Explore España: Sevilla

I’m almost 4 months into living in Spain, almost half of the contract period I have with the Auxiliares de Conversación program. I have to decide this early on if I will renew for another year or enjoy the final half of my European adventure. In the midst of my family pressuring me to come back home and being poor as hell here, I’m leaning towards staying for another year (at least). There’s just so much more places I want to visit and my weekends and holidays in the coming four months won’t be enough. I won’t be able to visit all the countries here in Europe, obviously, since I’m an underpaid foreign member of the society but there’s no excuse not to try to visit the cities here in Spain. I’m starting a series of posts about the Spanish ciudades and pueblos I’ve seen and yet to see. I want to spread my love for Spain by sharing photos and insights, and hopefully it gets contagious.

December last year, we visited Sevilla, the capital of Andalucía and maybe one of the most stunning places I’ve seen my whole life. Remember that Star Wars: Attack of the Clones scene in Planet Naboo? It was filmed here in Plaza de España. I’ve heard Game of Thrones also shot scenes in Real Alcázar de Sevilla. But before anything else, let me properly introduce Europe’s “frying pan” with a little bit of its history:

HISTORY

  • The city was first settled by the Tartessian tribe and then it was conquered by the Romans. It was then called “Hispalis“. Some Roman remnants still exist today like aqueducts, the columns of Alameda de Hércules and the walls built during Julius Caesar’s rule.
  • The Moors conquered the city in the 8th century and it was renamed “Isbilya“. Islam became the dominant religion and the city became the capital for the kings of the Umayyad Caliphate. Many structures still stand today like Patio del Yeso in the Alcázar, the city walls, and the main section of the Giralda.
  • Castilian King Ferdinand III began the quest of Andalucía and they were able to oust the Moors in 1248. The Moors’ Palace became the Castilian royal residence. Synagogues were turned into chapels.
  • During the Golden Age, all goods arriving in Spain from the newly discovered lands of the New World had to first enter Sevilla’s port.

PLACES OF INTEREST

REAL ALCÁZAR DE SEVILLA

Originally a Moorish fortress and today still used as a royal palace. Very different from the palaces you will see in Europe but somehow similar to Granada’s La Alhambra. I suddenly developed a thing for Moorish architecture. The palace is room after room of lavish decors, intricate relief details and gorgeous Islamic designs and patterns. I could easily spend a whole day here.

TORRE DEL ORO (Golden Tower)

This dodecagonal tower is one of the most emblematic landmarks of Sevilla. Originally built as a military watchtower to defend the port from potential attacks and to control traffic in the Guadalquivir River. Now, it houses a museum but it has been used in the past both as a chapel and as a prison.

CATEDRAL DE SEVILLA and GIRALDA

During the Moorish period, La Giralda was once a minaret of the mosque that was replaced by the Sevilla Cathedral and became its bell tower. I have yet to see the interior of the cathedral but outside it looks ginormous. I was fascinated by its interesting architecture – mosque turned cathedral, that’s really something.

PLAZA DE ESPAÑA

Easily my best spot in Sevilla. I was surprised to know that it was built only in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition World Fair. For a relatively modern building, it’s quite full of period charm. The plaza is very busy with tourists taking photos and riding the horse carriages and river boats but the plaza is huge. You can recreate the Star Wars or Lawrence of Arabia scenes or take a picture with the tiled backdrops of Spain’s provinces in the Alcoves of the Provinces.

PARQUE DE MARÍA LUISA (María Luisa Park)

Huge green space in Sevilla just beside Plaza de España. Some spots in this parks look like impressionist paintings.

GETTING AROUND

  • Walking – Almost every tourist spot in the city center are best reached on foot. We only had two days to explore the city and we were able see most of the places in our list, if not all, by walking. On our first day, we walked from Palacio de San Telmo to Real Alcázar to Torre del Oro. We also walked along the Guadalquivir River, crossed the Puente de Isabel II and wandered a bit in Triana. And on our second day, we walked from Plaza de España to María Luisa Park. For me, it’s the best way to explore the city. You get to see the street life and meet some street musicians and artists but you might want to download Google Maps for better navigation and also, be wary of dog and horse poop.
  • Tranvía/Buses – If walking doesn’t sound appealing to you, good news is they’ve got trams and buses. A single trip costs 1,30 Euro. I haven’t tried the tram personally so you may wanna check this site for more info.
  • Metro – The metro has only one line and we’ve used it only to get to the center. We stayed in the house of my boyfriend’s uncle and it was in the outskirts. They could’ve just gave us a ride to the center but there’s a huge parking problem so they prefer to leave the car near a metro station and get to the center by the train. For more info about Sevilla’s metro, click here.

Sevilla, like most of its tourist sites, is ginormous and two-day trip isn’t enough to see everything but it’s enough to make you say that you would want to come back soon and explore more.

Travel Diary: Berlin & Paris

While I’m still finding the time and inspiration to blog about my recent travels, I put together this short travel diary of sorts from our 9-day Berlin & Paris trip this Christmas vacation. Our budget was really tight but we managed to pull off a trip to two of Europe’s most popular tourist destinations. We joined free walking tours, got into museums for free and took advantage of their efficient public transport. We slept cheap in a hostel and an AirBnb and we didn’t feel that we missed out on anything.

It was an unforgettable way to end 2015 and start a new year. Travelling with my boyfriend and my friends made it even more special. I had fun filming them as we explored these two cities, tried the local eats and just goof around and embarrass ourselves. So here it is: