Plaza de España
Seville is the capital of Andalusia in Southern Spain. You know that typical image of Spanish culture with the flamenco dancers dressed in polka dot dresses, and men in tight pants bullfighting? That all comes from Andalusia. A city that has seen Roman emperors and Muslim rulers, and then finally after 700 years of Muslim rule, the inquisition started by the Catholic church, brings us to the Catholic ruled country we see today. Not to say everyone in Spain is Catholic or their government is Catholic, to be honest, most Spaniards are secular, but it is undeniable that the Spanish culture has been influenced strongly by both Muslim and Catholic aspects.
I know, I am so sorry to get political and religious so quickly, but to truly understand the architecture and the language that make Seville as beautiful and breathtaking as it is, you have to understand the different religious influences it has undertaken.
The Big Sites
So here are a few of the must sees of the city. Honestly, this can all be done in one day because they are conveniently situated within walking distance, or a short bus ride, away from each other. My personal recommendation is to break them up over a few days, so you can do some of the local things and get away from the tourists for a bit.
The Cathedral: You cannot miss this cathedral. It is one of the biggest Gothic Cathedral still standing today, and it is absolutely stunning (this is what I was talking about when I said breathtaking). To be 100% honest, this is somewhere you can cut back on spending. If you are traveling around Europe, I am more than sure you have seen your fair share of cathedrals. The cathedral in Seville is so much more beautiful on the outside than it could ever be on the inside. If you have to cut something out of your visit in Seville, I would suggest this one. Just enjoy the view from the outside.
La Giralda: This is the giant tower you will see attached to the cathedral. A lot of people just assume they are connected and part of the same building-but they are not. Dating back to the 12th century, this tower was originally part of a mosque which stood where the cathedral is now. (see what I mean? the Muslim history is literally up against the newer, Catholic history) Tourists are allowed to climb up the tower for a stunning view of the city, but I have a better idea for you that I will mention below.
The Alcázar: Now this one I can’t say no to. The Alcázar, once also a Moorish palace, is now the home for the King of Spain when he comes to visit Andalusia. The detail in the buildings are out of this world, and the grounds are covered in gardens and fountains. It is also featured in a few scenes from Game of Thrones. Did I also mention there are peacocks that wander the premises? Who can honestly say no to that?
Plaza de España: Built in 1929, making it a far newer edition than some of the other popular sites, but nonetheless beautiful. Sitting only slightly outside the city center, this is an amazing place to visit when you need time to stop for a bit. It is surrounded by the gorgeous María Luisa Park, where I have spent more than a few afters wandering around admiring hidden sculptures, feeding ducks at the pond, and reading in shaded alcoves. I especially recommend Plaza de las américas-and not just because I come from one of the Americas. The buildings in this area are stunning and unique. It’s one of the more open areas of the park, and lends itself perfectly for an afternoon stroll.
Metropol Parasol: Locally known as Las Setas, or the mushrooms, this is the most modern piece of architecture you will find in Seville. Brand new, and not something I would say you have to see, except at sunset! Remember a little while up when I said you could climb La Girlada, but there was something better? This is it. For all of 3 euros, you get to walk on top of the mushrooms and have an amazing view of the sunset over The Cathedral and La Giralda. Not to mention, the ticket also gets you a free postcard and drink once you get down, so it really pays for itself.
La Alameda: Where the Locals Hang Out
When you are ready to let your hair down and get away from the touristy stuff, you have to head over to La Alameda. Officially called La Alameda de Hercúles, because of the four large columns that mark the two entrances dating back to Roman times, this is an area bursting with life. The perfect place to go when you need to sit in the sun, with a caña in hand, and people watch. If you don’t know much about Spanish people, you will quickly learn that they are a social group. Whether it is Tuesday at 1pm or Friday night at 2am, this place is bustling with people from 1-99. My favorite place to go for breakfast/brunch is called La Piola. It sits at the top of the long stretch of bars, cafes, and restaurants, allowing me an amazing seat in the sun to people watch for hours. Most restaurants will offer a breakfast special where you can order a giant piece of bread, slathered with whatever you want on it (I always put the traditional tomato and olive oil on mine) plus a coffee, and it all came out to less than 2 euros. During the day, this is a popular location for art exhibits and different markets. As for night time, there are endless possibilities in the Alameda area. My friends and I always ended up at Fun Club, because we were looking for more alternative music, but there will be a club for any type of music, you just have to ask around. Another tip: don’t call it a club. A club in Spanish is where you can find prostitutes-you want a discoteca if you’re looking to dance. And if you’re not into dancing, that’s not a problem! Bars will stay open until at least 2am, and the city is covered in bars full of character. And when you are sick of that, join any of the groups sprawled out in the middle playing music and drinking from their bottelíns (the Andalusian way of drinking in the streets even though it is not technically legal). Most hostels will tell you to go to the Alfalfa area. Also full of bars, but even more so full of backpackers and Erasmus students. So if that is the crowd you are looking for, ask for Alfalfa, but if you are after a more local area, you want La Alameda.
This has been an incredibly quick overview of the major things to do in Seville. If you only have a 2-3 days, like most people passing through, you will undoubtably see some of the things aforementioned, but more important than all of those, you have to walk around. I cannot stress the importance of taking a few hours to discover the small, labyrinth like streets full of beautiful architecture, hidden gardens, and people laughing and talking to their neighbors. The sevillanos are a truly passionate people, and if you take anything away from Seville, it should be some good tapas and some swollen feet.
In my 5 months there I fell in love with the culture, the food, and more than anything else, the people, and I hope through this blog, and the inevitable blogs that will come after it, that you can make your way there and fall in love with it as well.