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Nothing is more frustrating than when I talk to someone who is visiting Spain, and they tell me they’re only going to visit Madrid and Barcelona.

“But what about Seville?” I’ll always ask.

Seville is located in the south of Spain in a region called Andalusia, an area characterized by rich traditional Spanish culture, tapas, flamenco, and blazing hot summers.

If you’re planning a trip to Seville, you’ve probably been told to visit some of its major sites, such as the Cathedral of Seville, Plaza de España, and the Royal Alcázar of Seville.

While you’ll undoubtedly want to visit these essential attractions during your trip to Seville, step outside of your comfort zone, live more like a local, and indulge in the following eight best kept secret spots throughout the city.

Warmly lit interior of Perro Viejo Tapas Bar in Seville

1. El Perro Viejo

While living in Seville for nearly two years, El Perro Viejo quickly became my favorite tapas bar in the entire city. It’s an eclectic restaurant situated in a typical Spanish casa, idyllically located in the city center.

I can’t even recall how I stumbled upon this restaurant over two years ago, but boy, am I glad that I did! El Perro Viejo combines passion with food, friends, diversion, a quaint outdoor terrace, and great music.

El Perro Viejo serves up some of the best papas bravas -- fried potatoes with a rich tomato-based sauce -- I’ve ever had in my life, but their biggest draw is undeniably their barbecue ribs. Yep, that’s right, some of the best barbecue ribs you’ll ever have can be found in the south of Spain.

The restaurant’s ribs are slow-cooked to perfection, falling off the bone with just a fork and melting in your mouth in an array of rich and savory flavors. Don’t leave El Perro Viejo without trying these world-class ribs!

Column Alameda de Hercules in downtown Seville

2. Alameda De Hercules

What I love about Seville is that you don’t have to venture to the outskirts of the city to find some of its best kept secrets. A handful of the city’s best kept secrets are situated smack dab in the city center -- hidden in plain sight. Alameda de Hercules is one of these places.

Alameda de Hercules, simply referred to by locals as Alameda, is one of Seville’s largest plazas, lined with hip cafes, playgrounds, and plenty of open space ideal for people watching and coffee drinking.

If you’re strolling through Alameda during the day, be sure to make a pit stop at Cafe Piola, my personal favorite cafe on the entire strip. Cafe Piola has board games up for grabs, bottomless pitchers of free tap water (something practically impossible to come by in Spain), and some excellent midday snacks. Be sure to try the tostada jamon york y queso (toast with ham and cheese), my personal favorite merienda (snack).

When the sun goes down in Seville, this quaint plaza transforms into one of the best nightlife hangouts for locals. Head to 100 Cocktelitos, formerly Tapacopa, for a selection of over 100 reasonably priced and oversized cocktails with ample outdoor seating ideal for watching the youth of Seville in their element.

Jazz Naima Sevilla, a bar offering free live jazz music every Thursday, was another one of my favorite spots in Alameda. This is undeniably one of Seville’s best live music venues, featuring different international jazz artists each week.

Triana Bridge over Guadalquivir River in Seville

3. Guadalquivir River

If you really want to live like a local during your trip to Seville, indulge in a botellón at the Guadalquivir River.

Botellón can loosely be translated into “pregame,” but it’s really just a time where Sevillanos of all ages get together with their friends, enjoy a beer or glass of sangria along the river, people watch, chat, listen to music, and take in the beautiful surrounding scenery.

Seville’s Guadalquivir River offers plenty of outdoor activity opportunities, with an elongated path running adjacent to the river that’s ideal for walking, jogging, biking, or rollerblading.

Those visiting Guadalquivir River can also rent kayaks, another popular outdoor activity in Seville. When kayaking along the Guadalquivir River, you’ll have the opportunity to gaze upon major sites such as the Torre del Oro, the Triana Bridge, and Cajasol Tower.

A narrow street in Seville, Spain

4. La Bicicletería

I almost don’t want to write about La Bicicletería, because it’s that much of a hidden gem. There truly isn’t a more authentic Spanish experience to be had in Seville.

I’ll start off by saying that La Bicicletería, simply known as La Bici, is not easy to find. Tucked away on Feria Street, you would never even know the place existed unless someone told you about it, and owners and brothers Andrés and David Quiroga plan on keeping it that way. This is how I found out about La Bici, and this is how the word continues to spread.

La Bici is disguised in a dark corner with two large metal doors covered in worn graffiti. Visitors are immediately prompted with a very Alice In Wonderland-esque decision: a sign on the door saying “Toca al timbre” (“Ring the bell”), followed by some writing that explains this is a members-only club. To walk on or to ring the bell? My advice: Ring the bell.

The sign on the door at La Bici that says “Members Only” is actually a deterrent, meant to steer visitors away from this mystery destination. But if you do decide to ring the bell -- and if you arrive early enough -- the gates will open, and you’ll be greeted by a friendly doorman who will let you into this clandestine underground empire.

Walking into La Bici is sort of like walking into the Twilight Zone. It’s tiny, stuffy, there’s smoke billowing in the air, bizarre decorations are arranged from top to bottom, and people from all ages and walks of life are there. There’s a tiny bar in the corner where you can order from a small selection of beer and wine for just a couple of euro, and a stage at the front where live music is performed on certain nights of the week (there’s no set calendar and performances change from time to time).

The best part about La Bici is undeniably the crowd. There’s not a night that goes by at this bar when it isn’t packed, making a doorman obligatory in order to limit the number of people allowed inside. I spent some of my best nights at La Bici, mingling with locals and foreigners alike, conversing about life and enjoying the simplicity of good music and good conversation.

While this atmosphere may be intimidating to some, you’ll walk out of La Bici’s doors feeling like you couldn’t haveindulged more thoroughly in Spanish culture.

A woman flamenco dancer in Seville, Spain

5. Casa De La Guitarra

Flamenco is Spain’s beloved folkloric song and dance, with its roots originating in Andalusia. When you’re visiting Seville, it’s imperative to catch at least one flamenco show.

Casa de la Guitarra is a flamenco cultural center located in the city’s Santa Cruz neighborhood, close to the Cathedral of Seville. Each night, different nationally acclaimed artists and dancers put on one-hour long flamenco shows at 7:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.

A small, intimate setting, any performance at Casa de la Guitarra will send chills up and down your spine; it’s undeniably one of the best places to catch a flamenco show in Seville. You can make an advance reservation online here.

A crowd at El Rinconcillo bar in Seville, Spain

6. El Rinconcillo

While it isn’t necessarily a hidden gem, El Rinconcillo is a local favorite amongst Sevillanos and is known as the city’s oldest tapas bar.

Founded in 1670, El Rinconcillo has survived for hundreds of years, upholding a centuries-old Spanish tradition of serving flavorful tapas and delectable wines.

When visiting El Rinconcillo, be sure to try their homemade croquettes, tortilla española (an egg and potato dish), and solomillo ibérico (Iberian tenderloin).

A vendor with Historic Thursday Market wares laid out

7. Historic Thursday Market

One of the quirkiest experiences to be had in Seville, the Historic Thursday Market, or Mercadillo Historico del Jueves, has been around since the 13th century and is known as the city’s oldest flea market. Located on Calle Feria, the Historic Thursday Market is only open on Thursdays from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., and it’s best to arrive early in the morning.

Browsing through this gigantic flea market, visitors will find every type of knick-knack they can imagine, from old records and vintage clothing to watches, cameras, old telephones, religious images, telescopes, jewelry, and so much more.

Whether or not you buy anything at the Historic Thursday Market, the true appeal comes from the sheer uniqueness of the items on sale.

A plaza and geodome on the Expo ’92 Grounds in Seville, Spain

8. Expo ’92 Grounds

If you spend enough time mingling with locals in Seville, you won’t want to miss the city’s famed Expo ’92.

Expo ’92 opened in April of the same year at La Isla de La Cartuja, and during the first six months it was open, saw more than 41 million visitors. The expo’s theme was “The Age of Discovery,” and it celebrated the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus reaching the Americas.

Some of the world’s leading architects worked together to create the structures and buildings for the expo, many of which still remain. The goal was to “celebrate the modern age and offer blueprints for the future,” according to CNN.

Today, visitors can wander through the grounds of Expo ’92 and gaze upon the eerie remains of this prominent Seville event.

Did you know Seville is one of the 11 best European cities for women traveling solo. See which others made the list!

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