Seville, Spain – universally lauded as one of, if not the best city in Spain. We really had to visit, if for no other reason than to add our own personal opinions to the mix. Practically every person we’ve ever met who has been to Seville – whether traveller, hiker, partier or even just tiny beer aficionado – absolutely “loved it”. Hard to argue with unanimity, especially when it comes to travel. Anonymity, on the other hand, is much harder to pin down (although perfect when it comes to getting super real on a flight survey). in any event, the list of things to do in Seville Spain was enough to keep us busy for a few days.
But first we’ll back up a bit. Uneventful bus ride back to Venice: check. Uneventful night in a basic B&B walking distance to the airport: check. Uneventful (if slightly more complicated) flight to Barcelona: the best kind. Once there we had a planned 6-hour layover that gave us a chance to take a short break from flying/waiting/queues/forms/QR codes and instead spend the afternoon wandering that great city, catching up with old friends (Barry and Anna each were kind enough to open a spot in their schedules to meet up with us fellow Camino pilgrims) and, of course, drinking beer on a square (among the most Spanish of all Spanish activities, not to mention one of my personal favourites).
Over the years we have really started to notice the cities that make it really easy to get to and from the airport (Barcelona being one) and those that, for some reason, make it a logistical nightmare on par with string theory or Vueling’s baggage policy. Flight scheduled to land at 11:40 am, comes in 5 minutes late (but smooth, so smooth), missed the first airport bus by mere seconds (damn you and your double-fisted suitcases blocking the exit otherwise perfectly pleasant young woman), and by 12:20 pm we still managed to find ourselves at a handy left luggage place just a block off Plaza Catalunya putting our backpacks down for a nap.
Soon after, Barry and I scared the crap out of each other on the sidewalk, somehow both unreasonably shocked to run into each other a full 50 metres from where we had planned to meet. Meanwhile, Laynni was still in Plaza Catalunya harassing the hordes of pigeons in hopes of a cool “pigeons scatter!!” video. Alas, these particular pigeons deal with dumb tourists every day and, apparently, it takes a little more than a couple quick, threatening steps from a woman in bright white shoes to get their little heart rates up.
As us and Barry got caught up on all of life’s happenings – surrounded by pigeons, naturally – Anna showed up, only to be immediately intercepted by a TV crew determined to both interview her and force her to rate her level of bisexuality on a potentially oversimplified spectrum of 1-6, standing smiling in front of the appropriate number on a large, purple display, of course. I’d imagine her fairly advanced pregnancy added just the kind of subtle ambiguity they were hoping for.
Anyway, big reunion, normal lunch, small beers, and before you knew it, we were on our way back to the airport to complete our journey to the fabulous Andalusian city of Seville (also known as the fabuloso Andalucian city of Sevilla, but we’ll stick with the English versions for purposes of this blog).
We got ourselves a very authentic AirBnB (i.e. old, cramped and cluttered but with cool paintings and a window onto a nice courtyard) right in the heart of the old town, tightened the old laces and set off for some serious wandering/sightseeing/photography/dripping ice cream on my pants. This was the next day, obviously, as those two flights and our Barcelona adventures seriously wore us out.
And, I (we) have to say, we (I) loved it. I was completely prepared to find it overhyped so I could be a bit contrarian, my default setting whenever too many travellers all implausibly are in complete agreement on a single, rather obvious place.
But, no, Seville is great. Old, atmospheric and scenic, yet still spacious enough that it’s easy to pop in and out of the busy areas while enjoying the many other, far less touristy, narrow cobblestoned streets, impressive churches and pleasant plazas.
There were the obvious ancient classics, loads of old town charm and even some fascinating modern surprises. And a river, obviously. Bottom line: we liked it and – like everyone else you’ll ever meet, presumably – we highly recommend checking it out.
Now, here is our personal list of 10 top things to do in Seville.
Seville Tourist Attractions Map
When it comes to tourist attractions Seville has the benefit of the majority being within easy walking distance of each other. This Seville Tourist Attractions map shows where the highlights are located.
10 Things to Do in Seville Spain
If you’ve been asking yourself what to do in Seville don’t worry. We have you covered. Here are our favorite 10 best things to see in Seville.
1. Real Alcázar
The Royal Palace of Seville is easily the top attraction in the city, maybe the entire country (whoa, easy with the indignation there Sagrada Familia, Alhambra, etc., you’ll get the chance to state your case). Regardless of where you feel it ranks among the embarrassment of riches that are Spanish architectural gems, the Royal Alcazar is huge, beautiful, intricate and surprisingly varied. The gardens, in particular, shocked us with their epic grandeur and compelling design.
While the foundations of the Real Alcazar were laid in the 10th century when the Umayyads decided to tack a massive fortress onto the existing city walls, the palace itself wasn’t built until the 12th century – the inspiration of the Almohad Dynasty.
It then evolved over the centuries into a fascinating combination of Moorish, Renaissance and Mudéjar styles. And, to this day, the upper floors are still used by the Spanish royal family, making it the longest continually used royal palace in all of Europe.
Which, considering how many royal palaces are scattered around Europe (not to mention how many royal relatives are wandering around looking for a place to stay at any given time) is really saying something. Yes, the King of Spain actually sleeps here when he’s in town (so try to keep it down, please, he likes to play video games late into the night and sleep until brunch).
The palace is incredible, with every room and courtyard intricately decorated with intriguing patterns, famous art, azulejo tiles and flowers/plants.
The gardens seem to go on forever, filled with impressive fountains, surprising water jets and colourful flower beds.
The Doña Maria de Padilla baths were Laynni’s favourite – a long, dark, atmospheric tunnel with glassy, reflective water and just the faintest smell of royal toenail clippings.
For me, the view from the second-level catwalk (?) stood out, along with the relatively clean bathroom, obviously.
Along with those highlights, other top photo spots are the very famous Patio de Doncellas (if you visit first thing try to go straight there before everyone else makes it that far) and the gorgeous Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors Hall). But, honestly, the entire place is one big photo op.
Most people can explore the Alcázar de Sevilla in about 2 hours, although you could certainly spend more (less would be tough unless you skip most of the gardens).
It is best to go either early or later as it seems that the Alcazar is on everyone’s Seville bucket list.
General admission: €13.50
Admission – seniors and students from 13 to 30 years: €6
Admission to visit the Royal Bedroom: Unoccupied €5.50 / Watching the King Sleep (priceless)
2. Seville Cathedral
This amazing UNESCO World Heritage Site is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and arguably the most impressive Catholic monument in Spain (although there is certainly some competition for that honour). Built over more than 100 years starting in 1401, the cathedral includes 80 (!) chapels and the longest central nave of any church in Spain.
But it’s not just about the size – it is a truly beautiful building full of spires, arches, stained glass windows and famous art adorning its white stone walls. For a singular cathedral, it features a long list of highlights:
- The Capilla Mayor has a hand-carved, 45-panel Gothic altarpiece showing the life of Christ
- The tomb of Christopher Columbus
- Various collections of paintings, sculptures and jewelry
- Giralda Tower – fabulous views from what used to be a minaret, the last remaining portion of the mosque that originally held this location
We enjoyed seeing people’s reactions to their first sight of the most visually arresting things to see in Seville. We sat at a tapas bar for a while watching people turn the curve and sometimes come to a complete stop. Never mind the contortions people went through picture taking. Definitely good entertainment value.
In addition to the usual ways of visiting, you can book a “skip the line” ticket online or visit the Iglesia Colegial del Divino first and buy a combo ticket (which also lets you skip the line to the Cathedral). Also, even though the Cathedral officially opens at 11 am, if you arrive earlier during Mass you can enter the small side door for free (although you can’t fully explore the entire Cathedral in this way).
3. Plaza de España
One of the more imaginatively gorgeous public squares you’ll ever see, the half-moon shaped Plaza de España is a true marvel. Featuring a wild mix of Renaissance, Mudéjar and Art Deco styles, it also has a moat, a central fountain, 2 towers and 48 intricately decorated alcoves – one for each province in Spain.
Somehow we had marked the plaza as one of the things to see in Seville without seeing any other information or pictures before our visit. And we both loved this square. The details, colors, shapes and picture opportunities abounded.
It covers 50,000 square metres and houses many working government offices to this day. It is a popular place for a stroll, you can hire a horse-drawn carriage or choose a rowboat to get a closer look at the famous moat which boasts 4 bridges. Like the alcoves, the bridges are symbolic as well, representing each of the 4 ancient Spanish kingdoms.
For all its historical symbolism, however, the Plaza de España was only built in 1929. It is a stunning sight, though, especially the views from the terrace, popular with both Instagrammers and fans of Game of Thrones (many, many people) and Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (not so many).
4. Visit the Maria Luisa Park
Although Seville is not particularly known for its green spaces, this huge botanical garden along the banks of the Guadalquivir River is the nicest natural area in the city and is next to the Plaza de Espana.
Nearly a kilometre-long, the Maria Luisa Park includes nice walking paths, big trees, colourful flower beds, tiled fountains and interesting ponds.
It also has the Mudéjar Pavilion where you can visit the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions.
5. Metropol Parasol (Las Setas)
Known both as the Metropol Parasol and Las Setas (Mushrooms) of Seville, this 150-metre-long and 25-metre-high artistic masterpiece is one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
Controversially constructed in 2011, it features a unique pattern and terrific panoramic views from the upper walkway. There is also a museum in the basement with Roman ruins and Moorish artifacts.
We enjoyed walking around the upper walkway as the wind picked up and the rain clouds threatened. It was a bit of game of who could spot the most churches. Wandering the Las Setas is one of the more unusual things to do in Seville.
6. Barrio de Santa Cruz
Originally the old Jewish Quarter, which is a nice way of describing the place King Ferdinand confined all the city’s Jews when he took control from the Moors in 1248. Despite its unfortunate origins (something most Jewish quarters have in common), today Barrio Santa Cruz is one of Seville’s most popular and interesting neighbourhoods.
The whitewashed buildings are found in a maze of narrow alleys, cobblestoned streets and flowered balconies.
We stayed in the Santa Cruz district and loved wandering the streets, occasionally getting lost and finding a shop that sells Pasteis de Nata, Laynni’s favourite pastry from Portugal.
Callejon Agua is a particular favourite, running alongside the walls of the Alcázar beside, formerly, an aqueduct that gave it the name.
It opens onto charming Plaza Alfaro, supposedly home to the very balcony that was used as inspiration for the famous scene in Romeo and Juliet and a very popular spot with camera toting tourist in the Santa Cruz district.
7. Mercado de Triana
On the far side of the Guadalquivir River from most of the other sights, the bustling Mercado de Triana is a great place to visit for a change of pace and to get a look at Seville from a different perspective.
The market itself has a wide range of products and stalls, including fruit, vegetables, meat, cheese, seafood and many more, not to mention some great bars and restaurants. There is also a flamenco theatre, a Spanish cooking school and Castillo de San Jorge, a small fortress and museum.
The market is open every day but the stalls usually shut down by mid-afternoon, earlier on Sundays (although the restaurants stay open longer).
It is located at the south end of the Isabel II bridge and it is worth extending your visit with a walk along Calle Betis to enjoy views across the river to Torre del Oro, possibly stopping a few times along the way for drinks and tapas.
And once you are over there take the time to wander the Triana district.
8. Stop for Some Tapas and a Drink
Speaking of tapas, these small snacks are a major part of Spanish culture. There are literally hundreds of excellent tapas restaurants scattered throughout the city where you can enjoy small tasters, combined with a drink or two, or even fill up on a series of great morsels.
And, of course, no perfect tapas stop is complete with a drink or two, whether that be some fine Spanish wine or a “pinta” (larger) or “caña” (smaller) of draft beer. And you can combine your drink with a view of some of the most popular Seville attractions.
We stopped for a beer at El Milagritos purely for the view of the Cathedral and were surprised that their drinks weren’t way overpriced considering the location.
We always recommend taking the time to slow down, relax and people watch while touring a city and there is no better place to take a break from checking off your list of things to see in Seville.
9. Toro del Oro
The Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) is located right on the north bank of the Guadalquivir River close to the Plaza de Toros and is one of the iconic sights of Seville. It dates back to the 13th century when it was built as a defensive structure – the Moors ran a huge chain across the river to block ships from passing on the river.
These days it serves more enjoyable purposes, housing a naval museum and a nice terrace with panoramic views of the river, Triana district and the Cathedral. Entrance is free on Mondays.
It works well as a start to crossing the river to explore the neighborhood of Triana.
10. Paddleboard on the Guadalquivir River
For something a little more active, you can opt for some paddleboarding on the Guadalquivir. At Paddle Surf Sevilla you can rent boards, book lessons or take a guided tour. Rentals are €15 for 1 hour or €20 for 2 hours and lessons usually run around €25 for 90 minutes. The friendly instructors even speak English (and possibly other languages).
If it works for your schedule, a sunset paddle is a particularly unique experience and one of the more romantic things to do in Seville. Just make sure you bring an extra set of clothes in case you find yourself in the water at some point. We’re told the water is clean enough to swim in, although we personally prefer to avoid river water in any big city.
Day Trips from Seville
Once you have finished your list of what to do in Sevilla its time to look further afield and there are some great choices for day trips.
Much smaller and more manageable than Madrid, Barcelona or Seville, cute Córdoba has the world-famous mosque-cathedral, La Mezquita, which is definitely worth the visit alone.
The list of things to do in Cordoba also includes a fascinating Jewish quarter, vibrant old town and impressive bridge (that also featured in Game of Thrones). It is less than 2 hours from Seville by car or roughly 2.5 hours by bus.
The most popular and, arguably, most beautiful of Spain’s famous “white towns”, Ronda is cleaved down the middle by the dramatic El Tajo gorge.
Surrounded by fantastic natural scenery, great hiking and many intriguing little towns, Ronda is known as the birthplace of bull fighting in Spain. It is also just under 2 hours by car and 2.5-3 hours by bus.
For years I’ve been intent on getting to Granada to see the Alhambra, usually glossing over Seville in my mind as less interesting or important. However, being told that “Seville is amazing” over and over by a wide variety of travellers over the years finally convinced us to include it in our busy Andalusia itinerary and we are thrilled we did. Yes, you can officially add us to the long list of those who love Seville. Besides all the impressive sights and monuments, it is just a really nice, enjoyable place to be. Easy to walk around, so much to see, friendly restaurants and bars, the list goes on. You should definitely add it to your (surely lengthy) Spain bucket list.
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