Tag: Spain

13 Epic Things to do in Madrid, Spain

13 Epic Things to do in Madrid, Spain

Epic things to do in Madrid, Spain | Puerta del Sol | Plaza Mayor | Spanish Inquisition Tour | Flamenco | Bull Fight | Prado Museum | Royal Botanical Garden

4 Easy and Epic Day Trips from Madrid, Spain

4 Easy and Epic Day Trips from Madrid, Spain

Epic day trips to take from Madrid, Spain: Ávila, El Escorial, Segovia, and Toledo. How to get there, what to see, how long to stay.

Ronda, Spain: The Most Romantic City in the World

Ronda, Spain: The Most Romantic City in the World

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

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Once you visit Ronda, Spain, you’ll never want to leave. There’s something about dining and slumbering on the precipice of the world. It gives you a hint of danger, of uncertainty. A thrill down the back of your spine and butterflies in your stomach.

Perhaps it has something to do with the way the twilight caresses the white walls of the small town with a soft glow. Or maybe…you know how when you’re truly connecting with someone, how the rest of the world just fades away? It’s exactly like that. The town just empties out at night. It’s just him and me in the intimate, quiet streets. We’re alone. And we’re alive.

Maybe it’s a little bit of all of it combined, plus some unknown factor, invisible to the human eye. But whatever it is, Ronda, Spain, has an undeniable spark of enchantment that makes it the most romantic city in the world. Paris, France, eat your heart out.


“A man does not belong to the place where he was born, but where he chooses to die”

Orson Welles on Ronda

Walking hand in hand with my husband down the ancient cobblestone streets, I think to myself, “I could die here. And that would be all right.”

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Ronda, Spain, at a Glance

With a population of about 35,000 people, Ronda, Spain, is situated an hour and a half west of Málaga. It was an Arab village under Moorish rule for 7 centuries. Then, in 1485, when Ferdinand and Isabella defeated the Moors, Ronda came under Catholic rule.

Reflecting its split history, Ronda is divided in half by the Guadalevín river, cutting through the Tajo gorge. On one cliff side lies the older “Moorish Quarter,” and on the other side lies the newer “Mercantile Quarter.” El Puente Nuevo, or “the new bridge,” unites the two sides of the village.

Mini Spanish Road Trip

We took a rental car for a mini Spanish road trip from Málaga to Ronda and back. Road trip in a foreign country?! My husband did most of the driving, and yes, my husband is a brave man! But that’s a story for another day. Let’s get back to Ronda. I could have easily spent our entire vacation in this small village in the white hill towns of Andalusia.

Ronda is often full of tourists visiting on whirlwind day trips. Despite what Ernest Hemingway may have said <see quotes below, at the end of the post>, there is a ton to do in and around Ronda during the daylight hours. It’s certainly more than you can fit into a single day, and this is reason number one why you should stay over night in Ronda.

But the town empties out at night as the tourists filter out, returning to larger cities. And this is reason number two, and maybe the biggest reason, why you want need to stay over night in Ronda. After dinner, we would explore the city. It was quiet, peaceful. The cobbled streets were narrow, crooked, and intimate, with a soft glowing light from the street lamps. And the streets were empty save for us.

Ronda Spain
View from our hotel room at Hotel Montelirio

Sleeping on the Edge of the World in Ronda, Spain

My husband and I stayed at Hotel Montelirio, a hotel situated on the brink of the Tajo gorge in the Moorish Quarter. This 15-room hotel occupies the former Count Montelirio’s palace, built in the 17th century. But everything inside has been fully updated.

Amenities include WiFi, satellite TV, an elevator, disabled access, and valet parking. Pets are allowed. There’s even a Turkish steam bath and an open air pool over looking the gorge! Plus, the hotel is walking distance to just about all of the sites you’ll want to visit in Ronda.

Ronda Spain
View of Hotel Montelirio from Puente Nuevo

TIP: Be sure to communicate your check out time in advance to give the front desk time to prepare for you departure, especially if you’re planning on checking out in the early hours. Also, if you’re driving, be sure to arrange parking with the hotel in advance.

The hotel restaurant, Albacara, offers Mediterranean and traditional Andalusian dishes. We ate dinner on the restaurant patio one evening at sunset, and it felt like we were sitting on the edge of the world. And the food was as good as the view!

⭐️ Click here to check availability at Hotel Montelirio ⭐️

Plaza de Toros de Ronda and Museo Taurino

Ronda’s bull ring holds great historical significance in Spain. First of all, it competes with Sevilla’s in claiming the title of the oldest bullring in Spain. But it’s a little bit complicated.

Sevilla’s bullring began construction earlier, in 1761, and was completed in 1785. Whereas Ronda’s bullring construction began in 1779 and was completed in 1784. The first bull fight, or corrida, was held in Ronda on May 11, 1784. However, after some of the spectator stands caved in, the bullring was closed for repairs, and did not open again until May 19, 1785. I’ll let you be the judge of which bull ring claims title as oldest.

La Plaza de Toros de Ronda also competes to claim itself as the largest bullring in Spain. The actual arena spans 66 meters (217 feet) in diameter. That’s 6 meters greater than Madrid’s bullring. However, there is only seating for 5,000 spectators at the bullring in Ronda, compared with Madrid’s seating for 25,000.

Bullring in Ronda, Spain

The museum at the bull ring explores the history of bullfighting. We took the audio guide as we wandered through the museum’s displays of costumes and artwork from the past two centuries, many of which hold high importance in the history of bullfighting. We also discovered displays of weapons from Spanish wars over the years.

Every year during the second week of September, Ronda hosts the Féria Goyesca, to celebrate Pedro Romero. Pedro Romero, a famous and beloved Spanish matador, competed against his great rival Pepe Hillo, in Ronda’s re-opening in 1785. During this annual week long celebration, matadors and their assistants dress in traditional costume from the Goya period. The Féria Goyesca is one of the few times through out the year they still hold a corrida in Ronda.

Aerial view of the Arab Baths in Ronda, Spain
Aerial view of the Arab Baths in Ronda, Spain

Arab Baths of Ronda, Spain

The Arab baths were initially built just outside the city walls near the original main entrance to Ronda. It was only early May when we visited, but it was already a hot, 15-20 minute walk from our hotel to the Arab baths. Although it was mostly downhill on the way there, it was even hotter uphill on the way back. Note to self—bring water!

Once inside the old ruins, markers led us through the reception hall, to the cold room, the temperate room, and lastly the hot room. In the hot room we watched a short five minute video about the construction of the Arab baths, presented in both English and Spanish.

The technology involved in the Arab baths was quite impressive. Water entered the hot room via an aqueduct. The water and hot room were heated by an adjacent furnace room where several large fires were tended, creating a sauna-like atmosphere. The warm room would have been used for massages and treatments. The cold room was used more for socializing while cooling down.

Culturally speaking, the Arab baths would have been a meeting place where citizens and visitors would spend several hours, passing back and forth between rooms. Individuals may not have used the baths daily, but may have visited to cleanse their bodies before visiting the nearby mosque to worship.

Warm Room at the Arab Baths in Ronda, Spain
The Warm Room at the Arab Baths

Puente Nuevo

Puente Nuevo was what originally caught my attention and drew me to Ronda. It is one of three bridges that crosses the Tajo Gorge, and it is certainly the most remarkable. At 66 meters in span and 98 meters in height, it’s construction lasted 34 years and was completed in 1793.

For a minimal entrance fee, we were able to enter a room actually within the Puente Nuevo. Rooms within the great bridge were previously used as a prison and torture chamber. And in case you’re wondering, yes, prisoners were on occasion thrown through the windows to the bottom of the gorge below.

When we visited, there were no prisoners being tortured. We found only a display about the history of the bridge’s construction, not to mention the stunning views. It’s a fairly short visit, something quick, easy and fun to do while exploring the village.

What we want to do next time we’re in Ronda, Spain

Because there will definitely be a next time! There is so much to do in and around Ronda, we simply did not have time for all of it. Here’s a few of things we’d like to do on our next visit to Ronda.

Arco de Cristo or La Puerta de los Molinos del Tajo

You can hike down the west side of the Tajo or take a cab to the Arco de Cristo, AKA La Puerta de los Molinos. From here, you’ll find an iconic, postcard-worthy view of the Puente Nuevo. Rumor on the street is that the best time for photos and a visit is during the afternoon when the sun hits the bridge.

Directions: Leaving the Plaza de España in the Mercantile Quarter, cross the Puente Nuevo. Turn right on Tenorio, and stay right when the road forks. You’ll come to a steep cobbled path leading down to the Tajo. Follow this to the Arco del Cristo.

Caminito del Rey

Caminito del Rey is an exciting and breath taking hike that can be visited from Ronda or Málaga. It lies about an hour and a half drive from Ronda. You must book tickets in advance and you must be on time. Pay attention to which pick up site you are going to. If you are late, they will turn you away.

Pileta Cave

Pileta cave contains over 100 prehistoric drawings inside, discovered in 1905. An important tip to keep in mind, you must make a reservation to visit the cave. Also, groups are limited to 20 people. The cave lies about a half hour from Ronda.

Quotes from some of Ronda, Spain’s most famous visitors

If you still don’t believe that Ronda, Spain, is the most romantic city in the world, take it from this guy!

Ronda is the place where to go, if you are planning to travel to Spain for a honeymoon or being with a girlfriend. The whole city and its surroundings are a romantic set. Nice promenades, good wine, excellent food, nothing to do…

Ernest Hemingway

Or this guy…

…and Ronda with the old windows of the houses, the eyes which spy out hidden behind the latticework so that their lover might kiss the iron bars and the taverns with half-closed doors in the night and the castanets and the night…

James Joyce

I know I’ve only highlighted a few of the things to see and do in Ronda. Do you have a favorite sight or activity in Ronda I missed? Tell me about it in the comments below so I can check it out next time I’m there!

Looking for more places to travel in Spain? Read my post about What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City. You can also follow me on Pinterest for more Spain travel ideas!

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El Escorial: An Epic Day Trip from Madrid

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Segovia, Spain: A Real Life Fairy Tale Get-Away

Segovia, Spain: A Real Life Fairy Tale Get-Away

Segovia, Spain, is a fairy-tale destination. Visit a Roman aqueduct, gothic cathedral, and medieval castle, for an epic day trip from Madrid.

Amazing Spain Itinerary: 7, 10, or 14 Day Plans

Amazing Spain Itinerary: 7, 10, or 14 Day Plans

If you’re planning a trip to Spain, but aren’t entirely sure where to start, I’ve got three amazing ideas for a Spain itinerary to choose from. These Spain itineraries include a 7 day, 10 day, and 14 day plan.

I’ve included approximate travel times between cities as well as the quickest mode of transport. However, be aware travel times may vary depending on different factors, so be sure to double check your actual travel time when you purchase your tickets.

Now before we delve into these exciting Spain itineraries, let’s cover a few important basics about visiting Spain.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

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A Few Important Things to Know Before Planning a Spain Itinerary

Geography

Spain is located on the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, and is neighbored by Portugal to the West and France to the North. It meets the Atlantic Ocean to the West and the Mediterranean Sea to the East.

The far eastern region of Spain known as Catalonia has its own distinct identity apart from the rest of the country, including its own language, Catalan. In fact, some have expressed interest in Catalonia breaking apart from Spain to create its own country.

Culture

When planning outings, keep in mind the siesta hour, especially in small towns. The siesta hour is a part of Spanish culture where people head home in the early afternoon for a long, leisurely lunch, and maybe even a nap. During this time, businesses may have fewer personnel scheduled, or may even close altogether. As a result, you can also expect late dinners and late nights to be a normal part of the day as well.

Currency

As Spain is part of the European Union, their currency is the Euro. However, the majority of places accept credit or debit cards in Spain. As for tipping, the service industry in Spain is well compensated for their time and tipping is not considered necessary.

Transportation

Public transit in Spain includes buses, subway, and train. The public transit system in Spain is generally reliable, clean, and safe, although you’ll want to watch for pick pockets as you would in any large city.

Spain Itinerary
Puerta del Sol, Madrid

Spain Itinerary Option One: 7 Day Itinerary

This seven day Spain itinerary entails lodging in Madrid and a series of day trips to four towns in the surrounding area: Ávila, Segovia, El Escorial, and Toledo.

I love this option for its ease and convenience. You can skip the hassle of packing your bags every day or two and schlepping them from one hotel to another. You don’t have to worry about checking under the bed for run away socks every morning before you leave the hotel, because you know you’re coming back to the same room each night.

And yet, there’s still so much variety of things to do and see in this itinerary, you won’t get bored. This Spain itinerary takes the least amount of planning, and the day trips can all be booked at a travel kiosk on Puerta del Sol once you’ve already arrived in Spain.

This map was made with Wanderlog, a road trip planner app on iOS and Android

Day One

Arrive in Madrid in the morning and get settled into your hotel. I highly recommend Hotel Europa for its central location and good price. Hotel Europa is located in Puerta del Sol and has quick, easy access to public transit. After getting settled, take a moment to book a few day trips for the week. You’ll find a travel kiosk just outside Hotel Europa where you can do this.

Then, get ready to explore Madrid in the afternoon and evening! Wander around Puerta del Sol or Plaza Mayor, or take a Hop on Hop off bus tour to get to know the city. Check out my post about Madrid for more ideas of what to see and do there.

Spain Itinerary
Ávila, Spain

Day Two

Take a day trip to Ávila, Spain. Ávila lies about an hour and a half northwest of Madrid. This small medieval town is surrounded by a wall you can walk the perimeter of. Other sites of interest in Ávila include the cathedral and the Convent of St. Teresa.

Travel back to Madrid in the afternoon with plenty of time left for site-seeing in the evening. You can catch a Flamenco show with dinner, or take a Spanish Inquisition tour.

Travel Time: Madrid to Ávila is about 1 hour 30 minutes by tour bus or 2 hours by train

Day Three

Adventure to the fairy tale town of Segovia for another day trip. An hour northwest of Madrid, Segovia is a UNESCO world heritage site. Take time to wander through the Jewish quarter, visit a 1st century Roman aqueduct, and stop in at the last gothic style cathedral built in Spain. You’ll also want to see the Alcázar de Segovia, the castle that Disney Snow White’s castle was modeled after!

Return to Madrid in the afternoon. Stop in at the Royal Botanical Garden or visit the Crystal Palace at Buen Retiro Park.

Travel Time: Madrid to Segovia is about 1 hour 10 minutes by train

Day Four

Stay the day in Madrid. Maybe take a day to kick back and relax. Or discover Madrid’s Golden Triangle of Art, the Reina Sofia, Prado, and Thyssen art museums.

Library at El Escorial
The Library at El Escorial,” by John Keogh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

Day Five

Today, head an hour northwest of Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial, the seat of rule and burial place of Phillip II. Take a guided tour through this fortress of a monastery to see a stunning library.

Head back to Madrid in the afternoon and catch a Real Madrid soccer match at Bernabéu Stadium.

Travel Time: Madrid to El Escorial is about 1 hour by train

Day Six

The last full day in Spain, take one final day trip an hour southwest of Madrid to the medieval town of Toledo. Walk down Toledo’s cobble stone streets and explore it’s walled “old city” quarter. Visit El Greco Museum, the Alcázar de Toledo, a gothic cathedral, and Puente de San Martín, an old medieval bridge.

Return to Madrid and go shopping along Gran Via for some final souvenirs.

Travel Time: Madrid to Toledo is about 1 hour by train

Day Seven

On your last day in Madrid, catch any sites you missed before packing up and flying home.

Spain Itinerary Option Two: 10 Day Itinerary

This 10 day plan was our actual Spain itinerary, and I feel like we were able to see and do a little bit of everything. We ate delicious food, went to parks, gardens, and museums. We watched sports, went shopping, and spent time outdoors. And of course we saw plenty of castles and cathedrals! I also love that we spent time in both big cities and small villages. This Spain itinerary really covers it all.

Trip map created using Wanderlog, for making itineraries on iOS and Android

Day One

Arrive in Barcelona and get settled into your hotel. We booked our first stay in Barcelona at Hotel Neri in the gothic quarter. Stroll along La Rambla, a romantic tree-lined street, on your way to La Boquería, an open air food market. Visit the Cathedral of Barcelona before tapas bars for dinner.

La Sagrada Familia
La Sagrada Familia, Barcelona

Day Two

Spend a day in Barcelona all about Antoni Gaudí. Start at the Gaudí House Museum, before moving on to Casa Milà and Park Güell. End the day at La Sagrada Familia to catch the sunset through the stained glass windows.

Day Three

Hop on an early train to Madrid, and get checked in at your hotel. Again, I recommend staying at Hotel Europa on Puerta del Sol. Take a moment to book some day trips from Madrid at the travel kiosk in Puerta del Sol. Then take a Spanish Inquisition walking tour before dinner.

Travel Time: Barcelona to Madrid is about 2 hours 30 minutes by train

Spain Itinerary
Roman Aqueduct, Segovia

Day Four

Take a day trip to Segovia and Ávila. In Segovia, see a 1st century Roman aqueduct and the Alcázar de Segovia, the castle that Disney Snow White’s castle was based on. You can also visit the last gothic cathedral built in Spain.

In Ávila, you can visit the first gothic cathedral built in Spain, as well as walk the perimeter of the medieval wall surrounding the town. Then return to Madrid to catch a Flamenco show with dinner.

Travel Time: Madrid to Segovia is about 1 hour 10 minutes by train or bus. Segovia to Ávila is about 50 minutes by bus. Ávila to Madrid is about 1 hour 30 minutes by tour bus or 2 hours by train. (Some tours will allow you to book Segovia and Ávila together in one day)

Day Five

Spend the day visiting Madrid’s Golden Triangle of art museums: the Reina Sofia, the Prado, and the Thyssen Museums. Or spend some time outdoors and check out the Royal Botanical Garden and the Crystal Palace at Buen Retiro Park.

Day Six

Take a half day trip an hour northwest of Madrid to San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Tour the monastery and see an elaborate library. Then return to Madrid and catch a Real Madrid soccer match at Bernabéu Stadium.

Travel Time: Madrid to El Escorial is about 1 hour by train

Roman amphitheater, Málaga

Day Seven

Option A). Take an early train from Madrid to Córdoba. Spend the afternoon exploring Córdoba before continuing on to Ronda by train for the night. In Córdoba, you can see a 1st century Roman bridge, the Mezquita of Córdoba, and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.

Travel Time: Madrid to Córdoba is about 1 hour 45 minutes by train. Córdoba to Ronda is about 2 hours by train.

OR

Option B). Take a plane from Madrid to Málaga. Then spend the afternoon exploring Málaga, and rent a car to drive to Ronda. In Málaga, you can see a 1st century Roman amphitheater and the Alcazaba, a fortress to rival Granada’s Alhambra.

Travel Time: Madrid to Málaga is about 1 hour 15 minutes by plane. Málaga to Ronda is about 1 hour 20 minutes by car OR about 1 hour 50 minutes by train

Our original plan was option A, but we made a last minute change in plans for option B. This allowed us to catch some southern Spanish sun on the beach in Málaga.

In Ronda, I suggest staying at Hotel Montelirio. It sits in the Moorish Quarter on the edge of the breathtaking Tajo Gorge and is very reasonably priced.

Once settled in your hotel, hike or take a taxi down to the Arco de Cristo for a postcard-worthy view of Ronda’s Puente Nuevo (The “New Bridge”).

Spain Itinerary
Plaza de Toros, Ronda

Day Eight

Spend the morning in Ronda visiting the Plaza de Toros de Ronda Museum, the oldest bullring in Spain. Explore the Arab Bath ruins, and go inside Puente Nuevo. Take the afternoon to hike Caminito del Rey or see some prehistoric drawings inside Pileta Cave, both about an hour to an hour and a half outside of Ronda.

Day Nine

Fly back early from Málaga to Barcelona. This time around, we booked our stay at Soho House just across from the bay. If you haven’t already, find some time to stroll along Barcelona’s beach.

Did you know Barcelona has more than 80 museums? Pick a few and use today to check them out. We visited the Picasso Museum and the Chocolate Museum, but the Barcelona History Museum also caught my interest.

Travel Time: Ronda to Málaga is about 1 hour 20 minutes by car OR about 1 hour 50 minutes by train. Málaga to Barcelona is about 1 hour 35 minutes.

Day Ten

Enjoy one more morning in Barcelona before packing up and saying good-bye to Spain.

Spain Itinerary Option Three: 14 Day Itinerary

This 14 day Spain itinerary includes an overnight in Lisbon, Portugal. You’ll fly into Barcelona, Spain, and fly home from Lisbon, Portugal.

Places mapped by Wanderlog, a trip planner on iOS and Android

Day One

Arrive in Barcelona and get settled into your hotel. Explore La Rambla and La Boquería, an open air market. End your day strolling the beach before going out for tapas for dinner.

Day Two

Take your first full day in Barcelona to learn all about Antoni Gaudí. Visit the Gaudí House Museum, Casa Milà, Park Güell and La Sagrada Familia. I suggest visiting La Sagrada Familia towards late afternoon to catch the sunset through the stained glass windows.

Spain Itinerary
Casa Milà, Barcelona

Day Three

Spend the day checking out some of Barcelona’s 80 plus museums. For just a few examples, there’s the Picasso Museum, the Museum of Natural Sciences of Barcelona, the Barcelona History Museum, the Chocolate Museum, and even a Museum of Funeral Carriages!

Day Four

Hop an early flight south from Barcelona to Granada, the final foothold of the Moors. Spend the afternoon in Granada visiting Spain’s second largest cathedral, the Hammam El Bañuelo (the Moorish baths), and exploring the Moorish Quarter. End your day at San Nicolás Viewpoint as you watch the sun set on the Alhambra.

Travel Time: Barcelona to Granada is about 1 hour 30 minutes by plane

Day Five

Use your second day in Granada to visit the Alhambra, a Moorish palace. You’ll want to be sure you’ve made a reservation in advance, as tickets are often sold out!

Day Six

Take the train from Granada to Málaga. Spend the afternoon in the Southern Spanish sun looking out on the Mediterranean Sea.

Travel Time: Granada to Málaga is about 1 hour 10 minutes by train

Alcazaba, Málaga

Day Seven

Spend the day in Málaga visiting a 1st century Roman amphitheater and the Alcazaba, said to rival the Alhambra in Granada. You can also visit Málaga’s cathedral, the “one-armed lady,” so nicknamed for its unfinished state, having only one tower instead of the originally planned two towers.

Day Eight

If you’re feeling brave, rent a car and drive out early to Ronda. Otherwise, you can reach Ronda by train. Although many people see Ronda for a day trip, it’s worth staying over night to see Puente Nuevo (the “New Bridge”) and the Tajo Gorge in the twilight, after most of the tourists have returned to the bigger cities. On the way there, stop to hike Caminito del Rey or see prehistoric drawings in Pileta Cave.

Travel Time: Málaga to Ronda is about 1 hour 20 minutes by car OR about 1 hour 50 minutes by train

El Tajo Gorge and Puente Nuevo (right) in Ronda

Day Nine

Take today to explore Ronda. Visit the Plaza de Toros de Ronda Museum, the first bullring in Spain. Tour the Arab baths, walk through the Moorish Quarter, and go inside Puente Nuevo. Hike or take a taxi down to the Arco de Cristo to catch a stunning view of Puente Nuevo at sunset.

Day Ten

Set out west by bus to Sevilla early in the morning. In Sevilla, you can climb the bell tower of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, tour the Bullring and Bullfight Museum, and visit the Flamenco Dance Museum. Visit the Royal Alcázar and catch a flamenco show in the evening.

Travel Time: Ronda to Sevilla is about 2 hour 20 minutes by bus

Day Eleven

Travel by train from Sevilla to Córdoba. See a 1st century Roman Bridge, the Mezquita (a Mosque Cathedral), and the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos.

Travel Time: Sevilla to Córdoba is about 45 minutes by train

Day Twelve

Plan to arrive in Toledo early for a full day of sight seeing. Wander through Toledo’s cobble stoned streets in the “old city.” Visit the El Greco Museum, the Alcázar de Toledo, a gothic cathedral, and Puente de San Martín (an old medieval bridge).

Travel Time: Córdoba to Toledo is about 2 hours 30 minutes by train

Day Thirteen

Take an early flight from Madrid to Lisbon, Portugal. In Lisbon, visit the Castelo de São Jorge and the National Tile Museum. Grab something to eat at the Mercado de Ribeira, a food market. And take a tuk tuk tour of the city!

Travel Time: Toledo to Madrid is about an hour by train. Madrid to Lisbon is about 1 hour 20 minutes by plane.

Day Fourteen

Purchase any final souvenirs, pack your bags, and say good-bye until next time!

Further Reading

If you’re looking for more details on things to do in a specific city on your Spain itinerary, I’ve written blogs posts on many of these places. Check out my blog posts on Barcelona, Madrid, Segovia, Ávila, El Escorial, or Ronda for a deeper look. And be sure to check back, because a blog post on Málaga is soon to come!

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What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City

What Happened When We Got Lost in Ávila, Spain, and Why I Fell in Love with the City

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small fee from qualifying purchases at no extra cost to you.

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Atop The Wall

I grab his hand, and with unquestioning trust in his sense of direction, I run along the top of the medieval wall surrounding Ávila, Spain, dragging him behind me. We had wandered perhaps a little too far from where we entered the top of the wall, lingered a little too long. We now have less than fifteen minutes to catch the tour bus, or the tour group leaves Ávila and returns to Madrid, without us.

“I think I saw there’s an exit this way,” he says.

As the minutes trickle away, we run further and further along the giant stone wall. And still, there is no exit in sight. My husband does not seem to be displaying the amount of concern or hurry I feel appropriate given the circumstances.

And then he just stops, pulling me up short.

I’m breathing heavily as he looks at me and asks me calmly, “Why hurry? Either we’ll make it, or we won’t.”

Stranded in Ávila, Spain

I know he’s right. On multiple counts. We wander on, at a slower pace this time. And we do end up finding another exit in the direction he had suggested. But the exit drops us off on the other side of Ávila. The tour bus leaves for Madrid without us. And yet, it becomes one of the best and most unforgettable adventures we had together in Spain.

When we initially discussed a day trip to Ávila, we had not decided whether to join a tour group or to venture out on our own. So luckily, it just so happened I had already looked up train departures from Ávila to Madrid the day before. Now standing lost in Ávila, we decide we might as well have a look around. So we choose a departure time, and then we set out to see the town. First stop, the gothic cathedral.

The Cathedral

There’s a lot to love about the cathedral in Ávila, Spain. For starters, it was the first gothic cathedral built in Spain. Also of interest, the back side of the cathedral happens to be part of the medieval wall surrounding Ávila. And to top it all off, the entrance fee to this cathedral is very reasonably priced, and the tour of the bell tower is unrivaled.

Why I’m obsessed with the Cathedral in Ávila, Spain

Ok, now lemme tell you why I love Ávila’s bell tower tour so much. First of all, I love old buildings, and the way you can feel they have a story, a life, a soul of their own. But every admission I pay, every tour I take, every cathedral or castle I explore, there are always locked doors, hallways cordoned off. You can feel the building holding itself back. And I am undoubtedly aware that I am a stranger, a tourist.

I yearn to know the building intimately, to see what lies beyond the tourist’s view, to know a building’s secret places. I long to feel what it was like to live and walk and breathe, to be a part of the building when it was still used for it’s initial purpose.

Expecting no more than a brief and casual peek inside the cathedral, my husband surprises me with admission tickets for the bell tower. As we begin the tour, I quickly discover that Ávila’s tower tour is every thing I have always wanted a cathedral tour to be. Yes, we climb the bell tower and see the bells. But we see so much more than that, too.

And we aren’t just given admission and told to climb 200 stairs or take an elevator to the top. We are guided in-person. The tour guide leads us to explore a walkway overlooking the cathedral, the bell ringer’s apartments, and even the top of the vaulted ceilings. I’m not sure if you’d even call it the attic. If there’s a place between the attic and the roof, that’s where the tour guide took us. You don’t get more intimate than that with a building.

My Husband’s Favorite Part of the Story

Ok, this is probably my husband’s favorite part of the story. Our guide narrates the tour in Spanish. However, audio guides are available in other languages as well, including English. I probably should have used the audio guide.

Feeling a bit brave, I decide to try the tour in Spanish. I had been practicing my Spanish listening skills on and off the entire vacation. But our tour guide speaks a bit too fast for me. And eventually I start to tune out, asking my husband to recap what’s happening for me every so often.

Next thing we know, I’m leading the tour group down a passageway and opening doors the tour guide explicitly told us <in Spanish> not to open. As I open the forbidden door, a giant gust of wind rushes past us in the narrow passage, a dizzying fifty feet off the ground. The tour guide yells frantically at me to shut the door.

So. Everyone who knows us, knows that I’m the rule follower, the square. And everyone who knows us, knows that my husband is the smooth-talking, rule-bending limit-pusher. While I hurriedly shut the door, my husband swears I am going to get us both kicked out of the cathedral. And no one back home will believe it was my fault, not his!

But luckily, they don’t kick us out. The door is safely shut again, and no one was blown off the walkway by the wind storm I released. I learn that some doors are kept closed for a reason. And we continue the tour.

Moral of the Story

So here’s the take away. If you’re practicing your shaky foreign language listening skills, maybe let someone else lead the way.

Convent of St. Teresa

The Convent of St. Teresa

Another beautiful site in Ávila is the Convent of St. Teresa. We decide not to enter the convent, simply due to time. But we do learn a few things about St. Teresa before we move on.

Teresa of Ávila was a Spanish noblewoman, born in 1515. She is one of the patron saints of Spain and the sick. In fact, in 1970, she became the first female Doctor of the Church. (A Doctor of the Church is some one who has made consequential contributions to Catholic doctrine.)

The Convent of St. Teresa is believed to have been built on the site of her birth. When you visit the convent, you can view a relic of this important Catholic Saint. You can also view another relic of St. Teresa at the convent in Ronda, Spain.

Ávila Spain

Getting to Ávila, Spain

Ávila, Spain, is a small town just an hour and a half from Madrid. Visiting Ávila makes for an excellent day trip from Madrid. You can easily book a tour through one of the kiosks on Plaza del Sol in Madrid. Or if you’re feeling more adventurous, plan your own transportation. Trains leave from and for Madrid regularly and are fairly inexpensive.

If I were to do it all over again, I would book our own transportation from the beginning. The tour we booked from Plaza del Sol only gave us an hour and a half in Ávila. The first 45 minutes were guided, followed by 45 minutes of free time to explore on our own. Although the tour was interesting, 45 minutes free time is not enough to explore Ávila’s cobblestone streets and see all that it has to offer. Plan to spend at least a half day there.

Click here to check availability for tours to Avila

Ávila Spain

Tips to Know Before You Go to Ávila, Spain

—>Check out the epic viewpoint you see above of Ávila, Spain. If you take the bus tour, ours stopped at the viewpoint of the city for pictures. Or, if you decide to plan your own visit, take a taxi to this viewpoint for a fun photo shoot.

—>If you’re short on time when visiting Ávila, be aware of the siesta hour. Staffing at some businesses during this afternoon hour is a bit lighter. So be aware, it may take longer to get through lines during this time.

Looking for more day trip ideas from Madrid? Watch for my upcoming posts about our adventures in Segovia and El Escorial.

If you’re looking for more adventures in Spain, check out my posts 15 Things to do in Barcelona, Spain or 7 Free Things to do in Barcelona. Or, check out these other epic day trips from Madrid.

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Ávila, Spain

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