Wow! What a beautiful city. Seville, or ‘Sevilla’ as the Spanish pronounce it, is just perfect in September. In July and August it can be extremely hot and quite unpleasant for tourists trying to find their way around the streets on a hot midsummers day. It has a wonderful Old Town, the third largest in Europe. It contains three UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and General Archive of the Indies.
We arrived on the train from Torremolinos, having travelled for a pleasant two and a half hours. We stayed at Pierre & Vacances, Sevilla. These apartments are new, reasonably priced, very well located, extremely clean and fully equipped. (www.pierreetvacances.com)
Once settled in we had a tapas lunch in the restaurant street very near to the apartment and then we caught the red, Hop on Hop off bus (13€). It gave us a fabulous overview of the city. We hopped on at the Gold Tower which is a 13thcentury historic watchtower. We took the route around Maria Luisa Park where there is a large number of pavilions that were built for the 1929 Expo. We first saw the magnificent half circle Plaza de España on the edge of the park which was built in 1928 and served as the headquarters for the Expo. It is a landmark building, built in the Renaissance Revival style of Spanish architecture. It also features a moat with four bridges and a magnificent central fountain. The permanent legacy of the Expo is the impressive pavilions in the park built by South American countries and the USA. Don’t miss a much older pavilion called the Queen’s Sewing Box. Constructed in the late nineteenth century, this unique building takes the form of a small hexagonal castle with turrets at the corners where the queen went to escape the court and concentrate on her needlework.
The tour then continued through the Triana area south of the river. This area was formerly very poor and the only link between it and the old town at the time was by boat. Triana is said to be the original home of Spanish Flamenco dancing and music, emanating from the gypsy population that lived in the Triana area. This part of Seville is also very famous for its production of ceramic tiles, as the clay from the river is ideal for tile making. Today Triana has been gentrified and filled with fine apartments, hotels, bars and restaurants. Take time to explore the area along the river front for some excellent vantage points when treating yourself to that special lunch.
The next area of the tour revealed a newer part of Seville where the 1992 Expo was held. Today Aeropolis is a technology park dedicated to businesses in the aerospace sector. We then crossed back over the river into the tiny narrow streets of the old quarter of Seville where we drove past ultra modern buildings, including the Metropol Parasol, the largest wooden structure in the world. We also passed major shopping centres such as as El Court Ingles which, like its counterpart in Barcelona, has an excellent rooftop restaurant. We headed back towards the old city where we ended the 90 minute tour close to Plaza De Toros, Seville’s famous bull ring.
The Bull Ring
While we were here we decided to take a guided tour of Plaza De Toros which we found out is the oldest bull ring in the world. Made of stone and wood it was finally completed in 1881. It has boxes for the Spanish Royal family. The ring is a tourist attraction itself. We went inside the ring where our guide explained that a bull fight consists of six bulls and three matadors and their teams. Each matador and his team fight twice. The ring has seating for about 14 thousand people, but today it is seldom full, as most young Spaniards bitterly shun what is considered a cruel and brutal blood sport. However, the tradition and the spectacle is still alive and well for many older Spaniards who treat this pastime like an evening at the theatre, with all its colour, drama and tragedy.
The Old City
The next day we visited the centre of the old city and found the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the Sea which is the largest cathedral in the world. Churches are not usually our thing, but this one was quite spectacular. This World Heritage site was completed in the 16th century and is the burial site of Christopher Columbus. We were most impressed by the cathedral’s ceiling and the size of the church organ which towers over the inside centre of the church.
Close by the Cathedral you will find the Alcázar Palace. This is another Wow! The Alcazar of Seville was originally a Moorish fort but today, it is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. The architecture in the palace is some of the finest remaining examples of Moorish buildings. The tiles and ceiling designs are spectacular. The palace takes about a couple of hours to walk through but it is well worth it.
Our evenings in Seville were mainly about eating and a few drinks at the bars in the gay area. There are two outstanding tapas restaurants we can recommend, the first is Mechela Restaurante at 34 Calle Bailen. This contemporary tapas restaurant is highly popular and a booking is essential. A must try was the squid stuffed with black pudding and baked apple purée. We also loved the cod confit, falafel, with yogurt and beetroot dressing. (See pic) They also had an assortment of delicious wines to choose from. The second restaurant we ate at twice because we loved it so much. La Chunga, at Calle 9 Arjona, is very much a local urban eatery with almost no tourists. Not a flash place but so busy, when you arrive, you have to write your name on the blackboard and wait outside for a table. Our favourite tapas were the cheese fig and honey, tiny beef burgers (see pic) with caramelised onions and mustard mayo, parmesan and truffle risotto and a famous, traditional Andalusian dish, pork loin in whiskey. We also tried the goose liver la plancha (grilled) which was delicious, but a very rich flavour and texture.
After dinner one night, finishing just before 12 midnight as you do in Spain, we took ourselves off to the gay bars which are located around Calle Amor and Calle Tarajano. We visited Bohemia Bar which had a mixed clientele with a scattering of bears, including a giant stuffed teddy bear, trying to sing Karaoke. We somehow did not move on from here as we felt very comfortable chatting with three other English speaking guys. Very close by is El Hombre y el Oso, meaning the man and the bear. This bar is more popular later in the evening. In the next street is Men to Men. It is not surprising that this is a cruise bar with the usual dark rooms and cabins and also, by all reports, has a good dance floor and DJ’s. The gay scene in Seville is small but, from our experience, very friendly and on a Friday and Saturday nights, very busy.
Seville is certainly worth at least three days. This is a small walkable city with a rich Moorish heritage, spectacular buildings, parks and a superb variety of restaurants and bars. The people are open, hospitable and life in the city is vibrant until all hours of the night. Seville won over our hearts and when we are in this part of the world again, we will be sure to return.