Seville is the capital of Spain's southern Andalusia region and the top tourist destination in the south. It has a population of 1.6 million in the metropolitan area and is Spain's fourth largest city.
The city sits on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, connecting the agricultural interior of the Guadalquivir valley with the sea. This position has led the city to act as an important trading port since Roman times, and increased Seville's importance through Moorish rule, especially after new trading routes opened up to the Americas.
Seville's rich history has contributed to its architecture and culture, which made the city an important stop for wealthy 19th-century travelers on their Grand Tour of Europe. Today it has some of the most impressive sights in Spain and an exciting culture of fiestas and fun.
If measured by volume, the Cathedral of Seville is possibly the largest church in the world. It dates from the 15th century and incorporates some features of the earlier 12th-century mosque that was built on the site. The central nave rises more than 120ft and the cathedral contains the remains of Christopher Columbus. An adult ticket costs EUR8.
La Giralda was originally built as the minaret for the Moorish city's mosque but was converted into the bell tower for the cathedral. It is now the symbol of Seville and an unmissable part of any visit. You can climb up the 34 ramps to gain a fantastic view of the city. Admission is EUR9, which also includes admission to the cathedral.
The Real Alcázar is a beautiful Moorish palace, built in the 14th century by Pedro the Cruel. It has countless rooms, intricate architecture, and lush gardens. You can also visit the room where Columbus planned his voyage to the Americas. Admission is EUR9.50 and the palace offers a cool retreat from the searing heat in the summer.
Seville has more bars per capita than any other city in Europe. It has a huge choice of nightclubs, some of which are open air, giving you the opportunity to dance the night away beneath the stars. Seville's nightlife will carry on right through the night until 7 am, so be prepared to party hard.
Bullfighting is not for everyone but it is an important part of Seville's culture. To gain an understanding of this ancient sport without attending an actual bullfight, you can visit the arena and the museum of bullfighting. The arena is regarded as the most beautiful in Spain and admission is EUR7.
The Alcázar Real will leave you breathless as you explore the interior and outer architecture of the Dark Ages. Constructed in the 1300s, the fortress has Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance designs set apart by its white, blue and gold signature royal colors. Each room has its distinct personal touch. Enter Queen Isabella's private bedroom and chapel located on the castle's upper floor. Down in the gardens, sit down, relax and take in the view. Be prepared to spend hours inside Seville's Royal Palace in order to take in the architecture, history and beauty of this grand monument.
Located within proximity to the Reales Alcázares and the General Archive of the Indies, the Catedral de Sevilla is the third largest Roman Catholic cathedral in the world. Enter the Plateresque, silver-decorated nave and fill your eyes with Gothic-style architecture designed by Pierre Dancart. Walk through the many doors of the Gothic style facades and visit Christopher Columbus' tomb. The tomb holds 4 bearers, each representing one of the four Kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra. Walk up the tilted ramps that guide you to the top of the Giralda, the cathedral's tower, and get a bird's-eye view of the city, the Alcázar and Barrio Santa Cruz.
Take a carriage ride at Parque Maria Luisa through the various roads and enjoy the sight of orange trees, elms, Mediterranean pines and beautifully covered flowered beds that decorate Plaza de España. The Renaissance-neo-Moorish style architecture is located in the middle of Maria Luisa Park and extends alongside the canal aligned by alcove benches created from painted ceramic tiles.
Built alongside the Guadalquivir River, the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold) has history dating back to the 1220s. Its tiles reflect a golden tone, hence the gold reference. It's rumored that the tower hid the gold taken from the Incas and Mayans by the Conquistadores. If you love water and boats, the tower has a museum dedicated to maritime history. Every floor houses flags, maps, models of ships and amazing diving equipment. Moreover, hanging on the walls are portraits of naval explorers and their accomplished discoveries.
At the center of Seville stands the Metropol Parasol. Located in Plaza Encarnacion, this contemporary museum is designed as six unified gigantic parasols swirling outwards. Made from wooden crossed beams, it's the world's largest timber-framed edifice. Visit the Antiquarium located in the basement and become enthralled by the Roman and Moorish ruins that were discovered when the city was building a parking lot. The building also hosts a number of restaurants. End your tour by taking a stroll to the Mirador viewing area where you can get a magnificent view of the city's marvels.
Seville can get very hot in summer and temperatures can top 113 degrees Fahrenheit. It is perfectly possible to visit the city during these months but do take precautions in the powerful sun and keep well hydrated. March through to May is perhaps the best time to visit the city, with the major festivals of Semana Santa and Feria de Abril taking place back to back. Fall is quieter, with warm temperatures and winter is mild and even quieter.
Seville International Airport (SVQ) is a 25-minute drive from the center of the city. It has good connections to major European cities but fewer international routes. A bus leaves every 30 minutes from just outside the arrivals hall and should get you into the center in around 30 minutes. It costs EUR4. Taxis can be found just beside the bus stop and offer a fixed fare of EUR22 into the city center.
Seville's main train station is the Sevilla Santa Justa Station, on the eastern side of the city. This is the terminal for the high-speed Spanish rail network. These trains will take you to Cordoba in under an hour, and it is less than three hours to Madrid. The San Bernardo station operates more regional routes.
Spain has a good network of modern roads. The E-5 runs south from Seville to Gibraltar and east to Cordoba. The main route north is the E-803, which connects with the E-90 to take you to Madrid. The A-49 goes west to Portugal.
The Spanish bus service is excellent and Seville has good connections to other Spanish cities. There are regular services to Cordoba, Malaga, and Alicante. The two main bus stations are in the center: Prado de San Sebastian and Plaza de Armas.
B&B Naranjo is a good budget option right in the center of the city. Hotel Abanico is a mid-range hotel in a traditional 18th-century Sevillian house, moments away from the city's main attractions. San Gil Hotel is housed in a converted palace, which is thought to be one of the 100 best buildings in Seville. It is one of the city's finest hotels.
Santa Cruz - this is the city's former Jewish Quarter. It is home to the Cathedral and the Alcázar, and is Seville's premier tourist area. It has lots of cobbled streets, secret squares, and handsome buildings with flowers filling the balconies.
La Alameda - this is the city's bohemian quarter. It has lots of hip bars, vegetarian restaurants, galleries, and craft shops, as well as some great nightlife and is wonderful for people watching.
El Arenal - El Arenal is the city's old port area. Today it is an upscale neighborhood with delis and good bars and restaurants. It's also home to the bullring.
Seville has an excellent public transport system. There are frequent buses running to all parts of the city and a single journey costs just EUR0.70. You can buy a refillable bus card at news kiosks for EUR1.50 and top it up as required.
Taxis in Seville are plentiful and relatively affordable but do take care to pay only the metered fare. It will cost EUR1.20 to flag down the taxi and around EUR1.20 per mile thereafter. There is a minimum charge of EUR3.24.
Traffic in Seville can be heavy and parking in the city center difficult to find. Much of the city center is closed to cars, so you may have to park elsewhere and walk or use public transport. Car hire will cost around EUR50 per day, and Europcar and Sixt are both present in Seville.
Seville's main shopping streets are Calle Sierpes and Calle Tetuán, with stores selling everything from fashion to ceramics. Avenida de la Constitución is a pedestrian street with good shops and cafes, close to the Cathedral.
A pound of apples will cost around EUR0.80, while a dozen eggs typically costs EUR2.27. Major supermarkets include SuperSol and Hiper Oriente.
Tapas are the local specialty, consisting of small plates of varied food. Good tapas bars include Pedalquivir on the banks of the river, and El Patio San Eloy. Habanita is a good vegetarian restaurant in the city center, with a nice open air terrace. A couple of tapas and a drink will cost around EUR10. Dinner in a top restaurant like La Azotea will cost around EUR50 per person without wine.