Following the end of those brutal January deadlines, and whilst in the midst of one of the UK’s wettest winters on record, I felt it was time to leave behind the blue light of my laptop in search of some restorative sunshine abroad! The Andalusian region of southern Spain is known for its temperate climate during the winter months, and I would argue that this makes for an even more pleasant visit than during the height of summer, when temperatures can reach well past the 40°C mark. So here are a few of my recommendations for how to make the best of a quick trip to the sunny city of Seville!
We caught an early flight from Gatwick, taking just over two hours in the air to reach Seville, and used the very efficient airport shuttle service (costing around €4 per person) to make the quick trip to the city centre. Once travelling is out of the way, I’d spend the first day in the city getting your bearings a little and navigating around the charming side streets, which really won’t take long given how compact and walk-able Seville is. We were also staying in a very centrally-located Airbnb which helped!
One of the first sights we visited was the famous Plaza de España – or the Middle Eastern palace of ‘Wadiya’ if you’ve ever seen Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator – a rather extravagant but beautiful monument originally built as an exhibition space for the 1929 World Fair, which now mostly houses Government departments and an archaeological museum. There wasn’t exactly much to see inside, but that didn’t matter because we hired row boats for the little moat that curves around the front of the building, and wandered around the surrounding Maria Luisa Park.
We also called in on Bar El Comercio, famed for their traditional churros and classic decor. If you feel like heading off the beaten track a little, cross over the Puente de Isabel II bridge to the neighbourhood of Triana where the vibe is a lot less touristy. We also climbed up the Torre del Oro, an old military watch tower, but if you’re looking for expansive views over the city this isn’t the place – unless you’re visiting on a day with free entry I’d say save your €€! Instead, head to one of the many rooftop bars in the city centre, where the sunset view here comes with a glass of wine (not free of charge, obviously, that could get risky – see #StickWithYourMates).
Our accommodation was conveniently located around the corner from both the Royal Alcázar and the Catedral de Sevilla, and it’s definitely worth pre-booking your tickets here since these are two of the biggest attractions in the city and spaces fill up in advance, even during off-season! We headed to the Alcázar in the morning, a listed Unesco World Heritage site, and spent between 1-2 hours here just strolling through the gardens while I picked out my favourite tile patterns (despite how it sounds, no, we had not joined a pensioners guided group tour). Depending on how much of the rich history you want to absorb though, you could spend as much or as little time here as you please.
Following this, cross over to the Cathedral. Again, you can choose how long you spend here with options for guided tours and audio guides etc. Not only recognised as the world’s largest Gothic church, it’s home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the La Giralda – a large bell tower offering views over the city – providing you make it up the sloping ascent without getting too dizzy. Outside you can enjoy the Patio de los Naranjos – a courtyard of orange trees, however, after actually tasting one of these deceptively bitter fruits, they sort of lost their appeal beyond the aesthetic.
At around 5pm (winter season), head to Las Setas De Sevilla – or Metropol Parasol – said to be the largest wooden structure in the world, which boasts panoramic walkways and terraces with 360 degree views. My boyfriend and I both agreed this to be one of our favourite parts of Seville; the early evening sun was warming our faces as we strolled around the roof and surrounding plaza, taking in the views, ordering too many beers and espresso martinis at the bar below as a result of my poor Spanish skills
– reluctant to correct our waitress due to my typical English politeness.
City breaks as a student often mean you end up compromising on eating out at fancy restaurants, but I think one of my favourite things about Seville was being able to indulge in amazing tapas at fairly affordable prices. We visited a couple of really cosy little tapas bars, including Bar Pelayo, La Malvaloca (ideal for visiting after Las Setas), and my favourite which was Bar Augustin & Co for dishes that almost look too pretty to eat.
Overall, there turned out to be a fair few things that surprised me in Seville: firstly, just how many different forms of architecture came together, whether renaissance, gothic, or baroque, to create something that made me feel a little like I was being guided through a storybook.
Furthermore, not only was I impressed by the quality of food in the bars we visited, but also the speed of service. Spanish people often get a bad rep for being incredibly laidback – but those plates practically flew out of the kitchen! It also surprised me to learn that neither paella nor sangria are really that authentic to Seville – so avoid being lured in by the restaurants boasting these as it may be somewhat of a tourist trap.
Seville had all the ingredients for a perfect city break, being relatively accessible from both a financial and travel perspective (especially during the winter), it had plenty of character and classic charm, the streets were bustling but in a relaxed sort of way, and of course, delicious food could be found on every corner.