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A week in and around Sevilla

Last week I was in Sevilla for work for a couple of days, so we (my wife and I), decided to make a holiday of it and spent a week (7 nights), Sunday to Sunday.

We've been to Sevilla a few times before so this time we didn't go back to the Alcazar or Catedral - that's why they're missing below. It is not any suggestion that other people should also skip them. They are both "must sees" in my view.

The end of our week coincided with the Andalucia Day public holiday (28/2, but as that was a Thursday I think many took Friday 1/3 as a holiday too, to make a four day break). Andalucia Day is nothing compared to Easter Holy Week or Feria de Abril events. Nevertheless family crowds in the very centre were still large, at least compared to what I'd expect in late February / early March.

We walked past the Alcazar shortly before it opened on Friday and already the queue was very, very long. My advice is to buy tickets in advance for that, whenever you're coming. Away from the central sights, crowds were non-existent.

Hotel - we stayed at Hotel Inglaterra and it was ideal. But please note I suspect it can be expensive in main season. However, the time of year we went meant it was relatively cheap, plus we got a discount for booking 7 nights (and we got upgraded to a balcony room). So for under c.€80 per night, including both our breakfasts, we were more than happy. If the price were double that, as it can be in Spring, I might look elsewhere to save money. The location on Plaza Nueva is ideal for walking the central barrios, it's next to a tram stop and C5 circular bus stop and taxi rank for more distant visiting. Staff were helpful. Breakfast was very good. Importantly, our room had a kettle and tea supplies. Bed was comfortable and the shower powerful. There is air conditioning and lifts. Also a rooftop terrace (open to non-residents too).

Guides - for planning we used the DK book (which comes with a useful tear out map) and www.andalucia.com, which I always find helpful for visiting the region.

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City

I'll try not to bore you too much more with a blow by blow account of our visit. Apart from missing the Alcazar and Catedral, I think our city tourism was fairly bog-standard. But here are a few things that were new to us and I heartily recommend:

Casa de la Duenas

We'd previously been to the Casa de Pilatos and loved it. If anything this was even better. Although the gardens were perhaps not at their best in February it was still a delightful place with lots of Mudejar style buildings and patios and displays of the dukes' possessions.

It was almost deserted, with just one other couple visiting; they were also English so we sat on one the patios and had a chat about the weather and, inevitably, orange marmalade.

From here, we spent the rest of the day revisiting La Macarena neighbourhood, our favourite, and which is always a good place for wandering. We ended the day tapa bar hopping, then dinner & drinks in the fun Alameda which I recommend all visit for one evening when in the city. It may not be "local Sevilla" in the sense of organised flamenco shows, but it's "local Sevilla" in the sense of where ordinary Sevillano go.

Hospital de los Venerables

We spent time wandering around Santa Cruz but didn't go into any sights except this former "hospital". I'm not sure why we'd missed it in previous visits to Santa Cruz since it's clearly a major sight of the barrio. And deservedly so - broadly in three parts, with a large sunken patio, a magnificently decorated chapel and a small art gallery (I'm not big on art, so a gallery with only 12 paintings was ideal for me, especially as it had works by men even I'd heard of like Murillo and Velazquez). We had a long, boozy lunch in the pretty plaza Dona Elvira.

Triana (and Los Remedios by mistake)

We spent most of one day here, having never seen it properly before.

There isn't much in the way of great sights. I think everyone would enjoy spending a few hours looking around, but if you are on a "time budget" then 2 or 3 hours could be enough. I'd begin at Plaza Cadiz and then walk on the eastern side towards Triana / Isabel Bridge (puente), zig zagging between inland parts such as Santa Ana church (very worthwhile), and the riverside cafes along Betis.

However, if you do have a whole day available, it's an interesting neighbourhood to explore more; also going to the western side towards the main branch of the river, with lots of cafes and bars to stop for refreshments.

I think we overdid the refreshments and actually ended up in Los Remedios neighbourhood. From there you can use the underground Metro back to the city centre (the only time it's useful for tourists, possibly). There isn't much in Remedios of interest, unless you're there during the April Fair. Mostly its housing and posh shops. The main interest, a local told us that the bridge here was still named after the Generalissimo as late as this century!

But...

One thing I can't especially recommend, I'm afraid, was a boat tour along the Guadalquivir. It's relaxing and was nice to sit down for an hour. But you don't really see much of the city, at least the old city. There are brief glimpses of the Giralda, but mostly the city is hidden behind the embankment and trees - what you see more are the modern, ugly Expo buildings and several dull bridges.

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Day Trips

Jerez de la Frontera

I'm used to Spanish cities looking grim as you go through the outskirts, but was still surprised at how uninviting Jerez looked from the train in from Sevilla - not actually unpleasant, just dull.

Fortunately, it's only a short walk from the railway station to the central zone which, by contrast, is very attractive. The two main sights (castle and catedral), are both worthwhile. Neither are comparable to the Alhambra or Mezquita, for example, but nevertheless are very interesting in themselves (highlight was the delightful alcazar mosque, later converted to a church).

We enjoyed wandering the streets and the many pleasant squares (beautiful Plaza de la Asuncion must be one of Spain's most quintessential). The historical centre is small and easily walkable, with some hills.

We had a great lunch here too. Jerez didn't delight me so much as sublime Cadiz, but I still recommend this as a day-trip - or perhaps even an overnight stop since I can see it being a nice place for an evening tapas crawl.

Practicalities - there is a regular railway service from Sevilla about €10 each way. It stops at Sevilla Santa Justa main railway station, but most (all?) trains also stop at Sevilla San Bernardo station which was easier for us as it has a tram stop (the single tram route goes back into the city centre with a stop near Catedral - useful for El Arenal - with a final stop in plaza Nueva).

Italica

More a half day trip really. It's only a few kilometres from Sevilla, just 15 minutes by express bus. As the name suggests, it's a former Roman town, now partly excavated.

I was mildly disappointed. And if you've also been to, for example, Pompeii/Herculaneum or Ostia Antica then you'll probably agree that Italica is no match. The town area is mostly unexcavated, and those parts revealed are just at floor level with a handful of columns but no real superstructure. But there are some wonderful mosaics and a few other remains such as bread ovens and wells. In terms of Roman sights, the town area of Italica doesn't equal the Hadrian's Wall forts, etc. (and there is no wall either) or the Italian places mentioned above.

But the highlight is the amphitheatre. That itself was worth the short trip - to be able to go inside at "gladiator level", see the underground pits and walk the "stage", as well visiting the structure. But be aware it is also badly ruined in part, especially externally, and outside is not a "wow" sight like El Jem or Nimes; but inside very good.

Over the centuries, Italica's treasures have been heavily looted, and you can find them installed in various Sevilla palacios (plus both Napoleon's troops and his nemesis the Duke of Wellington took bits. The Iron Duke's souvenirs are still in his home. Little Boney's have been lost. I guess Wellington won that one too. Hurray).

I'm glad we went. But if you've only 3 days in Sevilla, I wouldn't recommend it compared to seeing more sights through staying within the city proper.

Practicalities - council run express bus takes about 15 minutes, other buses take about 30. They leave from de Armas bus station and stop just outside the Italica entrance. As we would miss the last express bus of the morning, we were lazy and went by taxi (€15) and came back by stopping bus (€1,60 each). The bus trip was quite interesting as it meandered through various Sevilla small towns - none looked worth getting off for, however.

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Day Trips 2

Carmona

Just stunning. Nothing truly exceptional in terms of individual sights perhaps (no Granada Alhambra or Sevilla Alcazar), but still a lot of fine sights to see, including Roman, Moorish, Jewish and Catholic Spain. More than enough to fill a busy day.

For an attractive small-town in Andalucia it would be hard to beat. Admittedly I might still prefer renaissance Ubeda/Baeza, but they are not day trip options from Sevilla. Carmona is and it is top notch. I'm surprised it isn't better known (or perhaps it's just us that were ignorant of its existence?)

I guess Carmona's problem is that it's on the "wrong" side of Sevilla for the tourist routes - being in Sevilla province it doesn't get listed as a pueblos blanco. Anyway, whatever the reason for its relative obscurity, I can strongly recommend it as a day trip if you are in Sevilla. A wonderfully atmospheric town to explore.

Practicalities - bus from Sevilla San Sebastian (on the tram route), run by Autocares Casal.

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Epilogue

Sevilla is Spain's best city (despite a lot of tough competition!).

If you've never been then put it on your list. But don't feel you have to take as relaxed/lazy approach as us - with at least three full days you can certainly get a good taste staying in the city. With more time you can take day trips (Cordoba is another one, we didn't do again this time. Although I think it's better as a stop for a couple of nights, it is certainly a day trip option too).

And if you have been before, consider a return visit since there's always more too see, I think.

For reading, I re-read The Blind Man of Seville. I'd forgotten how graphic some of it is, but if you like a good murder, with lots of local colour, it is a nice book. There are also some sequels with the Falcon detective and it's a TV programme series too.

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1216 posts

Thanks for the trip report though I disagree about Seville being the best Spanish city:)

However, I do agree everyone should see it once in their life. Unfortunately, the travel mags have been listing lesser known bodegas and tapas bars in Seville so I'm glad I went before the hoards of tourists.

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3789 posts

Thanks for the trip report.
It took a bit for me to warm to Seville, despite expecting to and having a wonderful penthouse apartment with wonderful views of the Cathedral. But I finally got my groove on and wished I had more days for Italica (sorry it was not up to expectations) and more of the little museums near Plaza de Espana.

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183 posts

Nick, thank you so much for your detailed and helpful report. I'm taking notes for our upcoming stay.

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712 posts

I was just in Sevilla last week - for two nights and it was not enough. I really enjoyed the city. We stayed in Cordoba and Granada - but Sevilla was my favorite. We did a short 1/2 day trip to Cadiz and I was not impressed. In Sevilla, we took the horse and carriage ride around the city as corny as that sounds (our feet were tired!) Just Loved Sevilla! Did the Alcazar and Cathedral and walked and walked till very late at night. Just a beautiful city. (Nobody at my work could believe I would go that far for Springbreak - but it was so worth it).

Margaret