What makes Seville my favorite city in Spain? First of all: the gorgeous Moorish architecture. Seville is the birth place of flamenco and tapas. The City of the Eternal Sun is THE perfect destination for a city trip, or starting point for a round trip through Andalusia, moreover when the temperatures start to drop in the rest of Europe. Locals proudly say that Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish, is the cultural and historical heart of the country. So what are the must-see attractions and activities in this beautiful city?
With a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, Seville is the 4th largest city of Spain.
Stunning Square: Plaza de España
The crescent-shaped Plaza de España (Square of Spain) is a must-see when in Seville. Everything is decorated with hand-painted colored tiles called azulejos; the floors, walls, benches, fountain, bridges, etc. I did not count them myself, but the mosaics at each bench in front of the gallery represents one of the provinces of Spain, which should be 50. Sometimes a flamenco dancer is there and if you want, you can take a boat ride through the square canal.
Sitting on a tiled bench I realized: this is the most beautiful square I have ever seen, like a postcard really!
The reason why Aníbal González designed this square surprised me actually. Not a king who wanted a new summer residence centuries ago or something more romantic like that. Plaza de España was built because of the World Expo in Spain in 1929. Later, the square has been used in multiple films, including Star Wars. Tip: visit the square early in the morning (before 08:00h) or at night hen the building is illuminated. Free admission!
Park of Maria Luisa
Parque de María Luisa neighbors with both Plaza de España and the Guadalquivir River. Once served as palace garden of San Telmo, the 100-acre park is open to the public since 1893. Sevilla’s principal green area full of flowers, plants and trees also played an important role in the World Expo in 1929. Nowadays the park mainly provides much needed shade and peacefulness. All for free! Walk through the park to Plaza América, which is also worth a visit.
With such interesting and long history, dating back to the Roman period, Seville has many beautiful historic buildings.
Pretty Palace: Real Alcázar
The Real Alcázar, meaning Royal Palace, is another must-see in Seville. Every inch and every floor of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is decorated with beautiful and colorful frescos, mosaic, etc. No wonder thousands and thousands of tourists visit this site. Real Alcázar was built in order of King Peter I of Castile (also known as King Pedro the Cruel) in the 14th Century. Today it still functions as residence of the King of Spain, now King Juan Carlos, whenever he is in Seville. This makes Real Alcázar is one of the oldest European palaces that is still in use as such.
Real Alcázar consists of three palaces: Palacio Gotico, Palacio del Rey Don Pedro and Palacio del Yeso. The Mudéjar style of Real Alcázar is a unique mix of Christian and Moorish architecture that only exists in Spain. No surprise several films were here including the Game of Thrones. Patio de las Doncellas is a not to miss two-level high, rectangular courtyard garden inside Real Alcázar. It has a strip of water in the middle, pavement and plants, surrounded by hallways and pillars. Very pretty! Don’t miss the Sala de Justicia and Chapel of the Gothic Palace. And look up to the ceilings too!
Wandering around the rooms and the place gardens of Real Alcázar felt like traveling back in time, like stepping into a real-life fairy-tale.
There are – as far as I could count – 11 gardens at Real Alcázar. Jardin del Retiro, Jardin de los Poetas and Jardin Inglès form the largest part with a unique collection of tropical plants, trees, walking paths, fountains, pavilions, ponds and there is even a maze: Jardin de Laberinto. The large backyard also includes a café where you can buy a refreshment and sit on the terrace for a while.
I can only imagine how it must be if this would be your property. All these people walking around in your precious garden every day… I guess it is the tormenting fate of a royal family member. It must be a lot of work to maintain the whole complex; some of the tile work was pretty damaged. Anyways, I thankfully walked around and enjoyed visiting the palace and its gardens, very impressive!
Book your tickets in advance online to avoid waiting lines. You may also want to join a guided tour to learn more about the historical stories. Free admission on Mondays. Opening hours vary per season, usually open at 09:30h and closes at or 19:00h (Apr-Sep) or 17:00h (Oct-Mar), closed on a few national holidays.
Petite Place: Casa de Pilatos
Casa de Pilatos is a graceful, typical Andalusian palace built in the 15th Century that combines Italian Renaissance and Spanish Mudéjar styles. Mosaics made from colorful tiles form true pieces of art here. Casa de Pilatos is more tranquil and felt in a way more special than Real Alcázar. I would recommend to visit and enjoy the palace gardens too. An audio guide is available at the entrance. You can visit Casa de Pilatos daily from 09:00h till 18:00h (Nov-Mar) or 19:00h (Apr-Sep). Free admission on Wednesdays from 15:00h to closing time for EU citizens, bring ID! Otherwise EUR 6-8.
Charming Church: Seville Cathedral
Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, often abbreviated and referred to as Seville Cathedral, is one of the most popular sights of Seville. The history is quite interesting as the initial construction was a mosque, which was turned into a ‘Christianized mosque’ and finally reconstructed as a Gothic cathedral in the 16th century. A quite prestigious project as the initiators wanted to build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished, would consider them crazy. The cathedral has 80 chapels!
Seville Cathedral is the 3rd largest church in Europe; only St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome and St. Paul’s Cathedral in London are bigger. Tombs of famous historical figures are inside the church, like King Peter I of Castile (also known as King Pedro the Cruel) and explorer Christopher Columbus. Like Real Alcázar, Seville Cathedral and La Giralda are listed as UNESCO World Heritage.
La Giralda is the 104m (342ft) bell tower of Seville Cathedral, a former minaret, which provides a nice city view. The tower can be reached via a steep path from the cathedral. It is quite a climb, especially on a hot day, so in summer I would definitely recommend to go early on the day. It is actually forbidden by local to build a building in Seville taller than this tower.
You can visit Seville Cathedral and La Giralda on Monday from 11:00h till 15:30h Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00h to 17:00h and Sunday from 14:30h to 18:00h. On national holidays and in July and August opening hours may deviate. Again like Real Alcázar, waiting lines tend to be long at Seville Cathedral all day every day, so better book your entry ticket online in advance, preferably skip-the-line! I did not do that and regretted it a lot!! Bring some water and sun protection spray in case you have to stand in line to get inside.
Another church worth visiting in Seville is the colorful Parroquia de San Ildefonso.
Magnificent Mushrooms: Metropol Parasol
The Metropol Parasol is a modern designed construction made from wood, the largest wooden construction world-wide. Very different from the other buildings in Seville. Locals call it ‘Setas de Sevilla’, meaning the Mushrooms of Seville, probably referring to the wavy shape, or ‘Las Setas de la Encarnación’ (The Mushrooms of the Incarnation). German architect Jürgen Mayer got permission to build Metropol Parasol after he won a price in 2004 and the construction was finalized in 2011. Estimated costs: 50 million euros.
With 26 meters of height for sure not the highest building, but for a few euro you get a drink and can take the elevator to the top of Metropol Parasol and walk around the 150 by 70m structure for a panoramic city view of Seville. Especially great with sunset! Or take a virtual tour. On the ground floor of the Metropol Parasol a market called Mercado de la Encarnación is located. And in the basement you can find the Antiquarium Museum with Archaeological finds. Location: Plaza de la Encarnación.
Tall Tower: Torro del Oro
Torro del Oro, which translates to the Tower of Gold, is located at Paseo Cristóbal Colón. It is a 36m high watch tower that was built in Moorish style in the 12th Century. This was in the same period time of the construction of La Giralda, when Seville was blooming and made a lot of money with overseas trade. Once Torro del Oro was used to hold prisoners.
Nowadays Torro del Oro serves as a maritime museum (Museo Naval) that provides a nice view on the river and Seville Cathedral. Free admission on Mondays, otherwise EUR 3. On a short walking’ distance from Torre del Oro there is the less famous Torre de la Plata (Tower of Silver), which is unfortunately in a rather poor condition. Both towers were part of the city walls that no longer exist.
Seville has several neighborhoods (barrios) that are worth exploring. Stroll around and discover the unexpected hidden gems! Check below map for the heart icons.
- Santa Cruz, the former Jewish Quarter of Seville full of (flamenco) bars, boutiques, squares, narrow alleys and several highlights such as Real Alcazar, Seville Cathedral and La Giralda. Many nice tapas bars and restaurants at Calle Mateos Gago for example.
- Alamedia, an upcoming area popular among youngsters and hipsters, with many bars, cafes, restaurants and highlights like the Metropol Parasol and statues of Hercules and Julius Caesar. Great for a night out!
- Triana, Seville’s Gypsy neighborhood on the other side of the river, with flamenco artists and bull fighters, bars, restaurants, narrow alleys and hidden squares.
- Macarena, home of the Torre de los Perdigones with its camera obscura that provides excellent views over the city and the surrounding countryside.
Tip: Do a loop walk between San Telmo bridge and Triana bridge with lovely views across the river from both sides.
Together with Jerez de la Frontera, Seville is considered the birth place of flamenco, a very passionate and sensual, 300-years old art form that is both a dance and a music style. Some of the most important flamenco festivals take place in Seville, also known as the City of Flamenco. I actually saw less than a hand full of flamenco artists performing on the streets of Seville, so going to a flamenco show is a good idea. Besides you can take flamenco dance classes and visit the Museo del Baile Flamenco or Centro Cultural Flamenco.
Seville is flat with no surrounding hills. For the best city views go to: La Giralda, Metropol Parasol, Torre del Oro, Pabellón de la Navegación’s Schindler Tower and/or Torre de los Perdigones.
Where & what to eat in Seville
A tapas bar or bodega can be found on every street corner in Seville, the birth place of the Spanish snacks! From delicious iberico ham (jamón) to chorizo to croquettes to sardines, you name it, you can taste it in Seville! Or a nice steak, which is usually served sliced here. Also try paella (rice with sea food) and salmorejo, which is an Andalusian gazpacho (cold thick soup). Of course accompanied with a nice glass of Spanish wine, sherry, sangria, tinto verano or cerveza (beer).
Most restaurants in Seville only open at 20:00h, but tapas bars and bodegas tend to be open from midday. Santa Cruz is a preferred dinner area with its vibrant, cozy atmosphere and lots of tapas bars to choose from. Obviously not all are as good as you hope them to be… Check my food & drinks recommendations in below map.
In addition, you may want to consider one of these fun food & drinks activities in Seville, such as:
When to visit Seville
Seville is perfect to visit when the temperatures start to drop in the rest of Europe in autumn, when temperatures are not so high yet in early spring, and even in winter temperatures are fine in Seville! I would personally avoid in the middle of summer, too hot! So roughly, the best time to visit Seville is between September and March. Prices of accommodation and flights are also lower. In winter you can see the oranges hanging on the trees in Seville. They are mostly used to make marmalade.
April and May are very popular months to visit Seville. The weather is perfect and there are several events that attract crowds of people, such as: Semana Santa (5-11 April 2020) with processions and Feria de Abril (26 April-2 May 2020) with music, horse shows and sherry. With Easter you will see parades with black pointy hats in Seville.
What to do in Seville when it rains?
There is a reason why Seville is also called City of the Eternal Sun. There are a lot of sunny days. But let’s say you happen to be in Seville in one of the few rainy days (like me), I suggest to go and eat some tapas, take a flamenco lesson, go shopping at Calle Sierpes and Calle Tetuan, or visit a museum, for example:
- Museo Pintor Amalio
- Pabellón de la Navegación (Pavillion of Navigation)
- Museo Arqueologico
- Museo del Baile Flamenco
Where to stay in Seville
There is so much to do and see in Seville, I would highly recommend to stay at least for a couple of nights. Ideally your accommodation is on short walking distance of the highlights (see map below), however the closer the pricier usually, so that is a choice too of course. The everlasting dilemma!
My favorite place to stay in Seville is Las Casas de El Arenal. The style, the atmosphere, the comfort, the location, the breakfast, just perfect! Not the cheapest but for sure you will not regret it.
- Full? Alternatively check Hotel Dona Maria with rooftop view and pool or Las Casas de los Mercaderes with authentic style elements.
- Not luxurious enough? Then check the gorgeous Hotel Alfonso XIII, a luxury collection hotel!
- Too expensive? Take a look at Cathedral House Sevilla or Casa Boutique La Pila del Pato for budget friendlier options.
Tip: staying at accommodation without a pool or in the mood for a massage or beauty treatment? Visit AIRE Ancient Baths in Seville to relax and enjoy the cathedral view!
How to get around in Seville
Seville is a relatively small city; the sights are all close together and are easily accessible by foot. Walking around is a great way to see the city at the right pace. A guided walking tour can also be fun. Since Seville is pretty much flat as a pancake, bicycle is a good option as well. There are municipal rental bikes (Sevici) or take a guided bicycle tour around the city.
Should you be tired or have an accommodation out of the center of the city, it is convenient to take an Uber or order a local taxi, especially in the evening, when it rains or is very hot outside. In addition you can either take the Hop-On Hop-Off bus or the regular public bus, which is cheaper but less reliable to my experience. Seville also has a new metro system but I never used it.
Alternatively you can take a horse and carriage ride from for example Puerta de Jerez (opposite Hotel Alfonso XIII), Calle Mateos Gago (next to Seville Cathedral), Plaza de España or Torre del Oro for a fixed rate. Or explore the Guadalquivir by boat, SUP or kayak for a scenic river view.
This mobile friendly map includes most things mentioned in this article and is smartphone friendly. You can use it easily via Google Maps. Click on the top left icon to open the menu. You can (un)select categories/areas to customize the map to your needs. Via Google Drive you can copy it to your folder of My Google Maps.
How to get to Seville
For flight possibilities and prices to Seville San Pablo International Airport (SVQ) check Skyscanner.
Flights to Seville are limited. For cheaper flights you could consider to fly to another nearby airport and go to Seville by train/car:
- Jerez de la Frontera International Airport (XRY) 90 km
- Malaga Costa del Sol International Airport (AGP) 200 km
- Madrid Barajas Adolfo Suarez International Airport (MAD) 535 km
From Madrid and Barcelona there is a high-speed train to Seville (AVE), which are more expensive than the local trains (Cercanias), but discounts are possible if you book online in time. The main train station of Seville is called Santa Justa, see also map above. I would also recommend to book the train to/from Jerez de la Frontera in advance as all seats are reserved and regularly sell out.
Between Seville airport and the city center you can take the public bus, regular taxi, shuttle or Uber. The ride takes app. 20-40 minutes, depending on transportation method, traffic, weather and exact location. To the airport Uber can be slightly more expensive than regular taxis who have a fixed rate (EUR 24).
OMG I still see myself standing there at the bus stop in the pouring rain; the bus did not come and after waiting for almost an hour I decided to take a taxi with two other girls who barely made their flight. Similar public transport disaster between Seville and Jerez de la Frontera the other day. Lesson learned: do not rely too much on public transport in Spain.
Andalusia has much more to offer than only Seville. In case Seville is your start or end point of a round trip through Andalusia, you probably plan on renting a car? I would suggest to pick up the rental car at the end of your stay in Seville, or to drop off your rental car before your stay in Seville starts. A car is not much of use in Seville, it will be more a burden than anything else.
For rental cars, I am a big fan of Sunny Cars. Most Dutch professional travel agents use them and they are SMART! Sunny Cars is an all-inclusive, worry free rental concept with affordable, fair prices, great service and no unpleasant surprises upon pick up or drop off. Ideal, I use them all the time!
Do you plan on taking a round trip through Andalusia? Places outside of Seville worth visiting include for example:
- Jerez de la Frontera
- Parque Nacional de Donana
- Monasterio de Santa Clara en Moguer
- Ronda and Pueblos Blancos
- Cadiz (beach town)
- Granada (with the beautiful Alhambra)
Read my earlier article Jerez de la Frontera: sherry, flamenco and Andalusian horses.
There is also the option to take the ferry from Tarifa port near Gibraltar, just two hours south of Seville, to Tangier and make a day trip to Marocco.
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I hope you find this article useful. Have you ever been to Seville or are you planning to go, maybe after reading this article? Please feel free to leave a comment or question below.
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