Founded several centuries B.C. in a small island that existed in the Guadalquivir river and conquered by the Romans in 206 AD Julius Caesar named the city Hispalis, becoming the largest in Hispania (Spain) and with a similar appearance to what Rome was then (there was a wall around it) it was considered one of the most important cities in the world. Today Seville is the most important city of Andalucia and its old quarter is the largest in the country. This said, Seville is actually very easy to visit on foot, and is in fact the best way in my opinion.
With many hotels to choose from, we took the opportunity to stay in two different accommodation options: we spent the first night in an apartment in the Barrio de Santa Cruz, and the second night in a larger hotel, Hotel NH Convenciones. Both excellent choices, each with it’s own peculiarities that will have some like one more than the other. In any case both are within walking distance of all the places to see and things to do in Seville making them ideal.
While visiting Seville is very easy once you have a city map, we began our first day’s visit with a quick tour on a Hop On- Hop Off bus to get an overview of what the city has to offer and visit the places that were furthest away from the city center. This turned out to be a great idea because as we learned from it the best of Seville is in the city center, and the few attractions it has in the outskirts are certainly not as relevant to the visitor. So what are the best attractions in Seville?
The Torre del Oro
Built by the Arabs between 1220 and 1221 and probably known then as Bury al-dahab it hosts the Naval Museum of Seville and has been renovated several times.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria
Construction began in 1401 and lasted until 1433, and holds a few records. It was built on the same large, rectangular base-plan of the Almohad Mosque it replaced, but the Christian architects added an extra dimension of height. The result is an astonishingly large building that breaks several size records: Measured by area, Seville Cathedral is the third largest in Europe after after St. Paul’s Cathedral in London and St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, but measured by volume, it surpasses them both. It holds the bodies of Christopher Columbus and king Fernando III of Castile.
The Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral, hovering over the city and it served for several purposes throughout history including religious calls,it served as a home for those in charge of managing it, as a clock, a wind vane and as a light source of the city. The Giralda tower was originally a Minaret, constructed by the Moors between 1184 and 1197 up to 76 m. in height. After the reconquest in 1568 the Christians fitted the minaret with the bell tower, reaching a total height of almost 100 m. Entrance fee is 7.5€
With so many tapas bars to choose from and at very good rates it is very much mandatory to indulge in some local flavors, including jamon serrano, sobrasada, chorizo and more. More often than not the tapas bars are a piece of art themselves, with traditional decorations that are sometimes original and more than one hundred years old.
The Metropol Parasol
This primarily wooden building located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville, Spain. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann and completed in April 2011. It has dimensions of 150 by 70 m and an approximate height of 26 m and claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Its appearance, location, and delays and cost overruns in construction resulted in much public controversy, and not without reason- just check the pictures. The entrance fee is 1.2€
Flamenco Music and Dancing
This genre of Spanish music is typical from the gypsies and plaid mostly in Andalucia. Flamenco has its own guitar rythms, dances and hand beats, becoming almost a culture in its own- many people take this for granted. There are several show to attend in the city, and cost around 60€ per person on average. The area known as Triana is home to the flamenco culture in Seville, but most of the best shows to be found now are in the Barrio of Santa Cruz. This area is itself one you must not miss and walk at your leisure.
Barrio de Santa Cruz
Without a doubt walking along the winding cobbled streets of this neighborhood is one of the best things you can do in Seville, and certainly a must. It was formerly the Jewish quarter; some of the churches were originally synagogues. There are, predictably, many tourist shops selling typical tourist fare such as inferior quality tiles, flamenco dress-style aprons and T-shirts, but there are also some individual, interesting artisan stores well worth a stop. You will also find quite a few great hostels in Seville and this area is smack in the middle of everything. Chances are you might get lost for a few minutes when walking through it, yet if you do do not worry and admire the colonial architecture that surrounds you as very soon you’ll find a street with many people and a tapas bar to take a break in.
Vibrant, rich in culture and with many unique attractions the best things to do in Seville will take you a day or two, but if you want to take it slow here is a 3 day Seville itinerary and here is a more comprehensive guide to Seville. Easily reachable from Madrid via a high speed train or with low cost flights from other cities it is perhaps one of the most interesting destinations for the cultural visitor in Spain, and one I highly recommend.