Seville – A Charming Southern Spain Must See City
If you want a combination of rich history, a slower pace, relaxing environment and super friendly people, then the Seville (Sevilla in Spanish) and Southern Spain is for you. I thoroughly loved Seville and I knew before even touching foot in the city that I was going to love it. This is a place that can’t be missed if you are visiting Spain.
Get ready for less crowds, very warm (really hot) weather, quieter days and lively and energizing nights. Mainly due to the heat, the town almost comes to a halt about 2pm when most of the shops and some of the restaurants close for the afternoon. The shops open up again at about 5pm, but the buzz really starts to come back into the city about 7pm and goes on until midnight (or more). I visited Seville in early June but the weather was already heating up to almost 100 degrees (40c). I think the weather drives a lot of the pace of the city and it was a pace that I definitely liked.
While tourism is the main economic driver of the city, you are not overwhelmed by massive crowds and souvenir shops. You feel a bit more like a local when visiting Seville. Just like the weather, you will find the people of Seville warm, inviting and friendly. If you are planning on visiting the city, I suggest spending 3 – 5 days in Seville. While rich in history, the city is not that big, so you will run out of new things to see and do after 4 -5 days in Seville. There are a number of great day trips from Seville including the amazing and must see Alhambra. If you do this trip from Seville as I did, make sure you add a day to your Seville itinerary (4 – 5 day stay would be best). I would also suggest avoiding visiting Seville during July and August, as it is really hot there and even the locals complain about it.
A Bit of History
Seville is an ancient city dating back to Roman times. The Moors came into the city in the 8th century and occupied it until the Christians conquered the city in 1248 with King Ferdinand III (King of Spain). Mosques were replaced with churches. You can see lots of the Moorish influence all over the city with much of the architecture being influenced by the Moors. In fact, the kings of Spain liked the style so much, that the royal palace (Real Alcazar) looks more like a Moorish palace than a typical European palace.
There are a handful of absolutely amazing sites to see in Seville which, along with the charm of the city, makes Seville a great place to visit. Here is my Top 5 List of things you must see or do while in Seville
Plaza de Espana – I am not sure how to describe this incredible plaza. To start, it is huge and very beautiful. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair, this is about as grand of a setting as you could create. Two large towers on either side and a canal running in between them with 4 arched bridges. Red brick and thousands of Spanish tiles decorate the facade. The Plaza’s 46 tiled Alcoves represent each of Spain’s provinces with lovely tiled artwork. The plaza sits on the edge of Parque de Maria Lusia which is the main park in the city (and very beautiful as well).
Seville Cathedral – It’s hard to pass up visiting the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the world (only surpassed by St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London). It is also considered the largest catholic church (because St Peter’s is a basilica and St Paul’s is Protestant). This church is dramatic in both size and decoration. It has one of the largest alter pieces in world which goes from floor to ceiling showing the stories of the bible (all in gold of course). One of the coolest parts of the church is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. He set sail from Seville after King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel provided him the funding. Of course he brought back tons of gold and silver and made Spain a very rich empire. There are only about 300 grams of his actual remains, but the tomb was still pretty cool.
The Alcazar of Seville (Royal Palace) – Originally created by the Moorish Muslim kings and was taken over by the King of Spain in 1248. He liked the palace so much, he changed very little and even to this day you can see the beautiful Moorish design throughout the palace. There are definite similarities in the deign to The Alhambra in Granada. While the palace is well-preserved, the gardens are the real treat here. The gardens are 5 times the size of the palace. The Alcazar is still in use today when the royal family comes to town (and yes there is still a royal family in Spain). It is said to be the oldest operating royal palace in all of Europe. One note: Check out the photo of the ancient thermal baths, it is one of my favorites.
Visit Triana District – Just over the Triana bridge you will find the gypsy community of Triana. Filled with artists, musicians, singers and dancers, this quaint neighborhood was bursting with creativity. Triana is best known for being the birth place of the Flamingo dance. The apartments are smaller and things are a bit slower on this side of the river, but you will find great Cafe’s with lots of authentic Spanish food. Don’t forget to swing by a ceramics store while you are there, as it is Triana’s cottage industry.
Palacio de Las Duenas – Only opened 4 months ago to the public (Feb 2016), this 15th century palace has been occupied by the House of Alba (a noble family). This is not a major tourist attraction like the cathedral, but if you want to see how a noble family lived very comfortably since the 15th century, this should be on your list to visit. Surrounded by the rooms of the palace are numerous courtyards filled with gardens. The family still lives on the second floor today.
I can’t say enough good things about my visit to Seville. Oh yes, if you enjoy a nice luxury hotel, then there is only one choice and that is the Hotel Alfonzo XIII. I highly recommend it. The building is beautiful (while it was never a palace, it looks like one) and the rooms are decorated in the traditional Moorish styling of Seville.
Ciao from Seville Spain!!