Seville. There is just something about Seville. A rhythm, a feeling, something in the breeze that lifts you up and carries you away. Tapas, flamenco, and an intensity of culture that is typical of Andalucia is concentrated here. It’s a beautiful thing.
Food: Tapas! Everything is delicious and the bakeries are much better than their Valencian counterparts. If you’re not familiar with tapas, let me tell you that it is customary to go for tapas in the same way that you might go “bar-hopping.” You go to a restaurant for one tapa (a small appetizer – just a taste) and a drink, then go to another restaurant for a different tapa and a drink… and so on. You can also go to one place, sit, relax, and order a variety of tapas and stay there, but the beginning of tapas was this “traveling meal” of sorts which gives you a great feel for a lot of different places. Lots of fun if you’re not dragging small children around. Also, do note that “bar” doesn’t mean the same thing in Spain that it does in the states. There are many small restaurants – especially tapas places that have “bar” in the title. They can be very family friendly.
Calle Campana 2
*This Starbucks is across from La Campana Confiteria and Heladeria (Candies and Ice Creams). La Campana also serves coffee, so unless you have a hankerin’ for a typical American brew or you need to pick up a souvenir mug, you’re better, more “local” choice would be there. Either way, it’s one corner with two coffee shops AND a chocolate shop as well. Nice place to be.
Calle Antonia Diaz 11
Tel: 954 211 243
*An nice little restaurant near the plaza de Toros, you’ll know this one by the line of bull heads hanging on the wall across from the bar. The food are portions are good. The hamburgers come on a nice roll and the Caldereta de Toro is hot, soothing, and delicious. Authentic atmosphere with great service and credit card friendly, Mesones is a nice place for kids as well. Bathrooms are clean.
Mateos Gago 8
Tel: 954 564 189
*So of all the tapas places in the Santa Cruz district, the Bar Campanario is probably the most boring as far as ambiance. It is overly bright and fairly dully decorated. However, they serve both sweet and savory crepes, provide coloring and books for young children, and offer reasonably quick friendly service, so for families with picky eaters, the lack of ambiance may be worth it. For the cheese lover, try the Ensalada Cononigos – it is simple, yet fabulous and something that we’ve since repeated at home. If you don’t like goopy food, I’m warning you now that the Tosta Campanario comes with a very generous, beautifully pink slab of delicious salmon on top of a slice of toast AND an equally generous glob of thick white goo dumped over the entire thing so that next to no pink is showing. Some might find this delicious. For the goo-phobic, avoid, or ask for yours “sin salsa.” Overall, it’s not bad, and if you’re lucky and the right song comes on the radio, the entire crew of waitresses and bar tenders will break out into song and dance.
c/ Pasaje de Vila, 6
tel. 954 56 48 24
*A gem adorned in red, this place is just a treasure. Profusely painted, this little tapas bar embodies Seville with it’s Flamenco skirted lamp shades and fun dotted seat covers. The service and food won’t disappoint either. Everything was heavenly. Really. The children loved the chicken wings enough to order more and it was sheer willpower that kept me from more goat cheese with raspberry sauce. Each tapa has its own distinct nearly intoxicating flavor that makes you clamor for more. And when we did want more, it came quickly, hot and fresh to our table. Don’t miss this one in the Santa Cruz district. It is very special.
Shopping: Nothing is exactly cheap, but the abundance of shops is incredible and not just tacky souvenir junk. Here in Seville you can find really stunning, high quality things. The fans and scarves, the dresses, beautiful hair pieces, jewelry. It’s a Sunday and all the shops are open. That fact alone is nothing short of miraculous. And, most shops take credit cards.
Between Calle Campana and the Cathedral in Barrio Santa Cruz lies a cobweb of shop filled pedestrian streets. They are all fun, but Calle Sierpes is well known and ends at Calle Campana, the intersection with two coffee shops and a chocolate shop. :) The Plaza de Jesus de la Pasion has several very nice jewelry shops and dress stores.
In the Barrio Santa Cruz itself, being the more touristy part of town, you’ll find tons of shops ranging from the touristy lower quality items to quite nice things including several pottery shops and my favorite, Coco Sevilla.
C/Ximenez de Enciso, 2B
Tel: 0034 954 214 532
*Coco Sevilla sells old tiles that have come from local buildings. Some of them are quite old and they range in price from 12 Euros. You can also find local pottery, hand painted silk fans and scarves, and old local posters and post cards.
Isabel Parente, ceramics
Plaza de Rull, 3
Tel: 626 963 086
*Very special things. Beautifully made in Sevilla by a local artist.
Plaza de Rull, 3
Tel: 626 963 086
*Very special things. Beautifully made in Sevilla by a local artist.
Places to See: Ok, I’ll make a list here of what I saw, but check out this website (http://www.exploreseville.com/sites.htm). It has everything on it including links, hours, and times, so there’s no point in my redoing it all here. Seville is especially easy because many of the top sites are all within a short walk. In the old Jewish Quarter, you’ll find the Cathedral, the Alcazar (Moorish Palace), the Archivo de Indios and more. It’s worth it to grab a little tourist map and start checking things off as you walk by. Most of the attractions are either inexpensive or free, so that’s nice too.
Avendida de la Constitucion
The Cathedral began in 1248 on the grounds of Seville’s largest mosque. Of what we see now, the courtyard of orange trees and the beautiful tower (la Giralda) remain as very distinct pieces of what is now a very Catholic structure.
A UNESCO world heritage site, among the many impressive things here you’ll find a large stuffed crocodile hanging from the ceiling above the reptile door, the tomb of Christopher Columbus, and quite possibly Europe’s only wheelchair friendly church tower. Yes, the Giralda tower has a spiral ramp that takes you within a very short staircase of the open bell area. And along the entire stroll, there are doorways where you can stop and admire the view, so strollers and wheelchairs are welcome.
There are three Cathedral entrances. The Plaza Virgen entrance in the center facing the plaza is for church goers only. You may enter and stand in a roped off area only. To tour the Cathedral, you must enter at either the Plaza del Triunfo or orange courtyard entrances. From there, you will pay a small fee and be given a small map of the Cathedral’s sights.
The Plaza in front of the cathedral is one of the main parking areas for the many horse-drawn carriages available if you’re interested. Like any large city, the carriage tours are nice, but not cheap.
Patio de Banderas
Tel: 954 502 324
Across the Plaza del Triunfo from the cathedral lies the Reales Alcazares, the old Mudejar palaces and a current vacation home of Spain’s current king and queen. Though this palace pales in comparison to the Alhambra, it is still absolutely worth going to. Children are free, so for 7.50/adult, you can tour the palace and gardens. The gardens are quite extensive and quite beautiful – definitely worth a walk and probably an escape from the sun.
La Juderia (Barrio Santa Cruz): Expelled from Spain in 1492, there no longer remains evidence of the Jewish people in this neighborhood that bears their name, but unlike many places made melancholy by a sad history, this one comes to life. In this maze of whitewashed old buildings, cobbled streets, tight corners and narrow alleys, you find streets filled with tourists, tapas bars, and dotted flamenco dresses in gift shop windows. Flamenco music flows from open windows. This is the place to catch a show. A keen eye and you can find some real artists here – pottery and hand-painted silk scarves and fans.
Plaza de España: Built in 1929 this is a Plaza like none other. I wasn’t excited to see it thinking it was just another little monument, but no. It is an enormity, yet beautifully done and quite inspiring. Each major town in Spain (and not so major ones) are represented with beautiful ceramic paintings bearing their name and a map showing the town’s location in Spain. Ceramic pots, bridge-rails, and more. It’s everywhere. Walking through the plaza is like taking a painted tour of the country. You can walk through the columned walkways of the large half-circled building and even go up into the tower balconies. It’s stunning. And because of it’s size and openness, it’s a great place for the kids to run and play and talk – this is the perfect antidote to church and museum tours. Plus, it’s nestled between three main gardens, so the entire area is very kid friendly.
P.S. Hey, Star Wars fans… Attack of the Clones was filmed partially here! Natalie Portman walked by these same columns.
Plaza de Toros: Open to the public to tour, in the summer months, you may be lucky enough to see a bull fight here. Right near the green river walk, it’s a very pretty. From here, the Cathedral is only a 10 minute walk (or less.)
- You will encounter quite a few Gypsys here in Sevilla. They come to the main plazas in groups, then spread out with bunches of rosemary to tell your fortune for a coin or two. Even if you don’t understand a word of Spanish, they will still put a sprig of rosemary in your palm and tell you your life story expecting a payment. We even had a gypsy try this with my 14 and 5 year old daughters. Though they are not dangerous, but it is a nuisance.
- Carriages are an expensive, but fun way to tour the city. You can find them lining the plaza by the Cathedral. If it’s not and you’re traveling with small children, a carriage ride is a great way to get to the Plaza de España which could be too far for short legs.
- Spain banned smoking from offices, shops, schools, hospitals, cultural centers, and on public transport. Sadly though, smoking is still legal in restaurants and bars although larger restaurants are supposed to have designated no-smoking areas. The best way to ensure a less-smokey atmosphere is to go early to lunch or dinner. Lunch begins at 2-2:30 in most places. Dinner usually begins at 9.
- http://www.exploreseville.com – I love this site! It has absolutely everything on it and is incredibly organized.
We stayed in the top floor apartment of Calle Realtor #44 in the Alameda District of the City Center. It is a 2 bedroom apartment with a fold out couch that comfortably slept 6 (but 3 were small children). The location is absolutely perfect with a wonderfully spacious balcony that is just for you. The bakery directly across the street is phenomenal and open every day. There is also a small bar and a produce stand within 15 feet of the door. The apartment is clean and well decorated. Linens are nice. We had issues with electricity because of the space heaters. I believe that it would be better during a warmer time of year. Website: http://www.alojameensevilla.com