Traveling through the Iberian peninsula for nine days was absolutely amazing. I hit up Barcelona and Seville in Spain, and Lagos and Lisbon in Portugal. I will admit, I tried to fit a lot in a short period of time and if I were to do it again, I would either do one longer trip or split it up into two shorter ones. Regardless, I think leaving a place wanting to see and do more is a great thing, and it’s probably impossible to fully explore places rich in culture in just one trip with the serious dearth of American vacation days.
But let me get to my favorite city on the trip — Seville or Sevilla as the Spaniards call it. It’s small but absolutely beautiful. Here are some highlights of my trip that I recommend if you find yourself there.
Alcázar of Seville: AKA the Dornish palace in Game of Thrones, it’s actually a Moorish royal palace. It does not disappoint — intricate arches, amazing 16th-century tiles, and an expansive otherworldly garden make it an architecture lovers paradise. Europe is full of castles, however, few are in this style (the other Moorish castle in Europe that I can think of is the Alhambra in Granada). So I made the mistake of not allocating enough time for the gardens — they’re huge! The inside was so enthralling and that’s where I thought I should be spending most of my time, until I stepped into the amazing wonderland of artfully manicured bushes, towering palm trees, and quaint fountains! Give yourself at least a half day here.
Plaza de España: A gorgeous plaza rich in history, it was built in 1928 for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition. The style is a mix of Art Deco, Renaissance, Moorish, and Spanish architecture, visually combining the region’s influences. It’s pretty lively, but expansive enough that you can find a serene corner to read a book, people watch, or just chill. You may have spotted it in Lawrence of Arabia or Star Wars.
Casa de Pilatos: Another beautiful palace away from the super touristy sites. 16th-century Sevillian architecture with Gothic Mudejar style similar to the Alcazar, Renaissance touches, and scattered Roman statues. With all the different architectural styles, there are so many details to take in and enjoy.
Flamenco: Do it and do it right. What’s right you ask? Well, flamenco is about more than just dancing, it’s about the emotion, so always choose a small intimate venue over a large theater. The large theaters are tourists traps. You want to see the faces of the dancer, singer, and guitarists — that’s how you get into it and feel it. I sat in the second row of a small venue for the flamenco show I attended and despite my limited Spanish, I was moved by the raw emotion that went into every step, strum, and note. I can’t remember the name of the venue, but it was part of this Airbnb experience. Our guide was super great — she explained the history of the dance and all the origins behind all tapas and drinks that we had before and after the show.
- Spend at least 3 – 4 days. Since Seville is a small city, I thought that 2 days would be enough. I was wrong. There’s so much to take in at places like the Alcazar and Casa de Pilatos. I left without checking out so many places, many of which I added after taking a walking tour, which leads me to my next tip..
- Take a walking tour on your first day there. This was extremely helpful for learning a bit about the history of the area and getting the lay of the land to figure out the most efficient way to hit all the places I wanted. There were a ton of free walking tours (just Google “free Seville walking tour”). My friend and I couldn’t find the one we originally planned to do and just joined another group. Just remember to tip at the end!
- Plan your day before you leave your hotel or Airbnb. Unlike most European cities, Seville DOES NOT have free wifi at every cafe and restaurant, so it was essential to map the day out in advance. And even our hotel wifi was pretty shoddy.
- Save your maps on Google, but also take screenshots of the step by step directions. Google maps kept getting confused by the many winding alleyways, so it was helpful to also have the step-by-step directions with street names.
- Buy your ticket online ahead of time for the Alcázar. The line is LONG, especially in the morning. Get a timed entry slot online (there’s a separate, shorter line for this) and go in the afternoon when the crowds are dying down.