Europe Spain

Seville: 3 days in the cradle of Spanish traditions

June 14, 2019
If you get a chance, check out the oh-so colorful Feria de Abril in Seville!

Seville will always have a special place in my heart. I studied abroad there 10 years ago, and recently had a chance to visit again. Inevitably, Seville now has much more tourists than a decade ago, but it’s understandable why. Seville is the cradle of Spanish traditions — from flamenco, bull fighting, to ornate Holy Week processions. Anyone who visits Madrid and Barcelona but misses Seville (or any city in Andalucía) is doing themselves a huge disservice.

I recommend a minimum of 3 days to see the main highlights of Seville. Of course, with more time, you’ll feel less rushed (especially if this the first stop from a long international flight!). I’ve grouped the activities by proximity, but since Seville is generally a walkable town, you can easily swap activities as needed.

What to Do

Day 1: Cathedral, la Giralda, and the Jewish Quarter

The Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It’s hard to miss when you pass down the city center, or El Centro. I highly recommend getting tickets online so that you can skip the lines and enter through Puerta de San Cristóbal. Your ticket also comes with access to the bell tower of La Giralda (adjacent to the cathedral) and the Church of El Divino Salvador (about 500 meters away).

Rooftop tour of the Seville Cathedral
Rooftop tour of the Seville Cathedral

To be honest, the interior of historic churches doesn’t interest me as much these days (most cathedrals in Europe start to look the same after a while!). I opted for the rooftop tour of the cathedral, also known as “Assisted visit of the roofs”. A guide takes you to different levels on top of the cathedral and provides a fascinating history of the architecture (reserve online for 15 euros). I recommend visiting the cathedral and La Giralda first thing in the morning to beat the crowds, then seeing the rooftops right after or later in the day. Note: you’ll have to select the time of your rooftop tour when you purchase your tickets.

Lovely alley view from Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville's Jewish Quarter
Calle Juderia in Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville’s Jewish Quarter

The Cathedral and La Giralda sit at the edge of Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville’s Jewish Quarter. It’s a labyrinth of narrow, cobblestone streets filled with picturesque houses with patios and flowers. You can choose to go on a walking tour or explore at your leisure.

There are a few ways to get to Barrio Santa Cruz. From the cathedral, find the courtyard Plaza del Triunfo.

Plaza del Triunfo
Plaza del Triunfo

From there, walk through an archway to enter the Patio de Banderas, a courtyard right outside the exit for the Real Alcázar.

Patio de Banderas

Walk through the courtyard and through a little alley at the corner of the square. You’ll find yourself in the lovely Calle Juderia.

Calle Juderia in Barrio Santa Cruz

Wander through, take in the lovely jasmine scent, and check out the handful of galleries and small shops. You might get a little lost in Barrio Santa Cruz, but hey — it’s not necessarily a bad thing!

Day 2: Real Alcázar and Plaza de España

The Real Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace with beautiful Moorish architecture and extensive gardens. While the cathedral is Seville’s nod to Catholicism, the Real Alcázar shows the Arab influence in Spain for many centuries. Be sure to buy tickets in advance.

View of a dome inside the Real Alcázar
View of a dome inside the Real Alcázar — isn’t it stunning?

You’ll notice a lot of geometric patterns and arabesques typical in Islamic art, as the Moors conquered Spain in the 7th century. In the 13th century, however, the Catholic kings of Spain initiated the Spanish Reconquista to recapture territory from the Moors. Aspects of Muslim architecture combined with a mix of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque styles to create a unique style, named mudéjar. Inside the Alcázar you’ll find the Mudejar Palace, also known as the Palacio del Rey Don Pedro.

The gardens at the Real Alcázar are some of Europe’s oldest gardens, also featuring styles from different periods. I personally really enjoyed exploring the Grutesco Galley (see below), which provides some fun vantage points to see the gardens.

Grutesco Galley at the Real Alcázar

Later in the day, head south and check out the now Instagram-famous Plaza de España. The Plaza was built as the centerpiece of the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929 and features colorful ceramics, ornate bridges, and intricate railings (a.k.a. “balustrades”).

My attempt at a non-awkward flamenco pose at the Plaza de España

The Plaza de España is a perfect spot to relax and/or people watch. If you’re tired of walking (or looking for a nice sunset activity), you can rent rowing boats and float down the mini river.

Day 3: Triana, shopping, and flamenco

No trip to Seville would be complete without a stop to Triana — a charming historic neighborhood right across the Guadalquivir River, known for its azulejos (ceramic tiles) and vibrant flamenco culture. In fact, I used to live in Triana with my host family. Not only were they proud sevillanos, but they were also proud trianeros.

View of the Guadalquivir River and the bridge to Triana!

From the city center, cross the Puente de Isabel II bridge and you’ll soon arrive in Triana. To start, check out Cerámica Triana for a little history of Triana and its ceramics. At the intersection, turn right onto Calle San Jorge and walk straight until you see the intricate facade for Cerámica Triana. It’s hard to miss!

You can also see a variety of other ceramic shops if you turn right from the entrance of Cerámica Triana and onto the perpendicular street, Calle Antillano Campos. I used to walk to and from school on this narrow street everyday, and I loved how picturesque it was (see below!).

For lunch, stop by Triana Market, which is right by the bridge near the Castle of San Jorge. I personally recommend Cerveceria Loli for their seafood, especially the shrimp and the paella! You can find it toward the back of the market.

For souvenir shopping, I recommend the shopping area located close to the Church of El Divino Salvador (back near the city center). In particular, go to Calle Sierpes and its parallel street, Calle Cuna. Look for the shops with hand-painted fans (albánicos in Spanish) — they make wonderful gifts, especially for hot summer weddings! Note that the price of the fans can really vary depending on the quality. For those who like fashion, you’ll find plenty of Spanish clothing and shoe stores in the area, too. Just be sure to come before the siesta hours from about 1:30pm to 5:00pm!

Casa de la Memoria, Seville

Lastly, if you haven’t already, attend a flamenco show. You are in the cradle of this passionate music and dance, after all. My personal favorites include Casa de la Memoria and La Casa del Flamenco, which offer intimate shows in a typical patio setting. Be sure to arrive early to get the best seats! I’d recommend getting there at least an hour early.

Summary

I hope I’ve convinced that there’s so much to see and experience in Seville. While Seville is witnessing some modernism (the interesting Setas de Sevilla being one example), the city is the essence of everything traditionally Spanish.

If you’d like some more specific information, let me know! If you have been to Seville, I’d love to hear your thoughts, too.

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