View of Plaza de España as taken from my iPhone
My family and I took a vacation to Spain in November. It was an amazing experience. As part of the Iberian Peninsula, Spain is a large country with plenty of cities and places that have diverse climates and people for travelers to explore, experience, and enjoy. We opted to visit the large Capitol city of Madrid, the first class and coastal international city of Barcelona, and the historic cities of Seville and Granada. Nevertheless, there are plenty of other cities to choose from for prospective visitors. For example, Spain also has beautiful islands (e.g. Ibiza, Mallorca, etc.) in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea that attract visitors. As one could deduce, Spain offers plenty of incredible options. In addition, the country has a rich, long, and fascinating history. Its past includes the Roman Hispania, the Visigothic Kingdom, the eight centuries of Muslim rule after the Moors conquered Spain, and its time as a premiere superpower in the world during the Spanish Empire after the Christian’s completion of the Reconquest of the Iberian Peninsula. That blend of diverse cultural influences enrich the experience of visitors as they travel across Spain and see the relics of the past that reflect centuries of unique architectures and styles. In particular, religion [Christianity and Islam] has a significant role in the story of Spain. Accordingly, famous religious monuments (e.g. basilicas, cathedrals, etc.) are prevalent throughout the country. In terms of visiting Spain at the end of October/ beginning of November, I felt it was a great time to go. Of course, it is colder than the hot summer. Although you will need a jacket, I did not think it was too cold. Personally, the value of lesser numbers of tourists after the high season of the summer compensated for colder temperatures. I was fine trading warmer weather for less crowds. In regards to food, I felt it was hit or miss but there was definitely some exceptional food in Spain. A nuance to a day in Spain is that siestas [naps in the middle of the day] are a staple that affects the daily schedule. Most restaurants close at 4 PM or 5 PM then re-open again at 8 PM. Beating the dinner rush by going early at 8 is definitely a unique aspect about Spain. Of course, it can be irritating if you are a tourist who is accustomed to eating much earlier.
I arrived in Spain a few days after my family. They saw Madrid first. My first city was Seville. The locals refer to it by its Spanish name: Sevilla, pronounced “Se-bi-ya”. From my perspective, Sevilla sounds better so I used that pronunciation when I was in the country. It was my favorite city in Spain. Since I live in New York City, I prefer to get away from the big city feel when I go on vacation. While Seville is still a vibrant and busy city, it is smaller than the bigger cities, Barcelona and Madrid. In addition, there are marvelous historical sites to bask in the colorful past of Spain. If those attractions do not appeal to you, Seville is also a perfect place to just relax, eat food, and drink. There was definitely plenty of people and other tourists in Seville. However, there is enough space to decompress and enjoy your vacation. The heart of the old city is the Centro Ciudad [City Center]. The rustic architecture is a look back through time to the city’s storied past. In addition, the streets are very narrow with thin sidewalks. I assume the reason is because that part of the city was planned and built well before the advent of automobiles. Consequently, traffic and people appear to be intermingled on the streets at times. It is also interesting watching small trucks trying to navigate and turn at the sharp corners and tight confines. When you get further away from the City Center, Seville looks a lot more like any other modern city. Of course, the City Center is where we wanted to go as tourists. We booked an AirBnb in the middle of the City Center. After we arrived at the Renfe Train station in Seville and took a cab [can also use Uber] to our AirBnB, we walked around Seville the rest of our time there as it is a very walkable city with manageable distances to the main points of interest. Again, Spain is a country with plenty of cities and sites to choose from for travelers. If you are looking for a city in Spain with plenty of history but a slower pace than the biggest cities for you to relax and enjoy, Seville is definitely a great choice.
- Points of Interest
1. Real Alcazar (Patio de Banderas, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a royal palace in the city of Seville that is still used by Spain’s Royal family. As such, it is the oldest castle in Europe that is still in use today. The Real Alcazar is known for its beautiful Mudéjar architecture, the predominant style in the Christian Iberia after the Peninsula was retaken from the Moors after 8 centuries of Muslim rule. Nevertheless, both Muslim and Christian influences are prevalent in the styles within the castle. For Game of Thrones fans, the Real Alcazar is the location where Dorne is filmed for the show. I highly recommend a tour of the castle. It was my favorite attraction in Seville. The courtyards, rooms, and gardens in the Real Alcazar are unique and incredibly beautiful. Not surprisingly, it is very popular. Accordingly, definitely plan ahead and book your tickets online in advance. Our tour time was at 10:30 AM. We walked right up to the entrance where there is a separate line for guests who purchased online tickets with an appointment time. At the same time, we walked past the ridiculously long line for guests who did not book tickets in advance. We also rented audio-guides for a self-tour. While the audio adds flavor and narrative to what I was walking through and seeing in the Alcazar, I honestly do not remember a single story or description from the audio-guide. The beauty of the grounds, especially the courtyards and gardens, is the aspect of the tour that resonates and sticks with me when I reminisce about my trip to Seville. We spent approximately 2 hours to leisurely walk around and admire the Alcazar.
- Catedral de Sevilla (Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
The Cathedral is at the center of the city, right next to the Real Alcazar. It features beautiful, external architecture that provides a grand background as you explore and enjoy the city center. Of course, there are plenty of restaurants, shops, etc. around the Cathedral. There are also paid tours to see the inside. However, there are a lot of famous basilicas and Cathedrals throughout Spain. Rather than paying to go inside each one, we were very selective in picking and choosing which one we wanted to get a full tour of during our trip to Spain. As such, we opted to only enjoy the beauty of the Catedral de Sevilla from the outside. Nevertheless, it is one of the main attractions in Seville. The inside, especially the gold, is known to be spectacular. A tour can certainly be worth it.
- Plaza de España (Av de Isabel la Católica, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
The Plaza was built for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair of 1929. Accordingly, it was designed by architect, Aníbal González, to showcase the brilliance of Spanish architecture to the rest of the world. It is a semi-circular brick structure that is infused with Renaissance and Moorish styles. There is a canal that runs in front of the buildings and acts like a moat. Visitors can rent a boat to row along the small canal. In addition, there are four bridges that cross the moat to the building. The bridges represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. In the front of the plaza, there are decorative ceramics [which look like porcelain] that are lined up and arranged like gates. There are towers on both ends. In the middle of the plaza, there is a fountain. As soon as you get to the plaza, you are hit with the openness and beauty of it. In my opinion, the Plaza de España is one of the most charming and splendid parts of Seville. We walked around for an hour to slowly enjoy the large features and small intricacies that make it special. The Plaza is also the setting for a couple of famous films. First, it was also featured in Lawrence of Arabia (1962). It was also used to stage Theed, the fictional Capitol of Naboo, in the Star Wars prequels.
The Plaza is a part of the larger Maria Luisa Park. The rest of the park is gorgeous too. In general, it is a very pretty city park. Right before the Plaza, my second favorite part of the park is the Estanque de Los Lotos (Lotos Pond). The name of the pond is a reference to the plants that float and grow on it. It is a rectangular pond surrounded by pergolas [i.e. arches] on top of brick pillars. The pergolas are full of plants and vines. Moreover, there is a beautiful mirror effect on the pond that reflects the surrounding vegetation and tress. In addition to the Plaza de España, it is worth spending a little more time to check out other parts of the park.
- Paseo de Las Delicias (Riverwalk along Guadalquivir River)
In terms of Riverwalks, I generally find them a bit overrated. They are good spots for leisurely, relaxing walks but not amazing must dos. The Paseo de Las Delicias is no different. It is a solid spot for a walk in Seville with good views of the city and the Guadalquivir River. Moreover, the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), an old military watchtower and popular point of interest in the city, is along the walk. Overall, it is an enjoyable experience. Naturally, there are plenty of shops, restaurants, and bars close to the Paseo. It is a good spot to get dinner or a glass of wine. It is busy but not as hectic as the middle of the Centro Ciudad.
- Metropol Parasol (l. de la Encarnación, s/n, 41003 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a unique wooden structure with 6 parasols in the shape of mushrooms. You can walk up to the terraces on top of the structure for panoramic views. Nevertheless, the main draw is the shapes of the building. As a result, it is just a spot to stop by to get a quick photo before heading to your next destination.
- Flamenco Show – El Palacio Andaluz (Calle María Auxiliadora, 18A, 41008 Sevilla, Spain)
Flamenco is a Spanish style of dance that originated in Southern Spain: Andalusia, Extremadura and Murcia. Since Andalusia is one of those regions, Seville is an ideal city to experience a Flamenco show. The dance has a distinct movements. It also includes a form of tap dancing and incorporates clapping. It is certainly a cultural experience. It is also a touristy thing to do but I was a tourist. It was an enjoyable experience one time but I am not sure I would need to do it twice. We attended a Flamenco Show at El Palacio Andaluz. Guests can buy a ticket for the show only. We bought tickets that included a 3 course dinner and alcohol for 85 Euros. The food was solid. The dish that stood out was the oxtail steak. It was chewy and very good. There are two shows each night. They last a little under 90 minutes.
There are plenty of options for food in Seville. The main challenge is if you are trying to dine with a larger group. We needed to find restaurants that could accommodate 8 people. A lot of the better restaurants have small spaces and it is difficult to fit a large group in. We were able to split into two tables of 4 sometimes but had to find another option the other times. Overall, I would say I was impressed by the food in Seville but not blown away. Nonetheless, we definitely found some gems.
- Bartolomea (10, Calle Pastor y Landero, 41001 Sevilla, Spain)/ La Brunilda (Calle Galera, 5, 41002 Sevilla, Spain)
Without a doubt, I had my best meal in Seville at Bartolomea. In actuality, we tried to eat lunch at La Brunilda. However, it was already filled up and the hostess told us about its sister restaurant, Bartolomea. They have the same menus. Naturally, tapas are small plates. The modest size allowed us to sample multiple dishes on the menu. Everything we ordered was delicious. The burrata cheese was smooth and excellent. The cerviche of sea bass was very fresh. Next, the beef tenderloin was very tender. The herbed potatoes were seasoned very well. The pistachio pesto on the dish was awesome. The duck was also amazing. It was tender and chewy. The sweet potato purée was unique and tasted more like carrots. The pork shoulder was good too. It was a thin, lean slice of steak that was very chewy. I was very impressed with Bartolomea. Definitely try it or La Brunilda if you are in Seville.
- Bar Agustín (Calle Álvarez Quintero, 3, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
We stopped by this restaurant late at night looking for some drinks and tapas. The food was excellent. I definitely recommend the artichoke and truffle oil. The truffle oil really provides the wow factor in terms of taste and makes the dish taste amazing. Next, the iberico ham was good but nothing special. However, I was on a journey to find some iberico ham that blew me in Spain and did not find any. It is fine but I have tried better cured meats. Accordingly, my thoughts about the ham are more about the dish in general than Bar Agustin’s take on it. On the other hand, the fried sea bass was great. The fish was super fresh and sizzling hot inside. It was breaded perfectly. The pistachio sauce was outstanding. The tartar sauce was good too. In addition, the side of peppers were great with the sauces. We only went for some late night tapas but I would definitely go back for a full dinner.
- Jester (Calle Puerta de la Carne, 7a, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a hole in the wall spot with limited seating at a few tables outside. It is a great place if you are looking for healthier options for breakfast. Get there before 9 AM if you want to beat the rush because it gets busy quick. The acai bowl was amazing. It has the ideal, solid sorbet texture and thickness. The fruits, pineapple and banana, were very fresh and delicious. The granola was sweet and crunchy. Moreover, the quality of the lattes are on par with good specialty coffee shops. My latte was very smooth throughout the entire drink. There was a slight watery layer right under the microfoam on top. However, there was no hint of bitterness. The latte art was also great. Jester is cash only.
- Pan Y Piu (Calle Cabeza del Rey Don Pedro, 15, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a great bakery for breakfast. All the hot food looked good. I grabbed a couple of croissants. The chocolate croissant was great. It was flaky, a little buttery, and soft. The almond croissant also had the same great texture. There was almond paste inside but I have had better paste inside croissants. Nevertheless, the croissant was great as is.
- Giollato (Calle Reyes Católicos, 19, 41001 Sevilla, Spain)
The gelato was very rich and creamy. The pistachio and hazelnut flavors were wonderful and what I expected from exceptional gelato. This local shop is definitely worth a stop if you are craving some Gelato in Seville.
- Amorino (Av. de la Constitución, 30A, 41004 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a chain for gelato with multiple locations in Seville. I have had it at three of its shops in New York. It is consistently great everywhere. One of the niches of Amorino is that the servers will use chunks of the gelato to form a shape of a rose bud. Moreover, you can add a macaron on top. They are very photogenic desserts. Again, it is a chain you can find in other cities so it is not unique to Seville. It is also pricier than a local gelato shop.
- Dulce Regina (Calle Regina, 15, 41003 Sevilla, Spain)
It is a good, hole in the wall cookie shop. In contrast to most cookies that are hard and crunchy, the cookies at Dulce Regina are very soft. I tried the pistachio lemon cookie. It was very unique and tasty. Of course, there are also more traditional flavors like chocolate chip. It is not a must try but I recommend it if you are craving cookies in Seville and want to try something different.
- Other Coffee Shops
1. Virgin Coffee (Calle Regina, 1, 41003 Sevilla, Spain)
This hole in the wall shop has great coffee. There was no bitterness in my latte. In addition, it had a lot of milk and was very thick. It was one of the thickets lattes I have had anywhere. If you do not like a lot of milk, its lattes may not be aligned with your tastes. Nevertheless, the latte art was great too.
- Torch Coffee Roasters (Ave. Paseo de las Delicias, 3, 41001 Sevilla, Spain)
I generally prefer to get my lattes to stay because baristas sometimes half ass it, especially the art, if you ask for it to go. That exact situation occured when I visited Torch Coffee Roasters. When the barista saw I was about to snap a picture, he asked me if he could redo it. I compromised. I did not get another drink because I did not want to waste the one I got. However, I agreed to take a picture of his next latte for another customer so I had a more representative example of his skills. In terms of my latte, the presentation was subpar but the substance was very good. The texture was smooth and the taste had no hint of bitterness. Torch Coffee Roasters also had the most space of the coffee shops I tried in Seville. Accordingly, definitely get the latte to stay if you are not in a rush. The latte art is excellent if you do.
- Traveling to and from Seville
I entered Spain through Madrid. As a result, I considered a connecting flight to Seville. However, I was concerned about any delays in my primary flight that would cause me to miss the connecting flight. If I did, there was not another flight till the end of the day. The Renfe, high speed rail, had a lot more train times in the event I had an unfortunate delay in my flight to Spain. There are no refunds so I would need to buy a new ticket but at least I had a lot more contingency options with the train. Nonetheless, I also gave myself plenty of time, 3-4 hours, to get from the Adolfo Suárez Madrid–Barajas Airport to the Atocha station in the city to catch the Renfe. The C-1 train connects passengers from the airport to the Atocha station. It is free if you are catching a longer train via the Renfe at Atocha station. When you use the train ticket machines at the airport, just enter your Renfe code (i.e. the code for your train ride to Seville) to get a complimentary C-1 ticket. In addition, get to the Atocha station early. First, there is a baggage check that will take some time to get through. In addition, the train arrival schedules can be confusing. You will want a few minutes to get your bearings. The tracks will be announced on the digital boards that most commuters are hovering around. Once the track number is announced, the crowds rush to the gate. However, there may be two trains on the same track. Accordingly, do not hesitate to ask someone to confirm that you are on the correct train. The seats are assigned on your ticket so you do not need to fight for a seat. Nevertheless, it can be a very confusing experience.
In addition, the bus is a viable option to and from Seville. The bus station in Seville is at the Plaza de Armas. We were able to walk from our Airbnb in the Centro Ciudad to the station in 15 minutes before we took a bus to our next destination: Granada.
Links for other Cities in Spain: