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Family trip to Barcelona and Seville May 2020

We are starting to plan for a trip to Spain at the end of May 2020. So far, we have decided to stay in Spain (and not try to work in Portugal this time around) and we are definitely staying in Barcelona first and for, likely, 5 nights, then we are heading to Seville via train, most likely, for another 4-5 nights. (kids are 13 and 15 years old)
1. Should we spend more/less time in Barcelona or Seville? (thinking more in Barcelona and less in Seville)
2. Would you recommend a day trip in each city? (thinking about Girona from Barcelona, for example)
3. Have you used AirBnbs in both areas? With success? (we've used them in London and Paris with no trouble at all)
4. Are there recommendations for 'must do's' for families in Barcelona and Seville? (my kids aren't in to art museums at this point)
5. If not Seville, is there another city that you recommend we look at for the 2nd 1/2 of our trip?

Thanks for any advice, tips and tricks!

Posted by
2689 posts

Barcelona is larger and has more sights, and also a beach so it's the logical place to spend more time in. But Seville is so pleasant that I wouldn't shortchange it too much. 5 Barcelona / 4 Seville sounds reasonable.

Day trip - if you do one from Seville, I suggest Cordoba.

I've used airbnb in Spain with no difficulty, but not Barcelona. I have an airbnb booked for Seville for next year. I believe there are some legal restrictions so you want to make sure the one you book is legal. There are registration numbers in the listing if it's legal. I'd look more into it in Barcelona especially - find out how to tell if it's legal and what to ask the host. IF you can't find something suitable on airbnb, then look into "aparthotels" - I stayed in one in Barcelona, basically a hotel (so it's legal under hotel law) but the rooms are apartments. Or local agencies that specifically rent legal short-term apartments.

Must do in Barcelona - the Gaudi houses are very interesting, the strange architecture seemed to interest my kids. They liked Casa Battlo (it had an interesting "audioguide" on an ipad that my kids - 7 and 10 at the time - liked) . Also Park Guell for similar reasons. And go to the beach if you don't hit a beach town on your trip.
In Seville, go to the Alcazar and see a flamenco show (tourist-focused ones aren't too late at night and kids are welcome, but maybe not toddlers or babies, though).
I'd say Seville is a great choice for your second stop. Granada would be another choice, if you preferred it.

Posted by
1282 posts
  • Should we spend more/less time in Barcelona or Seville? (thinking more in Barcelona and less in Seville)

Seville is Spain's best city and Europe's third best. But Barcelona has more variety of sights, a beach and likely more that would interest a teenager, especially if they like football. So I think 5 in Barcelona and 4 in Seville is a good split, particularly if you'll be jet-laggy on arrival. Also Barcelona to Seville is a long journey, so will take much of a day - can you avoid having to go back to Barcelona and instead start your journey home from Seville or Malaga airport?

  • Would you recommend a day trip in each city? (thinking about Girona from Barcelona, for example),

Both cities have some obvious day-trips. From Seville, Cordoba, Jerez (especially if you have a horse interest) or wonderful Cadiz for example. However, I wouldn't book anything in advance and instead decide when you arrive. In both cities, you may well decide there's enough to stay put, but if not day-trips can be easily arranged on the fly.

Posted by
2516 posts

Good on you for focusing on one country to travel to, this time around, I think you'll have a more rewarding experience. Anyways... here's my answer's to your questions:

  1. I'm correct that you have a total of 10 nights in Spain (best case)? If that is the case I'd recommend splicing in one stop in between Barcelona and Sevilla, consider you are traveling from the extreme north of the country all the way to the extreme south by train. I'd recommend stopping in Cordoba (my favourite Andalucian city) for a few nights. Cordoba is conveniently on the AVE line between Barcelona and Sevilla. It's a wonderful city, with a whitewashed old town and impressive Moorish Grand Mosque (La Mezquita). To recap I'd do something like this: Barcelona (4n) - Cordoba (2n) - Sevilla (4n). I think Sevilla has just as many interesting things to see and do as Barcelona.

  2. Girona is a very good choice of day trip from Barcelona, you could also consider Tarragona (seaside Roman ruins), PortAventura (largest theme park in Spain), or Montserrat (cliff side monastery). For Sevilla consider Cordoba (if you don't end up staying the night), Jerez (sherry capital and Royal Andalucian Riding School), or Italica (large Roman ruins).

  3. Kid friendly activities for Barcelona: Tibidabo Amusement Park (oldest in Spain), Montserrat Hiking, Vall de Núria (Pyrenees), CosmoCaixa, Barcelona Aquarium, Maritime Museum, Parque del Laberinto. Make sure to try Rocambolesc, world's best ice cream shop, from Michelin Stared Roca Bros., they have locations in Girona and Barcelona.

Posted by
20842 posts

I'm going to suggest you re-think the idea of starting in Barcelona and then heading to Andalucía. It can get very hot in Andalucía, so the earlier you spend your time there, the better your weather odds. Seville's average high temperature is 81F in May and 90F in June, so you can imagine what it can be like in late May. Those averages are based on a period ending in 2010, and I suspect it's hotter now. I'd prefer to do Seville first; even being there five days earlier might help a bit.

If you're horrified by the temperatures I've cited, you have other options for this trip and could leave Seville for some other time. There's plenty to keep you occupied in Catalunya (including part of the Pyrenees).

It's a long trip from Barcelona to Seville, so try not to have to make that trek twice to avoid wasting the better part of two days. Check to see whether it's affordable to fly into Seville and home from Barcelona or--if you must--the reverse.

I think your proposed time split is fine. Both cities have lots to do, and both have multiple good day-trips. They will provide different experiences.

Posted by
11 posts

Yes, I was wondering about the heat in Seville - we get pretty hot in Nashville as well (90-100F is not unusual in late summer/early fall) - but, we stay in most of that time - so, we'd be trying to see the sites in Seville... Are the beaches in Barcelona good for swimming? Would it be better to do a beach trip down by Seville?

Posted by
2516 posts

Mid-late May should be the start of beach weather in Barcelona, in Andalucia even earlier. The beaches near the tourist areas of Barcelona are ok, as a local I almost never went down to that beach area to swim, will all the pickpockets, thieves and throngs of tourists. Any good Barcelonés, worth their weight, knows the best beaches are actually outside the main city area. Here are some of my favourites:

Garraf - just a short 20 min train ride south of Barcelona. You will find only locals at this small but quaint beach community. There are also many good chiringuitos to eat nearby and even a beach house designed by Antoni Gaudí. A very authentic place.

Sitges - the quintessential posh beach town, 30 min train ride south from Barcelona. Has multiple small sandy beaches. Known for its gay scene, Sitges also has nice historic centre lined with boutique restaurants and shops.

Tossa de Mar - a very atmospheric coastal town on the Costa Brava, north of Barcelona. Tossa has an idyllic medieval setting as it is dominated by a clifftop castle and a small cobblestone old town. Many restaurants and hotels around here, can get quite packed during the high summer months.

Calella de Palafrugell - a smaller beach town also on the Costa Brava. More laid back then Tossa de Mar. The town has twisting narrow whitewashed streets the lead up to the small craggy beaches, that are lined with the typical wooden fisherman boats of the Costa Brava. This is the farthest away from Barcelona.

Both Garraf and Sitges are accessible via at 30 min regional train (R2S via Sants) and Tossa and Palafrugell area are accessible via bus (Estacio del Nord). I think that for a quick "no hassle" day-at-the-beach I would lean more towards Garraf. Tossa is good for even spending a night or two there.

As for Sevilla, you can't go wrong with la Costa de la Luz, but that's more a multi day side trip then just a day trip.

Posted by
20842 posts

Beaches would be a fairly substantial trek from Seville, so I'd try really hard to accomplish my beach visit from Barcelona, if one is truly necessary. The most accessible European beaches tend to be severely overcrowded by American standards.

Posted by
11 posts

Any idea why it would be about double the price to book on Delta as opposed to Air France? I hope I'm not missing something...

Posted by
20842 posts

What are your precise dates? What cities are you flying into and out of?

Posted by
5330 posts

I don't know where your come from, but I am always amazed when North Americans spend lots of money flying to Europe to go to the beach, when the beaches in Florida, California and the Caribbean are better.

Also, we toured Europe a lot with our teens and pre-teens and spend a lot of time in museums. Now all the kids are in their 40s and love history, art and culture. Also, they love to travel. Nothing wrong with exposing them to history and art. Yes, probably not good to spend the entire trip in museums, but some will do them good. They will learn from that exposure.

Love Barcelona, but Seville is my favorite Spanish city.

Posted by
11 posts

We will be flying into Barcelona on May 24 and flying out of Madrid on June 6th. We'll want to stay several days in Barcelona, head to Seville for a few days, and on to Madrid for a couple days - a total of 12 nights to split up. We are interested in day trips from Barcelona and Seville, and 'must do's' in Madrid, currently. We're thinking 5 nights in Barcelona, 4 Seville, and 3 in Madrid - but, are open to options/other stops along the way! We will definitely check out the Gaudi sites in Barcelona, take in Flamenco dancing in Sevilla - and are curious what else is out there that you have loved seeing as a family!

Posted by
20842 posts

If you're into art, you have three great choices in Madrid, depending on the period you're most interested in. If art isn't your thing, there's the Palacio Real. I don't like palaces, but many people do. I would much prefer to skip the palace and take a day-trip to Toledo. In fact, if I didn't care for art museums, I'd stay in Toledo rather than Madrid. The train fares from Madrid to Toledo do not vary, so you can remain flexible about that possible side-trip. However, the Toledo trains do require reserved seats, and they can sell out. Rick warns in his guide about the importance of buying your return ticket from Toledo in advance so you don't risk getting marooned there. There is also bus service, but the buses are quite a lot slower than the trains.

I'm very fond of both Girona and Cordoba. Time permitting, those would be my day-trip choices, but you may find you need all the days you have allotted to Barcelona and Seville. If you wait until you get to the base cities to decide about side-trips, you are likely to pay more for the Girona and Cordoba tickets, because the promo-fare tickets will probably be sold out by then. Some trains may be sold out as well, particularly between Seville and Cordoba.

I think even your teenagers will be impressed by the Alcazar in Seville. Since you are not going to the Alhambra, the Alcazar will offer your best look at magnificent Moorish architecture. This is a ticket you need to buy ahead of time, because you will otherwise be standing in a very long ticket line. Outdoors. Without any shade. The Cathedral in Seville is another top sight where significant ticket lines are to be expected. You can avoid the line by buying a combo ticket at the Iglesia Colegial del Salvador, which is about 1/4 mile away. Rick explains this ticketing work-around in his guidebook.

The Barcelona sights listed below require timed tickets and have frustrating ticket lines. Buy your tickets in advance to avoid wasting a lot of time. I recommend getting first-time-slot tickets to one of these problem sights each day; that way, you won't have to worry about needing to rush away from another sight to make your ticketed entry time.

La Sagrada Familia
Casa Mila/La Pedrera
Casa Batllo
Parc Guell (no tickets sold at the park)
Picasso Museum
Palau de la Musica Catalana (English tours sometimes sell out; ticket lines aren't bad)

Seville and Barcelona both have a lot of very interesting sights. Refer to a good guidebook to see what your options are.

Posted by
169 posts

Our kids were 14 and 11 when we visited Madrid and Barcelona. They loved Barcelona with the Park Guell, Sagria Familia (way more interesting than the usual European cathedral) and Casa Battlo. My artistic daughter said the "dinosaur roof house" was one of her favorite sights in Europe! We saw the beach, old town (wished we'd spent more time there) and the Ramblas. Kids really enjoyed it!
We highly recommend the Hotel Continental Palacete. Gorgeous old home divided into rooms, my husband and I had a private bedroom with the bathroom,, and the kids stayed in a bed that was place in a kind of living room. With fireplaces, gorgeous chandeliers and doors that opened onto the pleasant street outside. And a bonus: the hotel had a nice snack buffet, like salad bar, fruit, ice cream, etc. that our kids ate at a lot!

We stayed 3 nights in Barcelona, but could have added another easily. Also did 3 nights in Madrid. We did the Prado, it wasn't overwhelming like some art museums, 2 hrs max. We always download RS audio guides to understand more of what you see. Also the palace, and Bull Bar-completely freaked my kids out!

Posted by
90 posts

Our teens (13 and 16) loved Seville. Their "must dos" I think they would advise are:
- the Seville Alcazar - they could not stop taking pictures, especially loved the gardens
- Cordoba mosque-cathedral (can be done as a day trip from Seville)
- Plaza de Espagna (fun outdoor vibe in Seville)
- Triana market if there are any in your group that love food shopping

That said, they enjoyed lots of other things in Seville including - just walking and looking at the beautiful architecture, Las Setas, flamenco. Especially and most of all, just walking around.

We liked our apartment rental in Seville, the location is terrific and it was a treat to have 2 bathrooms for the 4 of us:

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
9 posts

Hi there! We are planning a trip to Madrid / Salamanca / Sevilla / Granada, but in July. We have to pick our kid up from school in Salamanca so that is why we are stuck with July.

I have been looking for hotels in Sevilla and what I find is that it's really hard to find a hotel for four people. It seems that due to fire laws, they are not allowed to have more than three people in a hotel room, thus you are forced to get a second room, which makes the cost higher. Thus Air B&B makes it more cost effective. I don't like having my kids in a separate room anyway. I have had good experinces with Air B&B but once they canceled on me two days before our trip and that was too traumatic for me. When I use Air B&B now, I make sure to turn on the "super host" option.

I have found that Apartamentos Murillo, which is part of Hotel Murillo, has some really nice apartments, that are well priced, right in the middle of the Santa Cruz neighborhood, which is recommended by Rick Steves. It might be worth checking them out.

Best of luck!

Posted by
11 posts

Thanks for all of the help! Our latest consideration - We are now wondering if taking a day tour to Alhambra from Seville would be worth the time spent and money? Or, if we should just concentrate on the sites in Seville, like the Alcazar. I think we'd need to take a tour in order to get to/from Alhambra efficiently in one day and it looks like that might be about $650 all in for our family

Posted by
20842 posts

I do not think Granada is a good day-trip from Seville. There's just too much travel time. The Alhambra is more than a half-day sight for many people; some spend nearly the entire day there. If you're traveling in from Seville, your time will be limited. And the Alhambra is not the only point of interest in Granada.

Now, if you are quite certain you'll never return to southern Spain and have that much money to spend, I suppose an argument could be made for the tour. However, there are always trade-offs. It's not as if you won't have a good use for that day in Seville/Cordoba. You'd be trading a full day of sightseeing in Seville or a nearly full day in Cordoba for how many hours actually in Granada?

Posted by
7495 posts

Barcelona-Aparthotel- Hispanos7Suizas on a side street near La Sagrada Familia. We had a 2BB, W/D, full kitchen, very nice, front desk staff were helpful with questions, reservations. Better than an AirBnB.
No to Granada as a day trip from Sevilla. Cordoba is a perfect day trip.