Of course, Barcelona is lovely, but if I go to Spain for a city trip, I prefer to go to Seville (or Sevilla in Spanish); it has a more authentic feeling. Thanks to its southern location, this is the perfect spring and autumn destination. Part 1 of my hotspots travel guide about Seville.
1. Walking on mushrooms
I started with an overview of the city from the Metropol Parasol (Plaza Encarnación) or Las Setas (mushrooms) as the Sevillanos call the 30-meter high, imposing edifice. They are much talked about – these six parasols (the world’s largest wooden structure) of the German architect, Jürgen Mayer H. – because the architect is not Spanish. But moreover, with 70×150 meters the structure is quite large for the square. Also, the price tag of 123 million euros did raise some eyebrows. Anyway, on the positive side then: from the walkways that connect the ‘mushrooms’, as local calls them, you have a fantastic view over the city (the elevator cost € 1.35). Formerly, La Giralda was the highest lookout point, but now you can see the old tower and the cathedral. Better so. There is also a lovely terrace on top of the parasols for an aperitif while the sun colours the town warm yellow and pink.
2. Fragrant orange trees
Barrio Santa Cruz, the former Jewish quarter, is the most popular area for tourists. And who can blame them? The charming cobbled streets are lined with whitewashed houses with red or yellow accents. On hidden squares, you find terraces under fragrant orange trees such as Plaza Dona Elvira with several excellent restaurants. The trees are typical of the city. The oranges are not eatable because they are very bitter, but the English are crazy about them. Containers full are shipped to Great-Britain to make marmalade. In spring, the orange blossom spread a pleasant scent in the city, a sign for the Sevillanos that good weather is coming. But it also creates a problem: 90% of the people here are more or less allergic to the blossom.
3. Highlight: green oasis
The narrow streets of Santa Cruz can be busy, but in Los Reales Alcázares (Plaza del Triunfo) and its gardens, you will always find a quiet spot. This fortified palace was built in 913, but it was Pedro the Cruel (named Pedro the Just in Seville) who turned it into a palace where he could stay with his mistress. Another notorious ruler, General Franco, was responsible for the construction of the sophisticated kitchens. The top floor is still used by the Spanish Royal family, and that makes it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. It has also become a UNESCO World Heritage Site. If you go to the Alcazar, it’s not just to visit the palace, but also the patios and the beautiful walled gardens with water features, fountains, and a single peacock.
4. Expo ’29: Plaza de España
The Iberamericano Expo 1929 has changed the appearance of Seville considerably. Plaza de España is one of the buildings of that era. Art or kitsch, the richly decorated square with the moon-shaped brick building stands out. All provinces of Spain are represented in tiled alcoves. Before that runs a moat with four tiled bridges over the water. You can hire rowing boats and even a motorboat. The latter seems a bit excessive for a channel of just 500 meters long!
5. Tips: Park with museums
After visiting the city centre, next on the programme is a relaxed stroll to Plaza de las Américas through the Parque de Maria Luisa. In the park are some monumental buildings of the Expo in a garden full of fragrant roses. They are turned into the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions. Especially for high-ranking guests of the Expo, the Hotel Alfonso XIII, Calle San Fernando, 2 was built. It was the most luxurious hotel in the city where celebrities like Audrey Hepburn, Madonna and Sophia Loren stayed.
6. Seville: the oldest bridge
Cross the bridge Puente Isabel II, the oldest bridge in the city, and you’re in Triana. The bridge is otherwise known as the Puente de Triana. Sevillanos sometimes pretend not to understand what you mean when you say Isabel II. Just before the end of the bridge on the left, you’ll find cafe/restaurant El Faro de Triana in an ocher building. You might think that a cafe at such a fantastic location must be an expensive tourist trap. Nope, a beer here is cheaper than elsewhere in the city. The tapas (e.g. the typical tapa of Seville with spinach and chickpeas) are tasty and affordable and served in huge portions. It opens early in the morning, and for around 3 euros you have breakfast with coffee and toast with ham and tomato. The rooftop terrace offers a magnificent view over the Guadalquivir and the old town. Highly recommended.
Do you want to see more? Then read the tips in part two of my blog about Seville with 9 more hotspots and must sees.
The best hotels
- 27 traditional houses are made into one luxury hotel with 134 rooms that are connected through patios, gardens and a labyrinth of small passageways. Hotel las Casas de la Judería in the old Jewish quarter has it all. The perfect location in the city centre, rooms decorated in a classic style, you can relax in the spa and… there is a swimming pool at the roof.
- Eurostars Sevilla Boutique is a boutique hotel in a former 16th-century palace. The hotel is situated in the centre of Seville’s old town with all the must see and must do’s nearby. You can relax in the traditional Turkish bath or cool down in the swimming pool.
A private apartment: Suites Sevilla Plaza
- I love apartments when I’m travelling, so I’m a big fan of Suites Sevilla Plaza. This hotel is located in the historic city centre, in a traditional but renovated mansion. It has a colonnade patio and a terrace that overlooks the Cathedral. The spacious suites consist of one or two bedrooms, a living room, one or two bathrooms and a fully equipped kitchen. They often have reasonable offers so it can be an excellent budget hotel too.
- Affordable four star
It’s a four-star hotel, but sometimes you can book a double room for just 38 euro at Hotel Sevilla Macarena. Of course, you can still use the superb rooftop swimming pool and all the other amenities of the hotel like free wifi. It’s a bit further away (5 km) from the old town, but taxies are very affordable in Spain.
- Charming hostel
Hostel Callejón del Agua is a very charming hotel right in the old city centre (Barrio Santa Cruz). Here you stay in a mansion built in 1851. With only 16 rooms it’s very cosy. For me, the beautiful patio and roof terrace are a significant bonus.
- Arty hotel
A lovely, funky and affordable hotel is Casual Sevilla de las Letras. The rooms are all different and have a colourful and arty appearance. So if you are travelling with a family, as a couple or solo, this is an affordable option if you want to stay within walking distance of the old town.