The religious history of Seville and the wider Andalusian region has provided the southern Spanish city not only with a rich past but a spectacular collection of Moorish and Gothic architecture.
Travelers who love to walk won’t be able to get enough of Seville’s endless and narrow cobblestone streets that lead to delight after delight. Narrow alleys flanked by colorful homes lead to wide-open squares where tapas and sangria can be seen on every table.
These same cobblestones guide you to centuries-old cathedrals and palaces that showcase Seville’s fascinating past. At night, the stars sparkle and the flamenco dancers wow crowds throughout the city. Seville is a brilliant mix of culture and history. Let’s find out how to experience both!
Explore Real Alcazar
In the 10th century, the splendid Real Alcazar was designed for the Caliph of Cordoba. Over a thousand years later, it’s now a UNESCO World Heritage Site waiting for you to come explore. It’s a piece of architecture with few peers, one that houses all the opulence you would expect from the official residence of the Spanish Royal family. This makes Real Alcazar the oldest in use royal establishment in Europe.
The original design has been expanded and improved upon over the eras, with many rulers adding their own unique take. This can be seen in the many varied additions, such as the Maidens’ Courtyard, Arabic scripts, Gothic traits and striking marble columns.
After making your way through the breathtaking courtyard, surrounded by gilded archways, glistening pavements and stone embankments, you’ll soon find yourself in the Throne Room. Look up to spot the soaring domed ceiling covered in frescoes and Arabic tales. Next up is the Sala de Audiencias, home to a trio of paintings dedicated to the Virgin of the Seafarers.
Before departing for further adventures, wander around the elegant gardens which have been the film sets for movies and TV shows, none more famous than Game of Thrones.
Admire the Catedral de Sevilla
From the oldest royal palace in Europe to the largest Gothic cathedral on earth, Seville doesn’t miss. The Catedral de Seville took over a century to complete with the first stone laid in 1402 and the last in 1506. It has since become another of the city’s World Heritage Sites and its captivating designs and jaw-dropping bell tower quickly rope you in.
The cathedral was established around the city’s original mosque that was built in the 1100s. Much like the palace, it was improved over time to include the tower, La Giralda, that was once a humble minaret. Today, the tower stands at over 305 feet (93m) offering an arresting site from ground level and from its own observation platform.
However, the bell tower is just one of the many examples of the cathedral’s immense size. Visitors will quickly notice the cathedral’s nave. The space features five lengthy aisles spanning 250 feet (76m) across with the ceiling soaring to heights 130 feet (40m) above.
The highlight is the Capilla Mayor. It houses the main chapel and has become famous for its gilded woodcarvings, splashed with dozens of scenes from the Life of Christ among a design of the Virgen de la Sede.
Combine your experience here with the Real Alcazar on this skip-the-line tour. Learn all the tales housed within both before climbing the marvelous Giralda Tower.
Take a Stroll Through the Barrio de Santa Cruz
The cathedral and Real Alcazar are two star attractions in Seville. But splitting them both is arguably the city’s most fabulous neighborhood, Barrio de Santa Cruz. In medieval times, the barrio was the Jewish quarter, the Juderia. Back then, the city’s beautiful churches were often synagogues.
It was in its time as the Juderia that the Barrio de Santa Cruz developed its charming personality. The maze of cobblestone streets lay as they have for centuries and they guide you along tight alleyways, by colorful homes and bustling restaurants.
It’s a joy to walk as many of the streets are much too narrow for cars, let alone two travelers standing side by side. In a single file, wander along as the colorful homes create a prismatic landscape and tiny green plants dot the tiny balconies, bringing a slice of nature to this man-made affair.
To relieve any sense of claustrophobia, there are wide-open courtyards and plazas that date back hundreds of years. Spot the iron cross from the 1600s in the Plaza de Santa Cruz or the blooming orange trees in the aromatic Plaza de Dona Elvira. Finish off at the Patio de Banderas, where you can once again gaze upon the impressive La Giralda.
Have a Picnic in Parque de Maria Luisa
After a couple of days of major attractions and plenty of crowds, treat yourself to some local tranquility and have a picnic in the best park in town.
The Parque de Maria Luisa is the place to relax and take stock of what’s been a whirlwind introduction to Seville. The green space is an urban paradise, one lined with walking paths that meander through leafy pastures on its way to calm nooks perfect for opening that book or whipping out the cheese board.
As you explore, you won’t be surprised to learn that these were once the grounds of a former palace. Much of the park’s grandeur remains untouched with sightly gazebos set upon ponds that appear green with the reflections of the over-arching trees. As you seek a spot to kick back, you’ll wander by fountains and tiny monuments, an ode to a former era. Briefly, you’ll wonder why there are so few crowds, before reveling in the fact you can enjoy Seville’s beautiful central park in peace.
Another way to experience Parque de Maria Luisa is to sign up for a bike ride. Not only will you cruise through the urban oasis, but you’ll also explore the Barrio Santa Cruz, Torre del Oro and Jardines do Murillo alongside a local guide.
Experience Plaza de Espana
Although set within the Parque de Maria Luisa, the Plaza de Espana deserves its own spot on our list of best things to do in Seville. In a city laden with history, Plaza de Espana has very little, having first opened in 1929. But what it lacks in that department, it gains elsewhere.
The plaza was first developed for the Ibero-American Exhibition, but quickly became one of Seville’s most beloved, and gorgeous, cultural landmarks. Spanning more than 12 acres, the plaza is dotted with elegant fountains and canals that bring a taste of Venice to proceedings. Add on mosaic alcoves and old-timey bridges and you can see why it garnered such a reputation. One you can experience firsthand on a gondola ride along the waterways.
Within the plaza are several prominent government buildings that harbor the same Moorish-style architecture featured so readily around Seville. The golden arches lead to stately balconies and striking towers. Among it all are gilded designs that represent the 48 regions of Spain and the country’s four ancient kingdoms. So although the Plaza de Espana may be young, it doesn’t stop the chance to learn about Spain’s past.
Venture up the Torre del Oro
The Torre Giralda isn’t the only tower worth your time in Seville. Torre del Oro is another to add to your bursting itinerary. Just back from the glistening Guadalquivir River, the dodecagonal tower (12 sides) was built in the 13th century as a military lookout.
For a period, it was a part of the city’s immense fortification, protecting Seville from any would-be insurgence. But soon the tower took on a different role as the start and end point for much of Spain’s shipping to and from the new world. Visitors will thus spend more time focusing on the tower’s naval past.
Upon entering the tower, you’ll wander into the museum that explores the many voyages and ventures to the New World. It features a trio of ships captained by Columbus scaled down to size. Visitors can also spot historic weaponry, old maps, including that of Seville in the 1500s, some of the earliest diving gear and portraits of prominent explorers.
After getting your fix on Spain’s ocean explorations, wander up to the top of the 13th century tower where you’ll be rewarded with spectacular views of the city’s famous river along with the Seville skyline, shimmering under the afternoon sun.
Embark on a Cruise down the Guadalquivir
After a visit to Torre del Oro, you’ll be inspired to get out on the water and see Seville from a different angle. Thankfully, after coming down from the viewpoint, you’ll be in the perfect spot to cruise down the Guadalquivir River. Many boat rides depart from next to the Torre del Oro and are the perfect complement to the tower’s naval museum.
Known simply as the Rio, Guadalquivir has played a major role in trade throughout the history of the Andalusian region. The river flows out to the Atlantic, making it a strategic spot to embark on the exploration of the New World along with trade between colonial states, Europe, Africa and Asia.
History aside, a leisurely ride down the river will provide a glimpse of Seville you can’t get on foot. Part of the river is a hub for nightlife. Other parts take you through the Old Town and under some of the oldest iron bridges in Europe, including the Triana Bridge. In between are numerous iconic sights, including the Plaza de Toros de La Maestranza (an 18th century bullring) and the new La Cartuja Island.
On this boat cruise you’ll do all that and more as you dine on tapas, delicious Iberian ham and cheese alongside delicious sangria.
Learn About the Flamenco
Born from Gypsy culture, the flamenco has taken its place in the center of Sevillian life. At its base, flamenco is an intricate and soulful combination of singing and dancing. It is equally technical and emotional, with the most renowned dancers able to channel the best of both.
You can learn all about the history of flamenco, take classes and even watch a show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco, housed within a graceful 18th-century mansion. The museum is a celebration of the famous art, and focuses on each individual aspect of flamenco, the dancing and singing along with the use of guitar and the elegant costumes.
The world’s first flamenco museum features a nice balance of displays and multi-media experiences. The multi-media experiences include a viewing room where visitors can watch how flamenco has evolved over the years, from its early beginning to contemporary twists on the classic art form.
After learning all there is to know, put your skills to the test and head back to the ground floor, where you can join a flamenco workshop and discover the basics. But be sure to stick around for the nightly performances where the pros put on an emotionally charged show.
Wander Through Triana
We’ve mentioned the historic Triana Bridge, but now it’s time to stand upon it and also explore the neighborhood that gave the historic structure its name. Cross the Triana Bridge to the other side of the city’s rolling Guadalquivir River and discover one of the coolest neighborhoods in Seville.
You won’t find a hearty list of tourist attractions here. In fact, Triana is as local as it gets. You’ll leave behind the historic core of Seville and embrace local life as you wander by tiled shops that offer hints of Triana’s position at the heart of Spain’s glazed tile industry. The glistening tiles are everywhere, from the walls you pass to the plates that hold your tapas.
As you explore on foot, there are two stops you must make. The first is the Triana Market (Mercado de Triana), which is open from 9am t 3pm and is packed with delicious produce and fresh-caught fish. The second is the Casa de la Memoria, where you can experience a renowned flamenco show.
Instead of visiting the Mercado de Triana, why not combine it with a Spanish cooking class? After exploring the historic marketplace alongside your expert guide and chef, you’ll venture into the kitchen and experience a hands-on crash course on Spanish and Andalusian cuisine. Make tapas with the freshest ingredients as you sip on sangria and enjoy a classic Spanish experience.
Bar Hopping… With a Twist
Any time spent in Spain is an excellent opportunity to indulge in a different kind of pub crawl, one filled with delicious tapas. Seville lives up to the nation’s reputation, offering a haven for foodies and some respite for revelers who can’t knock ‘em back like they used to.
You could argue Seville, with the exception of the incredible Basque Country, is the best place to dive into Spain’s tapas scene. There is no shortage of mouthwatering tapas to enjoy, enough to carve out a lengthy bar crawl that will take you in to the early hours and fill up the hungry belly.
You’ll find yourself trading traditional establishments with modern bars that infuse flavors from around the world. Some of the traditional bars to add to your night out include Vasa Ricardo, housed in a resplendent building from the 1800s, the long-time family-run Bodeguita Romero and El Rinconcillo. The latter is the pure definition of O.G. It harks back to the late 17th century, with 7 types of tortillas, life-saving gazpacho among other home-style tapas.
To mix things up, wander down to La Brunilda Tapas, which, alongside their beloved classics, like to be creative. Be sure to check out their codfish fritters lathered with a salivating pear aioli sauce.
Check Out the Metropol Parasol
Seville is famous for its immaculate architecture, much of which is centuries old. History, romance and food are three major reasons travelers make their way to the Andalusian capital, but there are some modern attractions that you should get excited for. One of those is the Metropol Parasol.
In the northwest corner of the city center is the Plaza de la Encarnacion. It’s here that you’ll find the striking, towering presence of the Metropol Parasol. Built in 2011, it’s a relative baby compared to the Real Alcazar and the Catedral, yet it’s quickly become a popular addition.
From below, you can look up and admire the unique shape of the building, which is one of the largest wooden structures on earth. For a small fee, you can jump in the elevator and walk along the elevated path that features beautiful views and a bar.
Metropol Parasol also boasts a vibrant atmosphere thanks to regular community events, including the popular farmers market. You’ll also find a spacious square where locals gather, bars and restaurants lined with busy sun-soaked patios plus an insightful archaeological museum.
Watch La Liga
Seville is the home of two football teams, providing travelers with regular opportunities to catch a live football game while in town. Sevilla FC and Real Betis not only provide quality football but an atmosphere that will have you looking up when the next home game is.
Sevilla FC is the city’s most popular and successful team. It was founded in 1890 and has rarely fallen out of Spain’s top league ever since. They play their home games at Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan with a stadium capacity just shy of 43,000. For fans, this means you’ll always be close to the action. But if you really want to be at the heart of the fan experience, then sit at either the north or south sections where you’ll find yourself among the boisterous, active support.
When it comes to getting to the stadium, you won’t have a difficult time. Simply jump on the train to Sevilla Santa Justa, the main station in the city, and enjoy a short 10-minute walk.
Ticket prices to games fluctuate greatly and most depend on the opponent. If you want to see Real Madrid, Barcelona or crosstown rival Real Betis play, then you can expect to pay in excess of $100USD.
Check Out the Museo de Bellas Artes
Spread across 20 rooms, the Museo de Bellas Artes is the preeminent fine arts museum in Seville. Art lovers will have plenty to smile about, but even casual fans will appreciate the breadth of art on display and the collection of creative history.
The museum is based inside an elegant building that was once a convent and harbors a strong focus on Spanish art. Some pieces date as far back as the Medieval era and guide you on a journey through the Renaissance, by a collection of work by Spanish masters all the way to the contemporary era.
A highlight of the experience is the permanent collection of Spanish masters. Much of their work, from Murillo to Valdes Leal, can be traced back to the 1600s. These include the iconic Immaculate Conception by Murillo, which features a different take on the Virgin Mary. There is also the Apotheosis of St. Thomas Aquinas, which would go on to be a defining piece of work by Francisco de Zurbaran.
After experiencing the wonderful art on display, reflect on the experience within the gallery’s landscaped courtyard, complete with finely trimmed hedges, gilded woodwork and fountains.
Take a Trip to Cordoba
Just 45 minutes from Seville, Cordoba is a splendid day trip that is packed with highlights. Similar to Seville, Cordoba boasts a historic Jewish quarter that is spliced by narrow cobblestone streets interrupted only by spacious courtyards surrounded by vibrant cafes.
Wherever you go, you’ll be met by the bright colors of flowers that are splashed across the town’s endless patios. Such is the color and history behind the decorations that the many patios are now listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The tradition comes to a head during the annual Cordoba Patios Festival, which usually takes place in the first two weeks of May, and sees the color and atmosphere go to another level.
After checking out all the patios, relax with a refreshing pitcher of sangria before making your way over to the Mezquita. Seville may be known for its fabulous Moorish architecture, but no building in town reaches the sheer beauty of the Mezquita.
The building is a unique combination of Muslim and Catholic influences, showcasing the often complex history of religion in the Andalusian region. In fact, the Catholic cathedral you see today was built on a former mosque which replaced the previous Christian church.
Visit the Palacio de Las Duenas
Built in the 1400s, the Palacio de las Duenas has been the home of Seville’s nobility for over 500 years. Although it’s been open to the public since 2016, it remains in the hands of a wealthy aristocratic family, continuing the palace’s historic bloodline.
You’ll need to step out of Seville’s Old City to find the Palacio de las Duenas. Although not for from the city’s historic heart, it’s enough to leave the palace with few crowds. However, their loss is your gain, with the palace’s gorgeous gardens offering a friendly welcome. This is especially true in the spring when the fresh burst of pink covers the building’s walls.
The many courtyards will take up much of your time and space on your camera. But inside the palace, you’ll also find beautiful old-time decor, ceramic tiles and a collection of historic items from throughout the palace’s past.
From here, you’ll have just a brief walk to Metropol Parasol.
Be a Kid at Isla Magica
Whether you’re traveling with your little ones or simply want an excuse to turn back the clock, then there’s no better place to go in Seville than Isla Magica. For more than 20 years, this theme park has been the go to place to let your hair down, while enjoying some hair-raising thrills.
Northwest of the inner city, Isla Magica boasts a charming 16th century theme, keeping in line with Seville’s rich display of history. It’s an enormous complex that is also broken up into six areas, providing a great array of options to enjoy. One of them is Agua Magica, the perfect cure for a hot Spanish day. Receive some much needed relief from the hot sun as you fly down water slides, chill on the lazy river or swim in the pools.
If you’re someone who loves the feeling of butterflies in your stomach, then the other five sections feature some terrifyingly fun rides. These can be found in areas the focus on different parts of the world, including Puerta de America, the Amazonia and the Puerto de Indias. The latter providing you with plenty of screams as you free fall over 200 feet (68m) in under two seconds!
Time Your Trip to See Semana Santa
If there’s a chance you can arrive in Seville in time for Easter, then you should definitely make it happen. On the Thursday evening and the morning of Good Friday, a festival takes place as is one of the most captivating in Spain.
Semana Santa began in the 16th century and was a way to showcase the Passion of Christ to those that didn’t follow the Catholic religion. It helped non-Catholics not only understand the religion but get involved with it. Although you won’t have to do either of that, for travelers it’s an exciting event full of color, atmosphere and culture.
For roughly 24 hours, Seville comes to life as a variety of neighborhoods embark on elaborate street marches, guiding floats and statues through the city streets. It’s hard not to get swept up in the festivities, one that brings the community together for a day of celebration… and also plenty of Spanish food.
However, if you do arrive on different dates, you can still spot the famous icon of Semana Santa known as the Virgen de La Esperanza at the Basilica Menor de la Santisima Maria de La Esperanza Macarena.
Take a Stroll Through Barrio Alfalfa
The last of the Seville neighborhoods you should definitely explore is Barrio Alfalfa. It’s found just north of Barrio de Santa Cruz and is a thrilling entanglement of stone alleyways, vibrant town squares and mouthwatering tapas.
You’ll find plenty of eats at the main Plaza Alfalfa with its many restaurants and chic cafes. For shopping you’ll discover a handful of independent boutiques at Plaza del Pan and with the tree-lined Plaza del Cristo de Burgos.
But there are two major highlights to this part of town. One is the Casa de Pilatos. Now a national monument, it was built in the 15th century, as is a replica of Pilate’s palace found in Jerusalem. The opulent courtyard is a mix of gold, white and blue, splashed across gilded archways and tiled floors.
Number two is SOHO Benita. Another escape from the endless history (although we do love it), this collection of five streets is Seville’s answer to New York’s Fifth Avenue and London’s Soho. Shoppers will discover a great range of boutique shops, alcoves packed with jewelry and some wonderful galleries.
Explore the Pueblos Blancos
Your base in Seville offers you the perfect launching point to explore the wider Andalusian region. There are many directions you can head, but if you had to choose only one, then you can’t go pass the unique Pueblos Blancos.
Set in the rolling hills of Southern Spain, the Pueblos Blancos are a series of villages as white as any along the sparkling Greek coasts. These captivating settlements have a long and storied past, with many being military fortress that stood between major Moorish and Christian cities.
Not only are the whitewashed homes an arresting sight, but so is the stunning countryside, which combines to offer a different experience to that of Seville. One of the best Pueblos Blancos is Ronda. Not only is it one of the oldest cities in the country but it’s offers easy access to local mountains along with the Sierra de Grazalema National Park.
On this day trip, you can explore both alongside the epic and ancient kingdoms of Granada and Castile. Other highlights include the Castle of Las Aguaderas and the amazing views from the hilltop town of Puerto de Las Palomas.