TRAVEL GUIDE: SEVILLE, SPAIN
“Quien no ha visto Sevilla, no ha visto maravilla” – Who hasn’t seen Seville, hasn’
Seville was one of the first stops of my road trip in Andalucia. Starting from Madrid, my sister and I explored several different places, like Cordoba, Granada, Ronda and Malaga, but Seville is my absolute favourite. There’s just something magical about the colorful buildings, orange tree-lined streets, little traditional tapas bars and flamenco performances. If you decide to include it in your itinerary (and you should!), make sure to check my tips below. But most of all, take your time as you explore because the city is full of little treasures.
Seville is Spain’s fourth largest city but still has a small-town feel. You can easily get around the centre on foot; just make sure to pack comfortable shoes!
• The Cathedral is a must-see. Built in the 15th century, it’s the biggest gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world. It’s hands down one of the most amazing churches I’ve ever been to and definitely deserves its title as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is where you’ll also find the tomb of Christopher Columbus; his remains finally came to rest in this place after sitting in the Dominican Republic and Havana for a while. When you visit the Cathedral, be sure to climb the Giralda bell tower. The former minaret has been converted into a bell tower that offers stunning 360 views over the city.
• Another spot you can’t miss is the Plaza de España, another famous landmark of Seville which impressed me with its scale and grandeur. Designed for the 1929 Exposición Iberoamericana, it features fountains, mini canals, intricate tiled bridges and (my favourite part!) the so-called “Alcoves of the Provinces” which depict maps and historical scenes from all Spanish provinces (aren’t they amazing?). I would strongly recommend that you go there early in the morning to avoid the hoards of visitors. We arrived at around 8:00 and had it all to ourselves – well worth the early wake up call! And while you’re there it’s the perfect opportunity to rent a a boat and row around or wander around Parque Maria Luisa, a delightful place to escape from the noise of the city.
• The most well-known sight in Seville is the Real Alcázar, an ornate palace that combines elements of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style. The Alcázar started off as a fort for the governors of Seville in the 8th century and has been home to different Spanish monarchs over the years, including the Spanish royal family who use the upper floors when they’re in town. You may even recognise it from Lawrence of Arabia and Game of Thrones. Depending on how much time you’ve got, you can wander around and admire all the little details that make it so unique:arched doorways, beautiful tiles, tapestries, manicured gardens, sculptures, fountains and hidden grottoes. Piece of advice: purchase your tickets in advance as lines can be rather long!
• I bet you think by now that Seville is all about historic architecture, right? Well, not quite! North of the Alcázar, you’ll find the ultra-modern Metropol Parasol in La Encarnacion square. Over 26 metres high and 150 metres long, the structure is huge and has been nicknamed as the “setas”, i.e. the mushrooms (although the architect claims he was actually inspired by the cathedral vaults and a ficus tree!). All the way atop there’s a small rooftop bar where you can grab a drink with spectacular views.
• Another place that stole my heart was the Barrio Santa Cruz. I could spend hours exploring the pretty pastel coloured, winding streets of the old Jewish quarter and suggest you dedicate at least a couple of hours to that part of the city.
• If you can squeeze in your schedule one more activity, I would recommend a stroll through the Triana neighbourhood on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River. This is where Christopher Columbus lived and Andalusia pottery was born in Roman times. It’s less picturesque than Barrio Santa Cruz but very charming indeed with cobbled, lively streets and many pavilions from the Universal Expo that took place in Seville in 1992.
• Before arriving I had booked us tickets for a mini boat cruise along the Guadalquivir, the only navigable river in Spain. My sister had her doubts but it turned out to be a relaxing and fun experience as it gave us some time to put up our feet after hours of walking while enjoying the wonderful views of landmarks, like the Torre del Oro, the old bridge, the district of Triana, the pavilions of Expo 92 and the Ibero-American Exposition of 29 and the towers of Plaza de España.
• Last but not least, visit the gorgeous Casa de Pilatos, an Andalusian style palace that was once the residence of the Duke of Medinaceli. It’s actually known as the noblest building in Seville and I can’t help but agree. The mix between renaissance and mudéjar style is unique while the gardens are a great spot to relax and unwind. The beautiful azulejos (a mixture of Spanish and Portuguese tin-glazed ceramic tile work) around the patio are just the cherry on top!
Eating in the Andalusian capital is a real treat. When researching for great spots when planning my trip, I’ve had a really hard time narrowing it down to a few truly great places as there was plenty of choice and indeed we were not disappointed.
• Eslava was the first spot we got to try and one of our favourite meals in Seville. Located slightly off the beaten path in Barrio San Lorenzo on the left bank of the Guadalquivir River, it’s THE place to taste modern Spanish tapas. All vegetables come from the restaurant’s own organic garden, the menu features many creative dishes to choose from (you have to order the slow-cooked egg, cuttlefish cigar and stewed pork cheeks!) but keep in mind that it does get busy and it’s necessary to reserve in advance.
• Thanks to Pinterest (you can find me here btw!), I discovered El Pinton. It’s amazing how many great spots you can discover through this platform these days and this one was worth the hype. It’s spacious, the decor is lovely and the food is pretty good too – if I lived in Seville, I would be a regular!
• If you’re looking for a delicious spot in between sightseeing, then book a table at Albarama. Located on the Plaza de San Francisco with its fragrant orange trees, it’s a lovely place to soak up the local atmosphere and get a taste of modern Seville. We sat on the terrace which I would advise against during daytime (it gets way to hot!) but the view and food made up for it.
• On our last night in Seville we tried the Red House. While the food did not blow us away, I loved the relaxed vibe, arty interior and vegetarian dishes.
• A few other spots came highly recommended from readers but we didn’t have the time to try were the Perro Viejo, Casa Plácido (seems good for people watching and old school tapas), Ovejas Negras, conTenedor and La Azotea. Do let me know if you go – I could use some feedback for my next visit (hopefully very soon!).
• For a glass of sherry (or jerez in Spanish), check out El Rinconcillo. It’s Seville’s oldest bar and while the food can be a hit and miss, it’s a really nice place to visit for drinks and a light snack. The wooden cupboards filled with wine bottles are beautiful and the legs of jamón Iberico hanging from the ceiling are tempting to say the least.
• One of my favourite spots in Seville in terms of interiors was the courtyard of Hotel Alfonso XIII. The property itself is a jewel but on the expensive side, so I was happy to at least enjoy a couple of cocktails there.
• No trip to Andalusia would be complete without attending a flamenco performance. There are many different places with a variety of show times in Seville; we had a great time at the Museo del Baile Flamenco which actually inspired me to take up dance courses as soon as I returned home!
Although I have to admit we didn’t do a lot of shopping in Seville, I spotted quite a few interesting fashion and art stores around the Museo de Bellas Artes. Hat lovers should also check out the Maquedano; after a few hours under the sun we were in desperate need of a (pretty) hat and found exactly what we were looking for there.