I didn’t expect to love Spain. I didn’t study Spanish in high school (I took German instead), and I’ve always been more interested in other areas of Europe. After visiting Lisbon and Lagos in Portugal, Seville, Spain was just the logical next destination from a geographical standpoint. But like so many places and experiences on this trip, Seville surprised me.
According to the Rick Steves podcast I heard during my bus ride from Lagos, the Andalusia region of Spain, which includes Seville and Granada, is really the “quintessential” Spain most Americans are familiar with. Traditions such as flamenco dancing, bullfighting, afternoon siestas and pre-dinner tapas with sangria are a regular part of life in the region, not just shows put on for tourists.
When I arrived in Seville and began to explore the city, was truly enchanted by the beautiful Spanish architecture, the music and flamenco dancers, the history and, of course, the sangria. Seville, I will certainly see you again!
Here’s a quick photo tour of my few days in Seville.
Shortly after checking into Hostel One Centro in Seville, I set out for Alameda de Hercules on the recommendation of the hostel staff. He described it as a local, non-touristy promenade lined by shops and cafes. It was just as he had described, and the sidewalk cafes were filled with locals enjoying afternoon drinks and tapas. I found a table at a promising-looking vegetarian cafe and ordered a glass of sangria. Then another. And then two absolutely delicious vegetarian tapas. Two cups of olives were on the house. Score!
On my second day, I participated in fascinating free walking tour led by a sweet and energetic Italian art student who loves the city. Sara introduced us to several beautiful sites, including the Plaza de Espana, which was my favorite attraction in Seville. It’s truly amazing. A couple of scenes from Star Wars Episode II was filmed here…do you recognize the planet Naboo?
I also enjoyed touring the Real Alcazar Palace and its extensive gardens. The Spanish palaces are absolutely amazing, with the intricate plaster work and colorful tiles.
The historic Hotel Alphonso XIII has housed high-class visitors, including Madonna and various dignitaries, since 1929. I tried to be inconspicuous as I admired the beautiful lobby area and checked out the onsite museum, which features bullfighting trophies and historic photos.
I climbed to the top of the Giralda Tower, which is adjacent to Seville Cathedral, for beautiful views of the city. The tower was originally constructed as a minaret to call the predominantly Muslim population to prayer, but was converted to a bell tower when the city was taken by Catholics in 1248.
If you travel in Europe, you’ll find ancient cathedrals around every corner. But Seville Cathedral was truly spectacular – and huge. In fact, it’s the world’s largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world. I’m not a big fan of paying for admission to churches, but this one was worth the fee!
The highlight of this spectacular church for me was Christopher Columbus’s tomb. Absolutely amazing.
I also enjoyed touring the beautiful Casa de Pilatos. The architecture was lovely and admission included an audio guide for the bottom floor and a guided tour on the top floor.
While visiting Seville, I purchased a one-day SevillaCard, which included admission to several museums as well as a double-decker bus pass and a river cruise. It was a nice change of pace to sit down and enjoy the slow progression down the river instead of running around the city all day. It was just my luck that a field trip of about 75 chatty second graders arrived to enjoy the cruise as well. The views were lovely anyway!
In every city I visit, I try to set aside time to wander. It was a treat to explore the architectural sights on the streets of Seville!
A highlight of my visit to Seville was an hour-long flamenco show put on by a group of young musicians. The music, singing, dancing and costumes are captivating on their own, but it is the passion and emotion behind the performance that makes it truly moving.
Children in Andalusia begin flamenco lessons at a very young age. I was lucky enough to observe part of a flamenco dance class for a group of girls who appeared to be about 10 years old while visiting Seville’s flamenco museum.
Costumes like these are a common sight in Seville shop windows.
A monument honoring Queen Isabel and King Carlos V.
Even though I don’t speak Spanish, I felt welcome and at home in Seville. If you have a the chance, I would highly recommend a visit to this beautiful city!