So, we spent far more time in Seville than I’m guessing most tourists do (about two weeks). And, we weren’t bored for even one second. So, what should you do?
Well, let me start with the most important thing. First, you need to book a room about a mile or so outside of the main tourist area. Better still, make it a third floor walk-up. Trust me on this. You are going to be eating a lot. You will need to walk a lot too unless you want to gain 10 pounds. More on that in a later post. Anyway, check out the Macarena neighborhood — lots of bars, restaurants, groceries, and locals. It was the perfect place for us and it meant most days we walked a minimum of four miles.
Now, on to the next most important thing. No, it is not visiting the cathedral. It might be interesting, but we couldn’t be bothered to drag our heathen butts inside so we wouldn’t know. And, it isn’t a free walking tour — we did that and were bored and did far more standing than walking. And, it is not the Alcazar (but more on that later). Instead, on your first day in town book yourself a tapas tour with Azahar tours. Shawn (the host) is a wealth of information and will introduce you to some amazing restaurants and some out of this world tapas, plus she will give you some solid advice on how to order and where to eat tapas. Trust me, if you’ve never been to Spain before (and probably even if you have) this is the FIRST thing you should do in town. Although Shawn will also try to get you to have a bit of a sherry habit…. Robert tried the sherries but, thankfully, didn’t develop the habit.
After that, our advice is to walk everywhere. The city is beautiful. Old, narrow, cobblestone streets lined with colorful buildings (think white, pink, blue, green, and yellow) make for picture perfect views. Good luck getting a decent photo of the narrow streets though, as light is at a premium — generally, you will find that the tops of the buildings are lit while the bottom of the buildings are in the shade.
Walk to and around the Alcazar and its gardens, a UNESCO world heritage site. The Alcazar is a royal palace and is still used by the royal family of Spain as their official residence in Seville. The building and the gardens are absolutely stunning. It was also the filming location for the Kingdom of Dorne in Game of Thrones, which totally made me geek out. (Come on, Lady Olenna Tyrell was one of the best GoT characters, right after Lyanna Mormont. Don’t even try to disagree with me on that one.) The crowds, however, are not so stunning (plan for a glass or two of wine afterwards to wash away all the irritation caused by the massive crowds, many of which are breaking all the rules to get the perfect Instagram shot). In spite of the insane crowds, seeing the Alcazar should be on your “must do” list when visiting Seville. Make sure you buy tickets in advance or be prepared to stand in a very long line.
Get lost in Barrio Santa Cruz. This neighborhood used to be the Jewish quarter long ago and far away, although pretty much all remnants of Judaism have been wiped out and the remaining synagogues have been turned into churches. The streets are narrow and winding. Most of them are too narrow for cars so you won’t have to contend with traffic. You will get lost and you won’t mind even one bit. If you have a few extra minutes, you can tour the Centro de Interpretacion Juderia de Sevilla and learn about the very sad history of the Jewish population in Seville and how they were pretty much wiped out (or forced to convert and then killed) during the Spanish inquisition. The museum is very small (and, I think, overpriced for what it is), but it was quite interesting.
Then, get lost in Triana. Triana is on the other side of the river and is a bit less busy than Seville. The highlight is the market, which is stunning. You can also visit the museum of the inquisition in the ruins of the Castillo de San Jorge. It is very small, but it is free, and we found it interesting to learn about some of the people killed in the inquisition. Walk away from Seville and the river and you, like us, might even find a bar where none of the staff speak English, there are no other tourists, football (a/k/a soccer) is playing on the tv and the prices are Northern Wisconsin style.
Don’t forget to walk over to the Plaza de Espana. Built for the Ibero-American Exhibition of 1929, it is stunning. Although it is a real shame they added canal boats like you see in Venice. And, watch out for the horse poop! (There are horse drawn carriages everywhere. They have bags for the poop, but the horses don’t always hit the bag….).
Next, walk through Maria Luisa Park. Based on the signs, there are lots of birds in the park, although we mainly saw pigeons. But, it is a nice place to walk with beautiful buildings. And, while you are there, be sure to stop into the archeology museum. Again, it is small, with very little signage in English, but it is cheap and some of the Roman artifacts are pretty cool.
As you continue your wanderings (no, you can’t see all this in one day), make sure to walk past Las Setas, otherwise known as the mushrooms. Cool, right? You can pay to go up to the top of Las Setas, but we didn’t do so.
If you want to do more sightseeing, check out the Archive of the Indies. The building is beautiful and there was an interesting exhibit about Magellan when we were there.
And, make sure to have a drink on the Alameda de Hercules. The street is lined with bars and cafes and it is a perfect place to kick back and relax.
Seville is a wonderful city. If you ever have the chance to visit, take it!