Seville is one of the most distinctive cities I’ve ever visited. Something about it will captivate you, and the city is ideal for solo travellers. It’s not just beautiful like Barcelona or characterful like Madrid, it’s something else, and the best word I’ve found to describe it is sassy.
sassy / adjective / lively, bold, and full of spirit; cheeky.
Flamenco dancers full of spirit can be found performing on squares, bold colours and architecture hit you at every turn, bars spill out their lively crowds onto the street, and cheeky bartenders carve perfectly cured Jamón ibérico. This city is the definition of sassy, and a weekend in Seville will never quite feel enough.
The other noticeable thing about Seville is how photogenic it is. The old colourful facades clash with modern architecture such as the Metropol Parasol, and behind small doors lie beautiful hidden courtyards. This is a city that is as sexy as it is sassy, and as a photographer, it was a real dream to visit. So much so, that on my return visit I booked a Photo Tour Seville, as I thought this amazing backdrop would be great for some portrait photos and perhaps even make me look like I hadn’t eaten all the tapas.
I was wrong on the latter part, mainly because I have eaten ALL the tapas, but it is a great city to photograph and be photographed in. My excellent photo guide, Juanfran, not only snapped away as we toured the Santa Cruz Jewish Neighbourhood but also showed me some hidden gems and shared some facts that I had missed on my first and second visit.
You might notice there are actually some photos of me in this post, and not my usual crappy selfies, those were all taken by Juanfran on the photo tour. I also imagine it would be a romantic place to propose and enjoy an engagement photo shoot if you are not solo travelling in Seville.
Top things to do in Seville
I’m so lucky that Seville is one of the nearest city’s to visit from where I live in Portugal, as it’s one of the best places to visit in Spain, here are some suggestions of how to spend a weekend in Seville. While the city is pretty walkable, you’ll also want to embrace the Spanish pace of life, and maybe even a siesta, so don’t plan to do everything.
Also, be sure to book some of the key attractions in advance. Some can even be reserved on your mobile on the day, so you don’t have to join the vast ques, but others, such as the Alcázar, you should certainly book in advance. Also keep in mind that as with much of Spain, certain attractions may be closed on all, or sometime between Saturday – Monday, and afternoon closures can also occur.
Santa Cruz, The Jewish Neighbourhood
The centrepiece of the city, at least for tourists, Santa Cruz is home to some of the key tourist attractions and most lavish architecture in the city.
But beyond that, as I discovered with Juanfran, there are a maze of little alleys, cute gardens, and quaint restaurants to explore here and as soon as you step away from the main squares, you’ll feel like you are in a different city. Orange trees mix with gift shops and the tapas bars here are a treat, so be sure to venture off from the main attractions and enjoy this beautiful side of the city.
Royal Alcázar of Seville
The Royal Palace is a must-visit in Seville and one you should ensure to book tickets for in advance.
The large and opulent building consists of various rooms and a large garden with free roaming peacocks, and you’ll need to spend a few hours here to really appreciate it. The site was once a Muslim fortress, but after the Christian conquest, the Palace was erected here.
A worthy UNESCO heritage site, the architecture here will take you through the ages, having been inspired by Arabic, Baroque and Renaissance styles.
Plaza de España
Made famous over the years in some famous films, such as Star Wars, the Plaza de España is one of the most iconic images of Seville.
Free to wander around and enjoy, the vast plaza was actually built for an expo, but due to the impressive architecture has become a famed symbol. You’ll often find flamenco dancers here performing for tips, and the ornate tiles around the square are beautiful and deserve a close inspection. You can also hire boats on the little lake/river, though it seemed like a tight squeeze and not so fun, so I didn’t personally see the attraction in doing so.
Seville Cathedral & La Giralda
Standing proud above Seville is La Giralda, part of the Seville Cathedral. I know in Europe there can sometimes seem to be too many churches and cathedrals to visit, but this one is again a must visit.
The views from the tower especially are fantastic, although be warned it’s quite an upwards hike to enjoy them. Inside the Cathedral, the vast vaulted ceilings and impeccable decoration are equally impressive.
The Cathedral was also UNESCO listed along with the Alcázar, and the gothic cathedrals construction dates back to the 1500s.
The Markets (on both sides of the river)
Food is one of the main reasons I venture to Spain, and specifically Seville so often. It’s not uncommon for my Portuguese friends and me to joke about driving here just for the tapas.
I’d really recommend doing a food tour at some point in Spain, and although I did mine as a multi-day food trip through Northern Spain, Seville would likely be a great place to do so. There are two markets, just across the river from each other but with vibes world apart you can visit to get a sample.
The Mercado Lonja del Barranco is a modern steel building, almost like a conservatory, where you can enjoy slightly more upmarket snacks. Just across the river though is the Triana Mercado, which offers a more authentic experience. A walk around here will give you a great introduction to local produce, and a cooking school is also in the same building.
Palace of the Countess of Lebrija
The costs of visiting Seville can mount up quite quickly, given how many beautiful spaces there are to explore. The Roman Mosaics in the Palace are one of the main draws, but the building, which has been remodelled over the past 400 years, has plenty to enjoy, with an impeccable centre courtyard.
The entrance fee at €12 is a little steep, but if you don’t mind forking out, it’s very photogenic.
Casa de Pilatos
Similar to the Palace above, but perhaps grandeur and a civil palace rather than Royal, the Casa de Pilatos is another fantastic example of Seville’s architecture. The entrance fee is slightly less here, depending on how many floors you want to explore, with the courtyard and tiled rooms being the main attraction. The opening hours are a little more limited here, so plan ahead; otherwise, you might miss it as I did.
Watch a Flamenco show
Andalusia is the home of Flamenco, so enjoying this folk-inspired music and dance here is a given.
As I mentioned above, you may be lucky and see a sample of this in the public spaces, but a full Flamenco show will be far more impressive. For those looking to learn the steps, there are plenty of Flamenco schools in Seville ready to show you the moves, though I promise it is harder than it looks!
Eat all the tapas
I think this one goes without saying, or explanation, but tapas is one of the greatest pleasures in Seville. There are so many bars to choose from, some clinging on to the traditional methods and flavours, and others throwing all the rules out the window to create palatable modern masterpieces. Just wander aimlessly and enjoy what you fancy, menus are often displayed outside to show you the specialities of that particular establishment.
Hospital Los Venerables
Don’t go assuming this is like your local A&E department, this chapel was once home to many priests, and is now a popular attraction as people come to admire the incredible decoration inside.
The 17th-century Baroque building boasts a beautiful courtyard and impeccably decorated main hall with the organ as a centrepiece, but with tickets coming in at €10 again, you may want to pick your favourites from this list to visit.
Setas De Sevilla
One of the newest addition to Seville is the Metropol Parasol, a wooden structure which fans out in the city and of which can be admired from below, or you can walk on top of it by purchasing a ticket.
Palacio de las Dueñas
Another Palace worth of a mention, thanks to the mix of Moorish and Gothic influences alongside its Renaissance decoration.
Inside it’s another beauty, with a colourful courtyard, impressive library, and fantastic flowers which grow up the walls. I’d recommend trying to do one of the night tours if you can, as the golden hour and evening lighting looks beautiful on the photos I have seen. Again, planning is key to making the most of your weekend in Seville.
Museum of Fine Arts
Another of Sevilles impressive museums is the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla. Housing more modern masterpieces, alongside those dating back to the Medieval period, the collection is extensive and the building impressive.
This is one of the cheapest museums in Seville, at €1.50 a ticket, or free for those with EU citizenship and ID to prove so.
Take a day trip
While you could easily fill a long weekend in Seville without leaving the city centre, you might be tempted to tack on an extra day or two and take a day trip to another of Andalucia’s equally as enchanting cities, such as Granada for the Alhambra, a palatial complex heavy on Islamic architecture, or Cadiz, for stretches of golden sands.
Smaller cities and scenic spots are also easily done, and perhaps a better way to maximise your time. Consider a day trip to Ronda from Seville to see the photogenic mountain-crowning city, or tackle the beautiful gorge-hugging hike along the Caminito del Rey – Andalucia is packed with spectacular places to visit!
Visiting Seville during Semana Santa
Semana Santa is Holy Week, and in Seville, it is a huge deal. I spent the main weekend of Semana Santa in the city, and it felt like a completely different place.
Streets are closed off, stages are erected, and the parades can last hours. So much so, unless you are interested in the Holy Week celebrations, I would recommend avoiding Seville during these dates.
For those who do want to experience Semana Santa in Seville, you’ll undoubtedly be rewarded with some of the best Easter celebrations in Spain, making this city one of the best places to visit in April in Europe.
Be sure to read up on the dates and routes in advance to plan your visit, but here are a few photos from Easter 2018. Note the conical pointed hats, and matching robes are to do with religion and brotherhood here, and shouldn’t be confused with similar racist outfits you may relate them to.
Need to know Seville
A few tips and insights to make planning your visit to Seville a little easier.
Where to stay in Seville on a budget: During Semana Santa, the prices in Seville shot up, so I stayed in at The Lemon Garden Hostel which had clean dorms, a lovely garden area, and a good breakfast buffet. I also really liked the location as it was in a local neighbourhood which had a friendly vibe but wasn’t too far from the city.
Where to stay in Seville like a baller: The Las Casas de la Juderia is a 4-star hotel, but it’s packed full of character. Located in the Jewish Quarter I loved how this hotel felt almost like a museum, the historic rooms and traditional design is incredible, and I’d really recommend here for a unique stay over one of the more modern luxury hotels.
How to get to Seville: The international airport in Seville (SVQ) offers plenty of flights in Europe and some inter-continental, the bus to the city takes around 30 minutes. Seville central bus station also provides plenty of inter-city connections, including routes to enjoy the best things to do in the Algarve – just across the border – which is how I visited.
Accessibility in Seville: Seville is a relatively flat city, and although many of the attractions are old, quite a few have accessible areas and information to help you plan your visit. The official tourism portal offers a selection of Accessible Route Maps, or Handiscover has a more image heavy travel guide.