As Spain's third largest city, Seville is a vibrant place rich with history. It was here that we really felt immersed in traditional Spain. While Barcelona has lots of history, it also had a strong Catalan feel, as did San Sebastian with its Basque roots. Seville, or Sevilla in Spanish, however is adamantly, thoroughly Spanish. Andalucia was one of the original kingdoms that became amalgamated into Spain and it is also known for bull fighting, sherry, saffron and being the birthplace of flamenco dancing.
While the weather was definitely summer-like in the previous cities we'd been in, Seville was another level. The weather while we were there was as close to 30 as it could get, if not more so, and this was fall weather! In summer I heard it can get as high as 40 degrees and then down to 4 in winter. Seville is dry and arid, but as you'll see, also very beautiful.
|Riverside cafe in Triana|
Again we opted with AirBnb for this one. While there are many nice hotels in Seville, I really liked the charm of staying in a local apartment. Ours was located in the historic Triana neighborhood and I can't recommend more staying here. Just across the river from downtown Seville and all the main tourist attractions, Triana is an attraction in and of itself. With its historic Spanish buildings, multitude of churches, charming cafes and cobblestoned alleys (this is not a city for heels!) Triana will immerse you into local life. Our apartment was right near the river so it was just a few steps to have our morning cafe con leche (latte) while enjoying the short-lived cool breezes of morning and the sounds of the river.
Another neighborhood worth staying in and exploring is the old Jewish Quarter, or Barrio Santa Cruz. Like Triana, this neighborhood is super lively with bars, cafes and shops all day and night long, and is very pedestrian-friendly.
Seville has an extensive metro and bus system, but we primarily got around by walking. There are also lots of cabs, but beware of cons! Our driver from the airport totally swindled us, despite there being a set fare from the airport to the city center. Always ask if your driver will take credit or debit, and what the fare will be beforehand. There are also stickers on the windows with dispute numbers, but I think the cab drivers realize you're a tourist and unlikely to bother trying to overcome the language barrier.
There are so many historic sights to see in Seville and we didn't even get through all that we had planned. We definitely want to visit again just to finish off our must-see list, but I think the ones we did see are the true "must-see" highlights.
The first, and my favourite of the trip after the Sagrada Familia, is the stunning Real Alcazar. As with much of Spain's south, it was ruled for centuries by the Muslim Moors and they left their mark on the architecture and culture of the city, most notably in this Spanish palace. The Real Alcazar is unique as it was commissioned by the Spanish kings to be built by Moorish architects with Moorish design, but mixed in with Catholic imagery and iconography.
The result is a sprawling complex of peaceful courtyards punctuated only by the gentle splashing of fountains, lush gardens populated with curious peacocks, and stunning halls capped with soaring arches inlaid with the most intricate calligraphy of sayings from the Qur'an amongst portraits of Spanish nobility. Needless to say, you definitely want to purchase the audio tour for this one! We easily spent most of a day here exploring and taking tons of photos.
The other must-see of Seville is right next door to the Real Alcazar and it is the Seville Cathedral. One of the largest cathedrals in Europe, this one really blew me away just thinking about the wealth and power the monarchy and the Church had back then over people and all of life. The cathedral is filled with altar after altar dedicated to various saints in beautifully wrought works of sculpture, paint and glass. Knowing absolutely nothing about Catholicism, I was so overwhelmed with just how opulent it all was. People back then must have cowered in awe and fear in the face of such obvious wealth, which I suppose was the point. How Game of Thrones-like!
After San Sebastian, it's hard to compare the food scene of Seville to that, but Seville has lots of delicious eats as well. I actually don't think we explored enough of Seville's food scene as we were only there two nights, but the glimpses we did get were awesome. While our previous 2 stops were all about seafood, Seville is an inland city, so we ate lots of pork and meaty dishes while we were there.
For sure the highlight of the trip foody-wise was our sherry and tapas tour c/o Azahar Sevilla Tours. Unbeknownst to us, true sherry wine can only be produced in Andalucia,similar to how champagne only comes from a certain region in France. Our tour took us to several different restaurants where we tried a few different sherries at each location, each specially paired with an accompanying dish. Previous to this tour, I vaguely associated sherry with dessert and while that's definitely true, it also tastes excellent with savoury dishes too. If you're a lightweight like I am, then you should know that sherry is stronger than your average wine!
Our guide was super knowledgeable and took us to the best spots for local eats. Highlights were this pringa sandwich, a local favourite, which consists of a soft, fresh bun stuffed with flavourful pork, and a delectable chocolate cake which I have no photo of as I ate it that fast! I wasn't a huge fan of the sherries as I found them a bit too strong and acidic for my palate, but I did appreciate how well they embellished the flavour of everything we ate and by the end I was quite buzzed! The tour itself was a bit pricey, but well worth it!
|From left: fried pork rinds, manchego cheese, Iberico ham, chorizo, Spanish omelette and cod with a tangy sauce on baguette (those are not eggs!)|
|Spanish omelette - breakfast of champions!|
Overall we were surprised by how much we loved Seville. It's a beautiful city full of life, history and culture. Despite its heat and aridness, it's also a city of absolute beauty. The river criss-crossed with bridges is so peaceful and the charming alleyways and hidden gardens really make you feel like you've travelled back in time.
- Bring a water bottle with you! Seville's heat can be stifling so water is a must
- Order "tinto verano" instead of sangria. It's pretty much the same thing, but cheaper and lighter
- Take siesta seriously. Sevillans are super night owls so things don't get lively until after midnight!
- Pork anything is delicious!
- If you're curious about bull fighting, but don't want to support this deadly "tradition" there are museums available that will tell you about its history without the disgusting reenactment
Next week is the final installment of my trip recap with our last Spanish destination: Granada!
Catchup on my previous trip recaps: