You cannot travel to Andalucia without paying a visit to Seville – and it’s not just because it is the capital city of the southern Spanish province that basks in dizzying sunshine and lounges in the sweet fragrance of orange blossom.
The history of Seville dates back to 8th century BC and is marked by its culturally diverse rulers, from the Carthaginians to the Romans and Muslims, thus giving the city its fascinating outlook today.
Two areas make up the heart of Seville. El Arenal sits right by the Guadalquivir River that stretches 657km (408 miles) and is best known for housing one of the oldest bullrings in Spain – Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza.
Santa Cruz, attached to the east of El Arenal, is the city’s Jewish quarter and where you will find some of the most famous and historic sights.
Catedral de Sevilla & La Giralda
Upon arriving at the cathedral, we waited in a small queue for around 45 minutes while soaking up the atmosphere of the plaza. Horse drawn carriages casually galloped through; locals exchanged smiles and greetings as warm as the midday sun.
As we moved through the queue and made our way to the entrance of the cathedral, we were instantly impressed with the detailed carvings on its exterior.
Once we stepped inside, its sheer size alone blew us away. Covering a stunning 23,500 square metres and standing at 83 metres high, the Cathedral benefits from its original structure of a mosque.
There are countless chapels and other architectural features to admire, so here are some recommended highlights if you are pressed for time:
- The Tomb of Christopher Columbus
- The Sacristia Mayor
- Capilla Mayor
- High Altar
The Bell Tower, or La Giralda, is worth a climb. It is built with gentle ramps instead of the flight of stairs, making it much easier to ascend 35 levels to enjoy a panoramic view of Seville.
September – June
Monday: 11am – 3.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 11am – 5pm
Sunday: 2.30pm – 6pm
July – August
Monday: 9.30am – 2.30pm
Tuesday to Saturday: 9.30am – 4.30pm
Sunday: 2.30pm – 6.30pm
Entrance Fee: €9
We grabbed a quick bite at Taberna Manolete, which is located right opposite the cathedral’s exit from the courtyard with orange trees (Patio de los Naranjos).
Amongst a row of tapas bars and restaurants packed with tourists, this was one of very few places that still had seats. We ordered some starters, Spanish omelette, sangria, which were all of decent quality and came in good-sized portions.
The royal residence, a World Heritage Site since 1987, was the first of many awe-inspiring Moorish architectural masterpieces that I would come to appreciate throughout the trip.
Open space, flowing water and luscious plants are three popular features often found in these buildings created during the Moorish occupation of Spain.
They add a touch of humility to the majestic craftsmanship that adorns every arch, dome and courtyard covered with intricate carvings created with simple geometry.
Its dazzling brilliance will cast a spell over you, but not as much as the Salón de Embajadores – the dome of the Ambassadors’ Hall at Patio de las Doncellas.
The Alcázar naturally extends into its ‘jardines’ and they are in no way your average palace gardens. The ground is so vast and the trees so rich and green that it’s almost like you have stepped from one paradise to another.
There is a hydraulic organ, named ‘Fountain of Fame’, which puts on a small show every hour on the dot. Take a stroll along the Galería del Grutesco, too.
Game of Thrones Season 5 shot some scenes at the Alcázar as well, so spare time to spot them if you’re a fan.
October – March
Monday to Sunday: 9.30am – 5pm
April – September
Monday to Sunday: 9.30am – 7pm
*Closed on January 1&6, Holy Friday and December 25
Entrance Fee: €9.50
Before sitting down for dinner, we walked around Santa Cruz to appreciate its picturesque streets while passing the Ayuntamiento (town hall), Hospital de los Venerables (priests’ residence) and Archivo de Indias (Archive of the Indies).
It was during our little walk that we came across a ticket booth – in the disguise of a photo shop – for flamenco shows at the famous Los Gallos. Just like that, our evening entertainment was sorted.
In order to make it to the first show at 8.30pm, we dined at a bar/restaurant nearby, called Casa Tomate.
A nice little place with a lively but not rowdy buzz, Casa Tomate offers a delicious menu complemented by its unique decor.
First order of business was to order the popular Andalucia dish – Salmorejo, which is similar to Gazpacho but with a richer and creamier taste, accentuated by the diced boiled eggs and Iberian ham.
We also tried Solomillo Mojo (pork tenderloin with whisky and cheese), Hojaldre (pastry with king prawns) and Chipiron America (cuttlefish in American sauce) – all delicious and reasonably priced.
I missed out on watching Flamenco shows last time I visited Spain, and I have always wanted to watch one – an authentic one.
Holding the tickets for a show at Los Gallos in my hands, I was bursting with excitement.
Admittedly, I have considered the possibility that we, as tourists, had been ripped off. However, all my doubts went straight out the window as soon as the guitarist took the stage.
Strumming passionate chords on his Spanish guitar to the tap of the dancers’ high-heeled feet, he filled the intimate venue with a rhythmic vibe and alluring charm all at once.
One dancer in particularly earned deafening applause from the audience, and her name was Ángeles Gabaldón. There are no words to describe how precise and elegant her moves were, and how seductively she mesmerised us into the night.
First show: 8.30pm – 10pm
Second show: 10.30pm – 00.00am
Charge: €35 (include one drink)