Seville for beginners…
I visited Seville for the first time this summer and I’ve been kicking myself ever since. Kicking myself because I have no idea why it’s taken me so long to discover this beautiful vibrant city. Kicking myself because I packed heels when I could have packed another sundress. Kicking myself that I didn’t pack more elasticated waists to allow myself to fully surrender to my gluttony. And seriously kicking myself that I’m going to have to wait until next year before I can go back to those cobbled streets, great tapas bars and great shopping.
Life just ain’t fair at times.
If you’re considering Seville, you’ll have no doubt checked out the numerous travel blogs singing its praises and detailing all the must-visit attractions (of which there are many), so instead of repeating what you’ve probably already read, I’m simply sharing my personal and practical top ten tips when it comes to getting to and being in this amazing Andalusian city. And, as ever, please feel free to add your own Sevilla suggestions in the comments section below because, as we know, it’s good to share.
My first tip would be to simply go. Budget airlines are now offering direct flights to Seville so it’s easier – and cheaper – to get there than ever before. We flew from Edinburgh with EasyJet (self-financed) and it was a slick service with great flight times, which made it the perfect for maxing out our four days in Seville.
Learn a little Spanish before you go, even just the pleasantries and necessities, as the Sevillanos will really appreciate you making the effort to try to speak their language.
I’ve been learning Spanish with the podcasts Coffee Break Spanish and Notes in Spanish (both great for beginners) but even just the basics: please, thank you, can I have… will hold you in good stead. And a ‘por favor’ at the bar will get you served so much quicker than an ‘excuse me’.
Never thought I would hear myself say this, but leave your high heels at home. I wore a pair on our first night but didn’t repeat that folly as attempting to navigate the tiny cobbled lanes - and remain upright -wasn’t the easiest task sober let alone after a few vinos. Believe me, I can run in stilettos but stuck to my Scholls and Fitflop sneakers, as seen below, for the rest of our trip. If you feel you need the height from a heel, wedges would be your best option here. Trust me.
If you are thinking of buying some holiday outfits from any of the big Spanish brands – Zara, Mango, Massimo Dutti, etc. – hold fire and buy then when you get there. You’ll save a package and you might nab some ‘hero’ pieces early before they hit the UK and quickly sell out. And remember, always ask to pay in euros rather than pounds if using your credit or debit card. Your bank will most likely offer you a better conversion rate. It’s also worth carrying your passport or drivers licence if you plan on a big splurge as you may be asked for I.D.
If you’re not planning to shop, remember you’re packing for a city break, not a beach break. The Sevillanos like their style and the women look especially good. Women of all ages really take a pride in their appearance and a slick of bright lippy seems to be the done thing here. Outfit wise, think of packing pretty sundresses rather than shorts (although I wore mine teamed with a shirt and felt comfortable enough) and if you’re of the male persuasion (or packing for one) dig out those brightly coloured chinos, polo shirts (collar up) and tassel shoes that you’ve never dared wear at home. Seriously, you’ll fit right in.
If possible book a hotel with a pool. Seville gets mega hot and, as it’s inland, there’s no breezy beach. We used the pool every day – sometimes just for an hour – to cool off from that Sevilla sol (and top up our tans). We stayed at Hotel Fernando III (again, self-financed) and will definitely book there again for my next visit.
When it comes to sightseeing, definitely visit the Plaza de Espana earlier in the day and the Real Alcazar later in the afternoon (but do check the last entry for the Alcazar as it varies) to ensure you not fighting the crowds to nab your perfect shot at the beautiful tiled exhibition piece and likely to miss the longest queues at the palace. The cathedral tends to permanently have queues, so pack some water along with a hat and be prepared to wait. A while. You buy fast track tickets, which would be a good option if traveling with kids or a grumpy big kid.
Invest in a fan, an abanico as they say in Sevilla. Not the large red and black polka dot lace kind your auntie Nora used to bring back from Benidorm to put in her display cabinet, no, go for something more discreet because, as cliched as it might seem, nothing beats a hand fan for instant relief when stalking the hot Sevilla streets or sipping a cortado in a pavement café. Although Seville has completely embraced outdoor aircon systems, so don’t think someone’s turned the sprinklers on if you feel a cool mist on your shoulders. After your initial surprise, you’ll love it.
If you’re a fan of sangria, order a Tinto de Verano (wine of summer, seen here with some seriously good deep fried anchovies) instead. It has less sugar, nothing but ice and a slice floating in it, tastes so much nicer (to my taste anyway) and is a lot quicker to make. Sangria is still popular but unless you’re on a sangria drinking quest, the Tinto de Verano will sort you out nicely and you’ll likely gain a bit of kudos from your waiter. Result.
My final tip would be to eat like a local. That means a little and often and usually late into the night. Tapas are big here (figuratively, not literally) and different tapas bars will have different specialities or more popular dishes. If you want to try a few things and like a great value lunch, check out the Menu del Dia. In general, you’ll get three courses and a drink for not too many euros. This is a bit random, but I tend to find restaurants or bars with their Menu del Dia written outside on chalkboards (scoring dishes off as they sell out) a good bet for fresh and authentic dishes.
We enjoyed everywhere we ate in Seville (although we were underwhelmed by Instagram favourite El Pinton, which was beautiful but a bit overpriced for what it was) but particularly loved the variety and the buzz at La Bartola (directly opposite our hotel) and the must-visit Las Teresas, as seen above and which we had on good authority from a rather smart Sevillano sitting at the bar, served the best jamon in Spain, and on tasting we had to agree.
As I said there are plenty of where to go, how to get there and what to do when in Seville blog posts and travel articles out there, so these tips are really just my observations on how to make the most of a short weekend break. I’ve included some more shots I took of this beautiful city below, which I hope will further whet your appetite for this Andalusian jewel. Hope you enjoy and do let me know if you decided to visit!
All photography by Susie Cormack Bruce
This trip was self-financed and as always,
all views expressed are my own.