The Seville Cathedral rooftop tour might be the hottest ticket in town for visitors to Seville, but what should you expect, and is it worth the ticket price? Read on for my review and some tips for your visit.
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Seville is full of amazing things to do – the Real Alcazar palace and gardens, the Metropol Parasol, the gorgeous Plaza de Espana, the Torre del Oro and of course, the magnificent gothic cathedral.
When we visited Seville in February 2018 we hadn’t realised that there was another way to see the cathedral other than the normal entrance ticket, but when we got to the ticket desk we saw a poster for a different option – the Cathedral Roofs guided tour.
The tour that day was already full and we were advised to come back the next day to buy our tickets. We didn’t want to risk it though so we bought our tickets online.
How to buy tickets for the Seville Cathedral rooftop tour
There are a maximum of six rooftop tours each day, with only one or two in English – the others are in Spanish or French. Just 25 people can go on each tour, so unsurprisingly, tickets sell out quickly!
There are two ways to buy tickets for the tour. You can visit the ticket desk in person to buy tickets for tours that day (that is, if there are any left). Alternatively, you can buy tickets online days or weeks in advance on the official Cathedral website. If you’ve got your heart set on visiting the Cathedral rooftops then I’d definitely recommend buying your tickets online.
The terms and conditions for online tickets say you need to print them out. We were already in Seville when we bought our tickets and didn’t have a printer in our AirBnB; after a bit of Googling we found Tourist House who printed our tickets for us from the PDFs we’d been sent, for a couple of euro. We needn’t have worried though, plenty of people on our tour just showed their tickets on their phones and that seemed to be ok with the guide.
How much does the cathedral roof tour cost?
The rooftop tour is priced at €15 per person (prices correct at September 2019). The tour price includes general entry to the cathedral as well as the Giralda bell tower and the Church of El Salvador which is 600 metres away on the nearby Plaza del Salvador. From the day you enter the first church, you have two more days to visit the other sights. Entry tickets to the cathedral normally cost €9, so at only €6 extra, the rooftop tour is really good value for money.
If you want to have a proper look around the cathedral interior, make sure you check the opening times. We’d planned to do the tour and then wander around the inside, but unfortunately the cathedral was closing just 30 minutes after the end of our tour. If this happens to you, it is possible to do it the other way around and see the interior before going up to the roof; if you decide to take this option, just meet your guide on the inside of the meeting point door rather than on the street side.
What to expect on the rooftop tour
We gathered outside a huge arched door on Avenida de la Constitución, around the corner from the main visitor entrance to the Cathedral. The instructions say to be at the meeting point 10 minutes before the start of the tour. As the time approached, a tiny door opened and our guide appeared.
He began the tour by ticking off our names on his list, then led us into a small side chapel where we all picked up headphones and radio receivers so we’d be able to hear his commentary as we clambered around the roofs of the cathedral. Once we were kitted out (no hard hats or harnesses are required for the tour, it’s perfectly safe!), he took us across the nave to Christopher Columbus’s tomb, before unlocking another tiny door in the base of a pillar and taking us into the secret part of the cathedral.
Once through the door, we climbed the first of many narrow spiral staircases up to the first level. On the way up, he pointed out masons’ marks made by the craftsmen who built these massive walls.
Stood on the roof, with the Real Alcazar gardens below us, we had plenty of time to take photos before the tour continued.
The guide showed us more masons’ marks, then pointed out some cracked terracotta urns placed along one wall. The building method they used for the roof is pretty much unique to Seville – because the climate in that part of Spain is so hot and dry, they didn’t need to build the pointed roof structure that you normally see on Gothic cathedrals, as there’s very little water that needs to run off. Instead, they built shallow coverings over the arches of the cathedral and filled them with broken terracotta pots for strength as they were both light and cheap.
Another fascinating aspect to Seville cathedral is its varied history – it was originally built as a mosque before the Reconquista, and its bell tower, the famous La Giralda, was its minaret.
When Seville was captured by the Christian King Ferdinand III, the mosque was converted overnight into a cathedral but kept many of its Islamic features. Over the centuries the cathedral was renovated, restyled, suffered the effects of earthquakes and saw changing fashions in architecture. Our guide pointed out where Gothic architecture turns into the Renaissance style, demonstrating the 100-year length of the rebuilding project.
Next, our Seville Cathedral rooftop tour took us to an even higher area, on top of a domed chapel and directly overlooking the Giralda bell tower. I felt very lucky to be in such a small group in such a special place.
From there, our guide led us down another staircase, up another and onto the roof of the nave, showing us where all those broken terracotta pots had ended up so many centuries ago. From this part of the tour the views over Seville were truly incredible.
The next part was my favourite; we went down a much shorter spiral staircase and emerged on a narrow walkway inside the cathedral, high above the nave. From this height, the people down below looked absolutely tiny, the huge stained glass window in the end wall more vivid and beautiful close-up, and the raw, unfinished backs of the wooden angel structures strangely touching.
The final part of the tour took us back onto the roof and underneath some of the awesome flying buttresses. The guide explained the architectural theory behind these structures and answered our questions about the cathedral.
Finally, he led us down yet another narrow spiral staircase, popping us out through another hidden door, much to the surprise of the other tourists in that part of the cathedral.
Is the Seville Cathedral rooftop tour worth it?
100% yes. The rooftop guided tour is fascinating, exciting and unforgettable, as well as being really great value for money compared to the standard ticket.
Check out more guided tours of Seville Cathedral
Six tips for taking the Seville Cathedral rooftop tour
- The tour may not be for you if you’re afraid of heights or if you don’t like confined spaces. The tour is mostly in high places and there are lot of narrow ledges and tight winding staircases.
- It doesn’t feel dangerous at any point, however – you won’t need to wear a hard hat or harness, and you won’t be at any risk of falling!
- Don’t bring big bags; you need to be able to move easily and sometimes squeeze through narrow doorways.
- Bring a bottle of water, wear sunscreen and maybe a hat too, especially in the summer. There are lots of sections of the tour when you’ll be out in the open.
- Wear comfortable shoes; trainers are ideal.
- Children under the age of 13 are not allowed to take the tour.
Have you taken the Seville Cathedral rooftop tour? Is it on your must-see list for Seville?