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Barcelona to Malaga to Granada or Seville?

Hello everyone! I revised this post to give a little more detail.
Taking a quick 1 week trip to Spain for my 30th birthday. We just visited Madrid and Segovia along with Lisbon 5/2019 and have been itching to go back. Our trip is January 16th-24th, short I know, but that is okay. We land in Barcelona early in the morning Friday the 17th. We will have 3 full days there. I do want to take a day trip to Monsterrat as I have heard it is a must see. We will get Hop on Hop off tickets so we can move about the city and pick and choose areas to visit. We are not big into touring every single site, seeing is just fine. Although, if there is something I just cannot miss, please share! We fly to Malaga on the 20th and spend the remainder of time there. I have two different options I am thinking of, but am open to other suggestions about day trips from Malaga. We are considering renting a car for more freedom to come and go to surrounding cities/towns. I was thinking Granada or Seville? We tend to do quite a bit when we travel and like to leave our schedule partially open for change.
Also, bonus question: Any restaurant suggestions in Malaga for my birthday on the 20th?

Thanks in advance for all the advice. I love reading everyone’s responses.

Posted by
17636 posts

I agree that you [edit] don't [edit] have time for anything beyond Barcelona and Malaga plus either Seville or Granada. You're cutting Barcelona very short as it is. With no time for wandering around the countryside, I don't see any advantage to having a car. The train will get you to Seville in less than 2 hours. ViaMichelin (said to be optimistic) estimates the driving time at 2-1/2 hours, not counting the time you'd spend dealing with the car-rental agency, looking for parking, etc. You certainly won't have any use for the car while you're actually in Malaga or Seville; you'll just be paying to park it.

ViaMichelin's estimated driving time to Granada is 1 hr. 37 min., which is around the same as the fastest trains. Again, I don't see any benefit unless you decide to go to Granada and find that all the fast-train tickets are sold out.

You will have difficulty getting tickets to the Alhambra at this point unless you find a hotel that has them set aside for guests. If a tour is your only option, be sure you find one that goes to the Nasrid Palaces; not all do, and that's the prime part of the complex.

In Seville you will probably be stuck in long lines if you don't buy your Alcazar tickets in advance. Cathedral lines are long, too, but you can finesse that by stopping at the Iglesia Colegial del Salvador and buying a combo ticket that includes the Cathedral.

In Barcelona, you should not plan to just walk up and try to buy tickets for any of the following sights, because you will again likely face long lines and possibly sell-outs: La Sagrada Familia, Parc Guell (no tickets sold at the park itself), Casa Mila/La Pedrera, Casa Batllo, Picasso Museum. It's prudent to get tickets in advance for the Palau de la Musica Catalana if you want to see it; the English tours might sell out. You have so little time in Barcelona that just any old tickets may not work for you; most tickets to the sights I've listed are timed, so you need to treat your schedule like a jigsaw puzzle to fit is as much as you can.

Although Malaga is a pleasant city, for me it is not as interesting/distinctive as Barcelona, Seville and Granada, so I suggest minimizing your time in Malaga.

Posted by
1188 posts

I don't entirely understand the logic of your trip - if you have a car for 4/5 days in Malaga won't you be visiting places outside the city rather than those in it? There's a lot to see in the city, but you should avoid driving within Malaga city if you can.

Anyway, Granada is faster to drive to than Sevilla. If your intention is to just see the Alhambra (do you have tickets?), then you can go directly to the Alhambra car park and avoid having to drive through the city itself. Although you won't have a lot of time to stop, you can drive East along the coastal route as far as Motril before heading inland and take in the views. So I'd chose Granada rather than Seville.

If you want another excursion, I recommend Antequera. Easy to get to/from and with several good sights to fill the day - plus parking is easy relatively.

I don't really recommend restaurants because everyone's tastes are different. But El Pimpi is Malaga's famous place - a bit touristy, perhaps, but worth going at least once for the tapas "atmosphere"

Posted by
36 posts

Nick,
Thanks for your advice. Our Airbnb has designated parking and my thought was to increase access to other towns/cities around Malaga, so yes, you're correct there. We have driven in many countries and have just felt like it afforded us more freedom to move around where we want and when we want. Although, in larger cities, we typically forgo having a vehicle. Within Malaga, public transportation/walking is just fine. I like to see scenery, so Granada has interested me being close to the Sierra Nevada range. My initial thoughts are to drive east along the coast to Granada to take in the views. Tickets are still available for Alhambra, so I am not too worried about that. I'll look into Antequera as well. Yes, El Pimpi was recommended to us by our friends that have gone there. Thank you again!

Posted by
1188 posts

Taylor - I'm happy to help (if I did?), but I would caution you again about the Alhambra tickets. Out of interest, I just looked at the official site and on 21/1 there are only three time slots left. On 22/1 only two and on 23/1 just one. I know this constant warnings about booking ahead can be irritating - but the Alhambra is one sight where you mustn't delay.

Posted by
36 posts

Nick,
You most certainly did! Yes, I am heeding everyone's cautions. Alhambra seems to be the reason people go to Granada in the first place. This is where I think I am more interested in going anyway, but wanted to make sure I wasn't missing out on other recommendations as well. Appreciate your help in making this decision!

Posted by
67 posts

We absolutely loved Granada. However i caution you from driving into the old city. We stayed in the old city and we drove to the hotel and we almost lost our minds. The streets were originally build for cart and donkey. And you will have to drive your car through these streets, which are really more like alleys. I would never, ever do that again. If you absolutely need a car, park in the modern part of the city and take a taxi to your accommodations.

Posted by
14131 posts

My initial thoughts are to drive east along the coast to Granada to take in the views. I've driven in the opposite direction along the coast between Gibraltar and Malaga. If you take the fast A7 road, you'll likely be too far inland from the coast to see it. If you take the coastal road, you should plan on at least twice as much driving time. The part I drove was not particularly scenic.