Occupying the coveted number one spot in Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018 list, Seville is a historic city in a period of transformation.
Over the past decade, the capital of the autonomous region Andalucía in Spain has bloomed into a buzzing city filled with bicycles and trams while still protecting its stunning architecture (which you might recognise from Game of Thrones), authentic culture and artistic past.
This year, the city will host the 31st European Film Awards in December while celebrating the 400th anniversary of home-grown Baroque painter Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. It will be holding several one-of-a-kind exhibitions throughout 2018 as part of the celebrations.
Here’s how to make the most of a day in the historic and beautiful Seville:
Wake up to views of the Real Alcázar gardens, La Giralda and the Seville Cathedral at Hotel Alfonso XIII, A Luxury Collection Hotel in Seville – one of Spain’s most iconic places to stay. It was recently restored to its former glory and has become synonymous with palatial luxury. Experience true Andalucían glamour in the 80-square-metre Reales Alcazares Suite, inspired by the 14th-century romance of King Pedro I and Maria de Padilla.
After a quick dip in the hotel’s cerulean pool, head downstairs to San Fernando Restaurant for an à la carte buffet breakfast in the magnificent colonnaded courtyard. Featuring fresh, seasonal ingredients and the finest seafood from both the Atlantic and Mediterranean, the restaurant offers classic dishes like Andalucían gazpacho and Hake medallion Romana-style – not to mention churros for breakfast.
On your way to the city’s iconic pedestrian shopping street Calle Sierpes, you’ll pass by the magnificent Seville Cathedral – the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and a UNESCO world heritage site – and its soaring bell-tower, La Giralda. Step inside the cathedral and you’ll find not only 80 beautifully carved chapels, but also the largest and most over-the-top gold altarpiece in the world.
Catch a ride uptown to the neighbourhood of San Lorenzo and you'll come across local traders, the Seville Museum of Fine Arts, the Church of El Gran Poder, the Tower of the Infante don Fadrique, and the Church of San Lorenzo at the centre of the city’s market district. Slightly off the main tourist drag and a perfect spot for lunch is Eslava, a small tapas bar and restaurant serving its own inspired versions of traditional local cuisine paired perfectly with wines from Seville, Andalucía and Spain.
Located at the city centre, Plaza de España is a must-visit in Seville. Built for the Iberio–American Exposition in 1929, each element in the semicircular plaza has a special meaning. There is a fresco to symbolise each Spanish province and four mosaic-tiled bridges represent the medieval Iberian kingdoms of Castile, León, Navarre and Aragon. Visit in the summer and you’ll be able to rent a small boat to row in the canal.
Just a short drive from Plaza de España is Seville’s tourism hub, Barrio de Santa Cruz – a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleyways dating back to the old Jewish quarter. Here, you’ll find Alcázar de Seville, a Moorish–Renaissance palace built for the Christian king Peter of Castile and known for its lush gardens – and its cameo on Game of Thrones. Explore the streets and orange tree-lined squares dotted with shops selling souvenirs, handicrafts and ceramics.
Santa Cruz is also home to many of Seville’s favourite tapas bars – the more crowded the better. Wander the popular eating strip Calle Mateos Gago for a bite of octopus or Iberian ham, or see if you can score a seat at Bar Las Teresas, one of the city’s most atmospheric bars – a longstanding favourite with locals. Accompanying its deservedly famous tapas is an extensive wine list that includes a selection of sherries such as the local Manzanilla.