One of the awesome aspects of being in Europe is that there are so many opportunities for travel to new destinations within a few hours by train, bus or air. So when our friends Dick & Anita suggested a trip to Seville and Cordoba we and another friend jumped at the chance. It was a 4 hour bus ride (€82 total return) to Seville from Lagos and then another 1.5 hours to Cordoba by train (€46 total return).
We spent three nights in each city and loved them both. We left Lagos in the midst of pouring rain but after our first day we had brilliant sunshine and pleasant temperatures for the remainder of our trip!
In Seville we stayed in the old Jewish Quarter and loved everything about the location. Our hotel was nice but a little overpriced for the services it offered.
The narrow streets of Barrio de Santa Cruz formed a fascinating maze of courtyards, cafes, tapas bars and intimate plazas lined with orange trees.
We were just a 10 minute walk away from the Seville Cathedral which is truly amazing. It is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world, the third largest church and a UNESCO World Heritage site.
The central nave is awe-inspiring and pictures cannot capture the splendor that surrounded us. It is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus, although his tomb is a recent addition from 1892. The entrance costs €9 and is worth every euro. There are significant reductions for retirees (over 65) and students, so don’t forget your identification.
The climb to the top of the La Giralda bell tower provides you with breathtaking views across the city and beyond.
The cathedral is right next to the Alcazar so the plaza can be quite crowded and hectic. There were plenty of carriages selling tours but in spite of how romantic they are (and how much Anne wanted to take a ride) we both declined the €45 cost for a one hour ride.
All the streets we walked were decorated for Christmas with wonderful lights, poinsettias, and a large tree of lights in one of the squares.
To add to the Christmas atmosphere an excellent market was set up selling every type of creche figure you could imagine. Many homes and businesses have extensive nativity scenes that are open for public viewing and are marked by a large star on their doorways.
While the Alcazar of Seville may appear a Moorish palace, most of it was built for the Christian king, Pedro the Cruel of Castile during the 1300s in the Mudejar style. Much remains of the original elegance but numerous restorations have been required due to fires and earthquakes. It has also been the location of filming for several Game of Thrones’ episodes.
Be sure to allow yourself time to explore the adjacent gardens as they are splendid at any time of year. Wandering through them you are easily transported to another time.
The short walk to the spectacular Plaza de Espana through parks and along bougainvillea lined boulevards was very enjoyable. The temperatures were in the low 20s and just right for being outside in this vibrant city.
Plaza de Espana was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition and is a grandiose structure that has become a major attraction and landmark in Seville. It consists of an immense Renaissance-Moorish structure with towers at either end. The entire plaza is ringed by a circular canal with arched bridges leading to the central building. Ceramic tiles are everywhere and the benches representing the Spanish provinces are quite dramatic.
Major films including Laurence of Arabia and Star Wars have used it as a location. It was used as the setting for Padme Amidala’s palace in the city of Theed on Naboo, in Episode II: the Attack of the Clones (2002). Being huge Star Wars fans we were especially excited to be there!
The entire city was full of life and vibrancy and you could feel the passion of the people on the streets. We were there on Constitution Day and the streets were full. The tapas bars were packed between 2-4 on all days and then it gets quiet from 4-6 so for us a good time to have our evening meal as we are not late night people.
The selection of tapas was endless and we found that 2-3 would suffice for a full meal. They are generally around €3 each and most of the ones we had were excellent. They provide an excellent opportunity to try some local dishes like ox tail, Iberian ham or shrimp cakes.
Andalucia is the home of flamenco and its influence was strong everywhere in both cities. The shops are filled with flamenco dresses, postcards and even dolls. Street performances were fairly common and attracted a large audience.
An evening flamenco show for €18 was well worth the cost. It was about an hour long in an intimate setting. There were several to chose from in the area at around the same price. The one we attended had an audience of about 50 people and seemed to be a mix of locals and tourists.
For more modern tastes the Metropol Parasols are worth visiting. The contrast between the 2012 structure and the classic Seville architecture is stark. It isn’t surprising that it created quite a conflict when it was erected. There is a winding walkway along the top for great views of this part of the city. To add to the contrasts a museum underneath preserves extensive Roman ruins and excavation is ongoing.
This part of the city was quite interesting and was full of expensive boutiques within the charming old buildings. As always quirky and interesting sights were around every corner.
As with any visit the time to leave arrived far sooner than we wanted. It was surreal to be here after all the travel shows and videos we have watched on Seville! The fond memories of this city will always remain with us and we will return.
Up next, a short train ride away, we visit the charming medieval city of Cordoba.