Last year after spending ~10 days in Croatia, my friend and I hopped a flight from Dubrovnik to Seville (via Rome) for a wedding. I mean, what better way to wrap up our vacation than with a few days in Spain?
I hadn’t been to Spain since 2011 when I went to Barcelona for a few days and was really excited to return and see a new city. I had heard so many wonderful things about Seville from friends who had studied there in college…and I can totally see why. The city is small and charming with beautiful Spanish and Moorish architecture, endless sidewalk cafes, flamenco restaurants, delicious tapas, lovely parks and green spaces, and a solid siesta routine. We were there in early July and it was HOT. Like REALLY HOT. Generally the temperatures midday were in the 100s (!) so we tried to do as much sightseeing early in the day (before 2p) or later in the day. Midday was reserved for hanging out in our hotel’s rooftop pool or siesta-ing in the AC. Many of the streets have canopies strung from the tops of the buildings to keep it a bit cooler, but it is still very hot.
Where to Stay: If you are visiting in summer, I would definitely suggest finding a place to stay with access to a pool so you can escape the heat but still enjoy being outdoors. Many of our friends stayed in Airbnbs in Seville, but we invited them over to our hotel pool to cool off 🙂
We stayed at Seises by Fontecruz. Located close to the Cathedral in El Centro, this was a great location to get to major sights and there were lots of things to do right around the corner. Close to the hotel were many restaurants and bars, especially nice when we didn’t feel like going far for a meal. Definitely a good tourist location for a first time in Seville. We had breakfast at the hotel every morning (included with our stay), and this was one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve seen! There was fruit, veggies, meats, cheeses, breads, yogurt, eggs…everything seemed fresh and really tasty. Coffee and juices available too. Service at the hotel was excellent. Our room was nice (and cool) and had a small balcony though we didn’t really spend time out there. Mostly because we spent all of our time on the roof! It is amazing up there, with views of the Cathedral, a bar and pool with a lot of space to hang out. We spent a lot of time lounging in the pool and sipping pina coladas (9euro). There are also a lot of lounging spaces on the roof to just hang out (in the sun or shade), which was nice for our friends who came over to the hotel to hang out. Highly recommended!
Things to Do:
Feel the City Walking Tour – Our hotel offered a free walking tour as part of a larger company’s free walking tours. They came by around 10:15 to pick us up in the morning, we were divided into groups based on language – about 12-15 people with a guide. It was a nice way to see major sights in the city and learn about Seville’s history, our guide Sonia was excellent and full of information. We saw the Cathedral, Torre del Oro, City Hall, Tobacco factory (now the University), the bullfighting arena, and Plaza d’Espana. The only downside was that it was billed as a 2-hour walking tour and was nearing 3+ hours. By that time, we were so over it (did I mention how hot it was?). I would recommend doing the tour as a means of getting to know a part of the city and learning some fun facts and history (seriously, we were schooling everyone else at the wedding with our Seville knowledge). You can come back and visit some of the sights on your own after the tour. Tour is free with suggested tip at the end.
La Giralda (Cathedral) – This is the 3rd largest cathedral in the world and is basically a hybrid cathedral and mosque which makes it very interesting to visit! We arrived around 12:30 and only had to wait in line for about 10-15 minutes, though at first the line looked worse than that. You do have to wait in the sun for a bit so plan accordingly! We wish we had arrived a bit earlier…My friend and I walked around the cathedral for a bit: Christopher Columbus is buried there and there are many ornate altars to gawk at before going up to the tower. The bell tower is leftover from when this space was used as a mosque when the Moors lived in Seville. Despite the height of the tower, there are only 17 steps to the top! The majority of the way up to the top is made-up of ramps because there were donkeys that would bring the muezzin up and down 5x/day for the call to prayer.
On one side of La Giralda, you will see some really funky looking “graffiti”. This was discovered recently when the walls were scrubbed clean. This graffiti was painted using bulls’ blood and was done by students who had completed their degrees. This might have been the coolest thing I learned about in Seville.
Real Alcazar – Palace located across the square from the cathedral. Went midday and it was so hot, but we heard it was not to be missed. Suggest getting there earlier in the day if you can as there is not a lot of shade! There’s a lot to see here, we covered as much as we could before the heat overtook us. The gardens are really beautiful and the entire grounds are very much Moorish influenced with colors, tile, and garden layout. It reminded me a lot of the palaces in Marrakesh. Parts of the palace have been used for scenes in Game of Thrones, btw.
Shopping – Sierpes and Tetouan are the main shopping streets, we went in the afternoon on a Sunday so many of the stores were closed (Sunday plus siesta). There are MANY shoe stores, and most of the clothing stores seemed very similar. If you can find some nice leather shoes, you might be able to find a really good deal though!
Las Setas/Metropol Parasol – About 10 min walk from our hotel. Very interesting place and good for photos, but otherwise doesn’t really have a purpose. It costs 3 euro to go up to the top, but you can exchange your ticket for a free drink in the bar at the top! Suggest coming around sunset to grab some views/photos and top it off with a glass of wine.
Eating & Drinking in Seville:
Many places are closed on Sundays and during siesta so plan accordingly! The Andalusia region is known for fried fish and you will find a lot of that in Seville. If it’s hot, you can’t go wrong with gazpacho. I kept hearing about spinach and chickpea tapas dish that was a specialty of the region, but I was consistently disappointed with this whenever we ordered it.
Las Escobas (tapas) – Stumbled in here after we arrived at the hotel, was just around the corner. Ordered lambrusco and a few plates to share among 4 people: spinach with chickpeas, tortilla espanola, fried calamari, and cod with tomato sauce (Sevillan style). Food was so-so, but satisfying because we were starving.
La Carboneria – Known for free flamenco shows. Very simple bar and low key place with cheap drinks (including sangria). Unfortunately, we got there just as flamenco was ending. There was some live music in the front room after the flamenco ended.
Cuesta del Bacalau – Another place close to our hotel. Came here for lunch and fortunately there were misters to keep us cool on the patio. We Ordered 2 beers (very cute mini ones), gazpacho, mackerel salad with peppers (so so good), cod with chickpeas, and toast w goat cheese/honey/raisins (amazing, why didn’t we order two?).
Bar Pelayo – Also close to our hotel (I guess we were kind of lazy but it was hot!), lots of space so good for our bigger group at dinner. We ordered sangria and a bunch of tapas: grilled octopus (not the best), seafood paella, breaded artichokes, tuna tataki, and clams in wine sauce (!).
Alfonso hotel bar – This is the fancy hotel in Seville (ie where Obama stayed when he was in town). The bar is overpriced and not that great. We hung out on the patio, but was really warm and not very comfortable. Not recommended.
Second Room – Very cute (read tiny) cocktail bar near Bar Pelayo and close to our hotel. Would definitely come here for a drink or two, much more affordable than the pricey hotel bars.
Robles Laredo – Stumbled across while we were shopping. This place didn’t look like much and seemed touristy, but we were hungry and not a lot of places were open during siesta. To our surprise, the food was pretty good and service was ok. We had the salad with salmon and shrimp, gazpacho, and fried anchovies.
Ovejas Negras – Came highly recommended, didn’t make it here because it was closed on Sunday (as are many restaurants)!
Cafe Pepe Hillo – Wound up here when looking for somewhere to eat after everything else seemed closed on Sunday night. Despite a slow start (there was one guy working here! one!), it exceeded our expectations. And we also ordered too much food. To eat we had fried fish plate (there was some fish that had a BBQ flavor – so good), beef (pretty tasty), spinach w chickpeas, and a dish w/ potatoes, peppers and a sunnyside up egg on top, grilled artichokes (a little too buttery for my taste). Not good – the rose we ordered, way too sweet.
Getting There: We flew into Seville’s airport via Vueling (from Rome) and took a taxi to our hotel (about 25 euro). It’s also possible to get there from other major cities in Spain via train. We left Seville and traveled south to Malaga by train from the Santa Justa train station (we flew out of Malaga which offers direct flights to New York). Before we left Spain, however, we visited Torremolinos which was…interesting.