As many of you know, we are living in Seville, Spain for the summer. Our Algarve flat already had preset holiday bookings and since Algarve rents get pricier in the summer, it was an opportune time to explore a different, neighboring country and practice our limited Spanish skills (which we actually do need to use here). So, here we are in Castilleja de la Cuesta (a town and municipality in the province of Seville), which is an easy, slightly over 2 hour car ride from the Algarve!
They call Seville “the frying pan of Europe” because the summers are unbearably hot, and believe me, it is. It’s a cool day when temps are less than 100F. Sadly, this stagnant air lacks even the slightest wisp of wind so it really can be a hot oppressive sauna!
Despite the hot as hell temps, we have been able to work around the day’s schedule and still explore our summer hometown. Luckily for us, we are here for a while so we don’t have to pack our days with things we must see and do. I think we would suffer from heat stroke if that was the case. So a bit of advice, if you are planning to visit Seville (either with or without kids), best not to go in July or August.
Temps aside, Seville is a gorgeous city. I have been here a few times in the past, but I had forgotten all of its beauty. I had read that Seville, “like a good flamenco performance – creeps up and seduces you slowly,” and that is an accurate description. The more time I’ve spent here, the more I appreciate its vibe, exquisite architecture, and picturesque monuments.
Moreover, I am so happy that Jax is getting this authentic Spanish experience, learning about a new country, its culture, some Spanish, and making a few amigos along the way.
With that said, what have we done?
- Horse and Carriage Ride through Seville – We actually did this on a day trip here in February. It’s a great experience to get an overview and orientation of the city, especially if you are short of time. The ride lasts 60 minutes and is a set price of €45.
- Boat Ride in Plaza de Espana – What better fun than to row, row, row your boat in this gorgeous setting? Our friends Marjorie and Yan came to visit on their way home to Portugal from Morocco (their two sons are Jax’s classmates) and the boys had a great time steering the boat. The price for riding the boats is €6 for a 30 minute ride.
- Maria Luisa Park – Parque de María Luisa is Seville’s largest (100 acres) and most visited park in the city. This is a must do, only because the grounds are so ridiculously gorgeous. The park is home to over 140 species of trees from all over the world, not to mention all the beautiful flora! Many say it is one of the loveliest parks in Europe, which may be true. We were even able to spot gorgeous swans in the water!
- Isla Magica and Agua Magica – Of course this has been Jax’s favorite thing to do – what kid doesn’t like an amusement and water park? Even Suri Cruise! Tom Cruise rented the park exclusively for a day for his daughter while filming Knight and Day in Seville in 2009. Sister park Agua Magica is a mini-water park with beach. There are pools, water slides, and even a sedate rio lento (slow river), which I myself enjoyed! However, I think this park may be a locals secret as very few staff members knew how to speak English. (Likely most English-speaking tourists are exploring the actual city and not going to an amusement park).
- Barrio de Santa Cruz and El Arenal – Barrio Santa Cruz is the primary tourist neighborhood and the former Jewish quarter. A must for spotting cute shops and stores with lots of charming orange trees lining the streets and uneven cobblestone paths (and very Instagrammable). Here we ate at Las Teresas, which is reputed to have some of the best tapas in Seville.
- Nervion Plaza – You’ll find shops like Zara and H&M but there is a children’s play area outside on the ground floor with swings and slides, and the best – a big orange slide that goes from the second floor to the ground floor.
- El Corte Ingles – This is the only department store chain in Spain, and luckily for us, the one closest to us has a Hipercor (El Corte Ingles’s upscale supermarket) with a little trampoline and ball pit play area!
- Las Setas (Metropol Parasol) – This wooden structure located at La Encarnación square was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer and completed in April 2011. Some Sevillanos think it is an eyesore and monstrosity but the vision was to merge the old with a new architectural landmark. Jax and I liked it and enjoyed going to the top to check out the Seville 360º panoramic views it boasts.
- Mercado de Triana – This food market reminded me of the many we’ve seen in Portugal with numerous stands of fresh fruits, vegetables, local goods, and flowers. However, it also has sit-down restaurants and tapas bars, including La Casa Fundida where we ordered the chorizo al infierno. It’s a tapa of Spanish sausages that they set on fire! Jax loved it so much (I think for both the taste and the theatrics) that we ended up ordering another one!
- Triana – Most of the elaborate hand-painted ceramics around Sevilla are produced in this area, Triana. We stopped by one of the larger shops, Cerámica Santa Ana, and bought a few little souvenirs.
- Acuario de Sevilla – We were pleasantly surprised by Seville’s aquarium and thought it was a great exhibit. The aquarium recreates the journey followed by Magellan and his crew so we go through different terrains and environments while seeing diverse sea life. My favorite was watching the octopi! Such brilliant creatures.
- Sevilla Catedral and La Giralda Tower – The Sevilla Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it is here where the tomb of Christopher Columbus is carried by four kings representing the kingdoms of Spain. Within the cathedral is the entrance to La Giralda Tower. It is a 35 ramp climb up to the top of the giralda with a view of the Patio de los Naranjos and the entire city that makes the trek worth it.
- Hotel Antonio XIII – This spectacular hotel, designed for a Spanish king in the 1920s, is a longtime host to royals and celebrities from Sophia Loren to Brad Pitt to Madonna. We didn’t see anyone famous when we were there, but we did make sure to have lunch in their glorious courtyard.
- Churros y Chocolate – You cannot come to Spain and not have this typical Spanish breakfast treat. Bar El Comercio is reputed to be the best here, so of course, we had to try them out to make sure! They were, indeed, scrumptious.
- Torre del Oro – The “Tower of Gold” is an emblem of Seville and an important symbol of the city’s historical wealth. Built by the Arabs, it was a defensive tower and was also used to control the river traffic. It’s a fairly easy climb to the top and you can take lots of beautiful photos of the Guadalquivir river.
- Ice Cream – We had to go to La Fiorentina Heladeria after reading all the raving reviews, with some claiming it is the best ice cream here. Delicioso! We also went to Confitería La Campana, another contender for best ice cream! Hmmm… it is a toss up – both were scrumptious! But we were also able to get some of the tastiest pastries at La Campana.
- La Casa de Pilatos – Visiting this gorgeous palace built between the 15th and 16th centuries was an under the radar find! Since typically most tourists opt to visit the Alcazar, this Andalusian palace of Spain and example of the 16th century Sevillian architecture is less trafficked, which makes for a much more pleasant visiting experience. It is one of the biggest private residences of Seville as it serves as the permanent residence of the Dukes of Medinaceli. Stunning mosaics and well-manicured gardens make for picture perfect photo ops!
- Real Alcazar – Finally, one cannot go to Seville without going to the royal palace. The Alcazar is the oldest used palace in Europe and a UNESCO world heritage site. Best of all, you can reserve a free entrance on Mondays and pretty much skip the line, which we did! The palace is stunning and there are lots of gorgeous photo taking opportunities both inside and outside in the gardens. Also, I’ve never watched even one episode of Game of Thrones but apparently many of the scenes were filmed here for you GOT fans.
That’s all for now, but we’re still here for a little while, so I will likely be updating this post. But these are definitely all kid-appropriate and approved activities as we have had a fun time doing it all. Amamos Sevilla!