Our family spent two days in Seville (or Sevilla) during our two week trip to Spain in July 2013. We didn’t have a lot of time in the city, so we picked a few highlights of the best of the best things to do in Seville with kids. The first thing you need to know about Seville in the summer is that it is hot…brutally hot.
In Barcelona, we didn’t really notice anything different at siesta time, but in Andalusia, everything shuts down for a couple of hours in the afternoon and you can see why, you need to get out of the heat (it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit every day we were there!)
Even with the heat (and siestas), it is easy to see the top sites in Seville in just a couple of days, especially if you stay near the old quarter. Seville is quite a bustling and busy city, but the main historic sites are all located within walking distance of the cathedral so use that as your home base.
Things to do in Seville with Kids
1. Take a carriage ride — all around the cathedral you will see carriages lined up ready to take you around town, but you could also schedule a private horse and carriage tour of Seville. It is a nice way to get acquainted with the center of town, but be sure to go early before it gets too hot. And, learn how to say “No thank you, we already took a ride” (No, gracias, ya nos dimos un paseo,) because you will still be asked over and over again.
The rides cost about 30-40 euros and usually take about 30-45 minutes. You’ll want to bring along water, sunscreen, and a hat because even in the morning, the sun beats down strong. Also, don’t expect a full-guided tour. Our guide did try to point out the major sites (Plaza de Espana, Parque de Maria Luisa, Torre del Oro…), but with the traffic sound and our limited high school Spanish, it was hard to get too much of the history or details.
2. Seville cathedral — the Seville cathedral is the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world, and was constructed in 1401 and finished in 1506. The cathedral is built on the site of a mosque, but the main part of the Giralda tower and the Courtyard of the Orange Trees (Patio de los Naranjos) are the only remaining parts of the original mosque. The bell tower was the minaret and the courtyard was the ablutions patio, where the faithful washed themselves as part of the Islamic rite.
The inside of the cathedral is awe-inspiring, with 80 chapels and is the burial site of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand III of Castile. But I feel the main attraction is Giraldi Tower.
If you climb up 35 ramps and 17 steps, you will not only be getting your exercise, but you’ll also be treated to a great view of the city of Seville.
3. Real Alcazar — the unexpected surprise of Seville was the Real Alcazar. The oldest palace still in operation, this looks like nothing but an old fortress from the outside. Once you are inside you are introduced to authentic Moorish architecture.
If you aren’t able to get to Granada to see La Alhambra, you will get a good glimpse of what you are missing, just on a smaller scale, at the Alcazar. Spend some time looking at the tiles and mosaics, enjoy the archways and courtyards, but the real gem is the gardens. It was too hot to fully explore the gardens but I imagine you could spend hours in the Alcazar. Be sure to allot at least two hours for a visit.
4. River Cruise — after a hot morning climbing the tower, you might need a siesta. Later in the afternoon is a great time to take a walk down to the water for a Guadalquivir river cruise.
It is a nice way for families to see the city without tiring the kids out walking through the heat. There is plenty of room to move around and get a look at both sides of the river. You will pass by monuments such as the Tower of Gold – Torre del Oro, Maestranza Bullring and Triana Bridge.
5. Barrio Santa Cruz — just outside the Cathedral is the Barrio Santa Cruz, or the old Jewish Ghetto. This is the historic heart of the city, with narrow, winding streets filled with shops, restaurants, and places to cool off with a little helado or gelato.
There are plenty of jasmine plants and orange trees giving the air a fragrant aroma, with small plazas and fountains tucked away. We spent some time doing some shopping. While many of the gift shops all look the same, we were able to find some handmade clothing and painted pottery that will help us always remember our trip to Spain.
We only had two days in Sevilla so we just scratched the surface. If you are looking for more things to do in Seville with kids, check out this post from Zena’s Suitcase.
Where to Stay in Seville
I’d strongly recommend staying near the old quarter and cathedral. It puts all the main attractions within a very short walking distance. We stayed at Hotel Palacio Alcazar, which was just steps away from both the Alcazar and Cathedral in Plaza de la Alianza, in Barrio Santa Cruz.
This boutique hotel offers rooms that are small but well-appointed. We took the triple, which is located just off the lobby and has an exit to the center courtyard. At first I was worried about being just off the lobby but this was a small, quiet hotel so it wasn’t a problem at all. The room featured a double bed downstairs and a single bed up in the loft. The only drawback was that the steps up to the loft were very narrow and steep. I was quite nervous about our eight year old coming down safely, especially in the night, so I put barriers across the opening.
Where to Eat in Seville
- Bar Giralda — there are more than 3,000 tapas bars in Seville and just across from the cathedral is a great one, Bar Giralda. This bar occupies what was once the site of Moorish baths, with the columns and arches still intact. The list of tapas is impressive, and I especially enjoyed the avocado with prawns. My daughter loved practicing her Spanish by ordering on her own.
- Osteria L’Oca Guiliva — after a week in Spain, I knew my family would need a break from tapas and Spanish food (as delicious as it is), so I booked a table at Osteria L’Oca Guiliva, a great Italian restaurant in Barrio Santa Cruz. It was the only time on the trip when my daughter had a really hard time waiting until 8:30 pm for the restaurant to open (typical of Spanish restaurants). I think all the heat and shopping and walking took their toll. Luckily, some good food perked us up. The pizza was an excellent starter and the gnocchi pomodoro was delicious.
- Extraverde Bar y Tiende — for something different, you might want to try a light lunch or snack at Extraverde in Barrio Santa Cruz. This unique olive oil store and restaurant features olive oil tastings in a charming courtyard setting. My daughter tried the olive oil tasting with a cheese plate for lunch and we learned that Spain produces the second best olive oil in the world, with Portugal in first. We had olive oils that tasted of orange, others were spicy and peppery, but we preferred the award-winning olive oil the best.
On our last night in Seville, we went to Vinero San Telmo, which got good reviews but we were very disappointed. When we arrived the didn’t have a record of our reservation and we had trouble getting a table. The food was mediocre, the service sloppy, and, for the first time, we really noticed the effects of the high unemployment in Spain with the number of panhandlers that approached the sidewalk tables.
On of the best things about being in Andalusia was the evenings. It didn’t really get dark until after 10 pm. With the warm air and twilight it was great to hang out in the square outside the cathedral. If I ever get back to Seville, one thing on my must do list is see an authentic flamenco show.