During half-term, we took a three-night trip to Seville in Southern Spain. Despite being the most southern of Europe’s major cities, the flight was just over two and a half hours from Manchester, and we were all excited to see what the city had to offer.
We stayed in the recently refurbished Zenit hotel, which is just south of the river in the Triana district, and a 15-20-minute walk from the historic centre of Seville. For much of the year, Seville basks in temperatures in excess of 30°C but in February, it was a little chilly in the morning as we made our way across the Puente de Triana towards our first stop, the Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza – or the Seville bullring. Still, the early fog did give me the chance to capture epic cityscape at the top of this page: that’s the towers of the Plaza de España that you can see in hazy distance.
For a very reasonable €8 per person, you get a 50-minute tour of the bullring, learning about its history and get to step out on the red clay of the arena itself. I thought that we’d get a quick few minutes to photograph the bullring from the stands but was delighted that the guide seemed in no rush to move us on.
By now, the day was warming up and this made for a pleasant atmosphere as we headed for the cathedral. Even though we had pre-booked to enter (€9.50 per person), I was dismayed when somebody told me that we’d have to join the back of the long queue that snaked its way around the edge of the building. However, this queue was for entrance number 1, and a lady standing within earshot was kind enough to tell me that there was another entrance under the Giralda tower. This was a much shorter queue, and we able to get inside with barely a two-minute wait!
In Europe, we are blessed with many famous cathedrals, but Seville has the world’s largest. The inside is cavernous and has many impressive features, including the tomb of Christopher Columbus, but the crowning glory is the 105m Giralda tower. Much of the cathedral was reconstructed following the Spanish re-conquest of the city, but the Giralda was part of the Muslim mosque that stood on the site. Tourists can climb this impressive tower by a series 34 stone ramps inside (no steps here!) and the views from the top of the bell tower are breath-taking in all directions.
After a spot of lunch, we wandered the Barrio Santa Cruz area of the city, with its tightly-packed streets, and later in the evening, we visited the Flamenco Dance Museum (Museo de Baile Flamenco). This cost €24 per person for museum and show. The show lasted just over an hour and was an incredible spectacle featuring three dancers, two singers and an amazing flamenco guitar player. Note that you are not permitted to take photos or video during the show.
After an exhausting first day, Sunday morning saw us up bright and early once more, our tired legs once carrying us over the bridge from Triana towards the Real Alcazar. Though we’d done our research beforehand, and my eldest daughter is fluent in Spanish, we couldn’t find a way to book via the website before we left home. So, we made sure that we queued early outside the Alcazar, ready for the 9.30 opening time.
Entry was €11.50 per person, but boy was it worth it. The Alcazar is a palace that was originally build by the Moorish Muslim kings and such is the majesty of the place, that I could fill a whole web page with pictures of its stunning buildings and gardens. But for me, it’s the gardens that will stay long in the memory. If you are fan of the TV show Game of Thrones, you will have seen these beautiful gardens as they were used for The Water Gardens of Dorne. An epic stone wall, a gorgeous fountain, trees full of oranges and exotic birds that fly freely amongst the trees make this one of the best places that I have had the pleasure to visit anywhere in the world; the fact that we headed out into the gardens soon after entering the Alcazar and pretty much had them to ourselves for a while made the experience all the more special.
In the afternoon, we visited Parque Maria Luisa. Yet again, I’m going to have to use the word “beautiful”. This vast green space if full of lovely little touches, including small water features, decorative walls, well-tended shrubbery and my favourite, the Fuente de las Ranas (the Frog Fountain).
The crowning glory of the park is the Plaza de España. This grand building and plaza was the main pavilion for the Ibero-American Exposition, a world’s fair held in 1929. Staring at it in the daylight wasn’t enough, so we had to return in the evening to see it as the sun set, and then later, under the huge floodlights. The price to see all this magnificence? Nada – certainly the best value tourist attraction I’ve ever visited!
Between visits, we found the time to see the more modern Metropol Parasol (also known as Las Setas). This huge wooden structure was built in 2011 and for €3 per person, you can ride a lift to the top, wander its raised walkways and get yet another terrific view of this amazing city.
With a few hours to kill before our flight home, we even had time to squeeze in a visit to the historic Torre del Oro – free on a Monday.
If you’ve got a few days and a bit of money to spare, I’d urge you to visit Seville. I’ve listed the main sites above, but there are so many other beautiful buildings and parks to see. It has some fabulous sites that are all located within a small walkable area, although being honest, we did cheat a little: because our legs were aching from so much walking, we took a taxi ride to and from the Metropol Parasol!