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Things to Do in Seville

In Seville, the sun-drenched capital of Spain’s Andalucia province, flamenco dancing, Moorish history, and tapas comprise the blood that runs through the city’s veins. Within Seville’s historic heart lies the palatial Real Alcázar and Seville Cathedral, a Gothic masterpiece and UNESCO World Heritage Site topped by the Giralda Tower (El Giraldillo); and on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Roman Torre de Oro (Golden Tower), and Triana neighborhood exude authentic Andalucian culture. The Santa Cruz Jewish quarter, historic El Arenal, and grandiose Plaza de España are ideal locations for walking tours, while hop-on hop-off bus tours are a convenient and cost-effective way to discover Seville’s dispersed highlights. At night, combine a ‘tablao flamenco’ (flamenco show) with tapas, wine, and a sightseeing tour for a great cultural introduction to Andalucia, or discover Spain through its wine with a guided tasting session. For travelers wishing to explore more of Andalucia, Cadiz, Cordoba, Jerez, and Granada—home to architectural masterpieces such as the rose-tinted Alhambra palace complex, the Arab Baths (Hammam Al Andalus), and the Mezquita—are popular day trip destinations. Other must-visit spots within easy reach of Seville include Tangier in Morocco, Gibraltar, the White Villages (Pueblos Blancos), and Ronda, with its ancient bullring.
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Triana
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Just across the Isabel II Bridge, and squished between two parallel branches of the Guadalquivir River, you'll find Seville's Triana District. Originally founded as a Roman colony, this neighborhood -- like the rest of the city – has also been ruled by both Muslims and Christians. Over time it has served as a key strategic position as the last line of defense before invaders reached Seville's western walls. Traditionally, it has also been home to an eclectic mix of residents, from sailors and bullfighters to potters and flamenco dancers – all especially proud of their Triana heritage.

You can still see what endures of the barrio's eccentric personality in today's Triana. While visiting the neighborhood, keep an eye out for the few remaining (and culturally protected) corrales, which traditionally served as communal homes for the district's many Romani people.

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Royal Alcázar of Seville (Real Alcázar de Sevilla)
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The Reales Alcazáres, often just called the Alcázar or Royal Alcázar Palace, started off life as a fort, but various generations of rulers transformed it, building palaces, halls, courtyards and the adjoining gardens. Although it's far smaller than the Alhambra, it has the same kind of impact. It too is World Heritage listed. Actually, it's hardly surprising that the Alcázar recalls the Alhambra; some of the Alhambra's most prominent architects worked on it. Their masterpiece is probably the Patio de las Doncellas with its delicate arches, garden and reflecting pool. The Alcázar is associated with many colorful figures, most notably Pedro I (often called Pedro the Cruel), who ordered much of the Alcázar's construction. The rainwater tanks underneath the building are named for one of his victims, a beauty whom he pursued so ruthlessly that she disfigured herself with burning oil and became a nun. Not least of the Alcázar's pleasures are its gardens with their palms, pools and pavilio
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Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede)
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When the designers of the Seville Cathedral set out to build a new church on the site of the city's old mosque, they didn't hold back. They wanted the best of the best, excess of excess, and they got it. Building of this new cathedral 'like no other' began in the 1400s and wasn't completed until the 1500s. It's still the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world, and the third-largest church. It has 80 chapels. And oh, what's inside those chapels! Gold...and more gold; priceless works of art by the likes of Goya and Murillo; stained glass; and, it's said, the remains of Christopher Columbus. Next to the cathedral is the Giralda Tower, once the minaret of the mosque that made way for the cathedral, now a bell tower. Climb the steep ramps, designed for horses and riders, to the very top for incomparable views of Seville and its cathedral.
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Plaza de España
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The Plaza de España is a magnificently proportioned semi-circular space designed for the Ibero-American World's Fair of 1929. It's edged by buildings and tile patterns that blend a Deco sensibility with traditional techniques. If it looks familiar, it may be because you've seen it acting as a backdrop in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. At the Plaza's center is an impressive fountain, and edging the buildings are little moats that you cross over elegant bridges. Next to the Plaza is the Maria Luisa Park, with its orange trees and formal gardens. These days the buildings in the Plaza are used by the government.
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Seville Bullring (Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla)
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Seville's bullring - or the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla, to give it its due - is the oldest in Spain. It was here that the corrida, or bullfight, moved from horseback to foot, and many of the cherished theatrical traditions of the matador evolved. The building was completed in the late 18th century and is a yellow-and-white baroque beauty. It's easy to imagine Bizet's Carmen meeting her passionate end here. During the Feria de Abril, a week-long celebration of all things Seville, the season's most prestigious fights are held. Every afternoon, crowds pack the Plaza de Toros (or 'the Cathedral' as the locals call it) to see man take on bull.
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The Giralda (El Giraldillo)
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There is no more perfect symbol of Seville's layered history than the Giralda Tower (or El Giraldillo) the bell tower of the city's cathedral. It stands a little apart from the main building; it was once the minaret of the mosque that stood on the site before it was razed to make way for the cathedral.

The lower sections of the tower date from that time, but its upper parts are Christian Renaissance architecture. The tower was once topped by a copper ball, but that fell in a 14th century earthquake and was replaced with a cross. It's a long climb up the 100 meters (330 feet) to the top of La Giralda, but the views of the city and the statuary of the lower levels are stunning enough to make it well worth the effort. There are no stairs: you'll ascend on a series of cunningly designed ramps.
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Torre del Oro
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Just steps away from the Alcázar, and perched upon the Guadalquivir River, stands one of Seville's most un-missable monuments from the past, the Torre del Oro, or Golden Tower.

The 12-sided tower dates back to the Almohad Dynasty, when it was constructed in the 13th century. The theories behind the name's origin vary: Some say it came from the tower's once gold-tiled exterior, others say that it was due to it being a drop-off and storage point for gold delivery from the New World, and still others believe the title is simply a result of the landmark's golden-hued reflection on the river.

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Maria Luisa Park
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South of Seville's main old quarter and extending along the Guadalquivir River, you'll stumble upon the city's main green getaway, Maria Luisa Park. Once primarily the land of the Palace of San Telmo (now home to Andalusia’s president), this patch of paradise was donated to the public in 1893, evolving over the years into the Seville escape that you see today.

Most of its transformation came about during preparation for the 1929 World's Fair: expansive boulevards were created, fountains erected, gardens planted. Today’s park is so robust in flora and fauna that it is actually considered a proper botanical garden. And expect not only diverse plants, but also birds too, including ducks and swans that float in the fountains and lakes, and even green parrots that live in the center of the park. It's not all just grassy knolls, ponds and paths, either: Maria Luisa Park is also home to numerous monuments and sights.

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Santa Cruz
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Whitewashed buildings, maze-like streets, and courtyards lined with orange trees: No place really defines Seville charm quite like the streets of the Santa Cruz district. As the city's former judería, or Jewish quarter, it is home to many of Seville's top sights, from the grand cathedral with its minaret-turned-tower (called the Giralda) to the Real Alcázar and its fountain-dotted gardens.

The neighborhood dates back to when Ferdinand III of Castile took Seville from Muslim rule, and the city's Jewish residents began to live in what is now El Barrio de Santa Cruz. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, however, the district fell into disrepair, until it was finally revived in the 18th century.

Apart from appreciating the district's history and seeing the main sights, perhaps the best thing you can do during a visit to Santa Cruz is to simply get lost in the barrio's streets.

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More Things to Do in Seville

Historic Center of Seville (Centro Historico de Sevilla)

Historic Center of Seville (Centro Historico de Sevilla)

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Stroll cobblestone streets, stop for tapas, and marvel at centuries-old architecture in Seville's Historic Center (Centro Historico de Sevilla). This destination may be best known for its trio of UNESCO World Heritage Sites—the Cathedral, Alcázar, and the Archivo de Indias—making it a prime destination to uncover Spanish history.
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Palace of San Telmo (Palacio de San Telmo)

Palace of San Telmo (Palacio de San Telmo)

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Today’s it’s the seat of the Andalusian government, but once upon a time, this grand, rusty-red and golden-yellow building served as a royal palace. That wasn’t its original destiny, however: built in the late 1600s, it was meant to serve as a seminary school for the University of Navigators, and is thus named after the patron saint of navigators, San Telmo. Later it was purchased by the royals, after which Princess Maria Luisa donated much of its lands to the city of Seville, hence why the grand nearby park bears her name (she ultimately donated the entire palace to the church).

Nowadays, the palatial building belongs to the government of Andalucia, and has ever since 1989. Its exterior alone is quite impressive, as it is noted for its elaborate baroque façade, and a stretch of statues featuring historical figures, which is situated along Avenida de Palos de Frontera.

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Royal Tobacco Factory (Real Fábrica de Tabacos)

Royal Tobacco Factory (Real Fábrica de Tabacos)

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To look up - and up - at the Real Fábrica de Tabacos is to get a sense of the scale of Seville's tobacco industry in the 18th century. This is one of the largest buildings in Spain (only El Escorial tops it in terms of surface area). It's used as a university building now, but you can still walk around it.

The reason most people visit is to get a vision of Bizet's doomed heroine, Carmen. This building is where she worked and these doors are where she lounged, fresh from rolling cigars on her thighs, to ensnare her lovers.

Carmen's wraith may be compelling, but the wraiths of the real cigar workers - nearly all of them women - also clamor for attention, as do the colonially themed bas-reliefs on the outside of the building.

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Inquisition Museum (Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge)

Inquisition Museum (Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge)

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In Seville’s Triana neighborhood, near the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Castillo San Jorge was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition from 1481 to 1785. The 12th century castle was demolished in the 19th century to make room for a market and today the underground ruins of the castle are home to the Inquisition Museum.

Founded in 2009, the museum chronicles the religious purges that took place during one of the darkest periods of Spanish history. Visitors will learn about how the Inquisition occurred, from accusations and inquiries to detentions and torture, as well as about daily life in the castle for both prisoners and jailers. However, no devices of torture are displayed. Drawings show suspects wearing pointed caps and tunics marked with an X, and maps show the other major Inquisition-related sites in Seville.

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Seville Church of Santa Ana (Iglesia de Santa Ana)

Seville Church of Santa Ana (Iglesia de Santa Ana)

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The Church of Santa Ana is the oldest church in Seville. Located in the Triana neighborhood, the 13th-century church is home to impressive sculptures, paintings, jewelry and religious processional items, many of which are displayed throughout the interior chapels. Master Castilian stonemasons and Muslim master builders worked on the church, whose remarkable interior features columns topped by corbels decorated with castles, vine leaves, lions and human heads. Admire a conglomeration of architecture with a step inside the originally Gothic church and its Baroque-style reconstruction, added after an earthquake in the 17th century.

You can visit the church as part of a guided bike tour of Seville's highlights, which includes stops at San Jorge Castle and the Jewish Quarter, as well as souvenir photos.

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Basílca de la Macarena

Basílca de la Macarena

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The chief attraction of the Basilica Macarena is La Macarena, or "the Virgin of Hope," a 17th century wooden sculpture of Christ's mother mourning his death (complete with tears). She's the patron saint of bullfighters, friend to gypsies and star of the Semana Santa parade held in Seville every Easter.

When she passes by in the parade, songs are sung to her beauty and rose petals strewn in her path. In a small museum adjoining the basilica, you can see some of the Virgin's parade array, along with bullfighting relics.

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Plaza de América

Plaza de América

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General Archive of the Indies (Archivo General de Indias)

General Archive of the Indies (Archivo General de Indias)

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There was a time after Spain’s first journeys to the Americas that Seville served as one of the most important commercial cities and ports in Europe. For that reason, in 1572, this Renaissance-style building — now called the General Archive of the Indies — was erected, with the goal of serving as a merchant’s exchange.

Come 1785, when Seville’s role as a trade hub fizzled out, the grand building was finally converted into a space meant to unify all the country’s documentation related to its overseas empires in the Americas. These days, this includes 9 kilometers of shelving with over 43,000 volumes and 80 million pages, and is composed of documents such as exchanges between Christopher Columbus and the Spanish King and Queen, as well as other writings by explorers. Though the extent of what visitors can actually view is quite limited, entrance to the building is free, and therefore worth a quick wander, especially since it’s located right next to the main cathedral.

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Museum of Fine Arts of Seville (Museo de Bellas Artes)

Museum of Fine Arts of Seville (Museo de Bellas Artes)

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If you can't make it to Madrid's Prado, then consider Seville's Museum of Fine Arts your second-best option. Hailed as having one of the most impressive art collections outside of the capital, the museum is well worth the stop, and for more than just the artwork.

The Museo de Bellas Artes (as it is called in Spanish) dates back to the 1830s, and is situated in what used to be a 16th-century convent. Within its walls, explore works – largely religious in subject matter – dating from the Gothic period to the 20th century, and by greats like Murillo, Zurburán and even El Greco. Beyond just paintings, you'll also find other items on display, ranging from sculptures to ceramics and furniture.

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Aire Ancient Baths Sevilla

Aire Ancient Baths Sevilla

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Hidden among the Santa Cruz neighborhood's maze of streets, you'll find – if you're looking carefully -- Aire de Sevilla. This spa-like oasis located in the heart of Seville captures the magic of an old-world hammam, allowing the visitor to journey into the past, and also to relax.

The building itself dates back to the 16th century, when it was constructed as a mansion by a viceroy from the Indies. Since then, the structure has been transformed into a hammam – the type of Arab bath once so common in Spain's south -- transporting you to another time with its tranquil pools, hypnotic music, and historical setting of brick-vaulted ceilings dimly lit by Moroccan-style lanterns. During your two-hour visit, you'll be able to alternate between Aire de Sevilla's pools, of which there are several. Wash away the day's heat and wallow in relaxation while taking dips in the cool-, warm- and hot-water baths.

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Magic Island Park (Parque Isla Magica)

Magic Island Park (Parque Isla Magica)

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Isla Magica (Magic Island) is a theme park with a twist. It's all based around 16th century Spain, with the emphasis on exploration. Lots of galleons, pirates, jungles and lots of adventure. It's big - the park is set on the site of the 1992 Expo and split into a number of different themed sections. In the Amazonia section you can get the heart pumping with the famous El Jaguar roller coaster and a waterfall ride. In the Gateway to the Americas section there's a 'water coaster' and a Navigator's school. There's also a Mayan world, a section for the little ones, cinemas and virtual shows, and a planetarium.
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