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Jan 15, 2012 05:19 AM

12 Days of Spain

If I only have 12 days to tour around Spain, what are the places I should not miss going to? My name is Erik Matti. Me and my partner are going to Spain this March 30, 2012. I will be travelling from March 30 to April 21. My first stop will be Spain and then my last leg of trip will be in France. We were thinking of going around Spain for 12 days. We're landing in Barcelona and maybe spend 4 days there. I am looking at going to San Sebastian and then Madrid. From there I could take the train to Paris. But I also want to go to Valencia. But that would mean going to 4 places in Spain which could be tiring.

We are foodies and we'd like to visit tapas bars, pintxos. We'd also want to see a bullfight, maybe some cheesemaking factories, black pig farm, truffle hunting. Anything food and fun. I need advice. Because right now, I just want to visit every town and city in Spain that is listed on the map! And I know that's just not possible.

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  1. I think you need to research more and be realistic about what you can possibly experience in 12 days. Compromise.

    Black pig farms are not that near any of the cities you named. Yes, it would be cool to see them 'live' but it might be several days to get there and back. Consider doing a jamon tasting instead. Jamonisimo is in Barcelona and it supplies to some world-class chefs including Ferran Adria.

    It's one of my many dreams to visit the 5J facility in Jabugo. You can see from the website linked below that it's more than a hop and a skip from Seville. The various tour organizers will charge up to 200 euros per person to take you there or you can rent a car and drive yourself.

    To visit Valencia, you could take the train from Barcelona for 2 days. From Madrid to Paris, it can be faster and cheaper to fly. You'll get lots of good food ideas from Chowhound but it sounds like you need transportation advice too. Go to Lonely Planet or Tripadvisor for that.

    1. Wherever you go, don't just eat in restaurants---buy some fresh fruit. I have never anywhere or ever in my life had better strawberries or melon. Also there is a little fruit called the medano, sort of like an apricot, that was perfect. A foodie should never pass up a market. Also, if you cook at home, look to buy saffron in Spain as it is MUCH cheaper than in the States.

      1. While in Madrid and taking your day trips to Toledo, El Escorial, and Avilla, do not buy the saffron at any of the kiosks. They are normally floor sweepings or dried out left overs. Get the fresh stuff in a store.

        And yes it is touristy, but do the tapas in Plaza Mayor. A fun time.

        1. Personally, on this trip, I'd skip Valencia. Had a great time there, but at night it was DEAD compared with Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. Besides, they are all on the AVE high speed train line and make convenient connections if you choose those three. Spain is by far my favourite country in Europe that I've been to and personally feel that what it has to offer food wise is comparable or better than France, Italy or any of the others.

          For me, Spanish food is just like the culture, very passionate. Flavours are almost always sharp and pronounced. Most likely due to the moorish influence (see Lebanese cuisine for example) not typically mellow flavours.

          3 Replies
          1. re: currycue

            Thanks for the replies. I just want to take advantage of my trip in Spain and Paris. So, is it recommended that I only go to two places in Spain in the 12 days I'm there? I definitely would do some jamon tasting! Barcelona is already on my list since I'll be arriving there but I want to explore Spain a little more. I would also love to go to Logrono, La Rioja for that Tapas bar strip. Is it a good Idea?

            1. re: katumbal

              I think you can do 4 days in each place, as long as the connections are easy. From Barcelona, you can fly cheaply to San Sebastian (Vueling or Iberia) if you buy tickets in advance. I have a r/t ticket from Iberia for 100 euros.

              "Tapas bar strip"? Do you mean going somewhere for a tapas crawl? I don't think you need to go to Logrono to do that. Of the 2 cities you already have in mind, Madrid and San Sebastian have areas where you can do a very nice tapas crawl.

              Here's a link to todopintxos. It has great info on tapas bars in San Sebastian.

              1. re: katumbal

                "is it recommended that I only go to two places in Spain in the 12 days I'm there? I definitely would do some jamon tasting! Barcelona is already on my list since I'll be arriving there but I want to explore Spain a little more. I would also love to go to Logrono, La Rioja for that Tapas bar strip. Is it a good Idea?"

                Do you really want to experience Spain, enjoy Spain, or is it more important for you to achieve the biggest number of places visited?

                Remember every time you change cities, you lose half a day in commute if the destination is nearby, or most of a day if the destination is far.
                For your 12 days, if you go to, say, 4 not too far-flung destinations on your 12-day trip, your commute time - under the best circumstances with a miraculous lack of any type of delay, - will occupy 2 to 2.5 of the 12 days. If some of the destinations are far flung, which seems to be your desire, it may take up 3 whole days. Is that really how you want to spend your short holiday?

            2. In a way Spain is like what the US used to be. Full of interesting nooks and crannies. Full of great regional cuisines, wines and different as well. I always prefer to see 1-2 regions in depth instead of seeing bits n pieces. So, assuming no car. Pais vasco, San Sebastian is a must, and there's some interesting art there as well From there it's an easy bus/train ride to Bilbao for 1-2 days and the fish market in Bilbao is great, worth a detour. Galicia has great food, the scenery (outside the coast) is nowhere near as nice as Asturias (except for the Ribera Sacra). Pontevedra has a great little tapas scene and from there it's an easy hop to some vineyards if you can rent a car for a day or two.
              Asturias is tough as (for me anyway) it's all about nature and small towns.

              Madrid, well, you can spend all 12 days there and not be bored, plus Barcelona is 2-3 hours by AVE train, so a surf n turf combo is so easy.

              Andalucia that time of year is probably very nice, AVE to Sevilla from Madrid real easy.

              But all in all to get to small towns, vineyards where some of the best stuff is, requires a car.

              My choice would be Madrid (barrio Retiro, La Latina etc) for 3-4 days, then Barcelona for same, then fly to Sam Sebastian and stay put. You wont come away unhappy or famished.