Some cities capture my heart immediately. Others, such as Seville in the south of Spain, need a second chance.
A city trip to Seville
I visited the city five years ago for the first time. That was in autumn, in the middle of the tourist season. It was hard to see the architectural gems of the city behind the throngs of day trippers. Anyway, now years later, in late December, Sevilla gets another chance.
Of course, a city with many attractions will never be free of tourists. During this visit, we only saw groups of Asians and a handful of European holidaymakers. Sevilla was again a city for the Sevillanos. In this way the sights, that are truly sensational, can shine in their full glory.
One of the most spectacular sights of the city is the Metropol Parasol, also known as ‘Las Setas’, the mushrooms. This remarkable modern building is located in the heart of a city that experienced the golden age at the time of the Catholic kings, the Reyes Católicos, Isabel and Ferdinand. The building designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer was opened in 2011. The city claims that is the largest wooden structure in the world.
Las Setas stand on the Plaza de la Encarnación. Even if you have limited time make sure to visit the roof terrace to enjoy its spectacular lines and curves. If you happen to visit during a bank holiday, try to check in after sunset, often there will be a light and sound show on display.
Finding the entrance is not easy. The entry to the terrace is tucked under an escalator. Admission costs three euros. Visiting hours are from half past nine in the morning until midnight.
Plaza de España
Another relative newcomer is the Plaza de España, a square purposely built for the Ibero-America Exposition of 1929. The exhibition was held in Seville in order to improve the links between the host Spain, neighboring Portugal and their former colonies. Each country had its own pavilion. The square is decorated with glazed tiles, each small works of art in themselves.
Take into account that the Plaza de España is a bit of walk from the city centre. The square is open to the public (f.o.c.) from eight o’clock in the morning until midnight. You can go boating on the canals, take a ride in a horse and carriage or just enjoy the grand architecture.
Giralda is one of the most famous sights in Seville. The tower began life as a minaret (tower of a mosque) at the end of the twelfth century. After the reconquest of Seville from the Moors by the Christians, a large part of the mosque was destroyed by a major earthquake. Only two parts of the original structure survived, the Patio de los Naranjos (a yard) and the minaret. The rest of the building was replaced by a Gothic cathedral. The minaret was transformed into a bell tower.
The tower is located on the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes and can be visited for eight euro.
The tomb of Christopher Columbus
Born and raised as Catholic girl from an Italian mother, I have had my share of churches. Thus I can hardly be enthusiastic about the cathedral, mentioned above. Yet it is still worth a visit because the tomb of the explorer Columbus is placed inside the cathedral.
Real Alcazar, the royal palace
The Royal Palace, the Real Alcazar, consists of a spectacular complex of gardens, patios and buildings in Mudéjar style. The heart of the complex is the Palace of King Pedro I, who built his residence in 1364 on the site of a Moorish palace. The top floor of the building is still used by the royal family.
You will find the entrance on the Patio de Banderas. An entrance ticket costs € 9.50. This is one of the most visited places in the city. After 11 am it fills up with busloads of tourists.
Make sure to be there first thing in the morning, so you can enjoy all its beauty without being surrounded by other sightseers or even better, book your tickets online in advance to avoid having to queue for hours.
Seville has hundreds of places to stay. We slept in the old town (Santa Cruz) of the city. That’s nice because most sites are within walking distance. Especially at night the city basks in a pleasant atmosphere with its illuminated historical buildings and busy cafes and restaurants.
The downside is that it is not possible to get downtown by car. At the edge of the centre you will find several parking garages. Take into account that on bank holidays and weekends these will fill up quickly.
But if you have some serious money to splash around do stay in the five star Hotel Alfonso XIII. This is one of Spain’s most prestigious hotels, right next to the royal palaces, the Real Alcazares. It sits on the edge of the historic Santa Cruz district.
The hotel offers casual al fresco dining in its Taifas restaurant next to the swimming pool. Sweet snacks are available, as well as beers and wines. Parking is available on site.
The check Hotel Alfonso VIII availability and rates click here.
- The Website of the Sevilla Tourist Board has lots of useful information.
- For more city highlights check this blog with the 15 best of Seville.
Seville is bicycle-friendly
In the old town everything is walking distance. If you prefer cycling, you can. The city has about 170 kilometers of cycle paths with 250 public bicycle stations. The bikes can be rented for 24 hours a day. Check here for rates and availability of a Seville Highlights Bike Tour.
When to visit?
The city is especially nice out of season. Try to avoid Semana Santa (the holy week before Easter), Feria, bank holidays and weekends if you can. The fall and spring are heyday for vacationers as this is the best time to visit in terms of climate. However, you will share the city with thousands of other tourists.
In the summer it gets very hot in Seville. On winter days it can be surprisingly cold when the wind blows. Dress accordingly and you will be a much happier tourist.