I’d like you to take a moment, close your eyes and conjure up an image of Spain. Not the partygoers of Ibiza or the hoity-toity merrymakers of Barcelona and Marbella but the real traditional Spain. Imagine the bright blue skies and the white hilltop villages where the air is thick with a heady mixture of orange blossom and delicious cured ham. Handsome gitanos on horsebacks and sultry senoritas snapping their castanets. Girls twirling around in fluffy flamenco dresses while drinking sangria and hot manly boys dramatically fighting 1000lb bulls! If you’ve been seduced by such dreams of Spain then be sure to make Seville a part of your Iberian itinerary.
The best time to visit Seville is during the two main events that mark the Sevillian calendar: Semana Santa (Easter) and Feria de Abril (The April Fair). If over-the-top, medieval religious festivals aren’t your bag, then it’s Feria de Abril all the way. In a nutshell ‘La Feria’ is a six day drinking and dancing marathon where the women dress up in vibrant flamenco dresses, everyone drinks rebujito (a mixture of manzanilla sherry and lemonade) by the gallon, immaculate horses parade around ridden by men carrying the aforementioned flamenco-dressed women behind them, and multi-generational families enjoy the traditional dance of Sevillanas until they drop. A giant illuminated structure is set up along with hundreds of public tents filled with locals who stomp and clap sevillanas with visitors from dawn till dusk.
Horse drawn carriages to see the city
Let’s begin with a typical day and night in the South of Spain. When I arrived in Seville, I was greeted with strong Spanish accents and beautiful historical architecture. Friends always raved about it, but never mentioned specifics as to why they loved it so. After visiting, I completely understood. On arrival we checked in to the luxurious Gran Melia Colon Hotel. Extremely centrally located and the main attractions were just a 10 minute walk away. The rooms were spacious and the staffs attention to detail was par excellence. I highly recommend it. Also depending on what time of year you’re visiting Seville the requirements of your hotel will vary. From June onwards if at all possible, try to find somewhere with a pool as the temperatures get way too hot to handle. At the top end of the market is uber stylish EME which boasts the best terraza in Seville where you can almost reach out and touch the cathedral, plus a reasonable sized swimming pool to cool off in. If your budget is more modest but a pool is a deal breaker, try Hotel Itaca, near Plaza Encarnación, or the Moorish style Alcoba del Rey where instead of a pool you can find an outdoor jacuzzi on the terrace, perfect for the cooler months. If splashing around on roof terraces isn’t your thing then the Soho Boutique Hostel offers both doubles and four-bedded rooms in a stylish setting or why not try a hostel with a twist at the Caja Habitada in the Alameda which regularly plays host to cultural events such as exhibitions, theatre and gigs. For stylish apartments look no further than GowithOh.
We then decided to explore the city on foot and the cobble-stone streets were easy to navigate through as I went from site to site. While walking we came across a shop where we could rent Segway’s for the day. We then decided that it would be faster and less tiring to see the whole of Seville on this super swanky hot wheels than walk everywhere in the heat and get exhausted in a few hours! Obvious choice- we hired the Segway’s and zipped around town from one stop to the other.
Cobble Stoned streets of Seville
The first stop was el Alcázar, or the royal palace. It is the oldest royal palace still in use today in Europe and it was fascinating to see how royalty once lived. Even today Juan Carlos stays in the palace when he visits Seville. For me this was the biggest attraction! I was told that the famous series ‘Game Of Thrones Season 5’ had been shot in the palace. For those of you who are totally into the Game of Thrones, season 5 series featured the amazing Alcazar in Seville which was shown as the famous Water Gardens of Dorne. Being a huge fan of this show I couldn’t resist the urge to visit the palace and spend a whole afternoon walking through the gardens.
Next, I headed to the Catederal de Seville – one of the biggest attractions in the city and with good reason – the cathedral’s complex is huge. We spent time wandering inside the cathedral, including seeing Christopher Columbus’ tomb. The Cathedral still remains one of the most amazing churches I have seen in Europe.
We then ventured to the Giralda Tower (it’s a part of the cathedral), which boasts the best view of the city from all angles. The only drawback – just be prepared to walk up the 35 ramps to the top and then down again, phew! Huffing and puffing, I slowly made my way up to the top of the Giralda bell tower. There are no stairs, instead there is a steep walkway that men would ride up on horsebacks to keep a watch on the city. As I emerged at the top wheezing like an old lady, the whole city of Seville opened before me below. It was so worth it!
After that it was time for a much need break, it was time for some tapas – patatas bravas (potatoes with a spicy dipping sauce), jamón serrano (cured ham), and queso de cabra con pan (goat cheese with bread) – a few of my favorites, along with a glass of tinto de verano had my stomach happy. One of our favorite things to do when traveling is do a food crawl, of sorts. Rather than sitting down for a single meal, we stop at a number of restaurants to share a couple of small plates. It’s a great way to try out numerous restaurants, and to see the area. It’s also convenient when you’re lost and need directions (which happened rarely with us – my buddy was a great navigator). Sevillians are resolutely proud of their cuisine. Don’t forget to start the day with a breakfast fit for a king: lightly toasted bread drenched in virgin olive oil, topped with juicy tomatoes and optional serrano ham at Sin Jamon. You must head to the Alameda de Hercules district where quality combines with decent prices, and eateries offer interesting diversions from the traditional tapas staples. You can’t go wrong with sibling tapas bars Duo Tapas and Sidonia on Calle Calatrava with stand out dishes being the tuna tartar, gorgonzola gnocchis and king prawn caprioles. If you want to go for a more romantic vibe, then Al Aljibe on the Alameda itself has a beautiful courtyard, perfect for stolen kisses over a crisp glass of wine. Bar Alfalfa, Albarama Ristorante Tapas, Blanca Paloma, La Piemontesa Pizzeria and Iguanas Ranas Centro also offer some delicious meals.
Later I went to visit the bullring which was a must see, since the bullfights are a form of entertainment in certain parts of Spain. Irrespective of animal welfare groups, bull fighting is still a traditional custom in Seville. The Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza, located along the river is one of the oldest bull fighting rings in Spain built in 1758.
Bull Fighting Ring
By now the sun had started set and it was the perfect time to visit the beautiful Parque de Maria Luisa. This park is a tranquil place to come and relax where gargantuan trees and an elaborate network of fountains provide the perfect respite from the often unbearable heat of summer. We meandered through the expansive park, snapping pictures and eating ice-cream. It was filled of families and couples enjoying the beautiful day and the park’s monuments, lily ponds, and exotic birds.
Pigeon feeding at Maria Luisa Park
Monuments inside Maria Luisa Park
We then headed to Plaza d’Espana. This is an impressive half circle with a huge fountain in the center in the Parque de Maria Luisa in Seville. Tourists can rent a gondala, for 30 minutes and imagine they are in Venice. We didn’t opt for this as I was quite happy zipping around on my segway.
The Metropol Parasol is also worth visiting when in Seville. At a cost of 90 million euros and 5 years to build, it houses the largest wooden structure in the world and is located in the centre of Seville, in Encarnacion square. You can go up at night when the parasol is lit up in a blue light, it’s gorgeous!
Finally, to finish off my day and further soak up the intense mix of cultural influences that make up modern day Seville, I visited the Casa de la Memoria to enjoy some top quality flamenco, performed by award winning young artists in an intimate 15th Century converted house. This surely was the highlight of my trip – a flamenco show. While the singer was a bit on the screechy side, the guitarist and dancer were extraordinary. Fascinated by this dance form I took a mini masterclass and learnt the basics of Flamenco! Indeed what a fun class it was. My teacher was full of energy and sheepishly flirted with all the pretty girls. This place however is not for a rowdy sangria-supping crowd (if you fall in that category then you’re best heading to the Carboneria in Santa Cruz) only go if you are ready to lose yourself completely (and soberly) in the intense, visceral passion of the art. Post the show and class there was no energy left in me at all. Exhaustion hit me as soon as I walked out, and I hopped into a taxi back to my hotel.
Flamenco Master Class
Seville is by one of the most stereotypical, historic and culturally rich Spanish city in southern Spain that I have visited. According to me it’s a fairytale city! Horse drawn carriages, palaces, cathedrals, traditional food, it has so much more to offer. Colorful, vibrant, alive! These are the three words that immediately pop into my head when I am thinking about Seville. It’s a city to lose yourself in and submit to its hypnotizing charm. But to do so you must leave behind your cool, urbane self and embrace the heart of the city, which are the orange tree-lined streets and shady plazas that pulse with life throughout the year until the early hours. You see ‘Sevillanos’ live in the streets, and I don’t mean in a ‘no fixed abode’ type way, but in a ‘why hang out inside pokey bars when you have a gigantic open space called the city to enjoy?’ So when in Seville, do as the Sevillanos do, promenade proudly along the river, grab yourself a cervecita (teeny tiny glass of beer) and see where the night takes you!
Until Next Time