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Are you planning a long week-end in the capital of Andalucia ? Great choice 😉! I travelled to Seville in 2019 and this city blew my mind ! If you also want to discover the best of this mesmerizing place, read this article.
And if you’re planning to stay longer in Andalucia, make sure to stick until the end to find out what other treasures the region is hiding !
Table of contents
Day 1: the Alcazar, Seville Cathedral and Santa Cruz
June 2019. I desperately need a change of air and I just started leaning Spanish (other Germanists in the crowd ?). Several friends tell me about their holiday in a city somewhere in the South of Spain with stars in their eyes… I need no more than that to set sail for Seville, without really knowing what to expect.
After a very hectic night (our flight had a 7h delay… Oh how I love flying 🙃!), we reach the capital of Andalucia in the early hours. The neighborhood of our Airbnb is still asleep and the pinky light of dawn is barely piercing the darkness. We give ourselves some hours of sleep and hop ! Adventure’s calling 🏃♀️.
Free tour of the city
After strolling around to catch a first glimpse of the city’s atmosphere, we kick things off with a free guided tour from the company Sandeman’s New Europe. For the record, I had just started working for them in Paris and I obviously couldn’t wait to try their tours in other cities ! I might be biased, but I do highly recommand these tours !! That visit took 2h30 and covered the must-see spots of the old town. It was a great way to get a first sneak peek of the city’s history – although we decided to go back to some spots on our own to further explore them. All the details of the tour are available here.
The Real Alcazar and its gardens
It is no surprise that we started our solo visits with THE landmark of Seville : the Real Alcazar. Visiting in the Alcazar is basically like jumping back 1000 years from now in Mediterranean history. The influence from the Arab Period is pretty obvious in the architecture (al-qasr means « palace » in Arabic), but you’ll also notice some touches of Renaissance and Baroque. Did you know that the Alcazar is one of the oldest palaces still used in Europe ? Yep, when King Felipe V of Spain comes down to Seville, this is his « humble » residence !
The Gardens of the Alcazar are a true oasis of calm. Peacocks are wandering around, proudly showing off their feathers, under the shades of hibiscus trees, alleys of palmtrees lead visitors to prodigious fountains…
I highly recommend you book online tickets for the Alcazar ! During high season, the line never ends and it’s not so funny when it’s 36°C outside – trust me, we’ve been there !
The Plaza del Triunfo and Seville Cathedral
Still blown away by what we just saw at the Alcazar, we make our way to the Plaza del Triunfo, located right next to it. The majesty of the historical buildings around us and the cute carriages take us to another era. It’s simply monumental. From there, make sure not to miss the second landmark of the city : Seville Cathedral (biggest gothic cathedral in the world !!) and its famous Giralda, the old minaret* / current bellfry. We were content with the guide’s stories, but if you want to visit the inside of the cathedral, then again I recommand getting a ticket in advance.
*FYI minarets are the praying towers used in Islam.
The district of Santa Cruz
If I had to pick one place that stole my heart in Seville, I’d go for Santa Cruz (probably not very original !). First, the district has a history full of twists and turns. It has been a merchant town during the muslim period, a jewish ghetto in the Middle-Ages (hence the nickname « la Juderia« ), an aristocratic district in the 16th century… if those walls could talk, what unspeakable secrets would they share !
Although we walked past the district in the morning with the Sandeman’s tour, we couldn’t help going back once (or twice !) to enjoy its andalucian sweetness of life. Lazing around the tiny plaza, getting lost in the maze of winding streets full of colors… Simply put, Santa Cruz is the door to Seville’s soul !
Day 2: the Plaza de España and the Parc Maria Luisa
Plaza de España
Let’s be frank: that first day was intense, especially since we almost didn’t sleep a wink the night before… so we decided to be a bit more reasonable on the second day ! After a good breakfast, we make our way to the famous, the unmissable Plaza de España.
When you think of Seville, this image might come to your mind. This majestic plaza was built for the Ibero-American exposition of 1929 (it’s not that old !). I could spend hours marvelling at each detail of the palace’s architecture, the bridges and the arcades under which flamenco dancers are hiding… The canals and their pretty gondolas add a romantic touch to this picturesque setting. You’d almost feel like in a mini Venice « à la Spanish » !
Maria Luisa Park
Finished with the visit of the Plaza de España ? Don’t go that soon ! The nearby, gorgeous Maria Luisa Park waits for you. The green lung of the city turned out to be one of the most beautiful parks I’ve seen in my travels. Here, time freezes and the fatigue of the journey vanishes. The bucolic atmosphere of the place put a spell on us. Whoever loves plants as much as I do will be on cloud 9 : cascade of bougainvilleas, palmtrees reaching to the skies, orange trees bending under the weight of the fruits… that park gathers everything that the Mediterranean has best to offer 🌸
We follow up with a late lunch… before ending the day in « our » beloved district – you guess it – Santa Cruz ! On that topic : if this is your first time in Spain, your stomac will have to get on the local schedule ! Nope, la siesta isn’t a myth and yes, shop and restaurants do close in the afternoon (not surprising given the fact that temperatures approach 40°C in summer…). Do not risk having a too late lunch or too early dinner, or you’ll end up in front of a closed door ! Talking about that…
Where can you eat good tapas in Seville ?
If you don’t have any clue where to find good tapas bars and you want to avoid tourist traps, here’s some inspiration.
Day 3: las Setas, Triana and the Guadalquivir
Las setas (el metropol parasol)
Who fancies taking the height ? This morning, we head for « Metropol Parasol« , also known as « las Setas » – translation: the mushrooms, because of its shape ! This strange wooden structure (that you can spot on the left side of the picture) offers an amazing panoramic view of the city. Note that there’s an entry fee (3€). For those thinking that las Setas’ modernity doesn’t fit with the architecture of the old town… I’d say that at first, I was indeed a bit surprised, confused, but with some distance I did find it beautiful witnessing different periods of time coexisting in mutual respect.
The district of Triana + flamenco show
Melancoly starts to settle in as the journey comes closer to an end. One thing’s for sure : we must finish it in style ! That’s why we decide to book another tour with Sandeman’s (I swear I’m not getting paid to promote them 😅). The thing’s called « Tapas tour and flamenco show » – pretty self-explanatory. It is unfortunately not offered anymore on the website because of covid… But no worries, you don’t actually need to book a tour to do the activities I’ll mention.
The adorable local guide leads us to several tapas bars and shares with us her passion for andalucian culture between drinks of rebujito (local cocktail made of wine and soda). It’s a super chilled atmosphere and as more glasses are emptied, the shy cordiality turns into a good old camaraderie between the different people in the group :).
The district where we are is another must-see spot: Triana. Located on the river bank, it is the actual incarnation of Sevillian culture and the birthplace of flamenco. Gypsies, who lived here for many years, fought fiercely to keep their traditions alive. What results from it today is a magical atmosphere, both bohemian and popular, and streets where historical monuments rub shoulders with flamenco venues. I fell in love with that place.
If you go to Triana for drinks (tested and approved !!), you’ll find many tapas bars in the calle Alfarería and calle Castilla or calle Betis along the river. If you’re there during daytime, don’t miss the Triana market and Castillo de San Jorge.
With a full belly and a good mood, we make our way to the ultimate stop of our trip : the flamenco venue. The place is small, intimate. Spectators are so close to the stage that we already feel like we’re part of the show. The lights go low, the artists come on stage. And here comes the apotheosis. Dancing has always fascinated me, but this show in particular took me away. The dancers are in total communion with both the musicians and the public, who throw some « olé« and clap their hands in rythm (in flamenco, it’s called doing the palmas). Their gesture inspires at times the swan’s grace, at others the horse’s robustness. Their faces show expressions of intense concentration, almost trance-like. You really understand it’s more than a dance : it’s an actual storytelling of gypsy culture.
I wasn’t able to take any pictures, but just for your viewing pleasure, here’s a beautiful image this dancer kindly let me use 💜
If you’d like to attend this show, go to la Flamenqueria (it’s also a dance school).
The banks of the Guadalquivir
We leave the Flamenqueria with stars in our eyes and walk towards the banks of the Guadalquivir river, where locals start to gather to enjoy the long-awaited coolness of the evening. « Guadalquivir »… the only sound of that name transports me to faraway places ✨. Not surprising, when you know that the word has arabic roots.
I highly recommend you take a stroll along the river in the evening ! The skies igniting above the city full of life will leave you speechless.
Where to stay in Seville ?
As usual, we chose to stay in an Airbnb during our trip. The listing isn’t on the website anymore, but here are some interesting alternatives :
- Highly-rated Airbnb located just in front the Seville Cathedral
- Great loft in the heart of Triana
- For those who can afford it (aka not me 😂): this great hotel – more high-end
How to get around in Seville ?
If you know me well, you know what’s about to follow… Yes, I did all visits on foot ! I love walking when I’m travelling and quite honestly, Seville’s historical center is best done on foot. If your accomodation is a bit off-center like ours, pack a good pair of shoes !
There’s only one subway line in Seville, but it can be a super useful means of transportation to travel far quickly ! One subway ticket costs about 1,35€.
Bus is also a good means of getting around the city. The network’s pretty well developped and it doesn’t cost much. Buy your card in a tobacco shop (1,50€) and recredit it later when you need to.
From the airport
The easiest is to take a bus (6€ roundtrip). Tickets are sold directly in the bus. If you have a lot of luggage, you can also grab a taxi (about 25€ for a 15 min ride).
How long to stay… and what to see around Seville ?
I’m well aware of it : 3 days aren’t enough to discover all the mysteries hiding in this enchanting city ! I loved it so much I would have stayed over a week… If you’re really interested in andalucian culture and history, 5 days seem reasonable. You could also stop in Seville during a tour of Andalucia. In that case, here are some other gems you don’t want to miss :
And its Great Mosque
And its incredible Alhambra
The oldest city in Western Europe !
And its sunny beaches
If you’ve also been to Seville, or if you’d just like to react to this article, please leave a comment ! It always makes me happy to hear your feedback 🥰
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