A beautiful visit to Stately Sevilla – Useful Tips & Impressions

Visit Spain, fourth & last stop: Sevilla

After visits to Barcelona, Valencia, Úbeda & Granada, we ended our journey through Spain with a visit to Sevilla/ Seville, the capital of Andalusia. Also a city with a long & interesting history. 

  • Note: Of all our main destinations in Spain: Barcelona, Valencia, Úbeda, Granada & Sevilla, the last one is the only one that changes names when translating it formally to English… Seville. I decided to stick by the original name in this blog, to avoid too much confusion.

Sevilla, gateway to the Americas

A rich history literally. For centuries, it was the gateway to the Americas. Something you notice right away when you visit the city center of Sevilla. 

First of all, there’s the serene Río Guadalquivir that splits the city in two. The river where many expeditions westwards started and ended. The Guadalquivir is still watched over by the Torre de Oro. The Golden Tower, where all the riches temporary were stored when ships arrived from the colonies.

Near the river you’ll pass some beautiful old mansions that were build by the people who got extremely wealthy from the gold, silver and what else that came from New Spain, Peru & the other colonies. A wealth you’ll also observe in the churches & other monuments in the city center. 

In the Alcázar of Sevilla you can still visit the former Casa de Contratación, where the rules of the overseas business of every outgoing expedition were discussed, put on paper, signed & controlled. 

And then there is the Archivo de Indias, where all the paperwork concerning the Americas ended up. Millions of letters, contracts, judicial reports, books, maps, et cetera.

Of course, Sevilla has much more to offer, but for me personally these historical monuments were extras.

The Guadalquivir river and the Tower of Gold, symbol of Sevilla
The Guadalquivir river and the Tower of Gold, symbol of Sevilla

Throughout this post you’ll find some affiliated links, provided by TravelPayOuts. Links that may help you plan your next trip to Sevilla. If you click on them & buy a ticket for a museum, book a tour or rent a bike a small percentage of your purchase will go to me (paid by by TravelPayOuts of course). To finance my work as a travel blogger.

TIP: Getting around in Sevilla

First thing we had to do on our arrival was to leave the car I hired in Valencia at the rental office & anew study the ways to get around in a somewhat larger city.

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As we stayed in a hotel near the city center, we walked a lot. Although it was surely the best way to get to know Sevilla, in the end we got really tired. Mainly because of the tremendous heat of mid summer in Southern Spain.

Besides that, Sevilla was a much bigger city than the places we visited before. Not so much Barcelona, but places like Valencia, Úbeda, or Granada. This fact made us order a cab several times during our last days in Spain. 

There are several alternatives to get around in the city though. Besides buses, Sevilla has its own tram system, as well as some metro lines. All included in the Seville Pass.

Alternatively, you can buy a Hop-on Hop-off the Bus ticket for Seville.


TIP: Use of your phone/access to the internet 

Buy a Prepaid Sim-card for your phone. On our first day in Spain we bought one, which easily covered the three weeks we travelled through the country.

Alternatively you can buy an affordable international Sim card (operational in 229 countries), through the following link: DrimSim

We mostly used the internet to find our way (GoogleMaps in town, Waze on the road). But also, to get information about the attractions we wanted to visit. Besides that, to order a taxi through Uber or Cabify, or for our personal correspondence/social media. 


Throughout this post you’ll find some affiliated links, provided by TravelPayOuts. Links that may help you plan your next trip to Barcelona. If you click on them and buy a ticket for a museum, book a tour or rent a bike a small percentage of your purchase will go to me. To finance my work as a writer & blogger.

Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, Sevilla

Central in the city center of Sevilla you’ll find the enormous gothic Cathedral of Sevilla, which obviously is worth a visit. One of the biggest churches in the world. World heritage since 1987.

The enormous Cathedral of Sevilla
The Cathedral of Sevilla

As with many other churches in Spain, this cathedral is built over a former mosque. Something you don’t really notice, because when the Iberians recaptured Sevilla in may of 1248 they destroyed the former prayer house almost completely, before building a new one.  

The only thing that remains of the old mosque, is its minaret. This tower stands besides the cathedral and is called La Giralda. As the cathedral, it’s enormous, over a 100m/ 328ft high. Originally the minaret was lower, but the Spanish victors decided to add a bell tower to it, which was more in concordance with the sky-high cathedral.

La Giralda, Sevilla
The accompanying minaret or church tower, La Giralda of the cathedral of Sevilla

The first thing we noticed, standing in line for our visit to the cathedral of Sevilla, was the fact that – again! – we weren’t the only ones. It were rather thousands, instead of hundreds of people visiting the cathedral. 

Once inside, you understand why. Its interior is as overwhelming as the cathedral’s exterior! In a literal, as well as in a figurative sense. The cathedral of Sevilla is almost too big for us small humans to visit! 

Some highlights of the Cathedral of Sevilla

One of the highlights for me was the Capilla Mayor in the middle of the church. A place also where most visitors gathered, of which some gave me the impression they would never leave. As if living in that spot. 

The Mayor Chapel of the Sevilla Cathedral
Capilla Mayor of the cathedral, one of the biggest altarpieces in the world

One of the reasons for their presence though was the enormous quantity of ornaments the altarpiece offers. They are thousandfold! So, if you are very devoted or just very interested in every detail, I think you can loose your mind right there. Overwhelmingly beautiful really.

Another highlight – and for me personally, the absolute highlight – of the cathedral was the tomb of Christopher Columbus.

In Barcelona we had already visited the square where he met the Catholic kings after his first voyage to the Americas. While in Granada we saw the magnificent statue of his historical audience with Queen Isabella. And here we were, standing before his last resting place. 

Visit to the tomb of Columbus in the cathedral of Sevilla
The impressive tomb of Columbus, discoverer of the Americas

At least, that’s what they say …the last resting place of Columbus!

Sevilla or Santo Domingo?

Standing before the marvelous grave-monument of Columbus in the cathedral, I remembered an earlier visit to Santo Domingo, the capital of the Dominican Republic. Principally because the Dominicans also claim they are the owners of the last remains of the famous Admiral. Remains they formerly kept in their biggest cathedral, but nowadays keep in a specially build monument – the Faro a Colón or the Columbus Lighthouse.

But, which city then can really claim the remains of Columbus?

Recent DNA tests have shown that Sevilla is right in claiming Columbus’ remains. This doesn’t mean however that some parts of his body couldn’t have ended up elsewhere. Like for example, in Santo Domingo (Unfortunately, the Dominican authorities so far haven’t allowed researchers to investigate Columbus’ remains.)

So again, we end up with another wonderful mystery the world is full of. And to be honest – having read a lot of books about these great adventurers – the ongoing discussions don’t really surprise me. There are several of these men who are claimed by both sides of the Atlantic.

Painting of Christopher Columbus of Sebastiano del Piombo
Columbus, painted by Sebastiano del Piombo
TIP: Discount with Student card

If you have one, bring your student card. Even our daughter – who’s studying in Quito, Ecuador – got discounts on tickets everywhere in Spain. Entrances to museums, monuments, churches & other attractions.

La Giralda tower

After our tour of the cathedral, we climbed the Giralda. Actually instead of climbing stairs it’s walking up a continuous ramp that leads to the top. The muslim rulers placed a ramp in the minaret, making it possible for horse & rider to go up to the highest level. 

It’s a long way up – a little nauseating after a visit to an even bigger cathedral – but the views from the top over Sevilla made it absolutely worthwhile.

View from the Giralda, part of the Cathedral of Sevilla and the Patio de los Naranjos
View from the Giralda, part of the Cathedral and the Patio de los Naranjos

After our conquest of the tower, we – and every other visitor – ended up in the Patio de los Naranjos. Besides a beautiful square full of orange trees, a spot for a well earned and necessary breath of warm but fresh air. The square originally was built by the muslims, but I said… Amen!

A visit to the Real Alcázar de Sevilla

For most people who visit Sevilla the cathedral is one of the main attractions. However, another must see is the Alcázar of Sevilla. Also named a World heritage by UNESCO IN 1987.

It’s earliest foundations go back to the beginning of the 10th century. The construction was amplified again and again as history took its course through southern Spain. 

As with many historical buildings in this part of Spain you can expect a mixture of Muslim and Christian styles. A paradise-style Arabic base complemented with sober and often devotedly somber European details. A mixture called Mudéjar.  (See also my earlier posts on Úbeda and Granada).

Soon after passing the entrance gate you enter a big inner courtyard, the Patio del Montería. From this inner square you get your first glimpses of the Alcázar. 

Sevilla, gateway to the Americas

I personally was very interested in a visit to the rooms on the right hand side of this courtyard. Formerly this part of the Alcázar housed the Casa de la Contratación de Indias. The Contracting House of the Indies for many centuries functioned as the main office for control of business & trade with the Americas. 

Sevilla was the main starting point for the many expeditions to the Americas. At the Contracting House the leaders of those expeditions had to arrange all their business affairs, before leaving home for years, and sometimes forever. In other words, through these rooms many of the Spanish conquistadores & colonists passed on their way to the overseas colonies. Among them the country where I am living now for many years, see the Home page of this blog. 

Although the rooms aren’t as impressive as others of the Alcázar, I was imagining men like Columbus, Cortés & the Pizarro brothers walking in and out for a last reunion before crossing the Atlantic to their destinies. 

When finally everything was ready for the journey, they and many of their crew made a last visit to the Contracting House. Mainly to say a last prayer and ask for protection in front of the Virgen de los Navegantes/ Virgin of the Navigators in its Audience Hall.  

Visit to the Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Navigators in the former Contracting House of the Alcázar.
The Altarpiece of the Virgin of the Navigators (painted by Alejo Fernández). The main theme of the painting is the discovery of America.

The Upper Royal quarters of the Alcázar, Sevilla

After that “historical” encounter, it was time to head to the Cuarto Real Alto. These are, the upper quarters of the Alcázar of Sevilla, which are still functional. In other words, these are the rooms where members of the Royal family stay when they visit Sevilla. 

To visit these rooms you have to include it in your ticket and choose a visiting hour. These tours are limited, as well as the total of persons that can join a certain group.

Before you go in, they check everybody, you have to leave your bag and phone behind & it is not allowed to take any pictures. Once inside, you visit the rooms in the presence & under the watchful eye of two security agents that guide you through the rooms. Nobody stays behind. Understandable, but just …so you know.

The Upper Royal Quarters of the Alcázar, Sevilla.
The Upper Royal Quarters, on the left!

All in all, impressive, a royal visit really. I wouldn’t have missed it. The Royal quarters aren’t really that different from the other rooms you can visit in the Alcazár of Sevilla or other places. Also blessed with a mixture of styles, the Mudéjar-style.

With the knowledge that the Spanish royal family stays here from time to time, I was looking for something domestic about the place, but didn’t find it. Any sign of “liveliness” must be hidden behind the high walls, the big armouries and the old paintings. Or maybe underneath the enormous table in the reception room, the doors to the left and the right. 

Shared history

Still, the visit left an impression, a royal one for sure. You sense that, as a visitor yourself, the royals step in history every time they visit these rooms. Surrounded by paintings of “ancestors”, like Isabel la Católica & and others.

Well, Isabella isn’t the best example. She ruled Spain long before the actual king, Felipe VI, but wasn’t related. After 1700 the Spanish crown was namely transferred to Bourbons, who came from France.

The Palace of Don Pedro I

The Palace of Pedro I is also called the Palacio Mudéjar, and that says it all. Although not that impressive as the Nasrid Palaces of the Alhambra in Granada, this part is the aesthetic highlight of the Alcázar. 

I am not only referring to the rooms of this palace, that are amazingly beautiful. It’s the combination with the open spaces behind the palace. Firstly a series of inner courtyards, and behind these and secondly a bigger park-like garden with interesting details and lots of shadow. 

And shadow is what we were looking for every day in the tremendous summer heat of Sevilla. As we did in all the other parks we visited before, in Barcelona, Valencia, Úbeda & Granada

TIP: Buy tickets in advance for the Alcázar of Sevilla

Buy tickets online, more so if you visit Sevilla during the high season. This way you skip the long line of visitors, but more importantly, you can include the Cuarto Real Alto/ Royal Quarters.  

A visit to the Archivo general de Indias

As with the Casa de Contratación, I necessarily wanted to visit the Archivo de Indias in Sevilla. Mainly because of the connection these historical institutions had and – in the latter case – still have with the Americas. 

The archive is housed in an imposing Renaissance building. It’s a former merchant’s exchange, but somehow it’s box-style looks more appropriate for the storage of millions of documents. Together with the Cathedral and the Alcázar registered as a World Heritage Site since 1987. 

Archive of the Indies, Sevilla
The Archive of the Indies, Sevilla

A building literally full of history. The archive, which was founded in 1785, has collected more than 43 000 volumes, 80 million pages and around 8 000 maps about the Indies, that is the Americas (& the Philippines), covering the period 1492-1898. That is from the time America was discovered by Columbus until the loss of the last Spanish colony Cuba to the USA. 

Still tightly secured treasures

I was somewhat surprised by the security measures to get into the building. There were actually more security members than visitors, but it’s foremost an indication of what valuables you can find in the archive. I suppose you no longer find bars of gold & silver between these American treasures, but surely letters, documents, maps, personal items that nowadays are worth much more than these precious metals. 

At the time of my visit there were just a few rooms open to the public, with some basic information & a few highlights out of the enormous collection. Unfortunately there wasn’t an exposition at the moment of my visit. One security guy told me that in a few weeks time there would be one concerning Magellan and the first circumnavigation of the world… Damned … Too bad!

So after a quick visit through the few rooms and an even quicker look through the windows to get an idea of the rest of the building and the thousands of boxes & boxes stored there, I went back to the warm streets of Sevilla to look for other treasures.  

Sevilla, an open air museum 

As with the other cities we visited in Spain, Sevilla is an open air museum. Besides the Cathedral, the Alcázar, the Archive & Tower of Gold, you pass many other beautiful historical buildings. 

Near the river you pass the impressive mansions of the formerly wealthiest families. Generally families that became wealthy because of the lucrative trade with the colonies. Close to the river you’ll find the famous Plaza the Torres or Bull Ring. 

The Plaza de Torres of Sevilla
The famous Plaza de Torres of Sevilla

The beautiful 19th century Isabella II Bridge, leads you to the bohemian neighbourhood of Triana (reason why most people call the mentioned bridge, the Puente de Triana).

This barrio was – and still is – a popular part of town. The neighbourhood where the fishermen lived, the artisans, the singers, the toreros or bullfighters, the flamingo dancers… but also the men that got hired to fill the ships that went to the colonies. A pleasant part of town to walk through!

It is on this side of the river where you’ll also find the former headquarters of the infamous Spanish Inquisition, in the Castle of San Jorge (nowadays partially a museum). 

Visit the Plaza de España, Sevilla

Probably the most famous attraction to visit in Sevilla – at least, when you count the pictures on the internet – is the Plaza de España. An extensive square, forming part of the relaxing Maria Luisa Park.

We ended up on the Plaza de España almost every evening. Principally to cool off at the big fountain in the center, but equally to admire the imposing pavilion building on one side of the plaza

The semi-circle castle-like construction was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition. The four main buildings represent the four ancient kingdoms. While the alcoves in front of the building represent every province of Spain through sceneries made of the typical tile-work you’ll find all over the country.

Tile work all around the Plaza de España in Sevilla
Tile work all around the Plaza de España in Sevilla

One evening there was a free show of a group of flamenco artists. The music & dance is typical of the Southern part of Spain.

Sevilla offers daily flamenco shows, but as we hadn’t planned to visit one of these shows, this was a nice surprise. A spontaneous extra. And … that said, I have to acknowledge that the whole performance impressed me more than I would have thought beforehand. Pure and modern instead of routinely and old-fashioned. Like an Argentinian tango or a Colombian cumbia. Beautiful really.

Metropol Parasol

We visited the Metropol Parasol daily. Mainly because our lodgings were nearby. Every time finding reason to stop there for a while. Not only for its architectural beauty, but also to admire the play of shadows it provides for the visitors below.

Many locals call the Metropol Parasol the Setas de Sevilla/ Seville Mushroom. A unique piece of modern architecture.

Metropol Parasol, Sevilla
Metropol Parasol

Boat ride on the Guadalquivir

One of the last days we decided for a boat ride on the Río Guadalquivir. One reason was to claim my place on the river, but also to escape the heat for a while. Just to sit down, relax and enjoy the historical attractions you pass along the river between El Arenal & the Triana neighbourhoods.

Boat ride on the Guadalquivir river
The Guadalquivir river

TIP: Eating out in Sevilla

During our visit to Sevilla we ate at different places. Mostly it was OK, but forgettable. Twice though, we were lucky enough to find a really good place to eat.

As I mentioned before in the Introduction to our visit to Spain, in this blog I hadn’t planned to focus on places to stay or eat, but would only mention a place when I thought it really worthwhile. 

The first restaurant in Sevilla that’s worth a visit, you’ll find in the center of town. It’s located in the somewhat darker, mysterious but romantic small streets behind the Alcázar. It’s name: Bonhomia restaurante y tapas

The restaurant itself had limited space, but we sat outside on the terrace. Although we afterwards noticed that the place received mixed reviews, the three of us were happy with both the food and service. 

And then for some Dutch flavours

The other place is a restaurant we kept for our last evening in Spain and surely was a very personal choice. It’s called Bar Bistro Los Tulipanes and has everything to do with Dutch food. That is Dutch snacks like the frikandel, kroket and bamiblok

Maybe some readers will observe that three weeks in a foreign country normally isn’t enough for a Dutchman to miss the typical food of the Netherlands. However, as stated on the About Me page, I left my home country many years ago to live & work in Ecuador. So, in a few words, it was heaven for us to enjoy those typical snacks again.

Besides that, it was a nice place with nice people. We talked to the owners for a while and apparently they were born in the Netherlands but from Spanish descent. They had recently opened the place – our visit was in September 2019 – and were already successful, given the number of guests that night. 

A perfect ending of our visit to Sevilla. And Spain, because after a few hours sleep we had to head to the airport for our flight back home. Sevilla, Madrid to Quito, Ecuador.

Cooking classes, food tours, the best tapas & others…

Alternatively you can “eat out” in a completely different way, like:

  • Receive a class in preparing the recipes you always wanted to learn
  • Getting to know the best places for tapas & other local delicacies
  • Touring the local markets of Seville
  • Enjoy a private dinner, in a special environment

If you like the idea, visit EatWith to get to know the different options. A great way to get to know excellent food & other people.

Learn more:

TIP: take a cab in Spain

And that is good for one more useful tip. The moment we wanted to travel to the Airport of Sevilla we noticed that the regular taxi service charges a high, fixed price to get you to the airport, while private companies like charge the usual rate. Strange, but true & surely one to remember when you have to go or leave the airport of Sevilla.

A good option is to book your transfer ahead is KiwiTaxi.

Learn more:

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To put our visit to Sevilla in a few words: 

Sevilla is a beautiful place to visit, an essential part of the mystery of Andalusia.

Comparing Sevilla to Granada, I would say that Sevilla is bigger, more modern, more a capital, more chic & for that missing that little chaotic mystery that hangs over Granada.

However, because of its size & the heat, we didn’t visit every part. Surely there are many spots left for us to visit in the future. I am mainly thinking of Triana for example, or following the river downstream.

Personally I think Sevilla’s Alcázar, together with Granada’s Alhambra & Córdoba’s Mosque-Cathedral (see below) were the architectural highlights of our first acquaintance with Andalusia. A fact shared by many who visited this part of Spain before us.

Find the best & cheapest flight to Seville + the right hotel to stay

There are many sites to find the best & cheapest flights to your chosen destination.

One I prefer is CheapOAir. (click on name to search your next flight).

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CheapOAir can also help you out finding the best hotel for you, or arrange a rental car.


Alternatively, there’s Booking.com to help you find the right place to stay.



Day trip to Córdoba

The last day we had the option to stay in Sevilla and be lazy. Or we could visit Córdoba, mainly for its biggest attraction, the Mezquita-Catedral. We chose the latter… and I am glad we did!

After a relaxing train ride of less than 1 hour we arrived in Córdoba. In the middle of the city center we found the mosque-cathedral. An impressive building on and out. 

More than a thousands years history

The oldest foundations of the mosque go back to the 8th century, not long after the Moors had entered the South of Spain from Africa. Little by little, century by century the mosque got bigger and bigger, until the Iberians reconquered Córdoba definitely in 1236. Instead of tearing the whole place down they converted the mosque in a catholic church. 

The final result is impressive and beautiful. Unique in many ways. When you see the whole construction from above – something you can do on photos, partially from above but better still in the folder you get when entering the mosque-cathedral. The whole building looks like an enormous cake, with a catholic cherry pie on top. A comparison I make not only to be funny, but just to confirm how unique the building is. 

Visit to the mosque cathedral of Cördoba, Spain
A unique sight: the whole mosque with in the middle the later addition of a complete cathedral

Once inside you feel again as if you’re entering a long mysterious and fascinating history. The same feeling I was overcome with when visiting the old Roman remains in Barcelona, looking at the Holly Grail in Valencia, walking the city center of Úbeda, entering the Alhambra in Granada or the Alcázar of Sevilla. 

We ended up in the Patio de los Naranjos – the typical open square with orange-trees that characterized all the old muslim mosques & palaces. On this square we visited the old tower of Mosque-Cathedral. Another beautiful day all together. 

Unfortunately we didn’t have more time to wander the city center of Córdoba. We had to catch our train ride home … that is, back to Sevilla to enjoy our last evening in Spain.

To put our visit to Spain in a few words:

Spain. What a beautiful country. Really. The diversity, its history, the architecture, the food & the people. We enjoyed everything.

Concerning the main attractions in Spain, I would place the Alhambra in Granada first, but also tremendously enjoyed the Royal Chapel in the same city. As well as the Alcázar of Sevilla, the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, the Xàtiva castle near Valencia and the Mosque-Cathedral in Córdoba.  

Thank you, Spain, muchas gracias. We’ll be back!

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For an overview of all travel posts of my blog, go to: the Home Page.

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