When it comes about Seville, arriving here is the easiest part of your journey. The dangers of having too much fun and being seduced by the magic of the city will make it extremely hard for you to leave. Most visitors who set step in the wonderful city are mainly attracted by its romantic past – the Moorish fortress, the magnificent cathedral, the palaces, fountains and gardens.
Seville’s most famous buildings are concentrated on a distance you can cover by foot, in the city’s historical center, on the eastern shore of the river Guadalquivir. Horse-drawn carriages wait for clients next to the Cathedral, in Plaza de Triunfo, to offer them a tour of the city.
Touristic buses without roofs give the visitors another alternative to visit the city’s attractions, and their main starting point is on the opposite side of the river, called Torre del Oro. Torre del Oro is a very interesting tower, built in the 13th century, and it is one of the last buildings constructed in the Almohade period. The 12-facet tower houses the Maritime Museum – Museo Nautico – with exhibits from ancient times of the port of Seville.
If there is a building no tourist who comes here leaves without visiting at least once, Seville’s Cathedral would be it. The cathedral is a huge, impressive construction, 116 meters in length and 76 meters in height. It is the third largest Christian church in the world and it could have occupied the first spot. It is said that its initial plan would have ranked it the first largest cathedral in the world, but it was intentionally reduced in proportions so that Rome’s cathedral would occupy the first place. However, it still remains the largest gothic religious construction on the planet.
Even if you are not a fan of visiting old buildings, you can still have a great fun here in Seville. You have the chance of spending unforgettable moments together with the locals, as Seville is the Spanish city with the best bull fights, concerts and football games. Whenever you want to relax and spend pleasant moments with your friends or your date, you can attend a classical concert or see a play in one of the numerous theaters in Seville travel.
From a touristic perspective, Seville is a greatly appreciated city because of the locals who surely know how to make their lives fun and dynamic, and are proud with their city. Most of them feel the need to prove how wonderful their city is and make great efforts to show that to any visitor they meet.
Best of Seville
Seville is the capital of the Spanish region, Andalusia, and one of the oldest cities in Europe. In the past, during Spain’s Golden Age, it was said that riches brought back from the New World was carried on the river Guadalaquivir to Seville and people called the city “the Capital of the World”.
Places you must see in Seville:
The gothic Seville Cathedral is the third largest cathedral in Europe after St Peter in Vatican and St Paul’s Cathedral in London. Formerly known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria from Sede, Seville Cathedral is currently the largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world and the largest medieval place of worship. Its construction began in 1401 and lasted for many centuries; for its foundation, builders used stone from the ancient Roman monuments. Inside the cathedral, you can see an impressive shrine, many gold decorations, religious objects, sculptures, paintings, and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Giralda Tower hosts the bell of Seville Cathedral and is, without doubt, the most visited landmark of Seville. Like so many other constructions in this city, the tower was initially part of a Moorish building, built in the 12th century AC by the engineer Gever.
Alcazar Palace, also known as the Royal Palace, was initially a Moorish fortress. The construction is a gorgeous result of several centuries of architecture, and successfully combines Islamic with Gothic elements. Its construction started in the first century AC, under the rule of Abd ar-Rahman II, the Emir of Cordoba.
Museum of Fine Arts
The Museum of Fine Arts is the most visited museum in Seville and the second most important pinacoteca in Spain after the Prado Museum. Its construction was finished in 1835 and the museum was officially inaugurated in 1841.
Torre del Oro
Torre del Oro or the Gold Tower, built between 1221 – 1222, is one of the last buildings dating back to the Almohad period; it was part of the initial last wall of defense that made the connection between Alcazar and the river. Formerly the dome was covered with plates of gold, hence the name. Today, the Naval Museum is located here, and gold has become just a legend.
Real Alcazar is the Royal Palace of Seville, it is a magnificent complex of courtyards, terraces and large halls built in different architectural styles, from Mudejar (Moorish architectural style) to Gothic.
Archives of India
The construction called the Archives of India, built in the fifteenth century, hosts valuable documents that describe the relationship between Spain and the American colonies. The building was erected in 1572 and has 8 km of shelves containing over 80 million documents dating from 1492 until the end of empire in nineteenth-century.
Archivo de Indias, the Seville Cathedral and Real Alcazar were included in the UNESCO World Heritage in 1987.
Food in Seville
Spain’s rich history and cultural influences have led to the birth of a unique Spanish gastronomy, with thousands of recipes and flavors. Its roots are Mediterranean and fish and seafood are the basic ingredients for Spain food.
Daily meals are still traditionally prepared from fresh ingredients purchased from local open-air markets. This practice, however, is more common in rural areas than in cities, where supermarkets have replaced traditional markets.
Spanish traditional cooking often revolves around outdoor grill, in a brick or clay oven.
Tapas in Seville
Seville is a playground for lovers of gastronomy. There are restaurants, bars and cafes at every step, where they serve typical Andalusian dishes and drinks. Seville is a city where a genuine phenomenon was born and it crossed the borders of Spain itself: it is called tapas.
Tapas are small bites of snacks sold (or even offered for free) to go with the drinks in Spain’s restaurants and other eating places. They can be served either plain, as snacks, or combined, in order to form a complete menu, and in some parts of Spain they are included in the price of the drinks. In Seville, tapas are “upgraded” to larger rations, the equivalent of a “media ration”.
Other Andalusian Traditional Dishes
Another specific dish is Andalusian gapacho. Gapacho is a soup made of tomato puree, which is served cold, with ice.
Churro is a sweet pastry product, fried in oil and sometimes called Spanish donut. It is usually served together with a cup of thick, hot chocolate. Cinnamon is churro’s typical aroma; this donut is served with powdered sugar.
Paella are appetizer plates, accompanied by a glass of wine. In Seville you can find all types of paella, from the simplest variants, with ham, sausages, cheese, to the finest delicacies with fish, shrimp, octopus and seafood; paella is served with traditional sauces.
Among the many recipes included in the Andalusian cuisine, we can also mention tortilla de patata (potato omlet), fabada asturiana (bean stew), migas (a day-old bread with garlic and pimento – smoked paprika and olive oil), mariscos (sea fruit), lechazo asado (fried lamb), and chuletillas (grilled lamb).
The Seville restaurant scene is one of the finest in Spain with good eateries to enjoy just about everywhere.
There is fine Spanish dining to be found but don’t think about dinner before 8pm – the locals in Seville dine late. It’s also probably best to avoid the Cathedral and Giralda areas unless you want to splash out – menus there can be pricey.
Tapas is everywhere, so you can combine a tour of Seville’s character bars with delicious snacks along the way.
Tapas originated in Seville to protect the local Fino or Manzanilla sherry. Wine glasses were supplied with small tops, or tapas, to keep the flies away. A food snack appeared and tapas were born.
Seville tapas is a fun, and generally inexpensive way to eat. Try the tapas at a series of bars or restaurants. They come in three sizes – tapas; raciones – large plates of the same food – and inbetween, ½ raciones. Tapas are displayed on the bar or with a menu, the ‘lista de las tapas’.
Typical Seville tapas dishes include anchovies, both salted (anchoas) and in vinegar (boquerones); meatballs (albóndigas); potato tortilla; peppers; slices of cheese, particularly aged Manchego, and of chorizo; vegetables in oil; chicken, possibly on a skewer, and much more. Raciones will also include dishes like mixed fried fish and chicken with potatoes.
The Spanish king and queen are said to enjoy tapas at the Casablanc (c. Adolf Rodriguez Jurado, 12) when staying in Seville. Other tapas favourites include Bar Estrella (c. Estrella) and the Vineria San Telmo (Catalina de Ribera, 4).
Restaurants in Seville are often graded (1 to 5 forks) and often have a menu of the day, or menú del día. Seville restaurants called Marisquerias specialise in fish and seafood. Many up-market restaurants offer tasting menus, or menú de degustación.
Wine from the Seville region is generally best value, with Montilla-Moriles the local white wine. Local reds are not so common so a safe choice may be reliable reds from Rioja, Penedes etc.
Barri Santa Cruz restaurants
The Barri Santa Cruz area is where most restaurants are concentrated. There’s a cluster next to the Cathedral exit where Robles is a favourite. It serves tapas downstairs and on tables in the street. Upstairs, there’s a very pleasant restaurant with an interesting menu and good presentation.
West of the Cathedral, another group of restaurants is focused on the lively Mateus Gago, although they mostly serve tapas. The popularity of Bodega Santa Cruz is clear from the crowds gathered outside an it has a wonderful range of bites. The Cervecería Giralda serves traditional dishes in what was once a Muslim bath house.
On Calle San Fernando, the long-established Egano Oriza has an excellent reputation with Basque-influenced dishes.
Extraverde, on the pleasant Plaza Dona Elvira, opened in 2009 and is proving popular for its tapas and sandwiches.
El Arenal restaurants
Between the Cathedral and the bullring, in El Arenal, Enrique Becerra is a smart family-run business offering hearty Andalucian dishes in a pleasant, intimate room. It’s very popular Seville restaurant so it is best to book ahead.
In the same area, try Mesón Cinco Jotas in c/Castelar for tapas, including fine Iberico ham. The Iberian pork sirloin in sweet wine is a superb dish and real favourite. Top quality fish can be found at Arenal Sevilla, in the Mercado del Arenal. It’s pricey but the fish is as fresh as you’ll find next to the sea.
El Centro restaurants
Plaza de la Alfalfa has a lively tapas scene – try La Trastienda or La Bodega while El Patio San Eloy has excellent ham and small filled rolls called burgillos. Students congregate at Bar Levies for the generous raciones.
Restaurants in the area include Habanita serving a variety of Andalucian and Cuban dishes plus a choice of vegetarian dishes.
Near to the Museo de Bellas Artes, the Casa Salva is hugely popular restaurant and offers traditional home-cooking. It’s only open from 1pm to 5pm on weekdays.
If you want a change of style from Spanish, try Porta Rossa in Calle Pastor y Landero. The decor is simple, the food Italian and it is a very popular Seville restaurant.
There’s a selection of restaurants across the river. Abades Triana at Calle Betis 69A offers traditional dishes with a modern twist.
Shopping in Seville
Seville is a city that oozes beauty and exuberance like the Andalusian sun that shines above it. It is one of the oldest cities in Europe, sprinkled with ancient vestiges of past civilizations. However, Seville mixes the old with new in a graceful manner; it is the cultural, financial, social and artistic center in southern Spain and a heaven for avid shoppers from all over the world.
Where can you shop in Seville?
Most of the shops in Seville open at 9 a.m. in the morning, so tourists have plenty of time to wonder and find small bargains. Beautiful, cheap souvenirs can be discovered especially in artisan shops around Seville Cathedral or shops that sell anything, from bracelets and other small, cheap jewelry to other types of tourist gifts and they are called “tienda de veinte duros” or “todo a cien”.
Mercados are open-air markets where you can also buy gifts and other small items. They are spread around the main district, Calles Tetuan Sierpes, and Nervión Plaza. Nervión Plaza is a large shopping mall, close to the city center, and houses a food court and many clothing and accessories stores that you would expect to find in a larger mall.
Plaza de Armas is placed in the Córdoba Train Station, also close to the center of the city. While in Plaza de Armas, you can eat from McDonald’s or other chain restaurants and do your shopping in Mercadona, a large supermarket.
Another shopping mall is built on the E1 road, just as you enter the city. There is a large offer of clothes and accessories, at extremely affordable prices. Across the street, a Mango outlet offers sales all year long, together with many other small stores nearby.
Calle Alcaicería de Laloza is another wonderful street filled with countless small shops, offering accessories and shoes in particular. Clothing stores on Calle Sierpe and Plaza San Francisco have fancier items and if you want to purchase a traditional flamenco outfit, expect to pay around 200 euro.
Seville has tons of nightlife to offer the city break visitor with a world-wide reputation both for its opera and for flamenco.
This was the home of Don Juan of Don Giovanni infamy, of Carmen and the ‘Barber’. Flamenco is always associated with the city and is worth searching out, but with care.
Seville is the home of flamenco, but care is needed in choosing where to enjoy it. There are many pale imitations on offer and it’s worth taking local advice. Many of the advertised Seville flamenco shows are expensive, tacky and often use recorded music.
Favourite Seville flamenco hotspots include Casa Anselma in c/Pagé del Corro. It’s decorated with colourful local tiles and features both professional flamenco dancers and more spontaneous performances by the public, perhaps less accomplished but often great fun. Flamenco goes on well into the night and really gets going around 3am.
La Carbonera at c/Levies is a converted coal yard and is a popular flamenco spot for both locals and visitors, always a good sign. It has two large bars and live flamenco from around 8pm until 4am.
Casa de la Memoria de l’Andalus, in c/Ximinez de Encisco 28, has nightly flamenco shows in a patio setting while Los Gallos, at Plaza de Santa Cruz is also well regarded.
Seville is a very late-night city with partying starting between 2am and 4am. Be careful about dress code – always dress more smartly at weekends when casual wear can prevent you getting into many nightclubs.
Younger music fans will be drawn to La Sala Malandar in Calle Torneo, the most fashionable and sophisticated music nightclub venue in the city.
The Plaza Alfalfa and the Alameda de Hércules areas are also popular – try Bulebar, La Habanilla or the Fun Club – this nightclub has funk, latino and hip-hop in a warehouse and also features jazz nights. Naima offers live jazz and is well worth a visit.
Other popular nightclub venues include Weekend at c/del Torneo, with top-class live music and DJs; Aduana – a huge dance venue about a kilometre south of Maria Luisa park at Avenida de la San Antonio Raza s/n; and the Lisboa Music Club at c/Faustino Álvarez. La Imperdible stages contemporary dance and live music at Plaza San Antonio de Padua 9.
There’s a lively nightclub scene in Triana – try La Otra Orilla with a terrace overlooking the river.
Seville opera, theatre and jazz
The Seville opera season is nearly a year-long at the Teatro de la Maestranza, opened in 1992 and one of Spain’s finest stages. The Seville Symphonic Orchestra also plays almost every Thursday and Friday. There’s open-air opera at the Auditorium of la Cartuja.
The Seville Jazz Festival is held at Teatro de la Maestranza in early spring while the main theatre is the Teatro Lope de Vega, featuring Spanish national companies.
Seville rock concerts
The big Seville rock concerts tend to be at the two football stadiums or the Expo site. The official ticket agent is La Teatral in Calle Velázquez near the Plaza del Duque de la Victoria, or at the El Corte Inglés store.
With the main attractions all within walking distance, Seville is an easy city to explore. Local public transport has improved dramatically with the construction of a new Metro system and, for the more romantic visitor, there are horse carriages for hire.
Walking is the best way to enjoy a Seville. Nearly all the major sights are close to each other and many of the streets in Barri Santa Cruz, including the main shopping streets, are pedestrian only or are so narrow that only a scooter can get through.
Walking tours for small groups (minimum four people) are available, Monday to Saturday (Monday, Wednesday and Friday in August). Tours of the Cathedral and Alcazar can also be arranged. Call 902 158 226 or 616 501 100 for information.
Seville has a good network of buses including services to the railway station and the airport. Buses are also a useful way of returning to the city centre after walks in the huge Maria Luisa Park and the Plaza de España, particularly in the tiring heat of summer.
Seville has a couple of open-top tour bus firms – SevillaTour (red) and Tour por Sevilla (green). They are based by the Torre del Oro on the riverside. The buses are hop-on and off, but with only a few stops and long distances between them, they are of limited value.
While buses are a great way to see the major parks, the narrow streets of Seville city centre mean they can only run along the main avenues – in effect the inner ring road. The bus tour across the river can also be disappointing.
Seville has been building a 19km tram system since 2003 and the first city centre service started in April 2009. Trams now connect Plaza Nueva, Avenida de la Constitución, Puerta Jerez, Calle San Fernando (the University) and the Prado de San Sebastian.
Trams connect with the airport bus arriving at Plaza Nueva. Eventually the tram will link up with the Santa Justa train station, but nothing seems to happen with a great deal of urgency.
A four line metro system is planned, most of it underground. Work on one line is well advanced and work on the other three is set to start in 2010.
Seville horse carriage
This is the romantic way to tour Seville. Horse carriages are widely available around the Cathedral at an official price of €30 an hour. They seat four with maybe a fifth sitting next to the driver.
Seville river cruise
The Guadalquivir is one of the great rivers of Spain and Seville is the only river port in the country. Historically, the port was the main link with the Americas until Cadiz took over much of the traffic.
Cruise boats run from near the Torre del Oro – with a reduced price if combined with a Tourist Bus ticket – and Seville cruises last an hour with departures every half hour. While the views are OK, this is more of a pleasant way to cool down on a sweltering summer’s day.
Seville taxis are numerous and reasonably cheap. They can be hailed in the street if the light is illuminated. Tips are generally 10% of the taxi fare.