Spain is definitely a favorite country of ours now! If you haven’t yet, read about our first taste of Spain through Madrid here. Seville on the other hand, feels like the quieter, pious and dignified middle sister. She is a gorgeous historic city full of churches and lined with orange trees, and while we saw plenty of tourists, the vibe of Seville was very relaxed. We only had a few days and we wished we had more time.
Figuring out train travel
That said, our first day getting into Seville was a little hectic.
We came from the Madrid Atocha station, a giant train station that’s supposed to be lovely but because we departed in the dark of morning, we weren’t able to see much of it. Madrid Atocha was the first train station we saw with a security check, but it was just an easy plop our backpacks onto the conveyor and walk through kind.
However, the trouble was the morning just before we left for the station, I discovered that what I thought was our e-ticket attachment was actually just the order confirmation. It turned out the e-tickets were never sent, but I didn’t have time to contact Eurail at that point so we power walked 2.3km with our double backpacks to the station hoping we could just get them printed.
To our great sweating profusely dismay, the customer service reps said they do not deal with Eurail reservations and seemed disinclined to offer any other help, perhaps due to our appearance. With no other choice, we went to the ticket windows and purchased tickets for the next available train. Luckily it wasn’t a huge expense, but it was an extra cost and it was severely frustrating for me to be making such a silly mistake.
At this point, we also decided we’d had enough of our torturous double backpack strategy, so we took advantage of the black week sales and bought luggages. These were just some of the things we learned along the way, so save yourself from these troubles by learning from our first month of traveling here. If not for the Eurail bit, train travel itself has been very enjoyable.
Monkey Week and the Best Croquettes
Our day turned for the better when we arrived to our AirBnB and met Paco. He was a wonderful host and active communicator and he was so patient with us when we kept rescheduling our check in time. Paco gave us plenty of recommendations and the very first thing we did was head to one of his favorites, Arte y Sabor, a cute Moroccan inspired tapas restaurant.
As we walked into the Alameda de Hércules, we were surprised to hear a rock band singing in English; we’d arrived just in time to catch the last day of Monkey Week, a music festival that helps promote independent Spanish musicians to professionals across Europe. We skirted just past the main stage to Arte y Sabor, where all the outdoor tables were already filled. So inside we went to discover a love for pork cheeks and croquettes. Carl and I had already begun to develop a keen interest in Japanese style croquettes back at home, so you already know what happened when we found out that croquettes is a staple tapas in Spain: we ordered them every chance we got, and Arte y Sabor had the best. Also here, I finally learned to ask for a “dry” rather than “sweet” white wine in Spain. It seems there is a preference for sweet white wine to begin with, so ordering “sweet” will get you something close to dessert wine while ordering “dry” will get you something that probably pairs with your food better.
Seville will satisfy your soul
After filling our bellies, we headed under a drizzle to the city center towards the beckoning church bells. Seville is full of churches and their bells can be heard throughout the day in all parts of the city. We attempted to follow a recommended hack by going first to El Divino Salvador to purchase the double ticket that includes the Catedral de Sevilla, but that day neither church seemed to require tickets.
We located El Divino Salvador just as the rain began to pour. An intimate hush enveloped us as the heavy wooden doors sealed away the pelting rain and we were transported to another world. A gigantic ark stood encased to our left and all along the walls were these huge ornate altarpieces. We were stunned by the sheer amount of details despite the modest size of the church. We walked quietly from piece to piece, admiring and reading the descriptions. When we came to the main altar with the suspended angels; it was the first time I felt I could understand the power of the grandeur used to inspire divinity. The immense devotion that must have gone into the work of these altars seemed to glow from within them.
In contrast, the Seville cathedral was massive but much of it was inaccessible. The main area with the tourist placards was poorly lit and there were swarms of people around, so we were rather disappointed. Paco recommended that instead we try to visit the cathedral around the 10am mass to listen to the organ playing, but we were unable to catch it during our short visit.
The lesser known Palace
The skies were still gray but the rain seemed to be finished for the day as we headed to Casa de Pilatos, the often overshadowed Andalusian palace, but we were so glad we came. We arrived late afternoon and had plenty of time to wander with only a few other visitors, allowing us to shamelessly photograph and film to our hearts content.
The city for Flamenco
If the famous Andalusian art form of Flamenco interests you, you’ll have your pick of shows in Seville. We caught our first show in Madrid and was really looking forward to another one, so we booked tickets at the Casa de la Guitarra on the pretext that it would be more educational and it was held in a space that doubled as a guitar museum, which I thought Carl would enjoy.
Though I booked the tickets online the evening before the show, we wound up with front row center seats, right next to a very sweet but tired looking girl laying across her mother’s lap. Much of the audience was chatting in French, so we all shared smiles and took in the cases of spectacular guitars along the walls. As I look around at the guitars, I notice that the mother is rubbing the little girl’s back as she sits up, and I’m wondering perhaps if she is not feeling well. At that particular moment the little girl begins to throw up. Her mom scrambles to open a plastic bag and to apologize to the tightly packed audience around us, but alas, our “best seats in the house” have left me with a leg speckled and half my seat cushion affected. Mother and daughter take their leave and the hostess comes to mop up the front as the sympathetic French ladies behind me help to detach the seat cushion so I can at least sit fully on my chair. Minutes later the show begins and we all do our best to focus on the stage.
The show itself is a quick hour and while they do break them up into separate portions and preface them, I found that the introductions were fairly lacking and seemed to be mainly which regions the styles came from. The show began with the guitar, which is extremely impressive on its own. Then a singer is introduced, and though we don’t understand any Spanish, she sounded as if she was not singing any words at all but rather accompanying the guitar as another instrument. Then the dancer is introduced and she takes over the small stage with all her fierce severity and I swear I can see the glint of tears in her eyes. The show was a wonderful experience and definitely worth the visit, however we didn’t find it educational at all.
Orange wine & ibérico pork cheeks
After the show we head back along the Calle Mateos Gago towards all the restaurants to Taberna Alvaro Peregil for dinner. We finally try the famous orange wine, which if you’ve ever had chenpi – basically tastes exactly like the Chinese dried mandarin peels! It’s not bad, but for me, it invoked memories of long family road trips and eating chenpi to avoid car sickness – so a very specific flavor memory for me! Anyhow, the one thing you must try at Taberna Alvaro Peregil is the pork cheeks: they use a wine sauce, so it’s a little reminiscent of French cooking, but they were the most flavorful pork cheeks we had in Seville.
Extravagance is the norm
Our second day in Seville was filled with an unrivaled amount of extravagance: we visited the Plaza de España, Parque de Maria Luisa, and the Alcázar of Seville. Since we did not pre-purchase tickets to the Alcázar, we decided to wait out the line and visit the park first. The Plaza de España is the epitome of picturesque: a water fountain, a little canal, bridges, roses lined with tiled pillars fencing the entire plaza. Everywhere you look there’s a photo op, and people were definitely all about getting that perfect photo on the bridges. While we waited our turn for an empty-ish bridge, we walked along the walls to look at all the tiled alcoves representing the various provinces of Spain.
When the plaza began to feel a little too busy, we stepped away towards the rest of the Santa Maria Luisa park. This park is ginormous and wonderfully lush, I only wished we had more time to wander through it and relax. I have mixed feelings about horse drawn carriages, but they seem to be very popular in Seville and you can find them almost everywhere, and Santa Maria Luisa park is so big it might be the one place to take advantage of a ride.
On the way back to the Alcázar, we stopped by La Sacristia for lunch; they also had excellent pork cheeks with a tomato based sauce and the croquettes here were super cheesy.
By about 3pm the line at the Alcázar was much shorter so we made our way in. While I was glad for the smaller crowd in the late afternoon, I will admit that it might have been a better idea to go earlier and have more time to visit the grounds: the place is massive! The palace is this amazing architectural display of history; a collection of all things beautiful. There’s Arabic inscriptions, glorious stonework, intricate tiling, sunken gardens, numerous fountains, a flurry of color everywhere, and the endless groves of orange trees. No amount of photos could ever do it justice, you’ll just have to come experience it for yourself – and please take us back with you!
Before ending our day, we stopped by the well known El Rinconcillo Bar to sample another Andalusian signature, the manzanilla. Just outside there was a large crowd gathering and at first we were astonished thinking the bar was that full, but it turns out we’d arrived the day before the church of Santa Catalina de Sevilla, located just across from El Rinconcillo, was to reopen after 14 years of closure to the public. Slipping through the hordes, we were able to secure a spot next to the window and watch the procession of relics make their way to the church, as we very slowly sipped the potent manzanilla, in awe of it all.
We only had about 3 days in Seville and definitely wished we had more. We had a bit of rain at the end of November, which did limit us a bit since much of Seville’s best experiences are outdoors, but we made it work! Browse our photos for inspiration or read on for more logistical information or jump down to the details on all the places we recommended.
We highly recommend our stay in the Apartment in the center of Seville,
Paco was a wonderful host and gave us a very thorough check-in was very thorough. He provided thoughtful amenities like juice and water and was always willing to answer questions and provide recommendations. The apartment was walking distance to most everything, though it is situated up more north, so the Parque de Maria Luisa was a bit of a trek. If you’re sensitive to noise, we will warn you that we could hear everything outside from the street, but that seems to be fairly common throughout Europe.
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We found that in Spain there were less multilingual people and even if you might look like a tourist/not Spanish, people will first speak to you in Spanish. This suited us fine because it helped us really practice Spanish, rather than just asking people if they spoke English all the time.
Vaccinations: Routine Vaccinations
Mosquito problems: None at the time. Their windows don’t have screens.
Problems for tattoos: None
Traveling as a woman: Standard Precautions
Currency: 1 EUR = 1.15 USD
Tipping is not required but is widely practiced here. Apparently there aren’t hard calculations, but rather some small change for the bar or table service or 1-2 EUR at the table.
$80-100/person: This was for 2 evenings in Seville with a private Airbnb apartment. As we only had a few days we primarily ate out, saw a Flamenco show and went to the Alcázar of Seville and Casa de Pilatos.
Some typical costs
- tapas: 4-8 EUR
- Flamenco at Casa de la Guitarra: 18 EUR pp
- glass of sherry: 2-4 EUR
- AirBnB: $47/night
Arte y Sabor, Alameda de Hércules, 85, $-$$. Try their pork cheeks and the mushroom and spinach croquettes!
El Divino Salvador, Pl. del Salvador, 3 – we recommend this church over the Cathedral. Though we got in free, there is a recommended time saving hack to purchase the double entry ticket that includes the Cathedral at this church before going to the Cathedral.
Casa de Pilatos, Pl. de Pilatos, 1, $ – beautiful little palace that is worth going to, but be sure to visit this one before visiting the Alcázar.
Casa de la Guitarra, flamencoensevilla.com, Calle Mesón del Moro, 12, $$ – Great show but not as informative as we’d anticipated.
Taberna Alvaro Peregil, tabernasperegil.com/index.htm, 41004, Calle Mateos Gago, 22, $-$$ – The best pork cheeks tapas!
Plaza de España, Parque de Maria Luisa, Paseo de las Delicias, s/n, free – The plaza is located in the park. The park is very big, make sure to give yourself enough time to explore!
Alcázar of Seville, alcazarsevilla.org, Patio de Banderas, $$ – Insider tip: purchasing your tickets online costs an extra Euro, but it will save you time. But if you’re trying to save money by purchasing on site – make sure to bring cash. If you pay with card, they will charge you in your domestic currency which will include a exchange rate fee.
El Rinconcillo Bar, elrinconcillo.es/en/home, Calle Gerona, 40, $
Panypiu, alcazarsevilla.org, Calle Cabeza del Rey Don Pedro, 15, $-$$ – Great bakery for breakfast or a quick lunch. We tried the sandwiches on a sort of focaccia, the bread was excellent!