Granada or Seville: how to choose which city to visit

Granada or Seville: the Alhambra Palace in Granada

Granada or Seville? That’s the big question for anyone intending to visit the beautiful cities of Spain’s Andalusia region. Sure, there are many more contenders, such as Cordoba and Ronda, but Seville and Granada are the two that really stand out. The architecture is splendid, the food is to die for, and the wealth of visitor attractions on offer surpasses that of most other cities in the entire country.

If you’re a bit short on time and are only able to visit one of these special cities, this post will help you decide which to put at the top of your list. There’s no real right answer when considering the Seville vs Granada question, but there are a few differences that should sway you one way or the other.

But first, let’s introduce the two most dazzling cities of southern Spain.

Granada

The stunning city of Granada sits at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, which, living up to their name, are often dusted with snow. This popular Andalusian city is famous for its medieval architecture, as well as its traditional hotels and beautiful views. Granada was under Islamic rule for hundreds of years, and as a result, there’s a solid Moorish legacy here. Most people visit Granada to see the Alhambra Palace, but there’s a lot more to the city for those who want to delve a little deeper.

Granada or Seville: the Alhambra palace
The mighty Alhambra Palace in Granada

Seville

Sunny Seville is known for its culture and architecture and of course the famous Seville oranges. It’s livelier than Granada, probably because Seville is the largest city in Andalusia and there’s always lots going on. The monuments are grand, there are festivals aplenty, and the scent of sweet jasmine often lingers in the streets. If you’re into historic buildings then Seville ticks all the boxes, but there’s a modern vibe here too that will appeal to travellers of all ages.

Granada or Seville: Real Alcazar Gardens in Seville, Spain
The Real Alcazar Gardens in Seville

There’s no better place to go for a holiday in Spain than Andalusia if you’re looking for a relaxed break with all the sights right on your doorstep. When it comes to the ultimate destination to explore, both Granada and Seville are worthy contenders for the crown. Yet there can only be one winner, so read on to discover whether Granada or Seville is best to visit.

1. Architecture

Granada

At the top of the list in the Seville vs Granada debate is the quality of the local architecture. In Granada, the Alhambra Palace reigns supreme, sitting loftily up on a rocky plateau overlooking the Albaicín Quarter of the old town. This formidable fortress is one of the world’s most impressive Islamic monuments, with intricate Moorish designs still bringing the complex to life all these centuries later.

The Alhambra dates back to the 13th century, and you can really feel the passage of time as you stroll through the gardens and palaces within the imposing walls. Highlights of a visit to this UNESCO World Heritage site include the Nasrid Palace, the Generalife, the Court of the Lions and the photogenic Palace of the Comares that appears on all the tourist brochures and postcards.

Granada or Seville: Court of the Lions at the Alhambra Palace in Granada
Court of the Lions at the Alhambra Palace in Granada

Of course, Granada isn’t all about the Alhambra, despite its dominating presence and epic views out across the plains. Other architectural gems in the city that we highly recommend seeing on your first trip are the Bañuelo Arab Baths, the grand Granada Cathedral with its Royal Chapel, and the old Moorish houses in the narrow streets of the historic Albaicín district. It’s safe to say that everywhere you turn in Granada, there will be architecture to take your breath away.

Seville

While Seville doesn’t boast a palace quite as magnificent as the Alhambra, it has several architectural wonders that are well worth visiting. Seville is home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, with designs from several different periods still in evidence on its facade and inside. The Giralda Bell Tower looms above the city skyline, and you can climb up for sweeping views across the rooftops. Seville Cathedral is also where you’ll find the tomb of explorer Christopher Columbus!

Meanwhile, the 11th-century Alcazar of Seville is perhaps the most famous landmark. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage site and blends Moorish and Gothic design elements. Other architectural buildings of note include the Archbishop’s Palace, the General Archives of the Indies and the buildings surrounding the Plaza de España. Over in the Barrio Santa Cruz district is the city’s Jewish Quarter where you’ll find a wealth of historic buildings and narrow streets. Taking a stroll here is the best way to get to know the old city and learn more about its patchwork past.

Granada or Seville: Plaza de Espana in Seville
Plaza de Espana in Seville

Either Granada or Seville will satisfy the historically-minded traveller, so this one’s a bit difficult to call. Although you really can’t beat the Alhambra, Seville has more variety to occupy visitors over several days.

Winner: SEVILLE

2. Entertainment and Food

Granada

If you’re still wondering is Granada worth visiting, you should spend an evening at one of the flamenco tablaos in the old town. Flamenco originated in Andalusia’s gitano (gypsy) culture, using dance and music to tell folklore tales of their ancient heritage. Seeing the twirling dresses and trying to keep up with the shoe-tapping is a great way to get immersed in local tradition. Historic Sacromonte is where you’ll find the old gypsy caves, where some of the most authentic flamenco performances are held each evening.

Granada is a laid-back city, so it’s not a place to come for the thumping nightlife. However, there are plenty of pubs and taverns, many of which have regular live music events, so if you fancy an evening out, there’s plenty of choice.

Granada or Seville: Flamenco
Intimate flamenco performances

Seville

Seville and Granada are both known for their flamenco shows, many of which take place in historic venues across the old town. Just because Seville doesn’t come with added caves doesn’t mean the flamenco here is any less impressive. You can often enjoy dinner or tapas during the performance to make for a tasty and cultural night out.

In terms of nightlife, Seville is renowned throughout Europe for its bars and clubs. If you want to boogie on until dawn, this is the spot to come. There are also lots of live music events and theatre performances to enjoy – the Teatro de la Maestranza opera house is particularly worth a visit.

The tapas scene in Seville is second to none, and if you’ve never tried these delicate little Spanish treats before, this is the place for your initiation. You can go on a tapas tasting tour, or just head to any local bar or tavern and order a few plates with a glass of wine.

Granada or Seville: tapas bars can be found in both cities
Seville is known for its tapas

In the competition of Granada vs Seville, the latter is a clear front-runner when it comes to its entertainment offering.

Winner: SEVILLE

3. Day Trips

Granada

Granada is perfectly placed for a huge array of day tours, which in turn offer a vast range of different experiences and activities. One day you could be skiing in the nearby Sierra Nevada and the next you’ll be swimming in the sparkling Mediterranean Sea. It’s one of the things we love best about Granada, and why it makes such a great base for exploring the wider Andalusia region. You can always take a day trip to Granada from Seville, or vice versa if you want the best of both worlds.

Other popular day tours from Granada include hiking the famous El Caminito del Rey, checking out the whitewashed mountain villages in the Alpujarras region, and soaking up the sun in Almeria down on the coast. Historical Jaén and laid-back Nerja are also worth a visit.

Granada or Seville: The beautiful coastline of Nerja
The beautiful coastline of Nerja

Seville

Make sure you leave a bit of room in your Seville itinerary to fit in a day trip or two. It’ll be a nice contrast to the city and there are plenty of options to choose from. You can get from Seville to Granada by direct train, so it’s entirely possible to enjoy visits to both cities whilst only staying in one. However, although a Seville to Granada day trip is always a good idea, there are plenty of other options if you want to explore beyond the city boundaries.

The best places to visit from Seville include Gibraltar and its famous rock (just watch out for the pesky macaques!), and the historical cities of Cordoba and Jerez de la Frontera. It’s also possible to tour the clifftop town of Ronda with its famous gorge and bridge. For some seaside fun in the sun, head to Cadiz. You can even take a day trip to Tangier in Morocco for something more exotic, although be warned, it’ll be a long day out!

Granada or Seville: the clifftop town of Ronda
The famous bridge of Ronda

In the grand Granada vs Seville contest, it’s fair to say that while both cities have similar day trip offerings, Granada has the edge thanks to its proximity to the Sierra Nevada.

Winner: GRANADA

4. Location and Getting Around

Granada

Where is Granada? This iconic city lies in the heart of Andalusia, less than a couple of hours’ drive from Malaga and the south coast of Spain. Granada sits in the shadow of the Sierra Nevada which means it’s well-placed for exploring further afield in this beautiful mountain region.

Granada is a little more difficult to get to than other key cities in the area, as it doesn’t have an airport. There are now direct trains running daily between Malaga and Granada. However, timings are quite limited so you may not be able to travel onward without spending the night in Malaga if you’ve arrived by air.

Hiring a car in Malaga and driving to Granada is often an easier option, but bear in mind parking in the city is at a premium as there is so little space for vehicles. Some hotels offer parking so it’s best to research this before you sign on the dotted line.

Granada or Seville: Malaga by night
Malaga is the jumping off point for most international visitors

Seville

The city of Seville is further west, not far from the border with Portugal. It’s a 2.5-hour drive from Seville to both Malaga and Gibraltar which makes it easy to visit on a longer road trip.

Seville is far simpler to get to for international travellers as it has its own airport. There are direct flights from the UK, which makes Seville a great destination for a weekend break without a lot of transport logistics to contend with. There is also a major train station so you can travel elsewhere without any hassle. You can head up to Madrid by rail, and you could even journey from Seville to Granada if you’re able to visit both cities!

Granada or Seville: Rock of Gibraltar in Spain
The imposing Rock of Gibraltar isn’t far away from Seville

Seville is definitely the easier city to reach if you’re arriving from overseas. Once you’re in Spain, both Granada and Seville are well connected by the rail network.

Winner: SEVILLE

5. How long do you need to spend there?

One of your first considerations will be knowing how many days in Seville and Granada are enough to see all the main sights. Three days is enough to tick off the top attractions as well as delve a little deeper in search of the lesser-known gems. You could even fit in a day trip once you’ve had your fill of architectural city wonders.
If you only have a couple of nights to spare, it’s still worth visiting Seville or Granada as you’ll be able to see the main events in just 24 hours. But it’s really best to stay a little longer if you can.
If you’re visiting both cities and wondering whether to spend more time in Seville or Granada, we recommend allocating an extra day or two for Seville. It’s much larger which means there’s more to do than in Granada, so if sightseeing is your purpose, Seville is worth a bit more of your time.

The verdict: Granada or Seville

There’s really no wrong answer when it comes to the Seville or Granada debate. Whichever you choose, you won’t be disappointed. However, we’re not in the habit of giving wishy-washy non-committal answers, so we will choose one of the cities as the winner!

Determining whether to visit Granada or Seville really depends on what you want to get out of the trip, and the types of attractions that will get you excited. Both cities have a very similar offering, with magnificent architecture, legendary culture and some of the best food in Europe. Yet there can only be one winner, so we’ll stick our necks out and declare that Seville takes the crown. Why? Because while you really can’t beat the Alhambra of Granada, Seville just pips the post with its range of attractions, vibrant nightlife and ease of access.

Overall Winner: SEVILLE

Still trying to choose between Seville and Granada? If you can, try and visit both and make up your own mind.

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