College Tourist Student Guide to Seville, Spain
Advice on must-see’s and must-do’s from a student who called Seville home for four months.
By Hannah Heine, University of Dayton Seville.
Spain is a city rich with history and is the cultural center of Andalusia (Southern Spain region) where the weather can get extremely hot in the summers with mild winters. [But, the sun is always out!] The city’s history can be traced back to the Guadalquivir River that now cuts the city in half. The Moors took control of the city in the 700’s, giving Seville strong Moorish accents throughout including in food and architecture. Seville boomed when the New World was discovered spurring wealth, palaces, and industries that took up residence locally thanks to American gold. The city hosted the World’s Fair in 1929 and numerous of the main attractions of the city were created or modified for that fair. Today, the city is home to over 700,000 residents with big city realities and a small town feel. Copious amounts of students from all over the world travel to Seville to study in one of the two main universities creating a visible, vibrant and young population.
The Cathedral & Giralda– The Cathedral in Sevilla is the third largest cathedral in the world and the Giralda is the original minaret from the mosque that previously stood where the cathedral is now. Also, fun fact, inside the cathedral is the burial place of Christopher Columbus. [There are student discounts for the entrance fee.] The Alcazar– Originally a Moorish palace, the Alcazar is a royal palace as well as the oldest royal palace in Europe. There are beautiful gardens on the palace grounds and it is a registered World Heritage Site.
Plaza de España– Built for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair of 1929 it is a staple in Spanish architecture. The half circle structure is now used as government buildings and welcomes hundreds of visitors daily who peruse its moat, collages, and architecture. Maria Luisa Park– Located directly across from the Plaza de España, this park was revamped for the same World’s Fair as previously mentioned. The park runs along the Guadalquivir River and is home to many fountains, monuments, and ponds. Metropol Parasol– The largest wooden structure in the world in a contemporary architectural style. A short elevator ride for 1 euro takes visitors to the top to explore the premises and grab a snack at the restaurants and bars on top. (Beautiful views anytime, but especially at sunset!)
University of Seville– This 18th century massive (and incredibly beautiful) stone structure has been home to the university since the 1950’s, but was originally the royal tobacco factory. Walk inside and take a gander at how beautiful a university can be! Barrio Santa Cruz– (Santa Cruz Neighborhood) The quaint and old part of Seville’s center where travelers should try their hardest to book hotels or hostels. Walking through (and getting lost in) this neighborhood is a must. Beautiful shops, tapas bars, and fancy restaurants are all located here.
Fun for Free:
Hang by the Río (River)– If the weather is nice (which is almost every day in Seville), grab a blanket and head the river to hang out and people watch. There is also a path along the river to walk/run if you are interested in exercise.
Fería de Abril– (Fair of April) Another week long celebration during April where locals dress in their best, ladies of course in full flamenco dresses, for a week of fun! The equivalent of a convention center area is designated for where all of the small tents and food vendors are set up. Families, friends, or business partners will reserve a tent, cater food and even bring in musical performers to accompany lots of dancing! Semana Santa– This is the Holy Week leading up to Easter, and Seville is the place to be for it. This is a true spectacle where Catholics from around the world travel to the city to witness how the entire city stops to prepare for Easter Sunday and celebrate religiously. If you wish to visit during this week make sure to book way in advance and expect prices to be higher. (The entire city floods with travelers so if you fear crowds, don’t visit Seville during this week.)
Taberna La Sal– A quaint restaurant with a larger menu array of entree items. Definitiely off the beaten touristy path and the owner makes you feel right at home! (He might even bust out a deck of cards and do magic tricks!) Great for lunch or dinner. [There are usually lunch specials.]
Casa Morales– Locals say not much has changed over the years at this tapas bar that was founded in 1850. There are towering wine jars around the rooms that serve as true pieces of art. Definitely order a cheese plate tapas along with chorizo. Bar Carmela– A wonderful mix of eclectic tapas options in the center of Barrio Santa Cruz. Here you can sit outside and order tapas after tapas along with some delicious mojitos. [Inexpensive options]
Tapas, Tapas, Tapas. They are central to the southern Spain/Andalusian culture and lifestyle so trying them out regularly is a must. Pisto– A delicious vegetarian dish made of tomato, eggplant, onions, zucchini, red peppers, and olive oil served with a poached egg on top. It is usually accompanied by a large slice of fresh bread, yum!
Calle Betis– “Betis Street” is a street where lots of students studying abroad congregate on the weekends. There is a slew of fun bars located there, but you won’t necessarily get the “local” feel here. La Carbonería– One of the most eclectic places I’ve ever been. Free flamenco shows are held nightly in this cozy space, but keep your eyes peeled because if you aren’t careful it is very easy to walk right past it! (Grab a cerveza or a pitcher of sangria to share with friends while you enjoy the show.) Lots of students (both from abroad and local) gather at 100 Mondaditos (“One hundred sandwiches”). Here you can order small sandwiches (think appetizer size) and large beers and sangria (vino tinto) for a crazy good price!
The high-speed train (Called the “Ave” by locals) can get you from the Madrid airport to Seville in 2 hours. A painless and very local experience that removes the hassle of another flight from Madrid to Seville. Seville has a metro system that I can honestly say I didn’t use once in 4 months! I lived in the center of the city so there was no need, but if you are staying further out then the metro is easy and inexpensive. Buses– The bus system is great and has a regular cycle that goes to and from the airport regularly. There are places around the city where cab drivers and their cars congregate and if you locate one near your hostel you will be set! You don’t have to go far to find a cab on weekends especially outside clubs. Biking– Many of my friends got “Sevici” passes. With these passes, they were given the opportunity to use bikes from stations all around town and then return them to a station near the desired destination. [There are also student discounts and passes for different time periods.]
In Seville, the siesta times vary. It could be from 2-5 or anywhere around that timeframe, especially if you are shopping at smaller mom and pop type stores. The major attractions usually do not close. Keep this in mind and research before hand. When riding in the elevator or entering into a room with others, it is polite to acknowledge them by exchanging a “Buen Día” (Good Day) or “Bueno” for short. Also, eye contact followed by a smile is not common there and you might feel like people are being stand-offish, but smiling at strangers isn’t a thing there.