All the Colors of Seville
Spectacular architecture, vibrant festivals and flamenco flamboyance; Seville has plenty of all this. There is the cathedral designed so that “those who see it built will say we’re mad”; there’s Plaza de España, created for the world expo in 1929; the Real Alcázar Royal Palace as seen in Game of Thrones. Add in private palaces, Moorish patios, Roman columns here and there, and a golden tower. See all this, and understand why the home of Carmen and Don Juan continues to attract visitors from around the world.
Go there first. This exquisite Mudejar palace, made by Moorish craftsmen under Christian rule, has fabulous patios and salons, and a pretty garden of pools, palms and pavilions. It's the oldest occupied palace in Europe - the King of Spain stays here when he visits Seville. While the Alcazar looks like a Moorish palace, many of its most beautiful rooms were built for the Christian king, Pedro the Cruel of Castile, in the 1360s. The king embarked upon a complete rebuilding and extending of the palace, employing the finest workmen from Granada and Toledo, and using fragments of earlier Moorish buildings in Seville, Cordoba and Valencia. Nowadays it gains modern-day fame having served as a set for the hit TV series Game of Thrones.
Patio de Banderas: alcazarsevilla.org
Cathedral and Giralda Tower
Seville's cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The basilica occupies the site of the great Aljama mosque, built in the late 12th century by the Almohads, the ruling Moorish dynasty, of which the only remaining parts are the Patio de Naranjas, and the Giralda tower, formerly the minaret, now the belltower. Inside the Cathedral, the tomb of Christopher Columbus is one of the main attractions. For the most classic view of Seville, you'll want to climb its most famous tower.
Avenida de la Constitución: www.catedraldesevilla.es/
Torre del Oro
The Torre del Oro (Golden Tower), dominates the banks of the river Guadalquivir, so you can’t miss it. It’s a remnant of the Moorish fortified walls which originally enclosed the city, with 166 towers and 15 gates. The watchtower’s iconic shape makes it one of Seville's best-known monuments. The tower dates from 1220; the 12-sided lower part was built in stone and was originally decorated with golden tiles, while the upper brick mini-tower was added in the 18th century. During the invasion of the Americas, stories say that the tower was used to house gold plundered from the Mayans and Incas; some say this is where its name originates, rather than from the tiles which covered its outside and flashed in the sun, looking like gold.
Paseo de Cristóbal Colón: www.visitasevilla.es/en
Casa de Pilatos
La Casa de Pilatos (Pilate's House) is the finest example of a civil (as opposed to royal) palace in Seville. The building is a mixture of Italian Renaissance and Spanish Mudéjar adorned with precious tiles, and has a magnificent patio and well-kept gardens. The coloured azulejos tiles are considered to be among the finest in Seville.
Plaza de Pilatos, 1 www.visitasevilla.es/en
Parque Maria Luisa/ Plaza de España
This massive building is Seville's most impressive building after the cathedral, for its sheer scale and grandeur, and you shouldn't miss it when visiting the city. The canal-cut and bridge-crossed plaza is bedecked in the vibrantly hued, locally made handiwork. Take special note of the scenes depicted along the square's perimeter, which represent provinces from across the country. Plaza de España was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929, along with many of the pavilions you can see in and around the Parque Maria Luisa. You can rent small boats to row in the canal - the Plaza is known as "the Venice of Seville". A major tourist attraction, it is the finishing point of horse-and-carriage rides.
Av de Isabel la Católica, inside Maria Luisa park: www.visitasevilla.es/en
For a different view, this tour shows you the skyline of Seville at sunset. After visiting rooftops and listening to stories that can only be understood from high up, the tour ends on top of the Metropol Parasol, also known as ‘the mushrooms’, where you end your day with a drink and another amazing view.
Andalucia Experiencias Tel +34 637822722: http://andaluciaexperiencias.com
Flamenco los Gallos
Los Gallos is one of Seville’s oldest tablaos and perhaps one of the best settings: a renovated historic home in the Plaza de Santa Cruz. The venue is small and elegant, and puts to use the rustic and traditional architecture of the original building as a backdrop for traditional flamenco performances. Los Gallos has and continues to attract some of the best talent on the flamenco circuit, providing a stage for recognized performers as well as new and promising talent. In over forty years the tablao has welcomed a long list of famous artists, so you are sure to see pure and traditional flamenco here.
Shows at 20.30h to 22.00h /22.30h to 00.00h Plaza de Santa Cruz, 11 Phone: +34 954 21 69 81 www.tablaolosgallos.com
A dark wood bar, hams dangling by the hoof, shelves of bottles up to the roof, walls tiled to the waist, and staff who chalk up your tapas tab. Founded in 1670, this is the oldest tavern in all of Spain, according to the family that’s owned it for a century and a half. It remains authentically atmospheric and curiously rough. There are formal dining areas upstairs but, for atmosphere, you’re better off downstairs, perched on a barrel, drinking sherry or wine.
Calle Gerona 40, Phone: +34 954 22 31 83 elrinconcillo.es
There are Tapas bars in every street in Seville, but this one is described by many as one of the best, with delicious dishes such as solomillo al whiskey (beef sirloin in whisky) and the divine pimientos del piquillo con musselina de bacalao (red peppers stuffed with cod), plus a good selection of sherries. There is a beautiful interior with a vaulted ceiling, while the tables outside have a view of the Giralda.
Mateos Gago 1 Phone: +34 954 22 82 50 cerveceriagiralda.com
There are many workshops and outlets that sell pots, plates, vases and ornaments in the traditional Triana style in this gypsy district, but particularly good is Ceramica Ruiz, at the northern end of Calle San Jorge, one of the neighbourhood’s principal streets. Not only does the shop sell everything tourists would like to buy, these are real tile makers, whose specialized ceramist also produces tiles in the styles and techniques of the old palaces of Seville.
Calle San Jorge, 27 Phone: +34 955 18 69 41 ceramicaruiz.es
El Corte Ingles
Spain’s biggest department store and the best place if you want to go shopping for brands of make-up, bags and clothes you might want to buy while travelling Europe. Their flagship stores are in Madrid and Barcelona, and offer duty free shopping and Alipay. The branches in Seville are smaller, but the one in the center has a great selection of flamenco fashion and accessories, as well as a Gourmet Experience, where you can buy all the food and wine products from Spain.
Plaza del Duque de la Victoria, 8 Phone: +34 954 597 000 www.elcorteingles.es
Hotel Alcora Sevilla is great for if you would like to stay in a quieter place, as it is located in San Juan de Aznalfarache, 10 minutes' drive from the old town. It offers a regular transfer service to Seville city center. The hotel feels like a resort, with big rooms, an outdoor pool and a 3,000m² terrace with wonderful city views. Some rooms have a balcony, free WiFi is available throughout and staff is very friendly. Excellent value for money.
41920 San Juan de Aznalfarache Phone: +34 954 34 96 00 www.hotelalcorasevilla.com
One of Spain's most prestigious hotels, Hotel Alfonso XIII - A Luxury Collection Hotel is located next to Seville’s Real Alcazares. The Alfonso XIII’s elegant design includes Arabic-style arches and ceramic tiles. Rooms are individually decorated.
Calle San Fernando, 2 Phone: +34 954 91 70 00 www.hotel-alfonsoxiii-seville.com
More on this topic: Many stories of Seville