If you follow us on ye olde social media, you’re probably aware that my sister and brother-in-law came to town earlier this year for a visit. We naturally had a great time – as we do – and we want to share with you what we did while they were here.
Why? Because we want you to see some of our recommended things to do in this fair city. This is by no means a comprehensive guide to Seville. Nor does it encapsulate all the things you can or should see and/or do while you’re here. It’s merely what we did. Got it? Good!
Seville is a city full of wonderful history and glorious architecture. Its mix of Moorish and Spanish influence over the centuries is very characteristic of Andalusia, and it can be seen in every corner of town. It’s got UNESCO World Heritage Sites, great weather for most of the year, some of the best food in Spain, cheap drinks everywhere, and around a million very nice people. While people have asked why we came here, no one has really ever asked us why we stay here most of the time. It’s more or less a given.
And we were delighted to have Ben and Heidi come to Seville for a week, so they could have a little vacation and we could share our adopted home with them. As this was their first visit to Spain, I can only imagine how fascinating it was through those virgin eyes. Oh wait, I actually know what it was like, since we came here for the first time once as well. Ah, that was nice.
Right. So then, here’s what we did while they were here. No particular order, just a random collection of things that’ll maybe give you an idea of what you can or should see and do in Seville.
Visit the Setas
Its official name is the Metropol Parasol (pictured above), but everyone calls it las setas (the mushrooms). It’s an entirely wooden sculpture/structure thing built over two plazas and across one street, not too far from us in the center of town. It was once fairly controversial, but most people seem to have accepted it as part of the urban landscape.
I personally think that it’s really damn cool, and that it weaves its way in and out of the historic center quite well. You can go up it for something like €2, and walk around a winding pathway while having a look at not only the city, but out into the countryside as well.
There used to be a café on top, but it was closed when we were there. Hopefully, someone will reopen it so you can just sit up there, having a drink and looking at the skyline. There’s also a wonderful market with a bunch of restaurants on the ground floor in the plaza, so you can just eat or shop or drink there instead.
Visit a Market
There are numerous markets in Seville, where vendors ply their delicious wares every morning, fresh from the countryside or the sea. The most oft-mentioned ones are the Mercado de Triana and the Mercado de Feria. Another one is the market at Plaza de la Encarnación, which is under the Setas.
If you’re across the river in the Triana neighborhood, that particular market is a fantastic, historic example of a traditional market in Seville. It’s just across the bridge, and is an easy stroll from the Seville center side of the river. It actually sits on an old castle, so you can visit its ruins as well if you’d like. It’s free as well. The Triana market has several restaurants in it, so you can sit around and enjoy a plate of oysters and a beer while you watch the food economy bustle back and forth and to and fro.
At the market on Calle Feria, you can see all of this in a smaller scale, but the real gem here is to grab a table or a stool on the patio and enjoy plate after plate of fried fish and seafood.
If you head to the market underneath the Setas, you can see a more modern version of the still very traditional market culture here, and then step outside for everything from grilled steaks to fresh sushi.
Visit the Plaza de España
One of the most-visited landmarks here in Seville, this architectural wonder is a massive work of design and urban planning. This mix of architectural styles was designed by Aníbal González and completed for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair in the early 20th century. Today, it houses quite a lot of government offices that use its interior space, while the outside encompasses a huge plaza, complete with canals on which you can actually rent a boat and float around.
It’s next to Parque de María Luisa, an endless greenscape designed by Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. Feel free to stroll around for part of your day, and pop into museums that sit on the edge of the park if that’s your bag.
Visit the Cathedral and La Giralda
We didn’t actually go into these while Heidi and Ben were here, but even walking by them is a treat. Our pal, Cat from Sunshine and Siestas, says it’s mighty worth it to take a rooftop tour at the cathedral. So, do that if you’re so inclined! You can also walk up the tower of the Giralda, or head inside the cathedral and see what makes it a UNESCO landmark.
Visit the Real Alcázar
We wrote about this in another blog post, and I personally think it’s a better visit than the famed Alhambra in Granada. I know that’s blasphemy for a lot of people, but that’s how I feel! The Alcázar is a palace built in stages and various architectural styles over the centuries, and is an interesting lesson in both history and design.
If you’re not into that, you can head straight to its massive gardens and walk around waterfalls, labyrinths, and lemon and orange trees, all while dodging the peacocks that inhabit the space. If the weather is nice, rest your legs at the café and have a drink while the peacocks sit and stare at you.
Catch Some Flamenco
Seville is famous for its flamenco music and dance. There are several large, touristy places where you can catch a show. Or, you can find a hole-in-the-wall joint and hope to see some just pop off one night. I’m definitely not an expert on this. When Heidi and Ben were here, we headed to the famous La Carbonería one night. It was pretty dead, and what used to be something very lively and relaxed seems to have turned into a “shh, no cameras and be quiet” type of situation. It wasn’t cool and it wasn’t a very good time. Alas, things happen!
The shows at the flamenco museum here are excellent, though, if you want something of the organized variety. I’d advise asking someone about this, or maybe someone will chime in down in the comments.
Head to the Sunday Art Market
At the Plaza del Museo, there’s an art fair every Sunday. Local artisans come to showcase and sell their paintings, drawings, sculptures, and more. It’s a great place to pick up a unique souvenir or gift, or to grab something pretty to adorn your walls. A pair of friends in Seville have covered the walls of their entire apartment with original paintings from artists here.
Prices run from the tens to the high hundreds, so there’s something for everyone. I quite like walking through there on a lazy Sunday. Just be sure to head over there early, as it mostly shuts down around 2pm.
Have a Drink with New Friends
Heidi and Ben obviously had an in with this. If you don’t, you can always reach out to us on social media. Countless folks already know that we’re always down for a drink and a new face. Just give us a shout. If you don’t want to, you can find plenty of folks on social media to connect with, or you can visit a local expat group event, such as InterNations. If you’re a social butterfly, just go out to a café, restaurant, bar, or park, and strike up a conversation. Everyone is always happy to meet someone new here, and sharing a beer or a tapas is just how it goes.
Take a Day Trip
There are so many things you can do if you want to get out of the city for a day. You could go to Carmona, Córdoba, Sanlúcar, Jerez, Arcos, or Cádiz. You could head to the mountains and watch fat Iberian pigs eat acorns. You could visit a bodega (winery). You could go to the beach and get a tan, or maybe catch some waves. You could go visit castle ruins in various different villages. I can’t even think of all the things you can do, there are so many.
So, we did these things with Heidi and Ben…
We took a day and headed to Ronda. You can read about that here and here. It’s one of the most beautiful towns around, in my opinion. It also has the oldest modern bullfighting ring in its corner, so you can check that out. What you really want to do, though, is just walk around and enjoy how cool both the town and the landscape are.
If you have time, you can stop in the mountainside village of Zahara de la Sierra. It’s tiny, but it has views that you’ll never forget, a castle ruin that you can freely roam (if you want to climb up there), and some nice little cafés that you can hang out in. It’s also a stop for a lot of people who hike and do all that outdoorsy stuff, so there are activities in that realm as well. Read about our visit here.
An easy escape from Seville is to visit the ruins at Itálica next to the village of Santiponce. This old Roman city is still being uncovered, but it has an entire village of ruins, plus a massive coliseum. I personally think most tourists never even realize this place exists. It’s never been crowded when we’ve visited, and it takes either a car or a short bus ride to get there. (You can catch buses from the Plaza de Armas bus station and you’ll be there in under 30 minutes.) The bonus of this place is that you can walk across the street and eat on the patio at Ventorrillo Canario. Get the presa and the chicken. Don’t forget the wrinkled potatoes. You can post thank you notes to our Facebook page. 🙂 Read about Itálica right here.
If you have time, you can stop by the Monasterio de San Isidorio del Campo, which is also in Santiponce and is worth a visit. Read about our visit to the monastery right here.
As my sister is a wine lover of the highest order, we also headed to the village of Trebujena so they could visit our pal Pepe’s family bodega and vineyard. While it’s not open to the public, you can always ask Pepe if it’s a possibility. If not, we recommend Bodegas Tradición in Jerez – read our blog post here – which is just an hour away from Seville. Read about Trebujena here and here.
Take a Walk
This is one of the two most important things you can do in Seville. It’s a walking city, and we like to joke that the curbs are the hills. (There are a couple of hills here, but they’re more the butt of elevation jokes than anything else.) This place is crazy flat, and you can walk across the city in under a half-hour. Put on your shoes, and go explore.
Walk in and out of all the nooks and crannies, go down streets that seem to narrow to nothing, before you hook a right and end up in a gorgeous plaza you’d otherwise never know existed. Peer into the patios of people’s homes – if the front doors are open, they want you to look. Don’t be bashful. Walk along the river – there’s a very long path for walking and cycling – and stop at a riverside kiosk or bar for a drink.
Cross the bridge to Triana and explore its old, winding side streets. Walk down the Callejón de la Inquisición there, where it’s said non-believers were walked to their deaths at the edge of the river. Don’t sleep on Los Remedios either, which sits to the south of Triana and is less touristy (albeit less pretty and less historical).
Walk around Parque de María Luisa, or get lost in the old Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz. Head up to the Alfalfa neighborhood after being lost for a while, and have a drink in its central plaza. Stroll down the Alameda de Hércules and then get lost in the back streets before you find Calle Feria and Calle Regina, and all their cool shops.
Walk down the main shopping streets of Calle Sierpes, Calle Cuna, and Calle Tetuan, looking in the shops and jumping onto side streets to discover new boutiques for yourself. Stop in Plaza del Salvador on a Saturday and wonder why it’s filled with hundreds – if not thousands – of people. Then give up looking for a reason and join them for a drink. Do whatever. Just walk and relax and enjoy what’s around of you.
Sit in a Café
This is the other most important thing you can do in Seville. Vacation is not about seeing as much as you can. You can never see it all, so you might as well just give up on that right now. How about enjoying the sights and sounds and smells and tastes of the city instead?
While all those hoards of people rush to every tourist attraction to “not miss out on them,” you can take a deep breath, sip your tinto con limón, and slide back in your chair. Breathing easy, feeling loose, and watching the world go by.
We did this every single day while Heidi and Ben were here. Doesn’t matter the time, or the neighborhood, or the town on your day trip. It could be early in the morning. It could be during second breakfast. It could be for lunch or after lunch or before or after dinner. 8am or noon or 4pm or 1am. This is done with ease in Spain, and you will greatly appreciate this recommendation we have bestowed upon ye.
And that’s it!
We obviously didn’t get anywhere to doing close to a small percentage of the things you can do here. But, that’s okay! It’s more important to enjoy yourself than to run yourself ragged, needing a vacation after your “vacation” because you went mad on holiday.
I could go on and on with even more recommendations, but we just wanted to share with you what we actually did while we were fortunate to have Heidi and Ben in town. If you want to know more about what you can do in Seville, visit the endless blogs of these friends and Seville residents: Sunshine & Siestas, Enjoy Living Abroad, and Azahar Sevilla. You can also read our post about what to eat in Seville right here.
The most important things are these: Relax and enjoy.
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Have you ever been to Seville? If so, what’d you think, and what was your favorite thing to do? If you haven’t been, what say ye? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!