Read on for our top travel tips including our suggested TLTB properties for your Spanish holiday!
From the very moment we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the beauty of Seville, and the wealth of history and tradition wherever we turned. Although dating back to Roman times, with a shorter Visigoth period, it is largely the legacy of the Moors, followed by the Jews and the Christians, that you witness as you wander around the barrio of Santa Cruz in the city centre. The narrow, cobbled streets and tall buildings here are stunning, painted in predominantly ochre, yellow and white, and with intricate wrought iron balconies. You will also come across some charming garden squares lined with orange trees in the Jewish quarter, such as the very pretty Plaza Doña Elvira.
Without doubt, two of the most magnificent buildings to be seen in Seville, are right in the heart of Santa Cruz, and conveniently situated side by side - the Cathedral and the Alcázar. This area is spectacular at night when they are lit up – and particularly magical after sunset when the sky literally does turn a royal blue colour, for around an hour. The Cathedral with its famous Giralda (the tallest tower in the world) is a combination of both Moorish and Christian heritage, with its Muslim minaret dating from 1184, and bell tower at the top of the tower (the Christian part) being added in the 17th Century.
Unsurprisingly, the beauty of the city and its architecture, have meant that Seville has been used as a location for many famous films (such as Lawrence of Arabia’ and ‘Star Wars’) and, more recently, TV productions, such as ‘Game of Thrones’. More modern architectural wonders include the huge and imposing Plaza de España, which looks impressively old with its lavish proportions and stunning tiled frescoes – but was only constructed in 1929 for the Ibero-American Expo.
And then there is the Metropol Parasol, the huge modern wooden structure known as the ‘mushroom’ in Plaza Encarnacion. Although controversial, amidst all the traditional buildings, it is nonetheless impressive, and worth a visit to its rooftop at night when it offers magical views over the city. We were even lucky enough to see a couple having their wedding photos taken there against the beautiful Seville skyline.
Having already tried Devour Tours in Madrid and Barcelona, a Devour experience in Seville was right near the top of our list of things to do! For people with limited time in the city, it is a great way of learning about, not only the Spanish tradition of tapas, but also Spanish culture and Seville’s history. The idea of the Tapas, Taverns and History tour is that you walk between 4 traditional tapas’ bars, which have each been in the same family for over 100 years (and most having very inauspicious entrances that you would never discover on your own!). The tour lasts 3 ½ hours and, as well as sampling a variety of tapas (enough for a full dinner) paired with a local wine or sherry, it involves a fascinating guided walk through historic Seville. Our guide, David, was absolutely superb and so knowledgeable - we highly recommend him, and Devour Tours generally. Other tours include a tempting sounding Tapas and Flamenco Tour – and Private and Corporate Tours can also be arranged.
There are numerous companies offering standard coach trips for day trips, but undoubtedly the best way to visit Ronda, and a choice of white villages along the way, is with a private driver. We were lucky enough to enjoy another unmissable Andalucian experience with the appropriately named Andalucian Experiences. We had an entire day trip, including visits to Ronda, and three white villages with our driver Javier, who was incredibly knowledgeable, fun to be with, and very flexible about where which villages to visit. The cost for the entire day of at least 10 hours, for two of us, was around €230.
Our trip included:
The white village of Zahara de la Sierra has one of the most stunning hillside settings in Andalucia. It is also worth a climb up to the remains of a Moorish castle here with views over the surrounding countryside and the village below. At the centre of the village is the Plaza Mayor, with its Church of Santa María de la Meza, and a viewing spot overlooking the stunning Zahara-el Gastor reservoir with its turquoise colour.
Grazalema, surrounded by the Sierra de Grazalema mountain range, has a turbulent history dating from its origins in Roman times, then conquered by the Arabs, and then by the Spanish. It also suffered during the plague, and during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930’s. It is exceptionally pretty with its steep, cobbled streets, whitewashed houses, with window boxes, and its main square, the Plaza de España, lined with bars and restaurants and its 18th-century church. We had lunch here in a very nice gastro-bar (called La Maroma) with plenty of photographic evidence on its walls of the village’s bull fighting tradition. Around the Virgen del Carmen fiesta day of 16 July, the village holds its annual fiesta, culminating in a mini-Pamplona, where a bull is still released to charge through the streets!
Setenil de las Bodegas is arguably the most unique among the pueblos blancos as, whereas most of the white villages were built on hills, this village grew out of a network of caves in the cliffs above the River Trejo, north-west of Ronda. With a history going back to Roman times, as well as being occupied by the Moors, who were expelled in the Christian conquest in 1484, it is really a ‘must visit’ with its unique white houses which appear to be built right into the rocks.
Last, but by far the least, of this wonderful day tour, was a visit to Ronda, a much larger town, with many more tourists, but still retaining its historic charm. It is famous worldwide for its dramatic views, and for the El Tajo gorge with the River Guadalevír flowing below. The unique 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, over the 100m chasm below, is just as impressive as you might imagine, as are the views from the Alameda out over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Both Orson Welles and Ernest Hemingway stayed in Ronda and were inspired by the town in their writings. They each have a walk named for them, with both offering magnificent views over the valley. There are also busts of both authors at the entrance to the walks, just behind the famous bullring.
This is 3 bedroom apartment is one of five stunning apartments in an authentic 17th Century Palace in the very heart of the city, just 5 minutes’ walk from the Cathedral and the Giralda. Entrance to this classical building is into a large arcaded patio with Roman marble columns and fountains. The elaborate interiors of the building are no less impressive. Apartment 1 spans the whole of the first floor of the building, and is the Palace’s most stately apartment. The large hall/library opens three large balconies looking out onto the street, a unique and privileged vantage point from which to watch the Easter week processions. Combined with the other four apartments, the Palace can sleep up to 22 people in total, and the large dining room in Apartment 1 has seating for this number, if the entire building is rented together. On the rooftop, there are furnished terraces which all the apartments share, and ideal for entertaining or a quiet evening al fresco with friends, or sunbathing during the day.
This beautiful top floor 2 bedroom apartment to rent is situated in the very centre of historic Seville, just steps away from the Cathedral, the Giralda, the Royal Palace and the Archive of the Indies. From the apartment and its large furnished terrace there are breathtaking views over the city. In spite of its central location, the apartment is also very quiet, and very spacious, with natural light streaming in through the windows all year round.