I am planning a trip to Spain (whenever we can travel again), and would like to spend some time in Andalucia. The cities that jump out to me are Cadiz, Granada and Cordoba, but I keep reading on these forums how crazy everyone is about Seville. I understand there are some beautiful sights to see in Seville, but it seems the same could be said for other cities in the region. I generally don't enjoy places that are so busy with tourists, but on the other hand some places are busy for a good reason. I'm just not seeing why in Seville. What am I missing?
Having been to all the cities you listed including Seville, Cadiz seems fine as a day trip from Seville that is about it. But I have recommended Cadiz as a day trip to someone on this forum before who was disappointed afterwards. Seville has some beautiful parks I did not see anything like that in Cadiz which is a kind of like cruise ship stop town depending when you go; though we did enjoy the sunset in Cadiz over the Atlantic while drinking a bottle of rioja on a 70 degree New Years Day 2019. Nonetheless I do not feel a need to ever go to Seville again. Again we rang in the New Year in Seville; it did not seem that busy with tourists that time of year. Hopefully you are not planning your trip in the summer when it is too hot for many tastes including natives of the region who told me not to go in summer.
I don't love Sevilla -- I've been 3 times now and still haven't warmed up to it. To me, it is a little too crowded, a little too chaotic, a little too frantic. But so many people love it that I would recommend you give it a try. There are more "sights" to see there than most towns in Andalucia, and the food is incredible. You might be one of those people who love it, and you won't know until you try.
I have not been to Cadiz, so I can't recommend it or not versus Sevilla based on experience, but I do feel that if this is your first trip to Spain, you should plan a couple or three days in Sevilla and skip Cadiz, if that is all your time budget will allow.
Cordoba is amazing. Yes, you should go there.
Granada is my favorite place in Europe. It has a vibe that (I know this sounds corny) speaks to me. It is multicultural; you can feel, see, hear, smell the layers of history. It is a university town with a ton of youthful energy, and yet there is the Alhambra, looming over everything, with its history that is a microcosm of all of Europe. Learn about it before you go so you can appreciate its many inhabitants over the centuries. The food in Granada is wonderful, the tapas come with your drink, you can join in for a paseo before your 10 p.m. dinner.
No matter what you choose, you will have a great trip. Make sure you don't overschedule. Spain, and especially southern Spain, is best enjoyed slowly. Buen viaje!
We like staying in Triana across the river from the main tourist center of Sevilla. The tapas bars are tastier and more local. It is a longer walk to the sites. Take your time to see the neighborhood and shop for daily needs. Others have recommended other neighborhoods surrounding the central area. Cordoba and Granada are equally enjoyable. Spend some extra time in each to see more than the big sites.
The Alcazar in Seville is a magnificent building, and the Cathedral is wonderful as well. Both are popular, but Rick's book tells you how to avoid standing in line for tickets, and neither was so crowded as to be unenjoyable. Other Seville sights I really liked included Casa de Pilatos, Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija, Hospital de los Venerables, the Ayuntamiento (town hall), and the historic district in general. None of those latter places were busy except for the streets and sidewalks themselves. Seville is a major city, and it doesn't have a small-town atmosphere..
The only interior space in Andalucia that was really overcrowded during my spring 2020 visit (around Holy Week, so a crazy-busy period) was the Alhambra in Granada. I'd never suggest that anyone skip it, but especially the nighttime visit (when everyone is admitted for the same time period) was a mob scene.
Cadiz is worth a visit if you have time, but I think there's much, much, much more to see in Seville.
How many nights will you have available to spend in Andalucia? If it's a really short visit, I might suggest choosing just two cities rather than three.
We really enjoyed Seville, along with several other cities in Spain. One activity I highly recommend is the city bike tours. Seville is very flat so no problem biking for a few hours. The guide shared lots of interesting history at the sites, and we learned about special spots to eat, great parks, etc. - even more than all of my research ahead of time.
Here’s the details from my trip report for Seville:
(4 nights): Seville was a favorite!
We stayed at a wonderful apartment during our 4 days in Seville. Apartamento Logia Sevilla, Lirio 9 found through Booking.com was perfect – a spacious apartment on the first floor of a home owned by an architect & his family. His wife, Leonor, was our main contact and so welcoming! She gave us a map marked with the neighborhood market, tapa recommendations, etc. Each morning my husband surprised me with fantastic pastries from nearby Pany Piu while I was getting ready. We wanted to be close to the sites but have a good night’s sleep. This location was perfect and had everything we would want in an apartment.
Our first morning started with a planned bike tour with See by bike Sevilla. We’ve taken bike tours during a few past trips and really enjoy them. Adriana led our 3-hour bike tour through a thorough path of all of the major sites, explaining the history. We also saw more interesting parts of the Plaza de Espana area than when we had walked there by ourselves. Seville was an excellent town for a bike tour since it’s so flat – an easy ride. The entire team at See by bike were friendly – highly recommend.
We had on-line reservations for Royal Alcazar that afternoon (again didn’t need to wait in line!) – beautiful, enjoyed so much of the history, and we spent relaxing time in the gardens after running through the labyrinth!
The next day we participated in a planned Market/Cooking class with Taller Andaluz de Cocina Cooking School. This was one of my husband’s favorite events! Since the kitchen classroom is located in the Triana Food Market, Jessica began the class by showing & explaining specific foods in the market, gathering a few ingredients, and then Chef José Manuel walked our small group through the specific Do’s & Don’t steps to making a perfect paella (& how the word “paella” is used too loosely by restaurants). We finished with a full meal and left satiated and happy! That evening, we walked over to La Carboneria Bar to see some flamenco since it’s mentioned in the RS Spain book and was only a few blocks from our apartment. We arrived to see the last 10 minutes of flamenco so decided we should book a reservation at one of the shows for the next night.
Our last morning, we walked over to the Triana neighborhood – well acquainted after seeing it during our bike tour & cooking class. I’d found recommendations for Ceramica Triana on-line before our trip for my main Spain souvenir. We toured the informative ceramic museum next door that detailed both ceramic & Triana’s history before selecting a beautifully painted pitcher at the store. That night we attended a flamenco show at La Casa del Flamenco. I appreciated that the setting was intimate without dinner noise to distract the dancers & music. We were glad we didn’t just see the flamenco from the previous night.
Three visits to Sevilla and would like to return. It is the essence of Spain, a fabulous food scene, history, charm, culture. Cordoba is an easy high speed train ride away from Sevilla and also a must see. I’ve enjoyed all the places you mention and rank Sevilla at the top. I happen to love cities. We always visit Southern Spain in late October , early November when heat isn’t an issue. Tourists were not overwhelming any of the sites during our visits. Perhaps you read a trip report by someone who was there in a heavier tourist season.
How much time are you planning on spending in Andalucia and during what month?
Is this the only region you are planning on visiting this trip?
Have you previously been to Spain?
You can skip both Barcelona and Seville in my opinion.
There are no must see places; it’s your trip.
While I am not that wild about the city of Seville itself, the the cathedral and the alcazar make the whole place worthwhile. The cathedral is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and when you stand in the middle of 100,000+ square feet of building you will believe it. It is very impressive inside with all the side chapels especially the one where Columbus is buried. The nearby alcazar is really beautiful, The thing that I will always remember about the alcazar was not so much the beauty of it, but being able to stand in the very room where Christopher Columbus told Queen Isabella about his voyage to the new world.
The recommendation regarding staying across the river and walking into town is a good one and if you are driving it is beyond excellent. The way the streets run in the old part of the city is a total hodge-podge and they should only be tackled on foot.
Tom, you didn’t bring much to the table in terms of helpful insight. We all have opinions, of which the OP is trying to benefit a plan from. Best to add some info to back up a post, in terms of making it helpful. IMOP
Well, personally I don't see the point in convincing another to go somewhere they are not keen on. They go feeling they have to and subconsciously expecting it to wow them....all a death knell IMHO. I say, go with your gut and do what you want.
It took me a while to warm up to Seville but after 5 nights there I wished I had even more time in the end. And I was really looking forward to it.
If a YouTube, DKEyewitness guide or personal research hasn't convinced you, then I don't believe we can either. Save the travel stop for somewhere that really catches your interest.
If Seville does not catch your interest, then either don’t go or plan a shorter amount of time there. Do what calls you. As someone said, much depends on how much time you have. Rushing through any of these cities is what will be the bad choice. With 4 nights in Seville, we felt we just scratched the surface - but Granada was the place I fell in love with. Córdoba was also wonderful and Cadiz was the place I had to skip in order to not rush too badly. Andalusia felt more like a place to “be” than to “see”, although there is plenty to see. Some of my favorite memories of Seville are those sitting at a table with a glass of wine or a cup of coffee and just watching. Granada felt less polished but that is what I like. It’s fine to want to spend time in a place you want to be or see, even if it doesn’t match “the list”. I WILL say I was there mid-March a couple of years ago and Granada was the most crowded of Seville, Córdoba, Jerez, and Granada. Seville did not feel crowded.
I’m partial to Sevilla because I used to visit it monthly when I lived in Spain in the late 70s, right after Franco died, and it was the closest real city to the small town I lived in and it had an actual department store. Back then the cathedral was free to enter and never busy. One could park next to it since most Spaniards didn’t have cars yet. To me there is no comparison between Sevilla and Cadiz. Sevilla is a city where it’s easy to spend a few days. In my opinion Cadiz is worth a few hours at most and has no must see sights. Sevilla has the Archive of the Indies, Alcazar, Giralda tower, cathedral, Torre de Oro, Plaza de Espana and Maria Luisa park as its main draws. Both Cordoba and Granada are worth a couple nights,
Irv - if you happen to visit Puerto de Santa Maria, its Castillo San Marcos is supposedly where Queen Isabela gave Columbus the money for his third voyage. He departed for that trip near San Lucas de la Barrameda.
(i) Of the 4 cities, Seville is my favourite. However, it is your holiday not mine and if it didn't "jump out" to you in then that's fine too. The other 3 cities are wonderful as well. Including Cadiz, which some seem lukewarm about, but which I thought was brilliant. Certainly, Cadiz doesn't have the "wow" sights of Cordoba and Granada; but there is still plenty to see and it is very pleasant, historical and atmospheric walking around the peninsula. Also, Cadiz is the only one of the four on the coast - it seems a shame to go to Andalucia and not visit the seaside, though that might not be a priority for you given you live in Vancouver.
(ii) You don't say how long you have. But just as some visit Cordoba as a day-trip from Sevilla, it is of course also simple to do the reverse. So you could see a couple of Seville's sights without actually stopping overnight. Similarly, when travelling between Cadiz and Cordoba you will likely pass through Sevilla (if using public transport), or go very nearby (if driving). So it is also an option to break the journey and spend the day in Seville whilst moving between your main bases.
(iii) On crowds, it partly depends when you visit, of course. Tourist numbers generally change across the year and each city also has carnivals/fiestas/fairs that bring in big crowds at particular times. Cadiz' carnival is probably the most famous, at least in Spain where it is televised, and I wouldn't go there then unless you actually want to take part. But all the others have at least a couple of major such events during a (normal) year. Sevilla has the largest population of the 4 and is the regional capital for government and business, so it is certainly the most bustling^, even without us tourists. But, I wouldn't say that it is badly overcrowded by tourism across the city. The main pinch-point (the one often shown in photos), is Plaza del Triunfo which happens to be where queues for both the cathedral and the Alcazar line up and is also a main route into the old part of barrio Santa Cruz/Juderia. That square can be very busy during the day - but you can buy tickets for the two main sights in advance to jump the queue and away from this part Sevilla sights aren't especially crowded compared to the other places (Cordoba has it's own day-time tourist pinch-point around its cathedral and Granada has one around Plaza Nueva).
^ to the extent southern Spaniards ever bustle; generally, bustling doesn't seem to be in their nature!
Don't think of it as "skipping Seville." Think of it as spending more time in other places. I agree with those who say it's your trip, so you should spend it as you wish. You only have so many days for a trip, and can only be in one place at one time. If that place is not Seville, it will be somewhere else instead - and it sounds like there are other places that interest you more at this time.
On my first trip to Italy, I saw Milan, Florence, and Venice, and didn't go to Rome. Some were scandalized - "how can you go all the way to Italy and not see Rome?" But it just didn't call to me at the time. However, on that trip I got the desire to see Rome. I focused on Rome for my next Italy trip, and LOVED it. Who knows how I would have felt about it if I had forced myself to go to Rome on the first trip, only going out of a sense of obligation, instead of waiting until the time was right for me?
All that said, I like the idea of a day trip to Seville, just to see how you do feel about it. You can then decide if you want to spend more time there on a future trip, or if you really do prefer other places in Andalucia.
Thank you everyone for the thoughtful responses. I agree, its my trip and I don't feel bad for potentially not including the famous Seville on my itinerary, just wanted to get some opinions and discussion going. Sometimes people will tell you they loved/hated a place but don't say why, so its hard to compare that to your own preferences. I love the planning phase so am always keen to discuss our favourite destinations :-)
I think I have a good idea about Seville now, and it sounds like I'll still get the essence of what Andalucia is like by visiting the other places. I'm thinking about 10 days in the area before heading North, but don't like to move around too quickly. Was thinking 3 nights in Cadiz, 2 nights in a rural area (white villages?), 3 nights Granada, 2 nights Cordoba. Some will say that's too many nights for Cadiz but I don't like to be rushed on travel days flying in and it just seems like a city you can chill out in and absorb the seaside vibes.
I like your itinerary. We also like going slow, especially in those first couple of days after the airplane trip. You will love Andalucia!
You can save Sevilla for your next trip. You can definitely chill in Cadiz. Because of its location, it’s easy to walk around, and impossible to get lost in. When you’ve seen the entire city, and if you want, there are ferries that run to Rota and Puerto de Santa Maria on the other side of the bay. Both are nice to walk around. Each has a small castle (that may or may not be open) and Puerto also has a nice church near the castle.
One thing to remember is there is the choice to travel with no accommodation reservations...or ones booked just a few days in advance. Then, you move on when you want rather than be committed to something locked in. Or, you can consider Sevilla as a day trip from Cadiz or Cordoba. Nothing says you can't change an itinerary on the fly.
Andalucia is wonderful. Have a great time.
Such a good point MariaF! I did that on a 3 week trip in Ireland. It was such an interesting way to travel and allowed for spontaneous adventures, some of which were the highlight of my trip (e.g. renting out my own castle on AirBnB!).
I hadn't considered that for Andalucia since it seems like a popular destination, but I'm sure there are an abundance of hotels to choose from. I would likely be going in early May so should miss the easter craziness and hopefully it won't be too busy.
Was thinking 3 nights in Cadiz, 2 nights in a rural area (white villages?), 3 nights Granada, 2 nights Cordoba.
If you are looking for 2 nights in a rural area, to visit between Cádiz and Granada, the obvious choice are los Pueblos Blancos, which by now are quite well "discovered". However, if you are looking for a more "off-the-beaten-path" rural destination, then may I suggest El Rocío, a time-warped Andalucian cowboy town just south of Sevilla.
With its old taverns and dusty streets the town feels like something from the wild west. El Rocío is also one of the most important pilgrimage towns in Spain and is located in the heart of the Doñana National Park, a wild and beautiful wetlands of the Guadalquivir river, and UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I loved Seville, and we used it as a base for a day trip to Cadiz. With the benefit of hindsight, I would have spent more nights in Cadiz than in Seville.
If you decide to travel without hotel reservations, a number of hotels in Andalucia have closed due to COVID and the minimal occupancy rates. It’s possible many may never reopen, so your options may be diminished/more limited, when traveling on the fly.
It looks like you have lots of replies by now.
I loved Seville. We stayed 3 nights and filled every moment. Wonderful sights, delicious food. Very walkable. We walked everywhere and just found it glorious.
I definitely have personal preferences, which are much different from your planned itinerary but since they are just that, personal preferences, there's no point in detailing them. Instead, I'll share my story.
Many years ago I was visiting NYC and saw a traveling exhibit of the Alhambra at the Met Museum and thought that was one place I really should visit. After about 20 years, I finally ended up with winter (February) trip to Andalucia because it is the warmest, driest part of Europe. Spain had never really been on my radar so I planned a "thorough" 21-day itinerary solely in Andalucia, with a couple days of Madrid, my gateway city, tacked on at the end. Then I would cross Spain off my list and find other places to explore in Europe. My itinerary was Cordoba, Sevilla, Cadiz, Jerez, several pueblos blancos and Granada. Barely a week into the trip I knew I'd be back.
2 years later, I spent another 2 weeks in Andalucia, revisiting some places and exploring others, then an week in Madrid and Barcelona. Barely a year later . . . I was back in Barcelona for a week and another 2-plus weeks in Andalucia.
My point: plan with the idea that you'll go back and have the opportunity to revisit places you loved and explore others.
It all depends on how much time you have.
Cadiz is not as "sexy" as all other 3, this is for sure, but many people love it and there are good reasons for it:
1- Cadiz has one of Spain´s most popular festivals during Carnival time and people sing in groups songs called comparsas (let´s see if how and if comparsas will happen in 2021!)
2- Cadiz is very close to Jerez de la Frontera and Puerto de Santa María. If you enjoy wines, both are fantastic
3- Cadiz is close to Doñana natiional park, which is simply amazing from the nature stand-point.
4- The region of Cadiz is home to fantastic white villages like Arcos de la Frontera (the closes one to Cadiz)
I would put Seville on my list before Cadiz, but Cadiz and its region has been undervalued for long time and they offer a lot!!
Again, if you have enough days, include Seville, even if you just take the train in the morning from Cordoba and come back at night
I spent a week in Seville during my 3+ weeks trip to Andalucia. It was by far my favorite city there. Like on every trip, in addition to the must see sights, I sought out off the beaten path places. Away from the Seville center, the surrounding neighborhoods were small town like with few tourists.
Before my first trip to Spain in 1984, I read in a travel book that two don't miss cities were Seville and Toledo. After visiting Spain several times, I still agree with that advice.
Do NOT miss Seville. It is special. Granada is also great, mainly because of the Alhambra. Also, Toledo is a must.
Barcelona, Madrid, Segovia, Malaga, Salamanca, Santiago and Cordoba are great.
Still haven't been to Valencia or the Basque region, looking forward to doing that.
I was supposed to travel to Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Toledo, and Madrid, in October of this year. I was going to spend 3 nights and parts of 4 days in Seville. And I was still going to skip the biggest Gothic church in the world.
I don't pay attention to which places will be busy with tourists and which places will not be crowded. Seville does look like it has more than enough to occupy me for 3 or 4 days.
I suggest you write a day by itinerary, whether or not you want to share it. For each day, list at least one or 2 museums, sights and/or places you want to see. If you have enough to occupy yourself without going to Seville, you will be fine skipping Seville.
There isn't time to go everywhere on one trip. For comparison, I went to Italy and skipped Venice, I went to Belgium and skipped Bruges, I went to England without seeing stonehenge or Bath because a that time I wrongly believed I could see one city per trip. I went to Greece and skipped a lot of towns and sights that could have been of interest to me. I spent 2 nights and 3 days in Crete. That was not enough time there. On every trip you take you have to skip all the nearby places you don't see. You could have seen the places you skipped, but then you would not have seen the places you did see.