The South of Spain may now be my home, but my imagination of it was different to what I now know is the reality. I knew I was probably going to see some stereotypes come to play there, with the flamenco, and bullfighting and a classy tapear culture. To some extent, that was true, but I had heard that people in Andalusia had a very relaxing lifestyle, don’t work as hard as they play, and were notably poorer than the north. Sevilla did not give me that impression.
Sevilla is the biggest city in Andalusia and the 4th biggest in Spain, so you are spoilt for choice of what you want to do. The old quarter is also one of the biggest in Europe, making it a nightmare for cars, but great for pedestrians, and trust me, you are going to break some records with your walking. The city has a rather limited public transport infrastructure, especially the further north you go. Flying to Sevilla from London, as well as other major European cities is easy enough, but you don’t have as much choice compared to flying to Malaga, and you are only connected to the city via a bus, which gets full very quickly, so you might be waiting a little while to get out.
The city’s main station, Santa Justa is also not well connected to the centre, so I advise getting a Cercanías service to San Bernardo station, as that’s connected to the metro and tram. if you get there by bus you also may be dropped off at two stations, Prado de San Sebastian, or the Plaza de Armas, the latter of which, requires more walking. I guess the good thing about the metro is that it connects the river, some of the main attractions, the financial centre and the Ramon Sanchez Pízjuan Stadium home to Sevilla FC. I’ll tell you this right now though, when I came here with my brother, and again with my parents, I didn’t need it even once.
I first came here in 2013 with my brother at the end of my university placement, and two things struck me when we left the station, calor and mucho calor. If you go there during the summer months, expect sweltering temperatures. It was the first time I had ever experienced 40 degrees, so be careful with your scheduling. However, there are less crowds so if you can handle the heat, go for it. Do not go there during Easter. The parades might be spectacular, but it gets too crowded, and walking around some parts of town is a nightmare. I’ve heard the Feria de Mayo attracts a similar number, but that’s a different experience I haven’t tried yet. October/ November time may be the best time, as there’re less crowds and the weather is more agreeable. I was there in November and it was still in the low 20’s.
My first stroll around the city centre, the evening I arrived, was one that I fell in love with immediately, and I knew I was in for something special. It was totally different to anything I had seen in the north, and I was taken aback by how vast and unchanged most of the streets were. During the summer, many of the streets were covered by large sun shades which added an element to the experience, you certainly don’t see that in the UK. The magic really happens when you walk down Avenida de la Constitución, which is the most prominent street in the old quarter.
The main attractions are the cathedral, which is the biggest in the world, the Archivo de Indias, the Real Alcazar, the Plaza de España and the Metrosol Parasol, otherwise known as the Setas. You really are wasting your time there if you don’t see at least 2 of these places, and you will probably need more than a day to make the most of these attractions. The Cathedral costs 10€ to enter, and you don’t necessarily need to book in advance depending on when you go. It is worth every cent you pay, and it is so extensive, you probably will miss something. It’s impossible to miss the tower known as the Giralda, which gives you impressive views of the city and uniquely, has virtually no steps to reach the top, just slopes.
The Real Alcazar is right next to the cathedral, and I kid you not, you can easily spend several hours in there without realising it. I would say that only the Alhambra in Granada might be more impressive, but not much more. One visit was not enough, and it is worth the fee, which varies depending on the time of year, from 11- 13€ and you have to pay extra if you want to visit the royal suites. Well worth the money, trust me. The gardens are so extensive, you could easily get lost, and you don’t feel that you are in the centre of a big city. Go there, it might be touristic, but seriously, do it.
The Plaza de España is like none of the other Plaza de Españas around, and better still, it’s free. This comes as a cost however, as you will be pestered by a lot of people chasing a quick buck, by selling their rubbish. I don’t need to describe the place, you’ll know what I mean when I say that there’s nothing like it. But don’t just check that place out, the Parque de Maria Luisa is full of hidden gems, and what’s more, you’ll avoid the tourist traps. It’s also worth checking out that part of town too, as not only are you by the river, you’re also about 15- 20 minute walk from Benito Villamanin stadium, the home of Sevilla FC’s rivals, Real Betis.
Now let’s check out the ‘river’ the most romantic part of Sevilla. your first port of call is the Torre del Oro which is the most iconic building right along the edge. I never went inside it, but at 3€, it might be worth a look. But it’s most impressive from the outside. Then you have the Plaza de Toros which I know, animal activists will have my head when I say this, Is well worth attending a tour and learning about it, even if you are heavily against bullfighting. Head to the other side and you will see things get a lot quieter, and a few upmarket restaurants. If you have a special occasion and you aren’t sure where to go, there’s your potential answer.
Now it’s time to check out the lesser known north part of the old quarter, the part where you’ll see more locals around. The last major attraction, the Setas is the dividing line. This is the newer attraction, built on top of some roman ruins, and I must admit, it doesn’t look out of place. The best part is that it offers the finest views of town after the Giralda, with details of the city dotted on numerous plaques along the top. Keep heading north through the mazy streets and you come across the Alameda a long square full of bars.
This is the place to be for some tapas, and they are about 0.50€- 1€ cheaper than the southern part of the old quarter, and you are spoilt for choice. I heavily recommend Casa Paco, Norte de Andalucía and Piola. I would avoid quite a few of the places nearer the Giralda as they are the most expensive in town and there are some nasty tourist traps, with some places charging nearly 3€ for a cortado (seriously is the coffee made out of gold?!!). In saying that, the quality of the food for the most part is high, and a few places stood out, like La Subasta, and La Casa de Tomate (the latter of which does great breakfasts). It gets even better when you a little out of the way, like El Prado or Macarena neighbourhoods. It might look a little shady, but trust me, it’s worth it.
Typical dishes you’ll find in Sevilla include Gazpacho, Pavia de Bacalao, solomillo al whiskey, espinacas con garbanzos, papas aliñas and el serranito, which is Sevilla’s favourite post party snack and better than a kebab in my opinion. You will certainly never get bored there, if you want a night out, whether it be a few late night cocktails or partying until 6am, the Alameda and surrounding areas again is usually the best place to be, though I heard that the area around Sevilla Este is also a great place to go out. If you’re looking for music or theatre plays, places like the Teatro Maestranza, or Lope de Vega would be your best bets. Flamenco can be seen in the city and there is a museum a few clicks from the Ayuntamiento, but maybe wait until the Ferias for the ultimate experience.
Lastly, the people here are different to other parts of Spain for sure, but they are also notably different compared to other parts of Andalusia. They are generally open and friendly, but they also appear to be the most well-off in the whole of the south if you happen to be in the centre. They are hard-working and may express more passion in doing things than up north. The Sevillano accent is a little tricky to understand at times, but I think people’s opinion about it is a little exaggerated, and I was able to hold a conversation with them even during my first visit. English isn’t spoken that much, but there are more speakers in and around the Giralda, but it is hit and miss.
There are so many more things I could write about, and so many more places in Sevilla I never got the chance to see or experience, and I have returned several times and even had job interviews there, I was that keen. It may be the 3rd most visited city in Spain, but it doesn’t feel like it, providing you avoid Easter. It is a growing cosmopolitan hub of the south, but retains so much tradition and mystery for the visitor to discover. My advice, visit Sevilla before it gets overran by tourists, in summer or autumn and make it at the very least a 2-night trip.