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Shining above the city is the world’s largest Gothic church in the world, simply known as The Cathedral. It was built in the 1400’s on the site of a mosque during the Reconquista and took 120 years to complete. It holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus himself and features the largest altarpiece ever made, covered in gold leaf. Be sure to head to the Giralda Bell Tower for sweeping views of Sevilla below. Notice during the walk up the steep ramps to the top, how it was made to accommodate horseback riders, who went up 5 times daily for the Muslim call to prayer.
As you go back downstairs, head to the Court of the Orange Trees. Here is where Muslims in the 12th century would stop to wash themselves before entering the then-mosque. In fact, the only remaining parts of the mosque are the court and the bell tower. Across from the Cathedral is the Alcázar. At one time, it was a 10th century palace for government officials of the Muslim state, but later housed the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabel and King Pedro I. A stroll through the palace and its gardens transports you to a different time when Moors ruled the south of Spain. Seek shade in its blissful gardens and wander through the different royal apartments and wings.
If you’re going to buy souvenirs, Seville is the place to do it. As a city steeped deep in its Andalusian roots, it makes a great place to buy typical Andalusian gifts. Hand-painted ceramics, fans, and costumes are easily found throughout El Barrio Santa Cruz. Try C/ Tetuán, Velázquez and C/Sagasta for all sorts of shops. C/Cuna is well-known for the wedding and flamenco dresses it sells.
Head to the Collector’s Market on Sundays (at Plaza del Cabildo and Plaza del Museo) to peruse stamps, coins and artwork or go to the Mercado del Arenal (C/Pastor y Landero) Monday-Saturday 9:00-14:30 for fish and produce.
Most people who come to Spain, fall in love with Spanish food, and some of the most well-known food (gazpacho, olive oil, jamón iberico) is from Spain’s south. This makes Seville a great dining destination, and a unique one at that, where you can partake in the famous Spanish style of dining: going out for tapas.
Try Taberna Coloniales (Pl. Cristo de Burgos, 19) for a classical take on tapas like salmorejo and patatas bravas. Downstairs hosts a small bar perfect for drinking cañas and sampling tapas, while upstairs offers a big dining room for a long, relaxed meal.
El Torno Pasteleria de Conventos (Plaza Cabildo, 2) isn’t your average neighborhood bakery. Instead you’ll come across a hole-in-the-wall place that is actually a convent and the nuns are the bakers. Purchase your baked goods and they’ll be placed on a lazy susan, which allows the nuns to sell without being seen.
For dessert, head to Rayas (C/Almirante Apodaca, 1 Plaza de San Pedro, or C/ San Pablo, 45) an ice-cream parlor with two locations in Sevilla, considered by nearly everyone to be the best in the city. Choose from over 30 flavors which change seasonally.
Head to C/Betis and C/Castilla in the Triana neighborhood for rows of bars and trendy lounges. Enjoy some copas at Embarcadero (C/Betis 69) and a great view of the Cathedral on its riverside terrace or Ritual on C/José de Gálvez for a lively bar/nightclub decorated with Hindu art. If clubs aren’t your thing, why not take in a flamenco show? Look under the “Listen” section for more.
The best neighborhood to stay in is without a doubt, the traditional Barrio Santa Cruz, conveniently located in the center of the city. Those on a budget should try the YH Giralda (C/Abades, 30) near the Cathedral or Samay, which features a spacious rooftop terrace, perfect for enjoying glasses of sangria or late-night meals. For a clean, comfortable mid-range hotel try Hotel Puerta de Sevilla or Hotel Murillo. If you want to feel like the Catholic Kings, try Casa 1800 for a luxurious retreat or Hotel Las Casas de la Judería.
A must while in Spain is heading out for the evening paseo. This is during the golden-hour when the sun sets and casts a warm glow over the city. Finally, the temperatures have dropped and everyone goes for a stroll in the center, dressed in their best, to catch up with friends and family, go shopping, or go out for tapas.
Along the Guadalquivir River is a long stretch of promenade perfect for the paseo. Be sure to see the Golden Tower, (named for the golden tiles that once covered it) which was built in the 13th Century by the Moors, but now serves as a naval museum. Further down you’ll find the Puente de Triana, which is the bridge that leads into the Triana neighborhood. This bridge was actually designed by the same architects that designed the Eiffel Tower.
One of the most beautiful spots in Sevilla is the Plaza de España, which was built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. The highlight of this Plaza is not only the gorgeous architecture of the building, but also the impressive tile-work. It features tiles from every province in Spain, depicted by rich imagery and maps.
If you like Roman ruins, head to Itálica, outside the town of Santiponce. It was founded in the year 206 B.C. and contains an amphitheater built for 30,000 spectators, and floor mosaics.
Another option is to head to the Algarve region of Portugal for beautiful beaches and a completely unique experience from Sevilla.
Flamenco is the sweetheart of the south and Sevilla is the renowned capital of this music-and-dance art form that traces back to the Roma and Moorish cultures. Head to La Carbonería Bar for cheap sangria and a modern-twist on this centuries-old entertainment or Los Gallos (Plaza de la Santa Cruz, 11) for a more expensive, but classier show.
A very well-acclaimed show is Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus, (C/Ximénez de Enciso, 28) for an intimate performance of exclusively-acoustic music.
The heat of mid-day during the summer. With temperatures at 40º+ daily in the summertime, the stuffy, dry heat isn’t for the faint of heart. Take care and try to see the sights during the early morning or evening, and drink lots of water.