I had the pleasure of spending three days in Seville, Spain a few weeks ago with my boyfriend. Something I noticed very early on, which I realize now is crucial to understanding this city, is that Seville is a caricature of itself. You know how you learn certain things about places—all the favorite parts of someone's visit—and then you mentally compose the place in your mind to embody what you've heard? It’s always a perfect image, because if people like the place, they don’t tell you about the scruffy parts of it. If you enjoy an experience in New York, for example, you won’t dwell on the fact that the streets teem with garbage.
I'm not saying Seville has no garbage (though, it is very well-contained). What I'm saying is that it is, remarkably, twice as magical as people tell you it is. Delightful images you've attached to it expose themselves to you unbridledly, yet unobtrusively. You know the ever-loved (and somehow ever-relevant) emoji of a Spanish lady dancing in a red dress? These women, Flamenco dancers, actually line the streets of Seville. If you thought that life-sized Spanish dancer emojis around every corner only existed in your dreams, you were wrong and you should probably visit Seville immediately.
This is what I mean when I say Seville is a caricature of itself. Our Airbnb host, Tito, is a known singer and guitarist for Flamenco shows, which was a complete coincidence. (I say this because it's not outside my wheelhouse to scour the internet for this sort of situation and then act like it was organic, because I'm the worst.) So after a night of sipping Cruz Campo—a local lager—and munching on tapas, we came home and were lucky enough to witness a personal performance by Tito. I'd never witnessed such talent so up-close before. In the parlance of our times: I died.
This is Seville. Take all the positive stereotypical images you may have about a southern Spanish town, then multiply it by ten. That description can exist with feigned authenticity. Seville fabricates nothing, and doesn’t need to. I thought this was necessary to clarify before explaining what we did there, since this very rare sort of excitement greatly impacted each experience.
We were tired from a six-hour bus ride from Madrid on the day we arrived, so we decided not to take any big excursions and just explore our neighborhood a bit; maybe find a bite to eat, walk around, and go from there. We told Tito we were hungry and asked for a nearby tapas recommendation, thinking we'd be flooded with responses—we had noticed all of the bars and restaurants close by. Instead, he seemed a little concerned that nothing would be open. It was 6 pm. I knew that places don't close early in Spain, so, being from the United States, I thought, "Oh yeah, it's Monday. Everything is closed because it's Monday." We soon realized it was because almost all the restaurants close between (roughly) 4 and 8 pm in Spain, since no one eats at this time. They eat all their meals hours later than most cultures. So we popped into a bar for some Cruz Campo Glacial (an extra cold version of the country's highest distributed brew) and of course a complimentary tapa—green olives, the most common one.
We ordered a few more tapas and decided to go for a short walk before heading home, so we made our way to the Metropol Parasol, which was a five minute stroll from our Airbnb. This is a large wooden structure—the largest wooden structure in the world, in fact—which kind of resembles a huge honeycomb. It's a bit controversial, as many locals don't approve of its aesthetics. You can sit underneath it and enjoy Plaza de la Encarnacion, or go to the top for a small fee for a sweeping view of the city. We sat on the steps below the structure and people watched for a while and returned a few days later to go to the top.
Before going full-throttle tourist mode for our second day, we visited Bodega El Picadero for what turned out to be the best breakfast of our lives. For under $10, we ordered the tapas version of pringa, slow-cooked fatty beef with pieces of cured meat; jamón, the beloved Spanish-style dried ham on toast with lots of lovely olive oil; and fois gras. This gave us the sustenance we needed to explore as many sites as possible.
Plaza de España, the Cathedral, and Alcazar Palace, are some highlights of our tour of Seville. While you’re walking from site to site, there are plenty of opportunities to take the garden route. You’ll often run into a path lined with beautiful flowers and bushes that can pleasantly lead you from point A to point B.
What makes the architecture unique is that many of the major buildings were built during the Moorish era in the Middle ages, so you'll notice a lot of Moorish and Arabian influences in the architecture overall. The Cathedral and Alcazar Palace are built in a style called Mudéjar, a mixture of Moorish and Gothic influences. The Cathedral was build on what was once a Muslim mosque.
All of these sites made us hungry for tapas, so we stopped in at a great spot for some grilled octopus adorned with a potato purée and mussels served with a cooked tomato.
The third day we crossed the river and explored the Triana area, or real Seville. This area is right across the Isabel Bridge (Puente de Isabel II), and is mostly one long main road lined with shops, restaurants, cafés, and bazaars. The highlight of this area is the Triana Market. It's a large indoor market offering fruits, vegetables, fish, meat, tapas, wine, beer, you name it. We feasted on some nice sushi and oysters while here.
We ended our trip with a Flamenco show. I can't recommend this enough. Flamenco dancers, singers, and guitarists are some of the most skilled professionals I've ever seen. Shows vary in length and how many people perform. Our show was one hour long and included one male and one female dancer who performed both together and separately, one male guitarist, and one male singer. The spirit of this art makes the show not only awe-inspiring, but emotional as well.
As I mentioned, I'd heard many wonderful things about Seville before I visited. I truly never thought it would exceed my expectations to such a high degree as it did. I've never enjoyed a place the way I enjoyed Seville. Maybe you know what I mean, or maybe one of your best trips is yet to come.