Seville Travel Guide
Seville, the joyous ancient capital of Andalusia and birthplace of tapas, seduces the senses with a wealth of captivating sights, smells and experiences embodied in its ornately-tiled palaces, fragrant prolific citric trees and fascinating boundless history. This city oozes life with a cultural zest most manifest in the still-alive flamenco tradition as well as the happy nightly clamouring of locals in buzzing plazas and bars. As well as being famous across Spain for its top festivals, including the Semana Santa and Feria de Abril, Seville doesn’t leave the LGBT community wanting, offering an established pride festival, the ‘GuadalkiBear’ bear weekend and a formidable gay scene centred around Alameda de Hércules. Read our Seville guide for all the preeminent post-siesta tapas and sangria joints, hip lodging and off-the-rack fashions.
The best hotels in Seville
Located on a quiet street far from the buzz of Santa Cruz, Corral del Rey is a 17th Century palace turned boutique beauty. Adorned with bold patterned throws, pillows and artwork splashed over a backdrop of natural hues, this converted stay—comprising three separate spaces—is influenced by equal parts East Asia, Andalucía and Morocco. Offbeat offerings including two honesty bar areas, fan painting classes and sherry tastings. It’s onwards to 19th Century palace fashions at the Mercer Sevilla, with contrasting cutting-edge furnishings, clean lines and glass panels framing traditional, marble-encased interiors. As well as a modern rooftop bar, the hotel also offers an 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. International to the core yet still with local accents, rooms are inspired by bustling world cities with the option of a continental breakfast delivered direct to your room by smartly attired busboy.
Minutes from the city’s main attractions lies Hotel Casa 1800, an unexpected oasis decorated in an upscale mix of high-ceilinged wooden beams, period parquet flooring and crystal chandeliers in a relaxed, damask-draped atrium setting. While airy rooms with exposed brick walls and covetable Molton Brown toiletries are definite selling points, the complementary afternoon honesty bar really tops it off, hosted on the rooftop overlooking the iconic La Giralda.
While close ties to the past sing out from every crevice, Seville celebrates the present by way of exuberant annual celebrations and festivals
Things to do in Seville
Cliché or not, to fully appreciate this city, local landmark hopping is a must on every visitor’s list of what to do in Seville. 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, with adjoining majestic watchtower La Giralda, the massive 16th-century Cathedral houses a slew of ancient treasures, most notably, the rumoured resting place of Christopher Columbus.
Castillo San Jorge’s sinister past as a key location for the atrocities of the Spanish Inquisition is well documented in what is now an underground museum located on the former castle grounds, surrounded by typical Sevillano food market stalls.
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.
What to see in Seville
History buffs wanting to know what to do in Seville should discover the Archive de Indias, housed in the 16th Century renaissance era merchants’ exchange adjacent to the Seville cathedral and considered a World Heritage Site by your boy UNESCO. It’s what’s held inside that historians go crazy for, however, providing a unique chance to step through time with archival documents – including Christopher Columbus’s journal – which illustrates the history of the Spanish empire in the Americas and the Philippines.
La Casa de Pilatos, crudely anglicized as Pilate’s House, may not house royalty but is the finest example of a civil palace in Seville, designed in Italian Renaissance and Spanish Mudéjar styles and surrounded by pristine manicured gardens and grounds. As well as displaying the finest azulejo tiles in Seville, take a palatial to see dazzling decor, classical statues and 3D carved wooden ceilings.
Within the Plaza de la Encarnación, you’ll find the Metropol Parasol which, at 85 feet tall, claims to be the world’s largest wooden structure. Because of its cream-coloured exterior, rounded canopies and stalk-like supports, you’ll most likely hear locals referring to the construction as ‘las Setas’ (the mushrooms), but it was actually inspired by Seville Cathedral’s vaults. Wander its winding, open-air walkways, and you’ll catch some of the finest views in the city. Before heading back to ground level, enjoy views from the rooftop bar and a glass of ice-cold sangria if it takes your fancy.
The Santa Cruz district, a formerly Jewish enclave featuring tiny winding alleys, quaint lime-washed houses and intimate squares from a time gone by, is undoubtedly one of the loveliest areas in Seville and firmly established on the tourist track because of it. Don’t miss it for fear of crowds, as there are plenty of hiding spots and café retreats to keep the serenity. Foodies, put down this Seville guide and calmly make your way to the Triana Market. Housed on the site of an old castle a world away from the tourist-heavy streets across town, this food market is not just a joyful cacophony of fruit, veg and meat vendors plying their wares with winning Andalusian flair, it’s also an opportunity to glimpse into the ultra-social Andalusian lifestyle, by people-watching and sherry drinking at one of the superb little tapas joints around the perimeter.
Take it easy on your Wednesday night party because you’re going to want to wake up early for our next Seville points of interest. Open on Thursday mornings only, hoarder’s paradise El Jueves is Seville’s largest and most colourful flea market where cheeky Andalusian vendors have been manning antique and vintage stalls for as long as any local cares to remember. Selling flamenco dresses, ornaments, sculptures, plants, birdcages, books, or really anything, El Jueves is a true treasure trove of delights not easily processed by two eyes alone, and certainly worth a visit even if you don’t buy anything.
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
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 sites worth a mention include 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. Meanwhile, with edgy interiors softened by shelves of potted plants and a legacy of successful tastemakers, Casaplata is making 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 includes the welcoming vibes of tapas bar Petite Comité, the hospitality, generous portions and slow food sharing ethos at con Tenedor and the flavour-packed no-nonsense menu offerings and homey appeal of the La Azotea chain of eateries. A duo of food markets also meriting mention are Lonja de la Feria, a state-of-the-art food court offering artisanal tapas, ingeniously stationed in an 18th Century marketplace and the Mercado Lonja del Barranco, a riverside former fish market designed by the Gustave Eiffel designed (yes, he of Paris tower fame), now serving traditional favourites indoors or out.
Famed for its laidback hospitality, it’s only natural that a coffee house or two would make the list of what to do 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.
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.
Seville gets her energy from the lively locals that gather for drinks, discussion and, occasionally, dance every night of the week
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. Surprisingly it is the local hotels that 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 the most popular places to visit in Seville after-dark 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 Rampante, a 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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Corral del Rey | Photo: Tim Evan-Cook
Casaplata | Photo: Juan Delgado
Torres y García
El Pintón | Photo: Juan Delgado