Spain is an incredible country that drives tens of millions of visitors to its sun-soaked lands each year. Boasting one of the best cuisines in Europe, a laid-back culture, and fascinating history, there is really nowhere in Spain that you could visit that would be a bad idea. However, if you only have time to visit the Iberian peninsula for a short city break or brief Spain itinerary, then you might need to know which places to visit over others. For instance, two of the most popular cities to travel to in Spain are Madrid (the capital) and Seville (the fourth-largest city). Both of these metropolises have their own benefits and can appeal to different sides of different travellers. If you, like many others, are wondering if you should visit Madrid or Seville, luckily, we are here to help.
Both Spanish cities have a tonne to offer visitors, with fantastic culinary scenes, unique tourist sites, and distant histories that set them apart from all other cities in the country. Madrid, the capital of Spain, is a dynamic international city with an endless amount of things to do. Seville, the capital of Spain’s southern Andalucía region has a more laid-back vibe and a tapas scene that is truly incredible.
If you’re struggling to choose between Seville or Madrid on your upcoming trip to Spain, we understand the conflict. Having spent a lot of time in both Spanish cities, we can speak expertly on the unique things they both have to offer and help make your choice a little bit easier.
Located in the middle of the country, Madrid is the capital of Spain and an excellent choice if you’re wondering where to visit in this beautiful country. Home to over three million people and the third most populous city in the European Union, Madrid is incredibly diverse and dynamic and you could easily spend months here and barely scratch the surface.
One of the major factors you need to consider when trying to choose between Madrid or Seville is the accessibility of the city. Being a major European capital, Madrid is an incredibly accessible city.
There is a major international airport (which is also very easily connected with the extensive metro system — more on that in a bit) that serves direct flights from a number of major world airlines direct into the Spanish capital. In fact, it is the easiest city to reach in Spain if you are coming from outside of Europe.
Madrid is also well connected by bus and train connections, both domestically and internationally. So you can easily reach the Spanish capital from basically every city in Spain and even from a few closer cities (with, perhaps, some connections) in Portugal and France.
Getting around in Madrid is also incredibly easy and straightforward, as the majority of the city’s main sites are within easy walking distance of each other. There is an extensive public transport system that will take you anywhere else you might need to go, which includes both easy-to-navigate buses and a metro system.
If you’re not keen to take public transport, you will find that Madrid is very walkable, in general, and not overly hilly. The city is quite large, however, so it may be necessary to take some sort of public transport if you want to venture into different neighbourhoods outside of the main tourist centre (and you should!)
When comparing the accessibility of Madrid compared to Seville, Madrid definitely has more options when it comes to overseas flights and has a more extensive public transit system. However, it is also very big and it can take a lot longer to see everything you might want to in one day in the Spanish capital rather than in Seville.
Another major factor to consider when choosing between Seville or Madrid is the affordability of the city, as finances can very often be the determining factor when deciding where to visit on your holidays. And while Spain is generally quite affordable to visit, Madrid is still a major Western European capital and can have high prices to match.
Prices in Madrid tend to be higher than a lot of other cities in the country (with the possible exception of Barcelona), however, they are still lower compared to many other cities in Western Europe. If you’re travelling to Madrid on a budget, you can still cut costs by finding a bed in a hostel (of which there are many) or in a private room through Airbnb, taking advantage of set lunch menus, and taking advantage of the free entry times for museums.
In both Madrid and Seville, you will find that it can actually be incredibly affordable to eat out provided you stick to Spanish cuisine rather than international. However, prices for just about everything are higher in Madrid than they are in Seville — though accommodation prices can be about the same in both cities.
In the grand scheme of things, however, Madrid is still an affordable city to visit when compared to other Western European capitals like London, Paris, or Rome.
Things to do in Madrid
Madrid is a massive city with an incredible, complex history and an endless amount of things to do. While a quick jaunt around the main sites won’t take you all that long and many people think that spending only 2 days in Madrid is enough to really get to know the city, you can only scratch the surface in that period of time.
The main sites in Madrid include the Palacio Real, Parque de Retiro, the Mercado de San Miguel, and, of course, the incomparable Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen museums. However, the real joy of Madrid also comes from getting off the beaten path and exploring the neighbourhoods a little bit more.
There is a lot to learn about Madrid’s culture and history by getting lost in the trendy Malasaña or LGBT-friendly Cheuca barrios. Or you can get to know multicultural Madrid while admiring the street art, searching for a deal at El Rastro, or shopping at local food markets in the ultra-cool Lavapiés neighbourhood. If you’re interested in seeing how the elite live in the Spanish capital, take a walk to the luxe Salamanca neighbourhood.
Madrid is one of those cities that is best experienced if you have a lot of time to give it justice, so if you’re strapped for time, Seville might seem a bit more manageable for you. Or, if you’re wondering if you should spend more time in Madrid or Seville, then I would recommend sending the bigger chunk of your time in Madrid.
If a determining factor of which city to visit in Spain lands on the food, then you may have a difficult time choosing between Madrid or Seville as both cities have incredible culinary scenes. However, because Spanish cuisine is so fiercely regional, both cities do have noticeable differences.
There are a few dishes that are unique to Madrid (think cocido madrileño (meat and chickpea stew), bocadillo con calamares (squid sandwich), and even patatas bravas (potatoes in a paprika sauce), however, you can sample food from all over Spain in this city. There is also a distinct tapas culture in Madrid and, if you go to the more local establishment, you can sometimes expect to get a tapa for free with the order of a drink, akin to what you might find in cities like Granada.
Because it is such an international city, you can also get cuisine from all over the world in Madrid and, in fact, I have had some of the best tacos outside of North America in the Spanish capital. What you will find for the most part, unfortunately, is that international cuisine in Madrid does tend to be more expensive than Spanish food.
Madrid has a number of fantastic tapas bars and restaurants that are worth visiting and the city does have a different feel to its culinary scene than Seville does. However, if you want to sample cuisines from all across Spain, then Madrid might be your better choice over Seville.
Where to Stay in Madrid
As mentioned earlier, Madrid is a massive city and there are many places to stay there. We recommend finding accommodation close to the city centre to ensure that you are within easy walking distance or a metro ride of all that the city has to offer. If you are wondering where to stay in Madrid, follow these suggestions:
Ii Castillas Madrid — A small, centrally-located hotel, this is a great mid-range option in Madrid. Situated close to the Plaza Callao, an extremely convenient area, they have a range of clean and comfortable rooms available and an option to include breakfast in the room rate. Click here to see their latest prices!
The Hat Madrid — Located right next to the Plaza Mayor, this boutique hostel is an excellent choice for solo and budget travellers alike. They have a range of both dorm and private rooms on offer, have great common areas to meet other travellers, and is one of the highest-rated hostels in the city.
Airbnb — If you want to stay with a local or are after your own apartment when visiting Madrid, then Airbnb is an excellent option for you. There are numerous properties available in Madrid on the platform such as this great private room with delicious breakfast regularly offered. If you’re new to Airbnb, you can click here to get up to $40 off your first stay!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Madrid!
Seville is the capital of the Andalucía region in the south of Spain and is known to be one of the most picturesque cities in all of Europe. Famous for its tapas scene, flamenco culture, and perennially good weather, Seville is an excellent choice for a city break, especially if you’re looking for somewhere to spend winter in Spain.
If you’re planning on heading to Spain from outside of Europe, then Seville may not be the easiest destination to originate in as the airport isn’t as high-traffic as Madrid. However, there is an international airport in Seville that easily connects the capital of Andalucía to many other European cities (and some further afield). In general, Seville is fairly accessible as a stand-alone destination, provided you are planning to visit from somewhere in Europe.
If you want to get to Seville from elsewhere in Spain, being the fourth-largest city in the country, you are generally going to be able to find bus or train connections from most any major town in Spain. This means that Seville is incredibly easy to access from within the country, as well.
Once you are in Seville, one of the advantages it has over Madrid is that the city centre is smaller and it is entirely easy to get around everywhere on foot. This means that it is easier to cover more ground and not waste as much time on transport as you might need to in Madrid. And while there is a lot to see and do in Seville, it is easier to spend fewer days in here and still get a very good feel for the city and its unique culture.
There is a fairly new metro system in Seville that runs very well, but it is unlikely that you will need to use it if you are staying in a central location and are only planning a few days within the city.
Seville is also a far flatter city than Madrid, which makes it a lot easier to navigate on foot for longer periods of time!
In general, when people talk about the affordable prices in Spain, they are talking about Andalucía. And while this region is generally the most affordable in the country, Seville is still a major city and is probably the most expensive in the region. That being said, I do believe that you will find prices in Seville to be about 10-15% less than in Madrid, especially when it comes to food.
Food prices in Seville are incredibly affordable and you don’t need to have a high budget in the slightest to eat very well in this incredible city. You can get a set menu for lunch for as little as €8-9 (depending on the neighbourhood) and tapas are also desirably priced.
The main attractions in Seville are accessible for even the tightest of budgets, however, it can save you a bit of cash to book entry to places like the Real Alcázar online in advance to save up to 10% from the at-the-door entry fee.
The only thing that isn’t really more affordable in Seville than in Madrid is accommodation, which we found to be fairly expensive in the Andalusian capital. There are, however, some good budget options that are available. Just plan to cut costs in other ways as accommodation in Seville can be expensive compared to other Spanish cities and about the same as in Madrid.
Things to do in Seville
Seville is an incredibly dynamic and lively city that is jam-packed with unique things to do. The most obvious of which would be to tour the gorgeous Seville Cathedral and the incomparable Real Alcázar, which was used as a filming location for the HBO series Game of Thrones.
Make sure that you take the time to stroll through the gorgeous Plaza de España and marvel at the wonderful architecture and people watch on one of the many benches. You can also take a walking tour (or just get lost!) in the whitewashed streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, which was the traditional Jewish Quarter in Seville.
Many visitors to Seville don’t take the time to head across the river to visit the bohemian Triana neighbourhood, which was the traditional Roma quarter of the city. If you are interested in flamenco, this neighbourhood was actually one of the birthplaces of this fascinating art form and it is the perfect place to catch a show. You also cannot miss the wonderful Mercado de Triana, a bustling culinary marketplace selling traditional Spanish produce.
There really is no shortage of things to do in Seville, however, it is easier to pack them into a shorter period of time than in Madrid, considering that things are not located as far from each other.
Seville is known for its tapas culture and if that’s what you want to experience when you are on a Spanish city break, then Seville is the choice for you. The food scene in the capital of Andalucía is comparable to nothing and you could easily just pack your Seville itinerary only with tapas bars are restaurants and feel completely fulfilled.
Like in Madrid, there are some dishes that are unique to Seville that you should try in their home city. These include the delicious espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas), tortilla with whisky sauce (Spanish omelette with a garlic whisky-based sauce), and you can even swill a glass of dry manzanilla or amontillado sherry less than 100 kilometres from where it was produced.
Even the nightlife in Seville is propelled largely by food, and you can spend until the wee hours of the morning hopping from tapas bar to tapas bar and call it a thriving night out. Seville is truly a foodie’s paradise and I would say it’s the city to pick if you travel based on your stomach and taste buds.
Where to Stay in Seville
There are a lot of accommodation options in Seville, being one of the most popular destinations to visit in Spain. Therefore, it can be overwhelming to choose where to stay in this Andalusian city. We recommend finding a place to stay in the centre, within walking distance to the main sites or rather in the cool and trendy Triana neighbourhood. These are some of our top suggestions:
Hostel One Catedral — This highly-rated hostel is the best choice for budget and solo travellers in Seville. Located a stone’s throw away from the Seville Cathedral and Alcázar, they have a number of both dorms and private rooms available and they also organise activities and social events so you can easily meet other travellers. Click here to see their latest prices!
Hotel Bécquer — This hotel, located in the heart of the old town, has a number of clean, comfortable and air-conditioned rooms available for all kinds of travellers. Situated within walking distance to all of the top sites in Seville, there is also a wonderful rooftop terrace with a pool at this hotel. Click here to see their latest prices!
Monte Triana — This boutique hotel, located in the vibrant Triana district, is one of the highest-rated hotels in all of Seville. They have numerous luxurious rooms available and are within 15 minutes walking distance to all of Seville’s main attractions on both sides of the river. Click here to see their latest prices!
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Seville hotels!
Madrid or Seville: The Verdict
With all of the above information considered, it’s now time to make a decision between Madrid or Seville.
I would recommend choosing Madrid if you’re interested in learning about Spanish art, as their museums are unbeatable. Madrid is also a great option if you have a bit more time to devote and you want to explore the massive city in depth. It is also a really good option if you like bigger cities and want a more international feel.
Seville is the best choice if you are visiting Spain in the winter months and want to avoid the chilly temperatures in the capital. It is also an incredible place to go if you want to learn more about Spain’s Moorish history. Finally, Seville is undoubtedly the choice if you are interested in Spanish tapas culture, as the city’s tapas bars are unbeatable.
How to Get from Madrid to Seville (& Vice Versa)
If you have time in your itinerary to visit both Madrid and Seville, you might be wondering how to travel between the two of them. As they are located quite far from each other — over 500 kilometres, in fact — you will also likely want to know the cheapest and most efficient ways to get from Seville to Madrid or vice versa.
Madrid to Seville by Train
Taking the train is by far the quickest way to get between the two cities, with high-speed trains leaving multiple times per day between both Seville and Madrid. The train journey generally takes about 2.5-3 hours depending on the departure time and route it is taking.
Travelling by train, however, is one of the most expensive ways to travel in Spain and tickets can be quite pricey, especially if you purchase them at the last minute. This is why we recommend booking your train tickets as far in advance as possible, in order to avoid high fees. Click here to book your trip from Madrid to Seville (or Seville to Madrid)!
Madrid to Seville by Bus
The bus is the most affordable way to travel between the cities, however, it will also take the longest. There are numerous bus connections between both Madrid and Seville per day and the journey time can take about 5-6 hours.
Because it is a popular route, we do recommend booking your seat in advance. You can click here to book your journey on Omio.
Madrid to Seville by Car
Many people visiting Spain like to get around by their own car, and it can be a very good option if you want to get off the beaten path while not being at the mercy of erratic bus and train timetables.
Driving between Seville and Madrid will take about 5 hours, depending on the traffic. If you want to hire a car while in Spain, we recommend using RentalCars.com to find the best deals from all available companies. We also suggest taking out an excess insurance policy from iCarHireInsurance in order to make sure that you’re completely covered for any damage that may happen to the car.
Deciding between Seville or Madrid can be a difficult quandary, especially when you consider all that both cities have to offer. However, if you weigh the pros and cons of each city compared to your travel preferences, you should be able to make the best decision for you.
Are you trying to choose between visiting Madrid or Seville? Have you been to either city? Let us know in the comments!