Do I need a car in Seville? Many people heading for the Spanish Costas forget that Andalusia also has some fantastic cities in its interior, and these should never be overlooked. Some people just make day trips to cities like Seville and Granada from the Costa Del Sol, and this can easily be done in a hire car, but what if you are looking to fly into Seville and base yourself here for a few days at least?
Do I need a car in Seville? Introduction
Why rent a car in Seville?
- Limited options for public transport — Seville sits at the end of the fantastically fast AVE high-speed train line from Madrid, but like many places that are at the end of the line, opportunities to continue beyond the city by train are relatively limited, especially when compared with other major Spanish cities like Barcelona or Bilbao, which both have excellent networks of regional railway routes, including some very scenic day trips.
- Granada— having lent its name to a popular Ford car from the 1970s, the city of Granada itself is a nuisance to get to if you don’t have a car. Although the train journey will take a similar amount of time to driving (from around 3 hours), there are just six train connections each day between these important Andalusian cities, and two of these will require a change. Coaches are available between all the major cities in Andalusia, but they have neither the comfort of a train nor the flexibility of a hire car. It would be very challenging to make a visit to Granada and back to Seville in the same day, allowing enough time to fully appreciate Alhambra.
- Jaen – if you are touring around to the east of Seville, then it is also well worth trying to include the city of Jaen on your itinerary. In a car, you should be able to travel between Jaen and Granada in just over an hour, whereas to travel between these cities by train would take well over four hours. Like Granada, Jaen is also about a 3 hour drive from Seville.
- Beaches — although most people stay on the Costa Del Sol and then travel inwards to the interior, if you do want to travel in the other direction and visit some of Andalusia’s beaches, this is always going to be far easier to do in a hire car. As you are already a long way west, you have the opportunity to visit some great secluded beaches around Huelva, and a car is certainly best for this.
- Donana National Park – a hire car is essential to visit this scenic area to the south west of Seville.
- Gibraltar — forget about trying to visit Gibraltar by train, as it will take half a day to get there as you zigzag around the various rural lines, which still only take you to the edge of the town of La Linea. There are still no bus services crossing between Gibraltar and anywhere on the Costa Del Sol (see our Gibraltar car hire advice page for more about this).
- Ronda – Heading back from Gibraltar, you could also take in the absolutely stunning clifftop town of Ronda – although these are probably better as separate day trips. Take some good walking shoes to appreciate this area — and be glad you have a hire car to go back to, as Ronda is still a very slow train journey from Seville, even if a little bit less cumbersome one than getting to Gibraltar.
- Medina Azahara (west of Cordoba) – this site is largely ruins, but some of the walls are still intact, and it is well worth a visit. This vast former palace-cum-fort can easily be included in an excursion to Cordoba. Although Cordoba itself is much easier to visit by train (see below), getting out to the Medina Azahara by bus can only be done once or twice per day, and advance booking is needed. Alternatively, you could take a local bus heading west on the A431, but you would still have to walk half a mile to reach the site. Much easier to do this one in a hire car!
Why not? Visiting Seville without a car
- Cycle friendly city– in recent years, Seville has made amazing progress towards becoming one of the most cycle friendly cities in Spain, and arguably anywhere in southern Europe.In less than half a decade, the city has gone from having virtually zero cyclists to around 7% of journeys being made by bike (about twice as many as London), with bikes being particularly prominent in the city centre. To enjoy the city itself, you can pick up a bike from the automated community bike scheme (Sevici), or to get out of the city, you can rent a bike from several different locations.
- Metropol Parasol – Seville is a city with plenty of fascinating ancient and modern architecture, and the Metropol Parasol is one structure that I think truly stands out. I last visited Seville in 2006, so this one is right at the top of my Andalusian to-do list, rather than an experience I have done, as it only opened in 2011.The Parasol is the largest structure in the world made entirely out of wood, and it houses the central market, and shelters archeological sites below, yet the real ingenuity is that this very public building also has a roof terract on top to enable users to get fantastic views of the city. Naturally, this is a place to, well, quite literally walk all over. Hire car certainly NOT needed!
- Old town – the historic core of Seville is a tightly woven mesh of Moorish delights, and this is strictly to be enjoyed on foot. The city has three UNESCO World Heritage sites in the centre.
- Combine with Cordoba — the nearby city of Cordoba has what is surely the finest example of Moorish architecture anywhere in Spain — the beautiful Great Mosque, which also incorporates a cathedral within the centre of the complex — making it totally unique. The high speed AVE line connects Cordoba with Seville in just 45 minutes, making it much easier to visit Cordoba by train than in a hire car.
- Traffic — even relative to other European cities of its size, traffic is still a big problem in Seville, so be prepared to spend time in queues anywhere near the city centre, not to mention parking costs. If you are going to get a hire car for your visit to Seville, you will be better off staying in a hotel on the edge of the city.
- Alamillo Bridge — for anyone with even the slightest appreciation of architecture, the (deliberately) leaning Alamillo bridge on the edge of the centre of Seville, crossing the Alfonso VIII canal is well worth a visit. There are various parks along the banks of the canal, so this is a good place to go on a bike or on foot.
- Isla Magica – also to the west of Seville, Isla Magica is a theme park built on the site of Expo 92. This is easily accessible from the centre of the city without needing a car.
- Cadiz — the historic city of Cadiz is easily reachable in around 80 minutes by train from Seville. A hire car will give you the flexibility to stop of in a few places along the way (such as Jerez), but as Cadiz itself is very compact, it is much easier to arrive there by train and not have to worry about parking.
- Vias Verdes — between Cordoba and Seville you will find a disused railway line which has been converted into a walking and cycling track, and is part of the Vias Verdes (Greenways) network which covers many parts of Spain. This route is a personal favourite.
- Two city trip — as flights to Seville (from UK airports at least) are relatively limited, you might find it easier to fly into Malaga or Madrid instead, and to travel on to Seville by train. This gives an opportunity to explore two or more cities during your stay.
- Cost — a hire car in Seville is usually more expensive than the equivalent hire car in Malaga, and you will probably still have to pay for parking on top. You may well get much better value without having a car, especially as Andalusian cities are the type of places where you can easily end up spending more time than you initially expected.
- Metro – Seville has the most modern metro in Spain, although only one line is currently open.
- Seville Santa Justa station is a great gateway to the city for anyone with an interest in architecture. Like the airport terminal, it was built in time for the Expo in 1992. If you want to see what London Euston station might look like if it was designed to allow light in, take a train from Seville.From Seville, you can reach Madrid here in as little as 2 hours 20 minutes, or Malaga in a touch under 2 hours. Bear in mind that long distance trains in Spain tend to be extremely popular, so trains can sell out of seats at busy periods, and unlike their British equivalents, standing is not allowed. Book well in advance for the cheapest option.
Do I need to hire a car in Seville?
Conclusion — a hire car will provide flexibility, but it will only do so at a cost, not just in terms of the cost of the hire car itself and parking, but also because you may well get stuck in one of Seville’s infamous traffic jams.
If you are already thinking about staying in Seville, then the chances are that you’re the sort of person who appreciates the inherent richness of cities, and who is less interested in driving around rural areas or driving from one beach to the next.
There are plenty of reasons why a hire car in Seville might be useful, but Seville equally has enough to offer both within its boundaries and in nearby places which are reachable by train or bike.
When you weigh all this up, there is really no need for a hire car in Seville.