Legend says that Seville was founded by Hercules, the mythological Roman demigod, on six columns. Although archeologists think it was actually founded by Iberians around 10 BCE, we prefer the first (and more epic) version of the story. Because that’s what Seville is: an epic city that encapsulates Andalusian culture, gastronomy, and architecture, all in a colorful package that’s waiting to be opened.
Why you should visit Seville?
Seville can be summarized in three words: flamenco, food, and, of course, fiestas. Combining art, folklore, music, and dance, it’s hard not to be enticed by the intoxicating sounds and intricate movements of flamenco dancers.
While the rest of Spain is a foodie’s paradise, Andalusian food is on a whole different level. Known as the birthplace of tapas and gazpacho, there’s no shortage of cafes, tapas bars, bodegas, restaurants, and eateries to appease your taste buds at.
Sevillanos are legendary for throwing parties, and many fiestas are drawn-out affairs, dragging out into the main streets and sweeping everyone up in the frenzy of celebration. The most famous is Feria de Abril (‘April Fair’), a week-long fair that consists of intricate parades, kiosks selling local delicacies, ladies and gentlemen in ornate costumes, all coming together for the world’s most colorful party. Will you be joining?
What to Do & See in Seville?
From the colorful tiles of the classic Plaza de España to the modern Metropol Parasol, Seville continues to charm visitors and locals alike with its architectural variety, along with historical districts, arts, and essential hotspots that symbolize the capital of Andalucía.
1. The Royal Alcázar Palace – No trip to Seville is complete without a visit to the royal palace. An absolute architectural masterpiece, the palace was built and rebuilt over the course of 11 centuries, each time better than the last. Alcázar’s main draw is its characteristic Mudéjar architecture, which is simply a visual delight for anyone who comes to visit. Walk through secret orange-blossom courtyards, intricate archways, and palm-filled gardens to feel as if you’re in a Spanish-style fairytale.
2. Barrio de Santa Cruz– Known as Seville’s Jewish Quarter, Santa Cruz can only be described as an explosion of colors, smells, and tastes – a true feast for the senses. Although the district contains plenty of big-name attractions like the Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, and the Giralda bell tower, we recommend taking a day to simply stroll through the cobblestoned streets, explore all the nooks and crannies, and wander into a few tapas bars for good measure.
3. Metropol Parasol – Although it’s officially called Metropol Parasol, this giant art installation’s more famous nickname is Las Setas – the mushrooms – thanks to its fungi shape. Blurring the line between past (the historical plaza that it’s set on) and present (its modern look), Metropol Parasol is the world’s largest wooden structure. For a small entrance fee, you can take the elevator to the top and walk on top of the mushroom ‘caps,’ or catch the sunset and stunning panoramic views at the rooftop bar.
4. Itálica, just a few kilometers north of Seville, is known as ‘Little Rome’ thanks to its well-preserved amphitheater and as the birthplace of two great Roman emperors—Trajan and Hadrian. A fascinating step back in time, this historical archaeological park is worth taking a half-day trip to see.
5. Watch a Flamenco performance – Capturing the hearts and attention of spectators around the world, the exciting flamenco dance traces its birthplace to Andalucía. If you want to experience one of Seville’s legendary performances, there are dozens of flamenco bars scattered around the city, with the most popular in the Triana district. Speaking of Triana… when exploring the neighborhood, don’t forget to stop by the colorful Iglesia Santa Ana. Legend says that children who are baptized here are given the gift of a harmonious voice for flamenco.
6. Travel through Spain at the Plaza de España – Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, this spectacular plaza offers visitors a chance to travel to all fifty provinces in Spain – without leaving Seville! The Plaza has fifty individual alcoves, each representing a province of Spain on colorful azulejo tiles with characteristic symbols of that region. When visiting the Plaza de España, try to guess where the local Spanish tourists are from – usually they’ll run up to their province first and excitedly start taking photos!
7. Feria de Sevilla, you haven’t probably seen a more colorful festival! It’s unique, it’s flavorful, it’s sophisticated, and very fun. The sacred week for Sevillanos are seven days dedicated to party and to celebrate the joy of life with family and friends. Watch, the access is private – it is not a public fair -, you need to get to know someone to have an invitation and get in. Thinking of experiencing it? You can check more details here.
8. Carmona is a very artistic escape! Carmona is one of the oldest cities in Europe – its history dates back to the Copper Age; and its first concentration of population takes place in the Bronze Age, in 1,800 BC. It is just 17,4 miles far from Seville (25 km), it’s a perfect destination to walk leisurely through its narrow passageways and white cobbled streets, stop at any of the breathtaking viewpoints, admire its architecture and disconnect from the big city; Carmona helps keeping the balance between the urban and the rural. Flamenco dress shops, traditional pastry shops, and the sweet star, their English cake, a fluffy puff pastry filled with angel hair. And note there are about five ice cream specialists! Did you know Carmona is famous for its hundreds of hectares of picture-perfect yellow sunflowers that usually reach 1.5 meters heigh from mid May to mid June?
Food & Wine in Seville
In Seville, tapas reign supreme and life is centered around gastronomy. Eat like a local with our suggestions:
✧ FOODS NOT TO MISS
- Tapas – Although many Spanish cities claim to be the birthplace of tapas, Seville is arguably the most likely candidate. The word tapas is derived from the Spanish word meaning ‘to cover,’ and the original tapas were thin pieces of bread or meat that tavern patrons would use to cover their sherry between sips. Nowadays, a tapa is any small appetizer or snack that is served in bars and there are hundreds, if not thousands, variations of tapas. Visiting a tapas bar is practically a tradition in Seville — there are more than 3,000 tapas bars in the city! – and there’s even a special verb, tapear, which means to dine on tapas. The star tapas? Two are mandatory: ensaladilla and jamón ibérico with an ice cold Cruzcampo (the Sevillian local beer) or glass of manzanilla sherry wine.
- Huevos a la flamenca are a benchmark in the gastronomic culture of Seville. Flamenco eggs are a simple, exquisite, and colorful dish in which peas, bell peppers, potatoes, onions, and tomatoes are cooked and later baked in a clay pot with chorizo, serrano ham, and eggs. Often cooked in the spring and summer, this dish’s unique name comes from the color of the ingredients, and how it reminded the inventor of the red hues found on the dress of a flamenco dancer. Full of energy and flavor, you’ll want to say ¡Olé! after eating a bite!
- Soldaditos de pavía are delicious strips of fried cod fish wrapped in a slice of red pepper. Found in tapas bars across the country, this is a popular dish that is commonly served after Easter. The name, “Soldiers of Pavia, [Italy]” is a reference to the red uniforms that the Hussars wore, are similar to the color of the peppers wrapped around the cod.
- Gazpacho – A classic staple of Spanish cuisine yet famous worldwide, the mighty gazpacho soup has its origins in Andalusia. Traditional gazpacho includes stale bread, tomato, cucumbers, onion, garlic, olive oil, and spices. Thanks to the different methods and ingredients used across families and restaurants, no two gazpacho are alike! Although the soup is traditionally served cold, certain regions in Spain will serve the dish warm during the colder winter months.
- Caracoles (snails), whether they are snails in sauce or with tomato, caracoles are an essential delicacy in most Sevillian terraces and home when the weather is good.
- Sangre encebollada is chicken blood with onion. Even if you might not be fan of offal, this is part of the traditional Sevillian cuisine. Sangre encebollada with onion or tomato sauce has survived the new culinary trends and is currently offered in many bars and restaurants as one of their star dishes.
- Poleá — Of peasant origins, this type of sweet porridge represents the most basic and popular cuisine of Sevillian gastronomy. Flour, spiced milk flavored with lemon, spices, and anise liqueur are the main ingredients of this ancient dish.
- Serranito is the characteristic warm sandwich of Seville and the local version of Andalusian fast food. “Mollete” flat bread is used, accompanied with a chicken or pork filet, fresh tomatoes, slices of Serrano ham, and fried green peppers. You will see these serranitos in all the tapas bars in Seville, sometimes served with red mojo picón sauce.
- Pestiños are sweet delicacies and part of the culinary legacy that the Arabs left us after the Reconquest. Pestiños are a very typical dessert of Andalusian Lent. Although the ingredients are simple, the result is delicious: flour, olive oil (or lard), white wine, water, aniseed, honey, sugar, and a pinch of salt.
✧ WINES REGIONS AROUND
In a short one hour-drive, we find what is probably one of the top 5 most-admired wine regions in the world, caressed by the sun and the ocean winds, rooted in bright white chalky soil and infused by the power of the grapes.
- DOP Jerez-Xérès-Sherry — At the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, nestled between the Guadalquivir River and the Atlantic, is the DOP Jerez-Xérès-Sherry. Combining an enviable climate of 300 days of sunshine per year with more than 7,000 hectares of vineyards, this DOP produces some of the most impressive Jerez wines and brandies in the world. The unique mix of sharp, concentrated, and flavorful tones in Jerez-Xérès-Sherry wines are thanks to the chalky ‘albariza’ soil that the grapes are grown in and the unique aging system “criaderas y soleras”. See our Spain Wine Map here.
Where to stay in Seville?
Top: Hotel Alfonso XIII, a Luxury Collection Hotel by Marriott 5* GL | Bottom left: Mercer Hotel Seville 5* GL | Bottom right: Hotel Palacio de Villapanés 5*
Hotel Alfonso XIII – Just like the Plaza de España, this opulent and luxurious hotel was built by its namesake, King Alfonso XIII, to host prestigious guests attending the 1929 Expo. Luckily for us, not much has changed and most of the original décor remains, including the patterned marble floors, historic elevators, elegant chandeliers, and colorful azulejo tiles adorning the lobby. Only one of two 5-star Gran Lujo hotels in Seville as well as a Luxury Collection by Marriott, the Hotel Alfonso XIII has hosted plenty of esteemed guests like Prince Charles and Diana of Wales, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, and Madonna – will you be next?
Palacio de Villapanés is another preferred 5-star property, albeit much smaller, it makes up its size with excellent service and the unique chance to stay in a former palace. From the moment you step inside the building, it’s hard to not notice the aristocratic atmosphere and magnificence from such a building. Although the gold arches, marble columns, and an original family crest placed atop the grand staircase might make it sound antique, the hotel recently underwent a contemporary facelift by Spanish designer Patricia Urquiola. Coupled with service by staff in designer threads (thanks to Seville-based designer Roberto Diz) and a bar that serves the city’s famed tapas, it’s a recipe for a memorable stay.
For small and cute hotels, Mercer Seville is best in class. Seville’s most exclusive boutique hotel, Mercer is also a former palace and set in the historical El Arenal district. A perfect choice for the traveler who wants to be in the center of the action, the hotel is steps away from Nueva Square, trendy tapas bars, and within walking distance from the shopping district. No expense has been spared on the 12 custom-made rooms, which are decorated with contemporary furniture, exquisitely plush beds, and Japanese-style bathrooms. A rooftop pool, along with a chic in-house bar serving inventive cocktails, await.
Noteworthy new openings include several five stars properties, the futuristic Hotel Unuk, and the long-awaited Hotel La Querencia, part of the Marriott Autograph Collection.
If you are planning a trip to Seville and are looking for expert local suggestions tailored to your needs, please reach out and we will help you find your perfect “home away from home.”