I had no idea what to expect in Seville. I was not prepared for the AMAZING cathedral, the adorable little restaurants and bars, the GORGEOUS Plaza de Espana, the pretty river walk and the Alcazar.
Seville was the first place we stayed in an actual Airbnb apartment. In Indonesia all the Airbnb’s were small hotels. We didn’t really know what to expect and as we schlepped our 110 pounds worth of luggage around for half an hour looking for the apartment we weren’t sure we were going to like the experience. That quickly changed though the minute we were escorted into our cute little apartment in the perfect location in historic Seville. We quickly realized one of the benefits of traveling Europe using Airbnb’s was going to be the space we had and that we felt more like locals and less like tourists.
Without really knowing much about Seville we headed out to find out why everyone says you have to put this Spanish destination on your must see list. The little streets that make up the historic center are all lined with quaint restaurants with small tables lining the sidewalks and yummy (for meat eaters) tapas plates. I quickly fell in love with Spanish Rioja wine as we sat down for a snack before we continued our exploration. I love the stucco architecture of the houses and all the unique details on the houses, churches and buildings. They make wandering so much more interesting.
The Seville Cathedral, or Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See, is absolutely huge. It stands in the middle of the city and completely takes your breath away. The incredible architecture, the massivity and the details are second to none in Spain. We got in line early in the morning (well early by Spanish time) and waited to get into the Cathedral. We had no idea what was waiting for us when we entered. The cost is 19 euro each which at first seems pretty steep for a Cathedral tour until you step inside and take in all there is to see. This UNESCO world heritage site is the largest Gothic structure in the world and also houses the largest altarpiece in the world. The altarpiece was the life’s work of one man who built 45 scenes of the life of Christ from wood and then covered them in an incredible amount of gold. As we sat before it, shimmering in the majesty of the craftsman who built it, we could do nothing but stare at the intricate and beautiful details. The cathedral was built in 1402 and took just over 100 years to complete. Pretty incredible for a a structure that is 11,520 square meters in total area.
There is a huge shrine which holds the remains of Christopher Columbus, a incredible treasury are full of paintings, beautiful silver, gold and jeweled pieces from the past 600 years, as well as some incredible cloaks and fabrics dating back hundreds of years. There is incredible architecture throughout with gothic ceilings and an incredible walk up to the tower where the bells gloriously chime the time. When the cathedral was designed they made the decision to maintain some of the old mosque which can be seen at different entrances. The interior and exterior structure is so intricate and stunning. We ended up spending over 2 hours just in this one church (and we move quickly)! Each day as we passed the cathedral we saw new things we had never seen before, there is too much to take in. Outside of the cathedral, surrounded by restaurants and horse drawn carriages we were lucky enough to hear locals playing violins, cellos and base at night, completing an already perfect atmosphere.
Situated across the piazza is the Royal Alcazar. The Alcazar was built in the 1360’s as a Royal Palace. The size and incredible architecture were almost overwhelming. The intricate moorish designs with tile work, a gold dome representing heaven, stunning gardens, fountains and outdoor pools with statuary. Walking through the gardens, full of blooming flowers, peacocks, artists and small statues was a peaceful reprieve from the bustling city outside. It also gave our eyes a bit of a break from the intricacies of the tile work and ornate paintings inside. In a few of the rooms I felt a little overwhelmed by tourists but a quick few steps to another room with gorgeous glass doors leading out to the vine covered walkways quickly gave me space.
As amazing as these two sites were my absolute favorite was the Plaza de Espana. Perhaps I was so enthralled because I had no idea what I was going to see, or perhaps just because it an incredible space. We walked from the Alcazar to the Plaza which is a nice walk, you can go through the gardens or the city streets. When we arrived I was shocked at the feeling of being in a little Venice. The pool in front with people on small rented boats create a feeling of being in another time. The brick and ceramic building, walls and bridges are absolutely stunning. As we walked through the covered walkways of the building I was constantly marveling at the craftsmanship on the ceilings, the exterior and the bridges. The arches decorated with ceramics were like nothing I had seen before. Yes, there are the street vendors selling fans and other souvenirs but they somehow seem to enhance the very special atmosphere here. Towards the end of the semi-circular building we were so lucky to find a man playing beautiful music on his guitar. We sat for a while, listening and soaking in the beauty of this little treasure in Seville. It was a very romantic place for me, relaxing, removed and quaint.
Seville proved to be a pretty tough place for me, as a vegetarian, to eat. It is worth getting off of the main streets and finding more authentic restaurants where the choices are a bit more varied. I relied heavily on protein powder and fruit stands here to survive. (After all there is only so much Patatas Bravas I can eat.)
Seville is an extremely walkable town, it is really safe, and the Spanish locals are so friendly and helpful. Be prepared to be amazed here, and give yourself time to really enjoy the sights, they are so special. We loved walking around and just getting lost in the little neighborhoods. We found incredible antique ceramic shops, stores with locally made leather belts, boots & purses, as well as unique jewelry and clothing. There are many day trips you can take from Seville but honestly we found so much to do there in our 5 day visit that we never left.