Sevilla 101

Tell anyone in the South of Spain that you’re visiting Sevilla and the typical response will be, “So lucky, I love that city.”

We’re still waiting to hear from someone who does not love the beautiful Andalusian capital. Stroll through the twisting streets of the ancient port city and discover centuries of history within the architecture, from the mosaic, Moorish Real Alcázar in the heart of Sevilla to the verdant, colorful Plaza de España just a few steps away. In the summer months, head over to the river at sunset for brilliant, golden views, and wait a couple hours for some of Spain’s most vibrant nightlife. The city is rich, in its history, diversity, and people, offering visitors authentic southern Spain experiences while also catering to a burgeoning youth population lookin’ for a good night on the town.

Sevilla was the hub of the empire in the 16th century during Spain’s conquest of the Americas, since all goods had to be regulated through the city before being redistributed throughout Spain. In later years, globetrotter Ferdinand Magellan would depart from the port to start his voyage around the world. In the 11th century, Muslims ruled the land, and in the 18th, the city established one of the world’s most renowned bull rings, drawing the attention of royalty and celebrity fighters from across the globe. Spend a day wandering the city and imagine life back in the golden days of Spain. Stumble upon the tobacco factory, the university, and the hospital. Mysteries and secrets hide around every corner. In Sevilla, you might learn a thing or two about the world.

Sevilla Sights

If you’ve been traveling around in Spain for a while, you’ve probably seen your fair share of castles, cathedrals, etc. Maybe you’re a little tired of them by now. Sure, they’re beautiful, grand, historical, but you can’t help but feel that they all look a little bit the same. If this sounds like you, take a trip to the Alcázar of Sevilla, a former Moorish palace overrun by the Spanish Catholics that still retains its old age, Arabic feel. Because its upper rooms are still used by the Spanish royal family (how and why, we aren’t really sure), the Alcázar is one of the oldest palaces still in use worldwide.

Enter the 11th-century palace and get lost in its maze of large gardens and ceramic rooms. There is little to no furniture in the palace’s interior—instead, find breathtaking, colorful tile work dappled with shells and Hand of Fatima motifs, as well as arabesques. The rooms are voluminous and broken only by typical Mudéjar archways, like those found in many mosques, like the Great Mosque of Cordoba. Don’t get us started about the gardens. Walk through a few rooms in the palace and out into its many courtyards, like the Mannerist Garden of Troy, and find sleepy trees, bright bougainvillea branches, and plenty of doves.

What’s incredible about the Alcázar is that, from the outside, it’s a very unassuming—if not drab—building. Only visitors who pay the €9.50 (€2 for students!) can truly see the manifestation of the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”). One would never believe how many gardens and architectural masterpieces can fit inside the walls of this fortress. Additionally, the Alcázar saw centuries of architectural alteration that influenced its current form. If you’re an art history buff, you’ll drool over the mixture of styles, from Mudéjar Renaissance to Baroque. Some contemporary thinkers may even consider the interior minimalist, if that’s the intention 11th-century Muslims had when constructing their castle.

Have we convinced you yet? This place is one of the most stunning in Spain, if not in the entire world. Yes, praise humanity for its architectural feats.

€9.50, reduced €4.50 . ~ Open Apr-Sept daily 9:30am-7pm, Oct-Mar daily 9:30am-5pm.

Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. That’s quite a mouthful. If something’s got a name this long (and the word Real, which means Royal, in it), you know it’s worth a visit. Such is the case with Sevilla’s famed bullring, allegedly the second oldest in the world (slightly younger than that in Ronda). Its construction began in 1749 and wasn’t actually completed until more than 100 years later, in 1881. There are five gates in the main arena from which the matadors arrive and leave in addition to other functions.

Why is this bullring different than others? As the geometrically keen may notice, Sevilla’s bullring is not in fact shaped like a circle. Instead, it takes the shape of an oval. Additionally, there is one prized gate in which the matador may exit, but only if he has gained the three “trophies” of his bullfight—two ears and the tail of the bull that he fights. Only when the matador completes this task does he have permission to exit through the ring’s most important gate, which in Sevilla is called Puerta del Principe (Prince’s Gate). The Sevillan Salida a Hombros occurs in the gate directly under the balcony where the royal family is intended to sit—hence the gate’s name. (Does the royal family ever travel south of Madrid to watch a bullfight at Sevilla? Good question. Not really. Apparently, Juan Carlos liked to bring his daughter to the fights, but no precedent has yet been set by his son, Felipe, new king of Spain as of June 2014.)

In addition to the bullring, visitors can view a museum showcasing the bullring’s history, including some of its celebrity bullfighters like Juan Belmonte, Joselito El Gallo, and their very spectacular costumes (silver, gold, silk). Entrance to both the museum and the bullring is by guided tour (you cannot guide yourself), which is offered in both English and Spanish (simultaneously). The tour takes about 40 minutes, but it is quite informative, and frankly, better than you would do on your own. The tours run roughly every 20 minutes, though times do vary. Additionally, should you desire to see a live bullfight, Sevilla’s season runs from Easter Sunday to October 12 and includes around 20-25 fights in total. Prices for the fights vary, with the most expensive tickets costing upwards of €100. These seats will be right at the front, out of the sun, near all the action. Substantially cheaper tickets can be bought for seats across the stadium.

Tapas €3-8.75. Fish €12. Rice €10. Dessert €6. ~ Open daily Apr-Oct 9:30am-9pm, Nov-Mar 9:30am-7pm.

What’s so special about Sevilla’s Cathedral? A few things. First, it’s the third-largest church in the world and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Second, its interior has the largest nave of any other Cathedral in Spain (42 meters high). And third, it’s the burial site of our favorite explorer Christopher Columbus.

Sevilla’s mammoth cathedral, located in the heart of the city center (actually, it may very well be the heart of the city, since everything seems to revolve around it), was constructed starting in 1402 and finished in a timely 104 years, during 1506. The locals who decided to build this new cathedral are reported to have said during the time “Let us build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will think we are mad.”

Maybe they were a bit mad after all. The cathedral has four facades, 15 doors, 80 chapels, 11,520 square meters in total floor space, and the world’s largest altarpiece. Like many Catholic cathedrals of the time, the cathedral was built on the site of a 12th-century Moorish structure, the Almohad Mosque. The cathedral was intended to display Sevilla’s newfound wealth and power after the period of Reconquista. Although the cathedral is built in the gothic style, it still retains a few traces of Moorish influence from the mosque, like the court in which visitors enter (the Patio de los Naranjos) and the then-minaret now-bell tower Giralda.

Alright, alright, cool history, big church we get it. But where are Columbus’s remains? We know that’s all you care about. His tomb is located just off the entrance to the cathedral, on the south side at the Puerta de San Cristóbal. No, this isn’t where he was originally buried, which was in Valladolid, Spain, where he died. His remains were shortly thereafter transferred to Sevilla, and then jumped around a bit (if you can say that about remains). In 1795, they ended up at the Havana Cathedral in Cuba, which Columbus had first encountered in his voyage of 1492. Upheaval from the 1902 Cuban revolution led Spain to transfer his remains to Sevilla, their resting place today. Visit for the history, the architecture, or Columbus. You’re bound to learn a thing or two.

€8, students under 25 €4. ~ Open M 11am-3:30pm, Tu-Sa 11am-5pm, Su 2:30-6pm.

Sevilla Food

Visit Bar Zurbarán for a taste of authentic Spain—warning, not for the faint of heart. This little nook, near Sevilla’s famous “mushroom” structures, yet still hidden from the city’s main touristy avenues, serves up platters of southern Spain’s most famous dishes. Not sure what caracoles are? How about cola de toro? Huevas planchas? Better buy a Spanish dictionary or keep up with Google translate before heading to Zurbarán. (For the uninformed, those menu items are, respectively: snails, oxtail, and grilled frog eggs.) No, the waiters don’t speak very good English, and menus are offered only in Spanish, but that’s a good sign, right? You’ll be hard-pressed to hear anything other than Spanish in this restaurant, in addition to the little plaza it occupies. Plus, tapas prices from €1 just go to show that this place is far from a tourist trap.

Despite the slightly frightening menu items listed, you’ll still be able to find something for your non-adventurous palette. Try some classic croquettas (croquettes, small breadcrumbed dumpling-like tapas, only fried and stuffed with mashed potatoes or cream and Iberian ham), Jamon Iberico, and delicious tomato and olive oil paste with baguettes or other breads. Your satisfaction at this restaurant honestly depends on whether or not you have a dictionary in hand.
* Tapas €1-2. Raciones €4-8. ~ Open daily 8am-midnight.

Located in a city that’s full of expensive tourist traps and a central plaza known for these traps, Los Coloniales provides its guests with authentic food and great service, all for a cheap cost. The restaurant has a dimly lit, intimate feel about it, with beautiful mosaic tiling and pots and pans hung up on the walls, just like your mom’s kitchen. Eat inside, at the bar, or at a table (near to which hang large, chunky legs of Iberian ham) and enjoy a fair amount of people watching while savoring large portions of quail egg and chorizo, cheese fritters, or tenderloin with port sauce.

The staff is friendly and well versed in English (it is located in a touristy area, after all), and often the place can get so packed near dinnertime (anywhere from 8pm-10:30pm) that reservations may be necessary for those hoping to beat the crowds. Sip on some delicious white or red wine while watching a fútbol game with some energized fans. If you’re looking for a spot to try some tapas, this is it. Additionally, Los Coloniales is popular among both locals and tourists, so while you’ll have the typical German, British, American crowd, you may also strike up a conversation with a true, born and bred Sevillian (we challenge you to find these in the city center. They’ll be of great use to you later).
 €2-15. ~ Open daily 12:30pm-12:15am.

Opened in 1670, El Rinconcillo is the oldest tapas bar in Sevilla, and the tiled walls and warm lighting are clear relics of this historic past. El Rinconcillo’s staff serves so many people that they manage to keep tabs chalked on the bar without getting a speck of white powder on their uniforms. Ask anyone for the house special and they’ll tell you to try the pavia—deep fried bacalao (cod) served straight from the fryer. The gazpacho is cheap, fresh, and served straight like a smoothie (cup €2, bowl €3). The other clear favorite is the espinacas con garbanzos (spinach stewed with chickpeas; €2). Surprisingly, even El Rinconcillo’s signature grilled entree dishes come at reasonable prices, including the lamb chops (€13) and steak (€14.) The real attraction is the bar, where you can try the best and oldest Andalusian tapas recipes in the city.

From Pl. de Ponce de León, C. Gerona is a tiny street behind Iglesia Santa Catalina. Tapas €1.80-2.80. ~ Open daily 1pm-1:30am.

Sevilla Nightlife

Part indoor-part outdoor, perfect for the summer months. The club Babilonia, one of the hottest in Sevilla, has a beautiful ambiance to it. There are flickering candles that glow in the darkness, tropical palms (fake or real, we don’t actually know) and thick curtains decorating the club, twinkling lights dangling from the trees, and well-dressed patrons. Like its name may suggest, Babilonia feels like a desert oasis (especially given the scorching midsummer Sevillan temperatures). The club has four different bars with plenty of drinks to go around, in addition to a number of plush seating arrangements for even the most relaxed of partygoers. There is a VIP section, coat check, and concierge service for those who desire it. People say it feels modern, chic, and chill—when you want it to be. But if you’re looking for a “relaxing” night of drinking and bar hopping, you’re better off doing just that—bar hopping. Babilonia is a full-fledged club, opening at 11pm and closing only when the sun rises at 7am. Still, if you get tired after dancing the night away, you do have plenty of seats on which to rest—but only for a minute! Plenty of hookah to go around as well.

How much does it cost? That depends. Do you look nice enough? Do the bouncers like you? Work on those two things, and we’ll get back to you. But seriously, you may find yourself charged anywhere from €10-30 depending on the night, if you are female, or if you’re dressed well enough to suit the posh, Moroccan style of the discoteca. Drinks can also be a little pricy as well, which isn’t too surprising. Better botellón before visiting the club, or else be prepared to break your bank for a night.

Mixed drinks €6-10. Cover varies. ~ Open Th-Sa 11pm-7am in summer.

Twenty-five hundred sq. m, a 1400-person capacity, three outdoor bars, and a swimming pool? We don’t want to get you all flustered with the math, but the full magnitude of Theatro Antique can’t be comprehended without a visit. This upscale club is the place to see and be seen, catering to a few famous faces and thousands of trendsters looking for the snazziest evening around. You’ll hear the booming music from all the way across the river, putting some of the smaller clubs along the Torneo to shame. In the summer, take relaxation to a whole new level by sitting around the pool on the Aqua Antique patio in your personal cabana, hanging with friends and sipping your caipirinha (€8). This is a high end-European club, so dress accordingly: lose the muscle tank and throw on some slacks, a going-out shirt, and a good pair of shoes. Without proper attire, you may have trouble getting in.

*From Alameda de Hércules, take C. Calatrava and cross the bridge; the club is on the left. Call in advance to determine cover. Beer €4. Sangria €6. ~ Open in summer Tu-Su midnight- 7am; in winter Th-Sa midnight-7am.

If you ask a local how to get to Kudéta, they’ll likely shrug their shoulders. But if you drop the name Buddha, you’ll get an immediate sly smirk—they’ve probably been there, and they’ve probably had some crazy nights there, too. Located in the historic Pl. de Armas train station, Kudéta is one of Sevilla’s largest, most well-known clubs. They know they’ll fill up, so they have no problem with less- than-ascetic prices. While the first floor remains pretty mellow (how can you not be mellow with pictures of Siddhartha on every wall and silky pillows and drapes everywhere?), offering hookah and a selection of wines and beers, things get rowdy on the upstairs dance floor and outdoor terrace. Thursday nights are reserved for enormous study-abroad student parties of about 1,000 visitors. While the club is quieter early in the week, the outdoor terrace, which sits directly under the wrought-iron facade of the Pl. de Armas, is a fantastic place to sit, with cool white leather seating and large shaded palms that will make you feel like you are living in your favorite music video.

*In the Centro Comercial de Pl. de Armas, in the portion closest to Av. de la Expiración. Roof terrace open May-Oct. Beer €4. Cocktails €7.50. ~ Open in summer daily 3pm-6am; in winter M-W 3pm-4am (lounge only), Th-Sa 3pm-6am, Su 3pm-4am (lounge only).

Sevilla Accommodations

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The Sevilla Inn has a prime location, just steps away from the Cathedral, the Alcázar of Sevilla, and the center of the city. Tucked away in the corner of Calle Ángeles, the hostel may not look like much from the outside, but once you step through its glass doors and up the stairs to its first floor and set of rooms, you’ll realize you’re inside what the owner calls a “typical” Sevillian household, complete with windy staircases, mosaic tiles, and plenty of windows. The kitchen is bright and accommodating, while the rooms are large with extremely comfortable bunk beds and storage lockers. On the first floor, the Inn offers a common room with a television, board games, couches, and outlets, as well as two bathrooms with showers (which surprisingly don’t get too crowded). Walk up the stairs through the kitchen and you’ll find yourself on the next floor. Keep going up, and you have a remarkable terrace, where the hostel offers paella making classes and drinking nights (€1 sangria!).

You’re in for a relaxing and comfortable stay when you book at this backpacker’s hostel. However, given the demand (especially during the summer time), you may be placed in a room (usually a single) in another building near the one that houses Sevilla Inn’s reception. Wi-Fi in these buildings is quite spotty, so feel free to visit the main building for less spotty (though still not the best) Wi-Fi. Storage locks are available for purchase, and unlike many hostels, the reception may not provide you a map of the city right off the bat. Ask for one when you arrive; you’ll be needing it.

Mixed dorms €17-18. Privates €24-29. ~ Reception 24hr. Check out by 11am.

Book on

One of the nicest hostels in Santa Cruz, Samay provides all the essentials at great rates. Upon entering the hostel, you’ll be welcomed by an English-speaking staff member (or three) ready to help you to your room. While the retro wallpaper and furniture might be a bit loud, these decor decisions are worth overlooking. The shared bedrooms are clean, comfortable, and larger than those at competing hostels. They come equipped with electronically coded security lockers, fresh towels, and clean ensuite bathrooms with large showers, all of which make life just a little bit easier. The top floor terrace hosts a steady night crowd who lounge on the hammocks. Samay also offers newly renovated common areas, a kitchen with modern appliances, and an overwhelming slew of entertainment, including free walking tours, tapas tours, and flamenco and discoteca nights.

7min. up Av. Menéndez Pelayo from Prado de San Sebastián. Lockers and towels included. 8-bed dorm €15; 6-bed €18; 4-bed €20. ~ Reception 24hr.

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From a rooftop pool (more of a pond, but in the Sevillian heat, any body of water is appreciated) and a happy hour (two beers, wines, sangrias, or shots for €2) to bike rentals and Spanish lessons, Oasis has it all. The bright shared rooms have simple wooden bunks mad up with clean bedspreads, and, most importantly, individual electronically coded safes. The location can’t be beat: Oasis is just a few meters from the Pl. de la Encarnación in the heart of El Centro. The hostel has three buildings; try to get a room in the building with the reception, as it also houses the pool and the kitchen where breakfast is served. If you are also considering Oasis’s sister hostel Hostel Palace Seville, beware that it has neither a reliable Wi-Fi connection nor lockers.

At the corner of Pl. de la Encarnación. Facing #29, turn right into the alley; the entrance is on the left where the alley curves. Breakfast included. 8-bed dorms €15; 6-person €18; 4-bed €21. Doubles from €44. ~ Reception 24hr.

Sevilla was last modified: July 30th, 2015 by Will Holub-Moorman