Friday, 1 March 2013

Mini Guide to Seville, Spain

Home to Flamenco and tapas and with a Moorish palace to rival the Alhambra, Seville can sate the appetite of any traveller.
Built on the banks of the slow Guadalquivir River Seville was once a bustling port town. From the Romans and under Moorish rule trade was Seville's life blood, which increased even more with the 'discovery' of the Americas. The tomb of Christopher Columbus sits in Seville's cathedral.

The capital of Andalucía,  Seville is the epitome of every  dream of hot summer nights, the sound of guitar and Flamenco and a party atmosphere.


Hospital de los Venerables
In 1676 the Silence Brotherhood (Hermandad de Silencio) commissioned a hospital and church to be built in which the brothers could carry out their work of caring for poor, sick and disabled priests. The building has been restored and is used by a foundation to hold exhibitions. This is a fine example of early Baroque style and the patio is very much as it was when first built. The church within the hospital has wonderful painted ceilings and walls. This is one of the highlights of a trip to Seville.

Opening Hours: 10:00 to 14:00 and 16:00 to 20:00
Price: €4,75 (Free on Sundays between 16:00 and 20:00 and for children under 12)
Plaza de los Venerables, 8

The Giralda Tower attached to the cathedral gives the visitor a clue as to the former use of the site on which the world's third largest church stands. The former mosque was knocked down, apart from its minaret - the Giralda Tower - and one of the last Gothic churches in Spain was constructed in its place. Within is the tomb of Christopher Columbus whilst the exterior of the building is decorated with rich carvings.

Opening Hours: Mon - Fri - 11:00 to 17:30 except July and August when the opening hours are: 09:30 to 16:30; Sat (all year round): 14:30 to 18:30. Last entry is 30 minutes before closing.
Price: €8; combined with the tower - €9.

Reales Alcázares
This fortified palace encapsulates Seville's history within its walls and gardens. It is the oldest Royal palace still in use in the world. Built in 913 under the orders of Abd Al Ramn III it was significantly enlarged by Pedro I (the Cruel) in the fourteenth century. Mudejar architecture with its detailed carvings is much in evidence. The gardens and fountains are impressive, cool and relaxing. This is a site not to be missed.

Opening Hours: 09:30 to 17:00 (Oct - March) or 19:00 (Apr - Sept). Closed - 1st and 6th January, Easter Friday and 25th December.
Price: €8,50

Other Sites
Casa de Pilatos

Built between the 15th and 16th centuries and gradually expanded as neighbouring houses and sites were acquired, the Casa de Pilatos became the largest private residence in Seville. The house was designated a National Monument in 1931 and combines the architecture and innovations from Mudejar to the Renaissance.

Opening Hours: Nov - Mar: 09:00 to 18:00; April - Oct: 09:00 to 19:00
Price: Complete ticket: €8; Ground floor only €6

Flamenco Museum (Museo de Baile Flamenco)
The museum combines history of the art of this passionate dance with practical lessons in how to dance the flamenco. The basement is the preserved 18th century building while on the upper floors there are exhibitions of paintings, clothing and videos. It provides an insight into the Andalucían culture and history of the dance and there is always something happening there to get involved in.

Opening Hours: 09:00 to 18:00 (Nov - Mar); 09:00 to 19:00 (Apr - Oct)
Price: €10
Calle Manuel Rojas Marcos 3

Plaza de España
This is an awe-inspiring plaza. Built in 1929 for the Ibero-american Exhibition, the plaza is flanked by towers on either end of the main building. Walking along the galleries of the main building one can admire the decorations that depict different episodes from Spanish history above the 58 benches. A pond curves alongside the building, crossed with bridges and a fountain sits in the centre of the plaza. A very picturesque setting.

View Mini Guide to Seville in a larger map

Sevillan Culture
Casa Anselma - Flamenco
If the Flamenco Museum stirred the duende (spirit) in you then an evening in one of the authentic flamenco bars is a must. Anselma doesn't advertise, she doesn't need to. On the other side of the river to central Seville in the region of Triana is the Casa Anselma. With a predominantly Spanish audience this bar becomes packed. The singing and dancing happens late in the evening/night - midnight onwards is when it starts to happen. 

Calle Pagés del Corro, 49, Triana

Semana Santa (Holy Week)
Holy Week is a week given over to processions that, whatever your religious persuasion, are memorable. Statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary are paraded through the streets carried by men covered in shapeless cloaks and with pointed masks on their heads. Bands play mournful hymns on Good Friday which are far more joyous come Easter Sunday. It is certainly a spectacle to behold if you are in Seville during the Easter week.

Feria de Abril
Once Easter is out of the way the party begins. Sevillans know how to party. Music, fireworks, a huge fairground and with food and drink in abundance this is a time to party as the evenings warm up. Expect the parties to carry on until the very early hours!

Hotel Alfonso XIII (Luxury Choice)
Within 300 metres of the Cathedral and Alcázar the Hotel Alfonso XIII is ideally situated for exploring the city. The 5 star hotel has an outdoor pool, gym and sauna, and elegant bedrooms providing all that a guest could need for their stay. The public areas of the hotel are stylish and capture the Moorish influence on the city.

Double rooms start at around €400 per night in the low season.

San Fernando 2
Phone: (0034)(95) 4917000

EME Catedral Hotel (Mid-range)

As the name suggests this five star boutique hotel is a stone's throw from the cathedral and with a roof terrace that offers incredible views. The rooms are decorated in a modern style and the Small Double room is just that; you have to be happy in your room-mate's company! The Premium room at the other end of the scale is the equivalent to a large studio apartment with roof terrace, just without the kitchen.

Standard Double rooms start at around €180  in the low season
Calle Alemanes, 27
Tel: 954 56 00 00

Hotel Abril (Budget Choice)

In the centre of Seville this 2 star hotel is set in a Sevillan house has 20 bedrooms. Wi-fi is freely available throughout the hotel. The rooms are traditionally furnished but comfortable and make a pleasant change to soul-less hotel chains.

Double rooms start at around €35 per night in the low season
Calle Jerónimo Hernández, 20 
Tel.: (+34)95 422 90 46   Fax: (+34)95 456 39 38

Food and Drink
Taberna Coloniales
The highlight of the tapas bars is the Taberna Coloniales. Not only does it serve very good food but for tapas the portions are a good size as well. It gets very busy in this bar so it is advisable to get there early and put your name on the board for a table before settling down with a cerveza or fino.
Plaza del Cristo de Burgos, 19
Tel: 954 50 11 37

El Faro de Triana
The Spanish like to promenade and wandering along the Calle Betis on the Triana side of the river is a pleasant way to pass part of the evening. On your way you can stop off for a bite to eat at El Faro. The menu is predominantly fried fish and seafood dishes though there are dishes for non-fish eaters.

Calle Betis, near Puente Isabel II
Tel: 954 336 192

El Rinconcillo
You feel as if you have stepped back in time when you enter this tavern cum restaurant. The building dates back to 1670 and it is a magnet not just for tourists but for Sevillans as well. From tapas to an a la carte menu there is plenty to choose from and the ambience of the tavern with its tiled walls and dark wood bar and ceilings is typical Seville.

Calle Gerona, 40
Tel: 954 22 31 83

Getting There

Sevilla International Airport (IATA: SVQ) is located about 25 minutes drive from the city center.
A bus service "Especial Aeropuerto (EA)" runs about every 30 minutes from just outside the Arrivals hall during most of the day (though with longer gaps from 1PM-4PM) and costs approx. €2.40. Taxis are always available next to the bus stop and run on a fixed fare to Seville center, just under €18 during the day and just under €21 after 10PM and on weekends/holidays.

From other parts of Spain it may be cheaper and quicker to travel by train or bus. 
Sevilla Santa Justa train station is to the east of the historic centre. Take a bus or taxi to your hotel, or if only visiting for the day then a pleasant walk into the centre is not too onerous.
The bus stations are also central and buses regularly arrive from other cities in Spain at regular intervals.

Getting Around

Seville's transport system is very good and the buses cover the city at a reasonable cost - around €0,70 per trip. Re-useable bus cards can be bought at tobacconists.

The tram system is being incoporated into the system and currently runs from the Plaza Nueva to San. Bernado train station.

The metro follows a U shaped route from the south-west to the south-east of the city. A one zone daily card costs €1,30 whilst a three zone daily card costs €4,50.

As part of the green transport drive Sevici bicycles can be hired from various docking stations around the city. They can be expensive if you fail to dock your bicycle properly. A short-term subscription at €11,28 gives 30 minutes free cycling, then the next hour or part thereof at €1.03 with the hourly rate increasing to €2.04 thereafter. Warning, you will have to give a deposit of €150 for short-term subscriptions. It all depends on how much you want to pay to be green. Walking may be a better option!

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