Sightseeing for Free in Sevilla

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Andalucía

On my first day in Sevilla, the capital city of Andalucía, one of my hostel roommates and I headed out to join a walking tour. We made our way down Puerta de la Carne which is lined with restaurants and I waved to the owner of the shawarma place I had eaten at the night before. As we turned onto one of the quiet, narrow streets of the neighbourhood Santa Cruz, I could sense myself getting excited and once the paths opened up, voila. I found myself in Plaza del Triunfo.

There was a white monument on a raised platform in the middle of the square and plenty of tourists around with cameras resting around their neck. Horse carriages were coming and going and like most days, a man was probably playing the Spanish guitar by the wall of the Alcázar. The most impressive structure though was over to the right. Instantly, I recognized the Giralda which towered boldly further ahead and was the first obvious sign of the town’s Muslim history.

My friend and I began looking around for the tour group but after waiting for some time and stepping into the tourist office behind us to double-check the location, we gave up on it and decided to go explore ourselves; the tourist offices in Spain are a great resource by the way and there was at least one in the centre of every city that I visited. But we needed to grab some food first because in our rush to not miss the tour, neither of us had had breakfast.

The pink and white building on the left was one of my favourites.

So, we walked for a bit before stopping at a cafe around the corner and seating ourselves at one of the many tables on the wide sidewalk. Almost every restaurant in Spain has outdoor seating available across from it which makes eating here a very lively experience and great for people watching too. As we waited for our order, my friend began telling me about her solo travels in Europe.

When our food arrived, I was quite delighted to find my cafe con leche in a glass and added a generous amount of sugar. I’m rarely in the mood for coffee at home but when in Europe, it just feels right! The sandwich was good too albeit a little salty which is partly a Spanish thing and partly a result of the fact that I take very little salt. After eating, we continued down the street.

The flags from left to right are those of Andalucía, Spain and the European Union (EU).

Our first stop was the University of Sevilla as the 18th-century building initially housed the famous Royal Tobacco Factory until the 1950’s. We walked in the black gates and took a look around admiring the architecture. We couldn’t visit its courtyard as the doors were closed that day so we had to leave it at that and move on to the Plaza de España. On the way, we stumbled across the Mercados Medievales which was essentially a typical medieval fair but their music was pretty catchy and got stuck in my head. Can you imagine trying to hum medieval tunes? It’s hard.

As we got closer to the Plaza, I was taken aback by how huge it was. Built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition, there are five buildings in total in a semi-circular shape; two towers at either end and two smaller buildings with a bigger one that is the Plaza itself in the middle. There is a similar semi-circular canal in front of the structure and throughout the area, you can hear the birds flying around and the rush of the fountain in the centre. We entered from the left side and made our way towards the right. Halfway to the Plaza, there was a double staircase leading upstairs to balconies from where you can better view the scene below; the tile work on the way up is lovely with gold patterns on a royal blue background.

By the time we made it to the south tower, we had taken more than enough photos from the inside and went out to the bridges. There are four of them to symbolize the four ancient kingdoms of Spain with blue and white ornate railings. After a few final poses in front of the Plaza, we crossed the street to Maria Luisa Park.

Personally, I love large parks and especially gardens and while Maria Luisa is by no means the most impressive one from either category in Spain, I enjoyed the shade and being amongst the trees. There were a lot of families around with children and even the sight of a rectangular fountain with water spouting in arcs made me happy as it reminded me of what was to come in Granada. Next, we headed to Triana.

Triana is the name of a neighbourhood across the Guadalquivir River which has its own unique history and character. The streets were emptier here and the vibe was different too. I would have liked to visit the Mercado de Triana but the market was closed then and I actually forgot about it afterwards. Due to all the walking, we now needed some rest and sat down at a restaurant by the second bridge for drinks. I had a zumo naranja, orange juice, which is a great go-to and it is always made fresh with pulp! We then crossed the bridge out of Triana to go see the Metropol Parasol.

The small tower in the centre of the photo is the Torre del Oro. It was initially built by the Almohads in the 1200’s. To the right, you can see the colourful buildings of Triana overlooking the river.

The Metropol Parasol was interesting. I can definitely understand why people might hate it but as a tourist, I thought it was nice to see something so modern in contrast to the surroundings. As you may be able to tell, the Parasol is German in design and it was completed just recently in 2011. However, the project faced delays and millions of Euros were spent on it which only added to the controversy. A set of escalators takes you to the ground level where you can walk around underneath the wooden mushrooms.

You can also walk on top of the structure for a small fee but it took us some time to figure out where the entrance was and I still cannot remember where it ended up being. When we finally made our way up and began walking around, I realized to my amusement that maybe it wasn’t the best time to be up here after all. It was warm yet we had chosen to do something that involved hanging out under the open sky in direct sunlight. Good thing the views made up for the heat! After making our way around, we took the elevator down and sat in the cool indoor restaurant for a free beverage which was included in our ticket. We rested for a bit and then parted ways. She was off to Plaza de toros (de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla) to see a bullfighting show while I returned to Santa Cruz to see more of the charming old Jewish neighbourhood.

In the Patio de Banderas.

The oranges on these trees had such a sweet and strong scent that I could easily smell them from afar.

Back on Puerta de la Carne, I stopped by an ice cream parlour called Bolas Helados Arte-Sanos that I had also visited the night before. Their ice cream is quite good, natural and if I remember correctly, the flavours are based on the season. I tried a few different ones over time but I liked pistachio the most. There are a pair of benches under the orange trees right outside the parlour so you can eat on the sidewalk if you’d like; talk about ambience!

I then rested for a few hours at the hostel before going back out after sunset. I met my roommate at the corner for dinner and we decided to eat at a small restaurant nearby. I chose the Menu del Día, menu of the day, while my friend opted for a few tapas. I was very eager to try the gazpacho and ordered that. It’s one of the more famous cold Andalucían vegetable soups and especially popular in the summer. I am glad to say I liked it and the taste reminded me of the South Asian dhaniya or coriander chutney. However, since the soup was thinner than I expected, I think I would rather drink it than have it in a bowl as done in Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown but without the sleeping pills, of course.

I had fried fish next which was alright but the potatoes were good. Meanwhile, my friend told me about her bullfighting show and noted that the crowd was mostly tourists and old school men, cigars and all. A UEFA Europa League soccer game was also on which locals were excited about as Sevilla was playing against Valencia; Sevilla would later win leading to celebratory honking in the streets that I initially mistook for bad traffic. After these two courses and the large servings, I had no space for dessert so we asked for the cuenta, bill, and my Spanish flan was kindly wrapped to go and enjoyed later.

We then went back to our hostel and said our goodbyes. She was taking the night train to Portugal, which I would soon learn is a popular destination for tourists in the south of Spain along with Morocco, while I was glad to know that I still had a few more days in Sevilla.

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