It's a beautiful time of the year in many places but many of the 'usual' European destinations rarely have the warm weather.
We discovered a cultural city in the heart of Andalusia to get the best of both worlds.
Just a few hours drive from the more typical holiday destinations of Marbella and Costa del Sol is the inland region capital city of Seville and to be honest, we weren't sure what to expect. Steeped in Spanish culture you will be hard pushed to find a bad tapas bar if you love finding spots to watch the world go by.
With just three and a half days to find our way around, starting with a 3.15am wake up call for an early flight from London - urgh! Leaving behind a drizzly early morning and arriving to a sun-soaked city just beginning to rise from its slumber. You will reach the old town, our chosen spot, within about half an hour. Drop your luggage, grab your sunnies, chosen travel guide and tourist map to start the adventure.
The most notable sights in the city include the Cathedral and nearby Alcazar.
Head to this area of town and enjoy a delicious breakfast and top notch people watching! The typical Andalusian breakfast of crushed tomatoes on toast drizzled with olive oil is incredible - a lovely fresh start to the day. You won't struggle for a caffeine kick either, strong and hot! There's some great gelato shops around too, we often indulged in ice cream filled macaroons or freshly squeezed orange juice.
For the TV buffs among you, Game of Thrones was filmed at the Alcazar...hence you will find a queue for most of the day. However, they are well organised and deal well with the crowds - you won't feel claustrophobic once inside. It's definitely an architectural gem with the traditional Sevillan tiles adorning almost every corner, whether you look left, right, up or down!
The cathedral itself is Seville's proudest monument and quite rightly so. With a rich history of differing religions and structural changes, the artefacts and stories are enough to keep you entertained all day. A great place for renaissance art lovers too, grab a seat in the courtyard filled with orange trees and indulge in the comings and goings of your fellow visitors. Don't miss the entrance to the Basilica tower, well worth the views of the unspoilt skyline at the top. There's very few stairs - only about 20 at the very top, the story goes that the bell ringers wanted to be able to ride their horses rather than walk it! On the way up there's plenty of places to take a breath and enjoy some historical exhibitions, don't leave your camera behind!
Take a stroll towards the Golden Tower, so called thanks to keeping safe the gold of many conflicts years before. You will then be welcomed by a wide gleaming river, almost gem-like in its pale green hue. Here you'll find many vendors selling boat trips for around €15 and don't be afraid to haggle. Hop on board - top deck at the front if you can, you will be on the water for about an hour and enjoy some little known facts about the city and its vast bridges. Take your favourite pashmina for when the vessel picks up speed, it can get breezy!
Head towards the Plaza de Espana for another great people-watching opportunity. With fountains and mini canals, you can wonder aimlessly admiring the traditional tiled detail, a little gaudy at first glance, and the regional Spanish maps set in the walls of the outer most walkway.
Other sights we enjoyed include
- Hotel Alfonso XIII - a palatial hotel with a serious eye for luxury.
- Metropole Parasol - a controversial modern piece of architecture. Head to the top for some panoramic views of the city
- Casa del torro - another controversial building, the home of regional bullfighting. Agree or not, the history surrounding this activity is rich and the tour informative.
They have a brilliant cycle system, much like the famous bikes we enjoy in London. Seville were actually one of the first to create such a scheme and they've got it down to a tee! Rental is reasonable and a quick way to see a lot of the city. We chose to walk and it is quite doable if you have the time.
During our stay we enjoyed drinks at a couple of nice places, but don't be tempted by expensive a la carte menus. The best places in town are hidden treasures of tapas bars. We soon learned that it's cheaper to eat at the bar than a table, and little and often is best! Loads of eateries will be closed late afternoon, so go with the flow and enjoy an afternoon nap - you'll be ready to join them for a late meal and some flamenco. You must not leave this city without visiting La Brunilda, our favourite tapas place, we've not stopped talking about it. Try everything if you're hungry but our top three: mini burger (yes really!), risotto and patatas bravas. You're welcome ;-)
Try the local wines (reds over whites), you will find them cheap and easy to drink (oops). At least once give their regional sherry a go - manzinalla is good with tapas. Our daytime refreshment consisted of tinto de Verano - essentially red wine and lemonade.
A couple of top tips
- learn a little Spanish, the Andalusian love it when you make an effort!
- Keep an eye out for the cycle lanes with raised metal markers on tramways, paths and roads - best to stay on the pedestrian side (we experienced a few near misses, eek!)
- Hit a flamenco bar for a fun night out, whether your on a trip with the girls or a romantic getaway - it's a great slice of sevillan culture with new sounds and visions of colour and texture.
We'd love to see your adventures, use #myvamp and show us some hidden gems across the globe!