I’m sick to my stomach with a case of the travel bug… 5 cities (and 3 countries) in 10 days? Game on.
Just like we would get at college back in the states, study abroad students are also afforded a week long hiatus from school- the famous (or infamous, depending on how you look at it) Spring Break. I’ve personally never been a fan of the raunchy, rowdy experience (hence why I canceled my PV trip last year and booked a flight to London with two of my best friends) so I knew I would thrive for on a European spring break trip. And not to toot my own horn, but thrive I did.
Here was our game plan:
- We have school Monday-Wednesday so we would fly out to Madrid on early Thursday morning (think 4 AM early) and spend the next two days with Syracuse abroad students showing us their home. We didn’t schedule much for this segment of the trip and allowed our “spanish” counterparts to do the planning for us.
- Next, we would take a 5 hour bus to Granada. The only thing we booked was a visit to the Alhambra but we had multiple recommendations from friends and blogs pinned into our Google Maps.
- After Granada, we would get on a 3 hour bus headed to Seville. We came here with lots of food recommendations and the popular attitude that “the city is so small you can do it in a day”.
- In order to enjoy the ocean as one may expect to on spring break, we would fly from Seville to Lisbon where we designated a few days to enjoy the sun and reportedly beautiful beaches of Portugal.
- Finally, we would do St. Patricks day the most American way possible: fly to Dublin, Ireland.
So what was planned before we left?
We made sure to book all of our flights and busses at least two weeks before we left. As the actual traveling part of travel tends to be the most stressful and expensive part, we wanted this to be settled before we left. For flights, we use google flights and Student Universe, and for busses we just googled departures and arrivals and found the best options for price/ time.
Due to a ~situation~ with Airbnb one of my roommates has experienced, we decided to stick to hotels for the week. Although one could argue hostels are a cheaper and a more enriching experience, we knew at the end of long days we would somewhere clean and secure where we didn’t have to worry about our safety or belongings in any capacity. Here are the hotels we stayed at:
Madrid, Granada, Sevilla, Lisbon, Dublin.
ALERT ALERT!! If you plan to visit the Alhambra (which is a MUST DO if you are visiting Granada) you need to make ticket reservations VERY EARLY in advance. We were told its best to buy tickets 90 days before you plan to visit. Do not depend on buying tickets day-of! The odds are definitely not in your favor.
If you want to research recommended spots (*cough* see below) before you start traveling (which I’d highly suggest), the best way to keep track and group them geographically so you can make day plans is by making your own map for the trip on Google Maps (Menu -> Your Places -> Maps -> Create Map). Here is an example of my Granada map:
Or you can be smart and use Google Travel, I just can’t tell you much about that because I’ve been to lazy to download the app and figure out how to best utilize it.
How it really went down-
Happy to report back that we made it on time to the bus stops and airports for all of the travel we planned. (A hiccup delay in Seville made the trip to Lisbon a little more stressful than it needed to be, but we got there in the end. And thats all that matters, right?)
Here is a brief travel guide for each city (to see more of each, watch the Spring Break video):
- Ojala– Really great restaurant with a sand bar downstairs
- Cafe Federal- So good for brunch. Expect to wait in line for a little but the outdoor seating makes the wait bearable.
- Giolatto- This is a small chain of gelato stores but it was TO DIE FOR. Second best gelato I’ve ever had (after Florence).
- Ginko- Rooftop bar with really great views of the city.
- Dubliners– Fun bar to pregame for club nights. Relatively cheap and lots of American study abroad students.
- San Miguel Market- Really amazing food market. Definitely on the pricer side so I wouldn’t go there starving (small portions); grabbing a few bites and sharing with friends is the way to do it.
- Sunset picnic in Temple of Debod Park
- Royal Palace of Madrid– so beautiful.
- Walk through La Latina quarter
- Get a pitcher of Sangria in the patio of Plaza Mayor
- (There is obviously so much more to do in Madrid but we spent the weekend enjoying our friends company… Pinterest has a lot of great recs!)
- El Retiro Park is really beautiful to walk around. If the boats are open, take one out!
- Palacio de Cristal– I was so sad this was closed the day we went but definitely make your way over (inside of El Retiro Park).. they also have art exhibitions inside from time to time. A really beautiful space.
- Joy This is the club we went to and it was so much fun. If you’re going with a large group, I’d recommend getting a few tables on the stage. This is what we did- its around $40 a head but gives you so much more room and a great vantage point of the club.
MADRID TAKEAWAY: I wish we had more time here (2 days is definitely not enough for Madrid, but we knew that going into it) but that being said, I had such an incredible time with friends I haven’t seen for months exploring such a beautiful city meeting really friendly locals. Also, the night scene is INSANE and I had one of the most fun nights I’ve had all of abroad here.
- Cafe Futbol- really cute cafe with the sweetest staff. We came here at night to get churros and hot chocolate.
- Any restaurant in Plaza de la Romanilla– there are so many options in a beautiful open area, it was fun to walk around and pick a spot to sit down and eat.
- Alhambra Palace Hotel- we went here after watching the sunset to enjoy cocktails and the breathtaking view on the patio. Highly recommend!!
- Alhambra and Generalife gardens– MUST. DO. So beautiful and the tours are really interesting. Book WELL in advance (they suggest 90 days)
- Calle Mirador de San Nicolas- We didn’t get to go (we went on a Monday, the one day they are closed) but these are beautiful gardens with peacocks that also offer a great view of the city. Ideal to go right after the Alhambra since they neighbor each other
- Albacin– This is a district in Granada which is just really beautiful to walk around. You will probably find yourself in this area without trying, as Granada is very walkable, but
- Carmen de los Martires- beautiful house grounds to watch the sunset. The day they went, the grounds closed right before sunset, but a great quiet place to catch an unbelievable view of the city. The streets above this also offer great sunset views, but expect crowds (get there an hour early if you want a seat; we walked through a few lookout spots)
- Alcaiceria- Moorish markets, definitely touristy but the narrow lanes and shop entrances gives you an idea of what the markets may have one day been like.
- Dinner Flamenco Show- We figured the dinner made the most financial sense, and I’m glad we did because it was delicious, filling, and made the show more enjoyable.
- Eat Baklava!
GRANADA TAKEAWAY: This may be one of the most beautiful cities we have been to. It was also very doable in 2 days because you end up walking through the same areas to get to each spot. Weather wise, early March was a great time to go because it was mid 60s and very sunny. It got buggy at night so I can imagine in warmer seasons it gets worse.
- Bar Catedral Sevilla– These were the best tapas I have EVER had. If you go here, you need to order the pop rocks goat cheese platter and the grilled artichoke salad. I’d go back to Sevilla just to revisit this restaurant.
- Pura Vida Terrazza-
- Perro Viejo- right across the street from Las Setas de Sevilla. Great food and fun indoor environment.
- Cathedral of Seville
- Spain Square– you can rent boats here but it seems like a somewhat pathetic trip around a small “lazy” river in the square. Still fun to see.
- Walk along river (Santa Cruz area)
- Las Setas de Sevilla- Interesting concrete park/ architecturally interesting structure you can walk across. We didn’t get to do this but I wish we did.
- Royal Alcazar Apparently featured in Game of Thrones seasons 5 and 6.
SEVILLA TAKEWAY: I loved this city but if you had to pick between Granada and Sevilla, I would choose Granada. It is an amazing city but definitely small- very easy to do in 1-2 days. That being said, some of the best food I ate this entire trip. Still don’t know if its properly written “Sevilla” or “Seville”.
- Reverse Beach Club We spent an afternoon here getting drinks and then eating at the restaurant. It was off-season so the pool wasn’t open but we all wanted to come back when it was warmer and enjoy the environment the way it was designed to be enjoyed.
- TIME OUT MARKET!! “Time Out Market Lisbon is the first market in the world where everything has been chosen, tasted (and tested) by and independent panel of Lisbon experts. If it’s good it goes in the magazine, If it’s great it goes on to the Market” ‘Nuff said.
- Tuk-Tuk Tour If you don’t have much time in the city (and even if you do), this is a great way to see the most iconic historical spots of the city. We had a great tour guide who explained everything we were seeing and tailored our experience to what we wanted to see.
- Belem Tower beautiful tower which overlooks the water.
- Castelo de S. Jorge This castle is really a step back in time… it felt like I was walking into my 5-year old drawings of what I imagined castles to look like with the turrets and secret jewel rooms. Also offers an incredible view of the city but expect steep cobblestone hills to get there and lots of steps.
- LIME SCOOTERS!!! We had the best time Liming around the city, especially the bigger squares along the water. Definitely do this.
LISBON TAKEAWAY: We absolutely loved this city and although we couldn’t be happier with how we planned out trip, we would have loved more time here. If I could change anything I’d go back when it was a bit warmer to enjoy the beach clubs and beaches in full swing, but it was nice having spaces to ourselves. I’ve recommend this spot to everyone and would go back in a heartbeat.
If I asked you “which one of these does not look like the other”, the answer would be Dublin. It was definitely a challenge packing for this leg of the trip when the rest of our travels required clothes for much warmer weather, but it was a great way to cap off our week. I wish I had more time there when it wasn’t St. Patricks day because the city itself is so cool, but here are the restaurant spots we loved:
- The Lucky Duck
- Bobo’s Burger
- Bread & Bones
Below are previously unpublished pictures from Spring Break. (For more check out my Instagram feed pictures and “Abroad” highlight) and check out my Spring Break Video– hands down one of my favorite videos I’ve ever made and definitely the hardest I’ve worked on a video!
I hope you guys found this guide helpful, if you visit any of these spots and use these tips, please let me know!!
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