We had lots of fun in Granada, but by this point our trip was not even halfway over yet, so we left Granada at 9:30 to make the three and a half our trek to Sevilla, the capital of the autonomous community of Andalucía, where we would be spending the next night.
Sevilla was probably my favorite city that we visited on that trip. The weather was amazing, with lots of sun and beautiful blue skies and temperatures around 18°C (65°F), much warmer than the 8°C-13°C (46°F-55°F) that we’ve gotten used to in Madrid. It turns out that Sevilla is actually one of the hottest cities in all of Spain and continental Europe, with summer temperatures around 35°C (96°F). It being the middle of February when we visited, we were content with the mid-60s weather and sunny skies. 🙂 Apart from the weather, the city itself was also beautiful, with many deep colors and beautiful buildings.
As the major port of the 16th century, Sevilla also has a rich history. The city’s harbor is actually Spain’s only one in the middle of the river, but this location in the middle of the Guadalquivir is actually what helped make it so successful: being pretty far inland from the Atlantic Ocean but still deep enough for large boats made it much safer because pirates had a harder time reaching it and the port could also be closed with a big chain at night to keep the boats and goods safe. During the 1500s, Sevilla had a monopoly on trade with Spain’s newly-founded American colonies and became Europe’s gateway to trade with the Spanish New World. This allowed Sevilla to become a huge, wealthy city until the port gradually became filled by silt and the coastal city of Cádiz took over as the major commercial port.
After arriving in Sevilla, our first real stop was at La Maestranza, one of the largest and oldest plaza de toros, or bullrings, in the world. Sevilla has a long history and deep love for its bullfighting, and the arena is still used for bullfights to this day, with it attracting many die-hard fans that tend to make tough audiences due to the history of the arena and their love of the sport. The arena is a major tourist attracting and even houses a museum that explains the sport and history, and also displays the clothing and other tools used in the bullfights. We still don’t know if we completely understand the sport yet, but little by little we’re starting to.
When we finished at the bullring, we had some free time to grab lunch. Unfortunately, it was the middle of prime lunchtime on a Saturday, so most of the places we wanted to go to were full of people and had long lines. This turned out to be a good thing though, because it forced us to instead grab counter-service food at a freiduría, a staple of Andalusian cuisine where they serve pescaíto frito, delicious fried seafood. I ended up ordering the mixed option, and I’m not actually sure what all was inside, but I think it include fried adobo, cod, shrimp, and hake. My favorite was the fried battered prawn tails, but those made me feel especially guilty and the whole meal was good. Pescaíto frito is definitely too fattening and greasy to eat everyday, but it was delicious and I’m very glad we were able to try it. Next time I’m in Sevilla, I’ll definitely be hitting up one of those stores again.
The Cathedral of Sevilla, the largest Gothic cathedral and one of the largest cathedrals in the world, was our meeting place after lunch. The church is located in the middle of a central plaza in Sevilla, and is actually right next to the Archivo General de Indias, the merchant and accounting headquarters for New World goods, showing how important trade with Americas was in Sevilla’s history. Probably for the same reason, the cathedral also serve as the burial site of Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón), who founded the Americas for the Catholic Monarchs in 1492. Paco showed us around the cathedral and told us a lot about the history, but the coolest part was probably being able to climb up la Giralda, the former minaret that was converted to a bell tower (when the city’s mosque was replaced by the cathedral) and gives a great aerial view of the city from around 100 meters (330 feet) above. Because the minaret was designed for the muezzin, or Muslim prayer caller, to be able to ride his horse quickly to the top of the minaret five times a day, the tower has a ramp instead of steps, making the trip to the top very easy.
The Cathedral and Giralda were our last stops for the day, after which we checked into the hotel to get some much needed free time and rest. I walked around with a few friends, got some ice cream, and explored the area around our hotel, including the strange wooden Metropol Parasol structure, and some pedestrian walking streets like Sierpes and Cuna. We end up going out that night after dinner around the Plaza de Alfalfa where we randomly made friends with some American marines on leave and some French guys and explored the city a little more from a different perspective, eventually making it to La Alameda de Hércules, another of Sevilla’s famous nightlife areas.
We didn’t get much sleep that night, but our day started early with an 8:00am wake-up call, quickly followed by breakfast and checking out, which was definitely an interesting experience since a lot of us ended up having fun the night before. Our first stop was the Reales Alcázares, which is a former Muslim palace complex that’s actually still used by the royal family as their official residence when in Sevilla, but is also a major tourist attraction. This was another example of some beautiful mudéjar and Muslim architecture, with beautiful arches, ornate ceilings, many fountains, and green gardens.
Though everything we did in Sevilla was pretty fun, the last thing we did in Sevilla was probably my favorite. We ended up walking from the Reales Alcázares to the Plaza de España, one of the most beautiful plazas in all of Spain. Built for the 1929 World’s Fair, the half-circle plaza has beautiful architecture, lots of fountains, and a river, and is designed to show off Spain and its history, with bridges representing the former kingdoms that make up Spain and the main alcoves and benches representing all the different provinces in the country. Combine the beauty of the plaza with the wonderful weather we were having, the crazy blue skies, and the fact that we passed thousands of people running Sevilla’s famous marathon along the way there, and it was a perfect end to our trip to Sevilla. We even got some cool Star Wars-themed pictures in honor of the fact that the Plaza de España was used to represent Naboo in the filming for Star Wars episodes I and II (example scene).
I still love Madrid, but Sevilla definitely impressed me a lot more than I thought it would, and I will be very disappointed if I don’t make it back there someday. 🙂