Saturday, 4 August 2018

Travel Review - Seville, Spain

When people think of Seville in mainland Spain the first thing that will probably come to mind is oranges.. and yes Seville is known for that and I can vouch and say that the fresh orange juice is like no other I have ever tasted (my mouth is watering just thinking about it) but the main reason I wanted to go to Seville is not just for the orange juice but to get a taste of authentic flamenco and of course the spanish culture. And I'll be honest to visit the Alcazar palace, which is one of the filming locations for game of Thrones..

So a small group of us went to Seville, about a 2 hour flight from Gatwick, on a Friday (returning on the Monday afternoon). We arrived late afternoon and got a taxi outside the airport to our hotel, which was only a 25 min drive, and about 20 euro.

Stayed at: the Zenit Sevilla
The street frontage of this lovely hotel doesn't give anything away and when you pull up outside you could be forgiven for panicking but as soon as you walk through the courtyard (which is the also the access for the hotel's car park), you'll breath a sigh of relief. This is a modern, cool and sophisticated hotel.

The bedrooms are roomy, with really comfortable beds and modern bathrooms with big waterfall showers. None of our bedrooms had a view but who needs a view from your hotel bedroom when you can walk outside and see it for yourself.

The hotel has a small roof top pool. And this was the only part of the hotel which lets itself down. The area is really nice with large sofa seating areas and lots of shaded comfy chairs. However, for a hotel this size there was only 10 sun loungers and 2 day beds. And the majority of the sun loungers were broken, so you could only lie horizontal! I heard someone telling the hotel staff at the pool bar (which is open until 11pm) and they said they knew they were broken.. end of.

The hotel is located within the Triana area of Seville, which is mostly residential and known as the heart and soul of flamenco. There are lots of bars and restaurants to choose from. There wasn't any I can particularly recommend, all the ones we ate are were pleasant but I can't say I had a real stand out meal. Although typically on our last day, just before we left for the airport, we went in to an indoor market which had some great looking and really cheap tapas where a lot of the locals were eating.

There are quite a few must sees in Seville and although I had a few on my list, I didn't really research too well and missed a few sights I wish I'd seen (notably Plaza de Espana).

Full day 1 we jumped on an open top tour bus, which I always find a good way to get your bearings in a city. These are good value if you really utilise them and hop on and off and go the whole route. However, the first part of our route was not great, taking us through the derelict Expo site (why are all Expo sites like this?). We all got a bit bored and restless so got off.

We walked up to the Cathedral and when we got there, there was no queue to get in. You do have to pay to get in but it's not much (can't remember how much). The Cathedral is absolutely a must see and when you walk inside it takes your breath away.

Entry fee also allows you to walk to the top of the Giralda Tower. I didn't do that, being scared of heights, but I understand that the views are great.
That evening we went to a Flamenco show at El Patio Sevillano. This is completely geared up for tourists and depending on what ticket you go for, you could have a meal as well as the show. It's a good show but for me I prefer something more atmospheric. There are lots of flamenco shows in tapas bars and I watched a few minutes of a woman dancing in a small tapas bar by the cathedral one evening. She was just finishing so we couldn't go in but to watch was mesmerising and very emotional, so I would definitely say look for a smaller venue.

Also around the Cathedral area is a really nice shopping area. Lots of familiar shops, as well as some new ones to me and also bars and places to eat when you need a re-fuel. We went to a really cool rooftop bar one evening which had great roof level views of the Cathedral. A lot of hotels have roof top bars so it's worth checking some out for a pre dinner sangria.

The next day we walked from Triana to the Alcazar palace. Finding the entrance was tricky. Google Maps took us to the location and we walked around what was clearly the palace walls but then the route ended. There were no signs to the entrance either. More by luck than judgement we found the exit and were able to ask someone there where the entrance was. We did have to queue for quite a while and nearly gave up but it was worth the wait and once you get inside, the crowds do disperse.
The Palace and gardens were everything I'd hoped for and we could have spent so much longer there.

Seville completely won my heart. It's a beautiful city with so much to see and do. It's less busy than say Palma or Barcelona and I would say you need a little spanish to get by or have google translate ready as not many restaurant staff we came across spoke much english but please, thank you, can I have the bill etc will get you by.

I'll definitely be going back to Seville, now I have my bearings, to explore more on my must see list.



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