Seville is probably the most charming city in Spain. And its laid-back atmosphere, strongly contrasts with the hustle and bustle of Madrid and Barcelona. I love this city with all my heart and for many good reasons. The climate, the beautiful streets, the multitude of delicious tapas bars, the culture… Not to mention that its inhabitants are my favorite people in the whole world.
With a unique Moorish heritage, it should come as no surprise that Seville has its share of top notch attractions. The following is a subjective list of the places I consider a must see during a first time visit to Seville, complimented with some activities you should not miss.
Palace of the Countess de Lebrija
The Palace of the Countess of Lebrija is one of my favorite places in Seville, as it gathers one of the most impressive Roman mosaic collections in Spain. The beautiful Lebrija Palace dates back to the 15th century and it is organized around a typical Andalusian patio surrounded by elegant scalloped arches and alfiz of Arab influence. Many of the artifacts and mosaics which now decorate the palace, were rescued by the countess from the Roman city of Itaca, and this in itself, makes for a pretty special visit. Also the upper floor is beautifully furnished and worth having a look at, especially if decor and design are your cup of tea.
The Royal Alcazar
The Royal Alcazar of Seville is a place to fall in love with. Originally a Moorish fortress, it is now a huge royal palace with some of the most beautiful gardens I’ve ever seen. Built in the 10th century, it is one of the best remaining examples of Mudejar architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. All ceilings of the palace are breathtaking and heavily garnished, as are the walls, decorated with amazing tile patterns. The Alcazar’s gardens host an impressive array of fountains and sculptures, which guarantees a delightful and relaxing stroll. I advise to assign at least half a day to the gardens and the palace. This place is huge and dense, I tell you!
Plaza de España
Located in the Maria Luisa Park from Seville, this is the most impressive square I’ve seen in my life. It was built for the Expo back in 1929, and it was used as a movie set for Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Episode I and II. The Plaza de España complex is a huge half-circle with buildings running around the edge. The moat in front has many beautiful bridges, and a large fountain decorates the middle. By the walls of the Plaza there are many tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain. An emblematic ride in a horse pulled carriage through the park and around Plaza de España is also a must.
Go to a Flamenco Show
There is no better way to experience the local spirit and culture than a Flamenco dance show. Flamenco was born here, in Andalusia, though it has Caribbean, Oriental and French influences. UNESCO declared it a Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity and I personally recommend you don’t miss the opportunity. One of the places where you can attend a flamenco show is the Flamenco Dance Museum, well worth visiting too, as it helps put things into perspective.
Casa de Pilatos
Casa de Pilatos it is said to have been inspired by the original house of Pontius Pilate. With 500 years of history behind it and some amazing flower gardens dotted with amazing statues, this is one of the most beautiful and intriguing havens in Seville. The central patio was built in a unique combination of Mudejar style with Renaissance Italian influences, and the interiors have incredibly decorated ceilings, engraved walls and intricate tiles. Casa de Pilatos is very stylish and it is still used as a private residence. However, both guided and individual tours are available.
Cruise on Guadalquivir
There’s no better place to enjoy the sunset in Seville than from a cruise boat, in the middle of Guadalquivir River. This is the 5th largest river in the Iberian Peninsula, and along its shores, some emblematic buildings can be appreciated. You can take the boat from just next to Torre de Oro, a beautiful tower in itself, worth having a look at. The cruise boat passes under various bridges, some more interesting than others, and allows you to spot a less touristic part of Seville.
The Seville Cathedral is probably the most visited attraction in the city. Being the largest cathedral in the world and the burial place of Christopher Columbus, it is only natural that the crowds are cuing in front of it, so better go armed with patience. But once inside, the Cathedral is just as huge and beautiful as on the outside. A climb to the Giralda tower is also a must for enjoying some stunning bird eye views over Seville. You will need at least a couple of hours to explore it all, but it’s well worth it.
Bonus tip: The Royal Tobacco Factory from Seville offers free guided tours a few times a week. Taking the tour is recommendable, especially if you are a fan of Bizet’s Carmen. This is the place where Carmen worked, and the stories you’ll hear will fascinate you. Also, if you are in need for accommodation with a difference, I cannot recommend you a better and more special place to spend the night than at Casas de la Juderia Hotel. It’s my favorite in Seville, as it is more like a city within a city, encompassing many gorgeous patios and secret corners. You won’t want to leave, I promise!