The first time we visited Seviile, Spain a decade ago, we timed our visit with Semana Santa, a pre-Easter holy festival, which features the procession of pasos, floats made of lifelike wooden sculptures, sorrowful images and the grieving Virgin Mary. The floats, carried by worshipers draped in white cloaks and pointy hoods, sway gently as they're carried through the streets, giving off a creepy but magical aura. This time, we visited just before Christmas, when each city street was lit up with holiday lights.
We flew in on the new direct flight from Luxembourg, arriving just after sunset. We dropped our bags at our Moorish-themed hotel and hit the streets, walking past the third largest cathedral in the world on our way to a tapas dinner at La Bartola, where we feasted on Spanish rice, sashimi avocado toast, seared tuna and cod bocadillos, washed down with local wine and beer.
The following day, we started early at the Real Alcazar de Sevilla, an Arabic-style royal palace and classic example of Mudéjar architecture in the Iberian Peninsula, known as one of the most beautiful architectural styles and our personal favorite. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as their official residence in Seville, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. The interior facades and gardens of the Alcázar are also heavily featured in Game of Thrones, so we were thrilled to spend the morning walking from room to room, marveling at the intricate designs and taking hundreds of inspo pictures for our future house.
We spent hours enjoying the morning sun, exploring the gardens and making sure we hit every room of the palace, before peeling ourselves away and heading to the Cathedral, which dates from the 1500s and is the resting place of Christopher Columbus. After taking time to admire the Gothic architecture in the cavernous space, we continued our city exploration in Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter, which features narrow, winding streets dotted with orange trees. We walked along what are known as kissing lanes, so narrow that passersby nearly kiss when trying to navigate the streets together.
Hotel Alfonso XII
We continued toward Hotel Alfonso XII for lunch, a famous luxury hotel built in the Neo-Mudéjar style for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. Its construction features intricate decorative elements and details, built from materials that are considered frugal or simple: mostly brick, tiles plaster, wood and ceramics. The simplicity in materials is contrasted against the elaborate design, featuring arches and columns, decorated with coffered hanging lamps and ornamented ceramic tiles.
The Plaza de España and Parque de Maria Luisa
After further satiating our home design inspiration fix, we headed to The Plaza de España and Parque de Maria Luisa for some sun and people watching. Seville, like most of Costa del Sol, gets more than 300 days of sun per year, making it a year-round destination to hang out and enjoy life outside, a stark contrast from cold and wet December in Luxembourg. We headed over to the plaza, which was also built for the Exposition and features a mix of Renaissance and Moorish styles, The plaza complex is a huge half-circle with buildings running around the edge accessible over a moat by bridges representing the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. In the center is a fountain, and the exterior walls feature tiled alcoves, each representing a different province of Spain. We found an alcove to our liking and sat out in the sun, promising ourselves that we would spent more winters in Spain in the future
Aire Thermal Baths
In the evening, we hit the Aire Thermal Baths, set in a 500-year-old Mudéjar-style palace. We stepped through the doors and entered a classic Andaluz-style courtyard, and explored candle-lit bath rooms with water at different temperature ranges, distributed throughout the palace. We enjoyed massages and cold plunge pools, followed by quick jumps back into the super heated waters, giving ourselves a nice break from the long day of sightseeing.
After getting a soak in, we headed to El Rinconcillo, a tapas bar from the 1600s with crowded tables, giant legs of jamon hanging from the ceiling and servers who keep track of customer consumption on the chalkboard counters. Despite our efforts, we couldn't get a spot in the noisy, crowded establishment, so we went with our second option and headed to La Azotea, where we downed too much good Spanish wine, oysters, salmon and a decadent chocolate mousse. We walked off our wine and dessert through a series of Christmas light installations and headed back to our hotel.
We spent the next day driving through the mountains toward the coast, exploring what we hope will someday become our future home base. Next up on the blog, holiday adventures in Sri Lanka and Oman.
Adventure Travel Guides