No trip to Southern Spain is complete without visiting Andalucía's capital city of Sevilla. It is the perfect blend of city life with laid back country charm and "real Spanish culture." To give you an idea of "culture" this is where flamenco originates and perhaps where you'll find the best tapas culture. While Barcelona gets the popular vote, Sevilla gets the cool vote. A trip to Sevilla might even have you contemplating a move to Spain! Regardless, I recommend spending a few days here, 3 or 4, but it's easy to stay longer. The best way to get around is on foot although there is a metro system if you need it. Stay in a central neighborhood and you definitely won't have to worry about taking public transportation. Sevilla is also well-connected by train and plane making this place a no-brainer. Here is what you cannot miss in this fantastic city!
WHAT TO SEE & DO:
Real Alcázar - If you only see one thing in Sevilla, let this royal Muslim palace be it. The Moorish architecture is spectacular so be sure to take your time wandering through all the different rooms, patios, etc. End your visit with a stroll through the expansive gardens.
Cathedral & Giralda - Perhaps the largest Christian church in the world, this one is not to miss, even if churches aren't your thing. Be sure to climb to the top of the Giralda (bell tower) for a view of the cathedral below and take a stroll through the Patio de los Naranjos (orange trees). Do not attempt this in the same day as the Alcázar, too much sensory overload!
Plaza de San Francisco & Plaza Nueva - I always recommend visiting a city's main square. In Sevilla this is it. Come here to find your bearings (and crowds).
Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza - Another highlight of this delightful city is the famous bull ring where it all began. Despite the sad fate of the bull, the culture and history behind this tradition is fascinating. I recommend taking a brief tour which is super informative and makes you appreciate the art and the talent of the matador. Bullfighting season takes place March/April to late September incase you want to brave it.
Plaza de España & Parque de Maria Luisa - If you're looking to escape the crowds head to this square and the tranquil park surrounding it. You can walk, bike, snooze, take a rowboat through some canals, tour the building or do it all. Perfect for siesta time.
Flamenco at Casa de la Memoria - This emotional style of music and dance is best appreciated at a performance in an intimate setting where you can feel the stomp of the dancer's feet. This cultural center is a great place to do just that. Reserve tickets in advance.
Shopping - Lastly, if you're looking to do a little shopping (antique fans, Flamenco dresses or a sombrero make excellent souvenirs) take a stroll down Calle Sierpes. For shopping of the food variety, visit Mercado de la Encarnación. This modern, mushroom-shaped structure with multiple food stalls is hard to miss.
WHERE TO EAT:
El Rinconcillo - Your typical old-school tapas bar and the oldest in the city. Come here for a snack before dinner and be prepared to elbow your way to the bar. But it's so worth it. (Calle Gerona, 40)
Bodega Santa Cruz - Another great traditional spot for tapas, especially for montaditos (mini sammies). Located near the Cathedral and a popular spot for lunch. Again, be prepared to use those elbows to get to the bar. (Calle Rodrigo Caro, 1A)
Casa Morales - Yet another delicious traditional tapas near the Cathedral. They have some larger plates as well (also good to share) that are very worth trying like pig knuckle and beef cheek with rice. Surprisingly super yummy. (Calle García de Vinuesa, 11)
La Brunilda - Delicious, creative tapas in a more modern setting. Located near the bull ring, it's perfect for lunch after your tour. (Calle Galera, 5)
NOTE: Tapas are great for just a snack or an entire meal. If you're looking to fill up, do as the locals do and hop from tapas bar to tapas bar trying various delights. Wash them down with some sherry, vino or a caña of beer and you've got yourself a perfect meal (pretty inexpensive too but not all all cheap on culture).
WHERE TO SLEEP:
Hotel Alfonso XIII (Calle San Fernando, 2) or Hospes Las Casas del Rey de Baeza (Plaza Jesús de la Redención, 2) if you're looking to splurge. The former is as grand and luxurious as they come, located in a historic building worth visiting even if you aren't staying there and the latter is your traditional whitewashed townhouse with a stylish rooftop terrace & pool and a quaint cobblestone courtyard that's tough to pass up.
Hotel Casa 1800 if you're looking to save a bit but not give up on style. Decor in this boutique hotel is rustic & more traditional with a splash of luxury. Like its other location in Granada, this place won't disappoint and gets excellent reviews. (Calle Rodrigo Caro, 6)
NOTE: In addition to the traditional hotel stay, an Airbnb rental is also a wonderful option. Look for a place in barrio (neighborhood) Santa Cruz or El Centro, preferably with a balcony and you will actually enjoy times spent in the apartment!
P.S. One more thing worth mentioning. Don't forget a day or half-day trip to Ronda to visit the famous bridge, Puente Nuevo. The teeny tiny town is also filled with cute places for lunch but beware of the siesta hours...this place follows them strictly and you'll find that not much will be open during those hours! But if it's good enough for the former first lady and her daughter then it's good enough for you and me :) Buen Viaje!