Seville Spain is the perfect place to base a visit to the Andalucia region of Spain. We recently spent 1 month in Andalucia, with more than half that time based in beautiful Seville. Seville boasts some fantastic sites – its magnificent Cathedral, the Royal Alcazar, Plaza Espana, and the Jewish Quarter. Plus, I absolutely loved the Seville food scene. But, there are some great day trips to take from Seville, too. Let me show you three easy and unique day trips from Seville – Jerez, Cadiz, and Cordoba.
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First, Some Train Advice
We used the train system for our day trips from Seville. Many travelers opt to book their day trips from Seville with tour companies for the ease of private transportation. These tours are readily available on sites such as Viator or Get Your Guide. But, I am more of a do-it-yourself traveler, and so it was the train for us.
Spain has a well-connected intercity train system. Seville’s main train station (Santa Justa) is not far from central Seville. Each time we headed to Santa Justa for one of our day trips from Seville, it would only cost about 8 euro to Uber from our apartment near the Alcazar.
I would book our train tickets ahead of time using an App called Omio. It’s recommended that you book ahead to ensure your desired schedule. It’s also rumored that tickets are cheaper if you buy them ahead of time.
Omio was easy to use and I could access digital tickets immediately after purchase. These were then scanned directly from my phone once on the train. It was all very slick and Omio’s service fee was minimal – only a few Euros.
However, there are some disadvantages to pre-purchased tickets. It requires that you guesstimate the right amount of time needed for each day trip. And if, while day-tripping, you decide you want to return earlier….say because of dirty rain (see below)…you can’t.
But, having that return ticket in hand is probably better than showing up at the train station and finding your desired train sold out. Would that have actually happened? Possibly. Our seat numbers were always assigned, and a few of our return trains seemed mostly full. I would imagine that sell-outs could definitely be a problem in peak tourist season.
Also, Two Scheduling Caveats
We visited Spain in March. We experienced unseasonable rain while there. Frustratingly, I also found the weather forecasts hard to count on. They seemed to change by the hour. This made planning difficult.
As the weather forecast would change, we would adjust our day trip schedule to avoid bad weather. In fact, we made our decision to go to Cordoba early that very morning. And the weather changed on us even then.
Consequently, due to this weather-related last minute planning, you will see below that we were unable to get reservations to a few popular sites.
Mrs. TT was working remotely on a US schedule during our time in Spain. This meant she needed to start work at 5pm. Our original goal was to take our day trips from Seville on the weekends, allowing us to day-trip into the evenings. But because of the weather, we ended up taking two day trips on weekdays. Our required early return then prevented us from seeing all the sites in those cities.
A Day Trip to Jerez
Jerez de la Frontera is located 92 km south of Seville. It’s an important city in Andalusia given its three claims to fame – Sherry, Flamenco, and Andalusian horses.
Sherry is a fortified wine made from white grapes specific to Jerez and its immediate surroundings. The name Sherry is, in fact, the anglicized version of the towns’ name.
Flamenco is the folk music of southern Spain. It combines passionate, soulful singing, guitar, clapping, and dance. It is believed to have originated in Jerez.
And Andalusian horses. Spain’s famous breed. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art is located in Jerez. It’s one of the most prestigious riding academies in the world.
Several trains connect Jerez and Seville each day. The journey takes an hour. Most of the major sites in Jerez are within a 20 minute walk of the train station. Taxis are available if needed.
The round trip train ticket cost $21. I scheduled 5 hours for us in Jerez.
Things to Do
Touring a Bodega in Jerez is the Sherry equivalent of touring a winery in Tuscany or Napa. While the grapes usually aren’t grown onsite, the sherry is aged and produced at the Bodegas. Many of these Bodegas offer a tour and tasting. It’s a great way for a sherry novice like myself to learn about the region’s favorite drink.
We toured the Diez-Merito Bodega. It’s very close to the train station – just a quick 6 minute walk. I chose Diez-Merito because I’d read online that it offered a more personalized tour than some of the other bigger bodegas in town. And I believe this was the case. We shared the tour with only one other person.
During the tour, our guide Maria taught us why the region’s soil and climate is conducive to sherry production, taught us about the type of grape used to make sherry, and taught us all that’s required to properly age sherry.
She walked us through the rows of barrels, showing us how each different type of sherry requires a different aging process.
Then she led us to a bar in the back of the bodega for the tour’s most important part – a sherry tasting. It’s one thing to talk about sherry, but sherry can’t be understood fully without drinking it, right?
Maria led us through a tasting of 5 different kinds of sherry. Each was progressively sweeter with a progressively rising alcohol content. Each had a unique flavor profile, and she talked about potential food pairings with each. She also explained that for the residents of Jerez, sherry is the drink of choice with meals, rather than more traditional wine.
It’s best to book this tour ahead of time by contacting the Diez-Merito Bodega directly. I scheduled our tour via email correspondence through their website. The English-speaking tour starts at 11:00am. Not my preferred time of day to drink 5 generous pours of sherry, but when in Jerez….
Lunch at a Tabanco
In Jerez, visiting a Tabanco is a must. These are mostly unique to Jerez. Tabancos are drinking establishments that feature sherry as the drink of choice (though you can get other beverages there too). Chances are that your sherry will be poured from one of the big sherry barrels lined up behind the bar. And as with most bars in Andalucia, a selection of tapas are available to accompany your locally-produced drink.
After our Sherry tour we headed over to Tabanco Plateros for lunch. Did I want more sherry after just drinking 5 glasses of it? Not really, but when in Jerez….
We used our just-acquired sherry knowledge to order a glass of Fino along with a variety of tasty tapas.
Another popular Tabanco in town is Tabanco El Pasaje. As I mentioned before, Jerez is considered to be the birthplace of Flamenco. In addition to sherry and tapas, Tabanco El Pasaje also offers a live Flamenco performance everyday at 2pm and at 8pm. Unfortunately, those times didn’t work with our day trip schedule.
(Flamenco performances are abundant in the larger Andalusian cities, and we did see one in Granada – the photo at the beginning of this section. It is an experience not to be missed!)
Tour the Alcazar
Alcazar is a common term in Andalucia and refers to a Moorish fortress. Jerez has a good one. Though not nearly as elaborate as the Royal Alcazar in Seville, it’s still very much worth a visit. And unlike the very crowded Royal Alcazar in Seville, we had the whole place to ourselves. In fact, we were a little sad when the guard kicked us out after 20 minutes. We didn’t realize that we had entered shortly before its mid-afternoon closing time. It’s only open from 9:30-2:30 every day.
Check out the Cathedral
Jerez also has a large gothic Cathedral located not far from the Alcazar. We visited early in our Spain trip and hadn’t yet developed church-visit fatigue, so popped in for a look. The inside is beautiful for a smaller cathedral, but I’m not sure entry is worth the 6 Euro admission. I would recommend a walk-around the outside though. Anytime you can see gargoyles and flying buttresses, it’s worth it.
Other Jerez Activities
We only had time to focus on Sherry during our day trip to Jerez. Andalusian Horses or Flamenco may be your priorities. You can check out some options to see these Jerez highlights on Viator.
A Day Trip to Cadiz
Cadiz is a city located on Spain’s Atlantic coast -120 km south of Seville. It offers a beautiful seaside location, some great sites, plus it’s the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe. Cadiz was founded by the Phoenicians in 1100 BC. A definite must-visit while in Andalucia! And another of the common day trips from Seville.
Several trains connect Seville and Cadiz every day. In fact, it’s the same train that connects Seville and Jerez. It’s an additional 40 minutes from Jerez (total travel time from Seville – 1 hour 40 minutes). Some travelers will combine Jerez and Cadiz in a single day trip. I personally think there is plenty to do in each city. So if you have time, I would recommend taking these two day trips from Seville on separate days.
As with Jerez, all the major sites in Cadiz are within 20-30 minute walking distance of the train station, so we walked. Taxis were also available. Our round trip train ticket cost was $31. I scheduled 6 hours for us in Cadiz.
Things to Do
Tavira Tower (But Plan Ahead)
The Tavira Tower is most commonly ranked as the the top site in Cadiz. It’s the most famous watchtower in a city of watchtowers – all constructed centuries ago to monitor shipping activity. It also contains the Camera Obscura – an old-time optical system that allows real-time images of the city outside.
Only a certain number of people are allowed into the tower at any one time, and online reservations are required. Sadly, I was unable to get a reservation on short notice, and so we couldn’t visit.
Wander Mercado Central
I love wandering though a great market, and the market in Cadiz is a great market. I happily wandered up and down the aisles looking at all the fresh fish and the other creatures of the sea. Plus, the market is packed with locals. I saw very few tourists there….Bonus Points!
On the western tip of Cadiz, you’ll find two castles separated by a short beach called La Caleta. We visited both of these castles, and walked along the sand in between, viewing this natural harbor which was used by the Phoenicians, the Carthaginians, and the Romans. Cadiz really does exude history.
March temperatures of mid 60s weren’t ideal for actually hanging out on the beach here. But I gladly would have enjoyed some prolonged relaxation time on La Caleta during warmer times of the year.
Castillo de Santa Catalina – I didn’t find the inside of this 17th century castle all that interesting. The outside is certainly formidable though. I enjoyed the views out across the Atlantic from the castle walls, but then discovered even better views while walking out to the second castle.
Castillo de San Sebastián -Once the site of a Greek temple, this castle was built in the early 18th century. It sits on a small island and is connected to the mainland by a narrow walkway. The castle is closed to the public, but the walk out to the castle is well worth it anyway just for the views alone.
Eat Lunch in La Vina
La Vina is one of Cadiz’s most picturesque neighborhoods, plus this former fisherman’s quarter boasts some of the best places to eat in town.
With its location right on the the Atlantic, our tapas choices in Cadiz were especially seafood-centric. We ate lunch at the popular La Tabernita, where our selections included Cod in a Tomato Sauce, Dogfish (a mild-flavored white fish named for its snarly teeth) and Shrimp in a Salsa Verde, and Squid Ink Meatballs (one of my favorite dishes from our trip).
And one of Cadiz’s most well-known tapas – Tortillitas de Camarones. This is a chickpea flour fritter with tiny unpeeled shrimp inside.
Stroll the Paseo del Vendaval
The ubiquitous photograph of Cadiz – the one showing the Cadiz Cathedral towers along the oceanfront – is taken while strolling along this long seaside promenade. Of course, we did this…
The Cadiz Cathedral is picturesque from the outside, and you can tour the inside, including access to the bell towers for a view of the city. We were tired by the time we worked our way through the sites of Cadiz around to the Cathedral. And unlike our day trip to Jerez, we had developed some Cathedral fatigue by this point in our trip. So we decided to sit in the Cathedral’s square instead and relax. On some travel days, this is the best way to see a church anyway.
Not far from the Cathedral is a Roman Theater dating to the 1st century BC. It had been buried by other construction over the centuries and was only re-discovered in 1980. We had every intention of checking it out, but by the time we got to the site, the visitors center was closing (at 5pm). All I could do was take a picture through the gate.
Yacimiento Arqueológico Gadir
I really wanted to see this archaeologic site. It’s the underground remnants of the original Phoenician city. But it closes for several hours every early afternoon. And the ticketing system is also somewhat complex. Admission is free, but you have to go there and personally reserve tickets for later the same day. We couldn’t work all of that into our day trip schedule.
(Notice a recurrent theme in this post. Visiting hours in Spain can present challenges. Some sites close for several hours in the afternoon – the traditional Spanish siesta hours. Or close late afternoon and stay closed in the evening. Popular churches like the Mesquita in Cordoba have fewer visitor hours on Sunday due to Mass. So, if you are really counting on seeing a certain site, be sure to clarify its hours ahead of time).
A Day Trip to Cordoba
Cordoba is located 140 km northeast of Seville. In the 10th century, Cordoba was the most important city in this part of Spain as it was the capital of the Moorish empire. During their rule, the Moors started construction on Cordoba’s Mesquita – also known as the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. The Mesquita is one of Spain’s most impressive and most-photographed buildings. I think this makes visiting Cordoba the most essential of the day trips from Seville.
It’s very easy to get from Seville to Cordoba. There are multiple high-speed trains daily between the two cities. The journey only takes 40 minutes. Plus, it’s always fun to ride a high speed train. Our round trip tickets cost $42. I scheduled 6 hours for us in Cordoba.
Upon arrival to the Cordoba train station, you can walk to the Mezquita in about 20-25 minutes. You can also take a bus. We grabbed a taxi because the sky was threatening rain. It only cost around 5 euro.
(Note that Uber is only available in Spain’s larger cities. Uber wasn’t available in Jerez, Cadiz, or Córdoba)
Things to Do
The Mesquita is probably most famous for the red and white arches of its interior prayer hall. Construction on the Mosque started in 786 BC and the prayer hall was gradually extended over the centuries.
Once the Spanish regained possession of Spain, they turned the Mosque into a Cathedral. Gratefully, rather than tearing it down and starting over, they added a Gothic nave to the center in the 16th century, but preserved the arched prayer hall which now surrounds the nave in all four quarters of the building. This intersection of Moorish and Gothic architectural styles is very common throughout Southern Spain, and clearly evident at the Mesquita.
It really is breathtaking to walk in and see the rows and rows of red and white arches. The building is massive, and the prayer hall seems to extend forever.
We walked in shortly after it opened at 10am, so it wasn’t too crowded yet. I was able to find corners without people, and soak in all the beauty by myself. As with everywhere we went in Andalucia, I found the Moorish architecture to be far more eye-pleasing than Catholic/Gothic additions.
The Roman Bridge
The second most famous site in Cordoba is the ancient bridge that spans the river, just below the Mesquita. The original bridge here was built by the Romans in the first century BC. The current version was built by the Moors, but it’s been restored several times over the centuries.
The bridge is now pedestrian only, and crossing it makes for a pleasant stroll, but…. notice the brown sky in the last two photos. That’s not a filter. The sky was actually brown on the day we visited. The clouds were carrying sand and dust from the Saraha desert. This made for some striking images, but also required a quick stroll across the bridge to avoid impending rain. Very interesting weather for one of our day trips from Seville.
The Jewish Quarter
I had intended on spending a few hours exploring Cordoba’s picturesque Jewish quarter and its narrow streets, whitewashed buildings, and shops.
However, those brown clouds started to spill actual dirt-laden rain as we left the bridge. Our jackets literally had brown spots of dirt on them, and the streets immediately started to turn brown too. We chose to duck inside a restaurant for an early lunch, and ended up spending the rest of our time in Cordoba inside, awaiting our train.
We ate at Restaurante Damasco – a quick dirty-rain-is-coming-down-now choice helped by it’s 4.9/5 Google ranking. (Rain be damned….I will always check Google Maps and make sure I’m about to eat good food). Given the city’s rich Arabic history, Middle Eastern food seemed about right anyway. And Restaurante Damasco was great!
I believe that these are the three easiest day trips from Seville. Each place is convenient to reach on public transportation. And each offers unique insight into the history and culture of Andalucia.
Ronda and its famed bridge is often included on the list of day trips from Seville. Because there isn’t a direct train to Ronda, many Seville visitors end up booking organized tours which include private transportation like this one on Viator.
We visited Ronda, but rented a car and included it as part of a three day road trip through the White Villages of Andalucia. You can click here to check out my blog post about staying in a Cave House in Setenil de las Bodegas while on that road trip.
Granada is also often included on the day trips from Seville list. But it’s 2.5 hours by train or 3 hours by bus. And one day is not enough in Granada. I’m not even sure that one day is enough for The Alhambra in Granada. You can click here to read about my evening spent searching for the Best Alhambra Viewpoints
And don’t finish this post thinking that there isn’t plenty to do in Seville too. We loved everything about Seville – great monuments, beautiful parks, narrow maze-like streets, orange trees everywhere, and unbelievable Tapas. You can click here to read about one of our Seville experiences – a Spanish Cooking Class in Seville.
Finally, if you like reading about day trips, then check out my post on Easy Day Trips from Kyoto Japan.