Archivo de Indias in Seville – Complete 2024 Visitor Guide!

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If you’re eager to learn about Seville’s history of exploration then you must visit Archivo de Indias.

This historic building holds the largest repository of documents relating to Spanish activity in the Americas in the entire world.

This archive forms part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower and Real Alcazar.

It’s completely free to visit and it’s well worth going inside if you want to learn about the rise of the Spanish Empire with the discovery of the ‘new world’. 

Here is a complete guide for Archivo de Indias in Seville with the history, how to visit, things to see and what to expect!

Archivo de Indias Seville

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Archivo de Indias history 

The building for these archives dates back to 1572 and was originally the Market House of Seville for merchants known as Lonja de Mercaderes.

As the shipping merchants were conducting business around the cathedral, Philip II commissioned this building from Juan de Herrera.

It was then transformed into the General Archive of the Indies in 1785 by King Carlos III. The Secretary of the Indies, José de Galvez promoted the project.

He wanted all of the documents relating to the Indies in one place. Before this, they were all scattered in various archives around Cádiz, Madrid, Seville and Simancas. 

In 1987, this archive was declared part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower and Real Alcazar. 

Archivos de Indias Seville

General Archive of the Indies today 

Today, the Archivo de Indias is the largest archive on Spanish activity in the Americas and Philippines on earth. 

It contains over 9 kilometres of bookshelves with some 43,000 documents, 80 million pages and 8,000 maps. 

Many of the oldest documents date back to the era of Christopher Columbus including an original Treaty of Tordesillas.

Archivo de Indias Seville

This was a papal bull signed by Pope Alexander VI in 1493 and divided the territories of the ‘new world’ between Spain and Portugal.

You’ll also get to see handwritten journals and letters from famous explorers like Christopher Columbus, Vasco Nunez de Balboa, Hernán Cortés and Ferdinand Magellan.

The archives are governed by the Board of Trustees of the General Archive of the Indies and it has several permanent exhibitions that are open to the public. 

Archivos de Indias Seville

How to visit Archivo de Indias in Seville

You will find the archives in an impressive Renaissance Herreriano-style building on Av. de la Consitución opposite the world-famous Seville Cathedral. 

The main entrance can be found by walking through the Jardines de la Lonja del Archivo General de Indias and passing the Fountain of the Indies.

Once you reach the main entrance, you just go through a quick security scan and you can then explore the exhibition at your leisure.

Seville is a very easy city to walk around but you can also use the trams and subway to explore as well. The closest stop would be ‘Archivo de Indias’ on the T1 tram service. 

If you’re using your phone to guide you around Seville, click here for a Google Pin!

Archivo de Indias Seville

Opening hours and ticket prices

The General Archives of the Indies is open from Tuesday – Saturday from 9.30 am – 4.30 pm. On Sundays, It’s only open from 10 am – 1.30 pm and it’s completely closed on Mondays. 

These hours may change in the summer months due to the heat so always check before you go. 

The great thing about visiting is the fact that it’s completely FREE and makes a great budget activity. 

Archivo de Indias Seville

Things to see in Archivo General de Indias

Lower Gallery 

Your visit will start in the lower gallery where you can see metal shelves containing boxes of archived documents. 

These were donated to the city during the Ibero-American Exhibition of Seville in 1929. 

You will also see a bronze ship cannon, a model of the Archivo des Indies and a handwritten letter by the explorer Juan Sebastián Elcano to Emperor Carlos V.

Archivos de Indias lower gallery

Courtyard

Just beyond the lower archive exhibition hall, you can step out into a stunning central courtyard. 

There’s not much to see here beyond a pretty square but I thought it made a beautiful photo opportunity.

The elaborate glass windows and the monochrome tiled floor really looked beautiful against the sunshine and blue skies!

Archivos de Indias Courtyard

Main staircase 

After you’ve explored the lower floor, you can head up the main staircase to the upper archives and exhibitions.

I found this monumental staircase a highlight in itself due to the wonderful pinkish-red and black marble that was used to decorate it. 

It was built in 1786 and is decorated with red, grey and black jasper stone from Malaga. Here, you can also see the coat of arms of Spain. 

Archivo de Indias
Archivo de Indias Staircase

Lobby & Exhibition Room 

At the top of the staircase, you’ll arrive in an old lobby where you can see several historical artefacts and portraits. 

There is a 16th-century trader’s chest and you can peek into the staircase that would normally lead you to the uppermost floor and rooftop (not open to the public).

Archivo de Indias Lobby
Archivo de Indias

There are many portraits found in this gallery of famous Spanish monarchs such as Queen Isabel II, Fernando VII, King Alfonso XII and Carlos IV. 

Also, you can find portraits of famous explorers like Christopher Columbus and a golden bust of Hernán Cortés. 

Archivo de Indias

Upper Gallery

Originally, the upper gallery used to be a research room for the archives but now serves as the main Exhibition Hall. 

It’s beautifully decorated with an ornate marble floor, stunning dark wood shelves and elaborated carved vaulted ceilings. 

As you explore this majestic space, you will see 38 portraits of all the Captain Generals of Cuba in the 18th and 19th centuries. 

Archivo de Indias Seville

As well as the main floors, you’ll find some smaller rooms with Japanese and Indian artwork to admire. 

Also, you’ll find a small conference room themed on the conquest of Mexico with portraits of Hernán Cortes. 

Archivo de Indias
Archivo de Indias Seville

Don’t expect to see many documents on display 

The one thing that I found disappointing about the archives was the fact that although the building houses thousands of records, there were very few documents on display.

Sure, you could see a few maps and a couple of handwritten documents in cases but that was your lot. 

According to the archives, the documents are stored away for preservation as they require special temperature-controlled environments.

Archivo de Indias

Mostly, you get to see hundreds of boxes containing archived documents which you can’t touch.

That being said, if you were really eager to study here or use the archives for educational purposes you can apply to be a reader.

Alternatively, you can go online for a virtual tour and see many of their documents as a large collection has been digitally scanned.

Despite this, I still really enjoyed my visit to the archive as the building itself is spectacular with lots of beautiful architectural details, historic artefacts and portraits to admire.

Archivo de Indias Seville

Should we be celebrating Spanish activity in the Americas?

As much as this building is beautiful and it was built to celebrate the strengthening of the Spanish Empire with the conquest of the Americas centuries ago, I don’t think we can avoid the elephant in the room.

Many countries have had important lessons to learn from their era of colonialism and conquest and Spain is one of them. 

As a Brit from the UK which has one of the worst track records for colonisation all over the globe, I accept that it was a part of history but I don’t agree with glorifying these conquests.

This archive was supposedly built to combat the ‘dark legends’ of Spanish history. But, that’s like putting a veneer on a rotten tooth.

General Archives of the Indies Seville

The Spanish colonisation of the Americas was ruthless, utterly devastating and left so much disease, death and destruction in its wake.

It’s always an idea to think about what documents these archives don’t contain and details they would rather omit. 

Records on slavery, flesh trade, murder, disease, robbery, racism, poverty, cultural erasure, barbarism and all manner of unforgivable atrocities in the name of a glorified Empire. 

Although difficult, it’s important to expose ourselves to these hard chapters and learn what we should avoid in today’s world.

Unfortunately, you won’t see any accountability or contrition in these archives which is a shame.

Archivo de Indias Seville

How long do you need to explore the Archivo de Indias

I’d say you only probably need around 45 minutes to 1 hour to explore this archive in Seville. 

But, if you’re a lover of architecture or history you may want to stay a bit longer as there are some fabulous exhibitions to be found here.

For a quieter visit and photography, I’d recommend visiting either early in the morning when it first opens or around an hour before closing time.

Although it’s considered a bit of a ‘Seville hidden gem’, its position by the cathedral and free entry means that lots of people will be visiting throughout the day. 

Archivo de Indias Seville

Is visiting the General Archive of the Indies worth it? 

I thought it was well worth visiting these archives as it really gives you a feel for the history of Seville. The good and bad.

This city played an important role in strengthening the Spanish Empire with their age of exploration and forming the Spanish colonies in the Americas. 

It’s really easy to plan a visit as it’s located opposite the world-famous Seville Cathedral and you can add it on as part of your tour.

Plus, visiting these historic archives is completely free so you have nothing to lose by going! 

Don’t miss the incredible Archivo de Indias in Seville, you won’t regret exploring this exhibition. 

Archivos de Indias Seville

Looking for more things to do in Seville?

If you love history then Seville has historic attractions in abundance and many are part of the Seville UNESCO World Heritage site!

Just opposite the archives, you’ll find Seville Cathedral and the Giralda Tower. The largest Gothic cathedral in the world. 

Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral Rooftops
Giralda Tower Seville
Giralda Tower Seville

It’s a stunning building that has many features like Christopher Columbus’ tomb and the Capilla Real.

It used to be an ancient mosque and the old minaret tower is now the Giralda Tower. Join the queue to head right to the top and enjoy panoramic views over the city.

The best way to explore this cathedral is on a rooftop tour which is what I did. You’ll get to climb up winding staircases and see the stained glass windows, gothic towers and buttresses up close whilst overlooking the historic quarter. 

Real Alcazar Seville
Real Alcazar

After, you must explore the majestic Real Alcazar, the royal palace of Seville. You’ll get to see the Courtyard of Maidens, historic staterooms and the elaborate water gardens too. 

For Game of Thrones fans, this is where they filmed the Kingdom of Dorne in the show and you’ll recognise many of the filming locations for Sunspear on your visit. 

Real Alcazar Seville
Courtyard of Maidens, Real Alcazar

There are also many other historic attractions in Seville such as Casa de Pilatos, Plaza de España, Torro de Orro and Maria Luisa Park to name a few.

Or, why not explore something contemporary and watch the sunset at Setas de Sevilla? It’s a mushroom-shaped structure that overlooks the city and I loved their Aurora show in the evening.

Plaza de España Seville
Plaza de España
Casa de Pilatos
Casa de Pilatos

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Save the Archivo de Indias Seville for later!

Archivo de Indias Seville

Here are some Spain travel resources

  • Flights: I use Skyscanner to look for flight deals. Try to be flexible with travel dates for the best prices.
  • Accommodation: Booking.com is my go-to hotel platform and I’ve used them for years. 
  • Public transport: You can book trains through the official Renfe site. Also, Trainline works and I found it cheaper on some journeys.
  • Car rental: Rental Cars is a great choice that compares all sorts of rental companies and gets you the best price.
  • Activities: I love GetYourGuide and use the platform all the time for booking group tours and attraction tickets.
  • e-Reader: I love to read Romantasy books and I always take my beloved Kindle Oasis with me. It has an orange light and is waterproof which is perfect for lounging by the pool.
  • Travel insurance: I always use World Nomads to book travel insurance. You never know when you’ll need cover! 

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