Traveling is important for everyone. Not only do we genuinely enjoy ourselves when we travel, but we are able to experience cultures, events, and opportunities that we would not normally get to experience. For these reasons, I want to write every so often about places I or others have been to that have left lasting impressions. The first of which is my favorite city I’ve been to in my life thus far, Seville.
Seville is the largest city in Andalusia, which is an autonomous community in the south of Spain. I’m not going to bore you with the historic details about its founding by the Romans or its change of hands during the Muslim conquest in 712. Nor will I go into detail about how Seville became an economic center of the Spanish empire. These are all facts that you can learn online. What I’m going to talk to you about is why Seville is one of the greatest places you can visit due to its small European feel, beautiful attractions, back alley delights, and amazing people.
Why the city itself is different
If you’re reading this as an American, you know that in our young country there may be some quaint towns throughout the countryside, and there may be some historic cities, but because of the industrialization of America and our desire for bigger and better, all cities are kind of the same. Sure they differ in night life or history or types of people, but the physicality doesn’t overly change from one city to the next. Our cities are giant and metal for the most part. With big city centers surrounded by residential districts. I’m not saying that’s terrible, but it is reality.
Those of you from around the world probably can relate to this in some capacity as well for big cities like London, Beijing, Tokyo, etc. Seville is simply unique. For me, I felt as though I was going back in time to before businesses dominated cities and became less personal.
You can sense not only the history of Seville as you walk through it, but the community as well. Small “tapas” shops line the streets, and buildings varying from Mudejar and Gothic to Baroque and Spanish make the 2200 year old city into an amazing labyrinth of beauty. Portions of the city are blocked off from vehicle traffic, save for the methodical passing of the trains throughout the city. You can head downtown for excellent shopping, visit historical sites, or meander along the river front to sit for lunch or spend time with friends. There is an energy to the city that gives you life.
What touristy spots can’t be missed?
There are some unbelievable tourist locations you can’t miss if you find yourself in Seville. I’ll go through a couple of them now:
The Alcazar: The Royal Alcazar, or Seville’s royal palace, is straight up breathtaking. Interesting fact of note, it actually was used for filming in Game of Thrones for the palace in Dorne. It is a great example of the Mudejar style in Spain, while also including elements from Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque styles as well. I could talk about all the amazing art and architecture in this palace, but I’d rather you go see it for yourself!
Plaza de Espana (pictured at top): This incredible, 50,000 square meter building is a massive semicircular brick structure build in Renaissance and Moorish styles. Within the semi-circle is a 500 meter canal that is crossed by four bridges. Many tourists enjoy renting small boats to row in the canal. Again, the art and architecture is incredibly unique. Like the Alcazar, this location was used in a few cinematic scenes as well, including the 1962 film Lawrence of Arabia, and in Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Cathedral and Giralda (pictured left): Seville’s cathedral is the world’s largest Gothic cathedral, built between 1434 and 1517 over what had been the main mosque of the city during Muslim occupation of Seville. The Giralda is the giant bell tower, that utilized the mosque’s original minaret, the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and the Capilla Mayor. I had the privilege of passing the cathedral essentially every day, as my school that I studied abroad in was down the street from the cathedral. I can assure you, it was as amazing the day I left Seville as it was 4 months prior when I first saw it. I particularly liked seeing it lit up at night, as I’ve shown you in the picture on the left.
There are plenty of other amazing places to see while in Seville. The Torre del Oro, the Parque de Maria Luisa, Barrio Santa Cruz, and the Casa de Pilatos are just a few that come to mind. But I want to avoid giving a lesson in Seville architecture and history. When, inspired by this post, you plan your trip to Seville, be sure to add all of these into your trip.
The non-touristy must hit spots
Alright here is the good stuff. Plenty of cities have historical spots and cool architecture, but it’s the nightlife or the fun little spots that really give the feel of a city.
Cien Montaditos: In English, 100 little sandwiches. I thought this place was awesome because you could swing by after class with some friends and order a couple different ones. I probably had about 30 of the sandwiches on the menu by the time I left for the semester. A couple times my roommate and I would just order a random couple numbers off the list and make due with what we got. It’s a fun little experience.
Calle Betis: This riverfront is home to a ton of bars, restaurants, and clubs. The first couple nights we went out in Seville after arriving as a bunch of 19-21 year-olds we hit up this street and would just walk in a bar, have a drink, then walk out and into the next bar. It’s a great way to mingle with locals of all ages, dance to a variety of music in different clubs, and lose track of time completely.
Bar Fundicion: This bar is a great place to not only meet locals, but people from all over the world, particularly young people. Seville has a great network of study abroad opportunities, and Bar Fundicion has become a great stop for those that want to meet students like themselves. This bar is located a few blocks from Calle Betis in the Triana neighborhood.
Puente de Isabel II: This is kind of a touristy spot still but it’s not as well documented so I’m going to include it here. Everyone knows the bridge in Paris where lovers put a lock on the bridge and throw away the key into the river. This bridge was designed by the same architect and used for the same purpose. It obviously doesn’t get the same hype as Paris, but it’s still a pretty fun place to go to if you’re traveling with a significant other.
The people are amazing
There are too many cities around the world that don’t treat tourists well. This is the case on any continent. Seville is not one of those places. Residents here understand that by visiting their city your are sharing in their history, and are interested in learning about what the city has to offer. I’ve made lasting friendships with people in that city, friends that I still talk to 7 years later.
There is no reason to be worried about asking for directions or interacting with staff at restaurants. Everyone I found myself in conversation with was more than willing to help out, provided there was no language barrier. I have to put that disclaimer in because unlike a lot of European cities that are pretty much home to multilingual populations, finding someone that speaks anything other than Spanish may be difficult. I obviously don’t judge, as all of America is pretty much in the same boat. Fortunately I went to Seville to complete a Spanish major, so the problem wasn’t monumental for me.
I don’t care who you are, you will love this city
Seville has something for everyone. Young people that love nightlife and fast-paced traveling. Older couples that like to spend time touring the well-known historical spots. And everyone in between. I will have extreme regrets if I don’t find myself back in Seville in the next couple years.
I understand that traveling is expensive, and depending on where you are in the world a trip to Seville is not something you can quickly throw together. However, European trips or tours are very popular regardless of where you live. I truly encourage you to consider Seville when you’re planning your next vacation. You will not regret it.