The first thing you notice when you arrive in Seville is not the perpetually sunny weather or the warm hospitality. It's the smell. I mean this in the most complimentary way possible. Perhaps it's because we visited in the spring, but Seville has a lingering aroma unlike any other city. The lime and orange trees that line the streets create an fragrant citrus scent.
This was punctuated by the distinct smell of wax candles from the Easter processions. Holy Week festivities were ubiquitous during our long weekend stay. You couldn't escape the somber marches and the beautifully dressed women donning la mantilla. However, Seville offers so many other cultural highlights that make this city such a desirable destination year-round. From the beautiful weather to the endless supply of delicious tapas, you really can't go wrong no matter when you visit Seville.
If you're planning your own getaway, take a look below at some of our top suggestions. Make sure to also check out the full gallery and previous entries. As always, these posts barely scrape the surface. There's only so much you can see and do in 3 days. Therefore, everyone's "trip in a box" should look completely different. That's what makes traveling so exciting and unpredictable.
Settling In & Getting Around
1. Planning Your Trip: Sometimes, city breaks aren't worth the hassle required to prepare for them. You invest hours of planning for a trip that will only last a few days. The key is to find a balance between common sense preparation and a bit of spontaneity. Despite exhaustive resources online, we still like to pack a travel guide. Call it a waste of money or a waste of space, but we still find a lot of practicality in the printed page. While we never take a guide's recommendations word for word, these books do a good job of giving newbies a lay of the land and overview of key neighborhoods. The Lonely Planet and Wallpaper guides compliment and contrast one another nicely. Collectively, they provide a good blend of top attractions and lesser known hidden gems.
2. Where to Stay: Given the 24/7 Easter festivities, we purposely opted for a hotel outside of city center. We booked Hotel Holos through Tablet. It turned out to be a great option. The tiny hotel is located in a beautiful residential neighborhood just south of the city center. Rooms are comfy, minimal and airy. The staff prepare a simple breakfast for guests in the morning and leave hand written quotes and origami figures on your bed during turn-down service. When you're ready to get a start on your day, you can take a quick 10 minute bus ride into town or...
3. Take a Bike: Surprisingly, Seville is one of the most bike-friendly cities we have visited in Europe. The city launched its bike-sharing program, Sevici, in 2007. Along with it came a continuously expanding infrastructure of segregated bike-only lanes. The rental kiosks are easy to find and use (even for English speakers). Not only is cycling one of the fastest ways to get around this fairly condensed city, it's also one of the most enjoyable. I highly recommend grabbing a bike and heading into Maria Luisa Park and the beautiful Plaza de España.
Exploring Seville's Past
4. The City of Tiles: From cavernous cathedrals to tiny restaurants, every exterior and interior in Seville is adorned with ceramic tiles, or azulejos. Look down at your feet and you will see geometric floor tiling. Find your bearings by peering up at the azulejo street signs on every corner. Like many other elements of Andalucian architecture, these tiles reflect centuries of evolving religious influences. Visit the Alcázar of Seville for the finest display of restored azulejos.
5. Joining the Brotherhood: I previously wrote about the cofradías that march through the city during Holy Week. In Seville, these brotherhoods are a bit like sports teams. You grow up admiring your favorite cofradía and waiting until the day you can become a member. The ribbon pictured here was distributed to and worn by friends and supporters of one particular brotherhood. Tour Cofrade took us on guided visits to various local churches where brotherhoods were preparing for their procession. The tour was a bit long and unorganized but gave us a glimpse into the inner workings of the elaborate Easter processions.
6. Seville Cathedral: The massive cathedral and bell tower soar over the city's low slung skyline. Given its ornate and intricate exterior, it's no surprise that the cathedral was originally constructed during the Reconquista to demonstrate the city's wealth. Today, it is considered one of the largest (if not the largest by some calculations) cathedrals in the world. Make sure to climb up the Giralda, a converted minaret turned bell tower. From the top, you get great panoramic views of the city, including the trippy Metropol Parasol.
Learning to Eat
7. How to Eat in Seville: Spanish eating customs can be a bit tricky for out-of-towners. In lieu of 2 massive meals, be prepared for all-day grazing. When it comes to food, Spaniards take their sweet-ass time. Lunch is arguably the biggest meal of the day, so relax and find a spot outside for some traditional tapas. If you're in a rush, go to McDonald's. In the evening, it's not uncommon to hop from tapas bar to tapas bar. A few of our favorite restaurants were Eslava in San Lorenzo, La Brunilda in Santa Cruz and La Comidilla across the river in Triana.
8. How Not to Eat in Seville: Dinner in Spain typically doesn't occur until 9 PM at the very earliest. In fact, many restaurant doors will be shuttered until late in the evening. Make like a Spaniard and take a short afternoon nap. However, if you'd prefer a pick-me-up, grab some coffee and a small snack at La Campana.
A City of Contrasts
9. Fine Art: For a comprehensive collection of ecclesiastical items and religious paintings from the region, head to the Museum of Fine Arts (Museo de Bellas Artes). The museum showcases works from the likes of Velázquez and El Greco as well as lesser known Spanish artists.
10. Modern Art: If religious art is not quite your thing, head across the river to Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, or CAAC for short. This monastery turned porcelain factory turned museum hosts various rotating art exhibitions throughout the year. However, the venue itself is perhaps the most compelling reason to visit. We ran into very few other visitors during our hour plus stay, making the entire experience tranquil and a bit haunting. You can also visit the surrounding area which housed many of the pavilions from the 1992 World Expo.