The best views in Northern California

Northern California is a place of unparalleled natural beauty. The landscape is as varied as the people who call it home, with fog-shrouded coastlines, misty redwood forests, desolate volcanic outcroppings, and serene alpine lakes. Visitors can find plenty of places to take in the views, from the Pacific Coast to the High Sierra. The following are the most breathtaking views in Northern California.


Emerald Bay

    Wikimedia Commons/SamRushing   

Wikimedia Commons/SamRushing


Near Lake Tahoe’s southwestern edge are the deep blue-green waters of Emerald Bay. From 600 feet above the lake, visitors can pull off the highway to Inspiration Point to gaze upon the surrounding mountains and tiny Fannette Island. The adventurous can hike down the hillside to take a dip, lounge on the beach or visit the historic Vikingsholm Castle. Emerald Bay is 10 miles west of South Lake Tahoe on Highway 89.


Mount Tamalpais

  Flickr/Michael Pujals

Flickr/Michael Pujals

Reaching more than 2,500 feet above the Marin Hills north of San Francisco, this mountain peak affords sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean, San Francisco Bay and surrounding forests and grasslands. On clear days, those who make it to the summit can see as far as the Farallon Islands or the snow-capped Sierra Nevada. Mount Tamalpais State Park is 19 miles north of the Golden Gate Bridge on Panoramic Highway off Highway 1.  

Mount Lassen

  Wikimedia Commons/Kai Schreiber

Wikimedia Commons/Kai Schreiber

One of the largest lava domes in the world, Mount Lassen stands at 3,500 feet above sea level. It is an active yet dormant volcano, the latest eruption from 1915 to 1917 leaving behind a stark, desolate landscape of volcanic rock. A moderate hike to the top reveals the true extent of the devastation a century ago and provides views of nearby Mount Shasta and crystal-blue alpine lakes. Lassen National Park is 60 miles east of Redding along Highway 44.


Mono Lake

  Flickr/Jan Arendtsz

Flickr/Jan Arendtsz

With its craggy limestone formations jutting from the water, Mono Lake appears otherworldly. The formations, or tufa, provide the ultimate backdrop to the serene water, especially at sunset or sunrise. Ideal vantage points include the South Tufa and Navy Beach areas while stopping points along Highway 395 offer seemingly endless vistas of the lake and High Sierra landscape. Mono Lake is northeast of Lee Vining, 13 miles east of Yosemite National Park.


Bodega Head

  Flickr/Don DeBold

Flickr/Don DeBold

The rocky promontory protecting Bodega Harbor from the open ocean offers spectacular views of the Pacific coast. Trails snake across the land, providing visitors a chance to gaze upon secluded coves, sandy beaches and rock formations. The site is ideal for whale watching, as gray and blue whales make their way south from Alaska January through May. To reach Bodega Head, take Westshore Road off Highway 1 north of the town of Bodega Bay.


Feather River National Scenic Byway

  Flickr/USFS Region 5

Flickr/USFS Region 5

California isn’t known for its fall color, but this stretch of Highway 70 through Plumas, Butte and Lassen counties proves otherwise. Wending its way between Oroville and Quincy, the scenic byway along the north fork of the Feather River is dotted with maple, aspen and dogwood that turn brilliant shades of scarlet, orange and gold come autumn. Several historic train bridges and tunnels add to its appeal. The Feather River National Scenic Byway begins just outside of Oroville on Highway 70, connecting with Highway 89 in the east.


Napa Valley


  Flickr/David Baron

Flickr/David Baron

Wine lover or not, it’s easy to be impressed by the rolling hills and rugged vineyards of the Napa Valley. Surrounded by mountains on either side, the valley is home to the Napa River, redwood groves, natural hot springs and lush forests. An aerial tram takes sightseers to Sterling Vineyards 300 feet above the town of Calistoga, offering panoramic views from the peaceful outdoor terrace. Sterling Vineyards is located at 1111 Dunaweal Lane, Calistoga, CA 94515.


McCloud Falls

  Flickr/USFS Region 5

Flickr/USFS Region 5

While nearby McArthur-Burney Falls gets most of the attention, McCloud Falls, made up of three separate falls, is just as breathtaking. Both a riverside trail and an access road extend up the canyon to the lower, middle and upper falls. Phenomenal views of the McCloud River reward visitors along the way. At the top is a lookout with unobstructed views of the falls and the river canyon. McCloud Falls are near Mt. Shasta on Upper Falls Road off Highway 89.


Point Arena Lighthouse



Peering over the Mendocino coastline, this historic lighthouse provides commanding views of the Pacific Ocean. Visitors can hike along the clifftop trails and see sand dunes, sea arches and coastal bluffs. Down below, sea lions warm themselves on the rocks, while farther afield, gray, blue and humpback whales make their way south on their annual migration. Point Arena Lighthouse is located at 45500 Lighthouse Road, Point Arena, CA 95468.

Glacier Point, Yosemite National Park

  Flickr/David Fulmer

Flickr/David Fulmer

No list of Northern California’s best views is complete without a mention of Yosemite National Park. And of all the views in Yosemite, none is as awe-inspiring as that from Glacier Point. The overlook showcases the park’s main attractions, including Half Dome, Yosemite Falls and Vernal Falls. More than 3,200 feet above Half Dome Village, the splendor and enormity of the Yosemite Valley is apparent. The Glacier Point Viewpoint is an hour from the valley floor along Glacier Point Road.

No tent? No problem. Northern California yurt camping

For many of us city slickers, there’s no better way to get away from it all than a jaunt into nature. Nothing fills the soul more than fresh air, the sound of a gurgling stream and the twinkle of a star-filled sky.

But then reality sets in, and we spend our days battling insects, keeping dirt out of sleeping bags and wrangling twisted tent poles.  

I’ve been an avid car camper my entire life. But for me, the biggest downside to “rouging it” is dealing with tents. Broken poles, lost stakes and uneven ground are enough to drive turn me into a not-so-happy camper. And I’m not even going to get started on leaky air mattresses.

But, after years of waking up with a sore back and a sorer mood, I’ve found a middle ground: yurt camping. Similar to rustic cabins, yurts are wooden-framed structures covered with heavy-duty canvas. They have doors, wooden floors and are typically surrounded by a wooden platform.

Yurt accommodations run the gamut. But I’m not talking about glamping yurts — those that cost hundreds a night and boast ocean views and luxury bedding. Nor am I talking about the privately-owned structures commonly found on organic farms aimed at the granola crowd (one ad I saw promised “Goats! Hot tub! Romance!”)

Rather, I’m talking about the basic, rustic versions found in many state and federal campgrounds. What these lack in amenities they make up for in location. They are smack dab in the middle of some of the state’s most scenic public lands, often just steps away from hiking trails, lakes and other natural attractions.

Most yurt sites offer all the benefits of a standard campsite, including potable water, campfire rings and bear boxes. Some even have coin-operated showers and flush toilets nearby. Unlike tent camping, there’s no sleeping on the ground in a yurt — most have raised platforms or cots, though you do have to bring your own bedding. Best of all, they are affordable, ranging from $60-$90 per night.

Less time setting up camp = more time enjoying the great outdoors. Following are my favorite yurt sites in Northern California.

Boethe-Napa State Park


 A yurt at Boethe-Napa Valley State Park

A yurt at Boethe-Napa Valley State Park

Boethe-Napa State Park, just off Highway 128 between St. Helena and Calistoga, proves there is much more to the Napa Valley than wining and dining. The park is home to an ancient grove of coastal redwoods and has miles of hiking and biking trails. We headed up Ritchey Canyon on bikes, which turned out to be a bit much for our newly-peddling 7-year-old, and instead ditched the bikes and wandered along the creekside, skipping stones and splashing in the water along the way. Our yurt was just near the trailhead and we could access the nearby Bale Grist Mill State Historic Park right from the campground. Though convenient, our yurt was located close to the highway and traffic noise was a bit of an annoyance.

Fallen Leaf Lake

An oblong alpine lake just a mile from Lake Tahoe, Fallen Leaf Lake is my go-to spot for a quiet getaway. It lacks the crowds and traffic of its more famous neighbor, yet is just minutes away from Tahoe’s beaches, restaurants and shops. Dedicated beach access is limited at Fallen Leaf Lake, but visitors can rent boats or kayaks and explore the shoreline. There are six yurts peppered among the regular campsites. They are a step up from other yurts I’ve called home for a night or two, with electric lights and portable heaters.

Lake Shasta

With its brilliant blue water, hidden coves and dramatic red shoreline, Lake Shasta in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest is the place to go for boating. Campgrounds, RV parks and fishing lodges abound, but for an off-the-beaten track stay I like Lakeshore East, running along the Shasta Arm of the lake. Here, three yurts line the shore, each with its own private path down to the water. The views from our site were spectacular, though the proximity to the water was a concern when my son was little, as was the poison oak. Still, the security of a lockable door made it worthwhile. We rented a patio boat (no experience necessary!) and set off to explore, stopping briefly to play in the mud and eat lunch. Because of the lake’s size and layout (with numerous arms, inlets and tributaries), it felt as though we were the only ones on the lake, even in the middle of summer.







The Top 5 Boutique Hotels in San Francisco

The Top 5 Boutique Hotels in San Francisco
By Elizabeth Penney

With its iconic Golden Gate Bridge, historic Alcatraz Island and bustling Fisherman’s Wharf, San Francisco is one of the top destinations in California, second only to Los Angeles and San Diego. Lodging choices abound, from luxury penthouse suites to basic dormitory-style hostels. But for me, there's no better way to enjoy San Francisco than by staying at one its many charming boutique hotels. Historic architecture, intimate hospitality and unique design are the hallmark of many of these affordable spots. Following are my top five recommendations for boutique hotels in San Francisco.

Harbor Court Hotel

Situated on the waterfront near the Embarcadero and Ferry Building, the Harbor Court Hotel welcomes guests with spectacular views of the bay, a nightly hosted happy hour and contemporary design. Built as an Army-Navy YMCA residence in the 1920s, the building is now a 131-room boutique hotel that meets the needs of today’s visitors. Amenities include Wi-Fi, valet parking, laundry service, on-site bike rentals and a 24-hour business center. Guests can also indulge at the hotel’s restaurant, Ozumo, which features a modern take on traditional Japanese cuisine.

Hotel Rex

Near the heart of Union Square and the Theater District, this 1930s-era hotel is awash with historic charm and original artwork by local artists. Visitors can expect free Wi-Fi, complimentary morning coffee and tea, valet parking and concierge services. Kids and pets are welcome, and though rooms are small, they are bright and airy. Best of all, Hotel Rex is located within steps of area restaurants, nightclubs, shopping and art galleries. The on-site Library Bar is a book-themed restaurant and cocktail bar with live jazz on weekends.

Hotel Union Square

One of the first boutique hotels in the city, Hotel Union Square provides the quintessential San Francisco experience. Built for the 1915 Pan Pacific Exposition, the art deco hotel is in the heart of the city’s main shopping district. It is a great choice for families, and the kid’s suite features amenities such as a computer, books and games, while the Dashiell Hammett Suite pays homage to the esteemed mystery writer. While there is no on-site restaurant, Tad’s Steakhouse is a few doors down, and breakfast packages are available.

Hotel Triton


Bright and cheery, with bold colors and inventive design, Hotel Triton attracts creative types seeking a refuge from ordinary, run-of-the-mill hotels. Art takes center stage, and rotating exhibits feature both emerging and established local artists. Themed rooms include the Haagen-Dazs “Sweet Suite,” featuring a stocked custom ice cream cabinet and shades of vanilla and dulce de leche, while the Jerry Garcia suite, designed by the late Grateful Dead frontman himself, features original watercolors and an autograph wall. All rooms offer designer linens, organic snack bars and eco-friendly bath amenities.

Clift Hotel

The Clift harkens back to a time when travel and style were one in the same. Designed by renowned French designer Philippe Starck, the old-world lobby features chairs from Ray and Charles Eames and a coffee table by Salvador Dali. Rooms feature custom sleigh beds, whimsical chairs and luxury bath products. The dark and moody Redwood Room, with paneling said to be carved from a single tree, showcases digital artwork and live music, while the hotel lounge, with its wing chairs and library lamps, is the perfect spot to take a load off after a long day of sightseeing.

Sacramento Neighborhood Guide

Nestled between the Pacific Ocean and the Sierra Nevada, Sacramento’s central location makes it a great jumping off point for all of Northern California. As yet, it is an undiscovered gem, but more and more, visitors are discovering all it has to offer. Its tree-lined streets, shady parks, gourmet restaurants and world-class attractions make it a great place to visit and to live.  

  From UrbanBound.

From UrbanBound.

72 Hours in Sacramento

The economy may be heading slightly upward, but travelers are still hesitant to dole out the big bucks for spendy vacation destinations. Enter California's own city of trees, Sacramento. Sure, the capital can't compete with its larger neighbors to the south, but it truly has something for everyone: a burgeoning restaurant scene, outdoor adventures and a diverse cultural past.

Sacramento Travel

Sacramento is a cosmopolitan oasis rich with fine dining, high-end shopping, world-class museums and performing arts. Best of all, its central location means the ocean and mountains are only a short car ride away. Once a sleepy commuter town centered on state politics and agriculture, Sacramento has quickly blossomed into a bustling metropolis.

But Sacramento can't escape its past, and remnants of its golden era are found on every corner. Having begun as a base for miners on their way to the nearby Sierra Nevada during the Gold Rush era, the city is rich with nineteenth-century history.

Sacramento's central core — composed of its downtown and midtown areas, where most attractions are located — is relatively compact and easy to navigate by a lettered and numbered grid system. Most hotels are located within walking distance of major sites, and taxis are readily available. To reach outlying areas of town, rent a car. Parking is inexpensive and easy to find, and public transportation is often unreliable.

Guests of participating hotels can save a buck or two by picking up a complimentary Sacramento Gold Card. The card offers savings — many two-for-one deals — at dozens of restaurants, attractions and merchants throughout town. The Sacramento Convention and Visitor's Bureau, at 1608 I St., can help with room reservations at participating merchants or provide any other information you may need. 

Sacramento enjoys its share of high-end lodgings, boutique hotels and mid-range options. By far the best choices are the Hyatt Regency and Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, located in the heart of downtown, or the Embassy Suites on the riverfront. Also downtown, the boutique hotel, The Citizen, retains its past with historic charm.

For a unique experience, book a room on the Riverboat Delta King, a 1920s paddle wheeler permanently moored in Old Sacramento. For cozy, residential hospitality, book a room at the Amber House Bed & Breakfast. Or, to surround yourself in turn-of-the-century romantic opulence, stay at The Sterling Hotel.


Follow in the footsteps of the forty-niners and begin your tour of the River City in Old Sacramento. Plan your itinerary over breakfast at the Rio City Café, where you can enjoy Frangelico French toast or Cajun beef hash while gazing at the Sacramento River on the outdoor patio. Get acquainted by strolling along the raised wooden sidewalks and admire the nineteenth-century architecture.

As you look past the modern souvenir shops and restaurants, it's easy to imagine their former glory as general stores, saloons and bathhouses. Of particular interest is the B.F. Hastings building, which served as the Western terminus for the Pony Express; the Eagle Theatre, a replica of the first theater in California; and the Old Sacramento Schoolhouse, a reproduction of a one-room schoolhouse typical of the Old West. Many of these buildings now house shops and boutiques; besides souvenir T-shirts and fake gold nuggets, you'll also find unique — sometimes wacky — gifts at Evangeline, Hollywood memorabilia at Stage Nine Entertainment Store, eco-friendly home goods at the Solar Syndicate and nostalgic collectibles at Brooks Novelty Antiques and Records.

Old Sacramento.jpg

For a more in-depth perspective of Old Town, visit the Old Sacramento Visitors Center and take an hour-long Historical Walking Tour through the Old Sacramento Living History Program, led by a costumed docent. For a lighthearted take on the city's sordid history, take the Hysterical Walk comedic tour led by prospectors and riverboat gamblers, or a Ghost Tour hosted by the spirits of the dead. Or, go below the surface of the city's history with an underground tour, and see what the streets looked like before the city was raised to avoid annual floodwaters. A scenic, one-hour historic river cruise with Hornblower Cruises provides yet another unique perspective.

After a morning of sightseeing, it's time for lunch at Fat City. Housed in the Brannan Building, one of the first general merchandise stores in Old Town, the restaurant is decorated in Victorian artifacts, Tiffany-style lamps and beveled glass windows. The varied menu offers something for everyone, from satisfying entrée salads to burgers, sandwiches and pasta. 

Things to Do in Sacramento

After lunch, continue your trip back in time with a visit to one of the most popular attractions in Old Sacramento. The California State Railroad Museum, which traces the history of railroading and its impact on California, features restored nineteenth-century traincars, a steam locomotive and a reconstructed train depot. During the summer you can hop aboard a steam train for a six-mile excursion atop the levees of the Sacramento River. 

Other nearby museums include the California Military Museum, featuring artifacts, documents and memorabilia of California's rich military history; and the Wells Fargo History Museum, which depicts the early days of commerce through gold, stagecoaches and telegraph. 

For dinner, there are plenty of options in Old Sacramento. Get a taste of what the region has to offer at Ten22. This casual yet sophisticated American eatery features creative dishes designed around local, organic and seasonal ingredients. Enjoy a showcase of local food with the six-course chef's table discovery menu, a one-of-a kind tasting menu designed especially for two.


Head east today to explore all that midtown has to offer. Do what the locals do and begin with breakfast at the Tower Café. The palm-tree-lined outdoor patio, a quiet oasis on a busy intersection, is the perfect place to enjoy the famous custard-soaked French toast, a designer omelet or huevos rancheros. Afterwards, continue to the city's most recognizable landmark, the State Capitol. Completed in 1874, the Capitol building houses the state Senate and Assembly, and visitors can watch lawmakers in action in public viewing galleries. Take a tour of the restored historic offices or stand in the first-floor rotunda and admire the inner dome rising 120 feet. Step outside the massive structure into the serenity of Capitol Park, 40 acres of trees, shrubs and flowers. The park also features several key monuments, including the California Veterans Memorial, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and the Firefighters Memorial. 

Sacramento Restaurants

For lunch, head over to the bustling K Street corridor, which is home to several lively restaurants and nightclubs. A good bet for a casual lunch is Pizza Rock, a rock-and-roll themed pizza joint featuring dozens of creative pies — including the award-winning margherita baked in a wood-fired oven.

If you haven’t had enough of California government, head over to the Governor’s Mansion. Built by a hardware merchant in 1877, the mansion was home to thirteen governors before being turned over to the state in 1967 during Ronald Reagan’s tenure. With 30 rooms, nine bathrooms and fourteen-foot ceilings, the structure is an example of Second Empire-Italianate architecture.

Crocker Art Museum.jpg

Continue your tour of the midtown area with a visit to Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park. Founded by John Sutter in 1839, the fort is all that remains of Sacramento’s earliest settlement, which was abandoned after gold was discovered in the nearby foothills. Tour the historical exhibits and witness living history with demonstrations in weaving, blacksmithing and carpentry.

No visit to Sacramento would be complete without a visit to the Crocker Art Museum. Founded in 1885, it’s the longest continually operating museum in the West. The museum is partially housed in a Victorian mansion, which is itself a work of art, and is home to one of the premier collections of California art.  The  California Hall of Fame at the California Museum for History highlights the innovative contributions of Californians; inductees include Amelia Earhart, César Chavez, Walt Disney, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs.

If you're here on the second Saturday of the month, there is no better way to get a taste of Sacramento's burgeoning local art scene than by participating in Second Saturday Art Walk. Art galleries throughout town stay open late, usually until 9 p.m., welcoming guests free of charge to view their items, meet the artists and socialize with fellow art lovers.

By now, you should have worked up a hearty appetite. A good choice for dinner is The Porch Restaurant and Bar, a modern take on traditional Southern fare.

If you have enough energy left after dinner, enjoy Sacramento's thriving performing arts scene. The Music Circus, a nationally recognized theater-in-the-round, produces musical events during the summer months. The Sacramento Ballet offers world-class shows, and the Sacramento Community Center Theater stages Broadway musicals. At the Mondavi Center at the University of California, Davis, you'll find a full range of performing arts, from music to dance, traditional to innovative. Both the B Street Theater and Capital Stage are well-regarded for their local productions, or, for something more lighthearted, check out the Comedy Spotfor a night of local stand-up, sketch or improv.


On day three, it's time to conquer the great outdoors. Sacramento's mild weather makes it an outdoor enthusiast's dream — biking, hiking, rafting, boating and other activities are a regular part of life for Sacramentans. But first, fuel up with a hearty, inexpensive meal at a local favorite: Orphan Breakfast House. This neighborhood gem features an eclectic menu; popular items include the banana blackberry pancakes and soy chorizo scramble. 

Outdoor Activities and Adventures in Sacramento

After breakfast, consult your map and point yourself in the direction of the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail. Better known as the American River Bike Trail, this 23-mile-long paved, multi-use parkway stretches from Old Sacramento to Folsom Lake. Rent a bicycle and pick up a courtesy map at City Bicycle Works, a quick ride from the trail's western access point. If biking isn't your thing, no worries; the American River Bike Trail is great for just taking a leisurely stroll and enjoying the scenery.

Sacramento's location at the conflux of the Sacramento and American rivers makes it an ideal choice for water enthusiasts as well — it isn't called the River City for nothing. Beat the summer heat by taking a rafting trip down the American. A number of companies offer trips suiting every skill level. A good bet for beginners is American River Raft Rentals, while the more adventurous can try American Whitewater Expeditions further upstream.

Back in town enjoy a much-needed lunch break at Zocalo, a midtown favorite for regional Mexican cuisine. Enjoy the sunshine on the outdoor patio while sipping a specialty cocktail, such as the Oaxacan old fashioned or caipirinha, and share several small plates, such as the beef empanadas or chorizo queso. 

Wine connoisseurs will be pleasantly surprised by what Sacramento has to offer. Not only is it less than an hour from the Amador and El Dorado wine growing regions, it is also home to several wineries of its own. Revolution Wines offers tasting and small plates in its bistro, open Tuesday through Sunday, while Rail Bridge Cellars offers tastings by appointment, and hosts special events throughout the year.

Today would also be a perfect day to pick up some souvenirs before your trip home. Sacramento is home to several world-class shopping centers and hundreds of one-of-a-kind boutiques. For high-end fashion, the outdoor Pavilions mall features designer fashions, home furnishings, gourmet cookware and an array specialty shops. The midtown area is home to dozens of independent boutiques selling designer clothing, vintage goods, handmade jewelry, imported gifts and local art.

For dinner, head to East Sacramento for Formoli's Bistro, featuring traditional American food with a gourmet twist; the whiskey burger is said to be one of the best burgers in town.

Originally published on

Savor Seville

Few cities evoke the history, romance, beauty and passion of Seville. In the heart of the southern region of Andalucia, Seville conjures up images of swirling flamenco dancers, valiant bullfighters and labyrinthine stone passageways. Every plaza, courtyard and patio is enveloped in the rich scent of orange blossoms, while the distinct clap of castanets and classical guitar can be heard around every corner.

Seville may be known for its flamenco, bullfighting and history, but it is the people that carry the city's spirit. Every night, Sevillanos flood the city's bars and restaurants to eat, drink and be merry. To make the most of your trip, we suggest you do the same: slow down, sit back and take pleasure in all Seville has to offer. 

Seville is a walking city, so all you really need to get around are your own two feet. While rental cars are available, parking is scarce and expensive, and besides, many streets in the central district—the Barrio de Santa Cruz—are too narrow to accommodate vehicles. Public buses are available but aren't really necessary as most of the tourist sites are within close proximity to one another.

Seville Hotels

Seville has a wide range of accommodations. At the upper end, the luxurious Hotel Alfonso XIII, just steps from the Alcazar, offers expansive guestrooms in Baroque, Castilian or Moorish design, high-speed Internet and Wi-Fi, butler and chauffeur service and a swimming pool. Another high-end option is the Hotel Casa Imperial, a 16th-century palace that features suites with individual indoor patios, private terraces and access to the Club Antares sports center, complete with saunas and a heated pool.

More modest choices include Hotel Alcantara, a basic, modern hotel in the heart of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, just minutes from shops, restaurants and major attractions. Around the corner is Hotel rey Alfonso X, boasting terraces with views of the Cathedral. Another option is the Taberna del Alabardero, a small 19th-century house near the Plaza Nueva renowned for its prestigious Andalucían restaurant, wine shop and cooking courses.

Those on a budget don't have to sacrifice amenities or style in Seville. The Hostal Goya, a centrally located hotel designed in Spanish style with traditional ironwork and ceramic tiles, features clean, basic rooms and private bathrooms. The Hotel Simon, once a private 18th-century mansion, has an antique-filled central courtyard and tiled rooms.


The Rio Guadalquivir runs through the center of Seville, dividing the city into east and west. You're likely to spend most of your time in the eastern sector, which is where the Barrio de Santa Cruz is located. This medieval Jewish quarter is one of the city's most charmingly atmospheric neighborhoods.

But first, begin by fueling up with a hearty breakfast at the Horno de San Buenaventura. There are half a dozen locations around town, but the one on Avenida de la Constitucion is conveniently located and overlooks the Cathedral. On the ground floor, you can grab a quick bite—toast, pastry or coffee—while the dining room upstairs offers full English, American or Spanish breakfasts; we like the tortilla Espanol, or potato omelet.

After breakfast, stroll through the maze of narrow, winding, picturesquely set alleyways and streets lined with white houses and bougainvillea-bedecked balconies. You'll pass a number of charming cafes and a plethora of petite public squares gracefully shaded and exotically scented by orange and jasmine blossoms. Don't worry about choosing a specific destination; explore randomly, take your time, and you'll discover all sorts of fascinating sights. 


The barrio's El Centro, the geographical center of the city, houses the most popular landmarks: The Cathedral, Giralda and Alcazar. We don't recommend visiting them all on the same day, so instead start with the Cathedral and Giralda tower, the latter of which has spectacular views of the city and can help you get your bearings.

Located east of the main thoroughfare, Avenida de la Constitucion, the cathedral was built on the site of a former mosque. At the time, the Christians decreed: "Let us create such a structure that future generations will take us for lunatics." When the Gothic building was completed in 1507 (with some Renaissance touches added a few years later), they had indeed succeeded in putting together the largest cathedral in the world—an art, architecture and history museum rolled into one. Some of the church's stained glass windows are the originals set by Enrique Aleman in the 15th century, the golden age of stained glass design in Spain.

La Giralda, "The Rose of the Wind," looms on the northeastern side of the cathedral. Constructed during Islamic rule at the close of the 12th century, Giralda formerly functioned as the mosque's minaret. Identified by the bronze weather vane on top (known as giraldillo, or "little spinner," from which La Giralda takes its name), this is considered the loveliest building in Seville, and one of the most stellar displays of Islamic architecture on the planet. The crown jewel of the grounds is the Mudejar Palacio de Don Pedro, the intricacies of design rivaling Granada's Alhambra, though some view the orange tree courtyard as being just as majestic. The ascent up the bell chamber to the top of the Giralda is made easier by a series of ramps—built so guards could ride up on their horses. The panoramic vista afforded from this height is well worth the climb.

By this time you will no doubt be ready for a siesta. Though some say it's a dying tradition, the siesta is an important element to the life of Sevillanos, and we recommend following it as well. Most stores close from 2-5 p.m., and while many major attractions remain open, the heat of the day can be stifling. Instead, shift your schedule: opt for a late lunch and savor a much-needed afternoon break. That way, you'll be rested up for some Sevillian nightlife.

Seville Restaurants

Begin by lunching at one of the many restaurants in the Santa Cruz district along Calle Santa Maria La Blanca. While popular for early evening and late night tapas, many are also open for lunch. Try Cafe Bar Carmela and order up one of the daily specials, such as seafood paella with shrimp, calamari and whitefish. Sharing several small plates is also a good bet; try the cheese torta with fresh tomato or the tortilla Carmela with potato, onion and pepper. After lunch, return to your room to avoid the midday heat and rest up for the busy night ahead. 

Now that you're refreshed and rejuvenated, it's time to hit the town for a tapas crawl. Tapas, or small plates, are a practical solution to the fact that most Sevillanos—and Spaniards in general—eat much later than the rest of the world. In fact, many restaurants don't even open for dinner until 8 p.m. at the earliest. To hold you over until dinner, traditional tapas bars in the Barrio de Santa Cruz are Bar Entrecalles or Cafe Bar Las Teresas, both tiny places popular with locals. There are also dozens of places along Calle Mateos Gago; our favorite is Cafe Bar Patanchon. Try the ham cigars with mushrooms and cheese, the garlic prawns or the fried Camembert with raspberry sauce. Wash it all down with a glass of Spanish wine or sherry from the neighboring Cadiz province.

If you're still hungry, head to one of Seville's most renowned restaurants, Taberna del Alabardero, located in the hotel of the same name. In a 19th-century house, the restaurant features a seasonal Andalucían menu with local products. Appetizers may include such delights as red peppers stuffed with Iberian ham, couscous with tuna or scallop carpaccio, while mains include saffron monkfish, roasted wild boar or duck breast with fennel. The restaurant also boasts its own wine shop, with dozens of wines from throughout Spain. For a true insider's look into Andalucían cuisine, sign up for one of its evening cooking classes, focusing on topics such as traditional Lenten specialties and pastries.


  Photo courtesy Real Alcazar

Photo courtesy Real Alcazar

Begin your second day in Seville with a visit to the Alcazar. But first, stop by one of the many bars that surround the ancient fortress for a bite to eat. Try Bar Gonzalofor a simple Spanish breakfast of toast and coffee, and grab a table on the sidewalk for some first-rate people watching.

You can spend an entire day wandering the grounds of the Alcazar, so it's best to take a tour, or at the very least, rent an audio guide. Pedro the Cruel converted the former fortress into a royal palace (it remains to this day the Royal Family's official residence in Seville), incorporating fragments of earlier Moorish buildings into the reconstruction. The Alcazar, through centuries of war, fires and tremors, still encompasses some of the finest examples of Mudéjar architecture (a style developed by Moors working under Christian rule). The Renaissance gardens surrounding the palace are also steeped in history—legend has it that the Cruel One assassinated his brother in 1358 in the "Patio of the Doll," so named because it was where his daughter kept her toys. On a lighter note, the gardens provide a tranquil escape from the crowds, one of the most serene being the Jardin Ingles on the southwest side. 

After your visit, you should have worked up an appetite for lunch. Head a bit north and try Sierra Mayor, one of several locations in the city. Airy yet rustic, the branch on Calle Joaquin Guichot is hidden away on a narrow alley. Try the refreshing gazpacho, cold bread and tomato soup; the decadent tuna marinated in olive oil; or the house specialty, roast pork. After lunch, retreat to your room for a mid-day rest or laze under the trees in any of the city's neighborhood parks or plazas. 

In the evening, continue your exploration of Seville by heading toward El Arenal. This district, along the Guadalquivir River, is home to several key sites, including the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, Seville's bullring. With construction having begun in 1758, the impressive gold-and-white bullring is one of the oldest in Spain. English tours are available and there is also a small museum on site showcasing the history of Spain's national sport. 

Nearby is the Torre de Oro, or Tower of Gold, a 13th-century defensive tower overlooking the Guadalquivir that was once lined with gold tiles; their reflections in the sun were visible for miles. Now, it is home to a maritime museum. The riverside promenade on which it lies is a pleasant stroll, especially at sunset. Marvel at the Puente de San Telmo to the south and Puente de Triana to the north, bridges leading across the river to the atmospheric barrio of Triana, chock-full of pottery and tile-making shops. Watch kayakers play their unique version of water polo in the river, or relax at a seasonal café with a coffee or glass of wine and behold the superb views. 

  Photo courtesy Vanessa Morillo/El Patio Sevillano

Photo courtesy Vanessa Morillo/El Patio Sevillano

Tonight is the night to partake in the most Sevillian of all Sevillian pastimes: a flamenco show. While flamenco venues abound in the city—from tiny bars to large-scale productions—a good option for first-timers is El Patio Sevillano, just steps from the bullring. The hour-and-a-half long performances are a good introduction, and visitors can even arrive early for a brief lesson. Dinner/show packages are available, and while diners get the better seats closer to the stage, the pre-set menu is overpriced; save your money and eat later. Another nearby choice is Tablao El Arenal, a popular destination for tourist groups for more than a quarter century. If you want to delve deeper into the flamenco tradition, consider a course at Taller Flamenco. Weeklong classes are offered in traditional dance, guitar, singing and Spanish language. 

With the sounds of guitar and castanets stomping through your veins, it's now time for dinner. Head back to Santa Cruz for an upscale meal at one of the city's finest restaurants, La Albahaca. On the scenic Plaza de Santa Cruz, La Albahaca, or basil, is a favorite for royalty, politicians and celebrities. The setting is refined, the dishes Andalucian with a touch of French influence. A set menu is available, or try any of the house specialties, such as Iberian pork, roasted boar or grilled monkfish.


There’s still plenty to see and do on your third day in Seville. But first, if you’re tired of simple Spanish breakfasts, head to Bar Restaurant Mezquita el Cordobes, which offers English and American-style fixed-price breakfast dishes, such as eggs and bacon. After breakfast, it’s time to escape the narrow, winding streets of the city center and head south to visit grand boulevards and expansive open spaces. Here, you’ll find the Parque de Maria Luisa, a sprawling enclave of flowers, trees, gardens and ponds. Across the street lies the somewhat eerie Plaza de España. Built for the Iberian-American Expo of 1929, the plaza, which is now used for government offices, has faded from its former glory, as evidenced by cracking tiles and dried-up fountains. Still, the ornate curved building of brick, ceramic and marble, with each of Spain’s provinces represented in ceramic tile work depicting scenes from historic events, is worth a visit. 

Nearby is Plaza de America, also created for the Iberian-American Expo. Dotted with rose bushes and white doves, the plaza is home to two notable museums: the Museo Arqueologico, containing jewelry, sculpture and other artifacts from prehistoric times; and the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares, featuring historic garments, ceramics and model workshops. 

  Photo courtesy Hosteria del Laurel

Photo courtesy Hosteria del Laurel

Head back toward the city center and you’ll find yourself along the backside of the Alcázar’s garden walls. Sneak into the barrio de Santa Cruz alongside the peaceful, shaded Jardines de Murillo, named after the famous Spanish painter.  You’ll find yourself near the lovely Plaza de los Venerables and the 17th-century church of the same name. 

By now you should be ready for a break, so take in the atmosphere by lunching at the Hosteria del Laurel, with tables right on the plaza beneath the orange trees. The menu features many traditional Spanish tapas as well as fresh seafood and meats, including suckling lamb and pig. In typical Spanish style, follow your lunch with a rest back at your hotel before heading out again.

A visit to Seville wouldn’t be complete without doing a little souvenir shopping. Instead of tacky trinkets, head over to Avenida de la Constitución and pay a visit to  Felix Cartelismo, which has a vast collection of vintage advertising posters. Head north to Plaza Nueva and its designer shops, and stop into Agua de Seville for the namesake perfume distilled from the orange blossoms that blanket the city. Around the corner is the bustling Plaza San Francisco, Seville’s main public square and former Muslim market, and the Ayuntamiento, or town hall.

It’s on the northern end of the plaza where you’ll catch the pedestrian-only Calle Sierpes, the heart of Seville’s shopping district. Calle Sierpes, as well as Calle Tetuan and Calle Valasquez to the west, are lined with dozens of shops loaded with shoes, jewelry, antiques and fashion. Although known for its high-end boutiques, there are plenty of moderately priced options as well. Due east is Calle de la Cuna, lined with shops specializing in custom-made or off-the-rack flamenco dresses. 

If you’ve had enough of the crowds and consumerism, sneak away to the nearby Iglesia de Santa Maria Magdalena, on the Plaza de la Magdalena, one of the city’s most stunning baroque churches. Inside, you’ll find paintings by Zubarán and frescoes by Lucas Valdés. 

To end the day, and your visit to Seville, dine at the  Restaurante San Marco. At the northern end of the shopping district, this palatial restaurant is housed in a neoclassical mansion adorned with crystal chandeliers, marble busts and original frescoes. The menu is mostly Italian with many Spanish influences. Try the homemade gnocchi with shrimp in tomato sauce, the cream-topped spinach tortellini with ham and peas, or the Iberian pork loin with red wine sauce atop freshly made pappardelle. 

Tonight, your last night in Seville, is yours to do with as you please. Perhaps you’ll revisit the Santa Cruz area to wander its winding passageways. Perhaps you’ll take one last look at El Centro’s Cathedral and Alcázar. Or perhaps you’ll go out with a bang by once again indulging in tapas and sherry. No matter how you say adios, the passion of Seville is now in your blood, and although you may be leaving Seville, Seville will never leave you.

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