When many think of Spain, minds often float to Barcelona, the colorful city in Catalonia, and Madrid, the famous capitol. But, my favorite places by far, are the three cities that make up Andalucia’s Golden triangle – Seville, Córdoba, and Granada.
I traveled to Granada from Seville on a whim last year. I had a friend working in a hostel there and she had invited me to stay for a couple of days. I ended up staying about five, and then we left for Córdoba together. Each city has something special about it: a different landmark, a different feel, a different speciality. They share a lot of history, and all boast a an amazing variety and mix of cultures, but are each unique in their own way, and I sincerely recommend a visit to all of them.
Let’s just say I took the long way there… After arriving in Barcelona, spending three weeks on Menorca – a small island off the coast of Barcelona – and then flying to Portugal, I finally made my way back into Spain via bus to Seville.
Oh, Seville! Absolutely gorgeous. Known for it’s Cathedral, strong tapas scene, and roots in Flamenco dancing, it offers a fun and cultural cultural experience that is not soon forgotten.
The capital of Andalucia, Seville has an important history. It has a reputation for it’s architecture and culture and home to almost 1.5 million people, it is the fourth largest city in Spain. It also contains three UNESCO world heritage sites.
The city has been under both Spanish and Muslim rule, much like the other cities in this regain of Spain. After the Muslim conquest of 712, the city was know as Ishbiliya, and didn’t come back into Spanish hands until 1248, under the rule of Ferdinand III. After Columbus’ discovery of the new world, Seville become a economic hub, where it’s port become an important part of trade for the rest of Spain, and other parts of Europe. This ushered in a Golden age for Seville: arts and literature flourished and the city become known as the cultural center it still is today.
You’ll notice the Moorish influence in many parts of the city: the architecture, the fountains in the courtyards of residences, the old city’s wall, and the bell tower of Seville’s Cathedral. The Cathedral is quite a site. It is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, as well as the third-largest church. It is also the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The Giralda – the cathedral’s bell tower – was the minaret of a mosque that stood at the site while the city was under Muslim rule. You can walk all the way to the top, get a pretty good work out, and some amazing views.
It’s pretty easy getting around the city. There is a pretty good bus system, with one way rides costing less than 1 Euro. You can also explore the Seville by bike; it’s a nice way to see the city from every aspect, and allows you to get around a little quicker. But, the cheapest, and my transport mode of choice, is to walk! Things are pretty easy to get to on foot, and it really helps you get a sense of the city, and you notice little things you never would have seen otherwise. The streets curve and turn a bunch, so it is very easy to get lost.
Quick tip: An app for every travel – even around home. I strongly recumbent downloading Ulmon’s “CityMaps2Go.” You can download it for free and download three maps of your choice. Upgrade to pro, and you get unlimited map downloads. The best part? It’s offline! So even if you don’t have data on your phone, or can’t find a coffee shop to duck into to find your way, you’ll always have a handy map to back you up. It’s gotten me out of quite a few frustrating situations, and I highly recommend it.
Choosing a centrally located hostel will also help keep down the costs of transportation, and will be more walking-friendly. I stayed at Sevilla Inn – Backpackers Hostel Sevilla, which is located in the Jewish Quarter of the city. Rooms start at about 11 Euro/night, but they offer free walking tours, free breakfast, and a few other amenities. They had a ton of information on things to do in the area, and a super nice and helpful staff.
There are a ton of things to do in Seville. Make sure to stop by a restaurant or two; tapas are the best! Try a tortilla (it’s more of an omelet than the tortillas you know from the Americas), paella, the sangria, and pretty much anything else to get a taste of the local flavors. Also, stop by a Flamenco show at the Museo Del Baile Flamenco; the museum offers a nice history of the dance, as well weekly performances.
And just take it all in! With so much to see – the history, the colors, the food – remember to enjoy the moment, and everything España has to offer!