Seville is the capital city of the Andalusia region located in the south of Spain and one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in Spain. The stunning Moorish and Arab-influenced architecture, the seductive flamenco dancing, verdant parks and gardens, centuries-old palaces and churches, fabulous cuisine including authentic Spanish tapas, and a year-round warm climate make Seville an irresistible destination.
A long weekend, three to four days is ideal to discover the rich treasures of the city. Here are our top picks for best things to see and do restaurants and tapas bars, and places to stay during your visit.
Things To Do In Seville
There are many opulent churches and cathedrals to visit along with historic palaces with beautiful gardens.
One of the most spectacular cathedrals in the world, the Catedral de Sevilla is the largest Gothic cathedral in Spain and the fourth-largest in the world. Landmarked as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, the cathedral also encompasses the adjoining Alcazar Palace and the General Archives of India.
Built between 1402 and 1506, the cathedral was a symbol of the wealth of Seville, as it was a major trading center of Spain, and it replaced the existing mosque on the site. The sheer size of the cathedral is tremendous, measuring 385 feet long, 250 feet wide, and a soaring ceiling height of 130 feet with five aisles going across the width. La Giralda is the remaining bell tower from the original mosque constructed by Moorish rulers in the 12th century and the tower stands 905 feet high.
Recommended highlights of the cathedral include Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel), which features intricate wood carvings of Virgen de la Sede which is surrounded by 45 detailed depictions from the Life of the Virgin and the Life of Christ, the Sacristía Mayor, a chamber with a magnificent candelabra and crucifix by Dutch artist Pieter de Kempeneer and the Virgen de los Reyes crown decorated with precious stones, and the renaissance style Royal Chapel built in the mid-1500s, containing the royal tombs. Take a short break to visit the courtyard dotted with orange trees which also has an octagonal-shaped fountain first used for prayer in the Moorish period.
Royal Alcázar of Seville / Real Alcázar of Seville
The oldest palace in Europe, the Alcazar is still inhabited when the royal family visits Seville. Started as a Christian basilica in A.D. 913, over the centuries it housed the Spanish royal family. The construction of the palace spanned over five hundred years, combining various architectural styles including Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, and Muslim with Moorish and Arab influences. Mudejar art is also a major presence.
The sumptuous rooms of the palace are richly decorated with ceramic tiles and intricate geometric design fabrics. Adjoining palaces, rooms and other areas of interest include the tapestry room, the Grand Salon, the Courtyard of the Dolls, the Mudejar palace, the Gothic palace, the bedroom of the Moorish Kings, and the Admiral’s Room.
The upper levels, which are the current living quarters for the royal family visits, contain the family dining room, gala dining hall, Queen Isabella’s bedroom, meeting room of Catholic Monarchs, and last but not least, the king’s bathroom and toilet.
The multi-acre palace grounds have lush gardens, mosaic tile fountains, ponds, and flower beds.
Pro Tip: Take at least two hours to visit the palace and gardens to enjoy in their entirety. Admission to the palace is free on Monday.
Although it’s not a main attraction of Seville, the Flamenco Museum is absolutely worth a visit.
Founded by legendary flamenco dancer Cristina Hoyos in 2006, the 3-story museum is a former 18th-century palace. The main floor of the museum has the museum gift shop and a stage where daily flamenco dances are performed. The second floor has an interactive museum with the history and origins of the iconic dance, costumes, shoes, artifacts, posters, and memorabilia, and the third floor features temporary painting and drawing exhibitions of international artists.
The main floor stage offers flamenco performances, which are exclusively choreographed by Hoyos several times a day.
Pro Tip: The museum admission price doesn’t include tickets to the performances, which must be purchased separately.
Plaza De Toros / La Real Maestranza de Caballería
Bullfighting has been a major cultural event in Seville for many centuries and Sevillians love the sport of bullfighting as much as their soccer.
La Real Maestranza de Caballería is the largest and oldest bullfight ring in the world and in 2020, celebrated its 450th anniversary. If you want to experience a live bullfight, the season goes from late March/early April until the end of September.
The fascinating museum has rows of paintings of the most beloved and popular bullfighters, and a collection of objects including costumes, shoes, hats, and other significant artifacts. Close to the entrance of the ring are a series of sculptures of important figures in the history of bullfighting.
There are guided tours of the museum and the ring every 20 minutes.
Pro Tip: During bullfighting days the museum is open only until 3 p.m.
In direct architectural contrast to the Moorish palaces and buildings dating the 16th and 17th centuries in Seville, is the Metropol Parasol, which was conceived in 2011. Nicknamed the mushroom/Las Setas de la Encarnación because of its organic shape, Metropol Parasol was designed by German architect Jurgen Mayer and is the largest wooden structure in the world, measuring a whopping 490 by 230 feet, and 85 feet high.
Pro Tip: Make sure you climb to the top to see great views of the city and if you visit it at night, it’s dramatically lit up.
Plaza De Espana
Another glorious example of the Mudejar architecture and design is at the Plaza de Espana. The complex was specifically built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition (a world’s fair) of 1929. Art Deco is also incorporated in the mix of architecture in the original 48 pavilions still standing from the fair, and each one represents a different county of Spain.
An important factor of the fair was to show off the rich crafts of Spain at the time and the pavilions are lined with the richly illustrated ceramic tiles called azulejos. There’s also a moat with four bridges around the plaza. A fun activity is to take a boat ride in the moat.
Best Restaurants and Tapas Bars In Seville
You may be overwhelmed by the number of tapas bars and restaurants in Seville, but we have narrowed the list of great places, leaving the guesswork out.
One of the oldest tapas restaurants in Seville, Casa Morales has been serving classic tapas dishes since 1850 and miraculously is still family-owned. The menu features popular tapas such as potato tortilla, tuna solomillo with tomato and olive oil, grilled ham and artichokes, lomo en manteca (pork loin), artichoke ensaladilla with crabmeat, and fried salted cod. There’s also a bar and formal restaurant connected to Casa Morales.
A more contemporary take on tapas, Ovejas Negras is owned by two chefs who originally worked at the legendary El Bulli restaurant in southern Spain. Inventive dishes include a mini wok with chicken and locally sourced vegetables, pan sauteed duck livers, and New York-style cheesecake for dessert.
A popular favorite of locals, Abades Triana is located near the Guadalquivir River. It features a cool mix of traditional Andalusian cuisine and exciting modern-day flavors. The menu includes daring, eclectic dishes such as fresh tuna with scrambled eggs and truffles, Iberian pork cheeks cooked in bitter chocolate with grilled octopus, and duck with beet juice served with red fruit.
Pro Tip: Lunch is the main meal in Seville and most restaurants serve lunch between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Dinner is served after 8:30 p.m.
Best Hotels In Seville
Corral del Rey Hotel
Located on a narrow, calm street in the Barrio Alfalfa, the old quarter of Seville, Corral del Rey Hotel is an understated boutique hotel. At one time a 17th-century palace, the hotel was converted into 13 comfortably appointed suites and rooms, some of which have original wood carvings and Roman columns. The rooms feature dark hardwood floors, crisp white bed linens, stucco walls, and wood beams. Amenities include air conditioning, espresso machines, and turndown service.
During the warm weather months, the rooftop is open, and you can cool off in the plunge pool while enjoying a glass of wine or a cocktail.
Palacio de Villapanés
Palacio de Villapanes, a converted 18th-century palace, is now one of the top luxury boutique hotels in Seville and is part of the exclusive Small Luxury Hotels of the World consortium. The lobby area courtyard is lined with luscious plants, a black and white diamond pattern marble floor, and finely detailed, wrought iron gates and grills. Rooms are spacious and airy, ranging from 275 square feet for a Deluxe room up to 750 square feet for the suites. A complimentary drink, free shoe shining service, free mini-bar products, Molton Brown toiletries, and a jet shower head with three settings are just a few of the generous amenities. There’s also a wellness center with a steam bath, sauna, and massage and facial treatments. Chef Jorge Cortés combines a mélange of Mediterranean and Andalusian flavors, to create his exciting new cuisine.
Pro Tip: The most pleasant months to visit Seville are March until June and October and November. June, July, and August are intensely hot with temperatures averaging the low to mid-90s Fahrenheit during the day. I visited in late January, and it was jacket weather with temperatures in the low 60s Fahrenheit.
Andalusia is just one of the many regions in Spain popular with tourists and locals: