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What to See and Do

Andalusia’s capital is a city rich with Moorish heritage. This is visible in everything from the colourful painted tiles that adorn many buildings, to the lobed arches of the palaces and of course the iconic Giralda tower, which was once a minaret.

Seville Cathedral is like a little world on its own, and you will lose hours staring in awe at the beautiful architectural flourishes, relics and historical curios. With 80 different chapels it’s the largest cathedral in the world by volume and is a World Heritage site. There are also hints of the mosque that once stood on this spot, especially in the Court of the Orange trees on the north side, where Muslims once performed ablutions. The big photo opportunity inside is definitely the tomb of Christopher Columbus, but there’s something spectacular at almost every turn. An enduring emblem for Seville, the Giralda is the bell-tower right next-door to the Cathedral, and you can purchase a ticket for both attractions. It has Moorish origins, being the minaret for the former mosque. What’s unusual about the tower is that 34 ramps lead to the top instead of a stairway. This was so that Muezzin who led the call to prayer could ride his horse up the tower instead of walking. To break up the monotony of the climb there are regular archaeological exhibits on the way up. And at the top the view is even better than you could hope for.

“Plaza de España” is a colossal monument that was built for the Ibero-American Exposition in 1929 and stands within the Maria Luisa Park.It’s a semi-circular plaza edged by a canal and overlooked by a large, curved palace. The palace contains many of the city’s administrative buildings, but the reason to visit is to walk beneath the gallery. You’ll see busts of important national figures but also little installations for every province in Spain. Using typical Sevillian azulejos (painted tiles) these displays showcase details like the local food and famous monuments in each part of the country.

Real Alcázar is a marvellous UNESCO-listed palace complex that is still in use by the Spanish royal family: their chambers, state rooms and halls are on the upper level and can be viewed if you pay a little extra. Nearly all of the complex is in the Mudéjar style (Moorish-inspired architecture for non-Islamic buildings) and was developed by Pedro the Cruel during the 14th-century. There are small glimpses of the original Almohad palace on the Patio del Yeso, for instance. On a visit you’ll walk from courtyard to beautiful courtyard, look up at carved coffered ceilings and surround yourself in the lush greenery of the sprawling gardens. 

The Archaeological Museum is part of ensemble built for the Ibero-American Exposition, collecting the most important artefacts from the archaeological sites around the Seville Province. The most exciting finds are from the Bronze Age: For example, dating to the 8th century BC is Treasure of El Carombolo. This hoard belonged to either the local Tartessos Culture that lived on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, or to the Phoenicians. It’s a hoard of 21 pieces of gold jewellery, and after replicas had been on display for many years the original items were installed in 2012.

By the right bank of the Guadalquivir, starting at the Isabel Bridge you can set off on a very enjoyable riverside walk south towards the University of Seville. On a sunny day (so, most of the time) Seville’s residents will be out for walks, riding bikes, jogging or sitting on the stone walls looking across the water to Triana. You can come off the riverside to see the Plaza de Toros, the 250-year-old bullfighting arena. Further down is the Torre del Oro, an ornate watchtower erected during the days of the Almohad Caliphate in the 13th century, now housing a maritime museum.

Las Setas de Sevilla is one of the biggest monuments from nowadays, constructed and designed by Jürgen Mayer. It has five floors and each one is directed for one special motive. The last level and the highest one, “El Mirador”, and it helps you to see most of the place. This place also receives the Andalusian market from that zone.

Seville is the home of tapas, and the alleys and twisting streets around the Cathedral, Ayuntamiento building and the riverside have tons of tapas bars. What’s fun is the way many of these joints will have one or two specialities, so an evening can be a crawl from bar to bar, with something delicious to try at each stop. This can be “patatas bravas” (spicy potatoes), “chipirones” (deep-fried baby squid), queso manchego, cured ham, oxtail stew, and prawns with garlic.