Pretty sun-drenched Seville is one of my favorites cities in Europe and and a must visit destination in Andalucia. It's a happy wonderful-to-be-alive place, teeming with people, scented orange blossoms, and flamenco music. I mean, it's sunny 300 days a year. Wouldn't that make anyone happy?
Seville is guarded by one of the world's most colossal Gothic cathedrals. It's a seductive mix of Mudéjar palaces, ornate baroque churches, colorful azulejo tiles, and shady cobblestone lanes. And you can feast on inventive tapas, ice cold beer, and sweet sherry. At any hour of the day, no less.
There's a romance to Seville. The locals live on streets. Seville's a perfect spot for a long weekend or city break. And if you're traveling through Andalusia, a 3 day stay is just about perfect to get a flavor for the balmy and bewitching city.
Here's my guide to spending three perfect days in Seville. Eat your way through tapas and bask in the colorful past and architecture of this once powerful, but still beloved, city.
beautiful courtyard in Seville
another beautiful vintage-y courtyard in Seville
Day 1 AM: Las Setas and Casa de Pilatos
Head to the world's largest wooden structure, Las Setas or the Mushrooms. There's a great breakfast spot there called La Cacharreria, serving up standard breakfast fare and healthy items. It's cash only.
We're not starting out with Seville's #1 site; Las Setas is slightly northwest of the old town. Still, it makes sense geographically for the rest of the day and you'll begin with an incredible panoramic view. You could also reverse the order of today's itinerary and come for sunset views too.
Las Setas, the mushrooms
The ultra modern Metropol Parasol was built between 2005-11 by German architect Jürgen Mayer to revitalize Seville's then run down Encarnacion Square. It's called "the Mushrooms" due to its quirky shape. The waffle-like design was inspired by the vaults of the Seville Cathedral and the ficus trees in Plaza de Cristo de Burgos.
Organized in four levels, it consists of six linked and swirling parasols for you to stroll. The wood used was birch, imported from Finland, because of its rigid quality. Las Setas was controversial at first, but now it seems fairly beloved.
Las Setas, lit up at night
view from Metropol Parasol
Next, grab a coffee at Virgin Coffee, Seville's first micro-coffee roaster. Then head down Calle Regina to the sumptuous Casa de Pilatos. Casa de Pilatos is a 16th century mansion in Seville's historic district. It's definitely one of Seville's
hidden gems, judging from the relative paucity of crowds.
Casa de Pilatos was the product of a union between the Enriquez and Ribera families, and is the permanent residence of the Medinaceli dukes. Casa de Pilatos is so beautiful that it's been featured in several Hollywood blockbusters.
It has a stunning courtyard, surrounded by white marble columns and Mudéjar arches. Everywhere, the walls are covered with countless multicolored tiles.
the courtyard of the Casa de Pilatos in Seville
me, enjoying the beautiful tiles in the Casa de PIlatos in Seville
The monumental transitional staircase of the Casa de Pilatos is called “Sevilla’s first and most magnificent staircase." The second floor features a golden cupola dome in a Mudéjar honeycomb style, reminiscent of rooms in the Nasrid Palace in the Alhambra.
You can tour the second floor with a private guide. Upstairs, it's decorated like a grand European house. You'll see some fantastic ceilings and a famous painting of a woman with a beard, the original of which is now in Madrid's Prado Museum. I thought it was worthwhile for the extra 2 €.
While you're in this area, have lunch at fancy Canabota for some delicious seafood at an award winning restaurant. Or come back here for dinner (with a reservation), Canabota is right near Las Setas on Calle Jose Gestoso 19. For a more casual snack, with delicious acorn-fed Iberian ham and tapas, try Salsamento in the same area at Calle Jeronimo Hernandez 19.
the UNESCO-listed Seville Cathedral
Day 1 PM: Seville Cathedral and La Giralda
Then you're off for a visit to Seville's UNESCO cathedral. Seville Cathedral is a massive Gothic affair. It's the largest cathedral in the world. Buy tickets online in advance.
In 1402, after vanquishing the Moors in the Reconquista, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella began work in earnest on a Gothic style cathedral. They wanted a showy display of Seville’s wealth, power, and influence. They declared: “we shall have a church of such a kind that those who see it built will think we were mad.”
It might not be "madness" exactly, but you will feel intimidated and deeply impressed by the sheer scale of the building. There are 15 doors on the cathedral’s four facades and each one features a unique relief or carving. The nave is the longest in the world.
Christopher Columbus tomb in Seville Cathedral
The glittering altar is elaborately detailed and finished in gold leaf. Along the sides, there are 80 chapels to explore. You’ll find spires and reliefs depicting biblical events dedicated to saints. There's a large mirror reflecting the intricate ceiling, which you'll have to queue up to peer into.
The Cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. Many places lay claim to Columbus' bones. But apparently DNA tests have confirmed that, in fact, a bit of him is in Seville, maybe a shin bone or something.
La Giralda, or the bell tower, dates from 1184. It's the symbol of Seville and the oldest part of the cathedral complex. It was originally constructed as the minaret of the Almohad Mosque that previously stood here, and was used to call Muslims to prayer. It was modeled after the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh.
La Giralda Bell Tower on the left of Seville Cathedral
views over Seville from La Giralda Bell Tower
You access the 100 meter high Giralda in the far right corner. It's an easy climb, thirty-four sloping ramps to reach the top. There are ramps instead of stairs so that horses could be ridden to the top.
Day 1: Dinner and Drinks
Not far from the cathedral, you can grab a casual bite to eat at Bodeguita Romero on Calle Harinas. Or try La Brunilda Restaurant, a great spot for tapas and one of Seville's best restaurants, on Calle Galera. Brunilda doesn't take reservations. It opens for dinner at 8:30 pm and you should queue up at 8:00 pm. It's completely worth it!
a little tunnel in the Barrio Santa Cruz neighborhood of Seville
Day 2 AM: Barrio de Santa Cruz
After breakfast, head to Seville's medieval quarter and aimlessly wander. Jews were confined here after Ferdinand and Isabella conquered the city in 1248. Now, Barrio de Sant Cruz is a popular district within the city -- a mass of tangled cobbled streets with tiny palazzos and tile covered patios.
Some streets are so impossibly narrow, they're called "kissing lanes." There are also orange trees everywhere. Ah, the scent. You can get lost and stumble across secret squares, pretty churches, and tapas bars.
Plaza Dona Elvira in Seville's Barrio Santa Cruz
Plaza de la Santa Cruz is the heart of the barrio. But I liked Plaza de Dona Elvira best, and stopped for a delicious lunch there at Vinela Street Food.
Be sure to stroll along the winding and romantic Calle Agua, which runs along the walls of the Alcazar to Plaza Alfaro. In Plaza Alfaro, you'll see a Juliet balcony said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
If you like old masters, pop into the Hospital de los Venerables. The pretty baroque building was founded in 1675. Now, it's a museum with a few carefully guarded masterpieces by Zurburan, Murillo, and Velasquez. And some gorgeous ceilings.
ceiling in Hospital de los Venerables
Day 2 PM: Real Alcazar Palace and Gardens
I've written at length about my adoration of the UNESCO-listed Royal Alcazar in Seville. It's my very favorite spot in Andalusia, even above Granada's incandescent Alhambra.
The Alcázar is one of the world's greatest cultural treasures, a centuries old complex of palaces and fortifications, lovely courtyards, and extensive gardens bursting with orange, purple, and green colors. You cannot help but feel catapulted back in time.
The crown jewel of the Alcazar is the sumptuous Mudéjar Palace of King Pedro the Cruel, built around the iconic Maiden's Courtyard. The Ambassador’s Hall, or Throne Room, is the big showstopper. It’s nicknamed the "Half Orange" Room, in honor of its gilded cedar domed ceiling.
the gold domed ceiling of the Ambassador's Hall in Pedro's Palace in the Alcázar
Palacio de Rey Don Pedro, the most beautiful part of the Royal Alcazar
But perhaps the best part of visiting the Alcazar is its amazing gardens. They're a lush, exotic, labyrinthian paradise, encompassing 80% of the Alcázar grounds. The Baths of Dona Maria de Padilla are perhaps the most striking and frequently visited spot in the Alcázar Gardens.
The Alcazar is also now famous as a Game of Thrones filming location. In the smash HBO series, the gardens became Sunspear, the ancestral home of the Martels in Dorne. Scenes from the show are filmed in the balconies of Pedro's Palace, the Ambassador's Hall, the Charles V Pavilion, and the Maria Padilla Baths.
me enjoying the Alcazar gardens on a sunny day in February
the Royal Alcazar gardens
The Baths of Maria Padilla in the Alcazar Gardens. The baths were a filming location for Game of Thrones.
Day 2: Dinner & Drinks
In the evening, amble up to the La Alameda neighborhood. This is Seville's trendy bohemian district, situated around the Plaza Alameda de Hercules. This not-so-touristy neighborhood of Seville has lively local pubs, parks, boutiques, and chic galleries.
My pick for dinner in Alameda is Duo Tapas, where you get delicious tapas under fairy lights. It's popular and a great value. You can also try La Taberna de Panduro Baños or the nearby Eslava, hidden behind the Basílica de Jesús del Gran Poder.
pork ribs with honey and rosemary sauce at Eslava
La Alameda is also the perfect spot to people watch or enjoy some nightlife. Toward the end of the night, you'll come across dance performers, flamenco, and street entertainers. Grab some sweet Sevillano sherry, and enjoy the free open air show.
the Plaza España in Seville Spain
Day 3 AM: Plaza Espana and Marie Louisa Park
Start your last day in Seville at the Plaza Espana -- a famous architectural landmark, photogenic spot, and an unmissable site in Seville. The plaza was built for the Ibero-American World Fair of 1929, where Spanish speaking countries enjoyed a year long mutual admiration festival. It's open to the public and there's no entry fee.
The park's highlight is the Spanish Pavilion, the sweeping half circle structure with rose gold brick buildings. Designed in an Art Deco style with some Moorish touches, the Plaza has the expected Spanish flair -- lots of color and lavish embellishment. The tiles show historical scenes and maps from the 49 provinces of Spain arranged in alphabetical order.
detail from the Spanish Pavillon in Plaza Espana
There's nothing to actually do here except check out the architecture, the alcoves, and the tiles. The plaza has been featured in the movies Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Attack of the Clones.
For a respite, stroll through the adjacent Maria Luisa Park, complete with shaded paths and gardens. It's decorated with ceramic tiled benches, fountains, statues, and ponds. You can leisurely walk around and enjoy the shade and the bucolic setting.
the Triana neighborhood of Seville at night
Then amble up the river to the Torre del Pro, a 13th century watchtower. It's not worth going up. Instead, cross the Puente de Isabel II bridge over the Guadalquivir River and head to the colorful Triana neighborhood. Triana's a small soulful village within a big city and the old gypsy quarter of Seville. What was once considered the "wrong side" of the river, is now the fun and funky part of town.
Triana is steeped in romance and myth. It was home to many of Spain's best flamenco dancers and bullfighters. Once over the bridge, you'll be greeted by the Capilla del Carmen with its bell tower and chapel. The main commercial street in Triana is the pedestrianized Calle San Jacinto where you'll find shops and cafes.
For lunch, get off the main drag and head left. Have some modern fusion (Venezuelan and Spanish) tapas at Vega 10 in Triana. Located at Calle Rosario, its specialty is bull's tail cannelloni.
delicious appetizer of Iberian ham at Vega 10 in Triana
If you want to assemble your own lunch or dinner, head to Triana's famous Mercado de Triana, or covered market, located on Capilla del Carmen in the Plaza del Altozano. Stroll the stalls filled with meats and cheeses. Or try a smoothie or fresh squeezed juice.
Then, pop in and purchase some ceramics at Ceramica Triana. You can also visit the adjoining museum explaining the history and production of ceramics. When you're done, take a stroll along the river on Calle Betis.
Mercado de Triana
my loot from Ceramics Triana
Day 3 PM: Get Your Art Fix
Back across the river, head to the vastly under appreciated Museo de Bellas Artes. Seville's Museum of Fine Arts is a truly smashing museum, one of the best museums in Spain. It's known, after the Prado, as the "second art gallery in Spain." It's housed in a salmon colored former convent.
The museum houses art from the middle ages to the 20th century. But it's most known for its collection of 17th century art from Spain's Golden Age, featuring Spain's top painters Zurbarán, Murillo, El Greco, and Velazquez. You'll see a lot of monks, balding saints, cherubs, and depictions of Christ.
the first floor courtyard of Seville's Museo de Bellas Artes
Day 3: Dinner & Drinks
On your final night, snare a table at the acclaimed El Pinton. Housed in a funky, Instagrammable space with brick archways, El Pinton serves up delicious modern tapas.
If you favor nightlife, this is the time to hit a flamenco show. I'm usually huddled up with a book late at night, but here's a list of the 10 best spots.
El Pinton Restaurang in Seville
Practical Information and Tips for Visiting Seville Spain
I've written a guide with tips for visiting Seville, including quirky things that might irk you as a traveler. In general, Seville is an eminently walkable city. It's rare that you'd need to take a taxi. And you might just get bogged down in traffic if you do grab one on the fly.
Seville is also hot, one of the hottest cities in Europe. It's best to plan your visit for a non-summer month. I planted myself there in February and it was sunny and in the 60s at mid-day.
You should book tickets online for the Royal Alcazar and Seville Cathedral. You'll still have to queue to get in. But the line for people with tickets is shorter than the line for people without tickets. Be sure to get in the right line!
the streets of Osuna Spain, a charming white pueblo that's an easy day trip from Seville
For 15 euro, you can also book a separate tour of the roof of Seville Cathedral, to see it up close and get a fantastic view of Seville.