I first visited Seville more than thirty years ago just for a day and I always wanted to return. I remembered the orange trees and the horses trotting around pulling the carriages and the exotic tiling of the Alcazar Palace. Andalucia had made its mark.
I visited when flight restrictions on Spain were lifted earlier in the year. My first trip in six months, I flew Ryanair to Malaga, and then bussed it to Seville.
It costs about 20 euro each way on the bus. The train is also an option but the fare is double that unless you can book a long way in advance.
Now is a good time to travel as the crowds are gone and the accommodation is cheap. The weather in September is perfect a steady 30 -35 degrees.
I stayed in the Patio De La Alameda hotel in the Alameda area just away from the central tourist quarter. This hotel used to be the house of a sculptor. It’s very colourful and the staff are friendly and very helpful. It’s got everything you need and the hotel spills directly out onto the lively Alameda de Hercules.
Alameda de Hercules
This promenade area used to be a garden square. Built in 1574 it is topped and tailed by a pair of impressive Roman columns. Its fortunes came and went, but it is now a lively and diverse part of Seville with lots of nice cafes bars and restaurants. Fringed by beautiful white poplar trees as many southern European squares are, it is a short walk from here to the famous sites of Seville. Seville is a compact city and easy to walk around which is what I really like to do.
Seville is the home of Tapas and they really know how to do it here. I love tapas and had some delicious meals. Creamy mushroom risotto and prawns in filo pastry were particular favourites.
I also found a great Mexican restaurant Mano De Santo who do the best margaritas outside of Mexico. Nothing opens until 8.30pm though. You need to adjust your eating times as everything happens later here. Kids are playing outside until quite late in the evening. Sedate dog walking is also big on the Alameda de Hercules. Everyone takes their dogs out on the lead and parades them up and down repeatedly. The animals seem remarkably relaxed as they are occasionally allowed to greet their doggy friends in quite a civilised manner.
This is one of the more modern things to see in Seville. Also known as the ‘Mushrooms of the incarnation,’ the Metropol Parasol is the largest wooden structure in the world. Located in the Plaza de la Incarnacion, it has two concrete columns which hold the space age elevators which take you to the top for a fabulous view over the city. The slatted canopy spreads across 150 metres and is 26 metres high.
This spectacular creation is the winning project in a competition held by the Seville City council to carry out the renovation of this particular square. It was designed by Berlin architect Jurgen Mayer and was inspired by the arches of Seville’s beautiful cathedral.
It has five levels. The basement hosts the Antiquarium Museum which displays the archaeological remains found there. The Romans of course.
Wandering around the parasol in the gorgeous Seville sunshine was a definite highlight of the city for me.
Seville – The Alcazar Palace
The Alcazar was built for the Christian king Peter of Castille. Constructed and expanded over hundreds of years, it is a blending of different architectural styles. It has many Islamic features as well as elements of Gothic Renaissance and Romanesque design.
The Alcazar wasn’t quite as impressive as I remembered it from all those years ago. It had a bit of a neglected air but it is still very much worth a visit. The upper parts of the palace still serve as the official residence of the royal family when they are in town.
There is no disputing the beauty and intricacy of its tiling. There are different types of tiles everywhere, on walls and floors and in many gorgeous patterns and colours. They capture an air of luxury from times gone by.
The Alcazar palace was used as the Waters of Dorne in various scenes in episodes in Season five and six of the iconic Game of Thrones. Dorne was the farthest south of the seven Kingdoms of Westeros, famed for its sunny climate. Indeed there are several Game of thrones tours you can sign up for which point out exactly where the scenes were shot during filming.
A World UNESCO Heritage site, the gardens with their palm trees, statues, fountains and peacocks, remain a fascinating glimpse into exotic history.
Another UNESCO world heritage site, is Seville Cathedral. Said to be the fourth largest church in the world, it is pretty impressive. It has the most beautiful detailing in the interior, particularly the ceilings. It is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus and his son Diego.
Adjacent to the cathedral is the bell tower, the Giralda. The Giralda is 105m high and was the former minaret of the mosque that stood on the site under Muslim rule.
You can go up the bell tower if you like. Entrance to the cathedral and tower is 20 Euros. Or you can wait until there is a service on a Sunday and pop inside for a free look. Which is what I did.
Outside the cathedral the carriage horses are waiting for a fare to take trotting off around the city and its gardens. Beautiful and well kept in every colour, the horses rest in the shade. A romantic carriage ride is still a fun thing to do while you’re in town.
The Plaza de Espagne
This is a huge impressive square with a grand building built centered in a huge semi circle. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair, it is astonishing. All around the circle are beautifully tiled ‘Alcoves of the Provinces.’ Each province of Spain has its own completely tiled seat showing its location and something which represents their area.
In the centre is the stunning Vincente Traver fountain. Authentic flamenco dancing happens on the steps outside the main building. This famous traditional style of dance also originates here. It involves a lot of stomping, gesticulating and shouting of Ole!
Surrounding the Plaza is the Maria Luisa Park which is lovely too. There are boulevards and palm and orange trees, lush planting, ponds and fountains.
The buildings are now government offices and museums, but it is the square itself with its waterways and incredible tiled seats that is the main attraction.
The Plaza de Espagne has also been used as a location for films like Lawrence of Arabia and Star Wars Episode II Attack of the Clones.
A decade ago the Council invested 9 million Euros in the restoration of the Plaza de Espagne. They even recovered original pieces such as the ceramic street lights and the original benches.
It was money well spent. This is a fabulous place and a must see if you visit Seville.
Summing up Seville
This is a beautiful city compact and easy to walk around. Take the time to wander near the cathedral and you will find delightful winding streets and little squares. The Guadalquivir river runs through the city. Walk across one of the charming bridges into the Triana area and you will find a cluster of ceramic shops where beautiful examples of plates, pots and vases can be purchased.
The main modern shopping centre is pretty good too with a huge Cortes Ingles and lots of lovely clothes shops. There’s a bustling flea market on Thursdays, organic food on Saturday and arts and crafts on Sunday all in the Alameda area.
I loved sunny Seville. Don’t forget to check out this dreamy romantic southern capital of Andalusia.