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Soaking Up Seville

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by Irenke Forsyth (subscribe)
A writer sharing travels, experiences, a love of festivals & events. Life is a journey and I hope to inspire others. Visit my blog at
Published April 19th 2023

Known for its famed traditions of flamenco and bullfighting, Seville lies in the south-west of Spain in the Andalusia region and is a city worth exploring for many reasons. From Roman remnants and Moorish heritage to present-day modernity, you'll find loads of charm. Delicious tapas too.

Often referred to as the Pearl of Andalusia, this 2,200 year old city has plenty to see and do and my first stop was Plaza de Espana. This landmark square is one of the most beautiful plazas I have come across. It's also one of the largest and was built for the Ibero-American Expo in 1929 with Spain's goal being to make symbolic peace with its former American colonies.

A huge decorative pavilion, consisting of a main building with two towers, wraps around the plaza in the shape of a semi-circle. With a mix of architectural elements that include Art Deco, Baroque, Renaissance and Moorish revival styles, it's something to behold.

Today, the building for the most part is used by government institutions but what beckons you to explore closer are the 52 benches covered in painted tiles at the foot of the building. Each one of these seated alcove areas depicts an image of a Spanish province, flanked by a porcelain structure on each side. They're ordered alphabetically and bear the name of the province, the coat of arms, a map and some historical facts. It's a ceramic encyclopaedia that sees Spanish tourists happily posing for a picture in front of their own province's fresco.

But that's not all the beauty that abounds here. In the middle of the plaza, there's a central fountain surrounded by a moat with 4 lovely bridges. Each of the bridges represents one of the four ancient kingdoms of Spain - Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarra. Small boats are available to rent for you to paddle around the moat. It's certainly one plaza you won't want to miss on a visit to Seville.

Adjacent to the plaza is Maria Luisa Park, a huge space full of colourful flower gardens, Mediterranean trees, tiled fountains, ponds and magnificent pavilions dedicated to the USA, Mexico and a handful of South American countries.

The gorgeous building of the Museum of Arts and Traditions is also located in the park and houses everyday items from Seville's traditional industries, households and customs throughout the city's history. You'll see the likes of ceramics from the 16th century and large displays of swords and knives, as well as various trade workshops relating to tile-making, metalwork, lacework and barrel-making (for the local fino sherry).

A lovely way to get around the park is by doing a horse and carriage ride. You can find the horses lined up outside the entrance on the Cnr Av de Maria Luisa & Av Portugal.

Not far away is another must-see whilst in Seville, the Real Alcazar. Built for Christian King Peter of Castille, it's the oldest royal palace still in use in all of Europe and a UNESCO World Heritage site with Hispano-Muslim architecture.

Enter through the Lion's Gate and discover beauty and history in abundance. Inside you'll find halls and rooms with antique furniture, chandeliers, clocks, huge tapestries and a collection of paintings.

Outside is equally impressive with patios, gardens, sculptures, a maze, an outpouring of fountains and ponds, tiled decorations, pavilions, arches and galleries. It's a joy to wander around, so take your time and immerse yourself in this monumental site that is a cultural and environmental gem.

There is an entry fee to Alcazar and at the time of my visit, it was EUR14.50 per person through Headout Bookings.

The palace can be found at Patio de Banderas and right next to it is another attraction, Seville Cathedral. It's also UNESCO World Heritage-listed and is the largest Gothic church in the world. Once a grand mosque, it was Christianised in 1248 after the conquest of Ferdinand III with changes made to internal spaces that were divided into chapels (there are 80 of them) and adorned to suit Christian worship practices.

Notable features include a box-like choir loft, carved scenes from the life of Christ and an altarpiece that was the lifetime work of craftsman Pierre Dancart. Other elements from the mosque were preserved by builders, those being the courtyard for ablutions (with the new name of Patio de los Naranjos) and the minaret (with the addition of the bell tower La Giralda).

Apart from its conqueror Ferdinand III, the Roman Catholic church is renowned for being the burial place of explorer Christopher Columbus. His tomb is held aloft by the four symbolic figures that represent the four kingdoms of Spain during his life.

The ticket price on the cathedral's website is, at the time of writing, showing as EUR11 per person.

A 10-minute walk north of the cathedral and you'll be upon Setas de Sevilla. It's old square (Plaza de la Encarnacion) meets a modern wooden structure (also known as Metropol Parasol). Hanging over the plaza, some call it the mushrooms due to its shape. I call it a giant waffle but, whatever you call it, it's very unique and was designed to offer shade in this sunny city.

Completed in 2011, it was at first fought by the people of the city. They dubbed it a monstrosity that didn't fit in with the historical plaza but it has since become a meeting place for all citizens and often hosts music and sports events, amongst other celebrations.

There are various levels within the 'catwalk' structure that include places for trade and culture, including a food market with almost 40 stalls where you can purchase all kinds of food. Beneath street level is the Antiquarium Museum, the largest archaeological site in Seville with excavations and ruins aplenty, whilst a trip on the elevator to the rooftop for EUR3 gives you spectacular 360-degree views of the city. At night, marvel at the structure as it lights up with a special Aurora light show.

Setas de Sevilla is most certainly something you won't find in any other city, so take some time to discover this pergola that makes for some interesting photos.

Next up, if you like museums, I suggest heading west of the 'giant waffle' to the Museum of Fine Arts in Plaza del Museo. The beautiful pink building with its series of peaceful courtyards, in this older part of the city, is home to some of the best art in Seville. After the Prado Museum in Madrid, this museum is the most important in Spain due to it covering works from the Middle Ages through to the Renaissance and Baroque periods and up to the 20th-century.

Much of the work is religious and comes from the monasteries and convents that were closed down in the 19th-century. There's also paintings and sculptures from the Sevillian School to admire. Entry fee is a small EUR2.

A bit further west and you'll reach the Guadalquivir River that runs through Seville. There's a number of points of interest along it. Whilst on the right bank, you might want to enjoy a riverside walk. Starting at the Isabel Bridge and heading south, you'll come across the ornate watchtower of Torre del Oro erected in the 13th-century and, a bit further along, there's the architecture of the University of Seville to take in. If you want to see a 250-year old bullfighting arena, then just off the riverside is Plaza de Toros. It's a grand royal bullring still used for bullfights and has a museum of bullfighting art.

On the left bank of the river, you have the neighbourhood of Triana with many of the things that people associate with Sevillian culture. From food stalls to shops selling painted ceramics and the rhythm of flamenco music and dancing (with Tablao Flamenco "Orillas de Triana" offering traditional performances), there's a lot to love about this area.

The main way into Triana is via the Isabel Bridge, where you arrive at Plaza del Altozano and a monument to flamenco art with the much-photographed statue of a flamenco dancer. Be sure to also check out the area's Moorish revival and Baroque architecture.

Guadalquivir River is also the place for water activities, including stand up paddle boarding and kayaking. Renting of equipment is available for you to go off on your own or you can join a group. Sightseeing boat tours are also popular, with some offering tapas on board.

Speaking of tapas, there's plenty of bars and restaurants where you can grab some tasty bites and relax. Along the riversides and into the city centre, around twisting streets and alleys, you can enjoy the likes of patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), chipirones (deep-fried baby squid), queso manchego (cheese), cured ham, oxtail stew, and prawns with garlic. One of my favourite places I went to many a time was Barrabas Tapas Restaurant in Plaza del Museo. They have a range of tapas as well as main meals and desserts. I recommend the braised pork cheeks with potatoes. The pork was lovely and tender, certainly a highlight.

Getting around this seductive city is easy. It's very walkable, whilst also having plenty of transport options. There's a metro system, trams, buses (including a tourist Hop On Hop Off bus) and a public bike-sharing scheme.

On the whole, Seville has a lot to offer visitors. It's also a good base for some day trips. Whether you hire a car or take a bus tour, the surrounding towns and villages within reach include Granada (famous for the Alhambra Palace), Ronda (for its stone bridge over a gorge) and the White Villages nestled on cliffs (Zahara de la Sierra, Grazalema & Setenil de las Bodegas), historic Cordoba (for its Roman bridge and the Muslim architecture of the 10th-century Mezquita Cathedral), Cadiz (for beaches & Andalusian horse dancing) and Jerez (to see how sherry is made).
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Why? For the love of history and culture
Your Comment
What a beautiful looking city. I've been to Spain but not Seville. Yet. Congrats on the award Irenke.
by Maria-MPG Narratives (score: 3|1028) 51 days ago
Looks fabulous, Irenke - Spain is on my bucket list day! Congrats on the well-deserved silver!
by Elaine (score: 3|9406) 55 days ago
Wow What a fabulous place.
by May Cross (score: 3|8394) 50 days ago
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