The view from here
"The Spanish call it "The Queen of cities" and claim that it is Spain's most beautiful one. I think I have to agree. I dare you to go and experience it for yourself and once you get there, here is what you can't miss doing!"
Almost 10 years ago now I lived in Seville, in the south of Spain, for one year, as a semester abroad during my Bachelor degree. Every time I think back on that time, it seems like I left only yesterday.
Seville is one of those places that stick with you. I know that it is extra special to me because I could call it home for 12 months, but almost everyone I talk to, that has ever been there before, tends to agree. Seville casts some sort of magical spell on you and it's almost impossible to shake off.
The Spanish call it "The Queen of cities" and claim that it is Spain's most beautiful one. I think I have to agree.
Everything about Seville is beautiful and kind of magical; "Santa Maria de la Sede", the majestic, historical church that towers over the city, the wide promenade that takes you through the city centre, the small historical alleyways that take you past traditional tapas bars, flamenco taverns and local backyards, the smell of orange trees in spring, the shores of the Guadalquivir river, the mystical parks that are dotted all around the city centre… all this gives Seville that special Spanish flair, the feeling that this city is alive in its own right.
I dare you to go and experience it for yourself and once you get there, here is what you can't miss doing!
1) Visit "Santa Maria de la Sede" and the “Giralda Tower”.
The majestic church right in the city centre was built in the 15th century and is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. It holds the remains of Christopher Columbus. The church is almost as beautiful from the inside as it is from the outside and is one of Seville's main attractions. It's ideal to visit during the day but if you get a chance to stroll past after sunset, make sure you do. There are plenty of lights installed around the cathedral that dip it into a beautiful light which creates a very special feel at night time. If you want to get a good view of the city, you should climb up the 70m high “Giralda Tower”. The top of the bell tower offers an incredible view over the Alcazar Palace, the Archives of the Indies and the stunning orange trees in the courtyard of the Cathedral.
2) Take a stroll through the "Plaza Espana" and the "Parque de Maria Luisa".
The Plaza Espana is a square in the middle of Seville's main park, the "Parque de Maria Luisa", and was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition. It is a beautiful landmark within the gorgeous park gardens. You can explore the park for hours by foot, rent a horse and carriage to take you through it the traditional way or take a blanket and a book and lie down somewhere and soak up the incredible atmosphere. It's an oasis in the middle of the city centre and a popular place for both locals and tourists. The park is especially popular during the daily "Siesta". Make sure you take a look and explore it for yourself :)
3) The king's palace "Los Reales Alcazares" is one of the most impressive buildings the city has to offer (apart from the cathedral).
The king's palace was built in the year 913 and has been the home of many monarchs throughout the past centuries. Juan Carlos still returns there every time he comes to Seville for a visit. The rooms, halls and patios of the palace all have different architectural styles as various monarchs have added extra rooms to the palace over the centuries. The beautiful gardens and fountains are also worth a visit and perfect to use as a little resting spot during your excursion through the city. There are four gardens in total, “The English Gardens”, “The Garden of the Poets”, “The Garden of Vega Inclan” and “The Garden of the Reservoir”. All of them are inspired by different eras and feature unique designs but are all equally as beautiful.
4) Explore the “Archive of the Indies” which was built with the purpose of collecting all documents referring to the discovery and the colonisation of America.
Get lost discovering countless documents of Spain’s history between the 15th and 19th century and enjoy marvelling at the Renaissance Architecture of the building. In total, the archive contains over 43,000 documents, with more than 80 million pages of original papers, including documents signed by Christopher Columbus himself. Looking through the archives makes you feel like you are one of the great explorers yourself.
5) Visit the incredible "Metropol Parasol" which is the biggest wooden construction in the world with an approximate height of 26 meters.
It’s located at “La Encarnacion Square” in the old quarter of Seville and was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer. The Spanish call it “Las Setas de la Encarnacion” (“incarnation’s mushrooms”) but the design of the six parasols was originally inspired by the vaults of Seville’s Cathedral and the ficus tree in the famous Plaza de Cristo de Burgos. Definitely worth a look!
6) Have some “almuerzo” (lunch) or “cena” (dinner) in one of the traditional tapas bars dotted along the river "Guadalquivir" or wander through the narrow streets around the Cathedral to find your favourite one.
Spain is famous for its Tapas and once you’ve tried them for yourself you know why. The variety is absolutely endless. Every Tapas bar offers a slightly different variation and they all have a special one that you most likely won’t be able to find in any other Tapas bar. You could spend months trying out one after the other and still won’t feel like you’ve seen or tasted them all. My personal favourite was “El Rinconcillo” which is the oldest Tapas Bar in Seville. It is very popular and usually quite busy but definitely worth trying. Make sure you also sample some of the famous “jamon serrano” that’s hanging above the countertops of almost every bar. The famous ham is a delicacy and incredibly tasty.
7) Treat yourself to a dessert at "La Campana", Seville’s most famous bakery and cafe.
It was established in 1885 and has been serving its delicious treats ever since. Don’t miss out on trying some of Spain’s famous “yema” (soft, crumbly biscuit cake that’s wrapped like a toffee) or the popular custard cake, “nata” that the locals enjoy as one of their favourite desserts. Don’t be put off in case you arrive at a popular time. Even if there is a queue, you are usually served pretty quickly and definitely won’t regret waiting around, promise!! ;)
8) Go on a night out in the "Barrio Santa Cruz" to experience some traditional Sevillian nightlife.
Barrio Santa Cruz is the former Jewish quarter of Seville. It is a labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys and full of little plazas and squares that offer plenty of opportunity to relax with a bottle or two of some delicious Spanish Sangria. There are also plenty of traditional Spanish bars and nightclubs to explore. Keep in mind that the Spanish don’t tend to go out until well after midnight! If you are worried about falling asleep early, do it like the Spanish and have a proper nap during the daytime - “Siesta” to make sure you are well rested and ready to dance through the night with the locals.
9) Experience some real “Flamenco” dancing.
The famous Spanish dance originated in the south of Spain and is incredibly entertaining to watch. It’s hard to resist getting involved and try it for yourself. Walking through the streets of Seville at night, you’ll see the traditional dance being practiced in bars all around town. I always enjoyed it most to stumble upon a random one and watch the locals in their element rather than booking one of the common tourist “Flamenco shows” but either one is incredible to watch so make sure you experience one or the other while being in Seville.
10) Visit Seville during one of the city’s main holidays.
“La Semana Santa” for example, the “holy week” takes place in the week before Easter. It is one of the most important religious events in Spain and is celebrated with lots of church services and parades in every city. Another great event to witness is “La Feria de Abril”, the “fair of April”, which is one of Seville’s biggest annual events. For a total of 6 days, the fairgrounds in the city and a large area along the banks of the Guadalquivir River are covered with marquee tents. Most of these tents belong to famous families living in Seville as well as clubs, trade associations etc. Throughout the day, there are lots of different parades and plenty of eating, drinking and dancing. People generally celebrate from the early morning hours until late at night. If you are planning to come to Seville in April, try to catch both events if possible to experience it all. Just keep in mind that you will have to book your flights and accommodation well in advance as most people will be aiming to witness either one of these two popular events.
I really hope that Seville will make it onto your bucket lists. You have to go and see it for yourself in all its beauty. And when you go, do it like the Spanish - live in the moment, don’t worry about the future, enjoy every day like it’s your last and let Seville sweep you off your feet, take you on a journey and enchant you with all it has to offer.
Author - Natalie Gruner
Nat is one of the co-creators of Travelher and loves travel, family and all things beach. She is currently working in NZ and getting away for an adventure as often as she can.