This month I finally managed to get over to Seville, a city I’ve been dying to visit for the best part of three years.
After hopping on a cheap flight from rainy Manchester to the rather more sunny Madrid, I caught a high-speed Renfe train to Seville Santa Justa station. I booked my ticket back in May, and so the journey cost me just €29, which is a huge bargain considering how fast and comfortable it proved to be. It took just two and a half relaxing hours of zooming through the pretty Spanish countryside to reach the gorgeous Andalucian capital.
Tip: If you’re considering using high-speed trains in Spain, book your ticket as far in advance as possible for the cheapest rate. Renfe offers rock bottom tourist prices for those buying early! Trains leave from Madrid’s Atoche Renfe station for destinations all over Spain.
Seville can be a fairly pricy place to be, especially in the peak months of summer, but it can also be a great value for money destination. If you stay in a hostel, eat at local restaurants and are savvy about which attractions you go to (and especially if you’re in possession of a student card) then you easily enjoy Seville on a very tight budget.
Escape the heat at the Real Alcazar Palace
The Reales Alcázares de Sevilla wasn’t something I knew much about until I arrived in Seville. A Moorish palace built by Pedro the Cruel, it’s a welcome den of tranquility in the city centre which feels thousands of miles away from the buzz going on outside its walls. For heritage lovers, the palace, originally a fort, is rightly listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
From the outside you cannot miss it. It reminded me of something from a fairytale, bright, turreted and made from stone, it’s juxtaposed with the breathtakingly beautiful cathedral, and still manages to hold its own. Enter the palace through the striking Lion’s Gate, booking a ticket in advance isn’t necessary.
But the walls aren’t the best part. They hide the most spectacular gardens inside. For greenery lovers, this is a must-see. The royal grounds are crammed with courtyards, mazes, fish ponds and Moorish architecture and serve as a great retreat from the scorching Andalucian sun.
A Cathedral with a view
Apparently the builders of Seville’s magnificent Cathedral said: “Let us build a church so beautiful and so great that those who see it built will think we were mad”. For anyone who’s seen it, you’ll know that they did an excellent job of fulfilling that aim. Construction took over 100 years, and the church was finally finished in 1506.
While not besting the Sagrada Familia (can anything?) Seville’s cathedral is a stunner in its own right. It is the third largest church in the world, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and was designated as a UNESCO site in 1987.
Spanish history fans can sneak a peek at the resting place of one of Spain’s most famous citizens, Christopher Columbus, whose remains are interred in an elaborate tomb here.
After a pilgrimage to the resting place of the great explorer, I got climbing to the top of the cathedral, Giralda Tower, where I was rewarded with one of the best views over a city I’ve ever seen. The picture below speaks for itself.
Once again dig out your student card for a heavily discounted entry price of just €2. Normal rate of €8.
Be enchanted by the Plaza de España
Plaza de España is some seriously stunning Andalucian eye-candy. The Plaza was built in the 1920s for Seville’s 1929 hosting of the Ibero-American Exposition’s World’s Fair, more recently it appeared in several Star Wars episodes and in The Dictator.
You can hire a little rowing boat to take you round the charming little moat. Visiting is completely free, and the Plaza is opposite the Maria Louisa park, which is another lovely place to spend a few hours.
Munch on some traditional Andalucian Tapas
Tapas is amazing. Need I say more? It’s cheap, tasty (the goat’s cheese is incredibly more-ish) and is served late into the night.
Try to steer clear of the main tourist streets if you want to avoid overpriced and underwhelming food. Try dining like a local by eating your tapas at the bar standing up. Seville is a late city – people don’t have dinner until 8pm at the earliest, copy them and you won’t go far wrong.
Take in Seville’s general ambiance
Seville is just classically beautiful and a thoroughly lovely place to be. Orange tree lined streets, horse-drawn carriages, women in traditional Spanish wedding garb…
….and then there’s these, affectionately referred to as the ‘mushrooms‘. They’re very odd, but captivating in a strange, rather out of place way. You can climb up to the top of them for a view over the city.
Would I go back to Seville? Absolutely. It’s managed to knock Barcelona off the number one spot of my favourite city in Spain, which really takes some doing! June is a fantastic time to visit Seville, it’s not yet peak season, the temperature is high, it’s not all that busy, and the prices are still very affordable.
I stayed at the Garden Backpacker Hostel, on Santiago Street. It’s a fabulous hostel, centrally located, with a pretty garden, rooftop terrace, friendly staff and free sangria given out every day.