I left Madrid for Seville in the final minutes of dawn, chasing the golden sunrise. Aboard a barely occupied Renfe train, I gazed out the window, spellbound by the landscape rolling, changing, coming to life before my eyes. It was early enough in my trip that I’d still been able to capture that experience in my journal. Looking back at it now, I’d say that was the exact moment I fell in love with Spain and its cities – each, I’d come to know, with its own distinct personality.
Seville was one of those places I’d discovered while plotting my itinerary – a stop to bring me one step closer to Barcelona. My friends who’d been there told me it was so nice. Beautiful. Lovely. It didn’t take me long to add my own adjectives to the list. Vibrant. Enchanting. Golden.
From its bright, cloudless skies to its colorful, intricately detailed architecture to the tinto de verano that burst with flavor on my tongue, Seville was golden.
I rented a room in an Airbnb in Seville’s Triana district. It had been a choice between that and a hostel in the city center, but my introversion had me going for peace and privacy over proximity. The distance didn’t matter so much, not when the sights kept me fascinated along the way. There was that small matter of the apartment’s elevator, though – rather, the lack thereof. I never appreciated my choice of luggage more than I did then. No matter how heavy my backpack was, it was still easier to carry up four flights of stairs than a suitcase.
Located on the other side of the Guadalquivir River from the city center, Triana’s known for its traditional pottery and tiles. Everything, it seemed, was art – the wrought-iron railings, street signs, even the chipped painted doors and the vivid souvenirs lining storefront shelves. It was about a 25-minute walk from my Airbnb to the Plaza del Triunfo, one that took me past nondescript apartment blocks and gorgeous tiled buildings across the Puente de Isabel II (otherwise known as the Triana Bridge) to the old quarter, Casco Antiguo. And while Triana’s main boulevard was a stunner on its own, it didn’t quite prepare me for the wonder that was Seville’s city center.
Forget having a single style define a city – Seville offers a buffet of architectural styles. They range from Gothic to Mudéjar to Baroque to modern, making for such a visual feast. Despite planning my general itinerary and studying my map beforehand, I soon learned that the best way to explore the city was just by letting my feet and eyes wander where they will.
I visited the places I wanted, attracting weirded-out looks from grandmas as I took videos of myself inside the Real Alcázar, climbing up 34 ramps for aerial views from La Giralda, and roaming the halls of Plaza de España in search of a fellow solo traveler (who, in my mind, just happened to be hot). And though I’d seen them in photos, that did not lessen the awe I felt seeing them in real life. They sucked me into another world, one where princesses and jedi knights journeyed across planets, dragons swooped from the skies, and magic sparked from one’s fingertips like golden fairy dust.
I also made a detour here and there, leaving crowded plazas for narrow side streets that curved and sometimes ended abruptly. I snapped photos of different doors with their unique knobs and studs, ducked into a random café for brunch, gawked at a driver who’d somehow managed a three-point turn in the tightest spot imaginable, and raised my cold caffé latte to a street I came across marked Fray Bartolome de las Casas.
All that, I did on my own. And you know what? It was golden.
Recommended things to see in Seville:
1. Real Alcázar
If you were to cough up money for only one place in Seville, let this be it. Whether it’s for love of history, architecture, or Game of Thrones, the Alcázar is a sight to behold. This royal palace is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. The attention to detail is staggering, so much so that I didn’t know where to look. Up, down, all around – there’s something to see everywhere, and that includes tourists.
The line to enter can be pretty long, so it’s better to buy your ticket online. Admission costs €10.50 inclusive of the online booking fee, but you’ll have to pay an extra €4.10 for the audio guide (it’s worth it!)
2. St. Mary of the See Cathedral, a.k.a. The Seville Cathedral
Known as the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Seville Cathedral is another of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites and is the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. It looks impressive enough from outside, but wait ’til you get a load of its interiors. I wrote in my journal: There’s so much ornamentation gilding its immense, cavernous halls, and the yellow light glowing at its seams casts a solemn veil even as it overwhelms my eyes.
Except for Sundays, you’ll have to pay €9, which includes access to La Giralda and the Church of El Salvador. To beat the line, which can be as long as the one at the Alcázar, you can actually purchase the combined ticket at the Church of El Salvador.
3. La Giralda
Technically, La Giralda’s part of the Seville Cathedral, but it’s considered an attraction on its own. This minaret-turned-bell tower is said to Seville’s most recognized landmark. At 104 meters tall, it’s definitely got the height for it. It rises over the city like a mighty guardian, offering beautiful views from the windows of its 34 ramps and the main deck.
Tip: If you find yourself tired or out of breath in the middle of all that climbing, take a break by one of the windows under the guise of taking a picture. I did that – multiple times.
4. Metropol Parasol
I discovered this while Googling “free things to do in Seville”, but I went there because with that organic, one-of-a-kind design, how could I not? The Metropol Parasol is a peaceful place to enjoy a gelato and breathe in the crisp Sevillan air while watching people pass by. Pay €3 to access the view deck on top of the “parasols”. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to go up.
Cool fact: Also known as Las Setas de la Encarnación (“Incarnación’s Mushrooms”), this is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world.
5. Plaza de España
As far as free attractions go, this is probably my favorite – and one that I almost missed out on due to heat and tired feet. There are more than a few Plaza de Españas in the world, but I can’t imagine how they can top this one. With its romantic tiled bridges, sweeping bricked arcade, and detailed alcoves representing Spain’s 48 provinces, Seville’s Plaza de España is magnificent. It’s no wonder it was chosen as a location for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones.