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Both Florence and Seville are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is a wealth of information about both cities, but little stating which is the better destination and more suited for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased opinions, and hopefully help you to choose the best city to visit.
The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the underlined links:
1) Introductions -
2) City scores -
3) Which one should I, friends, or family visit? -
4) When to visit and weather -
5) Who is the city suited for? -
6) The perfect 48hours (with map) -
7) Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
Florence comes at you in a flurry of priceless art, pastel-painted jewellers, romantic piazzas, marble-gilded basilicas, saffron-scented risotto – the list goes on. Nestled into the lovely Arezzo hills in the northern part of Tuscany, the regional capital is famous around the globe.
Places like the Uffizi Gallery (home to works by Michelangelo and Sandro Botticelli) and the handsome Ponte Vecchio bridge see to that. And so too does the reputation of the town as the very birthplace of the European Renaissance.
Delve beneath the main sights and Florence has the pizzazz of a lived-in Italian metropolis, too. Outer districts have dive bars and neighborhoods coffee cantinas. Locals devour lampredotto sarnies while glugging Chianti reds in hidden trattoria.
What's more, the surrounding region is simply divine, touting wineries and honey-coloured hill towns. Choose that if you want to escape the crowds – because there will be crowds!
Which city would I go to?
Which one would I recommend to my parents?
Which location for my 19-year-old cousin?
Which for my food obsessed friend?
Note: The above comparison does not consider the weather, and assumes travel at the best time of year (which is detailed later in this article)
The following sections compare the two cities and considers; how long to spend in them, when to visit, and provides suggested 48hours in each city (along with an interactive map). The final section is tourism practicalities and includes which airport to fly into, what district to be based in and how best to explore the city.
We hope that you find all of this information useful, in planning your next exciting trip!
Florence demands at least two days. Lovers of this enchanting town will surely scoff at that. They wax lyrical about how Florence seduces folk who pass its way into staying weeks, months, years, and even whole lifetimes. Still, we think it's possible to check off the main sights, try the top dishes, and explore the historic center with around 48-72 hours total.
In the peak season there are extremely long queues for the galleries and Duomo cathedral; to avoid wasting precious time, it is advisable to pre-purchase tickets and start the day sightseeing very early (before 8am).
There are many good day trips from Florence, which are easily accessible by train, and include Siena, Lucca, and Arezzo. Florence may be a smaller city, but a fabulous one-week holiday could be had based here.
Seville is a city not to rush, but to embrace the relaxed pace of life and tapas culture.
For sightseeing, two days are sufficient to explore the entire city. It is possible to see Seville in a single day, but this involves a lot of walking at pace and this rushed approach means you miss the allure of the city.
If you visit during the summer, be aware of the extreme weather. You’ll need to take things quite a bit slower, and get going much earlier in the day when it’s a fraction cooler and less busy.
Popular day trips from Seville include the historic Cordoba and the coastal city of Cadiz. The Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) are dramatic, but a rental car (or guided tour) are needed as public transport is limited. Granada is a wonderful tourist destination, but we feel it is too far for a day trip from Seville. Combining Seville, Granada and Málaga is a great itinerary for a week long holiday.
You've got to remember that Florence is up there with the most famous in Italy, and the vast majority of the 15.4 million visitors that come annually turn up in the summer months! That sends hotel rates skywards between June and August and means you'll need to jostle for space in front of Giotto's Bell Tower and the Duomo.
The ideal time to visit Florence is from April to June or September and October. They have good weather, fewer people, and cheaper prices, not to mention food festivals and wine harvest events. Winters are cooler and possibly wet but have the lowest number of tourists.
The best time of year to visit Seville is during the two festival periods of Semana Santa (held in the week before Easter) and the Feria de Abril (starting two weeks after Easter).
For a regular trip, late autumn and early spring are the best seasons, as during the long summer (June-September) the city is oppressively hot. Winter provides good value and fewer tourists but there is always the potential of rain.
Seville is a pleasure to visit, so long as you can either handle (or avoid) the extreme heat. This is a city for a slower paced trip, to enjoy time in the open-air cafes and to embrace the culture of Andalusia. This makes the city ideal for a break from a stressful lifestyle or hectic work schedule back at home.
The ambience typically appeals to a slightly older visitor, but to assume Seville is a mature destination would be completely wrong. There are exciting tourist attractions, a colourful nightlife and a social atmosphere. One of the appeals of Seville is that it is not a common city break and few of your friends will have been there.
Culture and art are the pillars of Florence. Lovers of the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance will feel right at home between the Accademia Gallery and the Uffizi. Within their halls are iconic sculptures like Michelangelo's David, The Birth of Venus by Botticelli, and Caravaggio's haunting Medusa. And that's only scratching the surface!
Adding to the mix are the intriguing collections of the Museo Galileo for science buffs, the Ponte Vecchio for architecture aficionados, and tasty Tuscan farm foods for gourmands. Downsides include high visitor numbers, so it's best to steer clear if you're not a fan of crowds, particularly in the summer.
Florence is not an overly expensive destination, is relatively safe and has a small city atmosphere.
48 hours in Florence
Early morningstarts are key in Florence, to hit the galleries and basilicas before the crowds. Don't worry, though, this two-day itinerary has time to rest with beautiful views in Renaissance gardens come the afternoon…
Day 1: Make for the Piazza del Duomo for the break of dawn – seriously, the earlier you can get there the better. That way, you can snap shots of the great cathedral and adjacent Giotto's Bell Tower without plumes of visitors getting in the way!
Look to the green-white marble inlays and the striking Gothic Revivalism of the whole building and think about hitting the 87-meter high lookouts of the belfry for some sweeping views across the city and the Apennines.
Traditional Tuscan design oozes from the lovely Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria – this is the town hall, dating from way back in the 1400s. Grab an on-the-go pizza slice and make north to Galleria dell'Accademia after that.
Day 2: It's a museum morning in the famous Uffizi Gallery on day two. For art lovers, the journey here is a rite of passage. The collections span several wings of a great palace in the heart of central Florence and can take hours on end to appreciate fully.
Highlights that simply can't be missed include The Birth of Venus (Botticelli), Laocoön and his Sons (Bandinelli), Raphael's portrait of Pope Leo X, and Caravaggio's unforgettable Medusa. Back outside, the Ponte Vecchio bridge isn't far. It was once a butcher's market but is now famous for its jewellery boutiques.
On the hills beyond are the handsome Boboli Gardens, all brimming with babbling fountains and carved statues. Further up again is Forte di Belvedere, where even more breathtaking views of Florence are on offer come the evening.
Below is an interactive map for 48 hours in Seville; day 1 is highlighted in green and day 2 in yellow, with optional sights in grey.
Start the day in the impressive Catedral de Sevilla, and climb to the top of La Giralda bell tower for a wonderful viewpoint. Surrounding the cathedral is the atmospheric Santa Cruz district, with its traditional houses and narrow cobblestone streets, which follow the old medieval layout of the city.
For the afternoon, visit the grand Plaza de España and the adjoining Parque de Maria Luisa. Towards the end of the day join a cruise along the Guadalquivir River. For dinner, head to the Triana district for an authentic Tapas meal. This district is also where flamenco dancing originated, and one of the bars may well have some impromptu dancing happening during the evening.
The gardens of the Real Alcázar palace
For the second day, start by visiting the Real Alcázar palace, the finest example of Mudéjar architecture which fuses Arabic and Christian designs. For the afternoon, head north of the historic centre and explore the popular shopping streets of Calle Sierpes. End the afternoon at the Setas De Sevilla, a massive wooden structure and great viewpoint.
In the evening, watch a flamenco performance at the La Carbonería.
The best place to touchdown on a flight is surely Amerigo Vespucci International Airport. A mere 15 minutes' drive (7km) in a taxi, or 30 minutes in a train, can link you from the downtown to the terminals there.
Unfortunately, the bulk of Europe's budget carriers will jet into Pisa. That's still close – around 1-1.5 hours (83km) in the bus to the west.
Avoid flying into Bologna, as this is even further away (115km), and bus transfer 1.5-2 hours.
In terms of neighborhoods, you'll want to focus on bedding down within the SS67 ring road. More specifically, the districts of San Giovanni (the historic core) and Santa Croce are perhaps the most central, even if the latter retains a lived-in Italian feel. San Marco is a whisker to the north, hosting the bulk of the low-cost hotels and guest houses. Oltrarno boasts buzzy nightlife venues and hip coffee shops.
You probably won't need any forms of transport in Florence other than your own two feet. The town is eminently walkable. Be sure to bring comfy shoes that are suited to long days, however, especially if you're keen to scale to the lookout points around Piazzale Michelangelo.
For exploring the surrounding region, a rental car is a must. These tend to be cheap in Italy and are best organised from the airport to avoid driving through the centre of town.
Aside from the infamous Stendhal syndrome – a condition supposedly caused by exposure to too much beautiful Florentine art – there are no standout risks to visiting this city. The centre is generally safe and well maintained, crime rates are relatively low, and the locals are often happy to help out.