Much like Oaxaca is the cultural thread of Mexico, Seville (Sevilla in Spanish) is the cultural thread of Spain. Seville is the capital and largest city in Southern Spain in the region of Andalucia. Filled with rich history and culture, Seville has a tremendous influence from the Moorish culture, which is apparent in the architecture and unique food. It is also the birthplace of the hauntingly beautiful and emotional dance called flamenco. In this blog post I’ll cover where to stay, how to get around, and our top favorite places to eat and drink in Seville, plus where to find a great flamenco venue. I’ll also cover some quintessential Southern Spanish dishes that you must try!
Seville experiences extreme temperatures because of being inland in a valley; temperatures soar into the mid-40’s C (over 100 F) during summer, and can dip to freezing during the winter. We visited during July, and now I understand why the siesta culture in Spain is so popular! People actually close their shops, restaurants and cafes, between the hours of 2 – 6 PM to go home, take a nap, rest and spend time with family. Then they come back and reopen for the evening, when the city really comes to life. This is because the temperatures are far too hot in the middle of the day to be outside. The peak temperature during summer is actually at 5PM, so don’t be surprised to find most places closed during this time. Be sure to stay hydrated at all times, wear sunscreen and always wear a hat, as the sun is extremely strong and you can burn within minutes.
WHERE TO STAY IN SEVILLE
Without a doubt, you should stay in the old town, as it’s within walking distance from all the great tapas bars, restaurants, cafes, shopping and nightlife. Spain as a whole, is notorious for eating dinner late and staying up until the wee hours of the morning, but Seville takes it to a whole other level! Here it is normal to eat supper around 10 or 11 PM and then continue drinking and socializing with friends and family until past 1 or 2 AM. I was shocked to see infants, children, and elderly folks out at 1AM, running around, playing and having fun, even during the weekday! During summertime, tables, chairs and mister sprays (spraying cold water to assist with the heat), line the streets, which come to life around 8PM and remain lively until well after midnight. Because we work Seattle hours (Spain is 9 hours ahead of Pacific Standard time), it was quite easy for us to adapt to the late dinners and sleeping in until 10AM.
We stayed in a lovely Airbnb that was right in the heart of the city, just a stone’s throw from some of the most delicious eateries. It was especially nice because it stayed very cool in the intense heat of July.
GETTING AROUND SEVILLE
It’s very easy to get around Seville by foot, though there are some crazy maze-like streets with narrow alleys that are actually for both pedestrians and vehicle traffic, so be careful! It can be a bit easy to get lost, but you just need to look up for landmarks such as cathedrals and church bells. It amazed us every time, the precision with which taxi drivers were able to navigate the narrow cobblestone alleys in a vehicle. The maze-like alleyways reminded us of Venice, Italy.
Ubers and taxis are also widely available in Seville, but our #1 favorite way to get around the city, was by electric scooters! The main company here is called Voi, and you simply download the app, scan the QR code, and you’re on your way!
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN SEVILLE
Without further ado, let’s jump into the top 10 things to do in Seville!
- Visit the Plaza de España
- Stroll Maria Luisa Park
- Watch the Sunset at Las Setas
- Climb the Ramps of Giralda Tower
- Visit Sevilla Cathedral & View The Remains of Christopher Columbus
- Take a Tour at the Royal Alcázar Gardens
- Enjoy Flamenco at Carboneria
- Explore the City On E-Scooters
- Stroll the Guadalquivir River
- Take a Weekend Trip to Cadiz and Ronda
1. Visit the Plaza de España
Plaza de España is a huge semi-circle built to showcase Spain’s industry and technology. Tiled alcoves are built throughout the plaza, each representing the provinces of Spain.
2. Stroll Maria Luisa Park
This park surrounds the Plaza de España and is a lovely reprieve from the heat during the summer, as there are many shaded water features to rest your feet after a day of walking.
3. Watch the Sunset at Las Setas
Las Setas means “the mushrooms” in Spanish, and this impressive structure was so named because of its 6 structures shaped like mushroom parasols. It was designed by a German architect by the name of Jürgen Mayer, and completed in 2011. Las Setas is the world’s largest wooden structure! Beneath it is an indoor farmers market, selling fresh fish, meats, cheeses, fruit and other goods, and surrounding the area are several excellent restaurants (one of which I name below, so keep reading to find out all our favorite foodie gems in Seville!)
You can pay a nominal fee to access the walkway atop the wooden structure, which provides one of the most stunning views of Seville, especially at sunset, so be sure to time it correctly!
4. Climb the Ramps of Giralda Tower
This is a unique tower because it was formerly a mosque! Because of going up and down 97 meters, five times per day for the call to prayer, they built a ramp instead of stairs so that a donkey could carry them to the top! To this day, the ramp is still the only way to reach the top of the tower. The views from the top are some of the best in the city!
5. Visit Seville Cathedral & View The Remains of Christopher Columbus
The remains of Italian explorer, Christoper Columbus, are claimed to be in two places; right here in the Seville Cathedral, and the Columbus Lighthouse in the Dominican Republic.
6. Take a Tour at the Royal Alcázar Gardens
As you’re waiting in queue to get into the Royal Alcazar Gardens, there will be a few people asking if you’d like to join a tour in English. I was skeptical, but I am so glad that we did it! Carlos with Sevilla Tours Co was an outstanding guide and extremely knowledgeable. He made our visit so much more interesting. The cost is €10 per person and was well worth it. The palace was built in Mudéjar style with Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque design elements from previous stages of construction.
7. Enjoy Flamenco at Carboneria
Going to Seville without seeing Flamenco would be like going to Hawaii without seeing hula. This hauntingly deep, raw, emotional dance is more than just dance; it’s an art form, deeply seeded in the roots of Spanish gypsy culture. Typically performed solo or with a partner, this mesmerizing dance is accompanied by a powerful singer (typically female) and guitarist. There are several venues where you can enjoy this dance, and La Carboneria is one of these places. You simply purchase a drink and sit anywhere there’s an open seat available, and you can stay for as long as you’d like.
8. Explore The City on E-Scooters
This may be a bit blasphemous with all the incredible culture and history in Seville, but I have to admit that our top highlight in Seville was riding e-scooters! Seville has a thorough infrastructure for bikes, wheels and pedestrians just outside of the city along the Guadalquivir River, which made it a lovely (and safe!) experience to ride on designated paths. Feeling the warm breeze on our faces as we whizzed underneath shaded trees, was a welcomed reprieve from the summer heat in July. With all the wonderful parks nearby, seeing the city by e-scooter was the ideal way to get around and to see the sights at the same time. Sasha and I both think that electric scooters are the future of transportation in cities; it’s environmentally sustainable and does not require the use of cars on the road.
9. Stroll the Guadalquivir River
Did you know that Seville has the only commercial river port in all of Spain? The Guadalquivir River stretches for 700 kilometers and connects to the Atlantic Ocean. The best way to stroll along this river is by foot, bike or e-scooter.
10. Take a Weekend Trip to Cadiz and Ronda
There are several weekend trips that can be done from Seville, either by taking the train or renting a car. The most popular is Grenada to see The Alhambra. Since I had already visited the Alhambra on a previous visit to Spain with my Granddad when I was 19 years old, we decided instead to visit the towns of Cadiz and Ronda, and based ourselves in the lovely sea town of Marbella.
Cadiz is a beautiful old city on the sea, with whitewashed houses and subdued pastel colors. It is called “The City That Smiles”. The whole town can easily be seen in one afternoon, especially if you’re visiting during the peak of summer, as the town shuts down for several hours during siesta time. We climbed the tower of Cadiz and got some great shots of the city from above. The beach was insanely crowded since it was in the 40’s (over 100 F!)
Ronda is a unique town surrounded by a canyon and valleys, characterized by a huge, tall bridge connecting the two sides of the city with a gorgeous waterfall right down the middle. The drive up to Ronda is a beautiful one, twisting through the mountains. Unfortunately the air quality was quite poor when we visited, as there was a huge fire in the Malaga region.
WHERE TO EAT IN SEVILLE
As in all of Spain, tapas are king, but you’ll also find Spain’s famous paella, a rice dish from the region of Valencia.
I’ll let you in on a tip for ordering paella: ask your server how long it will take to make it. If they say 10 – 20 minutes, do not order it! This typically means that it is frozen and microwaved. Fresh paella made from scratch will take at a minimum, 25 – 45 minutes and is typically enjoyed in a larger group.
Another must-try Southern Spanish favorite, is gazpacho. You cannot truly appreciate how refreshing gazpacho tastes until you’ve walked all day in soaring temperatures in the scorching sun, drenched in sweat. As soon as you put this tomato-garlicky-olive-oil-goodness to your lips, paired with a refreshing glass of sangria and agua con gas, you will truly know Spanish heaven.
You will find an item on many menus called Salmorejo – what is this? Very similar to gazpacho, salmorejo only consists of tomato and perhaps a clove of garlic, and is usually served in a bowl. Gazpacho is more flavorful, as it blends peppers, garlic, onion and other spices along with tomato, and is usually served in a cup.
Another popular drink you’ll find in the South of Spain, is Tinto de Verano; which is like Sangria’s cheaper and less classy counterpart. Think of it like a wine cooler fruit punch; mixed with red or white wine and 7-Up or some type of soda. (Once we found out the ingredients, we stuck with sangria, which tends to have better ingredients and natural fruit.) Just be cautious because they’re dangerously easy to drink, and you’ll be drunk before you know it! 🙈
Something to be aware of, is that service is very slow and lazy in Southern Spain; don’t be surprised if you ask for the bill and your server still takes another ten minutes to bring it to you because they’re either out taking a smoke break, chatting with their colleague, or simply forgot about it and can’t be bothered. (And remember that, just like in many Western Europe countries, you’ll need to ask for the bill, otherwise your server will assume that you are enjoying yourself and plan to stay all night until they close.)
Here are some of our top favorite places to eat and drink in Seville:
Maikala – foodie gem with brightly colored fun interior decor with delicious multi-cultural ethnic flavors, such as samosas inspired from India, curry inspired from Thailand, and tacos with cochinita pibil inspired from the Yucatan Peninsula, Mexico.
La Locanda di Andrea – Authentic Italian pasta (owner is from Italy)
Il Ristorantino Dell’Avvocato – Authentic Italian pizza (chef is from Italy)
Virgin Coffee – excellent coffee place (check hours as the hours are a bit strange).
Proust – located right next to Virgin Coffee – owned by a nice young woman from France selling one thing and. onething only – magdalenas! Filled with delicious ingredients such as pistachio, caramel, matcha and more, these French pastries are delicious!
La Cede – located right next to Virgin Coffee & Proust, this delicious tapas place is owned and run by two brothers from Sevilla.
Olmo Heladeria Artesenal – the only gelato place we were able to find in the city, that doesn’t use unnatural ingredients. The flavors are fresh, tasty and all natural.
Atrevido – excellent cocktail bar and tapas restaurant with a cool jazzy 20’s interior.
Bar Alfalfa – authentic, local tapas; a small space inside with tall ceilings and Jamón ibérico (Iberian ham) hanging from the walls, fun staff and great music. Be sure to try their bruschettas!
So there you have it! The top 10 things to do in Sevilla and the lovely charm of Southern Spain.
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