For your first visit you need at least two full days to be able to fully appreciate the city and all of its major sights while keeping pleasantly unhurried pace.
Distances are walkable, but we did not venture far from the city center.
Love its colorful and often whimsical architecture.
Don’t miss: Climbing to the top of Giralda; taking a horse-carriage ride around the city; cruising on Rio Guadalquivir on a boat.
On the other hand: By-products of horse-carriage touring industry are rather pervasive. Also, our trip coincided with considerable construction all over the town – hopefully, it is over by now.
Worthy attractions: Cathedral, one of the largest in Christian world, and La Giralda, its stunning bell tower; Casa de Pilatos; Real Alcázar, an impressive Mudéjar jewel; Parque Maria Luisa and the adjoining Plaza de España; Torre del Oro [did not go to its Museo Maritimo].
Left for another visit: Museo de Bellas Artes; Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza [seen only from the outside]; Isla de la Cartuja.
Last visit: May 2004.
We rated Seville slightly lower than Granada or Cordoba after our first visit, which is a bit of a mystery to me now. It is possibly a function of not having a knockout sight on par with the likes of Mezquita or Alhambra. Nonetheless, Seville offers a lot in terms of grand attractions and activities and scenery, with eye-catching architecture, fountains and leafy squares. We have already made return trips to other places, but not to Seville yet, which is something that needs to be rectified.
Things to See
The old quarter of Barrio de Santa Cruz ♥♥ is a great maze of alleyways and patios, one in which it is very easy to get lost, by the way. There are clusters of pretty whitewashed streets, charming market squares and plenty ornate façades that make walking around a visual feast. We did, however, record that we thought it a notch below Cordovan old Jewish quarter, mostly on account of fewer hanging flowerbeds decorating the walls and balconies.
Some of the foremost attractions in the city sit near the southern edge of the old town, by the picturesque tandem of Plaza Virgen de los Reyes ♥♥♥ and Plaza del Triunfo ♥♥.
The Gothic immensity of the Cathedral ♥♥, considered the largest in Europe, is bound to feel a bit oppressive. There are impressive high ceilings and fairly recent brilliant stain-glass mosaics. The cavernous great church contains many works of art, but overall leaves a slightly duller impression than some opulent cathedrals elsewhere. Patio de los Naranjos ♥♥, which is part of the cathedral complex, is a pretty and tranquil garden.
The bell tower, La Giralda ♥♥♥, is a most beautiful sight and offers breathtaking views over the city from its top, reachable not via stairways, but via 37 sloped ramps that in medieval times allowed riders to get to the upper gallery astride their horses. The central shaft of the tower holds a sequence of small rooms dedicated to its history.
Real Alcázar ♥♥♥ has been the home of Spanish kings for almost seven centuries, and is still occasionally used by the royal family. It is an unparalleled delight of Mudéjar patios and halls, bordered by the magnificent gardens laid out with terraces, fountains and pavilions. Having been built later than Granada’s Alhambra, it is in many ways its obvious imitation, but the preservation of the place is such that one can’t help but be awe-struck.
Casa de Pilatos ♥♥ is a lesser, but still very much worthy attraction. Named after its perceived resemblance of the home of Pontius Pilate in Jerusalem, it is one of the finest palaces in Seville. Courtyards clad in azulejos and intricate Mudéhar plasterwork, extensive statuary, beautiful fountains, luxurious rooms filled with antiques and fine furniture – it all combines to quite a striking effect.
The large and pleasant Parque María Luisa ♥♥ safeguards the legacy of the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition, with many colorful and whimsical buildings erected for that occasion. Some of the pavilions are now museums. At the edge of the park, the dramatic Plaza de España ♥♥♥ is decorated with regional scenes on ceramic tiles along the length of its semi-circular edifice (mostly battles and coronations that must constitute key events in various regions of Spain).
Paseo de Cristóbal Colón ♥ is a great backdrop for a slow, romantic walk along the Guadalquivir. It is guarded by Torre del Oro ♥, a beautiful crenellated Moorish tower that houses a small maritime museum, which we decided to skip. We did get on a relaxing and not very long boat cruise ♥ on Guadalquivir instead.
We also hired a horse-carriage ride ♥ from Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. The route took us by most of the important sights, with the driver providing minimal commentary in clipped English.
We watched two different flamenco shows ♥♥ while in Seville. The first, at the very touristy establishment of El Arenal, was very professional, performed by a big troupe, but did not exactly feel authentic. At €30 per ticket, it was not cheap either, although that included a glass or two of wine. There is also a dinner option – and with the diners seated closer to the stage, the constant shuffling of the waiters was a distraction.
The second show was a more impromptu event, shorter, more intense, by an all-female group of just four (singer, dancer, guitar player and “clapper”), and set in more intimate environs of a small local cultural center. We liked that a lot better. The cost was not recorded, but it must have been for a fraction of what we paid at El Arenal.
Even though we were in Seville during the bullfighting season, we had mixed feelings about taking in a corrida, and only saw the majestic bullring, Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, from the outside. We barely set foot in the working-class district of Triana that reputedly merits exploration, and did not go at all to Isla de la Cartuja, a large complex of exhibition halls, museums and leisure areas. Museo de Bellas Artes is another one of attractions that we may check out in the future.
Places to Eat
We ate three times at three different locations (all near the cathedral) of Casa Robles ♥ in May of 2004. Every time, we would order a selection of tapas or raciones and, while there was a blown “experiment” or two, we overall remained quite satisfied. A bigger dinner meal came to €70 in damage.
Our other meals did not figure in our notes, unfortunately, beyond a passing note of a good paella at some establishment on the Triana side of Puente de Isabel II.
As in any large city, the options for a hotel or an apartment are plentiful on major online platforms. Any location in San Bernardo or Santa Catalina neighborhoods will put you within at most 15 minutes of walking to most of the points of interest. Triana across the river is also frequently recommended.