Guide To Sevilla

What is Sevilla:

Sevilla, also known as Seville, is Spain’s 4th largest city. It is also the capital of Andalusia, Spain’s southernmost region. Sevilla is best known for being one of the most atmospheric cities in the country as well as for being a bastion of Spanish culture. Any self-respecting list of Spanish highlights will include Sevilla. 

Sights to See In Sevilla:

The Big Four (if you can see nothing else, go here)

-Sevilla Cathedral: This is Spain’s largest church and the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. Christopher Columbus is buried here along with many kings and queens of old. The bell tower, named Giralda, is the world’s largest Catholic bell tower. It used to be a minaret from the mosque that once stood on the site. The Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

-Real Alcazar of Sevilla: One of Spain’s two best examples of Mudejar (Moorish) architecture. This palace was built in the 900’s but has been expanded over the centuries by both Muslim and Christian rulers. Prepare to be wowed by the intricate ceilings and walls. The gardens are also very beautiful. More recently, the Alcazar was cast as the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones. In busy times, reserve your ticket ahead of time online. The Alcazar is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

-Metropol Parasol: Sevilla is not only old buildings; Metropol Parasol is the world’s largest wooden structure. It goes by the nickname Setas of Seville (Mushrooms of Sevilla) due to its shape. For €5, you can take an elevator ride to walk on top. If you are here late at night, there is a popular nightclub in the basement. 

-Plaza de España: Built for the Iberio-American Exposition of 1929, Plaza España is one of the world’s finest examples of Neo-Mudejar architecture- a late 19th– early 20th century revival of the Moorish style architecture from centuries ago. The plaza is world-famous for being the stand-in for Planet Naboo in Star Wars Episode II- Attack of the Clones. You can’t walk into any of the buildings, but there is plenty to explore both in the plaza and in the surrounding park.

Churches:

-Iglesia San Luis de los Franceses: Large baroque church with not one, not two, but three altars of gold, statues and skulls. Very impressive. 

– Capilla de San Jose: Small baroque church with an impressive golden altar. Worth a quick gander.

            -Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca: Baroque church with an impressive ceiling

-Basilica de Jesus de Gran Poder: The church is 20th century Neoclassical, but it houses a highly venerated 16th century statue of Jesus.

-Santa Maria Magdalena – large baroque church with a frescoed interior. The church is ornate and one of the larger churches in Sevilla. 

-Bascilica de la Macarena – small church containing a famous image of Mary. The Marian statue is considered a national treasure of Spain and is revered by bullfighters.

Museums and Palaces:

-Archivo de Indias: This 16th century former mercantile exchange contains all the Spanish records from the New World. This includes many ancient maps that are on display to the public. The Archives are a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

-Palacio de las Dueñas: The most famous of Sevilla’s many privately-owned palaces. This ancient home is covered in art.

-Casa de Pilatos: Another beautiful privately-owned palace and art museum. 

-Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla: Sevilla’s main art museum contains 28 rooms of mostly local artists from the 15th-19th century. Entry is free. 

-Hospital los Venerables: 16th century hospital that is filled with impressive art. Looks more like a palace than a hospital. 

-Flamenco Museum: Contains an overview of Sevilla’s (and Spain’s) most venerated form of dance. The museum also has a theater with live performances throughout the day and in the evening. Check the website for an updated show schedule. 

-Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo: Contemporary art museum in an ancient monastery. A weird juxtaposition, but it is cool. Located outside of the city center across the river.  

Parks and Plazas:

            The center of Sevilla has many beautiful squares. Simply by wandering between the various sights mentioned above, you will inevitably stumble on beautiful spots. That said, the liveliest parts of the old city are north of the Cathedral and near the Alameda de Hercules. 

Other nice places to walk around are the riverfront and Parque de Maria Luisa (next to Plaza de Espana).

Other Sights:

-Plaza de Toros: If you like bullfighting, Sevilla’s ring is among the most famous in all of Spain. The corridas are seasonal, so look ahead to see if one is happening.

-Real Fabrica de Tobaccos: This historic tobacco factory is now the campus of the University of Sevilla. The courtyards are open to the public, but the building interiors are not. 

-Torre del Oro: This Muslim-built tower now houses a Naval Museum with many artifacts from Spain’s 300-year rule in Latin America. 

-Italica: The Roman city of Italica is a 10-minute taxi/Uber ride from the city center. Italica was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrid. It contains a gladiatorial arena and many mosaics in-situ. 

Neighborhoods to Check Out:

Sevilla has an enormous, beautiful city center/old town. Unlike other Spanish cities such as Barcelona, the neighborhoods in Sevilla are not very distinct. Said another way, the entire old city is beautiful and worth exploring. Wander and be amazed!

The west side of the Guadlaquivir River (technically now a canal off the main river) has some unusual modern architecture from the 1992 Sevilla Expo and is a nice change of pace from the traditional old town.

The rest of the city offers little to the tourist. 

Eating In Sevilla:

Sevilla is considered a great city for foodies, yet strangely does not have any noteworthy local specialties. It is, however, the birthplace of Spain’s greatest culinary tradition: the tapa. 

Andalusia as a region has many special foods that can be found in Sevilla. These include gazpacho (a cold soup), rabo a torro (bull’s tail, often from bulls killed in the ring), Espinacas con Garbanzos (spinach and chickpeas), and meat stews. Additionally, all kinds of Spanish foods can be found in Sevilla such as churros, paella, and tortilla. 

Meals in Sevilla are late, even by Spanish standards. Restaurants will open at 13:30 for lunch and 20:30 or 21:00 for dinner. Places that accommodate to tourists might open earlier. 

Breakfast Restaurants:

-Bar El Comercio: Very traditional Spanish restaurant known for its churros. 

-COCOME: Modern healthy food. For breakfast they serve ornate yogurt bowls mixed with fruit and granola. 

-La Cacharreria de Sevilla: Trendy continental breakfast fare. I did not eat here, but the atmosphere and reviews look good. 

Tapas:

-La Brunilda Tapas: Modern tapas constantly ranked as one of the city’s best. This was the best meal I had in Sevilla. Note, the staff only speaks Spanish.

-El Rinconello: Reported to be Spain’s oldest bar, open since 1670. Very traditional fare and service. 

-Pelayo Bar de Tapas: One of Sevilla’s top tapas bars. I did not eat here due to time constraints, but this would have been my spot had I had another day.

Drinking/Nightlife in Sevilla:

Sevilla is undoubtedly a late-going town. Sevilla does not have any signature drinks. However, the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera is famous for sherry, a type of fortified wine. 

Most of Sevilla’s late-night drinking is centered at small bars scattered around the city center. Centro, just north of the Cathedral, probably has the highest concentration of bars. 

Nightclubs are spread around town and are not concentrated in any one area. Club hours are typical for Spain (open 00:00 to 6:00, but nobody shows up until 2:00). Two of the most popular clubs in Sevilla are KOKO, which is located underneath the Setas and Antique, located across the river from the old city. 

Flamenco:

Sevilla is one of the best cities in Spain to watch a flamenco performance. There are dozens of flamenco theaters across town with a higher concentration in the area just east of the Cathedral. Additionally, some restaurants offer flamenco performances. Two popular theaters are: Theatro Flamenco Auditorio Alcantara and Tablo Flameno Los Gallos. Reservations to flamenco shows are highly recommended because they are small and intimate. Make the reservation 1-2 days in advance. To book a show, either go to the website, call or even show up during the day. 

Lodging in Sevilla:

As the largest city in southern Spain, there are plenty of options to stay of all varieties in Sevilla from hostels to AirBNB’s to the landmark Hotel Alfonso XIII.

Click here to read my thoughts on lodging. 

The one piece of advice I have is to stay in the city center. The city center is enormous so there are many options. 

How long to spend in Sevilla:

This depends on how you like to travel. I would recommend: 

1 day if you only want to see the highlights.

2 days if to get a good sense of the city.

3 days if you want to soak up the atmosphere. 

How to Get to Sevilla: 

Sevilla is well connected by a variety of modes of transportation.  

Air:

Most travelers reading this guide will fly into Sevilla’s international airport (IATA code SVQ). The airport has direct flights to most cities in Spain as well as to many cities around Europe. At the moment, there are few (if any) flights outside of Europe, most likely only Morocco. If flying in from the Americas, the Middle East, Asia or Africa, you will most likely have to transit elsewhere first.  

Train:

Sevilla is well-located on Spain’s rail network. The main train station, Santa Justa Station, is located within walking distance of the old city. High-speed AVE trains can take you to Madrid in just 3 hours. Other destinations are: Cordoba (45 minutes), Malaga (2 hours), Jerez de la Frontera (1 hours), and Ciudad Real (1 hour 45 minutes). 

Bus: 

Sevilla has one of the largest bus terminals in Spain. Buses go to all towns in Sevilla province as well as many cities in Andalusia, Extremadura, and Portugal’s Algarve region.  

Road: 

Sevilla lies at the intersection of numerous A-class highways. Roads in Spain are all of superior quality.  Cars can be rented at the airport, train station and at many other places in town.

When to Visit Sevilla:

The city can be visited year-round, as most attractions are not seasonal. 

The best times to visit Sevilla are during the two main festivals:

Holy Week (the week leading up to Easter, in March or April depending on the year): The city will be somber but full of colorful parades that are famous all over Spain. A sight to behold.

Festa de Abril (2 weeks after Easter): A complete U-turn of Holy Week. This is Sevilla’s biggest party. For an entire week, the citizens of Sevilla will be wearing traditional clothing. Tents are set up for drinking and partying all through the night. 

The worst times to visit are during the summer. Sevllia is the warmest city in Spain and summers can be brutal (over 40 degrees). Also, August is a particularly terrible time to visit Spain in general due to the entire country going on vacation. 

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