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Winter week in Sevilla - January 2020

Hello! We are a couple from California in our 50s, traveling with our college-age son. We picked southern Spain for January in hopes of good weather. I knew we would never make a trip here in the heat of summer, and it was a good choice. We did 8 nights total, 6 in Seville, and 2 in Madrid. I hope to share some info that will help others in planning their trips! (I have some travel details that i'm going to put in the comments section for those that are interested)

We booked an apartment for 6 nights with ( I was worried about street/vehicle noise and I finally found this one which faced a large courtyard, and it was excellent! We met the agency rep at the apartment and paid the balance of our rental fee to him in cash. I decided to get euros before we left and this worked out well instead of running to get euros as soon as we arrived.

We arrived after all groceries were closed and my son went right to bed, but we went down to the charming square outside our building and had a glass of wine at an outdoor cafe at 11pm (though shops are closed, cafes/restaurants are mostly open until midnight). Already our trip seemed great! Spanish wine is very reasonable - always under 4 euro a glass. Amazing to us compared to SF bay area prices.

We slept well and after picking up groceries in the morning the next day, we did a tapas tour with Shawn: I really wanted to learn about tapas and how to order, etc. as soon as possible on our trip. It was an excellent idea. She is Canadian but has lived in Spain for decades and is a food and wine writer. The tour cost 85 euro pp, and lasted 3 hours. She took us to three places with different types of tapas, and we also tasted and learned about the iberian Jamon, sherry and wine. She also gave us many restaurant recommendations for Seville, Cordoba and Madrid. Shawn will do a maximum of 6 people, but since it was off-season it was just the three of us.

Seville is super walkable and filled with cute outdoor cafes that were very busy even in January. Everything was within a 10-15 minute walk. One note i have is that English is widely spoken- which i did not expect! We heard that tourism has really boomed in the last few years. Anyway, menus in English are available at high and low end places. if they are not out, you can ask for them. I only ran into 1 person who didn't speak a word of english. Anyway, this is just to let you know you can easily get by with very little spanish if necessary. The words i did know were very appreciated.

Summary of tours/sights: We toured the Alcazar with a Getyourguide tour - the guide was very good. Such an amazing place! We did the Seville Cathedral on our own. We booked a tour to Italica but it ended up being canceled due to a marathon. We enjoyed visiting the archeological museum in central Seville which is under Las Setas (the mushrooms). Take the elevator to the top of the Mushrooms at sunset! we did this by accident and it was a highlight! We also did a day trip to Cordoba. The Mezquita was incredible, and we had a fantastic gourmet lunch at Regadera afterward. We booked a tour with Cordoba A Pie but left early. (I had originally booked a 4 hour tour). The tour within the Mezquita was very good, but the walking tour of town was just too rambling and had too much standing rather than walking, for our taste.

Otherwise, we walked, shopped, ate, and enjoyed everything. its a wonderful small city with charming narrow, windy streets. We were constantly surprised when we would turn a corner and find a little square with orange trees and cafes, as well as courtyards with beautiful tile. Seville totally exceeded our expectations!

Madrid and travel details in the comments section!

Posted by
170 posts

Since i reached maximum characters in my post, here are some notes on our travel arrangements to Seville:

We flew British Airways SFO-London-Madrid and then connected to the train station to Seville after arrival. Originally i had planned for us to stay a night in Madrid, and then go to Seville in the morning. About a month before departure i decided we could go to Seville the same day we arrived, so that we wouldn't have to unpack. In retrospect, i might not do this again, as we were super exhausted upon arrival. Also, i was worried about whether i had booked the correct train and allowed too much or not enough time.* Two planes, then a taxi from airport to train station, another security check at train station, 2.5 hours from Madrid to Seville, and then a taxi to the apartment. It was a lot!
* Three hours was plenty and two hours would have been tight. (we did not check bags)
I booked our Madrid-Seville trains with because of worries about the RENFE website. Later I used RENFE to book our round-trip to Cordoba, and found it easy to use (with a chase visa). i was able to make time changes to our reservation and that was easily done too. If you book with Raileurope you must make changes with raileurope, and i was worried about needing to move to an earlier train if we arrived early to Madrid. I did book in advance because it was much cheaper. We did get to the train station early enough that we could have done a slightly earlier train, but the price difference was substantial.
We did book first class and so there was a very nice lounge at the Madrid train station with snacks and drinks. This made it much more comfortable for us to wait for the train with our bags.

Posted by
170 posts

One more entry to cover our two nights in Madrid:

As we are three people including an adult son, our days of squeezing into one hotel room are over. I debated whether to do an apt. in Madrid for 2 nights like we did for Seville, but it seemed like too much of a hassle and i thought we might enjoy a hotel stay for the end of our trip. I had a hard time deciding as i was also looking for quiet. Madrid is of course a large, loud city, and it also happened to be a busy week where there was limited availability. I finally chose Hotel Preciados which is on a pedestrian street (though there is plenty of traffic on nearby streets). It was a good choice - there was a very extensive breakfast buffet available (for 17 euro) and we were able to get two adjoining rooms. Since i had to request the two rooms together, i emailed the hotel instead of booking online, and they were very helpful and responsive. We paid 150 euros/night for each room. I would have liked to spend less, but really didn't find anything appealing at a lower price, and since it was my first time to Madrid i played it safe in my choice. I was glad i didn't book a property on Puerta Del Sol, as that area was much busier and louder than where we stayed. The Hotel Preciados had very nice mattresses and service, including a minibar with free drinks. It is also very walkable to a lot of shopping - El Corte Ingles is a very short walk away and tons of other stores.

We had one full day in Madrid and did the Rick Steves self-guided tour of the Prado, and had lunch at the cafe. We took a taxi there using a Spanish ride service called Cabify (Madrid also has Uber, but i don't like them). Cabify was also in Seville, and we loved booking online and not having to use cash. Taxis are very reasonable in Spain.
The Prado is a beautiful Museum and we really enjoyed it- lunch in the cafe was also good. There are also several hotels in the Museum area but it didn't feel as residential - i preferred the neighborhood of our hotel. Madrid is a city on a grand scale - overwhelming at times.
We had fun that night because our son found an escape room that he wanted to do, that was run in English, so we went to another neighborhood (Chueca) to do that, which was more of a bohemian neighborhood with narrower streets. Afterwards we walked over to the Mercado San Miguel, where i though we could find something to eat. It was very crowded at 7:30pm and really doesn't have any seating, so for us it didn't work. We ended up having some Chinese food across the way from the Mercado and it was excellent!

The next morning we left at 8:20 for our 10:50 am flight to London. Taxis are a fixed rate to the airport (30 euros) which is nice. We did have traffic, but it was still 30 minutes. Also appreciate that the Madrid airport is relatively close to the city.

We had a great time and would definitely return to Spain again! Hope this report was helpful. i'm happy to answer any questions.


Posted by
3950 posts

Great trip report, very in depth and detailed :)

I was surprised that you mentioned that English is plentifully spoken. Spain has one of the lowest percentages of English spoken in Europe and Andalucia (as a whole) has one of the lowest percentages in Spain. Maybe as a cosmopolitan touristy city, Sevilla has more English spoken than the region in general.

Posted by
1 posts

This is a great account of your trip. Makes me want to go! I appreciate the details, especially on the lodging and tours.

Posted by
3290 posts

Thanks for your trip report. I was originally planning a return visit to France for 2021, but right now I'm leaning toward Spain.

When we were in Spain in October 2017, we also found no shortage of English speakers - our Spanish is pretty basic, so that was a good thing for us.

Posted by
70 posts

Thank you for the detailed trip report. I really appreciate reading the transportation, restaurant, hotel-related discussions you made as I’m planning our family trip (also with college age daughter).

Posted by
718 posts

Thanks for this excellent report. We hope to visit Seville in the next year or so, and your tips will be much appreciated if we do.