Farther Afield: Seville

Why this Spanish city should make your travel wish list.

Literature and music throughout the ages have encouraged romantic notions about the beautiful Andalusian capital of Seville. The images of heartsick toreadors, star-crossed lovers and flamencas igniting passions all around a colorful Baroque city have helped create its fiery and romantic reputation.

Situated strategically on the river Guadalquivir, Seville has always been an important river port and center of trade. Like other Spanish cities, it changed hands many times—conquered by Romans, Arabs and Christians. However, unlike many other Spanish cities, Seville capitalized on its international influences, finally becoming the gateway to the Americas when Spain entered its golden age in the 16th century. Columbus even docked here upon his return.

To take in its complex past, you’ll want to wander through the mysterious Moorish architecture of the 14th century; take in the Catedral de Sevilla, the world’s largest Gothic building; and start a spontaneous evening of enjoying the city’s incredible tapas bars. Here’s what not to miss.

Culture

Alcázar
An elegant jumble of courtyards, enclosed gardens and Arabic-inscribed stucco friezes, the reflecting pools and inner sanctums of the oldest royal residence in Europe still in use offer tranquility, and the monumental halls are suitably awe-inspiring.

Casa de Pilatos
Built for the first Marquis of Tarifa, this 16th-century palace is associated with Pontius Pilate’s house in Jerusalem. The gardens, which feature ponds and fountains, were later restored in the 19th century. 

Catedral de Sevilla and La Giralda
The 12th-century Catedral de Sevilla is the third largest cathedral in the world. A pile of spires, towers and buttresses houses works by Goya, Murillo and Zurbarán; the reputed tomb of Christopher Columbus; and a display of skulls.

Monasterio de la Cartuja/Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art
The Andalusian Center of Contemporary Art (CAAC) calls a former 16th-century monastery home, and it is one of the city’s best resources for contemporary art.

Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla
In a former convent, you will find such treasures as an entire gallery full of spectacular works by El Greco.

Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza
A statue of Bizet’s Carmen stands in the bullring of Real Maestranza, where she met her fate in the opera. It is one of the city's oldest bullfighting rings—construction began in 1730—and one of the most beautiful. This is a tourist hot spot and you should walk by even if you don’t want to pay the entry fee.

Shopping

Sevillarte
In this famous workshop, artisans practice “cuerda seca,” a 15th-century Persian ceramic technique in which enamel is laid on clay enriched by 24-karat gold, and "vidriada sobre cubierta"—the intricate hand-painting of opaque glass.
66 Calle Sierpes (on the main shopping route)

El Caballo
The flagship store of the famous artisanal riding wear, El Caballo carries beautifully stitched riding boots, wool blankets, sidesaddle skirts and jackets with matching velvet hats.
Calle 7 Antonia Diaz 8

María Rosa
You might want to bring home a bold flamenco dress as a keepsake. Ruffled flamenco dresses come in bold florals and María Rosa stocks everything dancers need, from fabulous polka-dotted dresses to carved hair combs and colorful fans.
Calle 13 Cuna

Dining

Cervecería Giralda
This famous tapas bar constructed in the early 1930s atop the ruins of a 10th-century Arab bathhouse retains the columns and vaults of the bath’s original building.
Calle Mateo Gagos 3

Egaña-Oriza
The conservatory of a restored mansion holds this restaurant by Basque chef and owner José Mari Egaña, considered one of the fathers of modern Andalusian cooking, which fuses Basque and Andalusian food.
41 Calle San Fernando

Stay

Hotel Alfonso XIII
This splendid neo-Moorish palace was commissioned by King Alfonso XIII to house patrons of the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition. The hotel’s décor, from the lobby to the inner courtyard, pays homage to Seville and Spain’s layered past; Baroque, Castilian and Moorish influences can all be felt within the palace’s silk-covered walls.