Planning a weekend in Sevilla? I got you covered. After six visits to Sevilla over the past year with my boyfriend and friends, all sevillanos themselves, I’d like to think I have a pretty good idea of what to do and see in the capital of Andalucía. So, I’ve created a guide of highlights to make the most out of a weekend trip to this spicy Spanish city, which has actually been named Lonely Planet’s top city to visit in 2018. Full disclosure: There is tons to do (and eat and drink) in Sevilla, and, unfortunately, a weekend may not be enough for it all. Notably absent in my guide are the Museum of Fine Arts, the UNESCO World Heritage Site El Archivo de Indias, and an array of restaurants and bars. However, my weekend guide does include solid sightseeing paired with a lot of beer-drinking and tapas-eating in spots beloved by locals, so I am confident that this plan will give you a feel for what life is really like in Sevilla.
When to Go: Sevilla is heavenly in the winter and spring. The winter brings mild temperatures in the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit (although it can get chillier at night) and is also the season for the oranges on the glorious naranjo trees (the oranges fall by spring), making for a wonderful contrast between the orange fruit and the blue skies of Andalucían winter. The spring is perhaps the sevillanos’ favorite season, when the sweet fragrance of the orange blossom, azahar, wafts through the air. Spring also brings Las Fiestas de Primavera, including Semana Santa and Feria. Autumn does not boast any notable events, although I’d say it’s a fine time to visit if that is most convenient for you. However, I would not personally recommend visiting Sevilla in the summer. Sevilla simply sizzles during July and August, and you quite literally can’t enjoy being outside when the sun is beating down at 95 degrees. Besides, August is kind of a dead month as many locals flock to the beach for vacation.
8-9 PM: Crush beers before dinner at Casa Vizcaíno. Many sevillanos like to slam beers to work up an appetite before a meal. After arriving and settling in for the weekend, head out for a beer aperitif – or an “a-beer-itif” if you will? I recommend popping into Casa Vizcaíno for a few cañas (small beers) and aceitunas (olives) or chochitos, what locals affectionately call lupin beans. To eat these chochitos like a pro, place the bean between your thumb and index finger so that the flat sides of the bean are along your fingers and the small opening in the waxy shell is facing toward you. Bite the shell and push the bean into your mouth by squeezing your fingers, then throw the shell on the floor. Yes, the floor. Let’s get one thing straight about this bar – this is no ritzy ditzy place trying to impress tourists. Instead, think of Casa Vizcaíno as a neighborhood dive bar that’s known for serving up cold beer to locals at extremely good prices – we’re talking just over a euro for a caña. As a result, drinking here gives you a glimpse into the Sevilla beer-drinking culture that I so adore. The ambience is fun as lively patrons spill out from the bar to tables on the street. Oh, and when it comes to what beer to order, that’s pretty much decided for you – Cruzcampo. This beer is based in Sevilla and thus is near and dear to locals’ hearts. It’s golden and delicious and served ice cold in any respectable bar in Sevilla. Cheers to that!
9-11 PM: Wine and dine at El Rinconcillo. El Rinconcillo is Sevilla’s oldest bar – it’s been around since 1670. This “castizo” bar is true to sevillano cuisine and culture, which makes it very popular among locals. You’ll notice waiters scribble tallies on the bar with chalk as they take orders for Cruzcampo and Rioja, either of which I recommend pairing with dinner. Although El Rinconcillo does have normal seating, it is a tapas restaurant, so you can eat at the bar while standing up if you really want to act like a local – sometimes you just gotta fake it til you make it. Speaking of which, the Spanish typically eat dinner pretty late, so do as the Spanish do and eat late too! Scrumptious options include the solomillo ibérico (Iberian pork sirloin or tenderloin), croquetas (croquettes often filled with ham), and espinacas con garbanzos (a delicious dish of cooked spinach and chick peas popular in Andalucía that tastes way better than it looks).
11 PM-1 AM: Get Flamenco Funky at Bodeguita Fabiola. Most people may come to Sevilla looking for a full-blown flamenco show. I, on the other hand, prefer the free local version: at places like Bodeguita Fabiola, a local may grab a guitar and start belting out in a casually amazing voice at any given moment. This isn’t formal flamenco and it doesn’t entail a woman performing on stage in a sleek polka-dotted dress; this kind of flamenco is referred to as “flamenquito” by locals because it’s a bit lighter and more casual but true to flamenco style. When someone strikes up some flamenquito, people in the bar start singing along and tocando las palmas (clapping their hands) and, if you’re lucky, dancing sevillanas, a kind of flamenco that seemingly every breathing sevillano knows how to dance. As my roommate from Sevilla would say, flamenquito is the kind of flamenco you live instead of the kind of flamenco you watch – and it’s freaking awesome. Now, the bad thing about places like Fabiola is that, since performances aren’t usually scheduled, you may not get to see anything at all. Bummer. But the great thing is that, when these flamenquito performances do happen, they are so organic and lively that they make the visit incredibly worthwhile. If nothing is going on at Fabiola, you may want to check out La Taberna de Reyes across the Guadalquivir River in the neighborhood of Triana.
10 AM-12 PM: Spend a morning surrounded by Moorish architecture at the Royal Alcázar. The Alcázar of Sevilla is one of the city’s most famous sites: Game of Thrones fans will recognize this UNESCO World Heritage Site as the Water Gardens of Dorne!! (See the main pic for this post above). This spectacular palace was first built as a fort by Muslim rulers in the 10th century and then altered and expanded under Spanish kings after the Reconquista of Sevilla in 1248. As a result, the Alcázar is a quintessential example of the unique blending of Moorish-Muslim and Spanish-Catholic culture that is seen throughout Andalucía – think La Alhambra in Granada, La Alcazaba in Málaga, and the Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba. In fact, Andalucía derives its name form Al-Andalus, which was the Arabic name for Muslim-controlled territory on the Iberian Peninsula from the 8th to 15th centuries. Pro tip: BUY TIX TO THE ALCAZAR ONLINE. That way, you won’t have to wait in the typically LONG LINE to buy tickets on-site – you can just get right in!
12-1 PM: Get lost in the alleyways of Santa Cruz and stumble upon the Murillo Gardens. The neighborhood of Santa Cruz is also referred to as “la judería,” but that term is often used more by tourists than by locals. Although it can be touristy, this area in the heart of the city is a great place to get lost and stumble upon picturesque plazas and streets. After roaming Santa Cruz, head toward the Murillo Gardens. Take in the scenery of the gardens by sitting on a tiled bench, then exit the gardens and turn right to walk along Paseo de Catalina de Ribera until turning right again toward the city center.
1-2 PM: Down another “a-beer-itif” in the Plaza of El Salvador before lunch. After some sightseeing, it’s time for a well-deserved beer. Head to the Plaza of El Salvador, right in front of the gorgeous pink El Salvador church. Some of my best memories in Sevilla include drinking cold Cruzcampo in the sunshine of this plaza, so soak it all in. This plaza is always buzzing with locals and the ambience could not be better! Pro tip: The ticket to the Cathedral of Sevilla (also on this itinerary) should also grant admission to the El Salvador church, so set aside some time to go inside.
2-3:30 PM: Tapeo time at La Bodega de Alfalfa. Since this guide recommends to do as the sevillanos do, it would be a faux pas to sit down for lunch any earlier than 2 PM. Now that you’ve worked up an appetite drinking beer, walk a few minutes from El Salvador to get some tapas at La Bodega de Alfalfa. Popular orders here include flamenquín, a typical Andalucían dish usually consisting of ham that is wrapped in pieces of pork loin, coated with egg and breadcrumbs, and then deep-fried; tostadas de jamon ibérico y salmorejo, which is essentially toast smeared with a traditional tomato-based soup topped with Spanish ham; bombónes de pato, or small toasts with foie gras; and any montaditos, or small sandwiches (I particularly like them with lomo, or pork loin). This bodega is part of a chain that includes “sister” places like Casa La Viuda and Bodega Dos de Mayo, other top spots to eat in Sevilla.
3:30-5 PM: Roam the hallowed halls of the Cathedral and get a bird’s-eye view from the Giralda. The Cathedral of Sevilla is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. Christopher Columbus is in fact buried here! Explore the Cathedral and marvel at works from Spanish greats like Goya, Murillo, and Zurbarán; then, head up to the Giralda, the Cathedral’s iconic bell tower, for views of the city. Fun fact: The Giralda was once the minaret of the mosque that stood at this site under Muslim rule, so take note of the arches and details on the body of the tower and how they contrast with the topmost section, added during the later Renaissance period. The Giralda is actually known as the “sister” to the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech, on whose design the Giralda was based! To complete your visit, you’ll exit through the Patio de Los Naranjos, an absolute dream during the winter when the oranges are on the trees. This patio was actually the courtyard of the original mosque!
5-6:30 PM: Get some rooftop relaxation atop the Metropol Parasol a.k.a. “Las Setas.” The odd-looking Metropol Parasol was built to put Sevilla on the map of contemporary architecture; however, in the eyes of many locals, these things just look like “setas,” or mushrooms – hence the nickname. Controversial though they may be, Las Setas offer great views of the city, so head up there around sunset.
8-9 PM: Slam some pre-dinner beers and chicharrones at La Cata. I mean, are you really in Sevilla if you don’t pregame every meal with beer? I think not. La Cata is a little hole in the wall that I really enjoy for its cold Cruzcampo served in icy terracotta glasses. However, if you’re feeling a beer belly coming on, you can always order wine, as in virtually every bar in Sevilla. Rub elbows with locals as you munch on some complimentary chicharrones, or fried pork belly.
9-11 PM: Enjoy a swanky cena at Perro Viejo Tapas Bar. If the other restaurants on this itinerary are more “castizo,” Perro Viejo is definitely more modern and trendy. This well-decorated restaurant has a variety of options from American-style ribs to more traditional Spanish dishes with a twist.
11 PM to when your heart desires: “Copas y Fiestuki” a.k.a. Drink and Party. If you’re looking to party as the Spanish do, head to Montecristo for the typical post-dinner “copas,” which basically refers to mixed drinks. If you have enough steam, you can try the clubs O’Clock and Madison (which are right next to each other) or the clubs along the river, but be aware of the fact that the party won’t really get started until around 2 or 3 am.
11 AM-1 PM: Meander through Maria Luisa Park and count the Spanish provinces at La Plaza de España. Start your day with a morning stroll through the idyllic naranjos, gardens, fountains, and ceramic details of Sevilla’s popular Parque de Maria Luisa. Make sure to check out the Plaza de America, flanked with fine buildings built in various architectural styles for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929. At the edge of the park, you’ll find yourself facing the striking Plaza de España. This Plaza was also built for the Ibero-American Expo and is a wonderful example of Regionalist architecture, a movement that sought to revive elements of both Moorish and Renaissance architectural styles. As you stroll the semicircular walkway of the Plaza, you’ll notice that there are tiled alcoves representing the provinces of Spain. You may also recognize this place as a filming location in the Star Wars series!
1-2:30 PM: Discover the charm of the neighborhood of Triana. Triana sits across the Guadalquivir River and has tremendous character. It has an important place in flamenco culture – tons of songs mention it – and is home to some unique sights. Cross the Puente de Triana and let yourself get lost as you walk along the river or duck into ceramics shops that catch your eye. Eventually make your way to La Capilla de los Marineros, a beautiful church that is home to one of Triana’s most beloved sculptures of the Virgin Mary, La Esperanza de Triana. Definitely step in to see her if possible! (Another extremely popular representation of the Virgin Mary in Sevilla is La Esperanza Macarena, back across the river. Go visit her too at the Basílica de la Macarena if you can!) Nearby you’ll see a beautiful bell tower, part of Santa Ana Parish, once nicknamed “The Cathedral of Triana.” The most scenic part of Triana are the four streets that run parallel and closest to the river, so you don’t need to wander too far. Head back to the central street, Calle San Jacinto, for a beer as you people-watch and get ready to cross the river again for lunch.
2:30-4 PM: Pop in to El Arenal for some typical “pescaíto frito.” El Arenal is where I had my first real “pescaíto frito” experience. This place is well-known for its fried fish options, like chocos (delicious squid that is kind of like thickly cut calamari), adobo (fish battered and fried in a tantalizing blend of flour and spices), puntillitas (tiny deep-fried squid), and huevas (deep-fried fish eggs that are kinda shaped like mini bananas and look completely weird but actually taste so good). Of course, wash this fried feast down with a botellín (little bottle) of Cruzcampo!
4-5 PM: Walk off lunch with a stroll along the river to La Torre del Oro. The iconic Torre del Oro dates back to Muslim rule and is one of Sevilla’s most famous landmarks. While strolling along the Guadalquivir, you’ll see people taking in the last hours of their weekend with riverside copas.
To any sevillanos reading – feel free to comment below with suggestions for more things to do and places to eat!