IMG_5019 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
Seville’s landmark Fuente de la Farola and Cathedral at sundown

Seville wasn’t always on the agenda for our October trip, but we’re glad we added it!

IMG_5041 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
Strolling Barrio Santa Cruz, also known as Seville’s Jewish Quarter. Seville’s Jewish population lived peacefully with the Moors. Until the Catholics showed up . . . and the Inquisition.

We’d only just gotten started on our latest Spain explorations, but Seville made a huge impression on us. It’s a city where centuries of history are so palpable, they can be seen, felt, and heard on every corner. Seville is probably best known as the birthplace of flamenco, that dance form that never fails to move us to our core. But Seville is also home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, a fabulous royal palace, and many other gorgeous buildings both ancient and modern.  Oh, and some of the best tapas and Spanish cuisine that we have sampled, thus far.

Seville factoids:

Seville is the capital of Spain’s Andalusia autonomous community. And it’s the only river port in Spain, connected to the Atlantic by an 80-km stretch of the Guadalquivir river.

Seville’s human footprint dates back to the 8th century BC (!). Over more than two millennia, the region has been the home of Phoenicians, Tartessians, Romans, Moors, and the Kingdom of Spain (with a few Germanic tribes and Vikings shaking things up along the way).

qgrv0dy8k5u61 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
We saw this symbol everywhere in Seville. Dating back many centuries, t’s the city motto and means “NO me ha dejaDO, or “(Seville) has not abandoned me.” There’s lots more about the motto’s history here.

A UNESCO World Heritage site within Seville’s historic center consists of three buildings: the Cathedral, the Royal Alcázar palace complex, and the General Archive of the Indies – a repository of priceless archival documents laying out the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and Asia.

On our travels in Portugal and Spain last October, we took the advice of good friends who live on the eastern side of Portugal’s Algarve, right on the border with Spain. “You’re so close to Seville, you really must fit in a visit there,” they said. And so, we added four nights in Seville to our itinerary. Here are our highlights from that lightning visit. Note: Some of the photos are in galleries; just click on the first to click through larger versions of each.)

Tour the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda

The Seville Cathedral (aka The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See) is not just the largest Gothic church in the world, but it’s also one of the largest houses of worship ever built. The Catholic church operated in a former mosque on the site for more than two centuries, until work on the current structure began in 1401. It was finally completed more than a century later.

The most prominent remnant of the former mosque is La Giralda, the cathedral’s monumental bell tower. With segments dating back to 1184, La Giralda was once the minaret for calling devout Muslims to worship before the whole complex was converted for operation as a Catholic church.

Tips: To see the Cathedral in its entirety and climb to the top of La Giralda, you have to buy tickets in advance. Here’s the official website with online ticketing options.  There are also a zillion tour companies out there who offer advance tour packages (here’s one example). If you run out of time to take a tour (like we did), you can still walk through the back of the cathedral from the entrances on the east and west sides.

Visit the Royal Tobacco Factory

We stumbled on this fantastic building on our first morning in Seville, while out on our recon walk. The Royal Tobacco Factory began producing snuff and cigars in 1758, and in its time was one of Europe’s largest (if not the largest) industrial buildings.

IMG_5051 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
Early-morning carriages promenading in front of the Royal Tobacco Factory

The factory became known for its all-female workforce, said to produce higher-quality cigars than those made by men. (Girl power!) These hard-working women were the inspiration for George Bizet’s opera Carmen, which is set in the Royal Tobacco Factory.

Since the 1950s, this splendid building has been occupied by the University of Seville. However, visitors can stroll through the public areas (at no charge) and view paintings honoring the women workers, old cigar-making machinery, and a sculpture gallery with beautiful reproductions of master works.

Experience the Royal Alcázar

No visit to Seville is complete without a tour of the Real Alcázar, Seville’s fantastic royal palace. The Alcázar dates back to the 10th century, when the Moors broke ground for a sprawling citadel/palace complex. Over the centuries, the palace was occupied by various Moorish and Spanish regimes and was continuously expanded and modified for each. As a result, the Alcázar is a fantastic blend of Moorish, Renaissance, and 19th-century architecture. To this day, the palace serves as the Seville residence for the Spanish royal family.

Tips: Unless you want to waste a lot of precious Seville-ing time standing in a LONG line, buy your Alcázar tickets in advance online – and buy them early if you’ll be there in peak tourist season. On the advice of friends, we bought tickets for the first entry in the morning and made sure to show up well in advance of the doors opening at 9:00 a.m. We had to stand in a queue for a half an hour, but were rewarded by a palace that was almost empty of tourists. (We did not purchase the audio tour, but will do so next time.) The gardens were not open the day we were there, which was a little disappointing. Next time (oh, yeah, there WILL be a next time for Seville!) we’ll make sure the gardens are open on the day we want to visit the Alcázar.

Stroll Through Plaza de España and Maria Luisa Park

A brand-new structure by Seville standards, the Plaza de España was completed in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair held in 1929. The building forms a gigantic half-circle with four bridges crossing an interior moat and surrounding a monumental fountain. Around the curved building you’ll find beautifully tiled alcoves paying tribute to each of Spain’s provinces.

Adjacent to the Plaza de España is Maria Luisa Park, another key player in the Iber-American Exposition. The park grounds were donated to the city of Seville in 1893 by the Infanta Luisa Fernanda, Duchess of Montpensier, for use as a public park.[The park was designed in a “Moorish paradisical style,” filled with tiled fountains, pavilions, and other structures and graced with palms, orange trees, Mediterranean pines, and gorgeous flower beds.

IMG_5065 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
Seville’s landmark Plaza de España
IMG_8044 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
This alcove recognizes Alicante, one of our favorite places in Spain.
IMG_5069 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
Maria Luisa Park is a lovely place for a morning stroll.

Eat Tapas Galore

True confession: I am not an artichoke lover. (I know – pretty much everyone else in the world thinks I’m crazy!) But the artichoke tapa at Seville’s Bar Catedral almost made me a believer. And John – well, he was in artichoke heaven, so much so that we went back to Bar Catedral twice.

We’ve eaten a lot of tapas in our Spain travels, but none quite so amazing as those in Seville. It’s the perfect city to go tapas hopping from bar to bar (not that we did anything LIKE that – ha!). In addition to Bar Catedral, check out Bodeguita Romero and Restaurante El Cairo.

Enjoy Las Setas de Seville (The Mushrooms of Seville)

Not that type of mushroom! Las Setas de Seville is a modern architectural wonder in the heart of an ancient city. Designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer, Las Setas brings a decidedly quirky, contemporary edge to the Seville skyline. Las Setas is billed as the world’s largest wooden structure, constructed with 3,500 cubic meters of micro-laminated pine from Finland. (The Las Setas organization assures visitors that this was a sustainable project, stating that for every pine felled, a new tree was planted in the same forest.) 

Nighttime is a magical time to visit Las Setas. The rooftop walkway affords panoramic views of the Cathedral and other Seville landmarks, with the mushrooms’ five canopies shimmering with ever-changing colors. Also, be sure and check out the Antiquarium Museum, housing Seville’s most important archaeological site from the Roman period. The ruins were discovered when the current site of Las Setas was excavated in the 1990s for a previous project (work on that project was halted after the discovery).

Tips: Entry to Las Setas is 15 euros. It’s a good idea to buy your tickets in advance on the Las Setas website, especially during peak tourist season. Las Setas are open from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 a.m., and there are a couple of restaurants and snack shops on the premises.

Take in a Flamenco Show

There’s nothing more quintessentially Spanish, nor Sevillano, than flamenco. The roots of this passionate and expressive dance form reach back to the 1700s, when it emerged from the Gitano (Romani) subculture of  Andalusia.

Seville is filled with museums, theaters, and schools dedicated to flamenco. We couldn’t leave without seeing a performance, so we chose the Museo de Baile Flamenco – founded by flamenco legend Cristina Hoyos. In addition to the museum and live performances, the theater also offers classes for aspiring flamenco dancers. Here’s a short promotional video for the Museo de Baile Flamenco:

Tips: Tickets to the Museum’s Flamenco Dreams show are 25 euros (well worth it!) and include entrance to the museum as well as the performance. Show up at least an hour before the show to buy your tickets. That will give you time to tour the museum and will ensure that you can grab a good seat when the theater opens.

Other Tips

Avoid summer. Seville has become one of the hottest cities in Spain during the summer months, and also one of the most heavily touristed. We went in October and had near perfect weather (except for a bit of rain).

Take a walking tour. We really enjoyed the historical tour with Free Walking Tours Sevilla, and as usual discovered points of interest we would never have found on our own.

IMG_5010 Seville, Spain: An Unforgettable Four Days Seville Spain
The Plaza del Cabildo, an enchanting 18th-century structure that is tucked out of the way near the Cathedral. We would not have found this without the walking tour.

Lodging. We stayed in a fabulous apartment in Seville that ranks up there with our all-time favorite lodgings. The Genteel Home Tomás de Ibarra, located in a 19th-century apartment building, is quiet, comfortable, and beautifully appointed. And it’s located within a few minutes’ walk from the Cathedral, Royal Alcázar, Plaza de España, and many other historic sites.

Seville was the first stop in our return to Spain last October. Stay tuned for lots more!

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40 Comments

  1. I’ve always wanted to visit Seville, so I was really interested to read about your experiences. The city looks incredible and there’s more to it than I’d realised.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks for reading! We as well are captivated with Seville and can’t wait to go back. Four days is not nearly enough!

  2. Livia Quan Reply

    We visited Seville in 2016! This is a nice writeup and wish we had it before our visit – down to earth, informative and would leave us looking forward to our trip! BTW, we loved Seville too!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Livia! Hope you two have lots of fun travel in the books for this year. All the best from John and me!

  3. Definitely, do not visit Seville in the summer. We spent 5 days during the month of August, a few years ago, and the heat was suffocating. I think it was 103 pretty much every day. While standing in line for the Alcazar we were approached by a licensed guide, offering his service. We took a leap of faith and never looked back, he was personable, kind, and oh so knowledgeable. It made such a difference to have him guide us through. It’s a shame you missed the gardens, they were lovely. Seville is definitely worth a return visit, and I think I told you this but next time take the train to Cordoba and visit the grand mosque/cathedral. It’s like nothing you’ve ever seen.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Wow. That sounds pretty miserable. It’s exactly why we chose October for this Europe trip, and the weather was pretty great for the most part. The tour guide sounds great – we definitely need more of a guide next time we visit the Alcazar. And Cordoba is super-high on our Spain list! When’s your next trip to Europe?

  4. I just tried to leave a comment directly on your site, but I don’t think it went through, so I hope this isn’t a dupicate comment. I am saving this post, we will likely be in Seville this spring! Your love for Seville comes out in your words and has made me even more excited. And I love artichokes! 😊 Maggie

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Got it, Maggie! Glad the post might be helpful for your upcoming trip. Wish we could tag along! And yeah, I think I’m pretty much the only person on the planet who doesn’t love artichokes. It’s hard, but I’ve learned to live with it 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      You are so welcome, Muriel! Never say never 🙂 Have a lovely day.

  5. I last visited Seville in 2016, and it was a highlight of my trip throughout Andalusia! Such a gorgeous feast for the eyes and highly worth going. Glad you went!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Rebecca! Seville was a huge highlight of our October trip and we can’t wait to go back. Have a nice day!

  6. This sounds wonderful. I’ve hardly seen any of Spain, but for sure if I ever get there you’ve convinced me I must go to Seville.
    The photo of the plaza from the bridge is a beauty, and Las Setas is quite fabulous!
    Alison

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much, Alison! I really hope you both get to see Seville and lots more of Spain someday. Hugs!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      We can see why, Henry! Hope you’re well. Sending hugs from both of us.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Rebecca! I’m sure Las Setas has its charms during the day, but at night it was otherworldly. Hope you get to go to Seville soon!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Mel! We’re also feeling a strong pull back to Seville. Enjoy!

  7. Fabulous city, isn’t it guys, full of intrigue, romance and beauty. We absolutely loved Seville and would happily return in a heartbeat. Glad you loved it too.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Oooh, nice description of Seville! That pretty much sums it up. And we feel the same – can’t wait to go back.

  8. Fantastic tour of Seville! Spain is at the top of my hubby’s list of places to go so maybe this will help give him that extra nudge to book the tickets already 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Hubby, book those tickets! 🙂 Hope you can see Seville soon.

  9. Since the first time I first read about the Cathedral which used to be a mosque, my interest in seeing Seville only grows bigger. The juxtaposition of different architectural elements — Moorish and Gothic, old and new — looks really fascinating. And now you’ve given me yet another reason to visit this city: the great tapas!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Bama. We heard that story over and over throughout Spain – so many of the big Catholic monuments are built on top of mosques or other Muslim landmarks. It’s a bit like the cathedrals in Peru that were built on top of Inca temples. I don’t know why those religions couldn’t find a way to coexist. But I guess it’s just my “woke” perspective on world history – ha! And yes, the tapas in Seville were another level. So good!

  10. Aw Seville looks AMAZING and I’ve long been planning a trip. Your photos are beautiful and I LOVE the one of you with your wine glass in anticipation of your tapas 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Hannah! John still has dreams about those artichokes 🙂 Hope you can see Seville soon, but don’t go in summer!

  11. We’re going to spend the month of May in Sevilla. Your blog post will definitely go with us. It looks like we will be able to see the top of the Bell Tower from our apartment terrace so I hope that means we will be in a good location.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Yes, sounds like you chose a great location! I know you’ll enjoy Seville as much as we did. Bon voyage!

  12. Nancy Klein Reply

    Fantastic summary of many of the great things you can see and do in Seville. We made the mistake of going there in July and were shocked by how incredibly hot it was! Nonetheless, we still enjoyed the city, especially seeing the Alcazar (in the morning) and a Flamenco dancing show at night. We retreated to our hotel in the afternoon because it was too hot to be outside.

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      That sounds like a good way to still enjoy the city during the hot months. I think we’ll be dealing with more and more of those in the future. Thanks, Nancy!

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks so much for visiting our blog!

  13. Seville is such a beautiful city and it’s great that you were able to add it to your trip in October! You found some interesting places that I had no idea were there like the Royal Tobacco Factory. The tapas (and the cheesecake) from Seville were also highlights of my trip there almost 10 years ago. 🙂

    • John and Susan Pazera Reply

      Thanks, Becky! I’ll bet things were a little slower-paced 10 years ago. And sorry we missed that cheesecake! Next time 🙂 On another note, we’re enjoying your pics from New Zealand.

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