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I've Lived In Spain For 3 Years & This Stunning City Is An Absolute Must To Travel To
Life & Travel

I've Lived In Spain For 3 Years & This Stunning City Is An Absolute Must To Travel To

Vibrant streets adorned with colorful buildings, fragrant orange trees, and charming cafes surround the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral. If you have Spain on your mind, the southern city of Seville will instantly capture your heart and leave you coming back for more.

I might be incredibly biased, but after living in Spain for three years and traveling the entire country, the region of Andalusia is my favorite–no contest! Making a visit to its capital, Seville, is an absolute must.


While cities like Barcelona or Madrid get all of the attention, the region of Andalusia is home to some of the most iconic aspects of Spanish culture, and in Seville, you’ll find them in full effect.

Known for its lively culture, expect to see locals gather in the evenings to enjoy pulsating flamenco shows on the street and indulge in delicious tapas. You’ll be taken aback by the stunning architecture, a unique blend of Spanish and Moroccan styles – an ode to the history of Moorish rule in the region for 800 years.

To prepare you for your first time in the Spanish city, here's everything to know about traveling to Seville.

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La Catedral

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What To Do in Seville

Stroll the streets of Santa Cruz and Triana.

Is there a better way to get to know a city than to get completely lost? Who needs a map? In Seville’s case, it will be extra easy because many of the interior streets are built like mazes–thank the Moors for that one! So okay, maybe bringing a map isn’t a bad idea. I highly recommend strolling through the neighborhoods of Santa Cruz and Triana.

Visit La Catedral.

They were not playing games with this one. The Sevillanos wanted to build a cathedral as opulent and beautiful as was humanly possible–which apparently took them 101 years to achieve. But SUCCESS! Because this cathedral is the third largest in the world (the first one being the literal Vatican), and it’s also a UNESCO heritage site! It’s impossible to walk around the Santa Cruz area and NOT see it. During Seville’s world-famous Easter processions, the largest and most famous in all of Spain, this cathedral takes center stage.

Tour the Alcazar.

While you’re in the neighborhood, head over to another MUST-SEE: the Alcazar of Seville. If it’s summer, buy your tickets ahead of time to avoid standing in the sun. If you didn’t think ahead, it’s okay.

The line moves quickly, but bring water and a hand fan like a true Española because this city gets HOT. Inside this ancient palace, you’ll find an architectural masterpiece started by the Moors in the 10th century with a mix of Mudéjar and gothic styles. It's very fancy and a great spot for Instagram shots.

The Alcazar of Seville

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Have a photoshoot at Plaza de España.

No visit to Seville is complete without a visit to Plaza de España. This spot is iconic and has appeared in many films–including Star Wars! It has four bridges that represent the ancient kingdoms of Spain and 48 benches for each province in the country. You can paddle around the plaza or simply take a nice stroll. But watch out, there’s a ton of horse-drawn carriages here, and with horses comes something you wouldn’t want to step in.

Culture Shock Alert:

Y’all, when I first moved to Spain, they included a section on staring in my orientation. I still wasn’t prepared for how much it might happen. My colleagues explained to me that in Spain, it’s totally normal to stare at people if you find something interesting about them, like their shirt, or are just bored and need something to look at. It’s not weird to them at all, but if you’re coming from The States, and especially as a Black person, it can initially feel uncomfortable.

Plaza de España

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Plaza de España

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Relax in Parque de María Luisa.

Just across the way from Plaza de España, you’ll find Parque de María Luisa overflowing with exotic greenery, fragrant orange trees, Moorish fountains, and decorative benches (a.k.a. there will be tons of places to sit under shade in the summer). It will also take you right along the Guadalquivir River.

Stroll along the Guadalquivir River.

If you come in summer and it’s too hot to deal with or if you simply want a nice area to stroll away from the center, head down to the Guadalquivir River. Next to the Puente de Triana behind Mercado Lonja del Barranco, you’ll also find tons of people laying out with picnics and beverages. Bring a bocadillo (Spanish for "sandwich") and a bottle of wine to do as the Sevillanos do.

Guadalquivir River

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Guadalquivir River

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Check out the Real Plaza de Toros.

On your walk along the river, you’ll find many famous stops like the Real Plaza de Toros. It is home to one of the most famous bullfighting festivals in the world, but you don’t have to watch that to check out the cultural icon. (In fact, if you’re not ready to see many bulls die, it’s best if you don’t.) If you’re interested in the tradition without the gore, there is a museum you can visit to learn about bullfighting in Spain, and you can also tour the grounds.

Watch the sunset behind Torre del Oro.

Another spot you’ll pass on your walk along the river is the Torre del Oro, or the Tower of Gold. Some say it has this name because of its golden reflection along the river, others say it was once covered in gold tiles. I recommend a visit at sunset when its golden hues shine against the turning sky. Inside you’ll find a small museum about local maritime folklore. If this is not something you’re interested in, it’s enough just to see it from the outside.

Torre del Oro

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Watch a flamenco show.

Flamenco was born and raised in Andalusia, and Seville is one of the best places to watch a flamenco show in Spain. Check out popular venues like Museo del Baile Flamenco, Tablao Flamenco, or La Casa del Flamenco for a show.

Find some shade under the Metropol Parasol.

This mushroom-shaped icon is the largest wooden structure in the world and offers great aerial views of Seville. They’ve also recently installed an “I love Sevilla” sign in front of it, to take the ultimate tourist photo.

Metropol Parasol

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When To Eat in Spain: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner Times

Eating in Spain is serious business, and there are so many amazing dishes to try, I could probably write a whole article about it. As someone from the U.S., where you can eat pancakes for dinner and steak for breakfast, it was shocking to me to find that people in Spain eat certain things at certain times, and it’s very weird to eat off that schedule. You might not even find anything open besides tourist traps. Let’s get into it.

Breakfast: 7 a.m. - 12 p.m.

In Spain, this is the smallest meal of the day and typically consists of fresh bakery bread or pastries with coffee or juice. Locals may eat fruit, churros, sandwiches on half-baguettes, or an open-toasted baguette with toppings. My favorite combo is olive oil, crushed tomato, and Spanish ham.

Breakfast in Spain

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Spanish ham

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Lunch: 2 p.m. - 4 p.m.

The biggest meal of the day in Spain starts at 2 p.m., and in general, most local places will stop serving food around 4 p.m. Midweek, you can usually find a menu of the day at this time that will include salad, bread, an appetizer, a main dish, dessert, and a coffee all for like 10 euros! If you want to try paella, this is the best time to do it. Don’t miss this meal time as there will not be anything substantial to eat until 8 p.m. except at tourist traps.

Paella

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Merienda (afternoon snack): 5 p.m. - 8 p.m.

This is a perfect time for a sweet treat like churros, ice cream, or a pastry. You could also opt for savory bites like olives, cured meats, and cheeses, another small sandwich, or something on the sweeter side, like churros con chocolate.

Dinner: 8 p.m. - 1 a.m.

This is when the famous Spanish tapa comes out to play. A tapa is like a small portion of Spanish food. You can go from bar to bar, ordering a drink and a tapa at each bar. You can also order rounds of tapas at one bar, savoring the variety while you enjoy rowdy conversations with friends.

The common practice is to order several for the table, and I love it because that way, you get to try more things.

Where To Eat in Seville

With an abundance of fresh local ingredients like seafood, olive oil, and vegetables, you'll quickly fall in love with the delicious local cuisine. Make sure to hit up restaurants like Taberna del Arenal, Casa Paco, and Bar Casa Morales for mouthwatering plates.

Tapas to try:

  • Tortilla de patatas: Spanish omelette
  • Croquetas: Croquettes, my favorite ones are the ham ones
  • Gambas al ajillo or gambas al pil pil: Shrimp in a garlic sauce or paprika sauce
  • Patatas Bravas: Potatoes with a spicy sauce
  • Jamón: Cured Spanish ham
  • Queso Manchego: Aged sheep cheese
  • Ensaladilla rusa: Potato salad made sometimes with shrimp (I know. I know. But don’t knock it til you try it!)
  • Cola de Rabo: Oxtail
  • Pan con tomate: Freshly toasted bread with an olive oil drizzle and crushed local tomatoes

Gambas al ajillo

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Culture Shock Alert:

Service in Spain is very different from the United States, especially in more traditional areas like Andalusia. This is because there are different cultural expectations. For one, the servers get salaries, they don’t live off tips. And on the other hand, in Spain, meal times are about relaxation, connection, and good company.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility for you to spend 2-3 hours just laughing and drinking with friends, and no one will rush you out the door. In Spain, they value conversation and connection at mealtime so much, it even has a name “sobremesa,” and it would be rude to get up from your table without it. In that sense, your server might not come around often because they don’t want to interrupt or rush your good time. So don’t be afraid to flag them down!

When To Visit Seville

No matter when you visit Seville, you will fall in love, but different months are great for different activities.

So what are you looking for?

Mild weather, less tourists, and cheaper prices? Try November-March but bring a jacket because it can get chilly.

Lively crowds?

You’ll see tons of people out in the summer months. BUT BEWARE OF THE HEAT. It is like a hot, wet blanket and is the worst during the hours of 2 and 5 (siesta time). So if you visit during this time, bring cool clothing, a hand fan, drink tons of water, and go indoors during siesta to rest and have lunch.

Architecture in Seville

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Architecture in Seville

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Architecture in Seville

Ambar Mejia/xoNecole

Architecture in Seville

Ambar Mejia/xoNecole

For a cultural tradition?

Come in April! First off, the month kicks off with Semana Santa. A week-long religious celebration with traditional processions dating back to medieval times. Even if you are not religious, this is an iconic cultural event to witness and the biggest one in all of Spain. From morning to night, you will witness traditions and processions throughout the streets of Seville. IT. IS. INCREDIBLE.

Culture Shock Alert:

The costumes for Semana Santa are eerily reminiscent of the KKK. The Spanish used it long before the KKK ruined the association, but I won’t lie, y’all, it was shocking to see at first.

A few weeks after Semana Santa is La Feria de Abril (The April Fair), a celebration of spring. Locals will don their traditional Sevillano attire, and you can join in the fun. This is also one of the most emblematic ferias in Spain.

Warning: It is expensive to stay in the area during this time. So booking far in advance is recommended.

La Catedral

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Suggested Day Trips From Seville

I recommend Cadiz during summer if you’re looking to hit the beach in a colorful city or in February if you want to enjoy the biggest Carnaval in continental Spain. If you’re looking for a charming mountaintop town or a nice hike during fall, check out Ronda.

Lastly, if you want to explore more Moorish history and architecture, head to Cordoba.

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Featured image by Ambar Mejia/xoNecole

 

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