Best Things to Do in Seville Spain: UNESCO Sites, Flamenco Shows and Tapas Tours

With its colourful history, vibrant culture and wealth of architectural treasures, Seville beckons visitors to uncover its many layers. There are so many things to do in Seville from wandering the whitewashed streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz to visiting the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and admiring the Mudéjar courtyards of the city’s Alcázar. You should also attend a flamenco performance, visit the historic bullring and savour the best of Andalucían cuisine in Seville’s tapas bars.

Top 13 Things to See in Seville

Seville Cathedral and La Giralda

Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was built in the 15th century on the site of a former 12th century Almohad mosque. The cathedral’s towering dimensions, opulent decorations, treasure-filled chapels and grand tombs reflect Seville’s wealthy past. The cathedral’s most iconic component is the Giralda bell tower, which was the minaret of the former mosque. The bell tower stands 343 feet tall and visitors can climb ramps and 35 slopes to enjoy spectacular city views from the top. Other highlights of Seville Cathedral include the glittering gold altarpiece, Christopher Columbus’ tomb and the Murillo paintings found inside.

Things to Do in Seville: Visit the Cathedral

Archivo de Indias

The Archive of the Indies is a historic building that houses valuable documents relating to the Spanish Empire’s exploration and governance of the Americas. It was established in 1785 in the Casa Lonja of the merchants of Seville, a Renaissance-style building adjacent to the cathedral. The archive contains thousands of documents including maps, illustrations, letters and legislation that provide immense insight into the history of Spanish colonialism and its impact.

Some of the most prized items found here are the original petitions of the settlers of Hispanic America. This archive is a unique and incredibly important resource for studying the imperial expansion under the Spanish crown.

Alcázar of Seville

This royal palace complex displays a mixture of architectural styles reflecting centuries of Moorish and Christian history. Originally built as a fort in the 8th century, it was expanded over the centuries by Muslim and Christian rulers. Highlights include the Ambassador’s Hall with its exquisite dome and intricate tilework, the elaborately decorated Mudéjar Palace with beautiful courtyards and fountains and the lush gardens incorporating Moorish elements like geometric flower beds, pavilions and ponds.

The Alcázar is considered one of the most outstanding examples of Mudéjar architecture found anywhere in Andalucía and is recognised alongside the Cathedral and the Archivo de Indias as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.

Real Alcázar de Sevilla
Real Alcázar de Sevilla – Photo Credit: CC Nicolas Vollmer

Barrio Santa Cruz

This charming old Jewish quarter has winding streets, picturesque squares, traditional houses with flower-decked balconies and many tapas bars and restaurants. Its is also home to the 15th century Murillo Gardens and key historical attractions such as the Hospital de la Caridad and the Hospital de los Venerables.

Plaza de España

Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929 which was held in Seville, this grand plaza is probably the most impressive of all of Spain’s plazas. It features a huge semi-circular brick building decorated with azulejo tilework depicting maps and scenes from each Spanish province. In the centre of the plaza is a large fountain and moat.

The four footbridges which cross the moat represent the ancient Spanish kingdoms of Castile, Navarre, Aragón and León. Movie fans may find that the Plaza de España seems familiar as it has appeared in films such as Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars. Visitors can rent boats to paddle along the moat for unique views of the plaza.

Things to do in Seville: Plaza de España

Parque de María Luisa

Just next to the Plaza de España are lush gardens of the Maria Luisa Park which were built after the Ibero-American Exposition. Their main features include beautiful fountains, ponds, palm trees, pavilions and various tropical plants from around the world. The park provides a welcome oasis from the bustling city and is a popular spot for taking a well earned break from sightseeing.

Torre de Oro

On the banks of the River Guadalquivir stands the Torre de Oro which today represents one of Seville’s major landmarks. It was originally built as a watchtower by the Moors who could close access to the harbour by attaching a chain to it and to the opposite bank of the river. It is now used as a maritime museum with exhibits on Seville’s history as a port city.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

This is Seville’s grandest hotel which was constructed by King Alfonso XIII for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Designed in a Moorish Revival style, the hotel has hosted many celebrities and royalty over the decades. It remains one of the most iconic and prestigious hotels in Spain. Non-guests can step inside the building to admire the beautifully decorated entrance areas and dining room and the hotel’s restaurant is open to the public.

Antigua Fábrica de Tabacos

This 18th century former tobacco factory is one of the largest and most impressive buildings in Seville. It was made famous in Bizet’s opera Carmen as the setting where Carmen worked. The large central courtyard surrounded by colonnaded galleries provides a glimpse into the massive size of the former factory where thousands of tobacco workers, especially women, were employed. Nowadays it is home to the University of Seville.

Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza

Dating back to 1761, Seville’s 12,000-capacity bullring is one of the oldest and most beautiful arenas in Spain. It continues to host a major bullfighting festival during the city’s Feria de Abril celebrations. There is a popular bullfighting museum at the bullring and visitors can take an informative guided tour of the venue.

Seville Bullring

Metropol Parasol

This modern mushroom-shaped structure is more commonly known as the ‘Setas de Sevilla’ (setas are mushrooms in Spanish). It consists of six parasols with elevated walkways overlooking Plaza de Encarnación. Underneath are Roman ruins, an open-air market and an archaeological museum.

Seville Metropol Parasol

Basílica de la Macarena

The Virgen de la Esperanza Macarena (Virgin of Hope) is Seville’s most loved saint. She is the patron saint of bullfighters and favoured by Spanish gypsies. Her statue stands in the 17th century Baroque-style basilica in the Macarena neighbourhood. This elaborate wooden sculpture, adorned with velvet robes and diamond tears, is carried through the streets of Seville during the Semana Santa processions.

Other magnificent churches to look out for in Seville include the Basílica de Jesús del Gran Poder and the Iglesia del Salvador which are both in the in the San Lorenzo neighbourhood.

La Casa de Pilatos

This 16th century palace imitates a Roman villa and is considered one of the finest examples of Andalusian Renaissance architecture in Spain. The home is filled with art, artifacts and azulejo tiles. The central courtyard has a double arcade with marble columns surrounding a tranquil pond and orange trees. Highlights include the grand staircase, Duke’s Hall with its coffered ceiling and underground ruins of a 1st century Roman temple.

Best Things to Do in Seville

Go to a Flamenco Show

No trip to Seville is complete without experiencing an authentic flamenco performance at one of the city’s legendary tablaos. As the birthplace of this intricate Spanish dance, Seville offers a range of venues where you can enjoy the complex dance routines, emotional songs and rapid guitar rhythms of live flamenco.

Top tablaos include El Arenal, housed in a 17th century building and hosting shows since 1947. You can dine on traditional Andalusian cuisine while watching spellbinding dancers. Another top venue is Tablao Los Gallos Tablao which hosts high quality performances in an intimate setting every evening. Check out our guide to the best flamenco shows in Seville before deciding on which tablao to go to.

Flamenco Shows in Seville

Take a Tour of the Tapas Bars

You can’t leave Seville without indulging in one of Spain’s most beloved traditions – hopping between tapas bars. Typical to Southern Spain, tapas culture entails going from bar to bar sampling small plates of appetizers with drinks. In Seville, going out for tapas is a central part of the social scene. Historic Barrio Santa Cruz is packed with some of the best tapas bars in Seville which are tucked away in its narrow alleyways.

Top picks include Las Teresas, an institution since 1870, and El Rinconcillo which is housed in a former 17th century inn. Wherever you go, make it a point to explore Seville’s tapas landscape. Grazing through the specialties at various bars offers a traditional local experience which allows you to mingle with locals and try local Andalusian delicacies.