I really loved Seville. What a beautiful city to wander around, well, I guess I could say that about almost every city we visited. But my true highlight was the Real Alcazar! This is what we were able to see in about 2.5 days.
Where we stayed
This was our first time staying in an AirBnB, if you're interested, here is the link: AirBnB Seville
Fantastic place! It is not the most centrally located, so if you are looking for something closer to city centre, this might not be the place for you. However, the owner was extremely kind and the place was gorgeous.
Bla Bla Car
If you feel confident in Spanish and/or find a driver who speaks English, this is a fantastic ride share program that we don’t have in the US. Basically, someone posts that they are driving from city X to city Y at a certain day and time. You book the ride and pay for it in advance. If they don’t show, you get your money back, but everyone gets rated like with Uber. We never booked these, but took them with our friends living in Spain. It’s a great way to get around for much cheaper than with public transportation. We only took Bla Bla once, from Jaen to Seville.
The drive from Jaen to Seville was basically one solid olive tree. Seriously, mono-culture at its most extreme. I don’t know what would normally grow here, but all I could see was olive trees. I mean, I’m from WI, and there are a LOT of wheat and corn fields, but this was even more extreme. Maybe like corn and Nebraska?
Side note: Our first ride we met the driver, who was male. My friend and I did the two cheek kiss that is typical in Spain for women to women, and women and men. However, he also did it with my husband, which we later learned is, well, not so common. After an in depth conversation later, we all agreed that the driver totally went in for the kiss. Then my husband said, “it was all such a blur, my first kiss with a man…[long pause for effect]…I kissed a man and I liked it." That’s my husband for you.
I am going to be totally honest, though I was super excited to see Moorish architecture - the Real Alcazar hadn’t even really been on my radar for this trip. The Alhambra in Granada had been on my architectural bucket list for years, and apparently I had a one track mind. (check out THIS National Geographic article for a background on Moorish architecture). I had seen similarly detailed work in India and am drawn to this elaborate style of architecture. In my other life, I am an architecture and design consultant focused on educating architects and designers about well-being in the built environment. Things like details and complexity based on mathematical patterns found in nature are important for us from a neurological standpoint. And there is no better place to experience these kinds of details than in Moorish architecture. But even if you have no obsession with this architectural world like I do, walking through places filled with changing light, vegetation, and craftsmanship at every detail is other-worldly. The Real Alcazar is a must see if you are in Seville. As a side note, we arrived at 9:30am and bought tickets at the gate. We were able to beat most of the crowds and only waited about 15 minutes to get in.
If you are looking for art to bring home, there was a woman selling these phenomenal water color paintings of tile patterns outside of the Real Alcazar, just by the entrance gate. I don’t know if she will be there when you go, but she is worth looking for. As an art and craft lover, I always try to bring home pieces made by someone I met. So, of course we bought a few pieces. I LOVE talking to local artists about their work. It turns out she is slightly less local – but hey, it still counts. She was originally from Denmark and was a textile designer working with toxic materials. After having lung problems due to her work, she moved to Spain and began creating watercolors. She doesn’t sell anything on line, so if you like these paintings, you’ll just have to make a trip to Seville and hope she’s there!
See a Flamenco Show
Centro Cultural Flamenco
Calle Cuna, 6, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Although the $18 ticket makes it a little more expensive than others, this was the most highly recommended show to us, and we were not disappointed! There are no photos allowed during the show, but you sit in a small covered courtyard in a very intimate setting. Read a little about the history of flamenco and gypsies in Spain before attending a show. In the most traditional performance, this emotional song and dance is improvised through the performance with the guitarist and dancer playing off of each other. That is what we were able to see at the Centro Cultural Flamenco, rather than a choreographed version, and it was absolutely amazing. I highly recommend checking this out if you have time!
This is kind of a cool structure that was nice to see, but in a pinch, I could’ve skipped. There are some pretty cool views though, and it gets quite busy to see the sunset. Be prepared to wait in line to get in, so allow yourself enough time to get up there for the sunset.
The interior of this Cathedral is spectacular – you might want to give yourself about 10 minutes to just lay on a pew and look at the detailed ceiling. This UNESCO world heritage site was built on the site of the Almohad Mosque, the only remaining portions of which are the courtyard and the minaret which was converted to a bell tower. If you feel up to it, walking up the bell tower gives you some amazing views of the city! Read about the stunning size and key areas to see (like the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the largest altar piece in the world) HERE.
Plaza de España
Is a free outdoor plaza built for the World's Fair 1929. Each alcove represents a different province of Spain. The tilework is amazing!
Wander the Streets!
Just spend some time wandering the narrow side streets. I loved noticing the change in texture everywhere I looked and the tile underneath every balcony. Just get lost and wander! And then when you want to know where you are, check out my tips on using GOOGLE MAPS OFFLINE.
A few other places we didn’t get to, but that you might want to check out:
Plaza del Toros- our friends did a tour there and found it very worth the time/money
The Remains of Seville, Spain's Expo '92: we ran out of time to get here, but the abandoned world’s expo site is supposed to be a completely different view of Seville from the eyes of the 1992 World’s Fair. On part of the grounds now sits a science and technology park, making the interplay of architecture quite unique. One of our friends did make it there and said it was totally worth it.
Triana- less touristy neighborhood across the river from city center is nice if you have extra time
If you want more info on what we ate in Seville, check out THIS post. For general guidelines to eating gluten free in Spain, check out THIS one!