Tag Archives: Seville

What to do in Seville and the best Seville attractions.

Eating cheaply in Seville

When visiting Seville, eating out can be a chew up a large part of your travel budget.  Whether you eat tapas or enjoy a nice restaurant, the cost of food can add up quickly. Here are my tips for cheap eats in Seville, so you’ll have more money to spend on Seville attractions such as the Alcazar, the Cathedral, the Bascilica de la Macarena, the Barrio Santa Cruz, and Flamenco dancing.

This isn’t to say eating cheaply means eating poorly.  You can find some healthy meals while enjoying unique, local experiences in Spain when you are traveling.  Eating cheaply means going where many tourists aren’t going.  Eating cheaply can mean sharing a few tapas and making it a meal rather than going to a restaurant.  While there are many options out there, here are a few places to find some cheap meals, and great experiences.

Seville University (Credit: Ronan Crowley)

The local university – While in Seville, take a walk around the university.  Universities and colleges are fascinating places to explore and see what life is like for young people.  While wandering through the university, we stumbled upon a cafe filled with university students grabbing a bite between classes.  We decided to try it out and had a couple of chicken sandwiches and a drink for less than 10 euros.  More importantly, it was fascinating to watch the students interact and just enjoy being college students.

El Corte Ingles – Seville (Credit: Metro Centric)

Department stores – In many countries, big chain department stores, like El Corte Ingles,  often have grocery stores on one of the floors.  Wandering through the aisles to see all the foods that Spanish people eat is quite an experience – some are familiar while others are quite foreign.  Buying bread, meat, fruits, and vegetables can be a great way to sample Spanish food, see how the locals eat, stock up for a picnic, and save money.  Not only can you get a cheap meal but you can also buy plenty of healthy snacks to help you save money as well.

Cheap meal – Chinese food in Spain (Credit: Jeremy Branham)

Cheap restaurants – Not all restaurants are expensive.  Wandering through certain neighborhoods, you can check out the menus and what the daily specials are to see what they have to offer.  While wandering near the Cathedral, we stopped at a local Chinese restaurant and had fried rice, an egg roll, chicken with almonds, a drink, and a dessert for 6.50 Euro.  Not only was it a cheap meal, it was good as well.  We were the only ones in the restaurant and it was a great experience to hear Chinese people speaking Spanish.

Enjoy some of the great restaurants and food that this Andalusian city has to offer.  However, if you want to save money,  you can take my Seville budget travel tips.

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The Barrio Santa Cruz – the Jewish quarter in Seville

One of the more unique parts of Seville is in one of its oldest neighborhoods – the Barrio Santa Cruz.  While the area is now a refreshing getaway from the rest of the city, it was once a thriving Jewish neighborhood in the city.

When the Muslims were finally expelled from Spain, the Jews thrived in this area of the city.  The area included a synagogue, family houses, and narrow streets which became a neighborhood unto its self.  In 1492, the Jews were expelled from Spain and the neighborhood went downhill and was renewed in the 18th century.  One of the former synagogues was converted into the Church of Saint Bartholomew and this area lost some of its Jewish history.  While the area is thriving once again, many symbols of this Jewish neighborhood are no longer visible to tourists.

Walking the streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz, you see a part of the city that is different than all of the rest.  The neighborhood consists of narrow alleys, winding streets, little plazas (squares), and orange trees.  The small alleys were designed to maximize the shade in the city as the small alleys are a little cooler than the rest of the city.  Orange trees provide shade and color to this neighborhood as the winding streets provide a maze of narrow houses and alleys to explore.

The old city water pipes are a part of this neighborhood and exploring the many little squares gives you some insight into its history.  Little streets open up to plazas which seem to come out of nowhere.  Enjoy tapas and restaurants as you walk among the white-washed houses, peering into the gardens visible from the streets.  Plaza de la Santa Cruz contains an old church (where this neighborhood gets its name) and synagogue while Plaza de los Venerables has bars and terraces.  Explore all the different plazas and see what the area has to offer.

The neighborhood is close to many other parts of the city including an entrance to the Murillo Gardens of the Alcazar.  However, exploring the neighborhood of the Barrio Santa Cruz is a step back in time and a fun walk through a historical part of this city, so it’s a worthwhile addition to your Seville sightseeing.  Winding your way through, enjoy the many plazas, the gardens and trees, the beautiful white-washed houses, and the narrow alleys.

While visiting the Barrio Santa Cruz is an interesting stroll through this part of Seville, it’s design, alleys, and beautiful make it a nice way to cool off in the hot summer heat of the city.

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Flamenco dancing in Seville

Flamenco dancing has a long history and tradition in Seville.  Heavily influenced by the Moors, Flamenco has its roots in Roma (Gypsy) culture as well.  Raspy singers in an arabic style and language mix with guitars, clapping, and dancing to captivate the mind and body in a spirit of movement.

While much of Flamenco dancing today is for tourists visiting Spain, it’s a cultural art form that embodies the history of this city and region.  While the dancing is heavily influenced by other cultures, it is Andalusian in its roots.  Like the Alcazar and the Cathedral, it’s a symbol of Seville.

Visitors to Seville can see Flamenco dancing in a number of different shows and venues.  Flamenco still thrives among generations of Andalusians and can be performed among friends and family.  For most people, the excitement of this dance can be seen in a cabaret or cafe performance or in a large concert.  While the height of Flamenco dancing was in the mid 1800s to early 1900s, it still lives on today.

Some of the best guitarists in the world are part of Flamenco.  Flamenco dancing is generally made up of a guitarist, singer, and dancer working together in rhythm, song, and graceful steps and dancing to evoke the passion of the “Spanish Blues.”  Women are dressed in layers with colorful dresses as they dance and stomp to the raspy-voiced singers and incredibly fast fingers of the strumming guitar.

Flamenco dancing can be appreciated for many different things – the voices, the rhythm, the dancing, or the music.  For me, I was fascinated by the speed with which the guitar was played.  The talent of these guitar players is incredible and I’ve never seen such amazing skill by a musician.  Combined with the singing and rhythmic dancing, Flamenco is one of the most fascinating cultural dances you can experience.

If you visit Seville, attend a Flamenco show.  While it may seem nothing more than a tourist attraction, the skills and history on display will captivate you as your eyes witness a performance of cultural significance and meaning in this part of Spain.

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Seville’s Grand Cathedral

One of the highlights and must-see Seville sights is the Cathedral of Seville (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede).  The Cathedral is a big draw for many people just for its size alone – it’s the third largest cathedral in the world.  However, there’s much more to this place than just its size.

The Cathedral was another effort by the city of Seville to flaunt its re-conquest of the city over the Moors.  The church began construction in 1402 on the site of a former mosque.  It was finally finished in 1506 but had to have numerous work done after the dome collapsed in 1511 and 1888.

Some pieces of the mosque remained as part of it was used to build the cathedral.  The Giralda bell tower of the cathedral used to be the minaret used to call Muslims to prayer.  It was built wide enough for a man to ride up on a horse and makes for a great climb when making your way to the top for some of the best views of the city.

While Seville Cathedral is beautiful in many ways, size was a feature that is prominent throughout the grand church.  One of the features on the inside of the church is the altar piece.  At nearly 20 meters, it is the highest altar in the world.  Aside from the size, it’s beauty is seen in the 44 scenes of Christ depicted on the altar designed by Pierre Dancart.

With its grand size, the Cathedral features 80 chapels and numerous tombs.  The nave of the church is 42 meters long and is the longest in Spain.  Of the tombs, the most famous are that of Christopher Columbus and Ferdinand III.  A number of treasuries display some of the jewels, including a crown with 11,000 jewels.

The Cathedral takes at least a couple of hours to see with the altar piece, the Giralda bell tower, the tomb of Columbus, and the treasury.  A walk outside takes you into a court area with a number of trees giving you shade from the hot summer heat in Seville.

While the size and the wealth of Seville’s Cathedral alone is worth seeing, there is so much more to it.  It’s another example of the blend of Moorish and Christian architecture as the the Cathedral is the crown jewel and symbol of the city.  So make sure it’s on your Seville sightseeing itinerary, along with Alcazar and the Bascilica de la Macarena.

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Basilica de la Macarena – Seville, Spain

One of the most famous women of Seville lives in a small church a few minutes from downtown Seville.  While many people outside of Spain may not know who she is, this beautiful woman brings tears and celebrations across the entire city when she passes through.

She’s not a famous actress, singer, or royalty – she’s a statue.  La Virgen de Macarena is one of the holiest figures in Spain.  Every year, she is brought from her home, the Basilica de la Macarena, and paraded through the city during Holy Week.  The parade begins on Good Friday as she is carried throughout the city on a beautiful float to the sounds of screams and praise and the shedding of many tears.

You don’t have to be here during Holy Week to get a glimpse of the beautiful virgin.  Stop by the small church and visit the beautiful altarpiece with the Weeping Virgin.  As you walk up to the altar for a close look, you can see the detail with which which we was designed.  Her hair is life-like as it is made from real human hair.  However, the Weeping Virgin would not be who she is without the crystal tear drop on her cheek.

While visiting the Basilica, you can see two of the biggest floats in the Holy Week parade behind the altar to the virgin.  The church was built in 1949 by Aurelio Gomez Milan and the altar piece which holds the virgin for most of the year was designed by Juan Perez Calvo.  As for the beautiful virgin, it was believed that she was sculpted by Luisa Roldan in the 17th century.

Getting to the church takes about a 20 minute walk from downtown or a ride on one of the local buses which stops just outside of the church.  However, for many in Spain and the city of Seville, any chance to visit La Virgen de la Macarena is well worth a visit.

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The Christian palace of the Moors – the Alcazar, Seville, Spain

Last week I wrote a post about the Spanish city of Seville and touched upon the many wonderful Seville attractions. Now I’d like to focus on one of the most fascinating Seville attractions, the Alcazar. Built by the Moors in the 10th century, the Alcazar served as the fort and palace of the Moors when they ruled over the city.  It was an inspirational structure built in the Islamic style which served as the city’s ruling palace.  After the Moors were conquered and pushed out of the city in 1248, the palace received a makeover.

While the Alhambra in Granada is the greatest example of Moorish architecture in Spain, the Alcazar in Seville would be a close second.  However, unlike its Moorish cousin in Granada, the Alcazar isn’t exactly a Muslim structure – it’s built in a different style.

In the 14th century, Moorish workers were hired by King Pedro I to rebuild the the Alcazar with a mix of architectural styles of Muslim and Christian influence.  This is know as Mudéjar style.  Unlike Moorish buildings which don’t allow images, the Alcazar has images of a lion and other Christian symbols throughout the palace.

This Seville attraction still serves as a royal palace today and contains three parts – the Admiral’s apartments, the King’s palace, and the 13th century Gothic wing.

While the Alcazar has a Moorish history, the apartments are a celebration of Columbus.  The apartments were where Queen Isabel debriefed Columbus after his return.  Inside, there is a painting by Alejo Fernandez called the Virgin of the Navigators which shows St Mary of the Fair Winds protecting ships and crew for Columbus’ voyage.  The apartments also include a model of the Santa Maria, one of Columbus’ ships on his voyage to the New World.

While the Gothic wing includes a number of tapestries, it is the palace itself that is the treasure of the Alcazar.  Numerous courtyards and rooms make up the King’s palace.  The center of the palace is the Court of the Maidens which is built in Mudéjar and Renaissance style.  The Court of the Dolls was the living quarters of the King.  Throughout the King’s palace, there are a number verses from the Qu’ran mixed with Christian images.

The gardens are heavily Moorish in their design but offer a beautiful example of flowers and fountains throughout.  For the hot summers in Seville, it is a peaceful walk through the beauty of the plants, trees, flowers, and cascading waters.

While Seville may be well known for being one of the holiest cities in Spain, the Alcazar is a fine example of the Moorish history that has heavily influenced this city.  Along with the music and dancing of Flamenco, the years of Moorish influence live on through the architectural style and design of the Alcazar.

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The beautiful Spanish city of Seville

Sevilla, usually referred to as Seville by English speakers, is  one of the great cities in Spain.  From the times of Moorish rule to its storied past as the center of bullfighting, there are so many things to do Seville.  As we explore some Seville attractions, you’ll begin to understand what a diverse, beautiful European city this is.

Located in the region of Andalusia, Seville is in the southwest corner of Spain and is the 4th biggest city in the country.  The city is a great mix of cultures along with a rich history of religion and sports.  While it may not attract the attention of other well known Spanish cities like Barcelona and Madrid, there may be no other city in Spain that has as much to offer in so many areas of life.

Seville has a long history in Spain and was one of the most heavily influenced cities by Moorish culture.  For many years, Spain was ruled by the Moors and was their last stronghold before being defeated in 1248.  The influence of Moorish culture can be seen in the celebrated flamenco dances with its Muslim chants and music.  The Alcazar is the arguably the second best piece of Muslim architecture in the country (behind the Alhambra) but despite its design and architecture, it has been influenced by Western culture and Christianity as well.

Seville Flamenco by V_Fujii

For Catholics in Spain, there may not be a city as holy as Seville.  While Toledo and Santiago de Compostela are well known for their religious landmarks and pilgrimages, Seville’s cathedral and its celebration of Easter are like no other city in the country.  With its grand cathedral, parades, floats, and beautiful Virgin of Macarena, devotion, religious passion, and tears are an essential part of this city.

seville cathedral

Seville Cathedral by Wild Guru Larry

While controversy has grown over bullfighting in recent years, Seville is still the center of bullfighting in Spain.  In its historical Plaza de Toros, the oldest bullfighting ring still holds weekly bullfights throughout the summer.  Matadors are as celebrated as movie stars and there is a passion for this bloody sport unlike any other in the country.

Seville’s bullfighting arena (Plaza de toros) by Le Grand Portage

The city’s rich history also includes a devotion to art with great Seville museums like the Museo des Bellas Artes.  Spanish and Muslim cultures are not the only things that are a part of this city’s history.  The Barrio de Santa Cruz area is home to the old Jewish quarter where Jews once thrived in the narrow lanes of this neighborhood.  To add to the culture of this city, there is a major university here which gives the city a youthful edge and brings energy to this area.

Decorated ceiling at Seville’s Museum of Fine Arts by Son of Groucho

Aside from all of this, Spanish life goes on and thrives as everyday people live and work in this fabulous part of Spain.  As the city is explored, we will weave through its history, people, and sights to better understand what makes Seville so unique to Spain.

From its museums to its holy week, from its Moorish architecture to its bullfighting heritage, Seville has so much to offer and I think it one of the best places to visit in Europe.

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Guides to more Spanish Cities

We’ve Europe city guides to the following cities in Spain on Europe a la Carte.