June of this year was a busy one, travel wise, for us. While Alex and my brother were in Northern France / Belgium / the Netherlands watching football, my sister (who was visiting from New Zealand) and I headed south to soak up the sun in Seville for five days. Seville has been very high on my list of ‘must-visit’ places ever since our first Europe road trip and we were unfortunately not able to make it there. My little sister was on a whirlwind trip from New Zealand – her first to Europe, and since the majority of her trip would be taken up by visiting London and Southern France, I wanted to take her somewhere that was completely different to those. Spain, to me, always feels like you are very far away from home (it is on the complete opposite side of the world to New Zealand after all), but more because the pace of life, temperature, architecture, culture, and food are all very different to what you are used to. It is one of my favourite places in Europe.
Seville is a great place to visit to pack in a lot of different experiences – flamenco, large cathedrals, royal palaces, beautiful parks, bull fighting, tapas, the list goes on. I would also recommend it as a great place to start a trip around Andalusia. It is one of the main airports in Southern Spain which you can fly direct to from London. From here it is easy to reach a number of amazing places – Cordoba, Granada, Cadiz, and Ronda (the later we chose to visit while on this trip). You will definitely not get bored in Seville.
The Reales Alcázares de Sevilla or Royal Alcazar of Seville is a large Moorish palace in the heart of the city dating back to the 11th century. The complex is huge – I would highly recommend googling where the entrance to the Alcazar is rather than looking at your tourist map for the location as we ended up walking around the entire Alcazar in search of the entrance which took at least half an hour. The Alcazar is well worth the €9.50 entrance fee as there is so much to see. Every time you round another corner you see something else equally, if not more, beautiful than the last. Inside, you will see stunning Moorish architecture, fountains, enclosed courtyards, manicured gardens, intricate carving and tile work.
Catedral de Santa María de la Sede is the second largest church in Europe, after St Peters Basilica, therefore, it is unsurprisingly a dominant feature in the heart of Seville. We had to queue up to buy tickets, but in the middle of the day waited no longer than 20 minutes. The Cathedral has a number of famous features, most notorious being the tomb of Cristóbal Colón (Christopher Columbus). Now I assumed since he was buried in Seville, he was Spanish – not the case. He was Italian but his voyages to the New World received backing from the Spanish Crown. The other feature that dominates the Cathedral is the gilded altarpiece – the largest in the world. It is said that the Cathedral was built to demonstrate the cities wealth with the aim to make those who saw the finished cathedral to think they were mad.
The Cathedral is great to explore as many of the antechambers are open for the public to explore. There are no clear signs pointing you to visit them so it feels as though you are exploring a secret part of the Cathedral.
For those who are up for a bit of exercise, you are also able to climb the Giralda or bell tower. As you would expect, the bell tower offers spectacular, sweeping views over Seville once at the top, but it also has small windows the whole way up which give an interesting perspective of the cathedral from different angles as you ascend.
The Bullring, or Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla, was not a place that we sought out to visit while in Seville. On our first day there, we decided to go for a bit of a stroll once we had dropped our bags at the hotel. We randomly came across the Bullring, poked our heads inside and saw that the English tour was starting in 5 minutes, so decided to go along. I am really glad we decided to go on the tour. I do not agree with it at all, but it was very interesting to hear about it from the perspective of someone who really respected and appreciated the sport and traditions that go along with it.
Plaza de España
A relatively new (1920s) addition to the city situated in the Parque de María Luisa, is probably one of the more famous views of Seville. This is well worth a visit, even if it is just to take a few photos. We didn’t have much time here as we went in the evening on the way to flamenco and we had underestimated how long it would take us to walk there so were kind of rushing.
Andalusia is famous for flamenco. I had already seen an amazing performance when I was in Cordoba two years ago, but was very keen to take my sister along to experience it too. My brother had recently been to Seville and gave us a great recommendation for a flamenco bar with very traditional flamenco. La Carboneria is set in an old garage in the middle of nowhere (it seemed like), is free, and sells cheap sangria and snacks. On the night we went, the performance we had consisted of two guys playing guitar, two guys clapping and singing, then one guy dancing along to the music. It was such an electric atmosphere, I would highly recommend this. If you don’t feel like going to a specific show, there are a number of flamenco performers on the street around the main areas which you can sit and watch.
Otherwise known as the Mushrooms, this controversial piece of modern architecture in the middle of Seville is a strange one. It only costs a couple of Euros to visit, you get some cool views over the centre of Seville, and you get a free drink when you get to the top. On the day we visited, there was a political rally going on below, so we had a birds eye view of all the speeches, not that we had any idea what they were saying. There was a lot of cheering so they must have been saying something good.
Seville is one place in the world that you will never leave hungry. The food is fantastic, particularly if you are a fan of tapas and don’t like to spend much money. For example, my sister and I had a picnic where we picked all of the ingredients up from the supermarket and bought red wine, bread stick, cherry tomatoes, chorizo slices, jamon slices, cheese and chocolate, all for €8!
One of the highlights of the tapas we tried was the Gazpacho (cold tomato soup). I can’t find the restaurant we had this at, but it was just hidden in one of the tiny back streets in the city centre somewhere. Basically all of the tapas places we ate at were little places we stumbled across when walking down random side streets, of which there are plenty.
A speciality in Seville is the strawberry gin, something that I would never had tried by just picking it off the menu – however, it was delicious! Looked extremely interesting when presented with slices of strawberry in the glass.
Each morning we would head to one of the local bars/cafes (seem to be the same thing) for breakfast of tostada con tomate y aceite (toast with blended tomato and olive oil), orange juice and coffee. This was a great way to start the day and again, was incredibly cheap.
Travel outside Seville
The next blog will be about our day trip from Seville to Ronda, an amazing, clifftop town.
Until next time,