After our first visit to Andalucia which included all of the three main destinations, we rated Seville slightly lower than Granada or Cordoba, which is a bit of a mystery to me now. Not seeing a knockout sight on par with the likes of Mezquita or Alhambra must be a factor. Nonetheless, Seville offers a lot in terms of grand attractions and scenery, with eye-catching architecture, fountains, and leafy squares.
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 of ornate façades that make walking around a visual feast.
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 stained-glass mosaics. The cavernous great church contains many works of art. Patio de los Naranjos ♥♥, which is part of the cathedral complex, is a pretty and tranquil garden.
The bell tower, La Giralda ♥♥♥, is a gorgeous 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 de Sevilla ♥♥♥ 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.
Casa de Pilatos ♥♥ is another worthy attraction. Named after its perceived resemblance to 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 tiled depictions of the key events in the history of different Spanish regions along the length of its semi-circular edifice.
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 crenelated Moorish tower that houses a small maritime museum. A relaxing and not very long boat cruise ♥ on Guadalquivir earns the mark for being enjoyable without too much sightseeing involved, as most major sights are set away from river banks.
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 felt decidedly built for tourist consumption. It is sold in different combinations with food and drink – and with the dining patrons seated closer to the stage, the constant shuffling of the waiters was a distraction.
The second show was a more intimate event, shorter, and more intense, by an all-female group of just four (singer, dancer, guitar player, and “clapper”), presented in 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. Research your options accordingly.
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. The working-class district of Triana reputedly merits exploration, as does Isla de la Cartuja, a large complex of exhibition halls, museums, and leisure areas. Museo de Bellas Artes is another top institution that merits consideration.