Seville is intoxicating, from the moment you arrive. There’s a palpable sense of rich cultural heritage and beauty attached to the city, the result of centuries of architectural evolution, fusion of cultures and shifts in political power. With every historical treasure that you visit in Seville, a sense of wonder follows.
Seville in Andalucia must be seen on foot. With so many winding medieval side streets, palace walls decorated with colourful tiles, and peaceful garden walks, there’s always something new to discover. What’s more, many of the city’s most famous sights are right next to each other.
You can’t leave Seville without considering some of the best day trips from Seville.
Under perfect blue skies and glorious Spanish sunshine, Seville is a photographer’s (or a traveling urban sketcher’s) dream. And at the end of the day, look forward to delicious tapas and a cold beer on a warm night. I ideally recommend spending 3 days in Seville, since it allows you to fully know the city.
But where to start, for first-timers? Here is my top 10 list of things to do in Seville.
1. Admire the Catedral de Sevilla
Seville’s most conspicuous architectural delight is the Catedral de Sevilla. Impossible to miss, the world’s largest gothic cathedral occupies a space in the heart of the old city. Take the time to study the exterior, and you’ll get lost in the exquisite details of the flying buttresses, carved railings and arching windows.
Inside, high ceilings and polished floors are lit by sunlight streaming through large glass windows. Taking detailed craftsmanship to the next level is the 20-metre high Retablo Mayor, half a century of gilded wooden reliefs designed by Flemish craftsman Pierre Dancart. Moving to the interior courtyard, a small grove of orange trees is planted.
The mausoleum of Christopher Columbus is located within the Seville Cathedral as well. The sepulcher shows four coffin-bearers, the statues representing the four kingdoms of Castile, León, Navarre and Aragon. If you only have 1 day in Seville, this is a must!
2. Climb to the top of La Giralda
The Giralda, the landmark bell tower rising from the Catedral de Sevilla, contrasts pleasingly against the cathedral’s ornate design with its straight edges and perfectly geometric form. The tower is cut into two fascinating styles that illustrate Seville’s history. The bottom portion is what remains of a Moorish minaret.
In 1248, when the city was retaken from the Moors by the Christians, the main part of the mosque was left to ruin, and after the construction of the Cathedral, a bell tower was added to the top of La Giralda.
Interior ramps leading to the top of the minaret were designed to allow a horse and rider to make their way to the top.
Whether you have a horse or not, visitors can climb the ramp for an excellent view of the city. From the Giralda you should walk through the prettiest streets of Seville in Barrio Santa Cruz.
3. The magnificent Real Alcazar of Seville
The Alcázar, a royal palace, is the city’s cultural centrepiece; a hybrid of Moorish and Christian Castilian architecture and design known as Mudéjar.
The palace spreads out over a large area; a labyrinth of courtyards, great halls, carefully arranged gardens, and stunning tiled artworks. It is one of the top things to do in Andalucia.
Anyone who’s seen the water gardens in Game of Thrones knows the lovely cutaway arches and still waters of the Patio de las Doncellas, the Alcázar’s most celebrated courtyard.
Taking the time to wander around, one finds Moorish influence pervading in the intricate arabesques crawling up the walls and meeting in grand, domed ceilings.
Meanwhile, large chambers demonstrate Spanish design in wall-sized tapestries, and coloured tile arrangements.
One can spend a whole afternoon exploring the sprawling grounds, discovering secret courtyards with whispering fountains, underground bathing pools, and rustling palm trees lining the palace walls. More than anything else in Sevilla, the Alcázar is a must-see.
4. Wander the galleries at the Plaza de España
South of the city centre is the Plaza de España. The Plaza is a wide, sweeping semi-circle ringed by elegant buildings, columns and steps linked by tiled walking galleries. Continuing the theme of famous film locations, the Plaza de España was used for a Naboo scene in 2002’s Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
The central plaza is home to a huge, lively fountain and a semi-circular canal spanned by four arching bridges. Boat rides are available for those who want to sit down and enjoy the view.
There are a number of interplaying design styles at work here; renaissance revival, Moorish elements, and Spanish architecture.
5. Walk the banks of the Guadalquivir to the Torre del Oro
The Guadalquivir, the slow-moving river running through the city, has paved banks which is wonderful for aimless walking when the weather is nice. Look to the other side of the river, and you’ll see the multi-coloured facades of Triana, another charming old quarter of Seville.
As you move south, you’ll notice the Torre del Oro appear into view. Resembling a great circular keep, complete with crenellations and fluttering flags, it was originally constructed as a Moorish watchtower in the thirteenth century.
From here you can start your walk along the Guadalquivir river.
6. Get lost in the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz
If you want to see cute, charming Spanish streets – and I’m talking jaw-dropping levels of charm here – start wandering around Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter. Many people enter Santa Cruz just next to the Real Alcázar, bordering the great palace walls.
There are several tourist trap restaurants and souvenir shops here, but keep on meadering in any random direction and you’ll experience a transformation.
Geometric brickwork and smoothed-off cobblestones roll out underfoot, bushy green trees paint shady designs on the road, and lovely stucco houses compete for attention in muted shades of pale red, sun yellow and powder blue.
Occasionally, a café comes up to greet you, a great place to sip a cappuccino under an umbrella and ponder the flower beds sprouting out of red-painted windowsills. Turn a corner and you’ll see crookback alleys so close that the houses above you have fused together.
And just when you think you’re so lost you’ll never get out, you’ll notice a palm tree popping up to remind you that the Alcázar gardens are nearby.
In Santa Cruz you’ll find many tapas bars and restaurants hosting flamenco shows. If you visit during Semana Santa, you’ll spot many of the emblematic processions of Holy Week. It is one of the best free things to do in Seville.
7. Sit down for a lazy breakfast, Seville style
Sleep in, wake up late and find a local cafe – one with quiet outdoor seating is a good start. Many cafes will serve the Seville style breakfast, which is usually a crunchy toasted piece of bread, topped with chopped tomato or Spanish ham, and served with a coffee and an orange juice.
Olive oil (always on the table, of course) is drizzled over the tostada to make this breakfast more unhealthy, but much more delicious. Wonderful!
8. The Metropol Parasol
Stunning modern architecture? Horrible eyesore? Is it a big waffle, or a mushroom, or maybe it’s a giant 3-D wooden model set? Whatever you may think of Jürgen Mayer’s 26-metre high construction, it’s certainly worth checking out.
The sweeping latticework spread across six ‘mushrooms’ is one of the largest wooden structures in the world, and the flowing organic shape creates curious shadows and optical effects.
A small fee allows you to climb the Metropol Parasol, and follow the winding aerial walkways to enjoy amazing views of Seville in every direction. It’s usually quiet, so you’ll have the chance to take some crazy photographs by yourself.
For history buffs, the Antiquarium museum is located beneath the Metropol Parasol, with preserved Roman ruins.
9. Eat where the locals eat at Alameda de Hércules
Paella can be found around every corner in the old quarter, and many hungry visitors look no further than these restaurants. But in order to find some of the best tapas in the city, head over to the Alameda de Hércules in the nearby suburb of Macarena.
Part avenue, part public square; this broad, leafy, pedestrian-only street is lined by lively restaurants and clusters of diners enjoying pleasant Spanish nights on the terrace.
Locals come to catch up over cold beers, and bring their dogs along to mingle. Order a patatas bravas and barbequed prawns, and soak in the Seville evening.
If you are wondering what to eat in Spain, then get yourself a tapa of boquerones in vinagre or a refreshing horchata.
10. Relax in the Parque Maria Luisa, Seville’s most beautiful park
When you’re finished enjoying the Plaza de España, take the time to escape the city and enjoy the tranquility of the Parque María Luisa. It was built for the great exposition. Soaring palms, great elm trees and rustling pines provide shade to the many walking paths through the park.
Don’t forget to check out the small pavilion overlooking the duck pond. The constructions are a major point of interest in Seville.
More about Andalucía
- A day trip from Seville: Carmona
- Best Things to do in Andalucía
- Places to visit in Marbella
- Visit Cabo de Gata, a hidden gem in Andalucia
- Things To Do in Almería
- Andalucía Pilgrimage Site: El Rocío
- Best Day trips from Malaga
Before You Go: Top Tips for your Trip
- You’ll snap tons of photos and I love to take my GoPro in order to shoot even in extreme situations.
- Make sure to wear comfortable walking shoes and hiking sandals when traveling to warm countries. Consider trying some of these eco-friendly vegan hiking boots.
- Sunscreen is key! I always take with me my eco-friendly sunscreen by Thinksport.
- I always carry a light rain jacket, just in case. Pack smart with these organic cotton clothing companies.
- Be environmentally friendly and get one of these awesome backpacks made from recycled materials.
- Get in the mindset with these amazing wilderness survival books.
- Travel insurance is essential! If you haven’t already obtained travel insurance for your trip, travel is protected against all odds with HeyMondo.
About the author
Derrick is a 32-year old living in Melbourne, Australia. With plenty of family in Europe and an insatiable travel bug that won’t go away, there’s always a good reason to travel somewhere new! When he’s not travelling, he’s illustrating past adventures in his sketchbook, and experiencing all the challenges of being a new dad.
Don’t forget to check out his blog StickyMangoRice.