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Sevilla, Cordoba or Granada?

Hi all,

Our plan is to fly into Madrid and stay 3 nights then take the train to Sevilla and stay 3 nights. I just watched Rick's Monday Night Travel which was about Andalusia and am now uncertain as to which town to stay in. We like to stay in one town for a few nights versus hop towns every other night.

Granada and Cordoba both seemed more charming than Sevilla. We were in Aix-en-Provence for a month this past fall and LOVED it! Loved the old pedestrian town, the charming squares with cafes and markets, tiny lanes with shops and wine bars, an amazing museum and beautiful cathedral. I'm thinking that Sevilla is just another city and, perhaps, after Madrid we will want some small town charm.

After we leave Andalusia, we are flying to Lisbon and staying there for 4 nights and then up to Porto for a week.

I would love any feedback on Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada. Perhaps Sevilla is the easiest since the airport is there....

Thanks in advance!

Posted by
822 posts

There is an airport in Granada. I fell in love it, but haven’t been to the others so can’t compare. But Granada is magical.

Posted by
2513 posts

Cordoba is my favorite town in Andalucia, it's probably the most pedestrian of the three, I think you'd probably like its whitewashed old town with its narrow lanes decorated with colorful flowers. Cordoba probably has the most small town feel as well but interestingly has the most impressive Cathedral, which is uniquely half mosque half-church.

Posted by
796 posts

I have been to Sevilla, Cordoba, and Granada, and I love all 3 cities, and they are all very different from each other architecturally and visually. This is a very difficult choice. Is it possible you can extend your trip so that you can visit all 3 cities? Maybe spend less time in Porto?

Sevilla is not just another city. While it is larger than Granada and Cordoba, it is certainly much, much smaller than Madrid. Seville is beautiful with its architecture, plazas, fountains, parks, and the Santa Cruz neighborhood. Triana, across the river, is very interesting, too. The Real Alcazar is magnificent! And there is the cathedral, Plaza de Espagna, and so much more.

Cordoba is smaller with its whitewashed walls, patios, flowers, and the Juderia with its narrow lanes. The Mezquita is amazing, and we enjoyed the Alcazar, Roman Bridge, Palacio de Viana, etc.

And Granada's architecture is very different from Cordoba and Sevilla. Of course, in Granada you have the beautiful and amazing Alhambra. We spent almost a day at the Alhambra, and returned for an evening tour. Wandering the old Albaycin neighborhood is fun.

I would probably give the edge to Sevilla, but Cordoba and Granada are wonderful, too. I know that TAP Airlines flies from Sevilla to Lisbon. Not sure if you can get direct flight from Granada to Lisbon.

Posted by
3285 posts

In my opinion, Granada is a one attraction town. The Alhambra is truly spectacular, but there’s little else that is on par with it. Of the three cities, Córdoba is my favorite. The Mezquita is the major draw, but there’s lots more to see, including a partially restored summer palace of one of caliphs, just outside the city. We also enjoyed walking through the medieval quarter and peeking at the beautiful patios.

Posted by
652 posts

Thanks all! Great thoughts.

This is a little tricky because it’s a two part trip. Our 20-something kids will be with us for week one. We are trying to show them as much as possible hence the sampling of Andalusia followed by a sampling of Lisbon. Then they all have to fly home to work 😊

Since we are in Lisbon, my husband and I were going to go to Sintra then Porto and have a week of slow travel.

Perhaps we stay in Sevilla but take a day trip to Cordoba. Would that be by bus or train?

Posted by
3623 posts

A day trip to Córdoba from Seville is easily done by train, taking approx 0.45-1 hour each way. And even though there is more than a day's worth of things to do in Córdoba, I do feel that a day trip can reasonably do it justice (whereas the other way around - day trip to Seville from Córdoba - would severely shortchange Seville).

Posted by
3889 posts

If you want charming and a small town feel, then I agree with Carlos about Córdoba. For things to see, Sevilla has more than the others. While busier, it isn’t hard to get away from the main tourist areas. For me, Granada is nice for two full days at most unless you have a car and driving to other places as day trips. Sevilla does have an airport and Córdoba can be seen as a day trip.

Posted by
171 posts

We were in Spain pre-covid and had time to do what we wanted. And, as it turned out, Seville was our least favorite of the 3 you mention. We did vastly enjoy both Cordoba and Grenada for their historic sites and their fabulous food and interesting dining experiences and kind people. Just for reference, in 2018 the population of Madrid was 3.23 million, Seville 688,711, Cordoba 325,708 and Granada 232,208.

Posted by
2513 posts

Personally, the real charm of Cordoba comes out in the golden hours of the afternoon, when all the daytripers from Sevilla have left and one can explore Cordoba's whitewashed streets in relative peace. This is best done by spending the night there.

Posted by
20838 posts

The current train schedule shows departures from Cordoba to Seville at 8:29 PM, 8:56 PM and 10:56 PM. All AVEs. This is a ticket to buy well ahead of time (in both directions), because the fare will increase as the travel date approaches.

Posted by
796 posts

So, knowing that you can't shorten your stay in Portugal or lengthen your stay in Andalusia, if it were me, I would spend 3 nights in Sevilla and do a daytrip to Cordoba, even though I normally recommend staying overnight in Cordoba. Seeing Cordoba for the day and especially visiting the Mezquita is better than not seeing it at all. And as Balso states, a day trip to Cordoba from Sevilla is easily done by train.

With that said, not to confuse you even more, I agree with Carlos that the real charm of Cordoba is in the late afternoon and evening when the daytrippers have left. Another suggestion is to check the train schedule to see if there is a late evening train back to Sevilla, let's say around 8 or 9pm. Also, depending on the train schedule, you could perhaps spend 2 nights in Sevilla and one night in Cordoba, but I realize that means checking in and out of an additional hotel, which you might not want to do.

Posted by
172 posts

As already noted, all 3 cities are wonderful, different from each other, and it is hard to drop one. In favor of Granada, I would add that along with the Alhambra which is spectacular, the El Albaicín old Moorish district with houses that originated as caves is very worth exploring. For your kids, I believe Granada is or at least feels like more of a youthful University town than the others although they all have universities. The free tapas bar crawl tradition in Granada offers many options to make your own food tour with lots of friendly people out in the streets at night -- at least pre-Covid.

Posted by
7 posts

There are already some good suggestions here so I won’t add a lot. I’ve been to all three cities and you can just do a day trip to Cordoba from either Sevilla or Granada. The Alsa bus is also a good option to get around. I feel that 3 nights in Madrid might be too much but another day trip from there is Toledo.

Posted by
652 posts

Yes, so many great suggestions.
@Antoinette, we are planning to follow Rick's suggestions for Madrid which is two days. That seems right for us. Then we'll use our third day to take a day trip to Toledo on the third day. I'm just trying to figure out what is closed where so we maximize both cities.

For Andalusia, I think we will take an early train from Madrid to Sevilla and spend three nights. We'll use one day to go to Cordoba by Alsa bus for a day trip and see the Mezquita.

Posted by
20838 posts

I would not take the bus from Seville to Cordoba, especially just for a day trip. The very fast AVE trains take 41-49 minutes; daytime buses take 2 hr. or longer. That's one way. I admit, though, that the bus is likely to be a lot cheaper if you wait to buy your tickets until shortly before you travel date. It looks as if the bus may cost around 13 euros (again, one way), whereas the train could end up around 40 euros. Train tickets can be a lot cheaper if purchased early.

Posted by
77 posts

20 something kids, hands down Granada on the weekend! I love Sevilla, Cordoba and Granada, all 3 cities should be considered bucket list places to visit. The first time I went to Granada it took about 5 seconds to know I had to take my daughter there. The weekend is filled with wedding parties, buskers, locals dancing in the square, just amazing. The Alhambra is of course the reason I first went there, but the locals are the reason I have been back several times. I have never been to Porto or Lisbon so I can't compare. Seville is wonderful I would live there if I could. Take your kids to Carbonara for the flamingo dancing, what a hoot. I would go to Seville just to go to Carbonara. Of course there is so much more to see and do. The market in the morning on the other side of the river. I could go on and on. Enjoy your family trip! J

Posted by
11 posts

We're just getting started on a 10-week visit in Spain, so don't have anything to offer for your initial question. But we spent 2 fabulous weeks in Portugal this past fall, so I've got some tips for that!

During your week in Porto, make sure to take a day trip into Douro Valley port wine country. (You can spend some major money on small-group tours, but we were quite happy -- and saved quite a lot -- by just taking the train to Pinhao (it clings to the riverside and has stunning views the whole way.) From there, we had booked a two-hour "rabelo" boat tour," which takes you deeper into wine country. Upon returning to Pinhao, we then visited Quinto Do Bomfim for a tour and tastings, which is a short walk from the rabelo departures and the train station. There's a lovely spot to enjoy a meal and/or "mas vino" between the riverboat landings and Bomfim, The Writer's Place. Lovely terrace overlooking the river! It was a long day but soooo worth it!

Another worthwhile daytrip from Porto is to take the train down to Coimbra. (One hour each way.) It's home to the oldest university in Europe, with a stunning library that supposedly inspired J.K. Rowling and views over the river and countrysidew that are jaw-dropping. We just had a five-hour layover on our way from Porto to the beaches at Nazare, which was JUST enough, but a full day would have been divine. Rick's suggested walk from the university down to town is a "must do."

Porto itself is wonderfully easy to navigate by foot (and I have bad feet), albeit hilly, and about as charming as it gets. Make sure to take the trolley or bus out to Matosinhos. If you get off near the end, it's an easy walk to Rua Heróis de França. While not ON the beach (weirdly none are there with views), it's parallel and a block or two inland, packed with restaurants, all of which are grilling your fish on hot coals. A local on the Portugal forum told us there really wasn't a bad one in the bunch! (We wound up at her mother's favorite, O Valentim, and it was indeed terrific.) Warning: The Arroz con Mariscos (rice and seafood) dishes, as well as the Cataplanas, which are seafood and vegetables cooked in special copper "space ships" in a tangy broth, are enough for a table of FOUR! (We found that to be the case at all our stops Porto/Matosinhos/Nazare/Lisbon.)

During your week in Lisbon, make sure to devote a full day to the sites in Belem, west of town, and also make sure to take the train to Sintra and devote a full day there as well. (Seussian is the best description for the magical palaces there!)
Enjoy!
Cynthia

Posted by
652 posts

Oh boy! Just watched Rick’s video on Granada and Córdoba — Now I’m thinking we just need to stay in Andalusia and experience Granada with the kids. It looks amazing! They will get to Portugal on their own some day. They have decades ahead of them.

So…
Madrid
Madrid
Madrid (day trip to Toledo)
Train to Granada for 2 nights
Train to Sevilla for 3 nights
Kids can fly home from Sevilla and we can go to Portugal

Posted by
2513 posts

Much better idea. I know for many north American tourists, looking at the map, there is the impulse to combine Spain and Portugal, but really is more practical seeing them separately.

Andalucía has more than enough to see, even for several months!

PS: Don't forget to stop by Cordoba (even if only for a day trip) 😀

Posted by
5325 posts

Don't believe a negative word about Seville, it is my pick over Cordoba. Granada is nice, but mainly for the Alhambra.

Also, Toledo and Segovia (wonderful ancient Roman Aqueduct that is intact and was still in use until the late 20th Century) are special, smaller cities. Toledo was once the capital of Castile.