Rick Steves Snapshot Sevilla, Granada & Andalucia


By Rick Steves

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With Rick Steves, Sevilla, Granada, and Andalucía are yours to discover! This slim guide excerpted from Rick Steves Spain includes:
  • Rick's firsthand, up-to-date advice on the best sights, restaurants, hotels, and more in Granada, Sevilla, Córdoba, Andalucía, and Spain's southern coast, plus tips to beat the crowds, skip the lines, and avoid tourist traps
  • Top sights and local experiences: Explore the lush gardens of the Alhambra in Granada and dance the Flamenco in Sevilla. Sample authentic tapas, visit the great mosque of Córdoba, and meander down winding streets in search of the best sangria
  • Helpful maps and self-guided walking tours to keep you on track
With selective coverage and Rick's trusted insight into the best things to do and see, Rick Steves Snapshot Sevilla, Granada & Andalucia is truly a tour guide in your pocket.

Exploring more of Spain? Pick up Rick Steves Spain for comprehensive coverage, detailed itineraries, and essential planning information.



This Snapshot guide, excerpted from my guidebook Rick Steves Spain, introduces you to southern Spain’s two top cities—Sevilla and Granada—and the surrounding Spanish heartland. When Americans think of Spain, they often picture this region, with its massive cathedrals, Moorish palaces, vibrant folk life, whitewashed villages, bright sunshine, and captivating rat-a-tat-tat of flamenco.

Sevilla is the soulful cultural heart of southern Spain, with an atmospheric old quarter and riveting flamenco shows. Granada, formerly the Moorish capital, is home to the magnificent Alhambra palace. Córdoba features Spain’s top surviving Moorish mosque, the Mezquita. Make time to delve into Andalucía’s sleepy, whitewashed hill towns: Arcos de la Frontera, Ronda, and Grazalema. Spain’s south coast, the Costa del Sol, is a palm-tree jungle of beach resorts and concrete, but has some appealing destinations—Nerja, Tarifa, and Gibraltar—beyond the traffic jams. And since it’s so easy, consider an eye-opening side-trip to another continent by hopping the ferry to Tangier, the revitalized gateway to Morocco (and to Africa).

To help you have the best trip possible, I’ve included the following topics in this book:

Planning Your Time, with advice on how to make the most of your limited time

Orientation, including tourist information offices (abbreviated as TI), tips on public transportation, local tour options, and helpful hints

Sights with ratings and strategies for meaningful and efficient visits

Sleeping and Eating, with good-value recommendations in every price range

Connections, with tips on trains, buses, and driving

Practicalities, near the end of this book, has information on money, staying connected, hotel reservations, transportation, and other helpful hints, plus Spanish survival phrases.

To travel smartly, read this little book in its entirety before you go. It’s my hope that this guide will make your trip more meaningful and rewarding. Traveling like a temporary local, you’ll get the absolute most out of every mile, minute, and dollar.

Buen viaje! Happy travels!


Flamboyant Sevilla (seh-VEE-yah) thrums with flamenco music, sizzles in the summer heat, and pulses with passion. It’s a place where bullfighting is still politically correct and little girls still dream of being flamenco dancers. While Granada has the great Alhambra and Córdoba has the remarkable Mezquita, Sevilla has soul. As the capital of Andalucía, Sevilla offers a sampler of every Spanish icon, from sherry to matadors to Moorish heritage to flower-draped whitewashed lanes. It’s a wonderful-to-be-alive-in kind of place.

As the gateway to the New World in the 1500s, Sevilla boomed when Spain did. The explorers Amerigo Vespucci and Ferdinand Magellan sailed from its great river harbor, discovering new trade routes and abundant sources of gold, silver, cocoa, and tobacco. For more than a century, it all flowed in through the port of Sevilla, bringing the city into a Golden Age. By the 1600s, Sevilla had become Spain’s largest and wealthiest city, home to artists like Diego Velázquez and Bartolomé Murillo, who made it a cultural center. But by the 1700s, Sevilla’s Golden Age was ending, as trade routes shifted, the harbor silted up, and the Spanish empire crumbled.

Nevertheless, Sevilla remained a major stop on the Grand Tour of Europe. European nobles flocked here in the 19th century, wanting to see for themselves the legendary city from story and song: the daring of Don Giovanni (Don Juan), the romance of Carmen, the spine-tingling cruelty of the Spanish Inquisition, and the comic gaiety of The Barber of Seville. To build on this early tourism, Sevilla planned a grand world’s fair in 1929. Bad year. But despite the worldwide depression brought on by the US stock market crash, two million visitors flocked to see Sevilla’s new parks and new neighborhoods, which are still beautiful parts of the city. In 1992, Sevilla got a second chance, and this world’s fair was an even bigger success, leaving the city with impressive infrastructure: a new airport, six sleek bridges, a modern train station, and the super AVE bullet train (making Sevilla a 2.5-hour side-trip from Madrid). In 2007, the main boulevards—once thundering with noisy traffic and mercilessly cutting the city in two—were pedestrianized, enhancing Sevilla’s already substantial charm.

Today, Spain’s fourth-largest city (pop. 700,000) is Andalucía’s leading destination, buzzing with festivals, color, guitars, castanets, and street life, and enveloped in the fragrances of orange trees and myrtle. Sevilla also has its share of impressive sights. It’s home to the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. The Alcázar is a fantastic royal palace and garden ornamented with Islamic flair. But the real magic is the city itself, with its tangled former Jewish Quarter, riveting flamenco shows, thriving bars, and teeming evening paseo. As James Michener wrote, “Sevilla doesn’t have ambience, it is ambience.”


On a three-week trip, spend three nights and two days here. On even the shortest Spanish trip, I’d zip here on the slick AVE train for a day trip from Madrid. With more time, if ever there was a Spanish city to linger in, it’s Sevilla.

The major sights are few and simple for a city of this size. The cathedral and the Alcázar can be seen in about three hours—but only if you buy tickets in advance. A wander through the Barrio Santa Cruz district takes about an hour.

You could spend a second day touring Sevilla’s other sights. Stroll along the bank of the Guadalquivir River and cross Isabel II Bridge to explore the Triana neighborhood and to savor views of the cathedral and Torre del Oro. An evening in Sevilla is essential for the paseo and a flamenco show. Stay out late to appreciate Sevilla on a warm night—one of its major charms.

Córdoba (see later chapter) is the most convenient and worthwhile side-trip from Sevilla, or a handy stopover if you’re taking the AVE to or from Madrid or Granada. Other side-trip possibilities include Arcos or Jerez.

Orientation to Sevilla

For the tourist, this big city is small. The bull’s-eye on your map should be the cathedral and its Giralda bell tower, which can be seen from all over town. Nearby are Sevilla’s other major sights, the Alcázar (palace and gardens) and the lively Barrio Santa Cruz district. The central north-south pedestrian boulevard, Avenida de la Constitución, stretches north a few blocks to Plaza Nueva, gateway to the shopping district. A few blocks west of the cathedral are the bullring and the Guadalquivir River, while Plaza de España is a few blocks south. The colorful Triana neighborhood, on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, has a thriving market and plenty of tapas bars, but no major tourist sights. While most sights are within walking distance, don’t hesitate to hop in a taxi to avoid a long, hot walk (they are plentiful and cheap).


Sevilla has tourist offices at the airport (Mon-Fri 9:00-19:30, Sat-Sun 9:30-15:00, +34 954 782 035), at Santa Justa train station (just inside the main entrance, same hours as airport TI, +34 954 782 002), and near the cathedral on Plaza del Triunfo (Mon-Fri 9:00-19:30, Sat-Sun from 9:30, +34 954 210 005).

At any TI, ask for the English-language magazine The Tourist (also available at www.thetouristsevilla.com) and a current listing of sights with opening times. The free monthly events guide—El Giraldillo, written in Spanish basic enough to be understood by travelers—covers cultural events throughout Andalucía, with a focus on Sevilla. You can also ask for information you might need for elsewhere in the region (for example, if heading south, pick up the free Route of the White Towns brochure and a Jerez map). Helpful websites are www.turismosevilla.org and www.andalucia.org.

Steer clear of the “visitors centers” on Avenida de la Constitución (near the Archivo General de Indias) and at Santa Justa train station (overlooking tracks 6-7), which are private enterprises.


By Train: All long-distance trains arrive at modern Santa Justa station, with banks, ATMs, and a TI. Baggage storage is below track 1 (follow signs to consigna, security checkpoint open 6:00-24:00). The easy-to-miss TI sits by the sliding doors at the main entrance, to the left before you exit. The plush little AVE Sala Club, designed for business travelers, welcomes those with a first-class AVE ticket and reservation (across the main hall from track 1). The town center is marked by the ornate Giralda bell tower, peeking above the apartment flats (visible from the front of the station—with your back to the tracks, it’s at 1 o’clock). To get into the center, it’s a flat and boring 25-minute walk or about an €8 taxi ride. By city bus, it’s a short ride on #C1 or #21 to the El Prado de San Sebastián bus station (find bus stop 100 yards in front of the train station, €1.40, pay driver), then a 10-minute walk or short tram ride (see “Getting Around Sevilla,” later).

Regional trains use San Bernardo station, linked to the center by a tram (see “Getting Around Sevilla,” later).

By Bus: Sevilla’s two major bus stations—El Prado de San Sebastián and Plaza de Armas—both have information offices, basic eateries, and baggage storage.

The El Prado de San Sebastián bus station, or simply “El Prado,” covers most of Andalucía (information desk, daily 8:00-20:00, +34 955 479 290, generally no English spoken; baggage lockers/consigna at the far end of station, same hours). From the bus station to downtown (and Barrio Santa Cruz hotels), it’s about a 15-minute walk: Exit the station straight ahead. When you reach the busy avenue (Menéndez Pelayo) turn right to find a crosswalk and cross the avenue. Enter the Murillo Gardens through the iron gate, emerging on the other side in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz. Sevilla’s tram connects the El Prado station with the city center (and many of my recommended hotels): Turn left as you exit the bus station and walk to Avenida de Carlos V (€1.40, buy ticket at machine before boarding; ride it two stops to Archivo General de Indias to reach the cathedral area, or three stops to Plaza Nueva).

The Plaza de Armas bus station (near the river, opposite the Expo ’92 site) serves long-distance destinations such as Madrid, Barcelona, Lagos, and Lisbon. Ticket counters line one wall, an information kiosk is in the center, and at the end of the hall are pay luggage lockers (buy tokens at info kiosk). Taxis to downtown cost around €7. Or, to take the bus, exit onto the main road (Calle Arjona) to find bus #C4 into the center (stop is to the left, in front of the taxi stand; €1.40, pay driver, get off at Puerta de Jerez).

By Car: To drive into Sevilla, follow Centro Ciudad (city center) signs. The city is no fun to drive in and parking can be frustrating. If your hotel lacks parking or a recommended plan, I’d pay for a garage (€24/day) and grab a taxi to your hotel from there. For hotels in the Barrio Santa Cruz area, the handiest parking is the Cano y Cueto garage near the corner of Calle Santa María la Blanca and Avenida de Menéndez Pelayo (open daily 24 hours, at edge of big park, underground).

By Plane: Sevilla’s San Pablo Airport sits about six miles east of downtown and has several car rental agencies in the arrivals hall (airport code: SVQ, +34 954 449 000, www.aena.es). The Especial Aeropuerto (EA) bus connects the airport with Santa Justa and San Bernardo train stations, both bus stations, and several stops in the town center (4/hour, less in off-peak hours, runs 4:30-24:00, 40 minutes, €4, pay driver). The two most convenient stops downtown are south of the Murillo gardens on Avenida de Carlos V, near El Prado de San Sebastián bus station (close to my recommended Barrio Santa Cruz hotels); and on the Paseo de Cristóbal Colón, near the Torre del Oro. Look for the small EA sign at bus stops. If you’re going from downtown Sevilla to the airport, the bus stop is on the side of the street closest to Plaza de España. To taxi into town, go to an airport taxi stands to ensure a fixed rate (€23 by day, €27 at night and on weekends, luggage extra, confirm price with driver before your journey).


Festivals: Sevilla’s peak season is April and May, and it has two one-week spring festival periods when the city is packed: Holy Week and April Fair.

While Holy Week (Semana Santa) is big all over Spain, it’s biggest in Sevilla. Held the week between Palm Sunday and Easter Sunday, locals prepare for the big event starting up to a year in advance. What would normally be a five-minute walk can take an hour if a religious procession crosses your path, and many restaurants stop serving meat during this time. But any hassles become totally worthwhile as you listen to the saetas (spontaneous devotional songs) and give in to the spirit of the festival.

Then, after taking two weeks off to catch its communal breath, Sevilla holds its April Fair (April 18-24 in 2021). This is a celebration of all things Andalusian, with plenty of eating, drinking, singing, and merrymaking (though most of the revelry takes place in private parties at a large fairground).

Book rooms well in advance for these festival times. Prices can be sky-high and many hotels have four-night minimums.

Rosemary Scam: In the city center, and especially near the cathedral, you may encounter women thrusting sprigs of rosemary into the hands of passersby, grunting, “Toma! Es un regalo!” (“Take it! It’s a gift!”). The twig is free...but then they grab your hand and read your fortune for a tip. Coins are “bad luck,” so the minimum payment they’ll accept is €5. They can be very aggressive, but you don’t need to take their demands seriously—don’t make eye contact, don’t accept a sprig, and say firmly but politely, “No, gracias.”

Laundry: Lavandería Tintorería Roma offers quick and economical drop-off service (Mon-Fri 10:00-14:00 & 17:30-20:30, Sat 10:00-14:00, closed Sun, a few blocks west of the cathedral at Calle Arfe 22, +34 954 210 535). Near the recommended Barrio Santa Cruz hotels, La Segunda Vera Tintorería has two self-service machines (Mon-Fri 9:30-14:00 & 17:30-20:30, Sat 10:00-13:30, closed Sun, about a block from the eastern edge of Barrio Santa Cruz at Avenida de Menéndez Pelayo 11, +34 954 536 376). For locations, see the “Sevilla Hotels” map, later.

Bike Rental: This biker-friendly city has designated bike lanes and a public bike-sharing program (€14 one-week subscription, first 30 minutes of each ride free, €2 for each subsequent hour, www.sevici.es). Ask the TI about this and other bicycle-rental options.


Most visitors have a full and fun experience in Sevilla without ever riding public transportation. The city center is compact, and most of the major sights are within easy walking distance.

By Taxi: Sevilla is a great taxi town; they’re plentiful and cheap. Two or more people should go by taxi rather than public transit. You can hail one showing a green light anywhere, or find a cluster of them parked by major intersections and sights (€1.35 drop rate, €1/kilometer, €3.60 minimum; about 20 percent more on evenings and weekends; calling for a cab adds about €3). A quick daytime ride in town will generally fall within the €3.60 minimum. Although I’m quick to take advantage of taxis, note that because of one-way streets and traffic congestion it’s often just as fast to hoof it between central points.

By Bus, Tram, and Metro: A single trip on any form of city transit costs €1.40. Skip the various transit cards—they are a hassle to get and not a good value for most tourists. Various #C buses, which are handiest for tourists, make circular routes through town (note that all of them except the #C6 eventually wind up at Basílica de La Macarena). For all buses, buy your ticket from the driver or from machines at bus stops. The #C3 stops at Murillo Gardens, Triana, then La Macarena. The #C4 goes the opposite direction, but without entering Triana. And the spunky #C5 minibus winds through the old center of town, including Plaza del Salvador, Plaza de San Francisco, the bullring, Plaza Nueva, the Museo de Bellas Artes, La Campana, and La Macarena, providing a relaxing joyride that also connects some farther-flung sights (see route on “Sevilla” map).

A tram (tranvía) makes just a few stops in the heart of the city but can save you a bit of walking. Buy your ticket at the machine on the platform before you board (runs about every 7 minutes Sun-Thu until 23:00, Fri-Sat until 1:45 in the morning). It makes five city-center stops (from south to north): San Bernardo (at the San Bernardo train station), Prado San Sebastián (next to El Prado de San Sebastián bus station), Puerta Jerez (south end of Avenida de la Constitución), Archivo General de Indias (next to the cathedral), and Plaza Nueva (beginning of shopping streets).

Sevilla also has a one-line underground Metro, but it’s of little use to travelers since its primary purpose is to connect the suburbs with the center. Its downtown stops are at the San Bernardo train station, El Prado de San Sebastián bus station, and Puerta Jerez.

Tours in Sevilla

To sightsee on your own, download my free Sevilla City Walk audio tour.

Sevilla Walking Tours

A joy to listen to, Concepción Delgado is an enthusiastic teacher who takes small groups on English-only walks. Although you can just show up, it’s smart to confirm departure times and reserve a spot (4-person minimum, none on Sun or holidays, mobile +34 616 501 100, www.sevillawalkingtours.com, info@sevillawalkingtours.com). Because she’s a busy mom, Concepción sometimes sends her equally excellent colleagues to lead these tours.

City Walk: This fine two-hour introduction to Concepción’s hometown is a fascinating cultural show-and-tell in which she skips the famous monuments and shares intimate insights the average visitor misses. Other than seeing the cathedral and Alcázar, this to me is the most interesting two hours you could spend in Sevilla (€15/person, Mon-Sat at 10:30, check website for Dec-Feb and Aug schedule, meet at statue in Plaza Nueva).

Cathedral and Alcázar Tours: For those wanting to really understand the city’s two most important sights, Concepción offers 75-minute visits to the cathedral (€12 plus admission) and the Alcázar (€28 including admission, must book in advance). These tours are scheduled to fit efficiently after Concepción’s city walk (€2 discount if combined). Meet at 13:00 at the statue in Plaza del Triunfo (cathedral tours—Mon, Wed, and Fri; Alcázar tours—Tue, Thu, and Sat).

Other Tours: Concepción offers a Tasty Culture tour covering social life and popular traditions (€26, includes a drink and tapa), and a Game of Thrones add-on to the Alcázar tour.

All Sevilla Guided Tours

This group of three licensed guides (Susana, Jorge, and Elena) offers quality private tours (€160/3 hours). They also run a Monuments Tour covering the Sevilla basics: cathedral, Alcázar, and Barrio Santa Cruz (€25/person plus admissions, Mon-Sat at 14:00, 2.5 hours, leaves from Plaza del Triunfo, mobile +34 606 217 194, www.allsevillaguides.com).

Sevilla a la Carta

Julia Rozet adopted Sevilla as her home 12 years ago and specializes in themed tours that explore different facets of the city such as its industrial and seafaring past, Magellan and the history of spices, and locations used for famous operas set in Sevilla. If you visit during one of Sevilla’s many festivals, Julia can explain the traditions behind all the commotion (€20, families with children welcome, mobile +34 633 083 961, www.sevillalacarta.com).

“Free” Walks

Free tour companies dominate the walking tour scene in Sevilla. They are not “free,” as you’re aggressively hit up for a tip at the end, and you’ll spend a good part of the tour hearing a sales pitch for the companies’ paid offerings. The walk spiel is entertaining but with little respect for history or culture, and your “guide” is often a student who has memorized a script. Still—it’s “free” and you get what you pay for. You’ll see these guides with color-coded umbrellas at various starting points around the city.

Food Tours

For information on tapas tours and cooking lessons, see the sidebar on here.

Hop-On, Hop-Off Bus Tours

Two competing city bus tours leave from the curb near the riverside Torre del Oro. You’ll see parked buses and salespeople handing out fliers. Each tour does about an hour-long swing through the city with recorded narration. The tours, which allow you to hop on and off at 14 stops, are heavy on Expo ’29 and Expo ’92 neighborhoods—of limited interest nowadays. While the narration does its best, Sevilla is most interesting in places buses can’t go (daily 10:00-22:00, off-season until 18:00, €22 for red bus: www.city-sightseeing.com; €18 online in advance for green bus: http://sevilla.busturistico.com).

Horse-and-Buggy Tours

A carriage ride is a classic, popular way to survey the city and to enjoy María Luisa Park (€45 for a 45-minute clip-clop, much more during Holy Week and the April Fair, find a likable English-speaking driver for better narration). There are several departure points around town: Look for rigs at Plaza de América, Plaza del Triunfo, the Archivo General de Indias, the Alfonso XIII Hotel, and Plaza de España.


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On Sale
Dec 13, 2022
Page Count
376 pages
Rick Steves

Rick Steves

About the Author

Since 1973, Rick Steves has spent about four months a year exploring Europe. His mission: to empower Americans to have European trips that are fun, affordable, and culturally broadening. Rick produces a best-selling guidebook series, a public television series, and a public radio show, and organizes small-group tours that take over 30,000 travelers to Europe annually.  He does all of this with the help of more than 100 well-traveled staff members at Rick Steves’ Europe in Edmonds, WA (near Seattle). When not on the road, Rick is active in his church and with advocacy groups focused on economic and social justice, drug policy reform, and ending hunger. To recharge, Rick plays piano, relaxes at his family cabin in the Cascade Mountains, and spends time with his son Andy and daughter Jackie. Find out more about Rick at http://www.ricksteves.com and on Facebook.

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