The mouth-watering smell of paella, the shining sun, chirping birds and the harmonious tunes of the accordion -- what more could you want out of a weekend getaway?
As the famous Sevillano painter Bartolome Esteban Murillo once said, "Seville is paradise." With its glistening Guadalquivir River, grand Baroque architecture and charming cobblestone streets, Murillo refused to paint any other city besides his beautiful and beloved hometown. This small Spanish town is a goldmine of historical treasures and is bursting with cultural delights.
Must-SeesBegin your day with a visit to the Torre del Oro, or "Gold Tower." Unfortunately the name is misleading, as the tower is not made out of gold. Historians believe it gained its name since it once served as a holding place for metal during trading. The tower was built in the 13th century and has served a number of purposes, including a military watchtower and prison. Today, the Torre del Oro is Seville's landmark Naval Museum, displaying naval artifacts collected throughout the years. While climbing up the lighthouse's three levels, you'll find maps, model ships and weathered flags.
At the top of the tower you'll get a get a breathtaking view of the city. From this lookout point you'll be able to see the length of the pristine Guadalquivir River that flows alongside the tower's edge as well as the colorful facades of the city's many buildings. This inexpensive attraction costs 2 euros for adults and 1 euro for students, and is a terrific way to acquaint yourself with and get your first view of this lovely Spanish town.
After winding your way back down the Tower, you'll find yourself right along the water's edge. This is the Guadalquivir River, famous for its modern-day appeal to kayakers and rowers and its olden-day role of hosting trade ships. The creeping mid-day sun and breeze from the river set the scene for a relaxing riverside stroll. Bicyclists, roller bladers, runners, families and couples alike frequent the waterbank. If you're lucky enough to spot a free public dock, take the opportunity to lie down and soak in some of the sun's rays along the water's edge.
Tip- Brush up on your Spanish before you visit Seville. Unlike other touristy Spanish-speaking countries, most locals don't speak English. So while you may be able to get away with the basic "Hola" and "Gracias," it'll make your experience so much easier to know a few more key phrases. Or, just bring a little pocketbook translation guide with you.
LunchtimeBy this time of the day, you've probably worked up an appetite. Paella is the way to go. This national dish of Spain is a mixture of savory Spanish rice embedded with chunks of shrimps, mussels, garlic and onions and peppered with an assortment of vegetables and spices. Paella is prepared in a variety of forms, with chicken, rabbit and vegetable in substitution for the seafood, for example, so it caters to a wide array of palates.
Tip- Be assertive when asking for your bill. In Spain, dining is a long activity. It takes an average Spanish family around three hours to have dinner, so servers generally do not check on the table or offer to bring the bill. So keep an eye out for your server when you're ready to pay, otherwise you'll be sitting there for a while.
Siesta!Probably one of the best things about vacationing in a Spanish country is that you're forced to rest. From about two to five in the afternoon, the whole town shuts down -- bars, restaurants, shops and all. Siesta occurs every day after the midday meal, originating as a way for those working in the fields under the tortuous summer sun to take a break from the rays, nap and rejuvenate for work in the evening. Today, not everyone naps, and some bars do remain open; but as a general rule, once the hour hand strikes two, Seville becomes a ghost town. So take the time to lie down and unwind. And trust me, you'll need it because Spain is the country of all-night partying.
Walking TourOnce you've refueled your juices, now would be a good time to go on a walking tour of Seville. Many official walking tours offered throughout the city, but your best bet is to check if your hotel or hostel offers a walking tour of its own. Must-sees in Seville include the Plaza de Espana, the Alcazar and Catedral de Seville where the remains of Christopher Columbus lie.
Seville is a labyrinth of winding cobblestone streets, so while it is a small city, it's also easy to miss out on the less obvious historical pieces of Sevillano history. One example of a historical tidbit is the city's official emblem, "NO8DO" which stands for "No me ha dejado" or "You have not abandoned me." Seville's King of Castile Alfonso said this to his people in the 11th century during the civil war to emphasize how much their loyalty meant to him. Today, that phrase is represented by the "NO8DO" seen on streets signs throughout the city. The 8 is represented by a coiled rope, which led to the modern-day phrase of "Tying the knot."
Tip- Bring a packet of tissue or a wad of toilet paper with you wherever you go. Most bathrooms don't have toilet paper in the stalls, so best to be prepared.
DinnertimeTapas and sangria, hands-down. Just like paella is a Spanish must, so too is tapas and sangria. Tapas are appetizer-size dishes often eaten with drinks like sangria or tinto de verano (red wine with orange soda). Eaten dim sum style, each person typically orders three to four tapas to try and share among friends or family. Taberna Coloniales, located fairly close to the exit of the Catedral, is one of the best tapas joints in town. At Taberna Coloniales, you'll definitely get the bang for your buck. Each tapa, such as the Tenderloin with Roquefort Sauce, Chicken with Almond Sauce or Stuffed Eggplant, costs around €2.50 and are big enough to suffice as a small meal.