Roman Hispalis, Arabic Ishbiliyya
After so many years, 8 already, it’s finally time to return to one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever been in my life: Seville. Sadly for such a short time, a weekend (well the usual through the year with the weekend trips anywhere in Europe), but for a city like Seville, please reconsider you time. 2 days is definitely too short, at least 3 days will be the best; still, for a first timer, you can skip entering the Alcazar which will take half of your day and if too tight, skip entering the Cathedral, then a weekend will be just about right, however on behalf of missing two unique masterpieces.
What we did not do the last time was entering to the Alcazar, hence why this was a priority in this trip. And since we visited the Cathedral and climbed up the Giralda tower back then, there was no need for repeating on this occasion. Making such arrangements meant we could re-visit the entire city in all the time we had; and of course now, having the chance to finally create a proper travel guide which I never did for Seville in my blog. I know it will be a harder job once I reach the listing of sights to visit and what to do. That will be a long list definitely, but will try my best to group them by districts/areas and follow the best and most optional route as I generally do for anyone to freely enjoy.
Consider the entire city as an open museum, because it really feels like this, same way as you can say for Rome, Prague, Vienna or Paris. And it’s home to one of the world’s largest monumental historic town. At every turn you will find a piece of history in the puzzle when Spain was once the most powerful and largest empire on earth. The capital city for the New World that was being discovered; the city from where any expedition and trade to/from the colonies will start and terminate, and the port of call where all the wealth and riches from the colonies would arrive.
It was the only port awarded the Royal monopoly for trade with the growing Spanish colonies in the Americas and the influx of riches from them. Every good coming from the colonies had to pass through the Casa de Contratacion (House of Trade of the Indies) before being distributed throughout the rest of Spain, meaning a tax to be paid, however in return for naval protection in the trading of the ships. This entity was also the owner of the Padron Real, the official and secret map used as a template for the maps carried by every Spanish ship during the 16th century, being updated and improved constantly. It is therefore that being of such importance to the Crown of Spain, it benefited like no other city back then in wealth and development. Merchants, discoverers, landowners, and a very high and refine society flew for centuries leaving an unparalleled legacy; countless masterpieces works of arts, the finest architecture, culture and knowledge on every corner.
Visiting is very straightforward. Basically let yourself go and wander through the streets and squares. There’s too many to even list, but if time is your constrain, then try to follow a north to south route as the one I list below (or south to north no matter). It will save you loads of time, but in the downside note, you will miss quiet charming streets on behalf of the main thoroughfares. Everywhere are beautiful buildings, landscaped gardens full with orange trees, corners that could easily transport you to Morocco and mazes of narrow labyrinthine streets so charming that is difficult to even concentrate your look to one point, but rather you will be surrounded by your senses.
Three masterpieces cannot be missed when visiting Seville, however one of these is not possible to access as a visitor. All three are listed UNESCO World heritage Sites: The Cathedral, one of the largest in the Gothic style in the world, built in the place of the former Grand Mosque from which you can still admire the minaret, La Giralda tower. The next is the Alcazar, the grand Moorish citadel from where the Caliphate of Seville was governed. Now believe me when I tell you visiting this place will take easily half a day; it’s huge, with very large gardens and a complex of a lot of buildings. And as last, in between the Cathedral and the Alcazar, is the Archive of the Indies; the home of the invaluable collection of documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. That of course it’s not all, the countless museums, palaces and grand constructions all over are enough to keep anyone busy for some days.
With regards to food, there are few comments and suggestions I can give you. A restaurant or bar serving “Menu del Dia” will not be too far from wherever you are. But you must remember they stop serving food at around 15.00pm, if not earlier, and they are very likely to close after lunch service for some hours break. They will reopen towards the evening, but will not serve anymore the day menu. The price for these menus is very competitive and likely to be around 10 Euros in general, although generally higher during the high season months. It does include a starter, a main course, dessert, bread and a drink (it can be even wine or beer). Honestly, try to avoid any fast food place while you are in general, anywhere in Spain, and enjoy some nice traditional food instead.
For more information about Seville check Wikipedia and Wikitravel sites. Spain’s currency is the Euro (EUR). Please note that any price reference is true as from when this guide was created, therefore check prices in advance as with the time they change.
What to see and do in Seville
- La Macarena Neighborhood At the north of the city, beyond the historic core. Mostly residential and new, with some interesting and important sights towards the south near the old town.
-Regional Parliament This huge building was once home to the 16th century Hospital of Las Cinco Llagas, the largest of its kind in Europe when built. By its main facade are the Mararena Gardens, and across them, Macarena’s Gate.
-Old City Walls This is the only large section remaining from the Moorish defensive city walls that once enclosed the entire town.
-Macarena’s Gate Facing the Parliament, it is one of the few remaining old gates into the city when fully walled. This one is a 18th century reconstruction.
-Macarena Basilica Next to the gate, devoted to the Virgin of Hope of Macarena. Although a nice construction, it only dates from 1941.
- North of the old town / Alameda Towards the northwest of the historic core, it is part of the old town. Not far southwest from Macarena’s Gate. An area with the most thriving nightlife, plenty of restaurants, bars and beautiful streets.
-Alameda de Hercules The main square in the district, elongated in form, it has two Roman columns with the busts of Hercules and Julius Caesar on top.
-Palacio de las Dueñas Also known as Palace of the Dukes of Alba. Southeast from the Alameda, along Calle de San Juan de la Palma. Built in the 15th century in Renaissance style with blends of Gothic and Moorish influences, is one of countless properties of the wealthiest and most significant noble titles of Spain. The Duchess of Alba (28 March 1926 – 20 November 2014) was the most titled aristocrat in the world at over 40 hereditary titles. The Spanish poet Antonio Machado was born here. 8 Euros to enter, plus 2 for an audio guide.
-Plaza Cristo de Burgos South from the Dueñas Palace along Calle Doña María Coronel, with some nice buildings around and in the nearby streets.
-Casa de Pilatos If you take the southeastern street from Plaza Cristo Burgos along the narrow Calle Descalzos you will reach this place. Built in the 16th century, one of the best private homes built for a wealthy family back in the days. Nowadays a museum. Admission fee 8 Euros.
-Metropol Parasol Back at Plaza Cristo de Burgos, taking the northwestern street Calle Imagen, you will see it in the distance few blocks ahead. This is currently the world’s largest wooden structure, over what used to be a market square and parking lot. At the time the square was meant to be redesign, they found in entire underground Roman remains, hence a new redesign of square with museum underneath, market hall at ground level, and roofs which you can walk.
-Palace of the Condesa de Lebrija Considered as the best paved house-palace in Europe because of its impressive Roman mosaics across the entire ground floor. Among the museum’s collections are Roman art, ornaments, furniture and pictures from world famous painters. From the Parasol, taking Calle Laraña that heads west and then onto Calle Cuna that leads south you find it.
-Salvador Square Continuing south along Calle Cuna you will reach this charming and beautiful square, with lots of bars serving great local wines, and both the Nuestra Señora de la Paz and Divino Salvador churches one facing the other.
- Old town core The very compact historic centre with sights just everywhere. Every building, any square, all corners is worth to get lost and explore. Hard to list in here everything, so will enumerate the most important.
-Plaza Nueva-Plaza San Francisco South from Salvador Square, this is the financial heart of Seville with the historic headquarters of many banks, most of which incredible palaces, some being the museums of these banks.
-Cajasol Along the northeastern side of Plaza San Francisco. A large neo-classical palace painted orange.
-Laredo Building At the northeast corner too, in brick regionalist style.
-Bankia Another bank, housed in a pure regionalist style structure (the Casa Chafer from 1914).
-City Hall Built in the 16th century with facades to both squares, being the Plateresque one facing Plaza San Francisco a truly masterpiece by architect Diego de Riaño. At the other side, facing Plaza Nueva, is the 19th century Neoclassical style one.
-Monument to Fernando III de Castilla Right in the middle of Plaza Nueva.
-Telefonica Building At the southeast corner of the square, at the beginning of Constitution Avenue. One of the masterpieces in neo-baroque regionalist style in the city, built in 1926.
-Constitution Avenue – Cathedral One of the most elegant by all means created in the early 20th century and flanked by grand palaces and mansions. It links Plaza Nueva at the north with Puerta de Jerez near the Guadalquivir River at the south.
-Banco de España At the northernmost end of the Avenue, opening towards the Plaza de San Francisco, one of the branches of the Bank of Spain.
-Adriatica Building Opposite Banco de España at the other side of the Avenue, built in the 20th century in neo-Moorish architecture.
-Santander Bank The next building south from Banco de España.
-Casa de Alvaro Dávila – Marqués de Villamarta A blend between regionalism and modernism architectural styles. Right at the opposite side of the northwest corner of the Cathedral.
-Saint Mary of the Sea Cathedral UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. Built from 1401 to 1519 after the Reconquest on the former site of the city’s Great Mosque. One of the world’s largest medieval Gothic cathedrals, with the longest nave in Spain. It’s famous Giralda tower (former minaret), is one of the most recognisable elements from the Moorish past, converted to a bell tower with the Christians, where from its top you have the entire city at your feet. Inside is the tomb with the remains of Christopher Columbus among its many countless treasures. Entrance fee 8 Euros, or a combined ticket for 9 granting access to the Giralda as well.
-Archbishop’s Palace At the eastern side of the Cathedral, completed in 1704 in Spanish Baroque style in the site of the former Roman baths where some elements from the past have survived. The main facade is on the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, opposite the Giralda of the Cathedral.
-Encarnacion Church Completing an entire corner of Virgen de los Reyes Square, opposite the Archbishop’s Palace.
-Plaza del Triumfo The next square south from the Virgen de los Reyes, still all behind the Cathedral. This one grants access to the main gate of the Alcazar, and opens to the beautiful Archive of the Indies.
-Jewish Quarter Surrounding the Cathedral and Alcazar was once a thriving residential area among the Jewish. Small narrow and bending streets leading to small squares with orange trees, with plenty of houses with great tiled patios and fountains. Plaza de la Alianza is a small square just east along the walls of the Alcazar and hear of the Juderia (Jewish Quarter). From there you can continue south along the narrow maze of streets towards the gorgeously landscaped gardens Marques de la Vega-Inclan, and farther beyond, the iconic Maria Luisa Park.
-Alcazar UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. Facing the Cathedral is this incredible Moorish palace, smaller than the world famous Granada’s Alhambra, yet in the very same line, style and architecture. It can easily take half a day to visit in full. A maze of buildings with myriad rooms, extravagant architecture, courtyards and lavish gardens with pools and fountains. It was in one of the rooms where Christopher Columbus’s journey to the Americas was planned. Admission fee 11.50 Euros.
-General Archive of the Indies UNESCO World Heritage Site listed. An Italianate example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, was designed by Juan de Herrera. Home to the greatest repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The western facade aligns with the Constitution Avenue.
-Plaza del Cabildo Parallel to Constitution Avenue at the height of the Cathedral and Archive of the Indies. It’s character is being semi-circular with the entire northern end being part of the Moorish wall.
-National Post Office Opposite the Archive of the Indies, in neo-classical style.
-Royal Shipyards (Reales Atarazanas) Right behind the Post Office, one remnant treasures of what once was the capital city of the New World, and how important was the ship building and the naval industry overall. Dating from the 13th century in Gothic style, however they became too small from the 15th century after the immense growth of the shipping industry.
-Coliseum Building Built in the 1920 in the southern section of Constitution Avenue to host a theatre and cinema in fine regionalist style, nowadays an office building.
-Puerta de Jerez The monumental southern terminus of Constitution Avenue, with the Hispalis Fountain in the centre of the roundabout. From here you can reach the Guadalquivir River, el Prado de San Sebastian and the huge 1929 Expo Grounds and gardens. Metro, tram and buses meet here.
- Former Expo 1929 grounds This huge area from the south of the gardens of Alcazar and Puerta de Jerez towards the southern districts past beyond the historic core, and parallel to the Guadalquivir River were home to the Ibero-American Exhibition World’s Fair celebrated in 1929. Massive landscaped parks and almost all the pavilions, hotels and features still remain as museums, offices and private residences.
-Hotel Alfonso XIII The top 5* deluxe property in the city, one of the most prestigious in Spain, included in the world-wide network of Luxury Hotel Collection. It was built for the International Exhibition, a masterpiece of regionalist architecture. It faces Puerta de Jerez and Calle San Fernando.
-Palace of San Telmo The next construction south of the Hotel. One of the finest Baroque constructions in the city, seat of the presidency of the Andalusian Autonomous Government. By the southern facade it faces the Guadalquivir River.
-University of Seville Main Building East of the Hotel. Housed in the former Royal Tobacco Factory built in the 18th century in Baroque style becoming the first tobacco factory in Europe. It was the inspiration setting for the first act of Bizet’s opera Carmen.
-Portuguese General Consulate By the southeast corner of the University, in el Prado de San Sebastian Park. Was the pavilion of Portugal.
-Teatro Lope de Vega At the opposite side of the roundabout from the Portuguese Pavilion. One of the largest and most prestigious in Seville, in neo-Baroque style.
-Pavilion of Chile Behind the Theatre. One of the largest from the Exhibition, in an odd blend of eclectic and regional architecture.
-Pavilion of Peru Opposite the Chile one. A beautiful structure combining indigenous and colonial architecture, nowadays the Peruvian Consulate and the CSIC, the largest public institution devoted to research in Spain.
-Pavilions of Uruguay and the USA Both by the Guadalquivir river front, behind the previous ones.
-Costurero de la Reina This little pavilion at the roundabout is a local tourist office.
-Maria Luisa Park This monumental park also created for the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition World’s Fair deserves a separate listing. Occupies all the area southeast from the previous pavilions, together with the section at the west called Jardines de las Delicias, both align with the Guadalquivir River, with the rest of the Expo pavilions around.
-Plaza de España At the northeastern side of the park. The highlight of the Exhibition, built by architect Aníbal González as an outstanding example of Regionalist Revival Architecture. Boats navigate its canals, and one of the major attractions are the tiled benches showcasing all of the regional capital cities of Spain.
-Pavilion of the Telephone Company South from Plaza de España. Another of such examples of regionalist architecture so wide-spread in Seville.
-Press Pavilion The next after the Telephone one, in neo-classical style.
-Plaza de America Within the Maria Luisa Park, this is the jewel, another of the major highlights with the finest architecture of the pavilions around this landscaped garden.
-Museum of the Arts and Traditions At the north side of Plaza de America, the neo-Moorish pavilion. Spectacular in every sense. Built in 1914 by architect Aníbal González.
-Archaeological Museum Opposite the other museum in Plaza de America, completing the monumentality of the park.
-The Royal Pavilion At the eastern side of Plaza de America, in neo-Gothic style.
-Pavilions of Brazil and Mexico Right behind the Archaeological Museum. Of special design is Mexico with Aztec motifs.
-Pavilion of Colombia Across the Paseo de la Palmera opposite the Pavilion of Brazil. Designed as a smaller version of the Bogota’s Cathedral.
-Pavilion of Morocco Designed as a mosque, it is nowadays the Parks and Gardens Delegation of the City.
-Pavilion of Argentina Located north from the Colombia Pavilion on the section of the park named Jardines de las Delicias, facing the Paseo de la Palmera that splits the park in 2.
-Pavilion of Guatemala The last one worth listing here. Just north from Argentina, it’s fully covered in tiles depicting the Maya world.
- Guadalquivir riverside Beautiful in any direction to walk along the banks, however the most historical section is between the San Telmo and Isabel II Bridges along the north bank.
-Torre del Oro Built in the 13th century by the Moors, used later as the point to which ships could navigate from the Atlantic into the Guadalquivir River up to the city. Nowadays the Naval Museum.
-Torre de la Plata Almost not visible, but meters away from Torre del Oro, behind the Helvetia Building. It was part of the Moorish ramparts.
-La Maestranza Bullring One of the most spectacular in Spain. With construction started in 1749 and finalised in 1881 after a series of extensions and works by different architects. The best outside view is that along the riverside facade.
- Triana Neighborhood Across the Guadalquivir River, opposite the Maestranza Bullring. One of the most historical and traditional neighbourhoods.
-Isabel II Bridge The main thoroughfare connection between the old town and Triana.
-El Carmen Chapel Marking the Triana side of the bridge. Built in 1928 by architect Aníbal González.
-Altozano Square The principal one in the district, right after the bridge.
-San Jacinto Street Starts at Altozano Square and heads west into the district. Half of its way is pedestrian, containing nice architecture at its sides, especially the San Jacinto Church a bit farther down along the street.
San Pablo International Airport is northeast of the city. Very easy accessible to the city centre by frequent and inexpensive buses. It takes around 30 minutes, with departures every 30 minutes for 4 Euros per way, or 6 Euros for a return in the same day. This is a growing airport with more routes being added yearly hence becoming a great choice and fantastic way to reach the city from within Europe. There are no intercontinental routes outside of Europe, for this, tickets are generally sold via Madrid or Barcelona with the final leg at no extra cost (if booked with Iberia for example).
Coming overland within Spain is also fast and very reliable. The Madrid to Seville high-speed railway line was the first opened in the country back in 1992 in coincidence with the Universal Expo. It’s little over 2 hours between both, with further connections within Andalusia and elsewhere very fast and frequently.
By bus you can get anywhere within Spain and farther beyond to some European countries. Lengthily journeys of course, but very nice landscapes if time is the commodity you can spare.
Within the city there is a great public transport network. This is the 4th largest city in Spain, hence you have every choice. From buses literally every corner, commuter trains, and the new metro network (still under construction and expansion) and the tram crisscrossing the entire historic core. One of the very first trams in the world without overhead catenary and cables, designed and patented by Spain railway manufacturer CAF.
As one of the most heavily visited cities in Spain by tourism; 4th largest city in the country, and main commercial and economic hub in the whole of Andalusia, the choice of hotels is a good reflection of such facts. You have everything you want, and even more. Difficult to even say anything negative to this, only about the costs during the high season months, specially Easter time and April’s Seville’s Fair. Expect to find fully booked the entire city.
A good and reasonable point to start your search is by checking some of our preferred affiliate hotel search engine such as Hotels.com, Booking.com, Expedia, Otel.com, Agoda, Opodo, LateRooms or Ebookers. This worked great as usual for us, and managed a fantastic deal for the three of us that went this time.
We stayed at the Hotel Doña Manuela, in Paseo de Catalina de Ribera 2, right next to the Jewish district, east of the historic town and 5 minute’s walk to the Alcazar and Archive of the Indies by the northwest; el Prado de San Sebastian metro and tram station 5 minutes south, and the Maria Luisa Park 10 minutes to the south. From location it cannot be better. Right there in the middle of everything and majority of the sights so near each other. Recently renovated, the room was absolutely perfect, beautiful and comfortable, and even though in between plenty of bars and restaurants next door, it was extremely quiet day and night. Very friendly staff and a fantastic experience altogether. We simply could not believe this is advertised as a 2* hotel because the overall look and feel and the comfort is easily a 4*. Extremely recommended to anyone and for sure our main choice whenever we return. The value for money was a great example.
From past experience back in 2008 we stayed at the Hotel Exe Isla Cartuja. Located within the Cartuja Football Stadium, although not in the city centre but a short bus drive 24 hours connected with the old town. Quite modern, simple yet elegant lines, was also a nice experience overall. We spent there 3 nights and had a great time.