Sevilla is the largest city and capital of Andalucía. It is historic, dating from pre-Roman times. The city was central to the Spanish colonisation of Latin America and, as a result, has a wealth of riches from that period. Relative decline until the last 30-40 years means that much of the old city has been preserved and now restored. It has prospered and has become an important tourist destination as its cultural riches, the lifestyle, its ferias, processions and tapas have become better known.
The city lies on the navigable River Guadalquivir and sits on a wide flat plain above which the spires and towers of the city can be seen from a distance. Though surrounded by modern developments the historic core is substantial, including the areas of Centro, Santa Cruz, El Arenal and Macarena.
Sevilla from the River Guadalquivir
The centre of the city, and location of the town hall, is Plaza Nueva. Slightly to the south are the key historic monuments of the cathedral and the Giralda tower. This is the main tourist focus of the city. Behind the cathedral is Barrio Santa Cruz, which still has the feel of an Andalucian village. Between the cathedral, the river, and Pl. Nueva is El Arenal. Centro, the main shopping area is to the north of the plaza and blends into the Macarena district. The central area is surrounded by a ring road along the lines of the old walls. To the south is the Plaza de España (pictured). Across the river is the district of Triana, with the feria ground to the south and the site of expo 92 to the north. The original Roman Settlement of Italica is a few miles away, above the flood plain. The plan at the end of this page gives an idea of the layout.
Sevilla can be reached on a day trip from Málaga and the Costa del Sol, but to experience the life of the city it is better to stay overnight. In summer the climate is very hot, and while the city is built for shade from the sun, the afternoon siesta is the quietest time of day, with few people around apart from tourists. The peak tourist seasons are spring and autumn when the climate is pleasant.
Getting to Sevilla
High speed AVE and AVANT trains run regularly from Madrid (2½ hrs), and Málaga (1 hr 50 mins) to Santa Justa station. Regional trains run regularly from Málaga, Granada, and Cadiz to Santa Justa – they call also at Sevilla San Bernardo.
Málaga – Sevilla train calls at Osuna
Express buses run several times daily from Málaga to Sevilla Plaza de Armas bus station (2hrs 45 mins). There are also direct services three times daily from Torremolinos (4hrs), Fuengirola (3½hrs) and Marbella (3hrs), which arrive at Prado de San Sebastian bus station.
Santa Justa station is some way from the city centre and it is best to take a taxi to Plaza Nueva, the cathedral, or directly to your hotel. San Bernardo station is more central, though facilities are limited. Frequent trams to the city centre leave from directly outside.
Both bus stations are within walking distance of the city centre. Local bus No.21 links Santa Justa station with both bus stations and the city centre tram line.
Getting around Sevilla
Metrocentro tram line.
The best way to get around is to walk and accept that you will get lost in the warren of narrow streets. Narrow streets mean that it is impossible for buses to reach much of the historic centre. Many of the central streets are pedestrianised or have limited access for traffic.
Tram T1, also known as Metrocentro, (pictured), links San Bernardo and Prado de San Sebastian with Pl. Nueva in the city centre. There are a few bus routes that may be of use. Circular routes C3 (clockwise) and C4 (anti-clockwise) follow the ring road around the city centre, with C3 diverting across the river to include Triana. As mentioned above the 21 links the main transport hubs. Buses 13 and 14 link the city centre (Plaza del Duque) with the Alameda de Hercules and La Macarena.
Buses (pay the driver) and trams (machines at each stop) cost €1.40 per journey. A tarjeta bus card (left) available from newspaper kiosks and tobacconists costs €1.50, and reduces the single fare to €0.67. The minimum initial charge is €7. The card is also valid on the tram and can be recharged at tram stops. There is a metro line to the southern and eastern suburbs, unlikely to be used by tourists.
Open-top hop-on-hop-off bus tours with commentary cost €21 for 24 hours. They are useful to gain an initial overall impression of the city, though narrow streets and pedestrianisation mean that they cannot penetrate the oldest quarters or reach the cathedral area. You can cover the same route for a few euros by using local buses. There are also boat trips on the River Guadalquivir. Open-top buses and boats leave from Torre de Oro on the riverside. Horse and carriage rides are also available from licensed ranks in the city centre and cost about €45 – the price is fixed and displayed at the ranks. Taxis are plentiful.
Places to Visit
The best thing to do in Sevilla is simply to wander the streets…theres always something to see. Nevereless there are a few key sights that most people will not want to miss.
The Cathedral and La Giralda. Open for tourists 1100 -1530 Mon, 1100-1700 Tues to Sat, 1430-1800 Sun. Entrance €9 (€4 students/pensioners with passport or photocopy). Huge cathedral, built on the site of the former mosque. La Giralda is the former minaret, now the cathedral belltower, with views across the city.
Queues for entry can be long and tickets are available in advance online at www.catedraldesevilla.es .
Real Alcázar (Royal Palace) and gardens. Open daily 0930 – 1700 (winter), 0930 – 1900 (summer). Entrance €9.50 (students/pensioners €2 with passport or photocopy).The longest continually inhabited royal palace in Europe, a blend of many different Moorish and Christian architectural styles with cool and shaded gardens. Tickets can also be bought online in advance at www.alcazarsevilla.org .
Parque María Luisa and the Plaza de España. Delightful park with impressive square built for the 1929 Exhibition. Amazing ceramics in Plaza de España. Free.
These are the three key sites visited by everyone and feasible for daytrippers. With more time, try some of the following:
Museo de Bellas Artes – Plaza del Museo. Winter hours: 0900 – 2000 Tues – Sat, 0900 – 1500 Sun. Summer hours: 0900-1500 Tues – Sun. Closed Monday. Entrance €1.50 or free for EU citizens with passport or photocopy. Reputed to be second only to the Prado in Madrid for Spanish painting. http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/museos/MBASE/
Iglesia del Salvador – Plaza San Salvador. Open Mon-Sat 1100 – 1800 winter, 1000 – 1730 summer, Sunday 1500 – 1930 all year. Entrance €3. Baroque extravaganza of a church (left). Crowd-free. I prefer it to the cathedral – it is not so overpowering and didn’t take half the wealth of South America to build. www.iglesiadelsalvador.es .
Palacio de las Dueñas – Calle Dueñas, 5. Open daily 1000 – 1800 winter, 1000 – 2000 summer. Entrance €8 (over 65s, €6) Along a small back street in a not particularly posh area is the Sevilla home of the Duke of Alba, open to the public since 2016. Inside the gate is a complex of cool courtyards and patios. The surrounding palace rooms are full of antiques and more recent possessions of the late Duchesa de Alba, who was a feature of Spanish celebrity gossip magazines and telebasura for many years (there was never an episode of Aqui hay Tomate without a mention of her – we were only watching because it was the bar landlady’s favourite programme, honest). From the photos on show it looks like the male side of the family are the usual chinless wonders. Incidentally the name Alba is nothing to do with Scotland but comes from the town of Alba de Tormes near Salamanca. Fascinating place. www.lasduenas.es .
Torre de los Perdigones Camara Oscura, Calle Resolana, near Barqueta Bridge. Open Tues-Sun 1130 – 1700 (winter), 1000 – 1530( summer). Closed Monday. Entrance €4. Camera Obscura at the top of an old factory tower (left) – the guide gives a commentary. Meant to be excellent – I turned up on a Monday. If it looks closed hang around the bar at the foot of the tower – the guide will be with a group inside.
La Cartuja, the Expo 92 site, remains partly wasteland 26 years after the exhibition closed, but the area includes the La Cartuja monastery, the Isla Magica theme park and the Navigation Pavilion and lookout tower. The open top bus tour calls at all of them, as do city bus routes C1 and C2.
An easy half day trip from Sevilla is to the Roman ruins at Italica, (below) the birthplace of Hadrian and Trajan, which feature a well preserved amphitheatre and excellent mosaics. Take bus 170A from Plaza de Armas bus station to Santiponce, every 30 mins on the hour and half hour (Saturday afternoon and Sunday hourly, half-past the hour from Sevilla and on the hour from Italica). Pay the driver, €1.60 single. Journey time 30 mins. The bus terminates at the site entrance (there is a u-turn earlier in the journey – this is not the end of the route!) Admission free to EU citizens, €1.50 others. Open Tues-Sat 0900 to 1500 (summer), 1800 (winter), 2100 (spring). Sun 0900-1500 all year, except spring 0800 – 1500 . Closed Mondays. Allow at least 90 mins at the site. Note that the site has very little shade and no bar/cafe on site. There is a bottled water vending machine at the bus stop and several cafe-bars/ventas opposite the entrance.
Places to eat and drink
Sevilla is tapas central with thousands of tapas bars for the serious tapeador to visit, from the most basic to the most ornate, from ancient to modern. Follow the locals and wander from bar to bar – enough tapas and you really don’t need to eat a meal. The trendiest and/or most recommended places change from time to time, and many bars have their speciality. Unlike Granada, you pay for tapas in Sevilla, though in some places you will be given a free tapita (usually just some olives or nuts). If you would like a larger quantity, ask for a racíon or media (½) racíon. Many places will offer a plate with a selection of tapas.
Another eating option is the freiduría serving bags of fried fish. Finally, there are plenty of restaurants and takeaways. Bear in mind Spanish eating hours – lunch is often at 2pm and dinner at 10pm, with tapas available at all times. Many places close (and don’t expect a full meal) between 4 and 7pm. This is particularly marked in the hot summer months, when a siesta is a good idea.
Santa Cruz is the main tourist area, and in the high season many places (and there are plenty of them) focus on providing full meals for tourists rather than tapas. If this is what you prefer, then the choice is excellent. If you prefer bar-hopping and trying tapas it is best to look elsewhere, and some suggestions follow, though it may be easier to stumble upon your own selection as you wander around lost.
Off the main shopping streets there are plenty of options – c/Sierpes is a good bet. Close to El Corte Ingles Mesón Serranito (c/Alfonso XII, 9) has good tapas and meals. Plaza San Salvador has a row of good basic (and cheap) bars and a freiduría and the square is always packed with drinkers. The area around Plaza Alfalfa has plenty of options, and Bar Manolo on the square itself is a typical Sevillan bar and terrace with good tapas and raciones. There are more places around Plaza Ponce de Leon, including El Rinconcillo (c/Gerona, 32), the oldest bar in Sevilla, on the tourist circuit but well worth a visit
It is best to avoid the places directly outside the cathedral, but there are plenty of options around the back streets of Santa Cruz, though many are not geared up to tapas-hopping. Some worth trying are Bar Giralda (c/Mateos Gago, 1), Casa Román (Plaza de los Venerables, 1) and Las Teresas (c/Santa Teresa).
Near the cathedral are Casa Morales (c/García de Vinuesa, 11) (above) and Bar Enrique Becerra, (c/Gamazo 2). There is a line of places with a bullfighting theme close to the bullring on c/Antonia Díaz including the upmarket Bar Antonio Romero at no. 19. There are plenty of other options in the surrounding streets.
Alameda and La Macarena:
The area around the Alameda de Hercules (pictured) has become trendy and gentrified in recent years with modern bars among the more traditional bodegas. Further east (for example round Plaza de Pumarejo) the area remains grittier with working-class bars not yet overtaken by hipster places.
The pedestrianised street (c/San Jacinto) leading from the Isabel II bridge has plenty of cheap and cheerful bars and restaurants. In the centre of Triana try Bar Santa Ana (c/Pureza, 82), next to the Santa Ana, which is full of religious paraphernalia and totally disorganised but friendly and atmospheric. There is another row of places on c/Betis on the riverside with terraces looking over the river to central Sevilla.
As elsewhere in Spain craft beer has caught on and bars specialising in Spanish and imported craft beers have sprung up. As part of the hipster lifestyle expect minimalist, mock-industrial décor and (if you don’t have one) to be the only bloke without a beard. The beer will be good though. Here are a few places which I visited:
The draught beer menu at Bierkraft
Near the Alameda de Hercules:
Hops and Dreams, c/Jesus del Gran Poder, 83, meets all the avove criteria;
Maquila Bar, the Son Brewery brewpub. Quiet when I was in and lacking in atmosphere at that time, though the beer was fine and the food being cooked looked excellent;
Bierkraft, c/Correduría, 35. Combined bar and beer shop with good vibe.
North of the Plaza de la Encarnación (the square with the mushroom):
La Jerónima, c/Jerónimo Hernández, 14-16. Combined bar, bookshop, library. Laid back, good atmosphere, and the least male-hipsterish of the lot. Vegan hummus as a tapa;
La Linterna Ciega, c/Regina 10. Friendly staff, keen to show off and let me taste the beers. The food looked good too.
At any of these bars you should be able to pick up a copy of the Craft Map, Sevilla Craft Beer Guide 2018, to help you find the others.
There are plenty of interesting small shops around the central areas and many places in Santa Cruz to buy gifts and souvenirs. The main shopping street is c/Tetuán and its continuation c/Velazquez, (pictured, with its summer awnings) which runs from Plaza Nueva to Plaza Duque de la Victoria. The square is the location for the main city centre branch of the El Corte Ingles department store.
The shopping streets are kept cool in summer.
Places to stay
There is a full range of places to stay in the central area, many of them small boutique hotels in old town houses. In Santa Cruz I’ve stayed in the Hotel Amadeus (c/Farnesio 6), a lovely place with a musical theme and a roof terrace, and (many years ago) in Hotel Murillo (c/Lopa de Rueda 7) which still gets good reviews. With tour groups I’ve stayed in Hotel Becquer (Avda. Reyes Catolicos 4) which is modern but family run, comfortable and quiet (and has a rooftop pool), and in the Hotel Tryp Macarena, a large unexceptional hotel at the far end of Macarena.
Recently I’ve stayed at the NH Sevilla Viapol (c/Balbino Marrón 9). Though it is a modern hotel it is well situated and can have some excellent deals for a four-star hotel. It is next to San Bernardo station and tram terminus. Excellent breakfasts are available in the station café and at Bar Cervecería La Buhaira on the station square.
Friends recommend the H10 Corregidor (c/Morgado 17) (pictured), a boutique hotel in the north of the city centre towards the Alameda de Hércules, where they have stayed twice recently.
Puerta de Jerez
* Semana Santa and the April Feria. I’ve never been, but we have been to similar events elsewhere in Andalucía and recommend a visit. However, hotels will be expensive and fully booked months before. If you have the stamina the best bet may be to travel to Sevilla in the afternoon, take it easy, then keep going all night (the feria in particular will only really get lively from 10-11pm), then have plenty of coffee and churros and catch the first train of the morning back to wherever.
* Flamenco at Casa de la Guitarra, c/ Mesó del Moro 12, in Santa Cruz close to the cathedral is recommended by friends. The flamenco show (pictured) is excellent value at €18, and the venue also houses a guitar museum. In 2015 Tablao El Arenal received very good reports from Great Rail customers – c/Rodo 7, El Arenal. €37 for show and drink – book table on 954 21 64 92 or on www.tablaoelarenal.com . I was advised to avoid the more expensive meal option.
© Text and plan Copyright Steve Gillon 2016, 2018, 2019. The photos are by Steve Gillon, except for the Corregidor Hotel and flamenco pictures which are by Ian Welch.
V2.2 March 2019
Thanks to Dave and Sharon Kerridge for suggestions for my 2018 visit to Sevilla and to Ian Welch for hotel and flamenco recommendations.