Travel Garden's Guide to Sevilla
Sevilla is a city that feels like home even though I’ve never lived there. The first time I went was with my family when they came to see me during my study abroad program in Spain, and I fell in love with it. Luckily I had the chance to visit many more times when my partner Austin moved there to teach English for a year while I was living in a different part of Spain (Bilbao) and then Portugal (Lagos). As the third largest city in Spain and the capital of Andalucía, Sevilla has a lot to offer without the sometimes overwhelming crowds of Madrid and Barcelona. There's no shortage of things to do, see, and eat in Sevilla. Here are some of my favorites.
Admire Plaza de España
Plaza de España is my favorite tourist attraction in Sevilla because it's gorgeous and it's free. Also known as "the Venice of Sevilla", it's a large, semi-circular plaza in a garden setting. It's surrounded by impressive buildings inspired by a variety of architectural styles (Moorish, Renaissance, Baroque, Art-Deco).
The perimeter of the buildings feature 48 alcoves for the 48 provinces of Spain, each decorated with colorful azulejos (painted ceramic tiles) with maps and other images to represent their respective provinces.
I studied in the province of Murcia, so I took a picture with the Murcia bench during my first visit to Sevilla and another on my second trip a couple of years later
The buildings are accessible by crossing a moat on one of four bridges representing the four kingdoms of Spain. You can also spend 45 minutes rowing a boat around the canal for only 5 euros.
This stunning landmark has a cinematic history as well. It was featured as the city of Theed on the planet Naboo in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and in other films such as Lawrence of Arabia.
Plaza de España as Naboo in Star Wars Episode II
Drink a caña en La Alameda
La Alameda de Hércules is a large plaza bordered with an eclectic combination of student bars, traditional restaurants, and craft breweries. Named for the the towering sculptures of the mythic hero guarding it, La Alameda is popular with Sevillanos of all ages. It's the best place in Sevilla to have una caña (a small beer) and people watch.
Maquila is a hipster brewery next to the plaza that has some excellent craft beers and tapas. For cocktails, Gigante is a good option. Los Leones is a classic casual Spanish spot in the middle of La Alameda, and if you're looking for a nice place to get a coffee, check out Cafe Piola.
Photo from the Sevilla Tourism website
Visit the Real Alcázar
The compound of the Real (royal) Alcázar is a sight to behold. It was founded in the early Middle-Ages and contains buildings of various styles from different periods throughout its history. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1987.
Comprised of a series of gardens, patios, and ornate buildings, the Alcázar is reminiscent of Granada's Alhambra, but on a smaller scale (both the size of the compound and the size of the crowds).
Some of the expansive gardens
Like Alhambra, the Alcázar of Sevilla contains an incredible mixture of Christian and Muslim art that transports visitors to another century.
The Alcázar is another landmark that has drawn the attention of the entertainment industry; it's been featured in productions such as The Kingdom of Heaven and Game of Thrones.
Skip the line by getting tickets in advance, and budget at least two hours (preferably three) to take in all of the sprawling palace.
Eat your weight in Tapas
Sevilla is one of my favorite food cities. It has a rich tapas culture and a refreshing culinary scene that combines Andalucían tradition and modern concepts to create some amazing food. My favorite restaurant in Sevilla is Al Aljibe, located in La Alameda de Hércules. It has a charming garden and some incredible tapas.
Tartar de atún con láminas de aguacate, mahonesade soja y tostas (translation: Tuna tartar with avocado avocado, soy mayonnaise and toast) Photo from Al Alijibe website
Al Aljibe's menu has classics like the house morcilla (Spanish blood pudding) croquetas, and more contemporary dishes like ox carpaccio with mustard green ice cream and parmesan cheese.
Croquetas de morcilla casera. Photo from Al Alijibe website
Also in La Alameda is Dúo Tapas, an amazing Spanish and Japanese fusion restaurant. Another one of our favorites is El Pimentón, a traditional restaurant with a homey vibe close to Sevilla's cathedral.
Explore the Jewish Quarter
Santa Cruz, the former Jewish district, is the primary tourist neighborhood of Sevilla. Here you'll find some of the most important tourist attractions such as the Alcázar and the cathedral, but it's worth a wander for its own sake as well.
Photo © Irina Sen/Shutterstock
Getting lost in the narrow cobblestone streets of Santa Cruz is a great way to spend an afternoon. You'll be rewarded with hidden plazas, gardens, museums, and restaurants for every budget. Take a guided tour of the neighborhood to learn about its rich history.
Botellón by the River
If you really want to party like a local, grab your drink of choice (or pack a picnic) and head to the shores of the río Guadalquivir. You'll find a vibrant scene of young Sevillanos enjoying some pre-drinks and fresh air. This Spanish tradition is called botellón, and it's a great way to save some money on drinks and enjoy the sunny Andalucían weather. Just don't swim in the river.
Ascend la Catedral
Another of Sevilla's UNESCO world heritage sites is Santa Maria de la Sede, the largest gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world.
According to legend, city leaders wanted to "construct a church so large future generations will think we were mad", and I believe it. Construction on the cathedral started in 491, and today it towers over the over Sevilla's old Jewish District with its dramatic gothic architecture.
I personally think the outside is the most beautiful, but the inside is spectacular as well. The most worthwhile part of the visit is climbing the bell tower (la Giralda) for some spectacular city views.
A view of Sevilla from the Giralda
Book a private tour of the cathedral and the Alcázar here.
Walk around Triana
Triana is the neighborhood on the opposite side of the river from all of Sevilla's main tourist attractions. It prides itself on having its own identity seperate from Sevilla. It's a lively and colorful area with beautiful tile work and a unique tradition.
The bridge connecting Triana to the rest of Sevilla Discover Las Setas
The Metropol Parasol, known to locals as Las Setas (the mushrooms) is a massive cloud-like sculpture in the middle of Sevilla’s Plaza de la Encarnación. It's one of the largest wooden structures in the world.
At night it's beautifully lit up with different colors, and during the day it offers shaded areas to hang out – an important function in one of Europe’s hottest cities.
Photos from the offical website of Las Setas de la Encarnación
The unique artwork consists of four levels; at level 0 is the Antiquarium, a collection of Roman and Moorish remains. At street level is Sevilla’s Central Market, with restaurants and food stalls selling local goods. The top two levels are panoramic terraces containing concert venues, tapas bars, and some incredible views of the city.
Catch a Flamenco Show
If you're interested in seeing Flamenco during your trip to Spain, Sevilla is the place to do it. It originated in Andalucía when Spain was under Arab domination and evolved into an icon of Spanish culture. There's no shortage of places to catch a show in Sevilla, but Flamenco is best enjoyed in an intimate venue with close friends and a good vino tinto (red wine).
Photo from el Museo del Baile Flamenco
If you're interested in learning more about the history of Flamenco, consider a visit to the Museo del Baile Flamenco (The Museum of Flamenco Dance). Their website is also a good resource for finding information on events around the city.
Where to Stay
For budget accomodation, I recommend Oasis Backpackers Palace. The location is amazing, the rooms are nice, and there's a great rooftop terrace with a pool and a view of the cathedral.
There's also a bar/restaurant on the roof where we got a generous portion of paella for 5 euros and free welcome sangria.
Eating our 5 euro paella on the roof of Oasis Backpacker's Palace
If hostels aren't your thing, another budget-friendly option is Airbnb. It's quite prolific at this point, but if you haven't heard of Airbnb, it's a service that allows you to rent accommodation from locals. You can get anything from a private room in a shared apartment to an entire house to yourself, usually for less than the price of the average hotel. I recommend staying near La Alameda de Hércules.
If you're new to Airbnb, sign up with my link to get a discount on your first booking.
Have you been to Sevilla? Are you planning a trip soon? Tell me in the comments! Back to Blog Home
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