Seville is Spain’s 4th largest city with a population of some 710,000. It is a city with soaring summer temperatures which have approached 50ºC on occasions during recent summers so avoid July and August if possible. There is nowhere else in Spain that complies so closely with the foreigner’s perception of stereotypical Spain as Seville. For it is here that flamenco, bullfighting and fiesta are a way of life. Never more so than during the Feria de Abril (2 weeks after Easter Sunday) when everyone seems to hit the streets for a week long party.
Best Time to Visit Seville
Weather in Seville
In summer the weather in Seville is hot, hot, hot particularly in July and August. In these months the streets tend to be empty during the day with people leaving their houses in the early morning and then not leaving them again until late in the evening. This makes for quite a nocturnal life during this time. There is very little rain from June to September.
The winter temperatures tend to be very pleasant and although there can be some rain there are still lots of clear, sunny days. There are lots of terrace bars and restaurants around Seville where people can sit out most months to have a drink and some tapas.
Probably the best months of the year for Spain city breaks to Seville are March, April and May when the weather is good and there are lots of festivals taking place or October and November after the heat of the summer has died down. Really Seville should be avoided in July and August.
Festivals in Seville
There is always something to celebrate in Seville so whenever you visit you’re likely come across some festivity. The Feria de Abril is the main annual fiesta which coincides with the main events on the Seville bullfighting calendar. Check out the list of festivals in Seville and be sure to book accommodation well in advance as the city gets completely sold out during the April Fair and in Holy Week (Semana Santa).
Getting to Seville
By Air: Seville’s San Pablo Airport lies just 10km northeast of the city of Seville on the main A4 motorway which connects the city with Madrid. There are many incoming flights from all over Europe as well as frequent domestic connections with Madrid, Barcelona and other Spanish cities.
By Train: RENFE operates intercity trains to Seville including the high speed AVE service to Cordoba and Madrid. Arrivals from the capital will arrive at the Santa Justa Station in just 2 hours 30 minutes from Madrid Atocha. Reservations should be made well in advance for journeys which coincide with the Feria de Abril or Holy Week. Bookings can be made online in English at RENFE. From Santa Justa it’s best to take a taxi to your final destination. Before booking the AVE be sure to take a look at the ALTARIA train which takes longer but can prove a fair bit cheaper.
There are also efficient train services to many destinations in Andalucia and beyond. Please note that some departures are also from the San Bernardo railway stations which is walking distance from Barrio Santa Cruz and far more convenient than the Santa Justa station if you’re staying in the tourist centre.
By Bus: There are bus services to destinations all over Andalucia departing from the Prado de San Sebastian bus station in Seville. Departures to Madrid or Portugal depart from the Plaza de Armas bus station. These bus timetables and fares are on the Movelia website.
By Car: Anyone touring around Andalucia could fly to Malaga and rent a car before driving to Seville as part of a circular route which might include Granada, Cordoba, Jerez de la Frontera and Ronda.
Seville Airport Transfers
Getting into Seville from the airport is straightforward thanks to the bus, taxi and private transfer options available. The three main options for transferring into the city centre are as follows:
Airport Bus: There’s a special airport bus service called EA (Especial Aeropuerto) which operates between the airport and Plaza de Armas. The full journey takes around 35 minutes. You’ll find the bus stop behind the taxi rank as you leave the arrivals area.
The bus route is as follows:
Seville Airport – Avenida Kansas City – Santa Justa Railway Station – Luis de Morales – San Bernardo – Avenida Carlos V – Paseo Colon – Estación Plaza de Armas
You can check Seville bus timetables and route maps online.
Taxi Transfers: There are always plenty taxis available from the airport into the city centre from the taxi rank which is located just outside the arrivals area. The journey takes around 15 minutes with prices ranging from around €25 to €35 depending on the time of day and how much luggage you’re carrying. Prices are always higher during Semana Santa and the the Feria de Abril. For peace of mind it’s often worth considering a pre-paid private transfer.
Seville Airport Car Hire: Renting a car to drive into the city isn’t a good idea unless you’re familiar with the road system as you’ll almost certainly get lost and parking can be a nightmare. If, however, you do want to rent one there are numerous car rental operators based in the airport terminal.
Getting Around in Seville
If you’re staying in the centre of Seville you can walk to many of the main attractions such as as the Cathedral, Giralda and Alcazár which are all located right next to one another. The famous Maestranza bullring faces the Guadalquivir river which is just a few minutes walk from the Cathedral. The impressive Plaza de España is a little further out but still quite walkable. If taking in so many sights on foot is too much for you there are numerous options to help you discover this stunning city.
Tourist Bus: The most popular way to get around and see everything is to take the hop-on, hop-off bus tours which begin their itinerary from next to the river, directly opposite the bullring. There are 12 stops in total and you can hop-on and off as many times as you like. Buses depart from each stop every 20 to 30 minutes and the duration of the route is about 75 minutes. Audio commentary is available in English and the ticket is valid for 24 hours from when it is first used.
Guided Walking Tours: Of course you can visit Seville with your guidebook in hand and visit the main attractions under your own steam. However, we’d highly recommend that you take a walking tour with one of the city’s official guides. These lovely people are usually from Seville and have a genuine passion for their city which is so clearly displayed as they proudly show you around the famous monuments and lesser known corners of the city
Recommended Walking Tour
Highly recommended is the Alcázar, Cathedral and Giralda Guided Tour which includes the services of an English speaking guide who will show you around three of Seville’s most important attractions.
Public buses: City buses in and around the Seville metropolitan region are operated by a consortium of operators. Timetables (in Spanish) are available on the Seville bus transport website. City buses including the airport bus are operated by Tussam.
Horse Drawn Carriages: In the main square outside the Cathedral you’ll see many Horse Drawn Carriages which offer short tours around the city. They generally follow a fixed route out past the Tobacco Factory to the Plaza de España and María Luisa Park returning via the Torre de Oro and La Maestranza bullring. The trip lasts around 40 minutes and official prices are posted on signs near the departure point.
Seville Metro: The Seville metro has been an ongoing headache for local politicians since initial construction began in 1974. Fears of damage to historic buildings resulted in the project being put on hold between 1983 and 1999. The idea is to create four lines covering the city and its metropolitan area. Currently there is one 18km line running from Ciudad Expo to Olivar Quintos which serves little purpose for the majority of tourists.
Seville Tram: A great addition to Seville city centre is the tram which runs from Plaza Nueva to San Bernardo with stops at Archivo de Indias, Puerta de Jerez and Prado de San Sebastián. This line is being extended to link with the high speed AVE train station at Santa Justa.
River Cruise: If you fancy a break from walking around the city there are daily cruises along the Guadalquivir River which depart from the Torre de Oro. You can get more information at Seville River Cruises. This river cruise isn’t the best way to see the city as you don’t get close enough to the main sights although it’s generally popular with children and tourists with tired legs.
Cycle Share: Seville has made commendable progress in making the city cycle friendly by building cycle paths all over the city and setting up a bike share scheme which allows you to pick up a bike from one of the many bike stations and leaving it at another. The locals have adopted the new system with open arms and cyclists can be seen all over the place. For current prices, terms and conditions take a look at http://en.sevici.es/.
Where to Stay in Seville
It is advisable to book accommodation in Seville well in advance as this popular capital of Andalucia attracts visitors all years round thanks to the excellent climate of Southern Spain and attractions of this fabulous city. Bear in mind that there are many festivals in Seville which attract visitors from all over the world meaning a shortage of hotel rooms during Holy Week (Semana Santa), the April Fair (Feria de Abril) and numerous other annual fiestas.
The majority of first time visitors to Seville will find accommodation to suit their budget in the vicinity of Barrio Santa Cruz in the historic heart of the city. Here there are numerous budget options tucked away down side streets as well as some charming hotels housed in typical Sevillian mansions.
Seville 3-Star Hotels
Casona de San Andrés (Calle Daoiz, 7)
A small and friendly place some 10 minutes from the Cathedral on foot with good access to the shopping district. Not an option with your own car.
Hotel Alcázar (Menéndez Pelayo, 10)
Perfectly located in the heart of Santa Cruz neighbourhood with its own parking, this hotel with views of the Murillo gardens is a fine choice.
Seville 4-Star Hotels
Casas de la Juderia (Plaza Santa Maria La Blanca)
Located in the Jewish Santa Cruz Quarter, this is one of the most charming hotels in Seville. The hotel comprises a number of houses and former palaces with a quaint patio and fountain at the entrance. Our QUAINT Choice.
Hotel Fernando III (San Jose, 21, Seville)
Great location in the the middle of the Santa Cruz quarter beside the historic Jewish quarter. The hotel is ideal for visiting the main cultural, shopping and tourist areas of the city. The hotel is equipped with a swimming pool on the 4th floor with stunning views of the bell towers and spires of the city.
Hotel San Gil (Parras, 28)
Hotel San Gil is housed in a stunning building in the old quarter of Seville about 200 metres from the Magic Island Thematic Park. Beauiful building and highly recommended but a bit of a stroll to the Cathedral area.
Hotel Becquer (Reyes Catolicos, 4)
A fine choice for location lying just a few minutes walk from the Cathedral and the historical centre. Very helpful staff and easy access by road. They often have special offers making the hotel one of Seville’s best for value.
Hotel Ayre Sevilla (Avda. Kansas City)
Ideal if your travelling by the high speed AVE train service from Madrid as this hotel lies next to the Santa Justa railway station. You’ll need to use the easily accessible public transport to get to the tourist district but the fine facilities including a swimming pool compensates for this.
Silken Al-Andalus Palace Hotel (Avda La Palmera, s/n)
This is a good choice if you don’t mind being about 2½ km north of the city centre. The hotel is in a residential area and overlooks the Betis football stadium and has plenty parking available without having to get lost in Seville’s traffic before finding it. There is a great outside area with a swimming pool and peaceful gardens.
Seville 5-Star Hotels
Hotel Alfonso XIII (San Fernando, 2)
This hotel was named after the king who commissioned it in 1928 and was designed to be Europe’s most luxurious hotel. It is situated among the arches and arabesques of the historic city centre only minutes from the Reales Alcázares and Plaza de España. It is easy to see why it was named in Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List. Our LUXURY Choice.
Apartments in Seville
An interesting alternative to staying in a hotel in Seville is to reserve an apartment for your stay. There are apartments to cater to the needs of all visitors to Seville ranging from small two person flats to larger apartments suitable for families and groups of friends. A great advantage of the apartment option is that you don’t have to eat out all the time which makes a welcome change when you’re on an extended visit.
Seville Hostels & Backpackers
Many visitors to Spain aren’t comfortable with the idea of staying in as “hostal” is it conjures up thoughts of some kind of down and out’s hostel in English. This is a fallacy as a Spanish “hostal” is simply a cheap hotel which is often a family run business. In some parts of Spain these “hostals” are bursting with character and provide far more interesting accommodation than modern hotels. In Seville they tend to be very small and are mainly occupied by budget travellers and students. Many of them are really quaint as they have been established in charming Sevillian houses centred on a small courtyard patio. A few favourites include the following:
Nuevo Suizo Bed and Breakfast
Address: Azofaifo, 7
Located in the very heart of the historical centre, the Hostal Nuevo Suizo is close to all the major attractions of Seville.
Bed and Breakfast Naranjo
Address: San Roque, 11
This Bed & Breakfast is housed in a typical Seville building just fifty metres from the Museo de Bellas Artes and the main shopping district around c/Sierpes …
Hostal Santa Catalina
Address: Alhondiga, 10-12
Another typical Seville house built on two levels in the historic centre with easy access on foot to most of the city’s main sights …
Address: Abad Gordillo, 17
Next to the Museo de Bellas Artes is the Hostal Museo which is in a converted 19th century Sevillian house. Perfect location for sightseeing …
Address: c/Benidorm, 2
Nice spot on the river near the Isla de la Cartuja from where you can easily wander to the city’s main sights.
Pensión El Giraldilla
Address: c/Gravina, 23
Friendly family run option located just behind the Museo de Bellas Artes in the centre of Seville.
Address: Puerta de Jeréz, 3
Cheap accommodation right next to the Jardines de los Reales Alcázares and within easy reach of all of the city’s main attractions.
A word of advice … One well known US guide book warns of the dangers of Barrio Santa Cruz to the extent that many North American visitors that we have dealt with seem terrified of visiting Seville. These worries are unfounded. The area is beautiful with a wonderful atmosphere and with people all over the place … tourists, locals, children going to school, university students. I suppose someone has had a bag snatched at some time but isn’t that the case with any touristy destination? Exercise common sense as you would anywhere and you’re most unlikely to run into any problems in Seville.
What to See in Seville
Seville Cathedral: Seville’s immense cathedral is one of the biggest in the world with only St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London being larger. It was built on the site of Muslim Seville’s main Mosque between 1401 and 1507 and is top of the list of things to see in Seville. One highlight of the cathedral’s lavish interior is Christopher Columbus’ supposed tomb inside the south door. It is also home to a priceless art collection including famous works by Goya, Murillo and Zurbarán.
La Giralda: The tower which adjoins the Cathedral is called La Giralda. It was the Mosque’s minaret and dates from the 12th century. Under Christian rule a belltower was added to the top as well as a famous weather vane called El Giraldillo which is a well known symbol of Seville. You can climb the 97 metres to the top of the tower for great views over the city.
Alcazár: Standing next to the Cathedral, this fortress from the Muslim-era (dates from AD 913) served as a hideout of Muslim and Christian royalty for many centuries. If you’ll also be visiting the Alhambra in Granada then Seville’s Alcazar is a good place to see first as it is a fine introduction to Moorish architecture.
Plaza de España: Visit Spain’s most beautiful Plaza de España and relax in the gardens of Maria Luisa.
Torre del Oro: Standing on the river along Paseo Cristobal Colon is this 13th century Moorish watchtower which is a symbol of Seville. Inside is an interesting maritime museum.
Metropol Parasol: Located in Plaza Encarnación this contemporary wooden structure is made up of six mushroom-like parasols. It was only opened in 2011 and houses the Museo Arqueologico Antiquarium in its basement together with a food market and several restaurants on its other levels.
Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza: Dating back to 1758, the bullfighting arena in Seville is one of the oldest and most beautiful in Spain. Visitors who wish to see the inside the venue are obliged to take a short, guided tour.
Museums in Seville
Archivo de Indias: This fascinating museum at Plaza del Triunfo near the Cathedral is home to all the documentation related to the discovery of the Americas dating from 1492 to the end of the Spanish Empire in the late 19th century.
Museo de Bellas Artes (Plaza del Museo, 9): Seville’s Fine Arts Museum is the city’s most impressive art collection. It is housed in a former convent where notable masterpieces by artists of the Seville School (Murillo, Vales Leal and Zurbaran) are well represented.
Museo Arqueologico: The archaeological museum at the southern end of the Maria Luisa Park was built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929. It is one of the city’s best museums with artefacts dating back to prehistoric times. Later exhibits are displayed from the Roman occupation of the Iberian peninsula. Free with EU passport.
Museo de Arte Contemporaneo (Santo Tomas, 5): This gallery displays a fine collection of contemporary Spanish art from the 1970s to the current day.
Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares (Plaza de America, 3): At this museum of folklore and arts there’s an interesting display of costumes worn through the ages at Seville’s festivals and craft exhibitions.
What to Do in Seville
Go to a Flamenco Show
Barrio Triana in Seville is where flamenco was founded. In the city there are a number of celebrated ‘tablaos’ where you can enjoy high quality flamenco shows often with a meal as part of the package. Some people prefer to take in what they consider the ‘true’ flamenco of the back street bars where local artists sing, dance and play the guitar in unforgettably soul-stirring flamenco rhythms.
Go Shopping in Seville
Make your way to Plaza Nueva then wander along Calles Sierpes, Tetuán and Velázquez where you’ll find many fashionable locals browsing the upmarket shops. You’ll find excellent women’s clothes and shoe shops as well as top notch bags, jewellery and other fashion accessories on offer. In addition, there are a few specialist shops selling authentic flamenco dresses and accessories (try Calle Francos) as well as a stretch of shops catering for brides to be. There’s also an exceptional selection of shops dedicated to children’s clothes and some ceramic outlets, such as La Ceramica de Sevilla (Calle Garcia de Vinuesa, 16).
Most shops in this area open from 10am until 2pm then usually close for around three hours with afternoon opening hours usually being from 5pm to 8pm. On Saturdays the smaller shops don’t open in the afternoon and everything is closed on Sundays along Calle Sierpes.
For tourist souvenir shopping you’ll find plenty little gift shops selling t-shirts and flamenco items in the streets of Barrio Santa Cruz. Ceramic tiles are also on sale in many of these shops, however, you should head across the river to Triana if you’re interested in buying locally made ceramic items. At Calle Alfareros, 20 you can watch these ceramics being made. Another place to look out for is Ceramica Santa Ana at San Jorge 31 in Triana where there’s a vast selection of ceramic items on display.
For something a little more impersonal head for the enormous El Corte Inglés department stores at Plaza de la Magdalena and Plaza del Duque where you can buy pretty much anything including top quality Spanish food products.
Markets in Seville:
Thursday – There’s a popular flea market on C/Feria near the Alameda de Hércules whose origins can be traced back to the 14th century.
Sunday – You can head over to the Puerta de Triana on Sunday mornings for their weekly market.
Sunday – Also on Sunday mornings there’s a market in Plaza del Cabildo near the Cathedral which sells all kinds of old coins and stamps.
Sunday – In front of the Museo de Bellas Artes in Plaza Museo there’s an art market held on Sunday mornings.
Watch a Football Match
Seville is home to two top flight Spanish football teams. The season runs from August to May with home games taking place on alternate weekends. European and cup fixtures take place during the week. Sevilla Fútbol Club is perhaps the better known of the two clubs thanks to their success in the UEFA Europa League. Their city neighbours Real Betis Balompié haven’t enjoyed such success but are one of the best supported teams in the country with a fantastic atmosphere at their home games. Tickets for both teams can usually be bought at their respective stadiums on matchday except for the city derby and matches against FC Barcelona and Real Madrid.
Visit Isla Mágica Theme Park
After the 1992 Expo in Seville this site located on the Isla de Cartuja was converted into a giant amusement park with adjoining business park. It lies just across the river from the northern part of the city providing great fun for children on the many rides which follow a general theme based on the Spanish colonial history.
There’s a great buzz in the streets of Seville at night as some locals wander between tapas bars whilst others browse the windows of the stylish shopping streets around Calle Sierpes. As the night develops the restaurants in Seville become packed with diners whilst visitors head to one of the city’s ‘tablaos’ to watch a flamenco show. After midnight Seville’s nightclubs are open with partying through until dawn.
Seville Tapas Bars
Seville is one of the best cities in Spain in which to enjoy a stroll around its countless tapas bars. Just drop into one of these bars for a ‘tapa’ or ‘media ración’ then move on to the next one during an evening of ‘tapeando’. And be sure to wash it down in each venue with a caña of Cruzcampo, the city’s favourite beer.
Although traditional Spanish tapas are readily available wherever you go, the revolution in Spanish cooking has led to some restaurants and bars offering innovative, contemporary, even fusion-style, tapas dishes. And there’s certainly more for the vegetarian diner than was the case a few years ago. Take a look at our recommended tapas bars in Seville to help plan your evenings.
Restaurants in Seville
If you find you don’t want tapas but instead prefer a ‘proper’ meal there are many historic restaurants in Seville where you can go and enjoy a ‘sit down’ meal. In addition to the good value ‘menu del día’ opportunities you’ll see in many places there are some truly exceptional restaurants offering the very best in Spanish and International cooking.
Most dedicated Seville nightclubs only open their doors from Thursday to Sunday. They may officially start from around 9pm but you’ll find few party goers before midnight and often the places don’t get really busy until the middle of the night. As long as the clubs are hopping they’ll usually stay open until sometime between 5am and 7am so make sure you get a siesta before going clubbing.
Many of the top nightclubs and discos are in the Triana district, as well as around the Expo ’92 site, but there are also plenty in and around the old city centre. You’ll find that most of these clubs will have strict dress codes. Even when it’s not ‘Feria’ time Sevillanos like to smarten up when they have the chance.
A few popular venues include the following:
- Holiday (Jesus del Gran Poder, 73)
- Birdie (Avda. San Francisco Javier, 24)
- El Coto (Avda. Luis Montoto, 118)
- Culture Club (Cuesta del Rosario, 12)
- Sala Malandar (Avda Torneo, 43)
Day Excursions from Seville
You’ll never be bored in Seville as there are so many things to see and do. However, if you have enough time there are a number of fantastic day trips from Seville to the the great Moorish cities of Córdoba and Granada or to the mountain town of Ronda. The most popular of these excursions is to the nearby town of Jerez de la Frontera where you can watch watch a show of the dancing horses at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art and take a tour of the the sherry bodegas of Jerez. A shorter excursion from Seville is to the Roman ruins of Italica at Santiponce which is only 8km from the city and easily accessible by bus.