick demitasse of dark coffee. These itineraries are flexible enough to let you do that—or pop into a shop if something in the window strikes your fancy.

In addition to daily routes that emphasize must-see attractions, we have also suggested itineraries for families and others that reveal unique aspects of the cities. So that you won’t miss anything, we have also included highlights from suggested side trips into the surrounding regions.

You can follow these itineraries to the letter, or you can use them as a point of departure for assembling your own personalized—even idiosyncratic—trip to Madrid and Barcelona. Think of the itineraries as modular building blocks that you can mix and match to suit your interests and the length of your trip. For example, you might want to follow up the 1-day tour of Madrid’s artistic treasures with a day devoted to Madrid for fashionistas. In Barcelona, after you have spent a day enjoying the visual delights of the Modernisme masterpieces in L’Eixample, you can satisfy your taste buds with a tour of gourmet highlights. And, of course, the itineraries can be combined to create your own approach to appreciating both cities.

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Medium 9781628872163


Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub

The Old Cathedral (Mezquita) of Cordoba at night

To visit Córdoba is to glimpse what might have been. A millennium ago, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived and worked together to create western Europe’s greatest city—a cosmopolitan center of poetry, art, music, philosophy, cutting-edge science and medicine, and far-ranging scholarship. Until the late 11th century, Córdoba was the capital of western Islam. La Mezquita, the largest medieval mosque in Europe, remains its star attraction. The streets and whitewashed buildings of Andalucía’s most intact Moorish city still endure, and visiting Córdoba is ultimately less about monuments and more about getting lost in the maze of cobbled streets that bore witness to an ancient, harmonious world.

You can hit the highlights in a long day, but Córdoba deserves the attention that comes from staying overnight, if only to experience the timeless Judería just after dawn, when you can hear the echoing step of every foot in the narrow streets. There are other advantages to staying the night. Every morning from 8:30 to 9:20am (except Sun), you can visit La Mezquita in silence to get a sense of its truly meditative power (no admission is charged). Moreover, Artencordoba (www.artencordoba.com) offers 2-hour guided night tours of the city.

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Useful Terms & Phrases

Most Spaniards are very patient with foreigners who try to speak their language. That said, you might encounter several difficult regional languages and dialects in Spain: In Catalonia, they speak Catalan (the most widely spoken non-national language in Europe); in the Basque Country, they speak Euskera; in Galicia, you’ll hear Gallego. However, Castilian Spanish (Castellano, or simply Español) is understood everywhere; for that reason, we’ve included a list of simple words and phrases in Spanish to help you get by.

Basic Words & Phrases




Good day

Buenos días

bweh -nohs dee -ahs

How are you?

¿Cómo está?

koh -moh es- tah

Very well

Muy bien

mwee byehn

Thank you


grah -syahs

You’re welcome

De nada

deh nah -dah



ah- dyohs

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Medium 9781628870725


Patricia Harris FrommerMedia ePub


Side Trips from Barcelona

B arcelona may be the center of Catalunya’s galaxy, but three bright stars shine nearby. Tarragona to the south was the Roman capital of eastern Iberia, and its ruins have been respectfully assimilated into the modern city, creating a sense of timelessness that, in its own provincial way, rivals eternal Rome. Sitges , also to the south, is a beach resort that has grown into a genuine city that offers art and culture to round out your stay when you’ve had enough sea, sand, and sun. Girona is perhaps the most intriguing of all—a Roman, Moorish, and medieval Catalan city of multilayered cultural complexity accompanied by good hotels and a few great restaurants. Although it’s only a short train ride from Barcelona to any of the three, don’t be tempted to relegate them to day trips. Each is compelling enough to seduce you into an overnight stay, and you might find any one of them so simpatico that you will want to stretch your visit longer.

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Madrid is surrounded by legendary cities whose names echo down the ages in story and song. These were the frontier fortresses in the prolonged battle between the cross and the crescent for the body and soul of Iberia. As you approach these central Spanish cities, imagine that you are leading an invading army. After a long march across a flat plain with no place to hide, you finally reach the outskirts of Toledo, Cuenca, Segovia, Ávila, or Zamora. (Unfortified Salamanca is another story.) You crane your neck to look up at the walled fortress city high on the hill. Its defenders have been watching your approach for days, and their swords are ready. . . . It is the tale of central Spain written over and over—only the names of the invaders and defenders changed.

Whoever seized the plains of La Mancha or the hilltop cities always acted audaciously. Roman engineers channeled water from distant mountains to make Segovia bloom. Centuries later, a string of rulers named Alfonso and Sancho and Fernando plotted power in the name of a Christian god and fortified every high spot, giving the region its enduring name, Castilla, or land of castles. They carried the battle of the Reconquista from castle to castle across the searing center of the Iberian peninsula, mustering the military might, religious fervor, and brilliant scholarship that made them the most powerful rulers in this corner of Europe—and ultimately kings of Spain.

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