Malaga or Seville or Valencia? Which Spanish City to Visit

Last Updated on

by Maggie Turansky


Disclaimer: This article contains affiliate links. That means if you click a link and make a purchase, we may make a small commission. As an Amazon Associate we earn from qualifying purchases. For more information, see our privacy policy.


Should you visit Malaga or Seville or Valencia on your trip to Spain? If you’re strapped for time and have to narrow down destinations in this beautiful and diverse nation, it can be incredibly difficult to choose which city would be the best for you to visit.

Spain has so much to offer and each destination has its own unique culture and charm that figuring out which cities are right for you and your trip can a quite a difficult endeavour.

In general, choose Málaga if you want easy access to the Costa del Sol and to enjoy a compact yet lively Andalucían city. Choose Seville for iconic monuments, flamenco history and excellent tapas. And choose Valencia for paella lovers for for insight into unique Valencian cuisine.

Figuring out the merits and differences between these three cities will help you make your choice. All three are fantastic places to visit and you can’t go wrong with spending time in either one, however, there are some aspects of each city that will appeal to you more than other aspects.

Málaga

The largest city on Andalucía’s Costa del Sol, Málaga has a reputation for being a haven for Northern European holidaymakers flocking to tourist traps. But if you take the time to dig deep in this historic city, you will find a vibrant, dynamic, and deeply Spanish metropolis that is a worthy contender on any Spain itinerary.

Accessibility

Málaga is a major metropolitan area in Spain and a popular holiday destination at that, meaning that the city itself is quite easy to reach from virtually anywhere in the country and also elsewhere in Europe.

Málaga airport serves numerous different airlines across countless destinations in Europe. You will generally find more frequent flights during the summer months.

If you’re looking to go directly to Málaga from somewhere outside of Europe, however, it is likely that you’re going to need a connecting flight on the continent to get there. However, the same can generally be said for Seville and Valencia, as well.

The Málaga Cathedral is an iconic sight in the city
The Málaga Cathedral is an iconic sight in the city

Of the three cities we are comparing in this article, Málaga is the furthest south and the furthest from the capital of Madrid or other major Spanish cities like Barcelona. It is entirely possible to reach Malaga from either of these cities by direct bus or train, however, it will take quite a bit of time.

So if you are planning a trip that concentrates on Catalonia or the areas surrounding Madrid, Málaga may be a bit far to reach if you’re not keen to spend a lot of time in transit.

There are, however, direct bus and train connections to Málaga from most major cities in Spain, you just have to account for how long that may take. Spain is a big country so it’s always a good idea to plan accordingly! Booking tickets in advance here will get you the best fares.

Málaga is also well poised if you’re coming to or from Granada (located about an hour north) or on a day trip to Gibraltar or even Marbella.

Once in Málaga, you will find it very easy to get around. There is an extensive public transit system that consists of buses and trams that are easy to navigate and use. The city centre is also incredibly walkable so it may even be that you don’t need to get on public transport at all! If you want to head to the beach or a bit further out of the centre, however, that is easily doable.

All in all, Málaga is quite an accessible city that is easy to get around, however, it is located quite far south so it may not make sense to visit if your itinerary has you more north in Spain.

Pablo Picasso statue in Malaga
Pablo Picasso is one of Málaga’s most famous former residents

Affordability

In general, you can assume that Spain is a fairly affordable country, especially the further south you go. And while Málaga is by no means going to be the most affordable city in Europe (or even the country), a trip here isn’t going to break the bank if you’re smart about where you spend your money.

Of course, there are tourist traps and scams and overpriced areas throughout the city (as there are in pretty much every city known to man), but all in all, your money can go quite a long way in Málaga.

Compared to cities like Valencia and Seville, Málaga will probably work out somewhere in the middle, however, there isn’t much of a price difference between the three cities.

One thing that is worth mentioning in Málaga is that, as it is very popular with package tourists, there are lots of places that are targeted specifically toward them with grossly inflated prices.

However, if you do your research and find places that are geared more toward locals, Málaga can turn out to be quite an affordable city. And if you want to avoid crowds, the best time to visit would likely be in the shoulder seasons when the weather is mild but the crowds are limited.

back streets of Malaga
It is easy to get around Spanish cities, like Málaga, on foot!

Cuisine

Generally speaking, if I’m going to be writing a comparison piece between a few cities in the same country, I would likely leave out a cuisine section because it is mostly all the same. Not the case in Spain and Málaga has a distinctive culinary scene when compared to the other two cities.

One thing that aligns Málaga and Seville together in cuisine is the fact that they are both situated in the southern region of Andalucía and this region is known for its tapas.

Tapas culture runs deep in this neck of the woods, however, the culture between them and the regional specialities differ between both Málaga and Seville greatly.

While seafood is incredibly popular throughout Spain, as Málaga is located right on the coast, their seafood is second to none. The city is specifically famous for its anchovies — called boquerones in Spanish — and you can find them prepared in different ways on bar menus throughout the city.

From crispy fried anchovies to briny salt-cured anchovies to my personal favourite, boquerones en vinagre — or anchovies marinated in vinegar.

Málaga also has a wonderful tapas scene that’s not completely centred on seafood. There are countless cosy and lively bars where you can get an array of small dishes and a glass of wine or beer for a great price in Malaga and mingle with some locals and practice some Spanish while you’re at it!

All in all, if you love seafood and tapas, then Málaga may be the best choice for you!

boquerones en vinagre
Boquerones en Vinagre

Things to do in Malaga

Málaga has quite a bit to offer visitors.

First and foremost, there is the incredible Alcazaba complex that you can spend hours exploring. Home to a Moorish palace and fortress, the complex is located on a hill overlooking the centre of Málaga and provides fantastic views over the city and Mediterranean sea along with a fascinating history.

Just below the Alcazaba lies an excellently preserved Roman Theatre that was only discovered in the 1950s. It’s possible to take a guided tour of the Alcazaba & Roman Theatre.

The Roman Theatre in Malaga
The Roman Theatre wasn’t discovered until the 1950s

There is also the beautiful (and still unfinished) Málaga Cathedral which is very much worth visiting. If you’re interested in the Spanish market culture, you also can’t miss the wonderful Mercado de Atarazanas.

Málaga is also the birthplace of renowned Spanish artist Pablo Picasso and though he spent the majority of his upbringing in Barcelona, it’s still very much worth visiting the Picasso Museum in Málaga.

Another museum worth visiting is the Museo del Vino where you can learn all about the history of wine in the region and even taste some local vintages!

Of course, Málaga is located on the seaside and the Malagueta beach is an excellent place to soak up the sun and enjoy the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

All of this barely even scratches the surface of the things to do in Málaga and there is no denying that you will be able to keep yourself more than occupied in the city.

Málaga's tranquil Playa de Malagueta
Málaga’s tranquil Playa de Malagueta

Where to Stay in Málaga

Hotel Sur Málaga – An excellent mid-range hotel, this is a great base in Malaga. Located close to the top attractions, they have a range of rooms available and even have a great breakfast available for an additional cost.

Madeinterranea Suites – If you’re looking for a luxury hotel in Malaga, then this one is a great option. They have countless plush rooms available, a great location, a restaurant on site and breakfast included in the nightly rate.

The Lights Hostel – If you’re travelling solo or on a budget in Málaga, then this hostel is an excellent choice for you. Centrally located within walking distance of the city’s top attractions, they have a range of dorm and private rooms available, great common areas, an attentive staff and even an option to include breakfast at an additional cost.

Private Rental – If you’re looking for an alternative to traditional accommodation in Malaga, then a private apartment such as this beautiful bright studio with a rooftop terrace can be a great choice.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse other hotels in Malaga!

The Alcazaba and Roman Theatre in Málaga
The Alcazaba and Roman Theatre in Málaga, one of the highlights of Andalucía

Seville

As the capital of Andalucía, Seville is one of the most popular cities to visit in Spain — and for very good reason. Spain’s fourth-largest city has a lot to offer visitors, is absolutely gorgeous, has a unique culture and is packed with a fascinating history.

Accessibility

Seville is the fourth-largest city in Spain and the third most-visited city in the country (behind Barcelona and Madrid respectively). Because of this, there are countless connections within Spain to Seville and it is an easy city to reach from virtually anywhere in the country.

Seville airport also serves countless European airports, meaning that it is an accessible destination for a quick city break if you’re not visiting from too far away.

Much like Málaga, it is unlikely that you will easily and affordably be able to reach Seville from further afield than Europe without having to transfer flights, however, the city isn’t located nearly as far south as Málaga and is reachable in just a few hours by train from the Spanish capital.

So Seville is easily reachable by public transport from just about every major metro area in Spain and there are countless bus and train connections to the city.

That makes Seville an easy destination to visit a part of a longer Spain itinerary and its closer proximity to places like Madrid and Barcelona make it a bit more attractive than Málaga for this reason alone.

Once in Seville, getting around the city is incredibly easy. There is a fantastic public transport system consisting of metro, tram and bus lines that can take you, easily, where you need to go.

The city centre is also compact and quite walkable and, if you’re staying in the old town, it may be unlikely that you even need to use the public transit.

In summation, Seville is located geographically closer to other major Spanish cities than the likes of Málaga and it is just as easy to get around as both Valencia and Málaga.

Real Alcázar in Seville
A gate at the Real Alcázar in Seville, an affordable attraction

Affordability

In general, none of these cities in question are more or less expensive to visit than the others as Spain, in and of itself, is a fairly affordable destination for a number of travellers. However, if you’re still wondering what the most “expensive” city is out of the three, it may be Seville.

Prices in Seville aren’t too much noticeably higher than in Málaga or Valencia, however, it is also the most popular amongst tourists so, especially in the city centre, you may find prices to be inflated more than usual.

Also, we noticed that accommodation prices were distinctly higher than in other areas of Spain. If you choose to stay a bit outside of the city centre — for instance, in the cool Triana area — then you’re going to find less expensive accommodation and get to experience a super cool area of the city, as well!

Food prices in Seville, if you’re eating at a local-focuses establishment rather than at a tourist-focused place close to a major attraction, are on par with the other cities and entry into attractions are about the same as other cities in Spain, as well.

In general, Seville may be slightly more expensive than the other two cities, however, it isn’t enough to make a major difference.

The Seville Cathedral and Giralda
The Seville Cathedral and Giralda

Cuisine

Honestly, if I only had to eat in one city for the rest of my life, Seville is a strong contender. The food scene in this city is amazing, with countless traditional dishes hailing from here.

Seville has its own strong tapas culture and it is an essential part of going out at night, hopping from bar to bar and eating countless delicious plates of food.

There are several dishes that originated in Seville that are worth trying – including espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas), solomillo al whisky (pork chop with a whisky sauce) and even tortilla al whisky, which is a spin on a traditional Spanish tortilla smothered in a delicious garlic whisky sauce!

Seville is an excellent place just to sample all of the highlights of Andalucían cuisine as it is the capital of the region and it is a true food lover’s paradise.

Espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas)
Espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas)

Things to do in Seville

As one of the top destinations in Spain, there is no denying that there are countless fun and interesting things to do in Seville. From visiting incredible historic sites like the iconic Seville Cathedral, the beautiful Real Alcázar (which was actually used as a filming location for HBO’s Game of Thrones), and the Archivo de Indias — all three of which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

You also cannot miss the absolutely gorgeous Plaza de España, which was constructed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exhibition in 1929. Also, make sure that you wander through the old Jewish quarter of Barrio Santa Cruz.

Seville is also considered to be one of the birthplaces of Spain’s most famous form of dance — flamenco. Originating in the traditionally Roma quarter of Triana, there are countless tablaos such as this intimate show that you can visit to get an authentic view of this beautiful and historic art form.

Also in Triana lies the fantastic Mercado de Triana, which is an unmissable destination if you want to sample traditional Sevillano food and experience the inimitable Spanish market culture.

Of course, there are countless other great things to do in Seville and you can easily spend a number of days enjoying the city and not get bored. In fact, if you’re looking to take a bit of a longer city break, I think that Seville has the most options for an extended stay.

Mercado de Triana in Seville
The Triana Market is an excellent place to purchase authentic Spanish produce

Where to Stay in Seville

Hotel Bécquer – This 4-star hotel in Seville’s old town is an excellent place to stay in this historic Situated within walking distance of the top attractions, they have several modern rooms along with a pool and terrace to enjoy.

Monte Triana – A plush boutique hotel in the cool Triana district, this is a great place to stay in a historic Seville neighbourhood. There are several great amenities (such as a pool and fitness centre) and a range of great rooms.

Onefam Catedral – Those looking for an affordable, social place to stay will love this hostel. Located in the city centre, they have plenty of dorms and private rooms to choose from along with good common areas and events organised.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse for more hotels in Seville!

Plaza de España in Seville
The charming Plaza de España in Seville

Valencia

Famed for its renowned Las Fallas festival, Valencia lies on the eastern coast of the country and doesn’t really get the same amount of attention at places like Madrid and Barcelona. However, that does not mean Valencia isn’t worth visiting and the city offers a unique culture and history that make this an appealing Spanish destination.

Accessibility

Like the other two cities in this article, Valencia is a major metropolitan area and, as Spain’s third-largest city, easily accessible from a number of different locations throughout Spain. It is also located geographically closer to Madrid and Barcelona than both Seville and Malaga, so it is a good option to visit if you’re not looking to head too far south on a typical Spain itinerary.

Valencia also is home to its own international airport, but, like the other cities, it is likely you will only be able to get a direct flight here from inside of Europe rather than many destinations further afield. Nevertheless, it does serve a number of budget airlines and makes it a destination that is easy for a city break if you’re coming from a nearby country.

There are also countless bus and train connections from most major Spanish cities, meaning that Valencia is easy to reach if you’re getting around Spain via public transport.

Once in the city, Valencia is incredibly easy to get around via an extensive public transport system that includes a metro, bus and tram network. It is also a very flat city with fantastic cycling infrastructure, so it’s perfect if you love getting around a city by bicycle.

Valencia Cathedral
Valencia Cathedral

Affordability

In general, Valencia is not really any more or less expensive than the other two cities, though as it isn’t as much of a tourist-centric city, you may find it easier to find more local pricing rather than inflated tourist prices.

Valencia is also a more spread-out city than either Seville or Málaga and, therefore, it’s easier to venture out and find things that are more geared toward locals rather than toward tourists.

I would say that Valencia is about on par price-wise with Málaga and maybe slightly less expensive than Seville, though not noticeably so.

Cuisine

When considering the cuisine in Valencia, one particular dish comes to mind – paella! If you’re excited about coming to Spain and eating your weight in this iconic rice dish, then Valencia is the place to visit. Paella hails from Valencia and local Valencianos are quite militant about its authenticity.

For one, paella is only ever eaten at lunch – it is considered far too heavy to be eaten for dinner. Second, authentic paella doesn’t contain things like seafood or chorizo! Those can both be incorporated in a delicious rice dish, but it would not be considered to be “authentic”, Valencian paella.

So, Valencia is most well-known for being the home of paella, however, there are lots of great things about Valencian cuisine. They do make a number of different rice-based dishes that are worth trying.

The city itself is also well-known for the cocktail called agua de Valencia (water from Valencia), which consists of cava, orange juice, vodka and gin. Perfect to take the edge off of those hot summer days!

Authentic Paella bubbling away
Authentic paella bubbling away

Things to do in Valencia

Much like both Málaga and Seville, there are a number of great things to do in Valencia that are sure to keep you occupied over the course of a few days.

The Valencia old town is packed with historic sites that are worth visiting and enjoying. These include the Valencia Cathedral, the Torres de Serranos, Torres de Qart, and of course, the iconic Valencia Central Market.

The latter site is a great place to experience classic Spanish market culture and sample some local specialities direct from local vendors.

This market can be a bit touristy, but it is clear that locals also use it for their own shopping so you can get an “authentic” experience here without having to venture too far from the city centre.

Valencia is also known for the modern City of Arts and Sciences, which is a modern architectural and cultural complex that is located a bit outside of the city centre and is well worth exploring.

And finally, no visit to Valencia would be complete without enjoying the lovely seaside and spending some time at the beach. The beach is easy to reach via public transit from the city centre and it is well worth taking the time to at least stroll along it.

Valencia Central Market
Valencia Central Market

Where to Stay in Valencia

Cosmo Hotel Boutique – This central hotel is great for mid-range visitors to Valencia. They have several modern rooms to choose from, a location within walking distance of the top old town attractions, and a great breakfast available in the mornings.

Vincci Lys – This opulent hotel in the centre of Valencia is great for those looking for luxury in this Spanish city. The have several delightful rooms on offer along with a gorgeous terrace and plenty of other amenities.

Home Youth Hostel – A cool hostel located next to the central market, this is great for those looking for an affordable form bed or private room and a great social atmosphere.

Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Valencia hotels!

Torres de Quart
Torres de Qart – One of Valencia’s Old Gates

Malaga vs Seville vs Valencia? The Verdict

So which is the right city for you? Well, if you’ve read this entire article, you will know that each city has something different to offer visitors.

Málaga is an excellent option if you’re looking to soak up the charms of the Costa del Sol while also experiencing a lively, dynamic and interesting Andalucían city.

Seville is the perfect choice if you have more time on your hands and are interested in exploring a number of different facets of Spanish culture — namely tapas, Moorish history and flamenco.

And finally, Valencia is a great option if you’re looking to experience a unique culture that is distinct from elsewhere in Spain. It is also the birthplace of paella and it is the perfect place to eat an authentic dish of this iconic rice for a leisurely lunch (never dinner!).

All three cities have something unique to offer visitors, it doesn’t matter where you choose to visit on your trip to Spain. Each is interesting, dynamic and historic in its own right and you’re sure to have a great time no matter where you end up!

Are you trying to choose where to go in Spain? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments!

Like It? Pin It!
Avatar photo

Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie

Leave a Comment