10 Top-Rated Day Trips from Seville
In the heart of Andalusia, Seville is surrounded by enchanting sights. This alluring region has a special magic, formed from layer upon layer of history and elegant edifices built over the centuries. Exquisite cathedrals, old mosques, and former synagogues reflect the region's fascinating multicultural heritage. Today, Catholicism is the dominant religion, and the Semana Santa (Holy Week) is celebrated here extravagantly. Flamboyant processions of saintly icons are accompanied by marching bands or evocative flamenco songs (saeta). Besides flamenco and festivals, the region is also known for its slow-paced lifestyle. During the sultry summer months, the locals take naps in the afternoon and go for strolls on the balmy evenings. Tourists become immersed in this delightful ambience by ambling through quaint cobblestone streets and basking at the sunny terraces of outdoor cafés, in between the dazzling sightseeing.
1 Córdoba: The UNESCO-Listed Mosque and the Old Jewish Quarter
Magnificent architectural treasures and quaint old quarters reflect Córdoba's rich heritage. A multifaceted cultural legacy is unveiled as tourists wander the narrow streets and visit the awe-inspiring monuments. The most important sight is the UNESCO-listed La Mezquita, a breathtaking 8th-century mosque that is considered one of the finest Islamic buildings in the Western world. While the Moorish community of Córdoba flourished, the city offered religious tolerance. For centuries, Muslims, Christians, and Jews lived together in harmony, while contributing to intellectual achievements that made Córdoba the greatest capital city in Europe. The mosque was converted to a cathedral in 1523 under the Catholic Monarchs.
Be sure to spend time exploring the Judería, the old Jewish quarter. This neighborhood is a charming tangle of narrow, winding lanes and atmospheric squares. The quarter's lovely whitewashed houses are reminiscent of the Greek Islands. Stop to admire each residence's flower-bedecked patio, and ideally visit during the Concurso de Patio festival in May when locals compete for the prize of "most beautiful patio." The Jewish quarter has a splendid 15th-century Mudéjar-style Synagogue and Museum of Sephardic Jews (Casa de Sefarad). Other tourist highlights are the Andalusian gardens of the Palacio de los Marqueses de Viana (an aristocratic palace) and the distinctive Arabian-style landscaping of the Alcázar (Moorish castle). Córdoba is 140 kilometers away (a 45-minute train ride) from Seville.
2 Seaside Elegance in Cadiz
Cádiz invites visitors to indulge in the leisurely lifestyle of southern Spain. This picturesque seaport has palm-fringed promenades for taking scenic walks and sunny plazas where tourists can mingle with the locals. Everything about Cadiz exudes seaside Mediterranean charm. Bask in the balmy weather, breathe in the ocean air, and admire the seagulls soaring above church bell towers. The cosmopolitan city is actually a collection of atmospheric old barrios such as El Pópulo, packed with cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways, and La Viña, the historic fisherman's neighborhood, where tourists should stop for a seafood meal. Save time for wandering around the gypsy quarter (Santa María), listening for melodies of flamenco song. Within its urban boundaries, Cádiz has excellent sandy beaches, and the city is also surrounded by the dreamy Costa de la Luz, a spectacular stretch of unspoiled sandy coastline.
3 The Drama of Andalusia in Ronda
One of the Pueblos Blancos (White Villages), this breathtaking clifftop town is one of the most dramatic sites in Andalusia. Ronda is perched on a plateau overlooking El Tajo gorge with the famous Puente Nuevo bridge straddling the 130-meter-deep ravine. Sensational sweeping views of the landscape are found at the Casa del Rey Moro gardens and the Alameda de José Antonio park. Other must-see sights include the Baños Árabes (medieval Arab Baths) and La Cuidad, the historic Islamic quarter, which reflect the town's Moorish heritage. Ronda is also legendary for bullfights and bandits. In September, the traditional Goyesca Bullfighting takes place at the Plaza de Toros bullring during the Pedro Romana Fair. The bullring and its bullfighting museum are open year-round. The Museum of Bandits shares stories about the rough-and-tumble outlaws of the 19th century, who lived in the mountains around Ronda. From Seville (128 kilometers away), it takes about one hour and 45 minutes to drive here or two hours and 30 minutes by train.
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4 Carmona: A Fortified City with Moorish Castles
Surrounded by the remains of old Roman walls, this ancient town is nestled in the countryside just 35 kilometers from Seville. Towering above are the town's two most prominent sights: the Alcázar del Rey Don Pedro, the Moorish fortress, and the 15th-century Church of Santa María la Mayor. Another noteworthy religious landmark is the Church of San Pedro, which was designed with a tower that resembles La Giralda at the Seville Cathedral. At the center of Carmona, the Plaza San Fernando is a typical Andalusian town square graced by elegant historic buildings. To get a sense of Carmona's ancient heritage, visit the Seville Gate, which dates back to the Carthaginian era of the 9th century BC.
Day-trippers seeking a gourmet lunch should dine at the Parador de Carmona, a luxury hotel converted from the 14th-century Alcázar. To arrive in Carmona, take a 30-minute car ride or a one-hour-and-20-minute train ride.
5 The Whitewashed Village of Arcos de la Frontera
Arcos de la Frontera has a way of seducing visitors with its charming whitewashed houses and spectacular views. Listed as a national historic site, Arcos de la Frontera is considered a gateway to exploring the Pueblos Blancos (White Villages) of Andalusia. Similar to Ronda, the clifftop town has Moorish roots. The 15th- to 16th-century Basilica of Santa María de la Asunción features Mudéjar architectural elements that are common in this region. The Church of San Pedro is also noteworthy for its decorative Baroque facade. Tourists visiting during Easter Week will be delighted by the town's traditional festival. Arcos de la Frontera is also remarkable for its regional cuisine. From Seville, it takes about an hour to drive to Arcos de la Frontera.
6 Andalusian Traditions in Jerez de la Frontera
This old aristocratic town takes pride in its traditions. A top attraction in Jerez is the Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre (Royal Andalusian Riding School) where prestigious pedigreed Andalusian horses prance in perfect form. Equestrian enthusiasts will especially enjoy the Jerez Horse Fair, a 500-year-old custom that continues every year in May. The event features tapas tastings and a children's amusement park. Jerez de la Frontera also boasts a center devoted to the art of flamenco, the Centro Andaluz de Documentación del Flamenco. To experience authentic flamenco performances, the best time to visit is at the end of February and in early March for the Festival de Jerez held at the Teatro Villamarta. Jerez de la Frontera is a one-hour drive or just over one-hour train ride from Seville.
7 Osuna: An Old Roman Town and 16th-Century Ducal City
This Historic-Artistic Site was an important town during the Roman era. In the 16th-century, Osuna became an established ducal city with impressive monuments, including the Andalusian Renaissance-style Ducal Pantheon and the Collegiate Church of Santa María de la Asunción. The church features artwork created for the Duke of Osuna, who was also the Viceroy of Naples. At the Plaza Mayor in the center of town is an old Moorish tower that houses the Archaeological Museum. Osuna is also famous for its lively celebrations for Holy Week during Easter. Osuna lies in the countryside, 92 kilometers southeast of Seville.
8 The Roman Archaeological Site of Itálica
Just 13 kilometers (a 15-minute drive) from Seville are the ancient Roman ruins in Itálica. The site was settled by the Romans in 206 BC and later, under the rule of Emperor Augustus, Itálica was founded as a town and began minting money. Itálica was also the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian. Today, tourists can visit the incredible archaeological site to discover ruins of old streets, buildings, and mosaics, which are found in their original location.
9 Impressive Historic Monuments in Ecija
Known as the City of Towers, Ecija boasts 11 historic towers and nine church steeples. Visitors will be awed by the town's religious monuments, including the 15th-century Church of San Gil and the 13th-century Church of Santa Cruz that was converted from a mosque. During the 16th century, the town had a significant aristocratic presence, seen in the lovely Los Palmos Palace, designed around a courtyard filled with fragrant orange trees. Ecija also has a marvelous Palace of Justice building, the Mudejar-style Casa de las Tomasas, as well as elegant town squares featuring fountains. Ecija is located 86 kilometers from Seville, about a one-hour drive or two-hour bus ride.
10 Amazing Birdlife at the Parque Nacional de Doñana
This UNESCO-listed national park is a protected zone of wetlands for migrating birds. The Parque Nacional de Doñana was formed from the delta of the Guadalquivir River. This river was known by the Moors as the Wada-I-Kebir, which translates to "Big River." Bordering the delta's sandbar are marshlands that are home to a diverse bird population including extraordinary species such as flamingoes and Spanish imperial eagles. The park also has scrublands and coastal dunes. To travel here from Seville (36 kilometers away) is about a 45-minute drive.