Travel tales

Winter in Seville: A Spanish city break

Winter in Seville, Spain

Streets lined with orange trees, tapas bars hung with rows of hams, horse-drawn carriages, flamenco shows and even a bull ring – Seville’s got everything you’d expect from Spain, wrapped up in one beautiful package, with a mix of architectural influences from the Romans, Christians and Muslims. In summer we’d be dodging hoards of people and sweltering in 40 degrees. But in winter the queues were short and warm sunny days made it feel a world away from a grey damp English winter. Seville is Spain’s fourth largest city, but still has a small-town feel and you can easily get around on foot. But what are the must-sees in Seville on a winter city break?

Read more: Visiting Madrid on a budget

Seville streets, Spain

Orange trees lining the wide streets

What’s Seville’s winter weather like?

Seville doesn’t really do winter, and even between December and February the average high temperatures are around 16°C (61°F), with lows occasionally dipping down to 7°C (45°F) at night. There’s an average of five to six hours of sunshine a day so it makes a great destination for a fix of vitamin D, with low rainfall and around eight days of rain per month.

What to do in Seville in winter

Seville Cathedral, Spain

Seville cathedral

Visit the Cathedral

The third largest church in the world – Seville’s cathedral was built in the 15th century to demonstrate the city’s wealth. And it certainly shows it off, with 80 chapels, a 42-metre-high nave, lashing of gilt and an altarpiece carving that took one craftsman his entire life to finish. The cathedral’s most famous resident is Christopher Columbus, whose remains came to rest here after a posthumous round-the-world trip via the Dominican Republic and Havana.

Impressive as it is, even the huge cathedral is dwarfed by the Giralda, the bell tower which rises up above it. This was our landmark for the weekend – whenever we got lost we just looked around until we spotted the tower. But if you look closely it doesn’t quite match the rest of the cathedral. It was originally the minaret from a mosque which was built when the city was under Muslim rule, and is modelled on the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech.

Seville Cathedral, Spain

Interior details and the Giralda bell tower

The mosque was destroyed in an earthquake after Seville was recaptured by the Christians, but the tower was still standing. So in an inspired bit of recycling, the new cathedral was built around it, the bronze spheres on top were replaced with a cross, and it became a bell tower. You can climb up to the top for a panoramic view across Seville and there are no steps involved – instead there’s a ramp with 35 different segments that twist and turn up 90 metres.

It was built like that so that the muezzin could ride up to the top on horseback to make the call to prayer. From the top you get a much better idea of how big Seville really is. Down below you can see the rows of orange trees in the cathedral’s Court of Oranges, and look out towards city landmarks like the Real Alcázar palace, Plaza de España and Plaza de Toros (bullfighting ring).

Seville Cathedral views, Spain

The view down to the Court of Oranges and out over the city

Explore the lavish Real Alcázar

The cathedral might be Seville’s most visible landmark, but it’s not the most famous – that title has to go to the neighbouring Real Alcázar (that’s real as in Spanish for royal, as opposed to not fake). This ornate palace is similar in style to Granada’s Alhambra.

It started off as a fort for the governors of Seville in the eighth century, and since then different rulers have added their own bits on to make a unique mix of Moorish, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque style. Sounds messy but somehow it works beautifully. The royal family still use the upper floors when they’re in town, and it’s also been a location for Game of Thrones.

The Real Alcazar, Seville

Interior the Halls of Carlos V and reflections in the Baths of Lady María de Padilla

You have the Courtyard of the Maidens which could have come straight out of Morocco with its arched doorways and intricate carvings. Or the Gothic Halls of Carlos V with its vaulted hall decorated with tapestries and painted tiles. And the underground Baths of Lady María de Padilla – rainwater tanks where the water is so still you get a mirror-like reflection.

But my favourite part of the palace was its gardens, scattered with towering palm trees. Close to the palace are the formal gardens with pools and fountains, then they stretch out into a series of terraces at different levels, mixed in with sculptures, hidden grottoes and even a maze.

Gardens at the Real Alcazar, Seville

The Alcázar gardens

Be dazzled by the Plaza de España

In a city that’s overflowing with spectacular architecture, the Plaza de España takes things to another level. It’s located in the middle of the green oasis of María Luisa Park, which stretches over 50,000 square metres. The Plaza is made up of a grand sweeping semi-circle of rose-gold stone buildings surrounding a canal with arching bridges and a central fountain.

It’s impressive from a distance, but when you get up close you can see that everything from the benches to the balconies is covered in intricately painted blue and yellow. Although it looks like a historic palace it was actually only built in the 1920s for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair. So there are Art Deco touches in among the Renaissance and Moorish Revival styles.

Boat in the moat of the Plaza de España

The Plaza de España

The Plaza has featured in Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars’ Attack of the Clones. But inside things are a bit less glamorous and it’s mainly used for government offices. You’re as likely to see Spaniards in the Plaza as tourists, especially in the Alcoves of the Provinces. Each of Spain’s 48 provinces has its own alcove, decorated with maps and paintings of the area.

When Spanish visitors come to Seville it’s traditional to get a photo taken in their province’s alcove – and in summer there are queues for most popular regions. But if the Plaza gets too busy by day, just come back when the sun goes down. At night it’s practically deserted and the illuminated buildings are perfectly reflected in the water.

Painted tiles in Seville

Ornately painted tiles

Go modern at the Metropol Parasol

If you were starting to think Seville is all historic architecture, north of the Alcázar is a building from a whole different time period (or dimension) – the Metropol Parasol. Over 26 metres high and 150 metres long, this giant undulating shape is made from a criss-crossing lattice forming six parasols. It’s nicknamed the setas – or mushrooms – but to me it’s more a giant waffle (architect Jurgen Mayer-Hermann claims his inspiration actually came from a ficus tree).

The building was commissioned in 2005 to revitalise rundown Encarnación Square. The plan was that it would take two years to build, but it ended up taking more like six and cost a huge 80 million euros. The terrace is used for concerts and events, and underneath are bars, restaurants and an archaeological museum, as well as a Christmas market during December.

Metropol Parasol, Seville

The Metropol Parasol – aka the mushrooms

But it’s the building that’s the main attraction. Although the Metropol Parasol looks like it’s made of painted metal, it’s actually built of wood and is the world’s largest wooden structure. You can get a closer look from the walkway that runs around the top. There are no straight lines, just sinuous paths which curve their way around up and down. The strange angles mean you can rarely see straight down, so it’s easy to forget how high up you are.

That’s until you look out over the rooftops, where you can see back across to the cathedral and Giralda. Late-night opening means you can stay up there until sunset too and watch the city lights come on – the perfect pre-tapas appetiser to end a day in Seville.

Metropol Parasol, Seville

The winding walkway on top of the Metropol Parasol

The details

We stayed at: The Hotel Alminar, right in the historic centre of Seville, tucked down a narrow pedestrianised street just a few minutes’ walk from the cathedral. There are only 11 rooms, a couple of which have their own balcony overlooking the Giralda, and a central shared patio. A continental breakfast is included and there’s free tea and coffee in the breakfast room all day. Double rooms from £105 a night.

We ate at: A lot of tapas bars! There are tons in the streets around the cathedral so we tended to eat and drink our way around a few different ones each evening. Some of our favourites were Ovejas Negras and La Cava Bar on Calle Hernando Colón, and Bar Antiguedades on Calle Argote de Molina.

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What to see and do in winter in Seville, Spain – why winter is the perfect time for a weekend city break in this beautiful Spanish city. #Seville #Spain #winter #weekendA winter weekend in Seville – what to see and do in winter in Seville, from stunning architecture to tasty tapas #Seville #Spain #winter #weekend

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41 Comments

  • Reply
    N
    January 7, 2016 at 11:24 am

    Great post – one of my favourites cites in the world – I can not wait to return !

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 7, 2016 at 12:58 pm

      It was just lovely, I hadn’t researched much before I left but so enjoyed wandering around and seeing what we came across.

  • Reply
    Darlene
    January 7, 2016 at 12:30 pm

    Seville looks amazing. Must make my way down there! Great post and pictures.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 7, 2016 at 1:00 pm

      It was a great city, and has definitely got me keen to go and visit more of Spain now, it’d been far too long!

  • Reply
    Vlad
    January 7, 2016 at 12:54 pm

    Gorgeous photos, I had such a wonderful time when I visited Seville (in September 2014, it was very hot but there weren’t too many tourists around) and even though I only spent a day, it was enough to see the Cathedral, the Alcázar Palace and the beautiful Plaza de Espana (how come you didn’t write about it?). I definitely need to return 😀

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 7, 2016 at 12:59 pm

      The Plaza de Espana is going to get its own photo post later this week (this one was already getting long enough and I couldn’t narrow it down to just a couple of photos!).

  • Reply
    Becster
    January 7, 2016 at 1:10 pm

    Looks like such an amazing place! The baths of Lady Maria de Padilla look very interesting.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 7, 2016 at 9:40 pm

      The baths were really interesting, I couldn’t believe how still that water was, I thought it was glass for a minute!

  • Reply
    Kat
    January 7, 2016 at 2:56 pm

    Wow, great photos! And the weather was cool in low twenties for December – not bad – sounds enticing for people who come from the tropics, like me 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 7, 2016 at 9:44 pm

      Low 20s was nice and warm for us coming from 5 degrees and rain! Was a really nice temperature though – good for wandering around and warm enough to be sitting out in the evenings as there were heaters out.

  • Reply
    Kate
    January 7, 2016 at 3:27 pm

    I loved Seville last year when I went, it’s the sister city to my hometown, Kansas City, which made it all the more special to me. I really, really wanted to climb the Giralda to see the city from above (one of my favorite things), but unfortunately it was closed for religious services the day we were there. Next time, though! I was blown away by the Alcazar, it was incredible! I’m glad you had a great time. Your post makes me want to go back right away 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 8, 2016 at 3:44 pm

      It’s so nice to visit your hometown’s sister cities (I went to Annecy last year which is ours for Cheltenham) – and Seville’s a great one. Shame you couldn’t make it up the Giralda, it took us a couple of goes too as the times are a bit variable because of the services.

  • Reply
    wannderful
    January 7, 2016 at 7:58 pm

    WoW! Reminds me a lot of the beautiful cathedral/ mosque with the courtyard in Cordoba! And of the Koutoubia in Marrakesh! Beautiful pictures! And I would love to ride up the ramp to the top! Sevilla is certainly on my list now, thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 8, 2016 at 3:45 pm

      I’ve not visited Cordoba yet but I definitely felt the similarities to Marrakesh – except with more tapas which was a bonus!

  • Reply
    natalianadia
    January 8, 2016 at 12:32 pm

    Sevilla is indeed a beautiful city and I could say that it is one of my fave city. I really loved to spend my time in Plaza Espana when I had the chance to visit there last year. I thought it was the prettiest Plaza Espana in Spain!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 8, 2016 at 4:13 pm

      The Plaza Espana was just gorgeous. I took so many photos there I couldn’t get them all into one post, so there’s a photo post coming up just about the Plaza!

  • Reply
    ladies what travel
    January 8, 2016 at 3:15 pm

    We visited in May and it was sweltering! Beautiful city and I do think you chose the best time of year to go!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 8, 2016 at 3:47 pm

      I’ve heard that it can be incredibly hot! December was about right for me, warm in the daytime and cool in the evenings.

  • Reply
    Melanie Fontaine
    January 8, 2016 at 3:24 pm

    I visited Andalusia last September and spent a few days in Seville and it really was so beautiful! And I’m really not kidding at all when I say that it’s been a long time since I have been as captivated by a place as I have been by the Alcazar – I honestly felt like I was walking through a fantasy world! I imagine that it’s great to visit in the winter when there are not so many tourists around! 🙂

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 11, 2016 at 3:12 pm

      The Alcazar really was magical, so much to discover and so many different styles in one building. I’m keen to get out and see more of Andalusia now.

  • Reply
    lexklein
    January 10, 2016 at 1:12 am

    I was in Seville on one of the hottest days I’ve ever experienced in my life! But I still have fond memories, and some prints of the Alcazar still grace my walls! Glad you enjoyed it and practically had it to yourselves!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 11, 2016 at 3:13 pm

      Seems like it can get seriously hot out there – glad we missed that!

  • Reply
    MummyTravels
    January 21, 2016 at 6:22 pm

    I’ve just been reading about Seville (with kids) on another blog and it sounds so gorgeous – it had already shot to the top of my list after finally making it to Granada, so I really think I need to find time to book.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 25, 2016 at 11:35 am

      I’d love to visit Granada sometime too, have definitely got the taste for Spain again!

  • Reply
    connie
    August 20, 2016 at 10:04 pm

    I’m so pleased I found this post your site – I’m going to Seville in December and everyone’s been a little negative about going in Winter but I personally was fine about it because I thought the weather would still be ok and it would be less busy!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      August 21, 2016 at 9:33 pm

      I loved Seville in December! We did get pretty lucky with the sunshine but it was a really pleasant temperature and not too busy at all. Hope you have a great trip.

  • Reply
    Pat Hindley
    September 19, 2016 at 11:20 pm

    Hi Lucy, great post. Where did you stay and would you recommend it? I clicked the link that says our base but it went to a booking.com page with lots of hotels listed. Thanks!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      September 20, 2016 at 9:56 am

      Hi Pat, we stayed at the Hotel Alminar, which is the top one on that list (though it might’ve been useful if I’d put the hotel name in the post – will edit it!). It was great – definitely recommended.

      • Reply
        Pat Hindley
        September 26, 2016 at 8:18 am

        Great thanks Lucy. Was thinking of going to Seville for New Year and definitely going to after reading your post. I went 8 years ago and it’s reminded me how fab it is!

  • Reply
    sheriv1212@gmail.com
    January 8, 2017 at 5:33 pm

    Hi Lucy. Great post! My family and I will be in Seville the entire month of February and will definitely check out all of the sites you mentioned. Still trying to decide what kind of coat to pack. Since it is winter, do you recommend a wool coat or something lighter? Regarding shoes, think I will need a pair of sandals? Or, stick with short boots/booties and comfortable walking shoes? Would appreciate any advice you can give. Looking VERY forward to experiencing this beautiful city!!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 9, 2017 at 12:45 pm

      Sounds fantastic! The temperatures when I went in December and now are fairly warm for winter – average 15 degrees C by day and 4 at night. I just took a light coat which was fine. It’s mainly sunny with a few rain showers so if your walking shoes are waterproof then sandals should be ok for the warmer, dry days. Hope that helps and have an amazing time.

  • Reply
    TrotterHop
    November 26, 2017 at 8:15 am

    Hola Lucy!
    I’m wondering where Seville ranks on the cities you’ve visited in Spain? Because I get asked frequently on my top 5 favorite cities I’ve been to, and Sevilla is always included in that top 5 (Istanbul, Kyoto, Paris, & Chicago being the other 4).

    I absolutely love this city. Great read and pictures!

    Thanks!
    Mick

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 28, 2017 at 10:13 pm

      Ooh I’d struggle doing a top five of cities overall but it’s one of my Spanish faves, though I think Ronda might have join it at the number one spot!

  • Reply
    Melanie Klien
    January 3, 2018 at 2:13 pm

    Great post! Just stumbled on your blog. I am flying to Seville in February, it’s probably colder than in February but I am excited for some warm weather.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      January 3, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      Hopefully you’ll have plenty of sunshine! Have a great trip.

  • Reply
    Bike tour in Seville
    February 15, 2018 at 5:05 pm

    Seville is the most beautiful place in Spain!!!

    • Reply
      Lucy
      February 16, 2018 at 9:55 am

      It is such a gorgeous city!

  • Reply
    Raul
    October 3, 2018 at 10:14 am

    Great post. Did you also go to Ronda? How cold was it in the winters in Ronda?

    • Reply
      Lucy
      October 5, 2018 at 9:34 am

      Hi, we did go to Ronda but not on this same trip – the average temperatures are around 10-12 C in the winter so it’s cold but not freezing.

  • Reply
    Raymond Anthony
    October 25, 2018 at 3:46 pm

    The first time I laid my eyes on Seville I was blown away by its flirtatious beauty. Ten trips back to Seville and I am still being mesmerized. Enchanting city indeed.

    • Reply
      Lucy
      November 4, 2018 at 5:44 pm

      It is a wonderful city – can see why you can’t resist going back!

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