There’s nothing better for lifting the spirits and feeding the soul than blue sky and sunshine and Seville offers both in abundance most of the time. That’s why I knew it would be a perfect place to end 2016 and see in what will hopefully be a great 2017.
While the temperatures dropped down at night, the day time highs in Seville were around 18 degrees which is pretty good going in December, especially when its cold, wet and foggy at home. Here’s 10 highlights which I think will inspire you to visit one of Spain’s most captivating cities.
1. The Alcazar
My strongest memory of my trip to Seville eight years earlier was seeing the Alcazar palace. It really is a stunning place steeped in history and packed with beautiful features. There are many gorgeous rooms and courtyards, some with striking colours like the one in the photo above and others with intricate carvings, balconies and water features like this one.
And don’t even get me started on the fabulous gardens which are best viewed from Galeria de Grutesco, a raised gallery with porticoes. Top tip for the Alcazar is to book online. There’s a limit on how many people can go in at any one time so the queue can be very long. If you book in advance you go into a much shorter queue or walk straight in as we did.
2. Seville Cathedral
According to the Guinness Book of Records Seville’s huge cathedral is the largest church in the world, so it’s no wonder it took 100 years to build the Gothic wonder. You might also need to queue to go in here, but it moves quite quickly. Once inside a helpful little leaflet has a map and suggested order to look at the many chapels and tombs (including the Tomb of Christopher Columbus), the choir (pictured below) and fabulous high altar.
3. Climbing the Giralda
Once you’ve been around the cathedral don’t miss the walk up to the top of the bell tower, the Giralda, where there are great views. It’s a bit of a hike but you walk up ramps rather than steps which are a bit easier on the legs. The Giralda is a really beautiful and iconic Seville sight that you can see from all over the city. We stayed nearby so it was always very easy to find our way home.
4. Tapas in Triana
I didn’t cross the river last time I went to Seville so was glad I made the effort to do this time time and explore Triana, a neighborhood with a different feel to the main tourist area of Santa Cruz. Isabel II is a good bridge to cross as just on the other side is the infamous Castillo de San Jorge, where the Spanish Inquisition Court held its first council. Next to that is Mercado de Triana, a market with some great food and tapas stalls.
We headed to Las Golondrinas for our tapas lunch which was brilliant as offered some quite different dishes to a lot of the city’s tapas bars. If the beautifully tiled small bar looks busy don’t miss the extra dining area just across the narrow street. There’s no sign on the door but there are lots more tables inside. After lunch we wandered around the area checking out some of the many ceramic shops. Again they had different and much better offerings than in the main tourist areas. One of the nicest was Ceramica Santa Ana which specialises in tiles and has a lovely facade. Next door to it is a small ceramics museum.
5. Rio Guadalquivir
Seville’s river has a fair few sights to see along its banks, not least the twelve sided Torre del Oro which sits on the East bank. It was once used to store gold from the Americas (hence the name, Tower of Gold) but now houses a naval museum. You can pick up a river cruise outside, or if you fancy a meal with a view, cross to the other side where there’s a string of restaurants with outside seating. It wasn’t a meal time when we walked by but made a note of Restaurante Abades Triana which looked very nice for a future visit.
6. Mercado navideno de artesania
We decided to take a walk to Seville’s main shopping street Calle Sierpes in the El Centro area and went via the 16th century Plaza de San Fransisco. The southern end of the town hall is here while the other side is in the much bigger Plaza Nueva. I’m not sure what the square is normally like but from mid December it had been hosting XVII Mercado navideno de artesania, which was the nicest Christmas market I’ve seen. Some really lovely stalls selling unusual ceramic, jewellery and other great gifts.
7. Cava with a view
One of the reasons I chose the Hotel Palacio Alcazar was because of its rooftop bar and we made very good use of it. The hotel is in an orange tree lined quiet street off a small square, one side of which is a wall of the Alcazar. That means its also very close to the Cathedral and up on the roof you have the best view of the Giralda. It’s also an amazing little sun trap so the perfect place to enjoy some late afternoon glasses of cava. The sun didn’t set until after 6, giving us nearly two hours longer than at home. Oh and the bar is open to non residents too if you’re staying elsewhere.
8. Fabulous flamenco
You really can’t go to Seville without taking in a flamenco show. The music and dancing is dramatic and stirring and you can see the impact it has on both performers and audiences. There are stacks of places you can see it including at the Museo de Baile Flamenco where you can also learn all about it’s history. We went to a show on New Year’s Eve before going for dinner, so for ease we chose the one at La Casa del Flamenco. It’s a 15th century house in Calle Ximenez de Enciso, a street close to where we were staying and to Calle Mateos Gago, one of Seville’s main streets for tapas bars and restaurants where we were eating that night. Was definitely a fab way to start our evening.
9. New Year’s Eve at L’Azotea
Our New Year’s Eve continued in L’Azotea, a restaurant group that has four branches in Seville but only the one in Calle Mateos Gago was open. Its not unusual for places to close on New Year’s Eve in Spain so staff can spend time with family and friends. There are always some places open but its a good idea to book ahead if you want somewhere nice. We were really pleased with our choice. It was a set menu with unlimited drinks and as we were sitting at the bar there was no shortage of cava and wine. They also produced a completely vegetarian menu for us even though we think only one other person was having it. The atmosphere was great, the staff were very hard working and friendly and it was a great place to see in 2017.
10. Dinner at Mamma Bistro
The final highlight I’ll mention is also food because while Seville is very well known for tapas, people don’t always realise there are other great meals to be had. To be honest I’m a bit done with tapas after a couple of days so was really pleased to get a table at Mamma Bistro. It’s in Calle Mateos Gago which is lined with tapas bars and while they do offer tapas, they also do other fab dishes including some wonderful sea bass and swordfish. It was No 1 on Trip Advisor when we were there and understandably so. We were lucky to get a table so I’d definitely recommend booking.
Another good place to eat on that street is Casa Tomate, while Bodega Belmonte whips up a good cooked breakfast. The Salt and Sugar cafe in Calle Ximenez de Enciso is tiny but lovely for lighter breakfast options and takeway coffees. And we had some great drinks under a heater at Bar Giralda among other places.
So that’s a small snapshot of sunny Seville. There’s lots more to see and do but hopefully this has given you a flavour and the inspiration to go and discover more of it for yourself. Click on an image below to scroll through more photos in the gallery.