Ah, Sevilla. It may not be big, but this is a city which packs a fair punch. Its narrow cobbled streets encapsulate the very essence of Spanish culture. Tapas bars spill out onto the streets; flamenco performers seduce you in. Imposing Moorish architecture dominates the skyline, while ancient Churches sit quietly on every corner, waiting for the hour to come so they can toll their bells. The air is sweet with the smell of oranges.
It’s a place which will quickly catch your heart, and which seems to have a never-ending supply of energy. I spent a couple of days in Seville in late September 2017 (which, for the record, was perfect temperature-wise!), and felt it was a good amount of time to get to grips with some of the ‘must-do’s’. Seville isn’t a particularly big city to explore, but if you do find yourself yourself short on time, here’s a few suggestions for fun things to do:
Explore the Real Alcázar
If there’s one thing I would implore you to do while in Seville, it’s to visit the Alcázar. This royal palace was originally designed by Muslim Moorish Kings back in the 14th Century, and is still used as an official house of residence by the Spanish royal family today. There’s a complete blend of Arabic and European influences throughout the labyrinth of buildings, and it’s simply stunning to explore. Look out for the intricate tile work, the carved ceilings and be sure to take a stroll through the gardens. Just don’t get lost in the maze! The Alcazar is, quite rightly, an extremely popular sight, so I’d definitely recommend booking online in advance and going as early in the day as possible, lest you fancy spending a rather sweaty afternoon in an unnecessary queue.
Pick an orange from a naranjo tree
Seville is famous for its naranjos, or orange trees. Over 14,000 line the city’s streets, giving the town a lovely perfume. You can pluck an orange straight from the tree (you’re likely to notice them scattered at the base too!), but be warned, Seville’s oranges are notoriously bitter rather than sweet! Locals use them in pastries, biscuits and marmalades, and their leaves are thought to have medicinal properties too.
Grab yourself a rooftop view
With its impressive skyline, Seville is a city which is perhaps best enjoyed from above. Thankfully, it’s also home to numerous great rooftop bars. To end the day in style, head to the top of Hotel Fontecruz, grab yourself a cocktail and marvel at the view as the sun comes down over the nearby Cathedral.
Enjoy some of the country’s finest tapas
The tapas scene in Seville is legendary, and quite rightly so. Rows upon rows of bars line the street, many spilling out onto the squares. It can be hard to know where to begin, but as a general rule of thumb I’d stay away from the tourist hotspots and head into the quieter backstreets, where you’re more likely to find genuine dishes at local rates. The Jewish Quarter is a great place to start, and remember, there’s no need to stick to one place! Tapas dining is a fairly informal way to eat, so you’re well within your rights to have a couple of dishes and a glass of sangria before moving on to the next joint. In many restaurants, you’ll find that if you order an aperitif at the right time of day, they’ll bring you some nibbles for free too. Free chorizo? What’s not to love?
Catch some flamenco
Seville is widely regarded as the home of Flamenco, so it’d be positively rude not to watch a show! You’ll often stumble upon street performers through the day, but for a more immersive experience head along to one of the city’s flamenco social clubs, such as Peña Níño de la Alfalfa…I guarantee that by the end of the night they’ll have you on your feet!
Visit the Cathedral
When it was first built, in the early 16th Century, Seville’s Cathedral was the largest in the world. Today, it is still the third-largest and its impressiveness stands strong. The gothic architecture and detailing are seriously beautiful, but if design alone weren’t enough, it’s also the burial spot for Christopher Columbus and his son Diego. After exploring the lower parts of the cathedral, head to the top of the Geralda, the 343 foot bell tower. The views from the top are simply unbeatable.
Cool down by the river
When the afternoon sun starts getting a little too much, head down to the River Guadalquivir. There’s a nice breeze if you walk along the banks, and plenty of sights to see as you pass by the Torre del Oro and the city’s legendary bullring. If you’re feeling adventurous, you might also want to join in on a two hour kayak tour with local company Not Just a Tourist
Marvel over the Plaza de Espána
As far as public squares go, it doesn’t get much more impressive than the Plaza de Espána. Though it looks much older, this grand plaza was actually only built in 1928. It incorporates elements of Renaissance, Moorish and Spanish architecture and has a funky Art Deco vibe to boot. It’s a prime place for taking photos and people watching, and you can even take a rowing boat out on the moat, should the mood strike!
Take a stroll through the Parque de María Luisa
The María Luisa park is the largest green space in Seville, and a lovely place to whittle away a quiet hour or two. You’ll often find markets and festivals taking place here, but at over 100 hectares, you’re sure to find a quiet spot if you fancy making like the locals and having a wee snooze beneath a tree. Explore the park on foot or take a horse drawn carriage, and be sure to keep an eye out for the books left out on the park benches – it’s a lovely little tradition whereby locals and travellers alike leave them as gifts for strangers to enjoy.
Discover the secrets of Los Corralones
You won’t read about Los Corralones in the guidebooks; that’s because strictly speaking, it’s a bit rule-breaky. I was told about The Corralones by a n American ex-pat I met in a bar one night and was completely intrigued. Sadly it was my last night. Legend has it that in the depths of night, down a labyrinth of dimly-lit cobbled streets, a mishmash of lock-ups open up their doors to become makeshift artists studios, rehearsal spaces and pop-up bars. It’s like a late-night, sneaky festival, and while it may be a little bit frowned upon, is rumoured to be a whole lotta fun. As stated, I cannot verify these claims, nor recommend that you go there. I am merely letting you know that it exists. What you choose to do with that information is entirely at your own discretion…
The problem, as always, with writing a list like this, is that you cannot possibly sum up a city in ten points. I hope, however, that I’ve given you a nod in the right direction for some fun and quirky activities. Have you been to Seville before? What would be amongst your top ten things to do?