I spent the first week of November in Spain. It was my first time there, so the natural choice would have been to visit some combination of Madrid and Barcelona. But since Gordon, my boyfriend/travel companion, had already been to both cities, we opted to go to Seville instead. It was an absolutely fantastic choice.
There are plenty of reasons to love Seville—its Mediterranean climate offers a welcome reprieve from New England falls and winters; it’s a very walk-able city and not too big, so it’s easy to master the layout and have a decent sense of where you are [even for the directionally challenged, like me]; though it feels like the dollar will never catch up to the Euro, Seville is actually quite budget-friendly: a glass of wine is one or two Euro, tapas restaurants are affordable and delicious, and some of the main attractions are actually free (there was no charge at the museum when we were there). But for a history nerd like me, the best part was exploring in-depth the things that textbooks mention in passing.
I could talk all day about what to do and see in Seville (as, I imagine, could Christina Feeney, who studied abroad there during college!), but if you ever find yourself there, here is a quick list of my favorite things to do/see.
Bon Voyage! Or as they say in Spain, ¡tenga un buen viaje!
- Real Alcazar – Seville’s royal palaces, which the king and queen still use when they visit the city. This is an example of a complex that has been built and added to over centuries, and incorporates old Moorish structures. They don’t offer tours with an actual guide, so definitely read up on the palace before you go so you understand what you’re seeing.
- Cathedral – The largest cathedral in Europe. It was built on the foundations of a mosque, and aspects of the mosque, the courtyard in particular, are still part of the cathedral. Columbus’ tomb is here.
- Museo de Bellas Artes – The museum is actually an old convent which is architecturally lovely. There is lots of Renaissance, Baroque and Medieval Christian art, but there’s also more modern work on display. The chapel of the convent is unbelievably gorgeous and is now covered in fabulous Murillo paintings—he was a native of Seville.
- Archive of the Indies – Columbus’ journey was Spain’s foray into New World exploration, and for years Seville was the hub of New World trade because its river was a protected port. In the late 1700s it was decided that Spain needed to archive every text, letter and decree concerning New World trade and exploration, and they made the old merchant exchange the Archive of the Indies. Letters from all those explorers you learn about in grade school – Magellan, Cortes, Cabeza de Vaca, Ponce de Leon – are on display.
- Parque Maria Luisa – Seville’s version of Central Park. One of the things we didn’t get a chance to do was rent bikes, which would be a great way to see the city, but I also think that it would be a great way to explore the park’s enchanting gardens, pathways and buildings. Absolutely spend a few hours here, picnicking and unwinding after a morning of sightseeing.
- The Alhambra – You have to see it to believe it. The Alhambra is in Granada, which is about a three hour train from Seville, but it’s a doable day trip and completely worth it. A highlight is seeing the exact spot where Isabel gave Columbus the funds for his voyage to America, about a week after the Alhambra fell to her and Ferdinand. Our guide told us that it’s Europe’s second most frequented tourist site, after the Vatican. Just be careful of the overly-aggressive, fortune-telling gypsies who basically tackle you when you leave. Apparently Gordon and I will be blessed with only sons.