Seville – love at first sight
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We thought we had a pretty good idea of what awaited us in Seville when we travelled to the Andalusian capital in the fall of 2019. But quite quickly it turned out that we had no idea of the magnificent splendour we were about to experience.
Not even in our wildest imaginations, we could have foreseen what we were about to witness. It’s a treasury of history, culture, gastronomy, architecture, dance and music. After a few hours, there was no doubt in our minds. Seville had without any effort catapulted itself into our top three of cities worth to visit.
Much has been written about Seville and millions of pictures have been taken but none of them captures the city completely. You will have to visit Seville yourself to fully grasp its grandeur and beauty. Despite that, we will try to convey our experiences with the great lady of Andalusia.
Seville is an all-year destination. The Andalusian summers do tend to get boiling hot and Seville is often referred to as Spains frying-pan, therefore we recommend you to visit during spring or fall.
Unfortunately, thousands of other tourists will have come up with the same great idea but with a bit of planning it won’t be a problem. First lesson: Visit the sights early morning or even better late afternoon when the day tourists have left the city. Second lesson: Book your entrance in advance.
You can either book on the websites of the respective sites or through a booking agency. GetYourGuide has developed a very fine and extremely user-friendly app for mobile phones. A very helpful tool when travelling. If you don’t book in advance you will end up standing in line for hours and hours, wasting your precious holiday time.
It is as if Seville’s cultural treasures are inexhaustible. Pretty much every time you turn a corner there is a spectacular building, a magnificent church, a delicious tapas bar, a flamenco dancer or a beautiful green park you just have to experience. We recommend you to spend at least 4-5 days in the city. We spend 10 days and could easily have used a couple of days more.
Don’t expect the Sevillianos to flash their English. Maybe they don’t speak the language, maybe they are to shy to use it. We don’t know. We just know that the inhabitants of Seville are passionate, kind and welcoming people and with gestures, body language, patience and Google translate you will do just fine.
Seville’s Cathedral also known as Santa Maria de la Sede is the third-largest church in the world and the largest Gothic cathedral. The cathedral is impressive and was recognized in 1987 as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The cathedral is one of Seville’s main attractions and there are always a lot of visitors but the box office is efficient and because of the huge area there can be a lot of visitors inside the cathedral before it feels overcrowded.
One exception, however, is the bell tower, the Giralda. Being one of the highlights, there are always quite a few visitors who are either on their way up or heading down the tower. However, don’t be put off by the number of tourists, the tower is wide and doesn’t feel that claustrophobic. You will walk up a series of 35 gently inclining ramps wide enough to allow the passage of two horses walking next to each other. When you reach the top of Seville’s iconic Giralda you will be rewarded with the most remarkable birds-eye view of the central city.
Another highlight is without any doubt the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Other cities around the world claim to hold remains of the worlds most famous explorer but recent DNA tests have proved beyond any doubt that this tomb, in fact, does hold the remains of Columbus.
The visit will set you back 9€ and an additional 3€ if you want audioguides.
No wonder that the Alcazar Real of Seville was chosen as a location for “Game of Thrones”. This extraordinary complex is a breathtaking patchwork of Christian and Mudejar architecture. It will catapult you hundreds of years back in time.
You can spend hours and hours wandering through the beautiful countless numbers of rooms, hallways, banqueting halls and amazingly landscaped gardens. Reserve at least 3-4 hours just to experience the most important sights. There is always a very long queue in front of the ticket office. You can advantageously buy tickets at the castles official website, www.alcazarsevilla.org or via the GetYourGuide app.
Go early morning before the tour groups start arriving. A ticket will set you back 18,5€.
There is said to be more than 3000 tapas bars in Seville. We do recommend you to take an evening tapeo, a tapas bar crawl. Walk from bar to bar and taste a tapa or two at each place. Tapas are small plates of savoury bar food. Originally very simple snacks like olives, a slice of cured ham, tortilla, a kind of potato-omelette, or a piece of sheep cheese.
Nowadays the small dishes are slightly more sophisticated. It seems like most bars have the same dishes on the menu. You won’t go wrong ordering trademark tapas like Salmorejo, a creamy tomato soup, Solomillo, pork loins or Croquetas, small fried spheres of bechamel sauce filled with vegetables or meat.
The city is teeming with traditional authentic tapas bars. But it is also possible to visit fairly sophisticated innovative restaurants that experiment with the concept of tapas and where the food resembles dishes served at top restaurants.
The food in Seville is one of its main attractions and you will never have to eat at the same place twice.
There are so many great dining options in town. Making recommendations is almost impossible but spending 10 days in Seville did give us 3 top favourites.
At Casa Cuesta, casacuesta.net you will get great authentic and very delicious food. It’s one of the oldest tapas bars in Seville.
Casa Cuesta is an institution for the tapas culture, the ceramics tradition and the history of Sevilla. Casa Cuesta is one of the few existing bars in Sevilla that started serving in XIX century.From Casa Cuesta’s homepage.
Just opposite Casa Cuesta, you will find Taperia Bicho Malo on Calle Callao 5 in Triana. Here you will get modern, innovative and exciting food with a twist.
Maria Trifulca however, is our absolute top pick. This establishment located right next to the Guadalquivir has to be one of the most charming, beautiful and stylish bars and restaurants we have ever visited.
Whether you are sitting in the bar, in the restaurant indoors or on the fantastic roof terrace you just feel pampered because of the extraordinary setting.
We love to bike and we always, when it is possible, explore new cities by bike and Seville was no exception.
Over the last few years, the local authorities have established more than 50 miles of bike lanes and biking has become more and more popular. It’s possible to rent bikes from stations throughout the city or maybe your hotel offers bike rental. We rented bikes at our hotel for only 5€ per day. Bike lanes are clearly signposted and Seville being flat as a pancake makes the city ideal for exploring on two wheels.
Our tour took us across the river to Triana and from there further afield to the area of Expo 92. There isn’t much left of the almost 30-year-old Expo pavilions and the ones left are pretty run down with one exception.
A former monastery, which these days serves as home to the CAAC, Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo. For the Expo 92, the monastery was restored and used as the Royal Pavilion. For many years the former monastery also functioned as a ceramics factory.
In the outside areas, you will find some rather funny and slightly bizarre permanent artworks. The museum itself has temporary exhibitions featuring modern art.
A complete visit to the museum will only set you back 3€. The offbeat site is reached from the city centre within 30 minutes by bike and is a true hidden gem.
From the CAAC we crossed the river again an drove towards Macarena one of the city’s most hip and creative neighbourhoods.
Home to unique shops, the Mercado de la Feria – Market Hall, delicious tapas bars and not least the Basilica de la Macarena a beautiful Neobaroque church which houses the admired statue of the Virgin of Hope. In the small square outside the church, there are several nice beer bars. Here you meet the residents of the area and can follow the course of life in the local environment.
Our bike ride ended with a very late lunch at Plaza Alameda de Hércules, one of the trendiest places in town. However, it is especially in the evening and at night the square comes alive. If you want to have a cheerful evening in town with cocktails and dancing until the early hours, Plaza Alameda de Hèrcules is the place to be. More than once we partied until the sun began to rise.
After a long day of sightseeing, many miles of strolling through the city and your belly full of delicious tapas, you probably need to relax. Find yourself a breezy rooftop bar, there are lots of them. Enjoy a glass of cold cava, a glass of ice-cold tinto de verano (Andalucías answer to sangria) or one of the creative cocktails.
We especially liked the rooftop bar at the posh 5 starred EME Cathedral Hotel. Drinks are pricy but you get great service. The atmosphere is glamorous and you get the best views towards the cathedral. During weekends you can even enjoy great music. The rooftop bar at the Hotel Palacio Alcazar is a great alternative to EME. Drinks are cheaper but still tasty, the staff are welcoming and the views are impressive
Las Sestas de Sevilla, Sevilla mushrooms, is the largest wooden structure in the world. It’s a must-see when in the city. MP is situated in the outskirts of the old quarter and easily accessible on foot from most other central located landmarks.
The construction consists of six huge parasols in the form of mushrooms and reaches almost 30 meters up in the skies. The beautiful parasols are designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer whose design is inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus trees in the nearby Plaza de Christo de Burgos.
The panoramic terrace also holds a small cafe from where you have excellent birds-eye views of the city and its surroundings. Most days M P is open until 23.00. You access the mushrooms from the basement and a ticket will set you back 5€.
Plaza de España
Plaza de España has to be one of Spain’s most impressive squares with no less than 50000 square meters of Spanish cultural history. The Plaza de España with its semi-circular brick building in Renaissance / Neo Moorish style was built for the Spanish-American Exhibition in 1929. It impresses everyone who sees it for the first time.
The massive building is the most impressive after the cathedral and impresses by its sheer size and magnificence. The Plaza de España is a true architectural gem.
Parque de Maria Luisa
The magnificent park is more than 34-acre large and is one of the city’s largest green lungs. Its the perfect place to relax, stroll along beautiful alleys lined with palms and orange trees or even take a ride with one of the many horse-drawn carriages
The park used to be a royal garden but is today the city’s beloved public park. Inside the park, you will find canals, museums, water installations, historic buildings and exotic growths.
When crossing the beautiful Isabel ll bridge from central Seville you will find your self in the charming and colourful Triana neighbourhood.
Triana is famous for having its own strong identity and rich culture. In former days the gipsy population of Seville weren’t allowed inside the main city walls and therefore they settled in what we today know as Triana.
Here they lived their lives and developed their own exciting culture, traditions and history. These days Triana is referred to as “the independent republic of Triana”. It is famous for its great tapas, flamenco scene, narrow streets, bullfighters, ceramic workshops, excellent food market, pretty churches and buzzing nightlife along Calle Betis right next to the banks of the Guadalquivir.
Modern Triana seems like a welcoming and happy neighbourhood but there is also a darker side of its history. It was right here some of the fearsome persecutions of the Spanish Inquisition took place.
After hours and hours of wandering the streets and alleyways of Seville, you might be in the need of a siesta. Embark on a 1-hour long boat-trip on the mighty Guadalquivir River and see Seville from a new perspective. You will cruise past some of Seville’s most iconic landmarks.
There a lot of different tour-boats, some are very big others are quite small and cosy. Go for the smaller ones. They are much cheaper. When facing the Puento de San Telmo, having the Torre del Oro on your right-hand-side you will find the smaller tour-boats on the left side of the bridge. Ticket sellers are likely to stand on the footpath by the river.
Barrio Santa Cruz
The Barrio is Seville’s former Jewish quarter and these days the primary tourist neighbourhood and with good reason. It is the most picturesque and charming part of the city, with narrow cobbled streets and alleyways.
The barrio is full of history and it’s here you wander off and maybe get lost in the improbably narrow alleys. The narrow houses lean so far towards each-other that they almost kiss. You’ll immediately fall in love with this incredibly charming district. Ancient palaces, churches, quaint squares and hidden passageways fight for your attention.
You haven’t really been to Seville until you’ve experienced flamenco. It is not difficult to find a place in the city where passionate dance and music is performed.
You often come across dancers and musicians performing their art in the streets and squares in the city centre. But if you really want to experience the traditional flamenco you should attend one of the many shows. Many of them seem very touristy but at La Carboneria, Calle Levíes 18 we had the most amazing flamenco experience.
In what seemed to be a mix of an old stable and an auto repair shop we were benched together with locals and other tourists who had found this venue in a hidden backyard. The atmosphere was top notch and got better and better the more wine and cold sangria the spectators consumed.
The show was absolutely amazing. The performers were so talented and practised their art with great passion and joy. The show starts at 21.30 but get there at least one hour before if you want to get good seating. The bar opens for drinks at 19.30 and one hour before the show begins you can also buy very simple tapas. Entrance is free.
On Lonely Planet’s 2018 list of best cities to visit, Seville is ranked number 1 out of 10. We don’t know if this ranking has had any influence on the influx of tourists. Its a fact that the Seville region has more than 2 million tourists every year and numbers are growing. We totally get why. Seville is phenomenal.
Alcazar de Eva Maria – Book here
Alcazar de Eva Maria is the perfect place to stay when in Seville. Located in an old Andalusian house, beautifully restored and with a relaxed and pleasant atmosphere. The small hotel-house is run by the lovely and very helpful Eva Maria. It is located right in the centre of Seville within a few minutes walk to the cathedral. The small hotel only has 7 rooms, each very charmingly designed. The roof holds a nice rooftop terrace with lounge furniture and a small fridge well stocked with cold drinks free of charge.
Breakfast is included in the price and is self-service. You get all the help you could wish for from the extremely kind and helpful staff. It is possible to rent bikes at the Alcazar for only 5 € per day. Eva Maria will help you in every way she can. Don’t expect the staff to understand or speak English but with a little patience, gestures and Google Translate there will be no problems. We just loved the place of Eva Maria and would without a doubt choose this tiny hotel over and over again.
Accommodation value for money
We also stayed at
We loved our stay at the small and very cosy Hotel Monteolivos and especially the green lush garden with its swimming pool was a major bonus. After a long day of sightseeing, it was balm for body and soul with a couple of hours of relaxation on a sun lounger and with the possibility of jumping into the cool and soothing pool. The hotel’s 34 rooms come in 4 different types. All have free wifi, air condition and free toiletries. The hotel seems well maintained and clean. The staff is very welcoming, smiling and helpful. Breakfast is a bit simple but fresh. Throughout the day there is free self-service coffee in the dining room/ social room. You reach the city centre within 25 minutes on foot but also have the opportunity to take the public bus only 5 minutes from the hotel.
Accommodation value for money