Aaah Seville… Capital of Andalusia The bluest sky, lush gardens and parks dotted with fountains and shady resting spots, gourmet tapas, striking Plaza de Espana. The Alcazar with it’s stunning mix of Moorish-Christian architecture. Seville’s famous bullring steeped in culture and history. Impromptu Flamenco street performers and all the delicious food we’ve come to expect all over Spain. In this post we talk about things to do in Seville that we enjoyed and recommend.
Founded by the Romans, sometimes it feels like everywhere we go in Europe was founded by the Romans! The Moorish period began in 1085 followed by the Almohads in the 12th Century. Castilla’s Fernando III captured Seville in 1248 bring 24,000 settlers to the city. By the 14th Century it was an important Castilian city. Each ruling group influenced the architecture of the city.
A significant development in Seville’s history was in 1492 when Columbus discovered the Americas. Shortly afterwards Seville was awarded the official monopoly on Spanish trade with the Americas. This led to rapid development as Seville became one of the biggest, wealthiest and most cosmopolitan cities on earth.
Hot days and late nights
We arrived in Seville from the Algarve and the temperature suddenly cranked up another notch. At 37 degrees it made sightseeing hard work at times, but there was so much to see in two days in Seville we were determined to persist. We’d get back to our campsite around 6pm and collapse into the pool for a couple of hours. It was far too hot to think about food until later. Since camping in the Algarve the kids switched to a European timetable, staying up late playing outside until after 10pm. The time at which it is finally cool enough to play football or go to the playground with your friends!
Here are 5 things to do in Seville that we recommend
The Alacazar of Seville
One of the oldest palaces in the world still in use, the Spanish royal family still use the upper levels as their official residence in Seville. It was built by Castilian Christians on the site of a Muslim residential fortress.
The palace buildings are rich with arches, Mudejar (Islamic – Christian) plasterwork, tiling, incredible ceilings… Everywhere you look is a feast for the eyes.
The palace also has stunning gardens, both formal style and more park like areas where you can seek some shade under the trees.
The Real Alcazar is considered by many to be the top thing to do in Seville. If your trip to Spain also includes Granada then it is likely that Spain’s number one tourist destination Alhambra will be on your must do list. And it should be! We visited Alhambra a few weeks after Alcazar, it was incredible, blog post on that coming later.
It’s possibly not necessary to visit both, but I’m a big fan of Moorish architecture, palaces, and gardens. For me I much prefer them to visiting cathedrals in every city. Alcazar is not very expensive, around 12.50 Euros when we visited and kids under 16 are 2 Euros. Book online on their own website, you will be given a time slot to enter. Only 750 visitors are allowed in at one time. If you don’t book a time slot you’ll have to queue for tickets and in the hot summer that is not fun!
Alternatively if tickets aren’t available you may be able to get Skip the Line tickets and guided tours from Get Your Guide.
Plaza de Espana
This plaza was designed and constructed for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair in 1929. It has since been featured in a number of movie scenes. It is on the edge of the Parque de Maria Luisa. The Parque is a great place for a stroll with shady paths and tiled benches.
All around the edge of the semi circle plaza are buildings, accessed by several bridges over the moat. You can rent boats to paddle around the moat.
This may not be the oldest or most culturally significant plaza in Spain but we thought it was stunning. The covered walkways mean you can walk right around the plaza enjoying the shade and the coolness of the stone.
Lingering at the plaza led us to our next fantastic find in Seville…
We came across a Flamenco dance, street performance. To our non-expert eyes and judging by the enthusiasm of the crowd it was a very good performance. Flamenco is famous for it’s passion, energy and soul, and this group had it all. Most exciting to watch is the lightening fast footwork, just when you think they must surely stop or slow down the dancer takes it up another notch to stamp an even faster rhythm and the guitarist keeps up.
In Granada we saw a Flamenco theatre performance showing several different styles, it was a wonderful experience but in its own way the street performance was just as good. These unexpected moments of travel create the best memories.
Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza
Spain’s oldest bullring, and it’s most famous. Matadors that fight here have made it to the top in this controversial sport. Bull fighting is a significant and important part of Spain’s history and culture. Attitudes towards bull fighting in Spain are changing with many Spanish now calling for bans on this cruel sport.
We would not see a bullfight. We don’t believe in the barbaric treatment of the bulls, but we were interested to visit the museum. Visiting this site you will leave more informed which is always good when forming an opinion about something. The tour helped us to understand more about bull fighting, and its influence on Spain and Seville’s culture. We learned about the history of bull fighting. The museum had a fascinating selection of art related to bull fighting as well as displays of matadors costumes. We then visited the preparation rooms, stables where the bulls were kept and finally the ring. It is certainly impressive and standing in the centre you can imagine the feeling of being surrounded by a huge roaring crowd.
Tours are conducted every half an hour or so by audio guide. One thing we found frustrating was that S was young enough to enter for free but they then refused to give her an audio guide because she didn’t have a paid ticket. This seemed pointless to me, after I complained they begrudgingly gave us one. We’ve encountered this a few times in Europe and it seems so silly. Kids can benefit from the information too, even better is a kids audio tour as we’ve had in some places.
Explore Barrio Santa Cruz
The old Jewish quarter of Seville, prior to the Spanish inquisition when Jews were expelled from Spain. Home to the Cathedral and the Real Alcazar this neighbourhood is now a popular tourist area in Seville. Narrow winding streets lead to orange tree lined squares. The area is packed with tapas bars, jamon hanging from the ceilings. As well as souviner shops and interesting boutiques.
We had lunch at Casa Tomate and enjoyed the goats cheese drizzled in honey.
More Things to do in Seville
The Cathedral of Seville. We didn’t go inside the Cathedral but it is one of Seville’s top sights alongside the Alcazar. It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world.
The 13th Century Torre del Oro (Golden Tower) is a recognisable landmark on the banks of the river.
A river cruise offers a different perspective on the city.
Camping in Seville
Seville is a tricky place to find a campsite close to the city. Most places didn’t have great reviews. We decided on Yelloh Village Donarrayan Park.. It was about 40 minutes drive so a bit further out than ideal but we found it manageable to drive in to Seville and find parking. We’d had good experiences at other Yelloh Village parks so it seemed worth the extra drive to have a good campsite. In particular the site had a fantastic pool with sandy ‘beach’ area. Much needed in the Seville heat. We were in Seville in late June, we already had temperatures in the high 30s, although it still cooled down at night. I don’t think it would be very pleasant to camp in Seville in the height of summer when temperatures regularly climb above 40.
To search and book accommodation in Seville visit Agoda.