What to Do in Seville: Your Ultimate Guide to Spain’s Hottest City

By Abi King | Spain

Nov 07
Guide to Seville

Guide to Seville

 

Here’s your guide to what to do in Seville.

I lived in Seville for years and fell in love with its fiery passion and cool, quiet courtyards. From traditional flamenco to wasabi-tinged tapas, let me show you what to do in Seville.

What to do in Seville: Your Complete Guide

Seville puts the spice into Spain. It’s the city with the highest temperatures, the birthplace of foot-stomping flamenco and the home to the fiery temptress Carmen. It’s a buzzing metropolis that still makes time for siestas – and one that throws week-long parties each year in the name of the Feria de Abril.

Seville is sexy, sassy and very self-confident – and it prides itself on having a good time.

It’s a city in love with tradition; you’ll find posters for bullfights and black barrels for sherry on many a street corner. And those vibrant spotted dresses with ruffles and frills aren’t just there for the tourists. They’re worn with panache every year at the Feria, complete with matching heeled shoes and huge flowers pinned to slicked back hair.

Legs of jamon still hang from the ceilings, next to religious calendars depicting statues of virgins studded with tears. Then Holy Week, or Semana Santa, in Seville sees some of the world’s most spectacular Catholic processions, with both crowds and incense filling the streets all day and all night.

What to do in Seville enjoy the architecture

Yet for all the tradition, those streets lined with oranges do carry the spirit of change. Seville has opened its arms to new flavours and features of late, from wasabi-laced tapas to the swirling silhouette of the Espacio Metropol Parasol.

Wherever you end up, you can’t miss Seville’s Cathedral and its latticed tower, La Giralda. Beneath this landmark, you’ll find horse-drawn carriages, a thriving meeting point and the entrance to the Santa Cruz Barrio. This maze of white-washed streets is no place for maps. It’s a place for losing yourself amidst hot tapas and wild flamenco, small museums and Arabic baths.

To regain a sense of space, stride past the peacocks that strut through the gardens of the Real Alcázar and on towards the wide and open Maria Luisa Park. Grab a snapshot of Spain’s geography through the detailed curves of the Plaza de Esapaña and then stroll along the banks of the Guadalquivir, where ships from the New World used to return laden down with gold.

Admiring seville

Related: NO8DO Meaning Seville Remembers

Once you’ve had your fill of history, return to real life in the fresh market of Triana. Browse through the ceramic tiles that brought wealth to the district before heading head back to the mainstream world in Seville’s favourite department store, El Corte Inglés.

If you can take the heat, you can explore the whole city on foot, zig-zagging between shops and museums with the odd pick-me-up of hot chocolate and churros. Seville’s metro, while new, lean and clean, misses off most spots that visitors want to see.

You might want to follow a tip from the locals and squeeze in a siesta. Dinner’s nearly impossible before half past eight and most places aren’t buzzing ‘til ten. Even the spas stay open until midnight, in case you fancy a late evening soak. Don’t worry about missing the nightlife, though. Live music doesn’t kick off until late at La Carboneria, while clubs like Kudeta are open until dawn.

Just don’t do anything half-heartedly. This is Seville and it isn’t lukewarm. This is Seville and it’s hot.

Related: Unusual Things to do in Tenerife – Welcome to UNESCO Tenerife!

What to do in Seville: See the Sights, Old and New

Matadors and flamenco in the city of the South.

Two of Spain’s greatest icons, or stereotypes as some would describe them, hail from this part of the world. You can’t get far in Seville without noticing its love for both bullfighting and flamenco. Yet that’s by no means the only culture to find here, with modern art galleries and live music springing up throughout the city, not to mention architecture that has spanned more than 1000 years.

Love it or loathe it, there’s no getting away from the fact that bullfighting forms a crucial part of the Andalusian culture. A visit to the 18th century riverfront bullring, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (1 www.realmaestranza.com) reveals a fascinating glimpse behind the scenes, from the history of the tradition to the chilling dents in the gates left by charging bulls. You can even see the chapel where matadors say one last prayer before walking into the ring.

What to do in Seville-explore the history of bullfighting

Another can’t-miss attraction and popular meeting spot is the Cathedral of Seville (2 www.catedraldesevilla.es,) whose elaborate tower, the Giralda, has become the symbol of the city. Visible from miles around, this beautiful landmark used to form the minaret of the mosque that stood here before the Catholic Monarchs drove the Moors from southern Spain. A close look near the top reveals the line where the Moorish mosque ends and the Christian ornamentation begins. Inside, you’ll find crown jewels, gilded altars and the resting place (allegedly) of controversial hero Christopher Columbus.

The Museo del Baile Flamenco (3 www.museoflamenco.com) takes you through the steps of Seville’s most famous dance to the soundtrack of stomping feet. Its rich visual display includes the costumes of some of flamenco’s most beguiling stars.

If you’re in Andalusia and you can’t reach the Alhambra, Seville’s Real Alcázar (4 www.patronato-alcazarsevilla.es) is the next best thing. Extensive Moorish fountains, carvings and patios plus a few resident peacocks make it a refreshing break from the scalding streets of Seville.

Then there’s the Espacio Metropol Parasol (5 www.patronato-alcazarsevilla.es,) Seville’s latest addition to the city skyline. Scorned by some for its drab-coloured walkways, there’s no disputing that the view from the top, which ranges from the Giralda to the plains beyond, is one of the best in the city.

For a look at how life used to be and the latest in temporary exhibitions, walk though the wide expanses of the Maria Luisa Park to visit the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares de Sevilla (6 www.museosdeandalucia.es/cultura/museos/MACSE/)

Drop down again in scale to appreciate the small but exquisitely formed Casa de Pilatos (7 www.fundacionmedinaceli.org/monumentos/pilatos.) This casa showcases the elegance of Seville’s old mansions, with interiors heavily influenced by Renaissance, Gothic and Mudejar styles and with fragrant gardens providing relief from the heat.

Travel further back in time to Italica (8 www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/museos/CAI) on the outskirts of Seville. Crumbling columns, coloured mosaics and broad walkways all whisk you back to life in Roman times a few thousand years ago.

For the latest in Seville art and culture, however, check out the exhibitions staged by the Instituto de la Cultura y las Artes (9 www.icas-sevilla.org) There you can find information about theatre performances, photography, music and fashion.

 

Hot Baths: The Truly Gorgeous Cultural Legacy of the Romans and the Moors

Both the Romans and the Moors embraced the idea of public baths with alternating hot and cold plunge pools, so it’s them we have to thank for Seville’s relaxation options today. The Baños Arabes known as Aire Sevilla (10 www.airedesevilla.com) are some of the best, tucked away in one of the narrowest streets in the Barrio Santa Cruz. With low lights, incense and sweet cold apple tea, the atmosphere alone makes muscle tension melt. But it’s the sense of history that completes the experience. The baths live in the former mansion of a Viceroy to the Indies, on a site that actually used to be a hammam – and Roman baths before that. Try the Thousand Shower steam room, hydro-massage bath and saltwater pool before gearing up for the real temperature challenge: the tepidarium at 36 degrees, the calidarium at a scorching 40 degrees and finally, the frigidarium at a ludicrous 16 degrees.

 

Keeping Cool in Seville

“Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun.” So the saying goes, but in Seville, even the mad dogs know when it’s time to stay indoors. With summer temperatures soaring over the 40 degree mark and no rainfall in sight, almost everything in central Seville is designed to keep people cool.

The streets of Santa Cruz crowd together to keep out the sun. Blinds are drawn and curtains pulled to keep the light outside. Machines spray water into the alleyways, creating a cooling mist for passersby. While modern hotels now have air-conditioning, many still live in former mansions or palaces, which relied on design to keep them cool.

That’s why you see so many marble floors and open courtyards, with cloisters providing shade from the sun. And that’s why so many central fountains flow to add moisture into the air.

That’s also the reason behind the siesta – and why dinner doesn’t start until after dark. It’s hard work simply being in the midday sun in Andalusia. Far better to rest when you can and to save yourself for the night.

Where to eat in Seville

Where to Eat in Seville

Where tapas is an institution

Tapas isn’t a stereotype in Seville, it’s a way of life. You’d be hard pressed to stumble for more than about 100 metres without finding a place that serves up a plate of sliced jamon washed down with cerveza. The anti-smoking legislation has cleaned up the bars, but their rich Andalusian character remains the same. Swap the places right by the cathedral for these higher quality, more exciting dining options in Seville:

Casa Manolo León (18 www.manololeon.com) ushers you into a stately private home complete with chandeliers, tiled fountains and some of the most succulent pork in Seville. It’s one of the few places where you can sit down for a full three course meal, plus coffee, in the quieter part of town.

For a glimmering view of the Guadalquivir River and the Torre del Oro – or tower of gold – step into the classy Restaurante Abades Triana (19 www.abadestriana.com) in Triana. Expect a beautifully turned out menu of caviar, tuna tartare and bacalao (salted cod.)

Forget the name, the Pizzeria San Marco (20 www.sanmarco.es) serves plenty of traditional Spanish dishes in the atmospheric setting of underground Arabic baths. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz dined here by these exposed-brick walls while filming the not so critically acclaimed film Knight and Day. Oh, and the name’s not totally redundant, they do serve pizza as well…

For a fast paced, full-flavoured selection of tapas, head to Los Coloniales (21 www.tabernacoloniales.es/colonialesII/tabernacoloniales.html) It’s just a few blocks from the cathedral yet a world away from the mediocre tourist traps. Be prepared to queue and be prepared to jostle your way to the bar, but once you have, your tastebuds will thank you. Try the tabla of local salmorejo with diced jamon or even the tapas of quail eggs. Los Coloniales is busy for a reason.

Relative newcomer Vinela (22 www.facebook.com/VinelaSevilla) awaits with a fresh and funky approach. Forget jamon and smoky dark spaces, Vinela is clean and bright with a sparse yet flavoursome menu.

Al Aljibe (23 www.alaljibe.com) on the edge of the laid back Plaza Alameda offers a leafy retreat from the hectic streets. Try salmon ceviche or paprika prawns served beneath the shade of the restaurant’s signature orange tree. A peaceful place to while away the hours.

To get well and truly off the beaten track, head to Eslava (24 no website ) a narrow corridor of a restaurant decked out in sky blue colours that actually do reflect the colour of the sky in Seville. Almost always packed, ask for the parcels of blue cheese and pork ribs that come in a delicious honey sauce.

 

Understanding Jamon in Seville

Through the eyes of an outsider, the site of a pig’s leg strung up and hung from the ceiling or else fixed into a metal vice for slicing may seem unusual. Yet in Andalusia, jamon is more even than a staple dish – it’s almost a matter of regional pride.

The rest of Spain acknowledges that the best jamon in the world, never mind just in Spain, comes from the farms of Andalusia. In particular, it’s the small town of Jabugo that’s singled out for praise, where free range black pigs feast on an acorn-only diet. Jamon produced in this way attracts the highest prices and earns itself a place on the country’s Christmas menu.

If your first taste of jamon takes place in a crowded tourist trap, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. But forget the cardboard claptrap and make sure you check out the real thing which has a meltingly soft texture. Just be careful how much you eat, it still costs a lot per bite.

 

Where to drink in Seville

Where to Drink in Seville

From fino on rooftops to beer in the backstreets.

Eating and drinking while out on the town form such an integral part of life in Seville that it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between “restaurants” and “bars.” Most self-respecting bars have their own tapas menus and most “tapas bars” expect you to sit, chat and drink

In a city where dinner rarely starts before ten, you’ll have no trouble finding somewhere to dance the night away. Yet Seville’s nightlife isn’t reserved for youngsters – you’ll find children and grandparents tucking into tapas at midnight and beyond, as well as adults enjoying free-flowing wine. With the crazy heat that Seville endures throughout much of the day, it’s no wonder its streets come alive at night.

Start with a relaxing stop at the bar come tapas spot Azotea (25 – www.laazoteasevilla.es.) Azotea has taken on several forms across the city, but its newest – and smallest – bar brims with creative cool. Choose from steak tartare tapas or even wasabi-flavoured platters to stave off hunger while you take a closer look at its interesting wine list.

If it’s just fast, focused, all night clubbing you want then try the recently rebranded Kudeta Bar(26 www.kudetasevilla.es) Known as the Buddha Bar to locals, you’ll find a zen-like ground floor with cross-legged statues and soothing plum fabrics before you head upstairs to all night parties and thumping dance beats.

El Rincóncillo (27 www.elrinconcillo.es) is more of an institution by now than a bar. It’s the oldest tapas bar in Seville, dating right the way back to 1860, though the building itself goes back even further. It was built in 1670 – and the décor looks that way too. Full of glazed tiles and jamon, both tourists and locals, it’s a sight not to be missed on a bar crawl of Seville.

La Carbonería (28 no website) has one of the most laid back vibes in town – except for when there’s a live flamenco performance on. A world away from the image of spotted dresses and castanets, flamenco here is dark, soulful and serious. Occasionally, you’ll catch a sevillana performance, a lighter (and some would argue) more enjoyable form of dance.

Bodeguita Casablanca (29 no website) offers up a hearty, no nonsense bar experience within easy stumbling distance of the cathedral and Santa Cruz. With staples of jamon hanging from the ceiling, framed photos of bullfighting on the walls and either football or the latest bullfight on TV, it’s the Sevillano equivalent of a local English pub.

For an upmarket sip of fino sherry while the sun sets over the Giralda, you can’t beat the rooftop bar at the Hotel Doña Maria (30 www.hdmaria.com )

If cheap and cheerful is more your thing, try the Cerveceria La Sureña (31 www.gruporestalia.com/es/franquicias.cfm )instead. You can pick up discounts on tapas each Thursday and savings on cerveza every night.

 

Rethinking Sherry in Seville

Forget any image you may have of the sickly sweet red drink your gran had at Christmas, sherry in Seville is a serious affair. Served crisp, cool and white in its short-stemmed long glass, this bitter aperitif is Andalusia’s signature drink. While Cruzcampo still ranks as the most popular beer, you’ll find fino sherry (as it’s called around here) almost everywhere you look.

It’s served with green olives and a few plates of tapas. It lurks at the side of the stage during live music performances. Hotel bars love it but its story reaches further than the tapas bars of Seville.

Sherry comes from mangling the word Jerez, a region in western Andalusia where sherry is made. One town in particular, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, has a particularly celebrated sherry: manzanilla. Light, dry and slightly salty, it’s certainly an acquired taste – but once acquired it’s the sort of thing you’ll appreciate more and more.

 

Where to shop in Seville

Where to Shop in Seville

Head to this guide on shopping in Seville for everything you need to know, including where to pick up those authentic Seville souvenirs!

Recommended reading: Where to Stay in Seville

Your guide to Seville - where to stay, what to do, where to shop, where to eat and drink in Spain's hottest city. From @insidetravellab

What to do in Seville: The Complete Seville Directory

 

1) Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, 12 Paseo de Colón, tel: +34 95 422 4577

2) Seville Cathedral, Avenida de la Constitucion, tel: +34 902 09 96 92

3) Museo del Baile Flamenco, 3 Calle Manuel Rojas Marcos, tel: +34 95 434 0311

4) Real Alcázar, Patio de Banderas, tel: +34 95 450 2324

5) Espacio Metropol Parasol, 18 Plaza de la Encarnación, tel: +34 95 456 1512

6) Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares de Sevilla, 3 Plaza América, tel: +34 95 471 2391 ()‎

7) Casa de Pilatos, 1 Plaza de Pilatos, tel: +34 95 422 5298

8) Italica, 10 Calle Mercedes Barris, tel: +34 95 439 6950

9) Instituto de la Cultura y las Artes, 1 Calle Silencio, tel: +34 955 471 422

10) Aire de Seville Baños Arabes, 15 Calle Aire, +34 95 501 0025

Restaurants in Seville

18 Casa Manolo León, 8 Calle Guadalquivir, tel: +34 95 437 3735

19 Restaurante Abades Triana, 69A Calle Betis, tel: +34 95 428 6459

20 Pizzeria San Marco, 6 Calle Meson del Moro, tel: +34 95 421 4390

21 Coloniales, 36-38 Calle Fernández y González, tel: +34 95 422 9381

22 Vinela, 4 Plaza doña Elvira, tel: +34 954 224 870

23 Al Aljibe, 76 Alameda de Hércules, tel: +34 954 900 591

24 Eslava, 3 Calle Eslava, tel: +34 95 490 6568 ()‎

 

Bars in Seville

25 Azotea 12 Conde de Barajas, tel: +34 95 511 6748

26 Kudeta 2 Judería, tel: +34 95 408 8518

27 El Rincóncillo, 40 Calle Gerona, tel: +34 95 422 3183

28 La Carbonería, 18 Calle Levíes, tel: +34 95 421 4460

29 Bodeguita Casablanca, 12 Calle Adolfo Rodriguez Jurado, tel: +34 95 422 4114

30 Hotel Doña Maria, 19 Calle Don Remondo, tel: +34 95 422 4990

31 Cerveceria La Sureña, 1 Metropol Parasol local, Plaza de la Encarnacion, tel: +34 90 219 7494

 

Shopping in Seville

32) Padilla Crespo a la Ancha, 16 Calle Adriano, tel: +34 95 456 4414

33) Confiteria Heladeria San Pablo, 3 Calle San Pablo, tel: +34 95 421 2916

34) Triana Market, Calle Betis

35) El Corte Inglés, 1 Calle San Pablo, tel: +34 95 459 7010 ()

36) Ginza, 9 Calle Trajano, tel: +34 95 437 9387

37) Cerámica El Altozano, 3 Calle Antillano Campos, tel: +34 95 434 0908

38) Julián López, 23 Calle O’Donnell, tel: +34 95 450 2743

Your ultimate guide to unusual things to do in Seville, including where to stay, what to eat, where to go and what to buy in this beautiful city in Andalusia. Don't travel to Spain without it! #Spain #Spaininmyheart #Seville #Sevilla Via @insidetravellab
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About the Author

Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more.

  • A great guide. I have yet to visit Seville but I now I will love it.

  • Seville is one of the best city in the world. I was traveling there 3 years ago. Reilly this places and there guide line is wonderful. When I traveling then my husband and my son with me. This time is really wonderful and enjoyable for me. At first I thanks there guide line.This Post remained my this time.

    • Abi King says:

      You’re very welcome – I am glad you have such happy memories! It’s a beautiful place with many different layers – and suitable for many different ages.

  • Beautiful and colourful city indeed, but I went there last summer, in July, and it was simply hell-hot. Not even a cat on the street between 12 00 and 16 00!

    • Abi King says:

      Yes! You’re so right. I made myself ill the first time I lived there by walking from the station in the middle of the day. Perhaps I should put a big warning at the top? Stay away July and August and brace yourself for June and September!

  • FasTur says:

    Hi

    If you want to fully understand Sevilla,Granada and Cordaba
    You should visit also Morrroco
    They compleats perfectly each other

    • Abi King says:

      Very true! I returned to Marrakech after living in Seville and was amazed at how similar some of the architecture was.

  • Tim Wood says:

    South of Spain and Morocco have a lot of things in common. Especially if we consider the architecture of historic cities such as Seville.

    • Abi King says:

      Yes, the architecture is definitely similar. The enthusiasm for life is similar too ;-)

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