15 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Seville
Seville casts a spell of enchantment over visitors from the minute they step foot on the quaint cobblestone lanes and stroll the palm-lined promenades. Elegant edifices, old-fashioned street lamps, and horse-drawn carriages create a magical ambience, and the sights are as stunning as the atmosphere. Seville's cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Christendom with a majestic tower that was once the minaret of a great mosque. Another relic of the Moorish past, the Alcázar dazzles with its lavish Mudéjar decor and lush gardens. Discover the charm of this quintessential Andalusian city in the peaceful courtyards and winding alleys of the medieval Barrio Santa Cruz. Take a walk through the beautiful Parque de María Luisa, and bask in the sun at the Plaza de España, Seville's most graceful square. Fun-loving tourists will want to watch the feisty flamenco performances and take part in the city's famously flamboyant festivals.
1 Catedral de Sevilla
Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in Christendom, unmatched in its impressive scale and abundance of art treasures. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this incomparable monument was constructed between 1402 and 1506 on the site of the town's principal mosque. The Giralda Tower was originally the minaret of the mosque built in the 12th century by Almohad Moorish rulers. This 93-meter-high tower of the cathedral is still the emblem of Seville. To arrive at the cathedral, visitors walk through the Patio de los Naranjos (Patio of Orange Trees), which was the forecourt of the mosque. The octagonal fountain in the center is a remnant of the Islamic midha, the fountain for religious ablutions.
Entering the cathedral, visitors are immediately awestruck by the immense proportions of the nave. The five-aisled interior extends 117 meters in length and 76 meters across and soars to 40 meters in height. This overwhelming space is the most grandiose Gothic interior in Spain. The Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel) features a resplendent retablo, considered a masterpiece of Gothic woodcarving. In the center is a silver image of the Virgen de la Sede surrounded by 45 scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin. In the south transept stands a striking monument to Christopher Columbus, fitting of his historic stature. Behind the Capilla Mayor is the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel). Built between 1551 and 1575, this domed Renaissance chapel contains the royal tombs. The Sacristía Mayor is a magnificent 16th-century chamber that contains a large candelabrum and a crucifix by Pieter de Kempeneer. Within the Sacristía Mayor, the Treasury displays the precious gem-adorned crown of the Virgen de los Reyes.
For a break from sightseeing after visiting the cathedral, head to the Calle de las Sierpes, north of the Plaza Nueva. This narrow pedestrian lane is Seville's main shopping street, lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants. For a special treat, stop at the Confiteria la Campana to sample enticing Andalusian confections such as candied figs, oranges, and pears.
Address: Catedral de Seville, Plaza del Triunfo, Avenida de la Constitución, Seville
2 Barrio Santa Cruz: Seville's Most Charming Neighborhood
Brimming with old-fashioned Sevillian charm, the Barrio de Santa Cruz was the Judería (Jewish quarter) during the medieval era under Moorish rule. Many of the quarter's churches were originally synagogues. The Barrio Santa Cruz is found in between the cathedral and the Alcazar. This medieval neighborhood is characterized by its labyrinth of cobblestone pedestrian lanes (too narrow for cars), whitewashed houses with attractive patios, and picturesque shaded plazas with outdoor cafés. Many of the quiet courtyards, such as the Plaza Doña Elvira, are planted with fragrant orange trees. The Plaza Santa Cruz features rose beds and a 17th-century wrought-iron cross in the center. At the Plaza Refinadores, visitors will find a statue of Don Juan Tenorio, a famous local literary character.
The Barrio Santa Cruz has two noteworthy museums: the Centro de Interpretación Judería de Sevilla (Calle Ximenez Encisco 22A) that illustrates the history of the city's Sephardim (Spanish Jews) and the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes (8 Plaza de los Venerables), a 17th-century hospital for retired priests that now houses the Fundación Focus Abengoa collection of Spanish paintings and sculptures. Be sure to stroll through the Jardines de Murillo, beautiful gardens filled with palm trees, fountains, and beautifully tiled benches. For an excellent view of the cathedral, head to the Plaza del Patio de Banderas.
3 Real Alcázar
Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Real Alcázar was originally the medieval fortress of Moorish rulers and later of the Christian kings. The palace was built in the 10th century for Moorish rulers. In the 11th century, it was governed by the legendary Moorish ruler and poet al-Mutamid. After the Christian Reconquest in the 1360s, Moorish architects created the Mudéjar-style buildings for King Pedro the Cruel. Visitors enter the palace through the Puerta Principal that leads to the Patio de las Doncellas. This elegant courtyard was built between 1369 and 1379 and exemplifies Islamic architecture with magnificent arches featuring open arabesque work above 52 marble columns. The oldest of the rooms, the Sala de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) has a splendid stalactitic dome ceiling with decorative friezes and inscriptions in Arabic script. Off the Patio del Leon (Patio of the Lion) is the Sala de Audiencias, one of the most ornately decorated rooms in the palace, featuring a lavish artesonado (intricately carved wood) ceiling.
Be sure to save plenty of time to explore the gardens. These beautifully manicured grounds are filled with leafy palms, sweet orange trees, and colorful roses. In traditional Andalusian style, courtyards, decorative pools, and refreshing fountains are the centerpieces of the landscaping. Across from the Alcazar is the Casa Lonja, which houses the UNESCO-listed Archivo de Indias, an archive of documents from Spain's colonial years in the New World.
Address: Plaza del Triunfo, Seville
4 Parque de María Luisa and Plaza de España
Inside the Parque de María Luisa, the Plaza de España is one of Seville's most impressive landmarks because of its scale and grandeur. The enormous 50,000-square-meter plaza is surrounded by the balustraded balconies of a Renaissance Neo-Moorish style building. This semicircular building curves around, following the shape of the canal running through the square. A monumental fountain is a graceful centerpiece of the square, while the peaceful canal is crossed by four footbridges. Tourists can rent a rowboat for the afternoon to experience the "Venice of Seville" or opt for an equally romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the park.
The Parque de María Luisa, with the Plaza de España at its center, was the site of the Exposiciones Universales in 1929. The park is close to the river, and the main entrance is at the Avenida de Isabel la Católica. This expansive and beautiful green space was created by the Infanta María Luisa Fernanda de Borbón. The grounds are filled with exotic palms, orange trees, elms, and Mediterranean pines. Lovely historic buildings and colorful tiled benches add to the dreamy ambience, and the landscaping features decorative flower beds, shady avenues, Moorish fountains, and ornamental pools. Visitors will enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park, while discovering hidden surprises along the way such as ponds and pavilions.
5 Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts)
Seville has an exceptional museum of fine art, housed in the 17th-century Convento de la Merced. This museum is considered to have the best collection of painting in Spain after the Prado in Madrid. The collection covers art works from the Gothic period through the 20th century. The representation of works by 17th-century Spanish painters is especially noteworthy. Visitors will see some of the best paintings by famous Spanish artists including as El Greco, Pacheco, Velázquez, and Alonso Cano. The museum has a special focus on masterpieces by Murillo as well as works by the Seville school of the 17th century. The religious paintings by Zurbarán are also excellent.
Address: 9 Plaza del Museo, Seville
6 Santa Semana (Holy Week Festival)
The Semana Santa celebration in Seville is one of the most exciting festivals in Spain. Following centuries-old traditions, the Catholic brotherhoods (cofradías and hermandades) from the different quarters of the town participate in elaborate processions. Clad in penitents' garb, they carry impressive floats that display ornately decorated figures of saints. The main procession is the eve of Good Friday and on Good Friday morning. The ceremonies held in the cathedral during Holy Week are particularly splendid.
During the rest of the year, visitors can still see the famous icon of the Holy Week procession at the Basilica de la Macarena (Calle Macarena). This church possesses the figure of the Virgen de la Macarena, which is displayed on a lavish float during Holy Week. With a tender expression and tears running down her cheeks, this Virgin figure evokes an emotional response.
7 Museo del Baile Flamenco (Museum of Flamenco Dance)
Seville is famous for its flamenco, a flamboyant art form with roots in the Gypsy culture. Flamenco includes both dancing and singing, but most importantly, it is an expression of the soul. The best flamenco dancers have technical process as well as a special gift of channeling the emotions. The Museo del Baile Flamenco celebrates the beauty of flamenco with exhibits on all aspects of the art: dancing, singing, and guitar. This innovative museum features flamenco costumes, creative video displays, and other educational exhibits. The museum also has a Flamenco School and hosts professional Flamenco Performances daily from 7pm-8pm all year long.
Another place to see authentic flamenco dance is at El Palacio Andaluz, a traditional tablao-style (small venue) theater that offers intimate performances. This 19th-century theater is near the Basilica de la Macarena.
Address: Museo del Baile Flamenco, 3 Calle de Manuel Rojas Marcos, Seville
8 Real Maestranza Bull Ring and Bullfighting Museum
The Real Maestranza is one of the finest bullrings in Spain, and with seating for 14,000 spectators, it is also one of the largest. Built in 1761, the Real Maestranza is an emblematic landmark of Seville and its famous tradition of bullfighting. Designed in Baroque style, the Real Maestranza features graceful arcaded seating that provides welcome shade on sunny days. The bullring has an oval shape, which is unique among Spanish bullrings. Housed within the bullring is a museum. The collection exhibits traditional costumes, photographs, and paintings related to the dramatic art of bullfighting.
Address: 12 Paseo de Colón, Seville
9 Casa de Pilatos
The 16th-century Casa de Pilatos is believed to be a replica of Pilate's house in Jerusalem. Built by Moorish and Christian architects, the house features a variation of Mudéjar style, with Gothic and Renaissance details. Typical of Andalusian architecture, the building has a central patio adorned with azulejos (colorful ceramic tiles) and antique sculptures. The Salón Dorado (Golden Room) is a beautiful room with faience decorations and an artesonado (coffered wood) ceiling. The main staircase and the private chapel are also noteworthy. A collection of ancient Roman sculptures is displayed throughout the house.
Address: 1 Plaza de Pilatos, Seville
10 Archeology Museum
Located within the Parque de María Luisa, the Archaeological Museum occupies a Neo-Renaissance pavilion built for the Latin American Expo of 1929. The collection begins with the early Paleolithic period; continues with Phoenician, Greek, and Roman antiquities; and finishes with Moorish and Mudéjar items from the Middle Ages. The ground floor displays artifacts discovered at the Itálica archaeological site (nine kilometers away) in the province of Seville. Among the highlights are the gold jewelry and a statue of Diana. Another remarkable piece is the Carambolo Treasure from the Tartessian period, which is displayed in its own room on the first floor. This room contains a reproduction of the gold treasure and a shrine dedicated to Phoenician divinities.
Address: Plaza de America, Seville
11 Barrio de Triana
This historic quarter of Seville has its own distinct character and identity. Across the river from the main tourist attractions of Seville, the quarter has the ambience of being a world apart. Similar to the Barrio Santa Cruz, the Barrio de Triana is a maze of narrow cobblestone streets and narrow alleyways leading to atmospheric squares. What distinguishes the Barrio de Triana is its heritage as a traditional potters' quarter as well as its Gypsy community. For centuries, the people of this neighborhood have used the clay from the banks of the Guadalquivir River to create authentic Andalusian ceramics.
The ceramic workshops of the Barrio de Triana, mostly located on the Calle Callao, the Calle Antillano Campos, and the Calle Alfareria, are especially renowned for their fine azulejos, glazed ceramic tiles adorned with colorful geometric patterns-a legacy of Andalusia's Moorish aesthetic. The boutiques of this quarter also sell beautiful decorative ceramic plates, cups, pitchers, serving pieces, and other objects for the home. After browsing the little shops, tourists will be ready for a meal at one of the neighborhood's riverfront restaurants; many have outdoor terraces overlooking the monuments of Seville. An interesting trivia fact about the Barrio de Triana: From this quarter near the San Telmo Bridge, Magellan set out for his voyage around the world.
12 Monasterio de Santa Paula
This Monasterio de Santa Paula was founded by Doña Ana de Santillan in 1473 for the Jerónimas nuns. For five centuries, this monastery has been devoted to divine worship and study of Scripture. Within the cloisters of the building, the monastery possesses an important art collection. Tourists can visit the monastery to discover its artistic heritage. Sometimes the nuns can also be found selling their handmade cakes and confections here.
Address: 11 Calle Santa Paula, Seville
13 Ayuntamiento (Town Hall)
This impressive 15th-century town hall was designed in the Plateresque style by Diego de Riaño. The intricately carved reliefs on the southern facade depict figures from historical stories and mythology as well as emblems of the storied founders of the city, Hercules and Caesar. The building was renovated in the 19th century with a Neoclassical main facade that looks out onto the Plaza Nueva. A small archway connects the town hall building to the adjacent Franciscan monastery. Tourists may make an appointment to visit the interior, which contains several important artistic works including a painting of the town's patron saints, Justa and Rufina.
Address: 1 Plaza Nueva, Seville
14 Biblioteca Colombina
The son of Christopher Columbus, Hernando Colón, put together the collection for this library between 1496 and 1539. The Biblioteca Colombina is one of the most important collections of Renaissance-era volumes in Spain, with a special focus on the humanist writings of the Golden Age. Originally Colón amassed a collection of 15,000 volumes by buying books on his travels through Europe. Unfortunately, many of the original volumes were lost. Today, the library contains 3,200 volumes, including 1,250 incunabula and 587 manuscripts. One of the most noteworthy items in the collection is the Libro de las Profecías, a biography of Christopher Columbus.
Address: Calle Alemanes, Seville
15 Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija
The Palacio Lebrija is a lovely aristocratic Sevillian mansion. The palace was designed to impress with its grand staircase leading up to the entrance and gorgeous artesonado ceilings. The walls are decorated with Arabic-style plateresque ornamentation, and the courtyard is filled with Andalusian plants. This palace also displays archaeological treasures including ancient mosaics, glasses, vases, and sculptures.
Address: 8 Calle Cuna, Seville
Where to Stay in Seville for Sightseeing
The prime places to stay in Seville are those close to the UNESCO World Heritage Site that includes the cathedral and the Alcazar. Just adjacent to these is the old Juderia, a maze of charming streets known as Barrio Santa Cruz. A number of the old houses here are now small hotels, while larger hotels are plentiful in the nearby streets of the Alameda district. Here are some highly-rated hotels in Seville that are close to the top-rated attractions:
- Luxury Hotels: For the old-world grace and elegance of a grand hotel, Hotel Alfonso XIII is Seville's top choice, right by the Alcazar and cathedral. Gran Melia Colon has stylish rooms and exceptional service in the fashionable shopping area near the fine arts museum, a 10-minute walk from the cathedral. At the edge of Santa Cruz, near Casa de Pilatos, a 10-minute walk to the cathedral, Hotel Palacio de Villapanes has a small rooftop plunge pool.
- Mid-Range Hotels: In the heart of atmospheric old Santa Cruz, close to the cathedral and Alcazar, El Rey Moro Hotel Boutique Sevilla has rooms that surround a lovely courtyard with a fountain. In a nice neighborhood less than 10 minutes from the cathedral, Hotel Becquer has large rooms, some with balconies, and views of the cathedral from its rooftop terrace and pool. Also with a rooftop pool, NH Sevilla Plaza de Armas sits near the river and the fine arts museum, a 10-minute walk from the cathedral.
- Budget Hotels: Monte Carmelo Hotel is on a pedestrian street in Triana, a picturesque neighborhood with lots of restaurants, just across the river from Maria Luisa Park and the historic center. Hotel Goya is in the heart of Santa Cruz, steps from the cathedral and Alcazar. In the central shopping area close to all the historic sites, Hotel America - Seville has underground parking for guests.