A guided tour is a good way to explore the compact warren of streets in central Seville. Paseando Por Sevilla offers themed walking tours lasting about three hours. Learn about 17th-century Seville on the Baroque Walking Tour or join the popular Sevillian Tapas Tour. (www.paseandoporsevilla.com). For a more sedentary tour head down to the Torre del Oro dock, where one-hour cruises along the Guadalquivir River depart every 30 minutes (www.crucerostorredeloro.com).
The first stop for most visitors is the 15th-century Gothic cathedral, which was built on the site of a great mosque. The Giralda, or bell tower, and the Patio de Los Naranjos both date from Moorish times. Listed in the Guinness World Records as the cathedral with the largest interior, it contains innumerable chapels and houses the ornate tomb of Christopher Columbus. The surrounding maze of streets makes it difficult to appreciate or photograph the cathedral in its entirety. A solution is to climb to the top of the Giralda, formerly a minaret from which a muezzin called the faithful to prayer. The tower offers the best vantage point for appreciating the scale of the cathedral and vistas of shimmering Seville. Admission is Euro7 (HK$72), free on Sundays.
3 Santa Cruz
Once the medieval Jewish quarter, the barrio of Santa Cruz to the east of the cathedral is typically Andalusian, featuring whitewashed buildings with wrought-iron balconies and narrow shady streets that open out to orange-scented plazas, where flamenco guitarists practise their fingerwork. Santa Cruz can become bottleneck-busy in the tourism season. Exploring the area and its many monuments is best done from November to January, avoiding the blazing heat of summer.
The Spanish ritual of bar hopping and grazing on tapas is carried out with gusto in Seville. Many of the city's estimated 4,000 tapas bars are conveniently clustered, with the neighbourhoods of La Macarena, Arenal and Santa Cruz offering rich pickings for budding 'tapeadors'. Prices are generally uniform and are usually chalked up behind the counter. For atmosphere and history try Seville's oldest tavern, El Rinconcillo (Calle Gerona 40), which opened its doors in 1670. Hams hang from the ceiling, sherry casks double as tables and the walls are stained nicotine yellow. Try the solomillo iberico (grilled pork loin) with a ca?a of the local Cruzcampo beer. Expect to pay from Euro2 to Euro3 per item.
5 The bullring
Built in the 18th century overlooking the Guadalquivir River, Seville's Maestranza Bullring is one of the oldest and most famous in Spain. During the fiesta season, costumed spectators arrive in horse-drawn carriages, the women in flamenco dresses and the men in matador attire. If you find the idea of bullfighting more barbaric than beautiful, but are still curious, join a guided tour of the stadium. Beyond the baroque facade, the bullring incorporates stables, a chapel and a museum containing paintings, cloaks and tributes to famous fighters. Maestranza was patronised by author and bullfighting fan Ernest Hemingway, a fact commemorated in newspaper clippings displayed in local cafes. Guided tours run every 30 minutes and cost Euro5.
Dubbed the cradle of flamenco, the working-class neighbourhood of Triana retains a strong sense of old Seville. Situated across the Guadalquivir River from the city centre, the district was the traditional gypsy quarter and birthplace of countless bullfighters and folklore singers. A 2,000-year-old ceramics industry continues to flourish and craftsmen still hand-paint azulejo tiles in the workshops and potteries along Alfareria Street. Triana is a good place to escape the crowds and evening is the best time to visit. Many restaurants along Calle Betis have terraced gardens overlooking the river. Try La Primera del Puente (Calle Betis 66), where tasty, inexpensive seafood dishes keep tables filled. After dinner digest with a stroll along the cobbled streets in search of a flamenco performance.
Strongly associated with gypsy and Moorish traditions, flamenco has its roots in Andalusian culture. The sensuous strumming of flamenco guitars is a Sevillian soundtrack, although finding an impromptu performance can be a hit-and-miss affair. Those who don't fancy scouring the backstreets after midnight can book a tourist-orientated show. Los Gallos (Plaza de Santa Cruz 11) puts on a professional evening's entertainment in an intimate club that gives the audience a close-up view of the clicking, clapping and wrist twisting. Tickets cost Euro27. To learn more about the origins of flamenco or to attend a dance workshop, head to the Museo del Baile Flamenco (www.flamencomuseum.com).
8 Hotel Alfonso XIII
The sumptuous Hotel Alfonso XIII was built to accommodate and impress dignitaries attending the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition. Regarded as an Andalusian cultural symbol, it was named one of the top 75 hotels in Europe last year. Walls are adorned with intricate glazed azulejo tiles and wrought-iron balconies overlook a courtyard with arcades, a fountain and orange trees. The hotel is located in the heart of the city, within walking distance of all the major sights. Room rates start at a steep Euro518, though non-residents are free to visit the bar and restaurants to sample the opulent atmosphere (www.hotel-alfonsoxiii.com).
9 Plaza de Espa?a
Built as the centrepiece of the Ibero-American Exhibition, the Plaza de Espa?a was designed as a symbol of Seville's increasing status. The semi-circular plaza is bordered by an extravagant renaissance arcade of brick and marble that's been used as a backdrop in several films, including Lawrence of Arabia. Rent a rowboat and glide around the surrounding moat for an unusual perspective. Along the base of the structure are 54 tiled alcoves depicting scenes from each province of Spain. The Plaza de Espa?a makes up part of a large, traffic-free space that includes the adjoining Maria Luisa Park and is a popular spot for Sevillanos to take the paseo, or early evening stroll.
10 Museo de Bellas Artes
Second only in importance to the Prado in Madrid, the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Plaza Museo 9) houses a renowned collection of Spanish masters. Located on a quiet plaza, the former convent dates back to 1612. Paintings, sculpture, ceramics and furniture exhibits are organised in chronological order in 14 galleries and include works by El Greco, Goya and Velazquez, as well as the religious imagery of Seville School artists (www.travelinginspain.com/sevilla/art_museum.htm).