The Best of Spain: Top 5 Cultural Attractions in Seville (PHOTOS)

A visit to the cultural heart of southern Spain

Our recent visit to Seville in southern Spain to celebrate my brother’s 40th birthday rewarded us with a generous dose of sunshine, culture and tapas!

We love Seville because it’s far less expensive than Madrid and Barcelona so it’s possible to be a lot more indulgent. We stayed at Corral del Rey, a 17th-century palacio turned boutique hotel, filled with original artwork in the heart of the ancient Alfalfa district.

Tapas and sunshine aside, Seville is the cultural heart of southern Spain. With that in mind, here are Seville’s essential cultural attractions.

1. Alcazar


Alcazar palace in Seville, Spain. (Photo: Paul Allen)

Seville’s royal palace is a UNESCO world heritage site and the oldest still in use as a royal residence in Europe. The Royal Alcazar was built in the tenth century as a Moorish fort. With its combination of Islamic, Gothic and Baroque architecture, magnificent gardens and colourful tiles throughout, this palace should be the first stop on any visit to Seville.

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2. Cathedral of Saint Mary


Seville's Cathedral of St Mary. (Photo: Paul Allen)

Right beside Alcazar, the largest Gothic building and fourth largest church in the world contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The other main attraction inside is the golden altarpiece, also the largest in the world, with 36 golden panels depicting scenes from the old testament. Like Alcazar, the Cathedral is a world heritage site.

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3. Centre of Contemporary Art


Ai Weiwei's "Descending Light" sculpture on display in Seville. (Photo: Paul Allen)

A former 16th-century monastery which became a ceramics and tile factory in the 19th century, the Centre of Contemporary Art houses Seville’s modern art museum with regularly changing exhibitions. The buildings perched on the other side of the river are alone worth a look. When we visited, of the four exhibitions on show, the highlight was a giant red glass chandelier sprawled across the floor by Ai Weiwei (on until June 2013).

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4. Metropol Parasol


The Metropol Parasol in Seville. (Photo: Paul Allen)

German artist turned architect Jurgen Mayer H. spent 90 million euros and ran well over schedule to create the world’s largest wooden structure. And the Parasol, so named for it’s five umbrella-like pieces, is astonishing to view from any angle. Be sure to take the elevator to the top where there are walkways, a cafe and breathtaking views of Seville’s white rooftops and miles around.

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5. Flamenco


An evening of Flamenco at Cafe Jazz Naima in Seville. (Photo: Paul Allen)

The museum of flamenco behind our hotel was recommended but we opted for the more informal, riotous La Carboneria on one of the labyrinthine back streets. A trio consisting of a flamenco dancer, guitarist and singer kept us entertained in a cavernous bar. After the main act, one of the waitresses jumped onto another stage for an impromptu but very professional looking flamenco dance session. And for nightly live music in a more intimate setting, we loved Cafe Jazz Naima just south of La Alameda.

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This post was written by Downtown Traveler’s London correspondent, Joanne Shurvell, with photos by Paul Allen. If you would like to contribute to Downtown Traveler, please visit our “Contacts” page.

About Joanne Shurvell

An arts & culture writer, Joanne is Downtown Traveler's London correspondent. She is also the co-director of PayneShurvell, a London art gallery showing contemporary art by emerging and mid-career UK and international artists.