If you're dreaming of a visit to Spain, then Seville will fit the bill perfectly. Known for flamenco dancing, bullfighting and exotic Moorish architecture, the Seville area encompasses much of what you imagine about Spain and provides some exciting surprises.
Seville is steeped in history, and the ruling influences over centuries have given the city a unique blend of culture. Originally founded as a city in the Roman Empire, Seville has been under Muslim and Christian control in its past.
Must-Visit Sights to See in Seville
Your first don't-miss destination in Seville: Real Alcázar. This palace is one of the oldest European Royal Palaces still in use, and "Game of Thrones" fans will recognize it as the setting for the captivating Dorne. Its intimidating castle exterior protects stunning interior architecture, historical artworks and amazing water gardens. Consider taking a guided tour so you don't miss the highlights of Alcázar, but allow yourself plenty of time to wander around and soak in the atmosphere.
Whether or not you're a fan of religious buildings, Seville's cathedral, the Santa Maria de la Sede, is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and an awesome testament to the power of the medieval church. Constructed between 1401 and 1530, Seville Cathedral is even larger than St. Peter's in Rome. Join the tourists to see the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the Capilla Mayor (Great Chapel), but seek out some of the quirkier pieces in this vast complex, like El Lagarto, a stuffed crocodile that the Sultan of Egypt sent to King Alfonso X in the 1200s when asking for his daughter's hand in marriage. And if it's open, and you're able to navigate steep steps, climb the Giralda tower and enjoy some magnificent views of Seville.
Not far from the Cathedral, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza sheds light on the history and sport of bullfighting. You can see what a typical bullfighting ring is like and even imagine yourself nervously waving the red cape -- but don't worry, there are no bulls in sight. The museum boasts a collection of costumes and artwork honoring the matador; you'll get some insight into how bullfighting fits into the culture of Seville.
The Plaza de España hosted the 1929 World Expo held in Seville, and it sits to the side of Maria Luisa Park, a beautiful Moorish style open space with tiled fountains and lovely gardens. The South Tower mixes Art Deco and Islamic influences and it's been a setting for many movies, including Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones where it was included as part of the City of Theed on Naboo.
For something a bit different -- and much more modern -- stop by the Metropol Parasol. You'll never see another architectural creation quite like this one, nicknamed "The Mushrooms." Your admission nets you a free drink at the bar inside, so it's an excellent place to stop for a break.
When in Seville, Sample the Tapas!
The region around Seville is rumored to be the origin of tapas bars, and there are nearly 4,000 just in the city. Tapas, in case you haven't enjoyed them, are small plates typically served with sherry or a cocktail. You can view the different options and order by pointing at what looks most appealing, but you'll have to be assertive about attracting service. The indoor counter is usually the least expensive place to eat; you'll pay a bit more to eat at a table or an outdoor area.
Even though tapas bars are all over the city, you'll want to seek out the best. Here are three to consider.
In the downtown area, Bar Modesto is regarded as excellent, but it's listed as such in several guides. You may need to wait a bit to get space on the outside terrace, but you can usually find room at the counter inside. Seafood forms the backbone of many of the tapas plates.
Bar Giralda isn't far from the Cathedral, and its menu is vast enough to be slightly overwhelming. The outdoor seating area gets crowded but you'll have awesome views of the Cathedral.
Casa Romón is more popular with locals and gives you the most authentic experience. It's a little older but serves popular tapas unique to Seville, including fried bacalao or salt cod.
When traveling to Seville, you'll want to make the most of your time. Put the most famous attractions in your schedule, but don't forget to just walk around and take in the feel of the city. Seville's climate, culture and the relaxed approach of its residents to life will pull you in -- you'll want to spend even more time in this wonderful place.