We have 5 nights in a hotel in Seville (in January). Could not split it as it is part of a Barcelona-Seville-Madrid package booked through Costco Travel. We want to visit Granada (Alhambra in the main). I am seeing a number of (long) day trips from Seville to Granada covering Alhambra and Albaicin. Is it a good option to take this or go for a round trip by train, Seville-Granada-Seville, with an overnight stay in Granada (paying extra for a hotel) in order to not rush through Granada sights? Would welcome suggestions. Thanks.
We were just in both cities in October. After visiting the Alhambra then the cathedral and alcazar in Seville we thought they were very similar in architecture, design, tiles, and carving details. If you can’t make it to Granada I wouldn’t worry. Maybe there was just too much hype about the Alhambra. We were underwhelmed.
I wouldn't day trip from Seville to Granada; too much of the day would be spent in transit. I'd either skip Granada or spend a night there. You won't have trouble filling your time in Seville even if you don't take that day trip. You're also going to miss Cordoba and quite a few other worthwhile cities and towns in Andalusia. You can see Granada as well as those other places on your next trip.
The Alhambra does sell out at least some of the time, so it would be really risky to wait until you get to Spain to make this decision.
I like your idea of taking the train to Granada and overnighting there so you can take your time absorbing the Alhambra, maybe take in a flamenco show in the region where it originated. The next day you can wander the historic Albaicin neighborhood. The Alhambra is unique because it was built by the Muslim Moors roughly in the century between 1250 and 1350. Today it is among the best-preserved Moorish monuments in Europe, covering more than 24 acres which housed 6 palaces. Today’s 9-acre Alcazar in Seville, on the other hand, houses the palace of Castilian King Pedro on the site of the original Moorish Fortress that was destroyed when the Castilians conquered Seville in 1248.
While it may appear to have been built by the Moors —as the Alhambra was— it fused both European and Moorish architectural styles, known as “Mudejar,” to build the palace on what was the site of the Moorish Alcazar before it was destroyed by the conquering Christians. The only part of Seville’s original Moorish Alcazar that survives today are some of the walls.
Thank you all for taking the time to respond very quickly. Since I have five days in Seville, I am thinking I could start one morning, head to Cordoba (hopefully dump my backpack or whatever in a luggage locker at the station), take in some sights and then head to Granada for the night. The next day, complete the Alhambra visit and walk around Albaicin before returning to Seville in the evening. As ever, your valued comments are welcome, including suggestions for a simple clean accommodation close to the Alhambra in Granada (maybe around $ 200 or less for the night). Thank you all again.
I highly recommend spending one night in Granada to properly see the Alhambra, which is outstanding. We spent about 3/4 of a day there, taking our time to fully see and appreciate the Nasrid Palace, the Generalife Gardens, and the Alcazaba, and also had lunch. The architecture, intricate scrollwork and ceiling designs, the patio of the lions, and the focus on water is magical. I know everyone is different but I can’t imagine being underwhelmed by the Alhambra. And by spending the night, you also have time to see what Granada is like, and perhaps visit the cathedral.
We also loved the Real Alcazar in Seville and the Mezquita in Cordoba, so I think you have a good plan.
If I were to rank these important sites, I would put the Alhambra at #1, Real Alcazar #2, and the Mezquita #3. This is our personal preference; obviously others will feel differently. You are wise, IMO, to plan on seeing all 3 important sites.
Whether or not you can combine Cordoba and Granada the way you describe is obviously based on train and/or bus schedules. We used ALSA bus twice while in Andalusia, and they were wonderful. Modern, clean, air conditioned and on time. So don’t be hesitant to use the bus if its schedule is more convenient than the train schedule.
I think trying to see both Cordoba and Granada with just one night away from Seville is going to mean rushed visits to all three cities, but you are severely time-limited, so perhaps that's the best you can do. I'm a slow traveler. If I had just five nights in Andalusia, I definitely wouldn't go to all three cities. The hours you spend checking in and out of hotels, traveling between hotels and train/bus stations and sitting on trains/buses are potential sightseeing hours lost.
As already mentioned, rail service in and out of Granada is rather limited, so you may not have a lot of flexibility in scheduling your travel legs unless you also consider using buses.
You are setting quite a pace for yourself by now squeezing Cordoba into the trip across the country to see the Alhambra (not so much, to see Granada.) Unlike (for example, Bill Clinton) I don't have a mystical memory of the sunset from the viewpoint in Granada. But it's a lovely city, with a host of things to do (for example, the track of Federico Garcia Lorca) in and just out of town.
It is perfectly true that the Alhambra is an iconic site, and it is NOT similar in any way to locations in Seville. So you are justified in spending one night in Granada. However, this assumes that you will never return to Spain in your entire life, and will have no other chance to see the Alhambra. You haven't given your age, but this seems less than a certainty. You might wish to evaluate your actual needs. To be clearer, as an example of what I mean, a lot of Mediterranean cruises use a port near Granada.
I don't actually know about the growing season in Spain, but I wonder if the Canola and Sunflower fields would fail add something to a long bus trip in JANUARY. We enjoyed them when we drove from Seville to Granada, where we immediately returned the car. We also stayed a few nights in Ronda, halfway there. And had a glimpse of the White Villages.
Thanks again for all the responses and advice. I am digesting all the points of view and will take a decision on what to do. I and my wife, the co-traveller, are in our sixties and we may not take the view of 'now or never' for any sight/visit. In fact, we have been to Spain (mainly Madrid) before but not to Andalusia.
I do agree trying to visit Cordoba and Granada while spending one night in Granada is a rushed trip. I would do it if I was fairly certain this would be my only trip to Andalusia. If there is a good chance I would return to Andalusia, then I would only visit Granada for a one-night stay and leave Cordoba for another visit. My husband and I are in our 70’s so I plan our trips based on the assumption we will not return to a destination because of our ages and because there are other countries/continents we want to visit.
Regardless of what you decide, you will have an awesome trip!
Please keep in mind January restricts the amount of daylight available to experience visiting destinations. It pains me to make the recommendation to skip Granada, but I am a "be there" instead of a "see there" traveler. Recommend maxing time in Seville with an overnight in Cordoba.
Granada is a 2 hour and 47 minute train ride or 3 hour bus ride from Seville, not including time waiting for the trains. There is no possible way you can see the Alhambra and Granada properly as a day trip from Seville. Can you post your supposed itinerary? Lets see if you can re-do your itinerary so you can spend at least one night, possibly two nights, in Granada. And without Splitting your time in Seville. For example after Barcelona but before Seville, can you fit in one or two nights in Granada?
Thanks again for all your efforts to help tweak my itinerary in the best possible manner. I have a fixed package deal with Barcelona-Seville-Madrid as the fixed route. I have 5 nights in Seville. The idea to visit Cordoba and/ or Granada on my own during the Seville stay is a secondary thought, subject to feasibility. I realize, based on all your inputs, that a day trip is either infeasible or a waste of time with respect to doing any justice to the sights in Granada.
Do you have flexibility on your city-to-city transportation? Cordoba is right on the way from Seville to Madrid. You could get an early train from Seville to Cordoba, stash your luggage (check possible commercial drop-off points ahead of time in case all the lockers at the bus station are full when your arrive), see a good bit of Cordoba and then proceed to Madrid later in the day.
I agree that a day trip is too rushed and you would spend a lot of time traveling vs sightseeing. Just getting to the train stations, waiting for the train and travel would be a full day. If you do decide to spend the night, we had a nice stay at Hotel Casa 1800 and it was a 20 minute walk up to the Alhambra. It was another 20+ minutes to figure out how to get in the Alhambra entrance but that is another story!
If you do visit Granada, take a taxi to the Alhambra and ask the driver to drop you off at the Justice Gate. That’s what we did and it was very easy.
I was just in Seville today on a day trip and am already checking airfare to return for several days.
We're very impressed with the Alcázar and Kenko 's description is perfect.
I checked Google maps: you can easily do a day trip by train to Cordoba. I first saw the Mosque forty years ago and it still takes my breath away.
As for Granada: do it. Take the long organized tour. You can sleep in the bus ( the way I did today), a guide will give you all kinds of info, it's 2.5 hours door-to-door and it's better than not going at all. Spain Day Tours does a lot of these. Just because you can't have downtime and wander is no reason to skip it. You can see a Flamenco show and wander in Seville. We can't all travel under ideal conditions all the time but we do the best we can. But don't try to do both places as one trip as luggage lockers are gone from stations, among other things
BTW, bring a raincoat and umbrella. Be sure your shoes grip on wet pavement as there's a lot of stone pavement in Andalusia and January has 15 days of rain/sprinkles. And you'll have about 10-11 hours of daylight at this latitude.
Bets makes a good point. Seeing the Alhambra under less than ideal conditions is better than not seeing it at all. The ideal way would be to spend at least one night in Granada, but if you can’t, then seeing it as a day trip is better than not seeing it at all. You might think you will return to Andalusia some day, but life can get in the way, things happen that could prevent you from returning.
Kenko gives a very good description and comparison between the Real Alcazar and the Alhambra.
Great advise from previous posters.
If you do decide to go to Granada, make sure to book your Alhambra tickets soon.
It looks like there are several tickets available for January, however, during high season, tickets need to be booked 3 months in advance.
My mom and I enjoyed our stay at Hotel Anacapri located next to Plaza Nueva in the historic center.
During our trip, we took the ALSA Bus from Córdoba to Granada, and then from Granada to Sevilla.
The bus station is on the outskirts of Granada so you’ll need to take a city bus or taxi to the historic center. We took a taxi both ways.
Enjoy your trip to beautiful Spain!
Thank you all once again for all the comments and suggestions - highly appreciated. Will proceed with my planning taking into account as many factors as possible.
Day trips like this present a trade-off: Do you want to trade a full day in Seville for half a day in Granada and half a day sitting on a bus or a train? To me, how many days you have in Seville is a serious consideration--plus how long your sightseeing list is for Seville, of course.
I have finalized my plans for Granada and the Alhambra. I have decided to spent about 24 hours in Granada with an overnight stay, traveling form Seville via Cordoba on the first day morning, reaching Granada late evening. I will try to stay as close to the Alhambra as possible. I have booked my tickets to the Alhambra for the morning of the second day, and plan to spend the afternoon in Albaicin before taking an evening bus back to Seville. Hopefully things will work out.
The Parador de Granada is “as close as you can”. It has a reputation for being spendy, but can actually not be too bad depending on the season. It is worth a mild splurge as it is lovely to actually stay on the grounds of The Alhambra. If you really want to utilize your time there as much as possible, I recommend Margarita, a local guide I learned about on this forum. The three hours we spent with her made the Alhambra come alive and was money well spent. Contact at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There is a taxi stand at the top of the Gate of justice and the Parador can always call you a taxi as needed. The taxi cost to/from the train station is about 8 euros.
Hello everyone, thanks to all the wonderful, useful tips and advice obtained through this forum, we completed our trip to Spain a few days ago. I have posted a general trip report under Trip Reports but will add a few specifics here. We spent 1.5 days in Barcelona and enjoyed the lovely walks and sights in Barcelona. Spent 5 nights in Seville (part of the Costco travel booking) but took off two of these days (one night) to visit Cordoba and Granada - wonderful places to visit. Spent one night at the lovely Hotel Casa 1800 in Granada. Did most of our internal travel using the amazing Renfe/Ave trains but also completed a very comfortable bus trip (Alsa) from Granada to Seville. Great, enjoyable trip. Very affordable prices in Spain, especially with the strong USD against the Euro.