Wednesday, June 18, 2014


Flamenco, amazing architecture, Star Wars movie scene, and Roman ruins. Seville was amazing.In this post I share with you all the Seville must sees, and some other spots off the beaten path (Roman ruins!)

The bus from the train station dropped us off at about 15 minutes walking distance from the Cathedral. Be sure to have exact change for the bus ride. I found Spanish buses easy to ride, clean and comfortable; for the traveler bus stops were clearly displayed so you can always know where you are even when you don't know what the announcement just said.

Arriving at Seville late in the evening, I found our hostel in the the winding alleys right next to the Cathedral. I'm pleased with its good location, and after traveling a bit and having stayed at several hostels, I now think the most important thing in choosing a hostel is its location. Trying to find our hostel, we passed by restaurants in the streets lively and full of people drinking wine, beer, and eating tapas. We were tired, but we hadn't had dinner. It was around 9 P.M., but it's not too late for dinner at all here in Spain, actually, it's proper dinner time. We were greeted by the friendly hostel keeper Taco (it's hard to forget a name like that) and told that the restaurant right downstairs was no good before we ventured off and found a restaurant with a nice menu del dia (menu of the day). Being budget travelers, menu del dia was our answer to sit down meals at restaurants. Usually around 10 Euros, the menu offers several choices and usually includes the entree along with a drink, dessert, or appetizer. The food was okay, but for 10 Euros I think it's reasonable and you get to sit in a nice restaurant.

The streets were very busy with people eating, drinking, and having a good time.

Part of our menu del dia, with sangria as our chosen drink.

Seville Cathedral at night, we're almost at our hostel.

Our hostel at day, a gift shop is below us.

Plaza de España


The next morning the first place we head for is Plaza de España, or in Star Wars, the city of Theed at planet Naboo. So we pretended we were at Naboo and took this lovely picture, though I do wish we had more hands and we could have made a remake split screen Star Wars reshot video. But here is a clip of Seville, I mean Naboo, is Star Wars Episode 2.

Plaza España (Naboo exists!)

This beautiful architecture was built for the World Expo of 1929, in other words, it was built to amaze and look pretty. As I looked at the painted tile stalls of each of the provinces of Spain, I thought whether other World Expo buildings would become a famous tourist spot just like the Plaza for many years to come. The Eiffel tower was too built for a World Expo (of 1889) and now it's the landmark of Paris. The upside down Chinese pagoda for the World Expo of 2008 as far I know, isn't quite a landmark of Shanghai.

I took pictures of the provinces I have visited, look, Cordoba! I was just there!

Seville Cathedral
Students: 4 Euros
Adults: 8 Euros

Next to the Seville Cathedral, the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. My friend and I shared a audio guide again, since we decided one can learn so much more with an audio guide then just walking through the whole thing alone. And since the two of us could share the audio guide, it's not that expensive. Usually one of us would listen and summarize the most important things to other person (since lots of it can be a bit I have mocked audio guides a bit in my Cordoba piece), or once in a while we turn it on to the loudest setting and listen to it together. Listening to the audio guide, we were both surprised to learn the sculpture of four giants carrying something...the something they were carrying was actually Christopher Columbus. "Um, did she (audio guide) just say Columbus?" And we replayed it again, and yes, she did say Columbus. As you can see, we did not do that much reading before traveling but how well prepared and research should a traveler do before traveling? That's something for another post. Anyways, we were pleasantly surprised.

That box these gentleman are carrying, that's Christopher Columbus in there.

The Cathedral has a very high bell tower you can climb called Giralda. It was the minaret of the mosque that stood there. Stone steps went around and around and it was a tall tower--I guess you could get dizzy if you climb fast enough. It was real nice to see the city from high above, I was especially excited to see all the pools on rooftops. "Pooools!" I cried out, how I wish I could chill in a pool on a Seville rooftop. The the bells began to ring, seeing how big the bells were and how close we were to them, I expected my ears to explode and my whole body shaken, but as I stood there with my hands covering my ears, I realized it wasn't that loud and the biggest bells did not ring. So, my body wasn't shaken by the sound and my ears are fine, but it was a nice experience none the less to see the bells chime.

On top of the tower where the big bells are.

The court yard of the Cathedral as seen from the tower of the Cathedral.

Seville center from the tower, see the pools?
Seville Alcazar
Adults: 9.50
Students (till 25) and Kids: 2   

Next to the Cathedral was the Alcazar (another Alcazar!) but this one was my favorite. You know the Alahambra in Granada? Well, I didn't get a chance to see that but from what I've read and what my friend who has visited Alahambra told me, the Alcazar in Seville is like a mini Alahambra. I was very excited to see this Moorish palace, or to be more exact, it's mudéjar style--Moorish inspired Iberian.
Mudéjar architecture was something I have seen on TV and in books, and I was very excited to see it with my own eyes, it may not be the Alahambra that I saw, but it was just as beautiful and intricate. The patterns that filled the walls, colorful tiles, the doorways; there was print going on everywhere, but it never felt overwhelming.

Seville Alcazar

This is where people took baths.

The palace is still in use today, the second floor of the Alcazar is the still the royal residence. They probably won't get to walk in the multiple gardens since it's filled with tourists, but I guess they could walk around when everyone is gone, right before it gets dark, and that sounds quite romantic. There was a maze in the garden (Oh! I love garden mazes) and I ran in the maze, reacting the movie scene from Orlando, crying "Nature, nature, I am your bride. Take me!" (Well, there was no one around so why not.) The gardens were very nice and there were several of them with different styles, and lots of water fountains and murals.

One of the water fountains, with some mythology murals.

Running round the garden maze.

If you haven't seen the 1992 film with Tilda Swinton as Orlando, you can see the maze scene I re-enacted in the video clip below. This is probably my favorite scene in the movie.

To complete my Mudéjar style architecture tour, I took some "Mudéjar inspired style" pictures. I do not know if this is historically accurate, but overall it looks pretty good to me.

The scarf really fits for the architecture and atmosphere doesn't it?

Metropol Parasol (Las Setas) 
3 Euros to top floor terrace, with a drink included
The we visit the Metropol Parasol, this modern looking architecture claims to be the biggest wooden structure in the world even though I could not tell it was made with wood at all. They are also known as Las Setas de la Encarnación (Incarnación's mushrooms), and that explains why the gift shop items were printed with mushrooms. It was completed in June 2007, but it was not listed in my friend's travel book, so the first night when we passed by it on our way to our hostel, we had stopped in surpirse to admire the distinctive building. My friend was immediately attracted to it and wanted to see it again and go on top of it if possible. 

Suddenly, a very very modern mushroom pops up.

There was indeed a panoramic terrace on the top of the structure, but it took us forever to find the entrance. We went around the whole thing at least twice before we found the elevator and ticket booth for the panoramic terrace. The terrace ticket booth is right next to the ticket booth for the Antiquarium, a museum below the Parasol of some ruins found on location. The entrance fee was 3 Euros and you get a drink at the Bar/Restaurant at the top floor of the "mushroom." You can walk along these passages and see Seville from all directions, it was fun to walk all over the mushroom. Then we sat down for tinto de verano, the fruity wine drink we selected that was included in our ticket, and admired the city. For 3 Euros ticket that comes with a drink, pretty good deal. By the way, this would be the coolest party space, it already has a bar ready.

Metropol Parasol, setas

Metropol Parasol, setas

By the way, we found a fantastic kebab deal in a restaurant next to the parasol and we had a very fulfilling dinner, it was all under 10 Euros for the two of us, combined. That's a salad, two kebab, and two drinks, and two fries. Best deal ever! Kebab really is like the cheapest and always open food option for the traveler in Europe. Mostly I try to avoid it but to me it's like a European specialty so why not have it once during my travels?

Kebab-Very budget friendly, and it was right next to "mushroom"

Flamenco as Casa de la Memoria

Adults: 18 Euros
Students and Local Residents: 15 Euros
Kids 6-11: 10 Euros

It seems no visit to the South of Spain would be complete without flamenco. All over Seville you see posters promoting flamenco shows and lots of flamenco shoes, fans and dresses displayed for the buyer. With this many flamenco choices, it was hard to decide. I did not want to see a poor quality show that was for tourists, and I came across the lovely article by BBC with recommendations to several flamenco places. In the end I chose Casa de la Memoria, as it had a good rating on websites and it was describes as a smaller and more intimidate performance space which I would prefer.

Casa de la Memoria

I don't know what you think flamenco shows are like, but it was slightly different from what I imagined, but still, very powerful dance and skilled musicians. There was much more music then I had imagined, musicians were not just playing for the dancers, but had show time for themselves as well. Also, flamenco is not all about the layered dresses flipping and twirling all around, actually there wasn't a layered dress like the ones in the shop windows in the show. While photographs are not allowed (no surprise here), they do let you take pictures at the last part of the show. And when the dancers signal it is now okay to take pictures, the camera lights go flashing non stop like a Hollywood red carpet.


From research and tour book reading, I decided on the third day to visit Italica, the Roman ruins that is the birthplace of the Roman Emperor Trajan, and probably Hadrian too. It was pretty close to Seville and just took a 20 minute bus ride and once there you feel like you are in another world. I decided to write about Italica in a separate post here.

Casa de Pilatos
1+2 floor: 8 Euros (includes 2nd floor guide and audio guide)
1 floor only: 6 Euros (includes audio guide)

After Italica we head to Casa de Pilatos, a mansion palace of a duke. According to the official website of the casa, it is "a harmonious blend of mudejar-Gothic, Renaissance and romantic styles." It was 8 Euros to see the entire house (floors 1 and 2), and 6 Euros if you only want to see the first floor and the gardens. All tickets came with an audio guide, and the 2nd floor you can only go see with the timed guided tours. While you could take pictures on the first floor, you cannot do so on the second. The second floor tour was pretty interesting, all the furniture and such was still there as if someone lived there. I am not entirely sure when was the last time someone lived there, but in that classical mansion there were black and white pictures in frames, so it would have been not that long ago. The guided tour was done in a bilingual fashion, and it was a standard tour that told some history and announced the artists that created the many works of art; but it wasn't especially outstanding, and with how small the circled areas we could walk in were, it felt rather crowded with our 18ish person group. And again, no pictures, which was kind of annoying but I'm trying to be understanding.

The casa is often described as a hidden gym by tourist sites, and it is hidden indeed. The casa really isn't easy to find and you could pass by its plain gates easily and there are no clear signs. Since it's so hidden, there were less tourists then other places. With the Alcazar tickets for students was just 2 Euros, we felt 8 Euros was pretty pricey. Plus I did not feel the casa offered something that was very different from the Alcazar, maybe the second floor stuck in time that you couldn't take pictures was special, but still, 8 Euros felt a bit pricey. And the Casa and its gardens were not as big as the Alcazar.

Here ends my post about Seville, but I'm giving you this link to flea markets in Madrid and Seville. It seems Seville has some great flea markets, but I did not get to visit any.

Also check out my Madrid Museum post, many of the museums are free at certain hours and there are some great museums that are not that well known and definitely worth a visit. As usual, leave a comment, what's your favorite place in Seville? And don't forget to join this site or subscribe.

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