Seville Travel Guide – Top 10 Vacation Highlights

The capital of Spain’s Andalusia region, Seville boasts a quixotic quality that travelers yearn for most: atmosphere. The Spanish city offers a lively and dazzling mix of Mudejar, Gothic, Renaissance and Modern architecture, while its people have a lust for life that makes a trip to Seville so memorable and unique. Seville has a great share of must-see attractions, the kind you’d be sorry to miss out on.
Seville Travel Guide
Table of Contents

Parque de Maria Luisa is Seville’s primary public park that stretches along the River Guadalquivir, close to the city center. Majority of the park grounds were part of the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo originally. The park is today popular for its large bird population that includes ducks, doves, swans and parrots. The ponds, statues and fountains dotting the park create a picturesque spot for relaxation.

Situated inside the Parque de Maria Luisa is Plaza de Espana. This series of buildings dates from 1914 and serves as a rare example of the Regionalist Revival architectural style that’s characterized by the use of local building materials. The structures today function as government offices.

Regarded as a premier example of Andalusian palace architecture, La Casa de Pilatos was designed in 1529. Highlights of the building include a 16th century marble gate, as well as a grand staircase that is ornamented with a Mudejar-style honeycomb ceiling.

Situated east of the Old City, Barrio Santa Cruz is a quarter bordered by the River Guadalquivir. The neighborhood is characterized by narrow, cobbled streets and alleyways, full of orange trees, small plazas and colorfully tiled patios, in addition to a wide assortment of tapas bars and restaurants. If you are looking to experience the ambience of a medieval Spanish city, Barrio Santa Cruz is it.

Torre Del Oro is a 13th century watchtower that’s situated close to the Guadalquivir River. This beautiful monument is today home to the very interesting Naval Museum of Seville.

Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is Seville’s medieval cathedral. When it was completed during the 16th century, Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede replaced the Hagia Sophia as the world’s largest cathedral. It remains Europe’s third-largest church and it’s biggest by volume. This mammoth Gothic cathedral boasts numerous artistic treasures.

The Alcazar is a complex of royal palaces, gardens and patios that dates from over 1,000 years ago. Built in the Mudejar architectural style, highlights of the Alcazar include its domed ceiling with a starry design, delicate arches and plasterwork.

An irresistible vitality bathes Seville with a warm and sunny glow. Whether you are swaying to the rhythmic tapping of the nail-capped shoes of a flamenco dancer, or dancing the night away in a modern disco, it’s difficult to sit still in such an engaging city. Seville, that’s what magical holidays are made of.

1. Triana

Triana is a neighborhood known as the old gypsy quarter of Seville. Famous for its narrow cobblestone streets, ceramic workshops, vibrant festivals and tapas bars that create a refreshing yet authentic atmosphere, Triana is different from the rest of Seville. Nothing beats getting lost inside the old quarter to unravel the real character of the beautiful city of Seville.

Some of the interesting parts of Triana include the Plaza Altozano, the Calle Castillo with its beautiful churches, as well as the quarter’s ceramic workshops. Ceramica Santa Ana is Triana’s most famous tile shop that was founded in 1870. The store sells reproduced ceramic ashtrays that date from the 16th century. Ceramics have been an important part of the industry of Triana since Roman times.

Go wander around town by day and take in the lively atmosphere of the old quarter’s bars and panoramic views of the Guadalquivir River by night. During the summer months, most of the nightlife of the city centers on Calle Betis, with its fine views of La Giralda and the Torre del Oro, and the rest of the city. There are also beautiful houses to admire here, along with bars and nightlife.

At one end of Calle Betis you will find bars populated by younger people, while the other end hosts some tapas bars and seafood restaurants. Also on Calle Betis are popular flamenco bars including El Rejoneo and Lo Nuestro. Traditionally a working class area, Triana is the spiritual heart of flamenco in Seville.

Also known as the Bridge of Triana, the Bridge of Isabel II is an iron bridge constructed in 1845 which stretches towards El Arenal. Also worth a peek is the Chapel of Carmen that is located at the end of the bridge and which was constructed in 1926.

Constructed between 1759 and 1815, the Fisherman’s Chapel houses important religious images including Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza de Triana and the Cristo de las Tres Caidas. Church of Santa Ana was founded during the 8th century and is Seville’s oldest Christian church.

Calle Pelay and Correa are white streets adorned with flowers that evoke a true feel of Triana. Calle Rodrigo Ana is a street that derives its name from the Andalusian navigator of the same name who first spoke about the “New World” in 1492.

Plaza Del Altozano has nice houses situated at the western most point of Bridge of Isabel II, which are surrounded by hills. Stop by Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporaneo, a contemporary art museum that showcases fascinating collections of art and photography.

2. Parque de Maria Luisa

Founded during the late 19th century, Parque de Maria Luisa is a leafy park in Seville that offers reprieve from the scorching Spanish sun during hot summers. All through the park are the magnificent buildings of Plaza de Espana that are worth a peek.

The big park is situated just south of the historic center of Seville and comprises the principal green area of the city. Parque de Maria Luisa is decorated delightfully with many ceramic-tiled benches, monuments, fountains, statues and pools. There is also a small mountain, the Monte Gurugu, which has an artificial waterfall, as well as a small island with gazebo.

Nonetheless, most tourists will often head over straight to the park’s star attraction, the Plaza de Espana, a majestic complex with a crescent shape, that’s arranged around a central square.

Created by a French landscape architect between 1911 and 1914, the park’s original design featured wide tree-shaded avenues with an abundance of monuments and fountains.

In 1929, Seville hosted the Ibero-American Exposition on the Parque de Maria Luisa grounds. This world Fair saw former Spanish colonies erecting beautiful pavilions, many of which remain standing to this day. Contrary to most world fairs, the 1929 exposition pavilions were designed for the long term with planning and construction starting almost 20 years prior to the launch of the exposition.

As such, a large number of these magnificent pavilions have been preserved and are today used as cultural institutions, museums, offices and consulates. These buildings have been grouped around 2 plazas: the Plaza de America and the Plaza de Espana. Both plazas were designed in a mix of architectural styles.

Plaza de America comprises a beautiful square with a central pond and flowerbeds, around which 3 former pavilions are arranged. Every building boasts a different architectural style.

Bordering the north of the plaza is a small Royal Pavilion designed in the flamboyant Gothic architectural style. Framing the plaza to the east and the west are the Renaissance-style Pavilion of Fine Arts that today serves as the Archaeological Museum; and the Mudejar Pavilion that today serves as the Museum of Andalusian Folk Arts.

The magnificent Plaza de Espana was the centerpiece of the 1929 Exposition and features an impressive complex arranged around the central plaza. Ceramic tiled bridges cross a small canal separating the plaza from the large brick building.

Plaza de Espana is today characterized by a harmonious complex in the typical regional revival style that was popular at the time of its construction. The red brick structure is decorated in colorfully painted ceramic tiles.

At each end are two tall towers that are connected to a central structure by a long colonnaded gallery. It features a curved façade that follows the contours of a semi-circular plaza with its large central fountain. Surrounding the Plaza is a canal, while beautiful bridges adorned with ceramic tiles connect it with a wide promenade that stretches along the front of the building.

The complex is decorated in azulejos or painted ceramic tiles that are very popular in Seville and which can be found all over the city. The façade of the building as well as the bridges and row of streetlamps are decorated in the colorful azulejos.

However, the showpiece is the series of 58 benches covered in azulejo panels and lining the main structure’s façade. These benches depict allegorical paintings that represent the provinces of Spain.

3. Museo de Bellas Artes

One of the finest art museums in Spain, Museo de Bellas Artes features an artwork collection from the Middle Ages to the modern with a focus on Spanish masters like Velazquez and Murillo.

The Museo is housed in a restored former monastery in Seville, the Convento de la Merced Calzada, which belonged to the wealthy Order of Merced. During the 19th century, the friars were expelled from this monastery which was in 1852 converted into a museum.

Constructed between the years 1600 and 1612, the monastery is built around several courtyards including a main cloister Claustro Majoy; and another Claustro de los Bojes with its beautiful Tuscan arches; as well as a small yard, the Claustrilla.

The monastery façade is dominated by a central porch in the Baroque style which is adorned with spiral columns and a statue of Our Lady of Mercy that’s crowned with a broken pediment. Inside you will see a magnificent domed ceiling that was painted during the 18th century.

The museum boasts one of the largest collections of Spanish art, displaying paintings and sculptures mainly, from Spanish Masters like Velazquez and El Greco and covering the era from the medieval to the modern.

Special attention has been given to local artists from Seville including Murillo, de Vargas, Zurbaran and de Valdes Leal. The museum further has a great display of ceramic panels, a traditional Andalusian craft that had its heyday in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Museum highlights include the Murillo’s Virgin of the Napkin that dates from 1668; El Greco’s painting of Jorge Manuel, his son, from 1603; and a terracotta statue of St. Jerome by Pietro Torrigiano from 1528.

4. Italica

Situated in the Santiponce village, just a couple of miles north of Seville is Italica, the largest and most important ruins in the whole of Spain. Founded in 206 BC, Italica was named after settlers from Italy and showcases marvelous examples of Roman architecture, city layouts and mosaic work.

Italica’s massive amphitheater was one of the largest of the Roman Empire. Surrounded by a wooded park, this amphitheater is very impressive and in reasonably good condition. Go wandering through tunnels walked by gladiators and dens that housed lions. The theater had a capacity of 20,000 spectators seated on 3 tiers. At the center of the arena is a great pit that was covered by a wooden structure. The pit was used for sports featuring gladiators and wild animals.

The streets of Italica are characterized by their great width as well as original cobbles and remains. The street layout features a grid pattern that forms regular squares where private dwellings and public buildings once stood. Some of these buildings have been uncovered to reveal well-preserved intact mosaic floors.

Italica is distinguished into 2 zones, the vetus urbs or old city and the nova urbs or new city. The old city today rests deep underneath Santiponce, while the new city is on display for visitors in all its glory. Excavations of Italica began in 1781 and have continued since. It is believed that the ancient city is so massive that excavations can never be truly completed.

You can still see some of the aqueducts and underground drains of the city through grilles positioned at road intersections.

House of the Planetarium is one of the uncovered houses that features hexagonal mosaics depicting the 7 gods that gave their names to the 7 days of the week. The House of Birds has been partially restored to display what may have resembled the House of Neptune with its warm thermal baths.

Plan your visit to Seville in July when Italica comes to life while hosting the International Festival of Italica.

5. Basilica de la Macarena

Officially known as the Basilica de Santa Maria de la Esperanza Macarena, Basilica de la Macarena is a catholic church situated in Seville’s northern Macarena quarter. Construction of the structure was began in 1941 and completed in 1949 as the new home for “La Macarena,” Seville’s most valuable treasure.

The Basilica’s chapel and dressing room house the tableau of the high altar in the neo-Baroque style, as well as the Virgen de la Esperanza or Nuestra Senora de la Esperanza, the most revered image in Seville. This holy icon from the 17th century is commonly known as La Macarena by the locals and is the patron saint of matadors and a favorite of Spanish gypsies.

Positioned in a place of honor inside the Basilica, La Macarena, the beautiful Madonna statue, is dressed in magnificent robes and adorned in jewels, while 5 teardrops permanently run down her elegant cheeks. The most admired phenomenon in all of Andalusia, the much loved statue stands above the principal altar decorated in silver and gold.

Chapel Del Rosario is a chapel situated to the right of the high altar where an image of the Virgen Del Rosario with the Child Jesus is found. The image is taken out of the church every last Sunday of October in a multitudinous procession that stretches along the neighborhood streets.

Every Good Friday, the holiest day of the Semana Santa, the fraternity dedicated to La Macarena appears in procession, leading her image through the city streets in mourning for the death of her son.

There is a museum in the Basilica that exhibits saint equipage of La Macarena, along with pictures of saints which are carried by procession during the Holy Week.

During the 7 days before Easter, Seville’s streets are abuzz with many floats and processions culminating in the Good Friday La Macarena Procession, which is one of the most expressive of the entire Holy Week.

The celebration starts at midnight and goes on for another 12 hours. Massive crowds gather outside the old Macarena ramparts waiting for the Basilica door to open so they can greet their most venerated icon before following the procession through the city streets.

The Altar of the Hispanic World is the temple’s last tableau that features a painting of the Virgin of Guadeloupe among other images of the Virgin Mary from different South American countries.

The Basilica is also home to a treasury that displays rare ecclesiastical relics, which include the rich vestments of La Macarena, along with other lavish accoutrements from Semana Santa. The Basilica interior is adorned with interesting modern wall paintings while its chapel features a sculpture of Christ. Close to the Basilica are remains of defensive Moorish walls that once stood in protection of the city.

6. Barrio de Santa Cruz

With its narrow, winding cobbled streets and whitewashed houses, Barrio de Santa Cruz is the most delightful and picturesque part of the city of Seville. The area boasts a large number of attractions that you simply cannot afford to miss out on.

Situated close to the Alcazar, Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is Seville’s cathedral. The world’s largest gothic cathedral, Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is also the third largest cathedral in the world overall. Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the cathedral stands on the former site of an old mosque.

The Alcazar is a palace and garden complex that was built during the 14th century for the Muslim Moors when they still dominated most of Spain. Quite a treasure is its beautifully maintained gardens, ornate ceilings and patios.

Situated on Calle Aguilas, La Casa de Pilatos combines Mudejar architectural style with Italian style architecture to create a must-see Seville attraction.

Another fun thing to do while in Barrio de Santa Cruz is to go for tapas. The Barrio is home to several good tapas bars on the Calle Cueto y Cano, Calle Santa Maria la Blanca and Paseo de Catalina de Ribera.

Barrio de Santa Cruz also features several notable Flamenco bars. But if attending a Flamenco show is simply not enough for you, also stop by Museo del Baile Flamenco, the Flamenco museum to learn more about the most famous art form in Spain. A lot of emphasis here is on the dance’s visual side, with dazzling flamenco dresses dominating the proceedings.

7. El Arenal

El Arenal is a quarter in Seville that runs along the edge of the Guadalquivir River. Formerly the Port of Seville, El Arenal is today a quiet yet wonderful district to explore.

El Arenal offers great views along the river. You can go on a boat trip or take a pleasant stroll along the riverside to enjoy views of the Torre Del Oro, as well as Triana district situated on the other side of the river.

Torre Del Oro is a 13th century tower with 12 sides that was built during the Almohad dynasty to protect the port. Its circular top level was added during the 18th century. Later, the tower was used as a store for gold plundered from the Americas, hence its name “oro” which means gold in Spanish. Visitors to the tower can also enjoy exploring the small Museum of Naval History it houses.

If you are looking to indulge in some flamenco during your visit to Seville, then El Arenal is just the place to get your fix. Visit the Tablao El Arenal that’s situated near the bullring for some spectacular performances. And if the lovely flamenco dresses inspire you, there are plenty of shops selling them in the Centro District to the east of El Arenal.

Plaza de Cabildo is a small, secluded semi-circular square that is surrounded entirely by buildings. Buy some cookies and sit for a while as you marvel at just how quiet the little plaza manages to be, right in the middle of a bustling city.

Visitors can also admire the beautiful Baroque façade of the Hospital de la Caridad. Inside the hospital are a series of interesting paintings by Murillo.

Move a little further away from the river and you will arrive at Plaza Nueva. This is a busy and lively square bordered with attractive buildings including the town hall. The town hall comprises an attractive building from the 16th century in the Renaissance style on the side of Plaza de San Francisco and a simpler neo-Classical style on the side of Plaza Nueva.

At the Mercado de Artesanes, you can buy some locally made handicrafts that make for great souvenirs or gift items. You can also visit the Arenal market to purchase some fresh fish and seafood, meats, flowers, fruits and vegetables.

8. La Casa de Pilatos

Known officially as the Royal Ducal House of Medinaceli, the magnificent Casa de Pilatos is one of Seville’s most intriguing buildings that was built during the 16th century in a blend of Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance styles.

Its marvelous Renaissance influences were inspired by the 16th century architecture of European cities such as Florence, Venice and Rome. The completed palace soon became the showcase of Renaissance architecture with its ideas having a large impact on Seville’s architectural scene.

The name La Casa de Pilatos derives from the first Marquis of Tarifa who during a trip to Jerusalem found that the distance from a small temple in Cruz del Campo was exactly the same as the distance between Pontius Pilate’s former home and Golgotha, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Back home, the Marquis created a Way of the Cross with 12 stops along a path to the temple. People began to identify the palace with the House of Pilate and it became referred to as such over time. A number of palace rooms also bear names that refer to Pontius Pilate, including the Praetor’s Study and the Praetor’s Room.

The central courtyard or Patio Principal is the palace’s most famous section, whose construction began during the late 15th century. The current appearance of Patio Principal dates from the 16th century. Its design is influenced by Renaissance architecture. The walls feature intricate decorations in the Mudejar style, while the balconies feature beautiful Gothic balustrades.

The courtyard was transformed via the creation of balconies, the addition of classical columns and the placement of a marble Genoan fountain at its center. The 4 impressive Greek and Roman statues in each of the Patio Principal’s corners were added in 1539. Busts were also placed inside niches all over the courtyard around the same time.

The palace has 2 gardens. The big one was originally an orchard and is today lined with Italianesque loggias, whose insides feature niches with classical statues. There is also a small grotto at a corner of the garden. The small garden has a pond with a fountain that depicts a young Bacchus.

The palace interiors are splendid with their detailed Mudejar decorations featured throughout the walls. Some rooms including the Praetor’s Study and the Praetor’s Room showcase coffered ceilings that are elaborately decorated.

Its staircase is regarded as one of the most grand in the whole of Seville. This staircase connects the ground floor of the palace with the upper floor which houses a number of furniture rooms with art pieces from the Medinaceli collection. You can only visit the upper floor as part of a guided tour.

9. Real Alcazar

Real Alcazar is the Royal Palace of Seville, a magnificent complex of halls and patios in various architectural styles, from Gothic to Mudejar. This royal residence was constructed in 1364 at the former site of a Moorish palace.

Soon after the Almohades, a Moorish dynasty, took control of Seville in 1161, they began a building frenzy, constructing several baths, towers, a grand and lavish mosque and the Al-Mubarak, a fortress-like palace.

Following the reconquest of Moorish Spain in 1364 by Christians, the construction of a new palace was commissioned on the site of the Al-Mubarak, known as the Palacio Pedro I. Craftsmen from all over Andalusia designed its magnificent interior in the Mudejar architectural style, arranged around several patios.

In the years that followed, other monarchs continued to expand the palace, realizing a diverse complex of varying architectural styles. The Spanish royal family today still actively uses the palace’s top floor.

Visitors can access the palace through the Puerta Del Leon, a large gate set inside a large crenellated defensive wall that is adorned with azulejo ceramic tile work depicting a heraldic lion.

This gate leads up to the Lion’s Patio. Go further ahead and pass through a triple arch after which you will find the Patio de la Monteria, another courtyard. The patio is named after hunters who would meet with the King here before they went hunting.

The patio is bordered by the Palacio Pedro I, with its façade decorated in the Mudejar architectural style characterized by lobed arched windows and blind arches.

Once inside, you will arrive onto the main palace courtyard, the Patio de las Doncellas, which was the center of public life at Palacio Pedro I. The Patio was named after the ladies who spent a lot of their time here. From the Patio, you will arrive at a number of halls: the Hall of Charles V; the Hall of Kings; and the Salon de Embajadores.

The Salon was used to host ceremonial events and comprises the palatial complex’s most magnificent section. Go through archways that are intricately decorated with horseshoe arches into the hall that’s covered with a spectacular dome created in the Moorish style in 1389. The gilded dome is made out of interlaced wood. Just below this dome is a frieze featuring portraits of Spanish kings.

Patio de las Munecas, which leads up to the private halls and bedrooms was the center of private life within Palacio Pedro I. This small hall is encased in a gallery of lobed arches and marble columns. The name Patio de las Munecas is derived from 4 small heads decorating one of the arches.

Within the Salones de Carlos V you will find an architectural style that’s completely different, where the Gothic vaulted hall is adorned with azulejos and tapestries.

Located west of Patio de la Monteria is Cuarto Del Admirante, another interesting hall. It was in the Casa de la Contratacion that navigators and seafarers planned their journey to the Americas.

During your visit to the Real Alcazar, be sure to also tour the impressive royal gardens. This expansive area has been divided into several separate gardens, some of which are terraced, and laid out in a diversity of styles including Arab, Italian and French. The gardens have names such as the Garden of the Ladies, the Garden of the Prince and the Garden of the Dance.

Jardin Del Estanque is the first area you will come across. It is characterized by a large arch that overlooks a rectangular basin called the Pond of Mercury. At the center of this small pond is a small fountain with a statue of Mercury. The arch is connected to Galeria Del Grutesco that was once a part of the original Moorish palace.

From this pond, visitors can enjoy views over a walled-in section of the garden that is laid out in the formal style. To the right of this pond you will find several smaller terraced gardens, all of which are connected to each other using small staircases and gates. The gardens are decorated with grottos, fountains, a labyrinth and a small artificial mountain.

At the Garden of the Dance you will find benches covered in azulejo ceramic tiles. Inside Jardin de la Alcoba are several pavilions including the beautiful arcaded Pavilion of Carlos V.

10. Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede

Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede is the official name of the Seville Cathedral, one of the world’s most impressive and largest churches. Built on the grounds of an old great mosque, the cathedral’s interior features a spectacular altarpiece in gold.

The cathedral’s construction began during the early 15th century on the site of a Moorish mosque that was built during the late 12th century. This mosque was damaged by the 1356 earthquake and the Chapter decided to build a new grand cathedral in replacement in accordance with tradition.

Although most of the original mosque was collapsed by the earthquake, some of its parts survived including its minaret which today comprises the lower section of the Giralda, the famous bell tower of the cathedral, as well as the large courtyard of Patio de los Naranjos.

Construction of this new church began in 1402 and the structure was finished in 1517. Although, work on its interiors continued up to the early 20th century. One of the largest in the world, the cathedral boasts an enormous interior with 5 large naves.

The cathedral interior is spectacular with its many chapels, beautiful choir, stained glass windows and notable vaulted ceilings. Some of the notable chapels include the Chapel of St. Peter, the Royal Chapel that’s lavishly decorated, and the Chapel of St. Anthony that contains splendid Spanish paintings that date from the 16th century.

The cathedral’s most famous attractions include its dazzling gilded altarpiece. Several tombs are situated inside the crypt underneath the altar in which Castilian kings and queens from the 13th and 14th centuries were buried.

The museum of the cathedral is situated inside the main sacristy, where you can view some valuable paintings, along with a large silver monstrance.

The most stunning section of the interior is without doubt the golden Retablo Mayor, situated within the main chapel. The splendid masterpiece was designed from reliefs over a period of 44 years beginning in 1482. Finally in 1564, the altarpiece was completed. Large iron grilles were forged from 1518 – 1532 to keep visitors separate from the altarpiece.

The Retablo Mayor is the world’s largest altarpiece and consists of 36 gilded relief panels that depict scenes taken from the Old Testament as well as saints’ lives. Situated on the altar at the front of the gold wall is a statue of the cathedral’s patron saint, Santa Maria de la Sede.

Patio de los Naranjos was originally the previous mosque’s courtyard. Leading up to the patio is a big portal known as the Puerta Del Perdon that was built by the Moors during the 12th century. At the middle of this patio is a stone fountain dating back to the Roman or Visigoth period.

The Giralda Bell Tower is the crowning glory of this cathedral. Rising to 322 feet, the tower was built originally during the 12th century as a minaret for the mosque. Because this tower survived 14th century earthquakes unscathed, it was decided to keep it and convert it into the cathedral’s bell tower, by adding Christian symbols onto the spire.

In 1568, the bell tower was remodeled and its splendid Renaissance belfry added to give it is current appearance.

Access into the cathedral is via numerous impressive doors, the most famous of which is the Puerta de los Palos, situated close to the Giralda Tower. The door is adorned with 1520 reliefs that depict the Adoration of the Magi.

Another relief above Puerta de las Campanillas shows Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. Puerta de la Asuncion is the main portal of the cathedral which was constructed in 1833. The portal is adorned with saints’ statues, as well as a relief over the door that depicts the Assumption of the Virgin.