Unmissable Things to See and Do in Santa Cruz, Seville

The bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede represents Seville's unique blend of cultures
The bell tower of the Cathedral of Santa Maria de la Sede represents Seville's unique blend of cultures | © Aranami / Alamy Stock Photo
Photo of Mark Nayler
4 August 2021

Wander through the maze-like streets of the colourful Santa Cruz neighbourhood, known for sights such as the Alcázar palace and Seville Cathedral with its Giralda tower.

It was into the beautiful barrio of Santa Cruz that Seville’s Jewish population was confined when Ferdinand III took the city from the Moors in 1248. Brutal as the Catholic monarch could be, you can’t help but feel, as you wander the neighbourhood’s pretty streets, that there are worse places to be banished. Here are the top things you don’t want to miss when visiting Santa Cruz.

Dance your way through the Flamenco Museum

Museum
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Flamenco show and tablao in Seville, Spain. Museo del Baile Flamenco.
© KIKE CALVO / VWPICS / Alamy Stock Photo
Opened by acclaimed Sevillana flamenco dancer and actress Cristina Hoyos in 2006, Santa Cruz’s Museo del Baile Flamenco is a theatre and academy as well as a museum. Learn about the history of this singular art form on the first and second floors – where you’ll find, respectively, a permanent interactive exhibition and temporary shows exploring its influence on other mediums. Later on, attend one of the nightly shows, performed either in the courtyard or basement vault. Private lessons are also available.

Step inside an artist’s studio at the Murillo Museum

Museum
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Casa de Murillo, museum of the famous Spanish Artist Esteban Murillo. Seville, Spain
© Angelo DeVal - Travel Photography / Alamy Stock Photo
Sevillano painter Bartolomé Murillo (1618-82) lived and worked in this elegant townhouse during the final years of his life. You can still spot all the features of a late 17th-century dwelling, such as an internal courtyard with a well and rooms furnished in period style. Copies of some of Murillo’s major works are displayed throughout the space, which is also used for temporary exhibitions and educational activities.

Admire artwork and artefacts at the General Archive of the Indies

Building
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Second Floor Gallery, Archive of the Indies, Seville
© Sergey Yatunin / Alamy Stock Photo
Part of the Unesco-protected complex that also includes Seville’s Cathedral and Alcázar, the 16th-century General Archive of the Indies stores 43,000 documents relating to the Spanish Empire of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. If you think their combined 80 million pages sounds like too much reading for one visit, don’t worry: you can also admire a 17th-century cannon, maps charting the Spanish Empire’s Golden Age and several paintings by Goya.

Explore the neighbourhood on foot

Historical Landmark
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Giralda tower from Patio de Banderas in the Royal Alcazar,Sevilla,Andalucia,Spain
© Lucas Vallecillos / Alamy Stock Photo

Along with Granada’s old Arabic quarter of Albaicín, Santa Cruz is the best barrio in Andalusia for aimless wandering. Its unfeasibly narrow streets make those of Triana, Seville’s former gypsy quarter, look like Parisian boulevards. Most are impassable by car – meaning you’ll have this charming neighborhood to yourself. Discovering its secret squares and stumbling upon its beautiful old palaces and churches is one of the best ways to pass a long morning or afternoon in the Andalusian capital.

Duck into a tapas bar

Restaurant, Spanish, European, Cocktails, Beer, Wine, Tapas, $$$
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Spanish tapas bar, Giralda, interior restaurant, Cerveceria Giralda in Seville, Andalucia, Southern Spain.
© Perry van Munster / Alamy Stock Photo
Seville is one of the warmest cities in Europe, so visiting in spring or summer will necessitate frequent stops for refreshment. Santa Cruz is home to a bewildering array of bars and restaurants, ranging from smart eateries to old-school joints. We recommend walking up Calle Mateos Gago, away from the cathedral. This popular street is lined with tapas bars – favourites include Cerveceria Giralda, which serves seared pork cheek inside a 12th-century hammam.

Stop by Seville Cathedral

Cathedral, Mosque
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Carriage rides offered outside Seville Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies building, UNESCO, Seville, Andalusia, Spain
© robertharding / Alamy Stock Photo
Sitting at the heart of Santa Cruz is the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See – the third-largest church in the world. Construction of this sprawling Gothic complex – which takes up the equivalent of several city blocks and houses 80 chapels – began in 1401 and continued for over a hundred years. The original construction committee of the cathedral wanted to create a church so “beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it will think we are mad.” In 1507, the cathedral was finally completed, quite spectacularly succeeding in its original aim, as well as showing the rest of Europe just how powerful and wealthy Seville had become.

Soak in the Aire Ancient Baths

Spa
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Arab baths, Hammam, Aire de Sevilla, Seville, Region of Andalusia , Spain , Europe
© Jose Lucas / Alamy Stock Photo

For a dose of history-laden luxury in the centre of Seville, head to Aire Ancient Baths. The Seville branch of this super-sleek bath franchise was established in a refurbished mansion. No expense was spared in the stunning renovation. The mansion’s original brickwork has only been enhanced by the addition of sleek glass and wood fittings and the beautifully illuminated bathing spaces feature pool at a range of temperatures. For those who want a little pampering while exploring Santa Cruz, this place is unbeatable.

Explore the Royal Alcázar of Seville

Building, Cathedral, Historical Landmark
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Hall Of Ambassadors Ornate Interior In The Royal Alcazar Of Seville, Andalusia, Spain
© Wojtkowski Cezary / Alamy Stock Photo
A stone’s throw from Seville’s display of Catholic wealth is a very different type of monument. The Alcázar palace is considered one of the finest examples of Moorish architecture in Spain. Though it might lack the architectural pedigree of its more famous counterpart in Granada, the delicate interiors of Seville’s Moorish palace are every bit as fascinating, with patterned archways and tranquil internal courtyards aplenty.

Peek inside Casa de Pilatos

Building
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Gardens at La Casa de Pilatos or Pilate's House built in the 16th century in Seville Spain
© James Schwabel / Alamy Stock Photo
This gorgeous 16th-century mansion is one of Santa Cruz’s hidden treasures and its stunning gardens match anything you’ll see in the Alcázar. Begun by the wealthy conquistador and Mayor of Andalusia, Pedro Enriquez de Quiñones in the late 1400s, Casa de Pilatos is an intriguing mix of mudéjar, gothic and renaissance styles. It’s so beautiful that it has starred in two films – Lawrence of Arabia (1962) and Knight and Day(2010). It takes its name – Pilate’s House – from Quiñones’ son Fadrique, who traveled to Jerusalem in 1519 and returned overflowing with enthusiasm for the Holy Land.

Stroll down Calle Agua

Architectural Landmark
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shutterstock_505963618-irina-sen
© Irina Sen / Shutterstock

This narrow, shaded alleyway runs alongside the walls of the Alcázar to the beautiful Alfaro and Santa Cruz plazas. It’s named after a mini aqueduct that ran along the top of the Moorish palace’s wall. This mysterious, winding path provides one of the most romantic strolls in Seville. Plaza Alfaro, incidentally, is likely to be busy with tourists pointing their cameras upwards and snapping away at the ornate old buildings. This is because one of them (it’ll be obvious which) is said to have inspired the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.

These recommendations were updated on August 4, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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