If you’ve come across this article, you must be in the midst of a hard decision: Granada or Seville? Although Andalusia has many gorgeous destinations, Granada and Seville are undoubtedly the most popular. So, especially if this is your first trip to Spain, you’ll want to choose the right city. Whether you’re short on time or both cities just won’t fit into your itinerary, this post aims to help you decide. I’ll be listing the top attractions in Granada and Seville, how to get to each city, and a breakdown of the pros and cons of each destination. If you end up having enough time to visit both Granada and Seville, I’ll also give you tips on how to do this at the end!
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Top attractions in Granada
Going to Granada is almost synonymous with visiting the famous Alhambra. It’s worth noting that the Alhambra Palace is the most visited place in Spain for a good reason. Between all of the different palatial structures and gardens, you could easily spend hours enjoying the Alhambra’s grounds. If you’d like to learn more about the palace and its famous past residents, Ferdinand and Isabella, I recommend signing up for a guided tour. When planning your trip to the Alhambra, be aware that its popularity comes with certain limitations. For example, if you’re not planning to take a tour, you’ll want to grab your Nasrid Palace tickets far in advance to avoid paying the big bucks.
Even if you’re not a huge history buff, this mountainside city is still worth a visit. Anyone can enjoy Granada’s picturesque Albaicín neighborhood! Walking through this part of town feels like stepping back in time, due to the well-preserved homes and the narrow streets. Once the Arab Quarter, the Albaicín is now the heart of Granada’s tourism. Although exploring this neighborhood involves its fair share of stairs, the views of the Sierra Nevada are unbeatable. For a great place to watch the sunset, head over to San Nícolas Church. This spot is popular among tourists and locals, so arrive early to grab a place to sit! If you feel like you’re up for more of a trek, I highly recommend checking out the Mirador de San Miguel Alto (pictured below). Just make sure to wear comfy shoes and pack some drinks and snacks!
For all of my foodies out there, the tapa scene in Granada is rooted in the culture. In fact, when you order a drink in this city, the waiter will bring you a free portion of tapas. For the best tapas, you won’t want to miss the Realejo area. Additionally, this neighborhood is less touristy and filled with more locals! Make sure to drop by Taberna La Tana, Bodegas Castañeda, La Botillería, or Los Diamantes to tapear like a true granadino.
How to get to Granada
Due to Granada’s popularity as a tourist destination as well as its overall size, the city is well connected. Nonetheless, depending on where you’ll be coming from, you’ll want to evaluate the easiest way for you to reach Granada. For example, Granada has a small airport that doesn’t offer many flights. So, direct flights from the United States, for example, do not currently exist. If you’re set on flying to Granada, there are a few different options with layovers. The first option is to fly from the U.S. to Barcelona or Madrid and then to book a domestic flight within Spain to Granada. As the Málaga airport is nearby, another feasible option is to fly to Málaga and then rent a car or catch a bus to Granada.
If you’ll be coming from another city in Spain, the simplest option is probably to take a train. As an example, the high-speed AVE train can get you from Madrid to Granada in just over three hours! You could also take this train from Barcelona to Granada in approximately seven hours. If you’d rather take the bus, this is also a great option if you’re leaving from another Spanish city. To check out bus times to Granada, go to the ALSA website. From both Granada’s bus and train station, you’ll most likely want to take a taxi to get to your accommodations.
Pros and cons of Granada
Overall, visiting Granada is something you’ll want to do at least once in your lifetime. Whether it’s a day trip to see the Alhambra or you choose to spend multiple days perusing the city, that’s up to you! Now, to help you choose between Granada or Seville for this particular trip, let’s do a rundown of the pros and cons of visiting this historic destination.
In Granada’s favor, the Alhambra, Generalife, and the Albaicín are all listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites. If you’re someone who values understanding the Moorish influence on Spain, you’ll love visiting Granada. If you have any interest in the famous Catholic Monarchs of Spain and the Reconquista, you’ll find a visit to the Alhambra to be very informative. Plus, let’s not forget that in Granada, you get free tapas when ordering a drink! You won’t find this in Seville. Moreover, in terms of picturesque views and charming historic neighborhoods, I’d say Granada has a leg up on Seville. Between the Albaicín and Sacromonte barrios, you could spend days wandering and enjoying the sights. Between the palace and the well-preserved historic homes, it all feels like something out of a storybook!
However, on the other side of things, if you have trouble with hills or stairs, Granada might not be the place for you to spend multiple days. In this case, I would recommend traveling to Seville and taking a day trip to visit the Alhambra. If you choose to go to Granada, you’re going to want comfortable walking shoes with good traction.
Top attractions in Seville
If you’re looking for an authentic Andalusian experience, head to Seville! Famous for its flamenco dancing, tapas, and the Feria de Abril, this city is not to be missed on your trip to Spain. The three most visited attractions in Seville are the Royal Alcázar, the Plaza de España, and the Catedral de Sevilla. However, I would add another place that I think everyone should visit here: Casa de Pilatos. Due to the sheer amount of things to do in Seville, you’re going to want an absolute minimum of two days here, if not three. Since the Alcázar and the Seville Cathedral both require tickets to enter, you’ll want to plan your trip well in advance.
Especially for the Alcázar, purchasing your tickets in advance would be ideal, although it is possible to stand in line and buy them the day you visit. For Game of Thrones fans, visiting this palace is a must-do activity in Seville. The Royal Alcázar served as the primary filming location for Dorne in this HBO TV series. After making your way around the palace and its grounds, you can easily visit the Seville Cathedral. I say this because it’s just across the street! Even if you aren’t a particularly religious person, a trip to the Seville Cathedral will still be worth the experience. The size of this church alone is something to marvel at, as it is currently the third-largest church in the world. Furthermore, Christopher Columbus is buried here. When you’re finished in the Cathedral, make your way to the top of the La Giralda bell tower. This activity is included in your Cathedral ticket and involves a stunning panoramic view of the city.
Whether or not you choose to visit the Alcázar and the Cathedral, you’ll definitely want to stop by the Plaza de España. This plaza, located within Maria Luisa Park, is free to enter and explore. Furthermore, it’s likely the most recognized structure in the city. If you’re a photographer, you’ll enjoy waking up early and taking photos around this plaza with its many tile accents. If you’ve visited Seville’s top three attractions and still have some time to spare, reserve at least an hour to visit the beautiful Casa de Pilatos.
How to get to Seville
Since Seville is the largest city in Andalusia, it’s well connected both internationally and to other cities in Spain. For international travelers, you’ll be able to fly into the Seville airport, but you’ll have to make a connection or two first before you can get there. If you’re traveling from the U.S., you would most likely fly into the large hub airports in Madrid or Barcelona first and then take a national flight to Seville from there. However, be aware that the Seville airport is located outside of the city center. So, you’ll either have to take a bus or taxi to reach your hotel from the airport. In many cases, it’s simpler to fly into a larger airport in Spain and then take the high-speed AVE train to Seville.
If you’re coming to Seville from another city in Spain, you’ll have two options: train or bus. Personally, I always find the train to be more comfortable! Depending on where you’re coming from, you’ll want to investigate whether the train or bus makes more sense for you. Take into account how far you’re staying from the train or bus station, ticket cost, and duration before making your choice. To check train tickets and times, you’ll want to go to the Renfe website. If you’d prefer to take the bus, you can book your tickets with ALSA.
Pros and cons of Seville
If it’s your first trip to Spain, I’m not sure you can justify skipping Seville. This city is exemplary of Andalusia and the particular culture of the Southern region of Spain. Plus, there’s so much to do! To have a full Seville experience, you’ll have to visit the Alcázar, Cathedral, and Plaza de España at the very least. As far as historic sites, I’d also recommend the Casa de Pilatos, the Metropol Parasol, and the Torre del Oro. However, to complete your intro to Seville, you’ll also need to try some tapas and watch a flamenco show! If your trip will be three days or longer and you have to choose only Seville or Granada, I would encourage you to choose Seville. In general, you’ll find more to do here to fill your time. Plus, you can always take a day trip from Seville to Granada to see the Alhambra!
You may want to consider avoiding Seville in only a few scenarios. For example, this city has one of the warmest climates in Europe. Therefore, although this means that temperatures are quite agreeable into the fall and spring, summertime can be sweltering. If you choose to visit between June, July, and August, make sure to keep an eye on the temperature. The daily highs during the summertime can exceed 95-96°F (35-35.6°C)! Due to the heat, you may want to wake up early to explore and then spend the afternoon indoors. Additionally, you might not want to choose to visit Seville during a major holiday. During peak season, you may not be able to see all the attractions you had hoped to see. Furthermore, you’ll pay more for flights, accommodations, and food.
So, should I visit Granada or Seville?
Although I can’t make this decision for you, I can help you to take certain factors into account for each city. I think choosing between Granada and Seville ultimately boils down to the question: how badly do you want to see the Alhambra? Make sure to think about the following questions as well:
- How much time do you have? If you only have one to two days, I would say go to Granada. This amount of time is too short to see everything in Seville. If you have three or more days, I would plan to go to Seville. From there, you can always take a day trip to the Alhambra or even take one or two days of your trip and stay overnight in Granada.
- What time of year will you be traveling? Make sure to check the weather forecast for Granada and Seville. One may have temperatures that are preferable to the other! Additionally, you’ll want to verify whether or not you’ll be traveling during a holiday. Holy Week in Seville could be overwhelming if you didn’t intend to visit for this purpose.
- Do you prefer to have specific activities to do, or would you rather wander? If you’d like to check activities off a list, Seville is more up your alley. However, if you’re more of a “go with the flow” person, you’ll like Granada’s chill mountainside vibes.
- Do you have difficulty with stairs? Granada is a very hilly city and is probably not the best place for you to spend more than a day or two. You may want to consider taking a guided tour to the Alhambra but staying in Seville.
Make time for both! Here’s how.
I’m definitely an advocate of making the most out of your time on vacation. So, if you have four days or more to spend in Spain, I think you could fit both Seville and Granada into your trip. Although it’ll take a little planning, this means you won’t have to miss the Alhambra or Andalusia’s capital. Below, I’ll detail how you can easily travel from Granada to Seville or vice versa. This way, you won’t have to miss out on anything!
How to get from Granada to Seville
There are four options to travel from Granada to Seville: take the train, bus, rent a car, or go on a guided tour. The most straightforward and most affordable option is to look into catching the train or bus. Regarding the train, you can take either the high-speed AVE train or the national train. The AVE train will get you from Granada to Seville in two and a half hours, while the regional option will take between three and a half and four hours. Of course, the AVE train is about twice the cost. You can book either of these trains on the Renfe website. If you’re staying closer to the bus station and would rather go this route, you can purchase your tickets on the ALSA website. The bus will take about three and a half hours to reach Seville and should cost approximately 25€.
If you have the extra cash to rent a car, this option provides you with the flexibility to stop in other towns on your way to Seville. If you’re in a time crunch, I would highly recommend reserving your spot on a guided tour. This way, you won’t have to worry about any of the planning.
How to get from Seville to Granada
Traveling from Seville to Granada is possible by four different routes: train, bus, car, or a guided tour. I would choose the train and, in particular, the high-speed AVE train to make the most of my time. The high-speed train will get you to Granada in two and a half hours, while the regional train will likely take closer to four hours. You can check train times and prices from Seville to Granada on the Renfe website. If you’d prefer to take the bus, you can purchase your tickets via the ALSA website. The bus ride should take around three to four hours.
Once again, if you can rent a car, this is an excellent option for those looking to explore Spain’s smaller towns. This way, you could make stops along your drive to explore! If you’d rather ensure that your trip to Granada goes without a hitch, you might want to consider paying for a guided tour. Many tours even include your entrance to the Alhambra!