The capital of the southern Spanish region of Andalucia and one-time capital of the Moorish empire, Seville is a vibrant city with a fascinating cultural heritage emerging from foundation by the Romans, conquest by the Moors and subsequent rule by Spain.
The visual evidence is in the heady mix of Moorish, Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, best represented in the stunning Royal Alcazar Palace from where Christopher Columbus planned his voyage of discovery, and the enormous cathedral that houses his tomb.
Today the city, which sits astride the Guadalquivir River, is equally well known as a must-do destination for its world-class tapas and celebration of the flamenco.
It is impossible not to indulge the senses in Seville, first with the historic on the east bank of the Guadalquivir represented by wonderful buildings, and the narrow, cobbled streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, and later with the more bohemian Triana district on the west bank where you can catch some genuine flamenco and find Seville’s famous ceramics.
Must-sees include the World Heritage-listed 15th-century cathedral, built on the site of the former great mosque, and incorporating the La Giralda minaret, and the Moorish Royal Alcazar Palace built in the 14th century. It has a recent claim to fame as a set for the TV series Game of Thrones.
Not all the most striking structures have a long history – the Metropol Parasol in the heart of the city is a guaranteed “wow!”
Eat and Drink
Many believe that tapas was invented in Seville and if the sheer number of tapas bars is any guide there can be little argument. The current tally is more than 1000, so you will never be short of a place to eat.
If you prefer a slower pace, you will find plenty of restaurants offering full table service. For a touch of history with your tapas, try the 400-year-old El Rinconcillo (Calle Gerona 40), reputed to be the oldest tapas bar in Seville.
Wherever you eat, expect serrano and iberico ham, olives, tortillas, fried or marinated seafood. For an alternative to the ever-popular sangria, try tinto de verano, a mix of red wine and soda that is more popular with the locals.
Where to Stay
Seville is a genuinely popular tourist destination so you will find lots of places to stay. Just be aware that during the key festivals of Holy Week (Semana Santa), and the April Fair (Feria de Abril), rooms will be at a premium in terms of both availability and price. Booking well ahead will be essential.
There are good hotel and pension options in Barrio Santa Cruz within easy walking distance of the key central Seville attractions and the shopping district, and El Arenal. There are hotels, too, across the river in Triana, just a 10-minute walk from the historic centre.
Yes, you can find great high-street style shopping in Seville which has its share of shopping centres, department stores, and boutiques selling both international and Spanish fashion brands.
But for a more authentic shopping experience, think about the superb ceramics unique to Seville as well as other authentic handicrafts such as genuine mantillas, fans, jewellery and embroidery.
The commercial heart takes in the pedestrianised Calle Sierpes, Calle Cuna and Calle Tetuan south of Calle Martin Villa, but the best pottery is produced in the workshops of Triana on the other side of the river.
Seville Like a Local
Two tips to make your tapas indulgence more enjoyable. First, not all tapas is created equal. Tapa refers to the size of the dish rather than what’s on it and in many tapas bars you will have the choice of tapa (small serves), half racion (half a main serve), and racion – a full serve. Second, the Spanish eat late. Most tapas bars close up after late lunch until 8.30pm. Dinner rarely starts before 9.00pm.