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Madrid, Seville, and ?? Help for Itinerary for 12 nights

Hi, my daughter and I will be visiting Spain the first week of April. We arrive in Madrid at 1:45 PM from San Francisco. We want to go straight to Seville the same day. Would it be best to go by train or plane? Could we buy the tickets the same day to make sure we don’t miss it because of delays? It will be a long journey but we want to be in Seville on Sunday.

We have visited Madrid and Barcelona 2 years ago. Now we do want to spend a few days in Madrid at the end of the trip since we fly back home from there.

How should we plan our 12 nights? Which cities should we add? Which hotels do you recommend? We like quiet but walking distance to the historic sites. I am trying to go through all the forum posts and will still keep reading but I appreciate your suggestions to our timeframe.


Posted by
2212 posts

Hello, I assume you are aware you will be in Andalucia during the Semana Santa Holiday? There's nothing like it in the world, bigger than Christmas in that corner of Spain. It will certainly make your travel experience so much deeper and rewarding than any normal week. All the cities, towns and villages will have their own processions and celebrations combining music, art, and color.

Especially in places like Córdoba, Granada, Malaga, and Sevilla will have the most spectacular and intense Semana Santa processions that go well into the night and into the small hours of the morning. This year it goes from April 5th up until Easter Monday (public holiday) on the 13th this year.

If one goes to Andalucia during Semana Santa, for the main purpose of enjoying the processions and taking part in the general festivities you will be fine. However if you plan to just do the regular tourist things during Semana Santa, you may find a bit of a difficult time, due to reduced opening times/higher prices.

The Semana Santa revelers won't be especially going to see the Alhambra etc., if that is a concern, so you don't have to worry about extra crowds actually at the tourist sties, just everywhere in between. You can expect inflated hotel prices, sold out trains, and the potential for closed sites during Semana Sanata

However, you can do both, enjoy the processions and see the sights, though know you might not see everything on your list, but for an opportunity to see such a passionate manifestation of the local culture that is Semana Santa, I think it is well worth it. The trick is to do a lot of planning ahead of time and make sure to pre-purchase tickets and reserve hotels well ahead of time (like now! lol).

PS: Madrid is not so affected by the Semana Santa holiday.

Posted by
1524 posts

Wendy - First of all, congratulations on your trip to Spain. You have chosen a great starting point in Seville. You can purchase tickets from Madrid to Seville at your arrival. Since you arrive there at 1:45pm and you will take time to clear customs and pick up luggage, i suggest booking a ticket for 6pm and after just to be safe. You will have to take a train from Madrid airport to Atocha train station since there is no direct train from Madrid airport to Seville. There are 20 trains per day that make the trip.

For 12 nights starting in Seville:

4 Nights - Seville

2 Nights - Malaga

2 Nights - Granada

1 Night - Cordoba

3 Nights - Madrid

In Seville, this hotel is close to the major sights. It's in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.

Hotel Rey Alfonso -

Cordoba - Las Casas de la Judería de Córdoba

I suggest book your hotels this week because of the Semana Santa holy week festival in Andalusia. Hotels get sold out quickly during that time.

Posted by
18906 posts

You may have difficulty finding a reasonably priced room in Seville, Cordoba and Granada at this point. If RJean's suggestions are booked up, try Read the reviews.

The top 3 cities in Andalucía are Seville, Cordoba and Granada. Anything else is gravy. First, be sure you have adequate time for the big three. "Adequate time" requires more days when Holy Week is part of the equation, because of these three factors:

  • You'll want to spend a least a bit of time watching the processions.
  • Many sights will have reduced hours or additional closing days that you'll have to work around. You will not necessarily be able to design a super-efficient sightseeing schedule for each day.
  • The processions will sometimes substantially slow your progress through a city. This was especially a problem for me in Seville.

These would be my minimum times, though I am unusually fond of the architecture in that part of Spain and no doubt went inside more buildings than the average tourist does:

Seville: 5 nights
Cordoba: 3 nights
Granada: 3 nights

General tickets for the Alhambra are sold out for April 4 - 18. Other days could sell out at any point. If you can't get general tickets, these are your other options:

  • Contact your hotel; some of them buy tickets for their guests. You would need to do this right away.
  • Buy Dobla de Oro tickets. Those are a bit more expensive, but they cover some additional sights in Granada. Dobla de Oro tickets are sold out for April 4 - 15.
  • Buy Granada Cards. They cost a bit more than Dobla de Oro tickets but have some additional benefits. Before you finalize your purchase, you'll be asked what day you want to visit the Alhambra. You'll be able to find out whether your day(s) are available before spending your money. Often there are Granada Card tickets to the Alhambra available after regular and Dobla de Oro tickets are sold out. I hope I've linked you to the official Granada Card website; I believe I have.
  • Take a commercial tour. This will obviously cost more. Be sure the tour covers the Nasrid Palaces, the centerpiece of the Alhambra. There are some tours that don't. I don't think a tour is ideal at the Alhambra, because there are several separately-ticketed areas (including the Nasrid Palaces) that can be entered only one time. If the tour rushes you through them (photography will be difficulty if you can't take your time) and you want to return after the tour is over, you will not be able to.
Posted by
4991 posts

If you’re already at Madrid’s Barajas airport but aren’t planning to be in Madrid until the end of the trip, maybe flying’s worth considering. Does the airline you’re taking to Madrid have a partner airline, with which you can book a connecting flight? Or check on cheap, quick flights with Spanish Vueling, or another carrier. Generally, though, with the time it takes to check in, then go thru airport security, plus navigate your way through an airport, find your gate, etc., trains - especially the newer, super-fast ones - can be preferable.

Near the end of this trip, whether you do it as a day trip or stay there separately from Madrid, Segovia is worth visiting. It has the most amazing ancient Roman aqueduct, an historic palace, and a wonderful food scene, for starters. It’s a pretty short train or bus ride from Madrid.

Posted by
19 posts

Hi! We were in Seville and Madrid in January and flew from San Francisco like you are planning, to, though we connected through London. We also connected the same day to Seville, and even though it was a very tiring day of travel, i think it was worth it.

Others are saying it's a busy week, so you might want to have your rail tix in advance** .Its one less thing to have to arrange when you arrive. We arrived in Madrid later than you- at 4pm, and we were one a 7pm train to Sevillle with plenty of time. (we did not check bags, so that probably saved us time). I might have connected by air if there was something available, but it didn't work with our schedule.

There are plentiful taxis at the airport, and it's about 20-30 minutes to the Atocha train station.
** We booked "Preferente class" (first) and were glad we did, because there is a nice first class lounge, with snacks and drinks, very close to the departure gates for the trains. This was a lifesaver because Atocha is very large and multi-level, and this way we did not have to lug our bags to a cafe or restaurant. Also, if you book first you will get a meal on train. If not, there is a snack bar, but the food is very limited.

Posted by
18906 posts

You don't need to buy Preferente tickets to have food to eat on the train. Atocha Station is full of places to buy food.

The main thing is this: Do NOT plan to buy your train ticket at a staffed counter at Atocha Station. There are easy-to-use vending machines, but every now and then an American has a problem using his credit card at a vending machine in Europe. Atocha Station is the worst possible place to have that experience. You can't afford to be stuck in the 3+ hour line (I am not exaggerating) at the staffed counters selling long-distance tickets at Atocha.

You have multiple decent options:

  • You can buy the ticket ahead of time if you want to gamble on when you'll be ready to board a train.
  • You can buy the ticket online after you land in Madrid.
  • You can go to the train station at the airport (not hard to find) and buy your ticket there.

Just don't show up at Atocha without a ticket to Seville.