There’s a great old episode of Seinfeld in which Elaine—a writer for the J. Peterman catalog—is saddled with a debilitating case of “catalog writer’s block.” The culprit? The troublesome Himalayan walking shoe. Beset with frustration, an exhausted Elaine takes to the streets of New York (to search for a houseguest who has gone missing)—only to find unexpected inspiration in the warmth and comfort around her feet.
Over the last several months, I have struggled similarly (albeit far less comically) to put into words the experience that I had in Sevilla late last year. Perhaps I would have been wise to take a cue from Elaine, and realize that the sensory pleasures of some things can defy description. In the case of the Andalucían capital, its allure is its heat, its boundless energy, and its undeniable duende—a sense of soul and emotive spirit that pulses through the birthplace of flamenco.
So lace up your (Himalayan) walking shoes to take a trip through southern Spain—we’re off to Sevilla for the next three days.
Giralda At Large
In a city that wears it Moorish influence in a cluster of medina-like lanes, it can be quite a trick to find your bearings in the heart of historic Sevilla. That’s why you’ll be thankful for La Giralda—the 344-foot cathedral spire (and former mosque minaret) that acts as a beacon for the hopelessly lost.
And if you make your weekend home at this delightful Airbnb, you’ll be treated to the sound of La Giralda’s bells each morning and iconic rooftop vistas of the greater Santa María de la Sede each evening. Built over the course of a century to replace a mosque that once stood in its place, Sevilla’s cathedral is now the largest Gothic church in the world, the final resting place of Christopher Columbus, and the perfect spot to survey your surroundings from the bell tower (Avenida de la Constitución).
Here’s Looking At You, Kid
With the immeasurable charms of staying so close to La Giralda come the inevitable drawbacks of a neighborhood frequented by sightseers. In other words, you’d be wise to wander beyond Calle Mateos Gago to sip a tinto de verano or delve into a spread of Andalucían tapas.
The good news? Several of Sevilla’s most beloved eateries are within a short stroll—and you’d be wise to make time for each. Stools are always in demand at Bar Alfalfa, a tiny corner spot that consistently delivers on flavor and atmosphere (Calle Candilejo 1). The dishes at Bodeguita Romero are as classic and well-executed as they come, and the servers eternally interested in making sure you try the best (Calle Harinas 10). In search of something a bit more refined? Reserve a table at Bodeguita Casablanca to sample the scrumptious tortilla and delicate seafood specialties (Adolfo Rodríguez Jurado 12).
When People Stop Being Polite And Start Getting Real
Perhaps nowhere is Sevilla’s blended history more apparent than the Real Alcázar, the oldest royal palace on the continent that remains in use. Constructed in the 10th century for the Moorish governors, the Alcázar was rebuilt and expanded in the 1300s by King Pedro I, who utilized both Christian and Islamic influences to create the Mudéjar masterpiece that stands today. Pass through the rooms where Columbus told Queen Isabella I of his discoveries, see where Ferdinand Magellan made plans to sail around the world, and wander through gardens and courtyards that will leave you feeling you’ve landed in Marrakech (Patio de Banderas).
Once you’ve roamed the shaded gardens, make your way northward to glimpse the local shopping scene on Calle Tetuán and Calle Sierpes. Your destination? The expansive supermarket at El Corte Inglés, where you’ll find plenty of picnic fixings for lunch in Plaza Nueva (Calle San Pablo 1).
Say It’s Saturday Night In Spain. They Go Out Dancing. You Think They Do The Flamenco?
In the ninth century, a group of gypsies from India began a long, slow migration to Spain, sparking a mingling of cultures in Andalucía among the Sephardic Jews, the Moors, and the Gitano gypsies themselves. From this cultural movement came the uniquely Sevillan art form of flamenco—an intoxicating blend of song (cante), dance (baile), and virtuoso guitar-playing (toque).
Although you might get lucky and catch an impromptu performance in a bar after midnight, you should also secure tickets to an evening show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco. You’ll be transported by the speed of the dancers’ feet, the skill of the guitarist’s hands, and the unmistakable passion in the singer’s voice—especially if you shell out a few extra euros for the performance in the intimate basement grotto (Calle Manuel Rojas Marcos 3).
We Know You’re Wishin’ That We’d Go Away
Known for its tiny lanes and plazas filled with orange trees, the Barrio Santa Cruz southeast of La Giralda seems tailor-made for Sunday strolls. It’s the perfect spot for a pan con tomate at El Rincón de Murillo—and a sobering lesson in Sevilla’s tumultuous history. This neighborhood was a bustling Jewish Quarter until 1391, when Christian mobs set it aflame and killed thousands of Jewish residents in the process. Within a century, Ferdinand and Isabella had begun the Spanish Inquisition—headquartered at the nearby Castillo San Jorge—to root out any remnants of the Jewish faith in Spain. It’s a dark history to keep in mind as you wander these shaded streets.
The Lonely Bull
No matter your opinions on the Spanish pastime of bullfighting, the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla is one of the most beautiful architectural sites in the city, even—perhaps, especially—when empty. Constructed over a period of 120 years, this Baroque arena hosts between 18 and 28 bullfights each year (from Easter Sunday until mid-October), as well as regular tours for those without the stomach for a corrida. Explore the small museum, walk beneath the graceful colonnade, and say a quick prayer—for either the bulls or the toreros—in the onsite chapel (Paseo de Cristóbal Colón 12).
And if the thought of bullfighting leaves you in need of a drink, you’re not alone. Join the standing-only crowd at Taberna La Fresquita for a sunset sherry (Calle Mateos Gago 29), or take in one last view of La Giralda from the terrace at EME Catedral Hotel (Calle Alemanes 27). And then it’s off to Bar Alfalfa once again to end this weekend in true Sevillan style.
TITLE: The Real Alcázar | FRIDAY: The view of Sevilla from La Giralda; the Airbnb view of La Giralda; the interior of Santa María de la Sede; the view of the Airbnb from La Giralda | SATURDAY: The Courtyard of the Maidens at the Real Alcázar; the Patio del León at the Real Alcázar; the gardens at the Real Alcázar; the gardens at the Real Alcázar; the gardens at the Real Alcázar | SUNDAY: Scenes from the Barrio Santa Cruz; scenes from the Barrio Santa Cruz; scenes from the Barrio Santa Cruz; scenes from the Barrio Santa Cruz; scenes from the Barrio Santa Cruz.