FOR many years, my understanding of Sevilla, widely renowned as the jewel in Andalucia’s crown, was shaped by unusual means.
Studying Spanish at sixth form, we watched a film called Ocho Apellidos Vascos, a slapstick rom-com playing on Spain’s regional stereotypes as a gritty Basque lady and a lazy Andalucian hombre fall in love.
It was a pathetically average piece of cinema, yet the closing scene piqued my curiosity (and not just because it meant the film was over).
Los del Rio, of Macarena fame, sing as the happy couple parade past the sun-drenched Plaza de España, sitting in an open-top carriage pulled by a horse – ‘Sevilla tiene un color especial’ sing the pair (‘Sevilla has a special colour’).
Years on, I can still picture the scene, a fanciful buffet of grandeur, beauty, elegance and, of course, that special Sevillian colour that I desperately wanted to see with my own eyes.
Easy on the wallet
To my surprise, Sevilla constitutes a surprisingly cheap weekend away.
Despite booking on the same afternoon I left, a return train from the Costa del Sol, just under three hours each way, cost €40.
Admittedly, I arrived late on the Friday, but Sevilla’s bustling nightlife means a range of transport options are available until the early hours, including the city’s one Metro line that crosses the area on an east-west axis.
My accommodation was a room in an Airbnb in the neighbourhood of Tomares, west of the Guadalquivir River that dissects the city but is easily accessible thanks to public transport.
The room was not luxurious, but perfectly adequate for the €40 it costs for a one-person, two-night stay.
This is, in one way, a significant upside for Sevilla – Madrid and Barcelona, the traditional city-break go-to destinations for those seeking some Spanish sun, are often much pricier, both for accommodation and other amenities, such as food, drink and transport.
Sevilla is also warmer.
Temperatures throughout my visit sat north of 18C as the sun, dominating a completely cloudless sky, lit up the city with warmth and colour – not bad for a January weekend.
So much to explore
Exploring Sevilla’s streets is a simple pleasure, with flat terrain ensuring that walking or cycling are the easiest ways to get around.
The streets are beautiful, too – almost every walkway is enveloped with giant, glorious orange trees, blossoming with colour.
The old town is a curious maze of small streets, guiding you from one piece of history to the next as spontaneous Flamenco performances pop up at every other corner, whilst the city’s abundant green spaces are fresh, gorgeous pockets of nature, complemented wonderfully by the omnipresent January sun.
The streets give Sevilla a unique flavour, a city without the city vibe, without the hassle or the bustle, the chaos or the shrieking noise.
None of the drawbacks of a city, yet all the positives – the rich history, the culture, the bubbling atmosphere and the spectacular attractions.
To the south of the city centre lies the Plaza de España, a grandiose mix of neo-Mudejar, art deco and renaissance architecture, with a mesmeric, sparkling river that meanders within the bounds of the plaza’s semi-circular, pantheon-esque shape.
A short walk north is the Alcazar, an old Islamic palace that acts as the city’s greatest, and most magnificent, ode to its Moorish past.
The Alcazar sits on a vast complex, with seemingly hundreds of rooms, nooks and crannies to discover.
Mosaics adorn the walls and hypnotic, carved roofs show breathtaking skill – outside are the royal gardens, meticulously maintained, a botanical smorgasbord that makes for an extremely Instagramable picture.
Walking through Sevilla’s streets, savouring the architecture, is akin to taking a journey through the city’s history, each point representing a different moment, a different competing strain of the past.
The cathedral, adjacent to the Alcazar, is another manifestation of a different point in time.
Built on an old mosque, it is the world’s largest Gothic building, a lavish, extravagant creation with a great Giralda (partly encased in scaffolding when I visited) that towers over the city.
A short walk away is the Iglesia Colegial del Divino Salvador, arguably even more internally impressive than its cathedral companion.
When I visited, I appeared to stumble over a quirky Sunday service – the crowd were almost all men, dressed with shirts, coloured ties, and long, black coats, whilst an operatic singer bellowed as a religious procession walked from the altar to the exit.
It was a rather extraordinary experience, doubtlessly aided by the church’s stunning interior as intricately sculpted walls glistened in the light.
Nearby is ‘Las Setas’ – ‘the Mushrooms’ – a modernist monstrosity that rather aptly act as a motif for the modern-day, and the Museo de Bellas Artes which allows for a pleasant perouse of the works of some of Spain’s artistic greats: Goya, El Greco, Velazquez.
The Daily Mail last year described the city as “tacky”, but the truth is rather the opposite. There is no shortage of things to do or see, nor moments of grandeur, splendid beauty or refined glamour.
Countless dining options
There is also no shortage of things to eat or drink.
Sevilla is the home of Cruzcampo, a world-renowned lager that is served and enjoyed almost everywhere.
Each street is riddled with tavernas and tapas bars, all undoubtedly good, with chairs stretched out onto the pavements to ensure you can soak up every last second of the winter sun.
On the Saturday, I chose a small bar near to the Plaza de Toros – a selection of smoked tuna, Spanish omelette, tomatoes and slow-cooked beef-cheeks made for a truly delicious delve into Andalucia’s diverse gastronomic culture.
Lunch the next day before my departure was even more astonishing.
Anchovies with tomato, salmon with tiny veg, and the most divinely tender calamari, accompanied with two small beers.
The food was delicious and the bill was just €17, a glorious endorsement of Sevilla’s mantra of having sublime food for even more sublime prices.
So, there it was, my January weekend away in Sevilla, a delightful journey through orange-tree-laden streets, star-studded art galleries, tasty taps-filled tavernas, astounding architecture and the Andalucian sunshine.
For the city of Sevilla, the colour certainly isn’t the only thing that’s special.
- Visiting Malaga? These are the 8 best hotels on the Costa del Sol- according to the Michelin Guide
- Must-visit: This hidden gem in the heart of ‘abandoned Spain’ will transport you to centuries past – and could…
- This beauty spot in Spain is among the 24 MUST visit sites in the world for 2024 – according…