The best destination comparison site!
The best destination comparison site!
Both Seville and Istanbul are fantastic cities, but which is better for your city-break or holiday?
We understand your dilemma. There is an abundance of travel guides for both cities, but few actually comparing them, and advising you which is the better for your trip.
This article will provide our unbiased and independent views of Seville and Istanbul, hopefully making your choice that little easier.
The article is divided into the following sections, and can be jumped to using the links:
• Introduction to the cities
• Scores and ratings
• Which one should I, friends, or family visit?
• When to visit and weather
• Who is the city suited for?
• The perfect 48hours (with map)
• Tourism details (where to stay? airport details?)
With one foot in Europe and the other in Asia, Istanbul is the bridge between two continents. As much of a cliché as that might sound, this really is a place where you can wander between spiked mosque minarets on one street and be gazing at a Byzantine cathedral the next, and where shisha smoke mingles with the smells of falafel;
Most travelers aim for the north-western portion of the city, and separated from Asian Turkey by the Bosphorus Strait. Its districts include enthralling Sultanahmet – the home of the iconic Topkapi Palace and the legendary Hagia Sofia – and vibrant, youthful Galata.
Those who prefer off-the-beaten-track adventures can go over to Asian Istanbul, for atmospheric areas laced with hookah plumes and bazaars.
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!
Don't think you can distil Istanbul into a few short days. Even with weeks to explore, this vast metropolis (it's one of the largest in the world, let alone Europe) will surely still hold secrets. That said, a fly-in jaunt for a weekend is always going to be fun. You'll just need to pick your side of town and focus on the sights you want to see the most. So, choose between the Old City streets and Asian Istanbul before arriving, and plan accordingly if time is limited.
For those with longer to spare, this great Turkish town is your oyster. You'll be able to cross the Bosphorus to explore districts of steamy hammams and mosques. You can have whole days in the Grand Bazaar and Ottoman palaces. You might even be able to head over to Agva (for beaches) and the islands of Marmara (for wild hikes in pine woods). Basically, having too much time is rarely an issue.
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.
When things get hot in Istanbul, things get really hot. In fact, it's not uncommon for summertime temperatures to creep over 30 degrees. What's more, June to August is when the crowds come, packing out sights like the Grand Bazaar.
The upshot here is that spring and fall reign as the top times in the calendar to plan a visit. March, April, September and October tend to be cooler, less busy and less expensive.
Winter can bring snows. Photographers will adore the city when it's blanketed, as the Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque look simply stunning under a sheen of the white stuff. However, the months from November to February can be bitterly cold, so off-season visitors will need to wrap up warm and forget having al fresco Turkish coffees on the street side.
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.
There's no doubt that Istanbul is one of the more adventurous and unusual breaks for European travellers. Most folk come to Turkey on package holidays, with pre-booked hotels by the sea. But this destination forgoes all that in favour of enthralling Ottoman history and heady bazaars.
It's a place that will help you break out of the comfort zone and push your boundaries a little.
Those keen on seeing a city that's walkable and compact should certainly steer clear of Turkey's largest. At 15.5 million strong and covering two separate continents, this isn't a bitesize destination by any stretch.
You can unearth some seriously jaw-dropping sights, taste some unforgettable food, and get a grounding in Turkish history with only 48 hours to spend in Istanbul.
Day 1: There's really nowhere else to begin but Sultanahmet. This is the Istanbul you will have seen on the postcards; the land of minarets and mighty mosque domes. The kingpin of it all is the colossal Hagia Sophia.
In its long life of more than 1,500 years it's been an Orthodox cathedral and a mosque. It's now a museum containing gorgeous mosaics and frescos, although the star of the show is still its dome, flaunting an amazing 30-metre diameter.
Sitting opposite just to the south is the majestic Blue Mosque. Built in the early 1600s, it's still in working order. And even more history awaits in the Topkapi Palace Museum, which is a few blocks northwards. That sprawling complex reigned as the home of the Ottoman sultans. It's now a UNESCO site and occupies a stunning perch above the Bosphorus.
Day 2: Big, modern Taksim Square starts day two with a sighting of what 21st-century Istanbul is all about. Be sure to take a glimpse of the honorific statue at its heart.
That's the Republic Monument, made to celebrate the foundation of the Turkish state in 1928. Nearby Istiklal Street has abundant choices on the food front, no matter if you're craving a gritty Turkish coffee or a regional breakfast spread of mezze cheeses, flatbreads, and olives.
It's also a busting artery of the city, with high-street shopping and a classic trolley car running its length. One thing you can't miss – literally! – here is Galata Tower. Built by the Genoese to protect their European strongholds from the east, it's a mind-blowing fortification that boasts sweeping panoramas from its top floors.
Your afternoon session should be dedicated to exploring the Bosphorus. There's really no better way to do that than on a boat. Some cruises even offer stops in Asian Istanbul and meals with the sunset to boot.
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 modern Istanbul New Airport is the main hub serving this big city. It handles the largest amount of air traffic in Turkey, so expect to find lots of connections in from Western Europe and beyond. Regular shuttle buses link the terminals with the downtown in around 50 minutes to one hour, but, be warned, travel times can vary greatly depending on traffic. The smaller Sabiha Gokcen International Airport hosts most of the services coming in from across the Middle East. It's over on the south side of the metropolis.
Istanbul's tourist areas suffer from the same scams as many other European cities. Fake guides, pickpockets and unregistered taxis are particularly common, so be sure to have your wits about you when sightseeing. Be wary when converting cash in the Old Town area too, because extortionate commission rates and even fake banknotes have been reported.
Choosing a hotel in Istanbul really depends on what you want. Sightseeing in Sultanahmet is what most people come for and there are loads of hotels to pick there, even if paying a premium is normal. Beyoglu is better if you're after chain hotels and boutique stays, and it's right on the more modern and happening part of town. Asian Istanbul will likely be cheaper, but also a ferry ride from the most famous attractions.