Seville Travel Guide

Seville Travel Guide

Jessica Benavides Canepa

Seville, the vibrant ancient capital of Andalusia, seduces the senses with a wealth of captivating enchantments ranging from ornately-tiled landmarks to a fascinating, multi-faceted history to the fragrant citric trees sprouting from every corner. This city oozes life with a cultural zest most evident in a centuries-old flamenco tradition and in the happy nightly clamouring of locals on lively, colourful town squares.  

Unforgettable places to visit in Seville include the awe-striking interiors of the Moorish Alcázar palace, the grand beauty of the Gothic Cathedral or for curious exploration, the winding whitewashed streets of the arrestingly authentic Santa Cruz quarter. Aside from nostalgic charms, look a little closer, and this Spanish siren reveals a fresher face—one of ultra-mod eateries, hip stays and off-the-cuff fashions.

The best hotels in Seville

Located on a quiet street far from the buzz of neighbouring Santa Cruz, Corral del Rey is a 17th-century palace turned boutique beauty queen. Adorned with colourfully patterned throws, pillows and artwork splashed over a canvas of natural hues, this converted stay—comprising three separate spaces—is influenced by equal parts East Asia, Andalucía and Morocco. All 17 rooms are tastefully decorated in a neutral palette accented by embroidered rugs, plush pillows and colourful headboards. Offbeat offerings including two honesty bar areas, fan painting classes and sherry tastings make guests feel right at home.  

With cutting-edge furnishings framing traditional, marble-encased interiors of a onetime 19th-century palace, Mercer Sevilla boasts a triumphant marriage of old meets new. Though different in size and amenities, all 12 rooms feature ultra-comfort beds, high-tech charging stations and luxe bathrooms furnished with both a shower and stress-busting bathtub complete with soaking pillow. Public spaces celebrate the contrasting design mix with a clean-lined chandelier, glass panels and sleek Tribu lounge chairs on the rooftop terrace. This theme extends to the cuisine served in the earth-hued restaurant and lounge bar, decidedly Andalusian with modern flourishes.  

Situated on a quiet street a stone’s throw from the buzz-worthy Triana district’s waterfront action, Triana House is a six-room stay featuring a stylish, art deco face and sweet-smelling signature scent. The décor is fabulously monochrome with patterned floors and fabrics adorned with gold-gilded mirrors and complementing ceramics. Rooms, named after bustling world cities with corresponding artwork to match, are bursting with local character from the decorative china to artisanal tables. A nice touch is continental breakfast served in your room by a smartly attired waiter.  

Hotel Casa 1800 is an unexpected 33-room oasis minutes from the city’s main attractions. The décor is a sophisticated mix of high-ceilinged wood beams, period parquet flooring, wall etchings, crystal chandeliers and understated damasks in a relaxed atrium setting. Airy rooms are spaced over three floors and house canopy beds, exposed brick walls and upscale Molton Brown toiletries. Notable extras include a complementary afternoon honesty bar in the main patio and reach-out-and-touch-it rooftop views of the iconic La Giralda.

Photo: Bastiaan Ellen

Photo: Bastiaan Ellen

Where to eat in Seville

Powerhouse restaurant group Ovejas Negras Company is an authority on what’s piping hot (pun intended) in Seville and their latest venture, Filo, is no exception. A self-described fancy sandwich shop, this urban-cool eatery serves creative combos and bowls washed down with healthy sips. Older sibs worth a mention are the cool vibes of the tavern-turned-mod tapas eatery Mamarracha and the industrial sophisticate with meatier mains, Torres y Garcia. For an authentic tapas treat, make your way and likely wait in line at La Brunilda, a popular bistro-style joint serving creative takes on the classics.

With edgy interiors softened by shelves of potted plants and a legacy of successful tastemakers, Casaplata is poised to make its mark on Seville’s restaurant scene. Also worth a try is local favourite El Pintón, imagined by the same visionary architects, Lucas y Hernández-Gil.

Three can’t-miss mainstays lauded for their culinary contributions, and eye-pleasing décor include the welcoming vibes of tapas bar Petite Comité, the hospitality, generous portions and slow food sharing ethos at conTenedor and the flavour-packed no-nonsense menu offerings and homey appeal of the La Azotea chain of eateries.          

A duo of food markets meriting mention are Lonja de la Feria, a state-of-the-art food court offering artisanal tapas whilst ironically stationed in an 18th century marketplace and the Gustave Eiffel designed (yes, he of the Paris tower fame) Mercado Lonja del Barranco, a riverside former fish market now serving traditional favourites indoors or out.      

Famed for its laidback hospitality, it’s only natural that a coffee house culture would thrive in Seville. One of the original trendsetters is Virgin Coffee Sevilla, a teeny space fronting the quirky Metropol Parasol that serves premium roasts from around the world. For those preferring a sit-down break, Torch Coffee is an amiable java joint offering eco-sourced beans paired with delectable cakes and sweet treats. With its collection of board games, books and outdoor garden seating, El Viajero Sedentario in trendy Alameda de Hercules cheekily resembles an adult playground more than a cool spot for quality coffee and cake. And if artisan goodies tickle your fancy, try the homemade cookies and joe at Mama Inés, a zippy coffee shop and cocktail venue inside Mercado de Feria.

Mercer Hotel

Mercer Hotel

Things to do in Seville

Cliché or not, to fully appreciate this city, local landmark hopping is a must on every visitor’s what to do in Seville list. Topping the checklist is the opulent multi-cultural spaces inside the Real Alcázar, a fascinating, virtual time capsule of ruling kingdoms throughout the ages. Situated on the insta-ready Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, the massive 16th-century Catedral and adjoining majestic watchtower La Giralda houses a slew of ancient treasures, most notably, the rumoured resting place of Christopher Columbus. 

Castillo San Jorge’s sinister past as a central hub for the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition is well documented in the underground museum located on the former castle grounds, along with typical Sevillano food market stalls. Two lesser-known but equally stimulating sites are the miles of historical records accessible at the medieval Archivo de Las Indias and the Renaissance-era splendour of the 16th-century Casa de Pilatos Palace, arguably the best surviving example of an Andalusian noble’s residence.  

While close ties to the past sing out from every crevice, Seville celebrates the present by way of exuberant annual celebrations and festivals like the deliciously decadent Feria de Abril or more uniquely, through an impressive collection of unconventional voguish artwork. Gallery must-sees include C.A.A.C, a monastery-turned-museum/gallery at the edge of the Guadalquivir River exhibiting off-the-grid urban art and the Delimbo Gallery featuring a rotating collection of contemporary art in a stark, arch-infused space. Honourable mention goes to the Museo de Bellas Artes, host to some of the world’s finest Spanish masterworks (El Greco and Velazquez to name but two) in a stunning building full of cloisters and interior patios.

Once you’ve had your fill of indoor attractions, take it to the streets with the Metropol Parasol, a mushroom-shaped sculptural wonder that looks as out-of-place as it is beloved. Shop the whimsical structure’s food market for regional bites or venture up to the observation deck for panoramic views over the city. Notable visits include the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza for a glance at Spain’s oldest bullring or La Casa del Flamenco for frill-free shows imbibed with the spirit of gipsy dancers. For fresh perspectives of a different kind, visit the mystical Triana district for impromptu flamenco performances, tile shopping and an earthy, free-spirited vibe or the gay-friendly Alameda de Hercules—the bohemian heart of all the city’s hip happenings.

conTenedor

conTenedor

Shopping in Seville

With mild-ish weather that routinely turns scorching during the late summer months, natty gents expertly combine comfort and flair. Silbon offers casual menswear fashions with effortless elegance. For the sportier set not willing to sacrifice on style, El Ganso features a handful of unisex shops around town. Concept stores for creative one-stop shopping continue to be a hot ticket in Spain. Two of Seville’s best shopping emporiums specialise in waggish vintage goods—ranging from the homewares, artwork and his and hers threads found at Wabi Sabi to leading edge fashions, accessories and home decor, including the likes of Johnny Dee, Seiscentto and Flyhigh Eyewear, featured at the slick, contempo Julietta.

La Importada Shop and Gallery takes concept shopping a bit further afield—fixtures, pottery and wall décor for sale along with retro-fab clothing. For offbeat avant-garde interior furnishings that initiate conversation, visit Universo Eirín, a premier interior design showroom that works with the city’s most design-centric hotels, restos and residences. Speciality offerings of note include Bendita Luz’s organic skin products made with Seville’s most treasured natural bounty (to wit: oranges) and the artsy charm of Un Gato en Bicicleta, an intimate, white-bricked bookshop that doubles as a coffee break hangout and artist’s studio. 

Alcázar de Sevilla | Photo: Bastiaan Ellen

Alcázar de Sevilla | Photo: Bastiaan Ellen

Seville nightlife

Decidedly less boisterous than slick capital cities Madrid and Barcelona, Seville gets her energy from the lively locals that gather for drinks, discussion and, occasionally, dance every night of the week. Hotels, in particular, can provide a memorable night out in convivial surroundings. The swank Bar Americano in the 5-star Hotel Alfonso XIII is classic in both look and taste; signature cocktails are served by dapper barmen in a retro, blue velvet space trimmed in gold and adorned with old Hollywood portraits. In contrast, the posh Mercer Hotel’s intimate Fizz Bar features a modish décor and creative cocktails conceptualised by celebrated mixologist Diego Cabrera. If scenery is a must, mainstream stays EME Catedral and Doña Maria each boast rooftop bars with awe-striking views. 

One of Seville’s most popular after-dark hangouts is Le XIX, a cocktail and music venue that evokes the feel of a Modernist-era Barcelona via its industrial beams and walls splashed with period memorabilia. 1987 Bar is a boisterous hit amongst the dancing crowd enamoured with 1980’s pop culture. Gay bars, particularly in and about the trending Alameda de Hercules district, are chock-a-block with fun and fervour. Venues of decadent distinction include the all day, all-purpose Gigante Bar—where patrons are as comfortable brunching as they are sipping swigs come nightfall—, El Barón Rampantea whitewashed corner featuring music and alternative mayhem and the neon-hued Bohemia Bar, a joyous joint for bears over 40 and their curious cubs.

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