A month in Sevilla (Spain): observations, experiences and thoughts

a-month-in-sevilla-spain-observations-and-thoughts

We’ve been in Sevilla just over a month as I write this (we have 3 weeks until we leave Spain for Japan). But it didn’t take us long to fall in love with this city – Sevilla is simply amazing and for full-time travellers like us it has made a fantastic base. In this post I’ll cover aspects of Sevilla that have stuck out for us (both positive and negative) and will include lots of photos to give you a feel for this beautiful city.

Below: building in the Santa Cruz district

sevilla-building

 

Sights

On my last post I got in trouble for saying that while Lisbon was beautiful, few of the highlights were spectacular (our opinion). We thought maybe we were getting blasé about travel. Then we arrived in Sevilla where we’ve been knocked on our butts by the sheer impressiveness of some of the sights we’ve seen. The Big 3 (as I call them) are all spectacular: the Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla), the Alcázar, the Plaza de España. The modern Metropol Parasol is incredible in its own way. But just walk the streets, step into some of the squares, and pop into some of the small churches and you’ll be astounded by some of the sights you see. The church of Santa Maria de la Blanca, the Hospital de los Venerables, Basilica de la Macarena, and the Palacio de Las Dueñas have all wowed us. It’s not only the attractions themselves but the setting: the colorful streets with intricate balconies and lamps, the tiled murals, the cobblestones, the shady plazas and gardens. The Moorish architecture and palm trees give the city a tropical vibe. Sevilla is spectacular.

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Below: mural and buildings, plaza Santa Maria de la Blanca

street-in-sevilla

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Below: Moorish architecture in the Alcázar. A UNESCO site, it was the Royal Palace of the Moorish kings.

real-alcazar-sevilla

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Below: Plaza de España, built for the 1929 World Fair. Spectacular tilework.

plaza-de-espana-sevilla

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Below: the modern Metropol Parasol, the largest wooden structure in the world (you can go up top for great views).

metropol-parasol-sevilla

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Practicality as a base

Our Airbnb apartment is situated in the Macarena district. Across the street is Mercadona, a large grocery store (there is also a Lidl not far away). The best gym we’ve come across on our travels is 5 minutes away (Viding). Bars and restaurants are all over the neighborhood and there are no tourists. The Santa Justa train station is a 15 minute walk, perfect for day trips (we’ve visited Córdoba and have day trips planned to Cadiz, Carmona and maybe Ronda). Getting downtown to the main sites (Cathedral/ Alcázar) takes a 5 minute walk to the “ring road” circling the old town and a 10 minute bus ride (ie 15 -20 minutes total) or a 25 minute walk if all done on foot.

All in all, with our travel lifestyle, it has been the perfect base.
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Below: Triana district at night

street-in-triana-sevilla

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Below: drinking a Tinto de Verano con Limon (very similar to a Sangria). Nice on a hot day.

tinto-de-verano-sevilla

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Friendly and helpful people

We’ve found the people in Sevilla friendly. Note: Sevillians themselves tell you that they can be “phony-friendly”. But still, as visitors, we’ve met helpful people in doing all the day-to-day stuff like going shopping, talking to people at the gym, organizing sim cards, getting tourist information, getting help mailing things at the post office, etc.  In the end, you just want to get stuff done and not run into unpleasant people…and we’ve found the Sevillians very amicable*.

* PS. Until today when we met the unfriendliest, most useless asshole ever at vodafone. Spanky who is always polite, told him exactly what she thought of him in Spanish. I guess there are assholes everywhere. Still, they’ve been in a very small minority in Sevilla.
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Language

I think we’re surprised by the lack of English in Spain. Very, very few people speak English, especially outside the tourist center. Luckily we both speak Spanish in varying degrees – but anyone not speaking the language might find communication a barrier.
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Below: It’s a small church, but the church of Santa Maria de la Blanca is incredible.

santa-maria-de-la-blanca-sevilla-spain

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Below: Views of the Cathedral and Giralda (bell tower).

views-on-sevilla-cathedral

 

 

Costs

Our 2 bedroom apartment comes out to 900 Euros/month (about $1350 Canadian) on Airbnb. Food (including wine) have averaged $200/week Canadian (about 130 Euros/week). That’s a bit high but it’s because we’ve been on a health kick lately and trying to eat well (no pizza/pasta). Restaurant meals usually average out around 35 Euros for us including wine/beer. Overall, I would say that Sevilla overall is about 15% more expensive than some of our favorite Eastern European cities (Prague, Budapest) but still about 35% less expensive than life in Canada.
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Below: ceiling in the Alcázar.

ceiling-in-real-alcazar-sevilla

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Below: “Courtyard of the Maidens” at the Alcázar.

sevilla-alcazar-interior-sevilla

 

Spanish culture – The Siesta, diner times, etc

Everyone knows about the “siesta”. In actual fact, not every place in Spain has an afternoon siesta where everything closes down…but in Sevilla they do. In the early afternoon (2ish) you’ll suddenly see storefronts closing up. The streets are usually very quiet at this time and we’ve found that it’s the best time to do our grocery shopping (grocery stores don’t close for siesta). Around 6pm things open up again and you’ll see locals back out on the street, shopping or going for a beer at the many little bars and restaurants. Prime time for diner is around 9pm (if you go to a restaurant around 8pm it will often be empty) but you’ll often see people walking into a restaurant at 11pm.  Part of the reason for these hours in Sevilla is the heat (which I’ll mention below).

Tapas restaurants are everywhere, flamenco is a big thing and not just for tourists – the Bienal is a bi-annual festival bringing together some of the best flamenco musicians and dancers (the month-long festival just ended yesterday, October 2nd, in Sevilla). You can go to bars and hear musicians playing guitar and see locals dancing flamenco. All the cultural things that Spain in known for is alive and well in Sevilla.
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Festivals

There seem to be a never-ending string of festivals here in Sevilla. I mentioned the Bienal, the bi-annual flamenco festival. Also going on at the same time is the Festival de las Naciones where food from all over the world is featured.  There seems to be always something going on.
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Below: Local bar

flamenco-in-local-bar-sevilla

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Below: tourist shop and iconic Spanish images.

colorful-stores-sevilla

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Heat

This part of Andalusia has the hottest temperatures in Europe. The average temperature in Sevilla is 36C in July and temperatures often go over 40C. This in large part explains why everything closes up in the afternoon. We’re in early October and temperatures are still in the 30-33C range.
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Below: The Giralda (bell tower) of the Cathedral, the 3rd largest Catholic Cathedral anywhere.

la-giralda-bell-tower-in-sevilla-spain

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Below: There are tons of beautiful churches in Sevilla. This one is Iglesia de San Luis de los Franceses.

iglesia-de-san-luis-de-los-franceses-sevilla

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Streets of the Old Town

Sevilla’s center is made up of seemingly a million small streets winding in different directions. It is almost impossible not to get lost. But it is also part of the charm of Sevilla: turn a corner and you’ll come across another church, a market, or a beautiful square where locals are drinking. I think you could come back to Sevilla and always discover something that you missed the first time. One of the reasons for the small, winding streets is the heat – they were built that way to provide shade.

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Below: streets of Sevilla. This actually looks more orderly than what you encounter trying to find your way around (Map credit).

stadtplan-sevilla-7568

 

mBelow: street views

street-in-sevilla-spain

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Below: Look around a corner and you’ll usually see a church or square.

church-sierpes-sevilla

 

“Vale”

I’ve mentioned the Spanish and how we’ve like them so far. Here’s one annoying thing: the use of the word “Vale”. You’ll hear it all the time, over and over again. “Vale” can mean “OK”, “Good”, “understand?”. Maybe it has other applications too. They can barely say a sentence without a “vale” thrown in.  It’s even more annoying than the Costa Rican “Pura Vida”. Ok, no, I’m correcting that – I suddenly remember all the times we were greeted by a “Pura Vida!” and then proceeded to get ripped off everywhere in Costa Rica. Pissed me off to no end. “Pura Vida” is worse.

Anyway, you’ve been warned about the “vale” ;) .
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Below: Church inside the Hospital de los Venerables.

church-in-hospital-los-venerables-sevilla

 

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Location and access to other places

A last reason we really like Sevilla: its location and ease of access to other places. Last weekend we went to Córdoba where we saw the incredible Mezquita. It is 140 km away but took 40 minutes on a high speed train. We have a few other daytrips planned for the next few weeks. Sevilla makes a great base to visit Andalusia (the name of the southern region of Spain).

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Below: another view of the Catedral de Sevilla.

catedral-de-sevilla

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The above are observations and experiences that have stuck out over the last month in Sevilla. In short, we’ve loved our stay and it is a city that we could easily come back to and spend more time in. Fantastic.

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Have you been to Sevilla? What did you think of it?

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Related: Highlights of Sevilla (Spain) – and how to see them on  a budget.
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Comments

  1. Spain is one of the countries I really wanted to see, though I’m not yet good in Spanish but it doesn’t matter. I love to see its beautiful architecture. Thanks for the glimpse, I’ve got inspired again.

  2. Another great wrap up and overview! I had spent a couple days here years ago. Thought it was a great city. Also, had one of my favorite hotel experiences with a free stay and an upgrade in Prince Alfonso Hotel.

    It looks like I just say the tip of the iceberg. Now I want to go back again!
    Gaz recently posted…Bali–Must-SeeMy Profile

  3. Love, love, love Sevilla! We were only there for a short time, but – like you – fell in love easily. There is just something about it that makes it such a great place to visit – be it the sights, the people, the food. I didn’t notice the use of the word ‘Vale,’ but I was probably too busy gushing over the tapas and slurping down wine – haha ;) We haven’t considered it as a longer term base, but what you say is interesting…
    Sarah (JetSetting Fools) recently posted…Skocjan Caves and Divaca in 24 hoursMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Yes, it didn’t take long to fall in love with it :) . We usually like a place as much for the touristy aspects as for the ease of living – for us Sevilla has both.

  4. 900 € a month rental ? in Spain? are you kidding? it must have been a ***** apartment!wow!
    as for the temperature in Sevilla : 50°C (in shadow) is simply not possible. I doubt if even the heart of the Saharan desert ever reaches such a temperature! you are maybe mixing it up with the surface of Venus. And don’t be fooled by the hot summer temperatures : I visited Sevilla in winter Under an ice cold downpour and the temperature didn’t exceedd 10°C. I was drenched and miserable.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Short-term 1 month rentals are always more expensive. Have a look at airbnb prices sometime. But don’t forget it includes all utilities. But that’s what you’ll pay travelling somewhere 1-2 months at a time…
      No, I didn’t say 50C in shadow (although 50C does sound high and they might have factored humidity in that calculation). And yes, can get cool in the winter, we have friends who’ve stayed here full-time the last few years and they’ll tell you Jan/Feb can get cool.

      • still those rates are surprising. I just made a reservation for a R’B’n’B apartment n Plettenberg Bay (SA) 350 $ for 2 weeks.
        A very comfy place.

        • Frank (bbqboy) says:

          That’s a very good price as Plettenberg Bay known to be one of the more expensive locations on the Garden Route. What kind of lodging is it for that price? You’ll love that area :)

  5. What a great recap of your stay. It is quite the city isn’t it? Very easy to fall in love with. It gets a bad rep for being so slow compared to Barcelona and Madrid, but l like the pace as somewhere to live. Haha! Funny about the Vodafone guy, l remember having a rude one at their store in Malaga. We had to get a second person who knew what they were doing. So glad you guys are loving it.
    Kemkem recently posted…Top Pet Peeves with Travel BloggersMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Was quite the scene at Vodafone: we came in because a Canadian friend had tried calling us and said the number wasn’t working. We just wanted to know if we could receive international calls under our plan. Well, the guy was aggressive and huffy and was basically trying to get us to leave without looking at our contract, like it was too much of a bother. Got worse and Lissette ended up using the “coño” word on him. That got his attention. But you know Lissette, she’s polite and cheerful and won’t usually snap at someone. We ended up finding out our problem on our own – we didn’t need the city code on the cell phone number we had given our friend. If the guy at Vodafone would have been helpful we could have solved that in 30 seconds without the nastiness.

      Mid-sized cities are perfect for us, I don’t know if we would enjoy Madrid or Barcelona as much. I like the pace of life here. And it’s beautiful :)

  6. We too lived in Seville for a month and loved it. We had two terrific home exchanges there. Easy to live in…friendly and nice size city. We really enjoyed the river front as well.

    Peta

  7. I haven’t been yet but now I want to go more than ever! But probably in the winter and not when it’s 30C degrees. The photos are fabulous as usual.
    Travels and Tipples recently posted…Nine Towns In Four YearsMy Profile

  8. Yes, Sevilla is quite the place. Many cities ‘grow on you’ or are ‘slow and seductive’, but the odd one , like Sevilla, are hot and passionate from the start ! They just grab you and won’t let you go ! No surpirse about the language – Spanish , as an international world language has almost as many mother tongue speakers as English, and as such is every bit as chauvanistic as English is… maybe even moreso !
    What has happened to the old site of Expo ’92 ? It was to be converted into parks and a high-tech research centre after the Fair.
    Are you planning to visit Granada before you leave for Japan ? Its the other ‘gem’ that ‘anchors’ the other side of the so special Andalucia part of Spain.

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Very true Tony about Sevilla!
      About language: true as well, but most of that concentration of Spanish is outside of Europe. In most of Europe (excluding Spain, France and of course the UK) people usually adept at speaking 2, even 3, languages. The Portugal English was well spoken and in Eastern Europe we’ve been really impressed at the level of English (Spanky jokes that the English in Eastern Europe puts the “English” in parts of the US to shame :) ). Never mind Germany where it seems everyone speaks English. I think you’re right – it’s chauvinism.
      I didn’t even know about Expo 92 – I found this: http://edition.cnn.com/2015/02/25/travel/seville-expo-cnngo/. Seems the place is a bit of a graveyard but sounds like it could make for an interesting visit.
      I think we’ll leave Granada for the next time. We’ll for sure come back to the area. It’s about 4 hrs away and would need a weekend – and we have quite a few things to do before our Japan trip. I had thought about it but would just be too much…
      Thanks for the comment and the mention of Expo 92!

  9. I fell in love with Sevilla too, how can you not? We visited in September and oh boy it was hot and humid then too – deserving the reputation as the frying pan of Spain! But I didn’t care, I just loved it anyway. So nice to revisit through your beautiful photos!
    Rebecca recently posted…Biking Your Own Street Art Tour in BerlinMy Profile

  10. Wow! I’ll be honest – Sevilla has never really been on my radar. But it looks so stunning!
    Katrina recently posted…The Midnight Ride of Jack JouettMy Profile

  11. Location, location, location (except in the summer!). Sevilla does seem to be on the road to many places, especially when you’re coming from the Algarve in Portugal where we’ve passed by and through the city a number of times on our way to somewhere else. Our first visit was in January with miserably cold weather but what a great time to visit the all the sights you’ve mentioned as there were very few people out and about. One thing we noted, when we come back for a longer stay (and to spend much more time at the Alcazar) we will NOT be driving in the historic part of the city – what a nightmare! Loved your photos and I’m so glad you’ve enjoyed your time there in spite of the heat. We’re hoping to get over to the “big city” to see you before you head to Japan!
    Anita recently posted…Planes, Trains and Automobiles or What We Did On Our VacationMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Hi Anita!
      Thanks so much. Oh, you are right about the center being a nightmare and besides getting lost the streets are incredibly narrow…I don’t know how they do it.
      Our last day is Oct 20th…I’m not sure when you’re coming down but would be a pleasure to meet you :)

  12. I have a close friend who swears by Sevilla and all that it offers. Although we haven’t yet been, we did spend 5 weeks in Spain and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We often talk about returning to Leon, we found it to be one of our favorite cities but we definitely need to add Sevilla to the list. But, the one thing that slays me in Spain is in fact the 9:00 dinner hour. I understand the cultural premise of it, but holy crap it’s tough on us westerners.
    Patti recently posted…Ben and Jerry and Ice Cream ~My Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Ha, yes I understand about the 9pm dinner. We actually like it – we’ve always been late eaters and late getting to bed. I think the Andalusian lifestyle would suit us pretty well.

      We already know that we want to come back to Spain, there is lots to see and we are only scratching the surface. Leon huh? Had honestly never heard of it. I’ll keep it in mind.

      Thanks for the comment Patti.

  13. I’ve been to Barcelona and Madrid but never Sevilla. These pictures are gorgeous. I will definitely need to add Sevilla to my bucket list. Thanks for sharing these amazing pictures.
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…The Dream: House with a PoolMy Profile

  14. Sounds like you’re onto a winner with Seville, although it would probably have been a different story a few months earlier in the heat. I know people who have visited in the height of summer and hardly dared go out during the day. Think I’d class ‘vale’ and ‘pura vida’ up there with ‘insha-allah’ (god willing) which we hear ALL the time in Morocco. It’s basically an excuse, a get out clause so that whilst smiling and promising the world, you know very well it’s probably a load of bollocks. The irritating thing is, we’ve started using it when we’re out there too, but as they say, ‘when in Rome…’. We can be annoying too :-) Not been to Costa Rica ourselves (don’t really fancy it, seems bit of a tourist trap and not as true to itself as a county like it’s neighbours (we loved Guatemala)), but hear ‘pura vida’ online all the time. Nauseating.
    Heather Cole recently posted…Unpretentious Moroccan luxury at La Maison ArabeMy Profile

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Thanks Heather. Actually it only started getting cooler a few days ago and since we’ve been very active. Through the first 6 weeks of our stay we’d be out early mornings and late afternoons – but as you say during mid day the best thing to do is stay somewhere in the shade or at home.
      Yes, ‘insha-allah’; I’ve written about that before. Makes me nervous as hell when a pilot says something like “‘insha-allah, our estimated arrival time in Jakarta at 5 pm”. WTF? Get us there, don’t leave it up to fate or god’s will…
      Ps. You’re right about Costa Rica.
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Córdoba (Spain) and the Mezquita – one of the most incredible sights you’ll ever seeMy Profile

  15. Frank, I overlooked this post but I corrected the mistake, as always (I promise I won’t say this again) great pictures, I told you I have never found such amount of beauty in such a small place, I have been there three times and you mention things that I don’t know, so I guess I have to go back some more times.
    It appears that Vodafone has its headquarters of unfriendliest, most useless assholes in Spain, I had and incident last month in the store at Puerta del Sol in Madrid, I bought a couple of phones in Rome and one of them stopped working while in Madrid, the “host” listened to the problem and said that she could do nothing because it was bought in Italy, I asked her if at least she could tell me if it needed to be recharged and of course she said she could not.
    Good that you have plans to visit Ronda and Cadiz but if you can, don’t miss Arcos de la Frontera I think one of the most representative of the Pueblos Blancos and when returning to your base, go to San Lucar de Barrameda and have tortillas de camarones with Manzanilla (close to Jerez wine) or any other regional beverage.

    Thank for this beautiful post

    Carlos Gomez

    • Frank (bbqboy) says:

      Great comment as always Carlos, you’ve always got some good tips and lots of good taste when it comes for food tips. I have to say tortillas de camarones with a nice glass of wine sounds fantastic.
      Well, in the end we didn’t go to Ronda or Cadiz, never mind Arcos de la Frontera or Granada. We got busy with other things. But we also really explored Sevilla in detail. And I’m glad you’ve been 3 times because we’ve already decided we’d be back – so we’ll save some of these trips for next time. After Lisbon, we just wanted a place to call home for a while and Sevilla has just been fantastic as a base. Love the lifestyle. Can’t say enough good things about Sevilla.
      Thanks for your remark on Vodaphone. Our experience was so bad we decided to complain officially. Wrote to Vodafone Espana with a long email. They apologized, said they took care of it etc..somehow though I had the feeling they didn’t. It’s rare that Spanky would use the Coño word on someone but she did on that guy – takes a lot for her to blow her cool. So no better in Madrid huh? Bad corporate culture?

      Thanks again Carlos, always really appreciate your comments :)
      Frank (bbqboy) recently posted…Córdoba (Spain) and the Mezquita – one of the most incredible sights you’ll ever seeMy Profile

  16. I’ve visited Sevilla twice but only for a brief time in each case. I’d love to spend a few months there. Clearly it gives you a chance to get some outstanding photos of that amazing architecture! I’d particularly like to visit at the time of the Feria, which is in April I think.
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  17. wow i had no idea it was quite as amazing as THAT! wonderful photos Frank
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