If now that travel COVID-19 restrictions have been released and Spain is ready to welcome tourists from all over the world again to its wonderful land, you are wondering which Spanish city to visit or to begin your Spanish tour with, Seville is the answer to all your doubts.
Not only is Seville one of the most beautiful cities in all of Spain and Europe, but it is also a genuine concentrate of Spanish history, culture and traditions with jaw-dropping Moorish heritage elements.
A city you cannot miss under any circumstances!
Besides its unbelievable charm, Seville is a city truly dear to me since I spent there one of the most soul searching periods of my life and for all the reasons I have already explained here.
As I adore this city, as may or may have not noticed, I would like to bring you with me to discover the most incredible things and places Seville has to offer. So, buckle up and get ready to take off for this new adventure!
Before starting with the list of 50 things to visit in Seville, Spain, though, I would like to take some time to answer a couple of most frequently asked questions about the city.
What is Seville in Spain famous for?
Seville, Spain, is famous for:
- Its live Flamenco shows that integrate singing, dancing and music, mainly from the sound of the guitar;
- Its “azulejos“, painted tin-glazed ceramic tilework that can be found on the interior and exterior of churches, palaces, ordinary houses, schools, and nowadays, restaurants, bars and even railways or subway stations. They are an ornamental art form, but also had a specific functional capacity like temperature control in homes, as you can read with more details in this other article about Granada;
- Its good weather and warm temperatures in winter, hot as hell ones in summer;
- Its “tapas“, small Spanish savoury dishes, typically served with drinks at bars and restaurants, you can read more about tapas in my other article about the city of Granada;
- Its Moorish past, having been part of al-Andalus (Muslim Spain) from 711 to 1248;
- Being the setting for many famous films and TV shows, for instance, the Alcazar was used as the location of Dorne in “Game of Thrones”, and in “Star Wars, Episode II: Attack of the Clones“, Plaza de España became the set for the city of Theed;
- Its Fair, known by locals as “Feria de Abril“, held every year (apart from the last two due to the pandemic) two weeks after the “Semana Santa“, or Easter Holy Week. It runs for seven days, and for the duration of the fair, the fairgrounds are covered in rows of “casetas” (individual decorated marquee tents that are temporarily built on the fairground) that usually belong to prominent families of Seville, groups of friends, clubs, trade associations and political parties. From around nine at night until six or seven the following morning, at first in the streets and later only within each “caseta”, crowds are partying and dancing “sevillanas” (a type of folk music and dance of Sevilla and its region), drinking Sherry, manzanilla or rebujito, and eating tapas;
- Its “Semana Senta” (Holy Week), on which occasion Catholic religious brotherhoods and fraternities perform penance processions on the streets to celebrate the Passion of Jesus Christ.
How many days should I spend in Seville?
I think not less than 3 days.
What is the best time to go to Seville?
I would say every time but July and August since the heat can become unbearable for people not used to it in these two months. If you happen to be there in April, do not miss the Fair!
50 things to visit in Seville
For the sake of simplicity, I will split up the list into 8 different zones: the Royal Alcázar; the Cathedral; the Right Bank of the river Guadalquivir; Triana; Las Setas; Plaza de España; La Alameda; and the Left Bank of the river Guadalquivir.
In this first part of this “50 things to visit in Seville, Spain”, I will include the Royal Alcázar and the Cathedral’s zones, the other will follow. Click here to go straight to the second part, or here to have a look at the third part.
Royal Alcazar's zone:
1. Royal Alcázar of Seville
There are few locations in Seville, if any, that have managed to resist the test of time as well as the Real Alcázar, and evidence of this can be seen in the fact that the stronghold was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, allowing the rest of the world to appreciate just how unique this palace is and making it one of the top things to do in Seville.
The Real Alcazar Seville is not only a renowned tourist destination in the city, but it has also proven to be a favourite backdrop for historical dramas among film and television producers. It had previously served as a backdrop for the film Lawrence of Arabia, and more recently, it has appeared in the hit television series Game of Thrones.
When visiting the Real Alcázar, keep in mind that you will need to schedule some time to see both the interior and exterior of the building (consider at least 2 hours).
It is the oldest European palace still in use, having been established as a Moorish castle in the 10th century. However, over the years, numerous additions and alterations have been made to it, leaving it with a distinctive combination of many styles and reflecting its passage through history.
You will find remarkable specimens of Renaissance, Gothic, Moorish, Mudejar (a combination of Christian and Moorish styles), Baroque, and XIX century styles inside the Real Alcázar, while out in the gardens you may explore the maze of orange trees, enjoy the fresh air and cool places of this magical sight.
The “Patio de las Doncellas” is a must-see when visiting the Real Alcazar. This area, which used to be the centre of Seville’s social life, is superbly charming and connects to numerous different halls, all of which are well worth investigating more. The hall of “Salones de Carlos V“, with its magnificent tapestries, is another stunning feature of the Alcázar.
The inside of the Real Alcazar is unquestionably magnificent, but the palace’s gardens are just as beautiful, so make sure you leave plenty of time to see them. They are divided into distinct areas with different terraces, ponds, statues, and small stairways.
Admission fee: 12.5€/ 15.3$.
For a small-group or private guided experience with Priority Entrance, I’d recommend having a look at this 1.5-hour tour in English, French, or Spanish guided tour to get a more exhaustive understanding.
2. Courtyard of the Flags (Patio de las Banderas)
During the Muslim era of the city, this space became known as the Dar Al-Imara or Prince’s house, or the house of the Governor. In the mid-18th century, it was used as an armoury (as indicated by a memorial tombstone). During the 19th century, benches (later removed) and a fountain were installed, surrounded by trees, later replaced with orange trees, which remain today.
The fountain was replaced with a new one during the 1929 Ibero-American Expo, and a sandy area was added around it to allow vehicles to pass through. Horse-riding paths were also installed. Today, it is the exit from Alcázar.
Its name derived from the flags that were painted on the wall entrance in the nearby “Plaza del Triunfo” (between the Cathedral and the Alcazar), which allowed direct access to the courtyard.
Many notable personalities, such as the writer Fernán Caballero and the painter Joaquin Dominguez Bécquer, have lived in the houses surrounding this courtyard. In addition, views of Seville Cathedral and the beautiful Giralda may be enjoyed from the Patio.
3. Neighbourhood of the Holy Cross (Barrio de Santa Cruz)
The “Barrio Santa Cruz” is located within the city walls of Seville, which were established by the Romans in the 1st century BC, and forms the majority of the late medieval Jewish quarter that thrived here from the Christian reconquest of 1248 until the Alhambra Decree, which expelled the Jews in 1492.
A high wall with gates divided this area from the Christian side of the city. A tiny portion of this wall may still be seen at the top of Calle Fabiola, although it appears that the majority of it was destroyed toward the end of the 14th century, following the great pogrom of 1391, when a Christian mob burst into the Jewish quarter. Approximately 4,000 Jews were slaughtered, and a great deal of property was destroyed. Many others were forced to flee or “converted” to Christianity.
With narrow winding cobblestone streets and whitewashed houses, it is one of the city’s most picturesque and delightful areas, where you can sit outside a bar, enjoy some tapas, and watch the world go by, or wander through centuries-old gardens and relax on beautifully tiled benches.
One of the best parts of your visit to Seville will be wandering around the small squares lined with orange trees (especially Plazas Doa Elvira and Santa Cruz), getting lost in the maze of unusually narrow alleys where the ancient houses lean so close together that they almost touch, and admiring the leafy patios of private mansions through their iron gates.
4. Hospital of Venerable Priests (Hospital de Venerables Sacerdotes)
The “Hospital de Venerables Sacerdotes“, or “Hospital de Venerables“, was established in 1675 by Justino de Neve, a priest from the nearby Seville Cathedral, to care for the elderly, impoverished, and infirm priests.
This Baroque building housed priests until 1840 when the brotherhood was forced to sell the building to a textile manufacturer due to financial difficulties. A royal order in 1848 returned the hospital to the brotherhood, which still owns it today.
This tranquil villa is now a museum that houses a small but exquisite collection of oil paintings by Diego Velasquez, Francisco Varela, and other Spanish Golden Age painters.
The cloistered patio inside the hospital features an unusual stepped sunken fountain surrounded by trees and flowers and lined with pretty “azulejos“.
Open only at weekends.
Admission fee: 10€ /12.24$
5. Square of the Holy Cross (Plaza de Santa Cruz)
The Square of the Holy Cross was once home to the primitive Church of the Holy Cross, which was built in 1391 over a synagogue in the same location and demolished in 1810 as part of a larger plan to redevelop the city by the French occupation government at the time.
It is presiding over a wrought iron cross that stands in the centre of the Plaza’s garden, designed as a cross lamp with four snakes emerging from it, symbols of “Calle Sierpes” (Serpents Street), its original location. Angels with wrought-iron lanterns perch atop their heads.
According to some historians, the true name of the Cross was “Cruz de las Sierpes” (Cross of the Snakes). During the Plaza’s remodel in 1918, the Cross was relocated to its current location.
6. Santa Maria La Blanca Church (Iglesia de Santa Maria La Blanca)
“Santa María de las Nieves“, also known as “Santa María la Blanca“, is the only church in Seville that contains the relics of three different religions. Originally a mosque, it was converted to a synagogue on King Alfonso X’s orders in 1252, and then to a Christian temple in 1391, following the massacre and forced conversion of the Jews.
The church has two small facades on the outside. The main one, facing “Calle Santa Maria la Blanca“, has a tower-like appearance. The Gothic doorway and this are the only remnants of the 1391 structure. It is divided into three sections: the first has two semicircular window points with no decoration; the second has a bell tower with two semicircular arches framed by pilasters and topped with ceramic spheres; the third has a belfry with a semicircular arch bay framed by pilasters crowned with ceramic spheres and a wrought iron cross-vane.
Go into the church and prepare yourself to be left speechless. Its plasterwork ornamented ceilings and vaults, arches, and the impressive Baroque style Altarpiece in the background will make you fall in love with it!
7. Murillo’s Gardens (Jardines de Murillo)
On the occasion of the Ibero-American exhibition in 1920 the city was handed a portion of the Alcázar’s gardens to establish a huge garden in two parts: the straight Catalina de Ribera, named after a civic benefactor, and the Murillo’s Gardens with the winding route, destined for repose. “Jardines de Murillo” was the name given to the ensemble as the Andalusian painter lived next door.
The walkway is divided into three parallel alleys by plates with “azulejos”; in the middle of the walk, there is a fountain with a monument to Christopher Columbus, from which two columns with the prows of two boats and a lion emerge. Catalina de Ribera is honoured with a separate monument. A monument to the painter José Ramos can also be found.
8. Prado of Saint Sebastian Park (Parque Prado de San Sebastián)
Prado de San Sebastian is the name of a metro station and Seville’s second-largest bus station to many people.
However, the names of these terminals derived from a lovely park located nearby.
The “Feria de Abril” was first held in Prado before being relocated to a larger venue.
It is now the home of the University’s central library, and it is a popular hangout for academics looking for inspiration in the fountains.
9. Royal Tobacco Factory (Real Fábrica de Tabacos)
The “Real Fábrica de Tabacos” is a massive neoclassical structure that was built by the royal family in the 18th century as Europe’s first tobacco factory, housing more than 10,000 (mostly female) employees. The most famous employee was Carmen, known from the opera of the same name by the French composer Georges Bizet. She was well-known for her ability to roll cigars between her thighs.
The old tobacco factory’s production halls have been part of the University of Seville since 1949. The interior of the building has been modified to accommodate its new role as a university, but you may still enjoy its original atmosphere.
The enclosure has a two-story elevation and mezzanines in the residential parts and is encircled on three sides by a moat that isolates it from the outside. Its stone facades are fashioned by columns that rise from a pedestal that runs the length of the structure.
With a double-column façade on either side and an upper level with a balustraded balcony and a top with a tympanum embellished with regal qualities, the main façade is influenced by the Baroque style. A famous statue, vases of lilies, white marble fountains in the two internal courtyards, and pinnacles that embellish the four corners of the structure all stand on the roof. You can find reliefs depicting the history and cultivation of tobacco in the entrance arch.
10. Alfonso XIII Hotel
The Hotel Alfonso XIII was built between 1916 and 1928 specifically for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition.
It was officially inaugurated on April 28, 1929, with a lavish supper attended by King Alfonso XIII and Queen Victoria Eugenie of Battenberg in honour of Infanta Isabel’s wedding to count Juan Zamoyski.
11. Palace of Saint Elmo (Palacio de San Telmo)
The Saint Telmo Palace, named after the patron saint of seafarers, was built in 1682 to house the Mareantes University Seminary. During the French occupation, the Dukes of Montpensier made it their home.
This is one of the most beautiful structures of the city. With four towers and a large central courtyard, it has a rectangular floor plan. The 18th-century portal and side façade, with their sculptures of illustrious Seville figures, are particularly noteworthy.
This Baroque palace had running water, bathrooms, electricity, a telegraph, a private jetty providing access to the Guadalquivir, and Versailles-style gardens covering over 18 hectares (nearly 20 acres) that later became the Maria Luisa Park.
Since 1989, it has belonged to the Regional Government of Andalusia, which has renovated several areas and restored it to its former glory as a palace before converting it into the seat of its Presidency in 1992.
Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays are the only days the palace is open; reservations are required.
12. Seville Cathedral and the Giralda
The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea, or Seville Cathedral, is the world’s biggest Gothic sanctuary and the third Christian temple, after St. Peter’s in Rome and St. Paul’s in London. It is also one of Spain’s most prominent landmarks, having been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987, together with its bell tower, the Giralda.
It was built on the site of a previous mosque from the 12th century. Certain architectural characteristics of the ancient Muslim monument were maintained and used in the cathedral’s construction. The minaret, a tall tower-like structure used for the call to prayer that was converted into the bell tower and is now known as the “Giralda,” is the most notable of these. Other examples are the “Patio de Los Naranjos” (Orange Tree Courtyard) and the Door of Forgiveness, which was once the mosque’s entrance but is now the exit door and still bears Quranic inscriptions such as “power belongs to Allah“.
The construction of this massive Gothic complex began in 1401 and lasted nearly a century until it was ultimately completed in 1507.
When the temple was being built, the clergymen allegedly exclaimed “Let us build a temple so beautiful and great that those who see it finished would believe we are insane“. Seville had grown in importance as a trading centre at the time, and the sanctuary was to serve as a symbol of the city’s wealth and power.
The cathedral has undergone a variety of renovations and extensions throughout the years, each carrying the stamp of the era’s style: Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-gothic, and more.
The remains of Christopher Columbus are one of the cathedral’s most recent additions. He is buried in a coffin carried by four figures representing the kingdoms of Spain at the time of his death: Navarre, Aragon, Castile, and Leon.
The Great Chapel, which houses the world’s largest altarpiece, is the main chapel. It is made out of 44 reliefs in polychrome wood with abundant amounts of gold depicting scenes from the Bible. It took nearly a century for a group of artists and sculptors to complete.
The Royal Chapel, located just behind the Great Chapel, is one of the sanctuary’s only visible specimens of Renaissance construction. It was built in the second part of the 16th century and is dedicated to King Ferdinand III of Castile, who regained Seville from the Moors in 1248. A silver shrine containing relics of St. Ferdinand rests on one of the altars, while the Virgin of the Kings, the city’s patron saint, stands on the other.
The 104-metre (341-foot) high Giralda is the crown jewel of the temple and the undisputed emblem of Seville itself; you cannot leave without traipsing up its 35 ramps (easier than stairs!) to get to the top for unparalleled views of the city.
The name Giralda means “she who turns“, after the weather vane on top of the tower, a 4-metre (13-foot) high bronze statue representing faith called “El Giraldillo“.
It was originally built in 1195 as the Aljama mosque’s minaret and is now the cathedral’s bell tower.
The tower had three or four copper balls on top of the square structure, each decreasing in size, topped by a crescent moon when it was used as a minaret. After the city’s reconquest in the mid-14th century, an earthquake destroyed the decoration, replaced by a tiny bell tower and cross. The current bell tower, with its four floors and weather vane, was constructed in the 16th century, resulting in a curious combination of Moorish and Renaissance design.
Admission fee: 10€/ 12.2$ (Cathedral + Giralda + Church of the Divine Savior) or 16€/ 19.5$ (assisted visit of the roofs).
If you’re interested in a guided tour of the Cathedral and the Giralda, I’d recommend checking out this 1-hour tour with priority access (a lifesaver especially during summer in the hottest hours), available in French, English, Italian, Spanish, or German.
13. La Carbonería
La Carbonería is one of the best places to watch flamenco in Seville for the price of a drink, every day starting from 10.30 pm except Mondays.
14. Church of the Divine Savior (Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador)
After the Cathedral, the “Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador”, or Church of the Divine Saviour, is the most valuable church in Seville. It was constructed on the site of a basilica during the Roman era and a mosque during the Moorish time.
The current appearance of the temple is due to a comprehensive renovation that took place in the 17th century.
Admission fee: 4€/ 5$ (included in the ticket for the Cathedral and the Giralda).
15. Museum of Flamenco Dance (Museo del Baile Flamenco)
The Museum of Flamenco Dance, housed in a lovely 18th-century palace in the Holy Cross neighbourhood, covers the history of flamenco music and culture through the centuries and hosts daily events featuring some of Seville’s and Andalusia’s top flamenco performers.
You will be able to witness the passion of the dancers and artists during the presentations, learn about the ancient history of the art of flamenco in an interactive display, see how contemporary artists capture the spirit of flamenco and track the growth of flamenco from its inception to its UNESCO recognition as an Intangible Cultural Heritage.
The museum’s music, video, and costume exhibits are among the greatest in the country. Flamenco-themed exhibits include paintings, drawings, and photography. Dance and percussion sessions are just a few of the courses available at the museum. A wide choice of private shows and functions for groups can also be arranged. A visit to the museum followed by a flamenco performance is highly recommended.
Admission fees: 10€/ 12.2$ (museum only), 26€/ 32$ (museum + flamenco show).
16. New Square (Plaza Nueva) and City Hall (Ayuntamiento)
In the heart of the City Centre, “Plaza Nueva” (New Square) is a favourite meeting spot for locals and tourists alike, with its shaded palm and orange trees and plenty of benches.
The “Convento Casa Grande de San Francisco” (Monastery of Saint Francis) held the area that is now Plaza Nueva from roughly 1270 to 1840. The little 16th century baroque “Capilla de San Onofre” (Chapel of Saint Onuphrius) on the south side, which is open 24 hours a day, and the intricately carved archway at the southern end of the “Ayuntamiento” (City Hall) are the only remaining remnants of the monastery.
The City Hall is, without a doubt, the most eye-catching and valuable of all the buildings on the Plaza Nueva. The structure was constructed in the Plateresque style in the 15th century, though it has undergone various changes throughout time. The most significant of them (which occurred in the second half of the 19th century and gave the structure its current aspect) involved converting the façade that faces Plaza Nueva to a Neo-Classical design.
The façade, which faces the Plaza de San Francisco and retains a large deal of the building’s original design, is highly adorned with bas-relief, medallions, and capitaled columns. The complete City Hall structure has been designated as a Monument and Cultural Asset of Interest.
Apart from the City Hall, Plaza Nueva also boasts other noteworthy buildings:
- the Telefónica, in the Regionalist Neo-Baroque style;
- the Hotel Inglaterra dating back to the mid-19th century;
- the Baroque Chapel of Saint Onuphrius (Capilla de San Onofre), dating back to the 16th century;
- the Neo-Baroque Longoria House (Casa Longoria), now one of the principal offices of the Banco de Sabadell;
- the Classical Rationalist Edificio Banco de Bilbao, currently the head office of the BBVA bank;
- the Edificio Philips, dating from the 1960s, a cross between an industrial style and that of department stores of that era;
- the Monument to San Fernando, or King Fernando III, who reconquered the city from the Moors in 1248, standing in the centre of the square.
Avenida de la Constitución is a major thoroughfare in the centre of the city that, besides many famous shops and bars, hosts several of the finest buildings of the Andalusian capital.
The “Adriatica building”, the “Álvaro Davila House”, the Bank of Spain, the Archive of the Indies, the Central Post Office Building, the “Abd el Aziz Tower”, “La Aurora Insurance Company Building”, the “Santa Lucía Insurance Company Building”, and the “Coliseum Theatre” are only a few examples.
18. Archive of the Indies (Archivo de Indias)
The 16th-century Archive of the Indies documents the riches coming from Spanish New World Colonies and cashed in the city thanks to the fact that the river Guadalquivir flows through Andalusia and out to the Atlantic.
It is part of a UNESCO-protected architectural complex that includes the cathedral and the Alcázar. It contains around 80 million pages of documents and maps relating to the Spanish Empire in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, providing the most comprehensive and recorded historical account (though not the most objective) of the Spanish government in the New World.
A 17th-century canon, many Goya paintings, 18th-century ceramics, and 19th-century indigenous (natives) figures are among the highlights here, in addition to the gorgeous old books.
Some of the Archive’s most important documents are:
- Letters from Christopher Columbus) to his patrons, the Spanish Catholic Kings, Isabella and Ferdinand, including the Capitulation of Santa Fe, a contract between the conquistador and the monarchs, dated 17 April 1492;
- The Treaty of Tordesillas from 1494, when John II of Portugal and the Spanish Catholic Kings divided the world between their kingdoms;
- Archives of the Columbus and Montpensier families;
- Papal Bulls
- Documents included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World programme, to preserve documentary heritage.
19. Serpents Street (Calle Sierpes)
Serpents Street has been the commercial heart of Seville since the 15th century when it was an important centre of trade, home to blacksmiths, cobblers and artisans.
This street was previously known as Sword Makers Street (Calle Espaderos) since it was previously home to a sword (espada) makers’ guild. The transformation into Sierpes Street has spawned a slew of legends. According to some accounts, it was previously the home of the gentleman Don Álvaro Gil de la Sierpe. Others attribute it to the way the street twists and turn in a snakelike fashion, and some believe it comes from the snake that was the symbol of an apothecary that once stood on this street.
However, the most far-fetched story is that children began to go missing throughout the night toward the end of the 15th century. No one knew what was going on until a fleeing prisoner claimed to know who was responsible for the disappearances and convinced the regent of the city to swear that if he handed over the killer, he would be released. He forced him to write it down and then led him to the lair of a massive snake with a dagger embedded in it. The bones littered around it left him in no doubt that this was the assassin. He had discovered and killed the monster when he escaped from prison through a tunnel that led to the sewers. The snake was laid out on Sword makers Street, and people from all over Seville came to see the street of the serpent.
20. Chapel of Saint Joseph (Capilla de San Jose)
The Carpenter’s Corporation pushed for the construction of the Chapel of Saint Joseph, which decided in 1746 to expand the ancient temple by building a new main chapel that was significantly deeper, had a transept, a niche, and a retro-choir.
With the addition of a part at the foot of the ancient church and the erection of the new main façade, the work was completed in 1766. The Mudéjar wood panelling at the entry is all that remains of the demolished church.
The existing chapel is the result of two construction periods in the 18th century. The first, between 1698 and 1717, of which only the nave, a side doorway, two Solomonic altarpiece columns, and the mural on the ceiling survive, and the second, between 1746 and 1766, when the rest of the chapel was built. As a result, the Chapel appears as a solid Baroque unit, making it one of the most meaningful Seville Baroque specimens.
With the Chapel of Saint Joseph the first part of “50 things to visit in Seville, Spain” comes to an end.
Check the second part by clicking here, or here to have a look at the third one.
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