From Ronda we headed to Seville for the next few days. After dropping off our luggage at our next Airbnb we headed into the old town of the city to find someplace to eat and have a few beers. After some research we settled on an American owned craft beer bar called Bier Kraft. To our surprise, they actually had a couple of pumpkin beers on tap which we of course had to try since we never expected to come across any in Europe. They were a great way to quench our thirst and were, of course, delicious.
Also quite unexpectedly, as we sat and drank our pumpkin beers we noticed there was a crowd of people looking at something going on in the street outside the bar. As it turns out, there was a quite unforeseen and impromptu transfer of a religious statue between two churches. The statue was accompanied by a giant crowd and a brass band that played music while the 300 or so people beneath the enormous statue carried it to its new home. It was cool since it is a rare occurrence and also because it is an interesting view into the role and importance of religion in Spain.
The next day was a full one as we got up early and spent the day sightseeing in Seville. We started off the chilly morning with another free walking tour to get us warmed up. The tour begins at yet another cathedral – The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (yes, See) – which is actually the biggest cathedral in the world and third largest church. Other than that, the cathedral’s other claim to fame is for being the burial sites of Christopher Columbus and his son. You are able to go inside to view where he was buried but we opted not to since it costs 10 euros to get in and also because Christopher Columbus was, by many accounts, not a very nice person. The doors to the cathedral are the originals from the 12th century – wood covered in bronze – and are intricately and beautiful designed, as well as immaculately well preserved for being more than 800 years old. Also attached to the cathedral is a Moorish bell-tower called La Giralda that serves as a symbol of the city as it has been since it was completed in the Middle Ages.
From the cathedral we continued our tour, seeing the General Archive of the Indies which contains Christopher Columbus’s diaries and is also conveniently free to get in. Other sites included the University of Seville which was once the Tobacco Factory of Seville and at one point had a monopoly on all tobacco products in Spain, allowing the region to flourish and Seville to become one of the richest cities in Europe at the time. The building, though packed with students, is also home to imposing stairways, fountains, and patios which reflect the building’s impressive income at the factory’s height.
The last stop of our tour was the highlight of the tour, a massive semi-circular structure located in the south-east part of the city, the Plaza de Espana. The plaza once served as filming locations in Lawrence of Arabia, as well as Naboo in Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones. The building is arguably as impressive as the cathedral measuring the size of about 9 football fields with 4 bridges – each representing an ancient kingdom of Spain – along with 48 beautiful hand-painted ceramic tiles – one for each province in Spain. The building is nothing short of impressive and is a must see landmark when visiting Seville.
Being a weekday, after our tour, Lauren unfortunately had to go back to the Airbnb to work. There were a few things I wanted to see before leaving the city so I stayed behind to do a little sightseeing of my own. Like with other cities in Andalucia, Seville also has a bullfighting ring called the Real Maestranza de Seville which is the oldest bullring in all of Spain. It is certainly one of the most impressive of its kind rivaling Madrid’s bullring as the most important and beautiful of all bullrings in the country. If I had not already toured Ronda’s bullring, this one would have certainly been well-worth visiting, but I did make sure to view its outside.
Another sight I went to see on my own was the Metropol Parasol, a large wooden structure – claiming to be the largest in the world – that resembles a patch of giant mushrooms. The structure is large and imposing (and many would say ugly), but it was definitely an interesting thing to see. There are three levels of the structure, the third being a panoramic terrace that gives you the best unobstructed view of the city center below. The structure is definitely not without its controversy as not only is it not pretty in the slightest, it also cost twice as much and took twice as long to build as originally quoted. The terrace at the top does cost 3 euro to enter, so while inexpensive, I did not go up for the views, but from the pictures I have seen they are indeed amazing.
Lastly, being a soccer fan, on the way back I had to see the Sevilla FC soccer stadium who are one of the better teams in the Spanish league with a beautiful stadium to match. Unfortunately, I was unable to look inside as tours only run on Friday and Saturday. Nonetheless, I am still glad I made a point to go see the stadium at the very least before leaving the city.
Though Sevilla FC’s stadium tour did not line up with our schedule, there is another team in town, Real Betis, that had much more tour availability throughout the week. Real Betis is a rival of Sevilla FC’s and also plays in the highest division of Spanish soccer though has much less club tradition. The Stadium was much smaller than any stadium we had ever toured but it is still interesting to see some of the trophies and pictures that are coveted by fans of the club. Along with that, getting to see some of the immaculately manicured fields and imagining some of the worlds biggest stars walking out onto them – Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi among them – is always worth it.
After our stadium tour, we went to their nearby practice field after learning that there was a restaurant attached to it overlooking the field. The food was not great and neither of the people who worked there understood a lick of English, but I happened to get up to look out onto the training pitch to see the entire team actually out there practicing. As I called Lauren over, one of the workers saw me wave her over and with the help of hand movements he got the point across that by no means was I to take pictures of them practicing which confirmed to me that this was most definitely the first team practicing. For that experience alone, it was worth going.
We left Seville the next morning, stopping outside of the city to grab a bite to eat at a gas station. There we bought a greatest hits of Chuck Berry album. We listened to the whole thing four times on our little road trip as we enjoyed our little cruise through the beautiful Spanish countryside. It was great since the mountains in Spain often wrecked havoc on our ability to listen to the radio.
I had read the day before about a little excursion on our way back named El Torcal so we decided to stop there for a few hours. I didn’t know much about it but I heard it was a must see and it was on the way so we thought “what the hell” and went. Lucky for us, it was another one of those attractions, like the Caves of Nerja, that is definitely a hidden gem that neither had heard of before going. We should have known it would be special since on the way up the mountain in Antequera was a completely random castle – definitely not something you stumble across everyday in the United States!
El Torcal is a nature reserve near a tiny town called Antequera which is nestled deep in the mountains of Southern Spain and is home to amazing limestone rock formations that sit atop one of the many mountains in the region. Now, any geologists out there may be wondering how in the world a rock that is formed from marine organisms would end up on top of a mountain. In the Tertiary era, due to pressure, the limestone was forced 1300 meters upwards, forming a mountain. Later, huge alleyways in the rocks were made due to erosion. Then, due to other natural effects, the lines in the rock that can be seen in the picture below were formed, resulting in the unique look of the rocks. The sights were truly impressive.
Later after we got back, Lauren had to work again, but I wanted to experience Malaga one last time before leaving and took yet another stadium tour for Malaga CF who is also in the same league as Sevilla and Real Betis. After, I made sure to come back early since we were to have yet another early morning flight the next day.
Overall, our experience in Spain was a tremendous one. We did not previously have much experience with the country so couldn’t form much of an opinion on it, but I know for both of us that Spain without a doubt shot up our lists of favorite countries in the world. The people were all so friendly, the sights and architecture were beautiful, the culture is unique, and the weather, of course, was spectacular! I certainly would love to come back to visit even more cities in different parts of the country, especially Madrid. I cannot wait to go back one day!
- When renting a car, make sure to ask if you are able to take it into a different country. All the countries in Europe are so close together that it would be a shame if you were unable to go to a new city that might turn out to be your favorite!
- For me at least, Spring/Falls travel to Spain is essential! Trust me, you do not want to be stuck doing a walking tour when it is 100+ degrees outside in summer! For our trip the weather hovered around 70 which cannot be beat.
- Spain is actually pretty cheap in the non-touristy areas. We assumed it was going to be more expensive than it was.
- Tapas restaurants are everywhere! Tapas are just smaller plates of dishes than we are used to. To get more out of your trip to Spain, getting several plates of tapas and sharing them is the best way to try all the different and awesome foods Spain has to offer.