It’s an enormous pleasure to welcome my first guest blogger, Sandra Vallaure. As a Spaniard who’s lived in and traveled to an extensive list of countries, Sandra’s love for Seville started with a simple weekend getaway, and she’s called La Hispalense home for eight years now. Read on for the first in a short series of tips for first-time travellers to Seville as I continue with the stupid DELE exam (Note: all photos were taken by the author).
Seville is a place that you need to discover walking. Otherwise, you’ll miss the point. Seville is not only a bunch of magnificent buildings and palaces. It’s also its people and their passion.
You may ask yourself, how to explore the best of the city in two days? Piece of cake. The following walks will guide you across the city and
you won’t miss anything important. So, get a map from the Internet and let’s wander its dazzling streets.
Day 1. The Essentials
Why not have breakfast at Horno San Buenaventura (Avenida de la Constitución, 16)? Sevillians love to have breakfast outside.
Once you’re done, buy a snack and take it with you. Meals tend to start
late in Spain and you won’t find any tapas bar open before 1.30pm.
From there, walk to the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes where your walk begins. You will recognize it because it’s usually full of horse-drawn carriages. The central fountain is surrounded by three buildings: The largest one is the Cathedral, with the magnificent Giralda tower dominating the city. The red baroque façade belongs to the Archbishop’s Palace (Palacio Arzobispal). Finally, the white building is the Convento de la Encarnación.
Walk along the Cathedral to reach the Plaza del Triunfo. Look for the Lion’s Gate – the Alcázar’s entrance.
The Alcázar is one of the most impressive monuments of Seville and a favorite of mine. This royal palace was built in the 14th century, and as time went on, more buildings were added to the complex, resulting in a mix of Arabic styles and Christian influences.
Both the palace and its gardens are worth it, so take your time and enjoy this romantic place.
Once you exit the Alcázar, you enter the Patio de Banderas. Keep walking to reach the Plaza del Triunfo again. Next, head to the Cathedral. Did you know that Seville is home to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world? Built on the site of an old 12th Century mosque after the Christian reconquest of 1248, it took more than century (1401 – 1506) to build it.
Once you are there, it’s easier to visit following a counterclockwise circuit so you don’t miss any of its chapels. Then, go to the main altar where the altarpiece is magnificent. Don’t forget the Royal Chapel and Columbus’ tomb.
The must-see is the Giralda, originally the mosque’s minaret that was transformed into a bell tower. I recommend you climb to the top. The views from there are spectacular and you’ll get to see the whole city. Moreover, there are ramps instead of steps so you won’t find it difficult at all.
Finally, go back down and exit to the Patio de los Naranjos. This patio is full of orange trees and was the place where Muslims used to wash themselves before entering the mosque to pray. This is where your visit to the Cathedral ends.
Walk along Calle Mateos Gago to have lunch at Las Columnas (C/Rodrigo Caro, 1). They offer very good, traditional tapas (small dishes) and montaditos (small filled buns). Alternately, you could try Bodeguita Antonio Romero (C/Antonio Diaz, 19).
From either two places, the Hospital de la Caridad is a few minutes’ walk. This charity hospital was founded in 1674 and it still serves its initial purpose: taking care for the elderly and handicapped. But the real treasure is inside its walls. The church is one of the most impressive of the entire city, and it contains masterpieces from painter Murillo and sculptor Valdés Leal.
The visit won’t take you long so can now head to Puerta de Jeréz and walk along the Calle San Fernando, where the Real Fábrica de Tabacos is. Nowadays it’s Seville University´s main building and worth a quick visit.
If not, cross the Plaza de San Juan de Austria and head South to the Parque de María Luisa (don’t get confused with the Jardines de San Sebastián, which are next to it).
The Parque de María Luisa is the largest park of Seville. Inside you can find some of the most important buildings of the 1929′s Ibero-American Exposition. The impressive Plaza de España is one of them. as it was the Spanish pavilion.
The Plaza de España is one of the most remarkable constructions of the 20th century, and of the city in itself. Its size is spectacular, and it’s even been used as the backdrop for several films. Along the half-moon building, there are detailed tiles and ceramic handicraft, symbolizing Spain and its relationship with Latin and South American countries.
You can have dinner at LaBulla (c/ Dos de Mayo, 26), the best original cuisine you’ll ever taste. And if you aren’t too tired after that, go for a drink to the top roof terrace at Eme Hotel or Hotel Doña María and enjoy the gorgeous views of the Plaza del Triunfo, where your walk began.
Why not include the Barrio de Santa Cruz?
Despite guide books and city tours including Barrio Santa Cruz as a highlight, I am not a fan. Traditionally the old Jewish quarter, it was restored during the early 19th century.
It’s true that it may have some charm but the hordes of visitors crowding the narrow lanes and the touristic tapas bars offering bad quality and expensive meals spoil the neighborhood. If you want to experience a small Andalusian town, go to Carmona or Arcos de la Frontera, to name a few.
If you do go, wander around its narrow lanes and visit the Hospital de los Venerables.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sandra lives in Seville and spends all her free time exploring the world. She is the editor of Seville Traveller, an online resource about the city. She has also published a Pocket Guide that will help you plan the trip of a lifetime. You can follow her on Twitter or keep posted through Facebook.