Enjoying The Alcazar and Jamon Iberico in Seville, Spain

We’re on the road again with installment #4 from our nine week voyage across Europe.  This week we’re highlighting our last stop in Spain: Seville!  Quick recap: after visiting Lisbon, Portugal, we flew to Malaga in southern Spain then took a bus to Granada. After Granada, we traveled a few hours west to Seville.

We spent four nights in central Seville in an Airbnb overlooking the Alameda de Hercules plaza.  Capital of the Andalusia region of Spain, Seville overflows with history and a sense of the past.  Romans first settled the area more than two millennia ago and remnants of their city remain visible today in and around Seville.  Over the centuries Seville was inhabited by the Vandals, the Visigoths, then the Moors.  In the 13th century the Castilians conquered the city and it has remained under Spanish rule for the past 750 years.

Though 40 miles inland, the Guadalquivir river connects Seville to the Mediterranean Sea and onward to the Atlantic Ocean which led to its growth as a major Spanish port in the 16th century.  Seville grew to be an incredibly wealthy city as the Spaniards colonized the Americas.  The conquerors and colonists filled galleons with gold and silver before returning across the Atlantic Ocean to Seville.

Today’s Seville preserves many of its classical roots while offering modern conveniences for tourists like great city buses, a small but growing subway network, tons of restaurants, and pedestrian malls lined with shops.

 

More than an Eyeful!

The biggest draw in Seville is the Alcazar.  Originally built by Moorish kings, the Alcazar continues its regal role today as an official residence of the Spanish Royalty.  If you’re a Game of Thrones fan (who isn’t?) then you have probably seen the Alcazar starring as the Water Gardens of Dorne, a royal palace for the Dornish rulers.

 

The Alcazar – it sports dozens of rooms with similarly intricate designs

 

And grand courtyards

 

And patios

 

Gardens of Alcazar – the grounds were huge so we didn’t get a chance to explore more than a small segment.  Growing on the trellis over our heads are grapevines that must be 50 or 100 years old.

We planned to visit the Alcazar on a Monday night when admission was free. Everyone else knew our secret too. The short wait in line provided the perfect opportunity to check out the awesome scenery such as the Cathedral in the background.

 

Plaza de España / Parque Maria Luisa

The Plaza de España was originally built as Spain’s Pavillion in the Ibero-American Exhibition of the 1929 World’s Fair.  Today it’s a notable emblem of Seville (and mostly houses government offices). We happened on an impromptu Flamenco dance exhibit while exploring the grounds.

The Plaza de España served as a filming location for Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.

Plaza de España with fountain and horse drawn carriages

 

Plaza de España and the man-made canal that runs through the middle of it

 

La familia!

The Plaza de España sits within the Parque Maria Luisa which extends three quarters of a mile from north to south.  Most of the park is filled with trees, pathways, buildings, lakes, fountains, and wildlife.

Lake and waterfowl in Parque Maria Luisa.

 

Archaeological Museum of Seville at the far southern end of Parque Maria Luisa. The museum was originally built for the Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair hosted by Seville in 1929.  We saw a young kid practicing bullfighting just around the corner from here.

 

Exploring the streets of Seville

Seville is a good walking city because a lot of the attractions in the old historic core are close together.  We had multiple days in Seville so we tackled a different part of downtown each day.  Some days we walked home at the conclusion of our adventuring.  Other days we had to catch a quick bus ride home for about USD$0.80 per ticket using the Multiviaje reloadable bus card (find the card at a Tobacco shop).

Torre del Oro / Gold Tower – fortification originally used to guard the Guadalquivir River.

 

Great views of the Seville Cathedral from the Torre del Oro

 

One of Seville’s many pedestrian-only streets. No cars allowed!

 

This massive sculpture, the Setas de Sevilla, is very new.

 

But if it’s the very old you seek, look underneath the Setas de Sevilla in the Antiquarium – excavated Roman ruins preserved in-place.

 

Between the Alcazar and Plaza de España is the old Royal Tobacco Factory. The building now houses the University of Seville.

 

No cultured museum visit is complete until your son yells “I can see all their peepees”. All. Of. Them.  –Small sculpture museum within University of Seville.

 

 

Lodging for four nights with Airbnb

During our nine weeks in Europe we visited 14 cities and stayed in 14 different Airbnb apartments.  It was a great way to live among the locals in a regular apartment.

We booked a two bedroom, one bath apartment for the five of us right on the Alameda de Hercules plaza in the center of Seville.  At USD$63 per night, it was on par with the $60-something per night apartments we booked elsewhere in southern Spain.  It’s less than half of what we would have paid for two comparable hotel rooms.  Airbnb was such a money saver and sanity saver in Europe (and if you want to save money and sanity with Airbnb, here’s $40 off your stay).  The living room offered plenty of room to stretch out and relax when we had some downtime. A table big enough for all of us to enjoy a homecooked meal or some takeout.  And a full kitchen to prepare said homecooked meal.

 

Basic but impeccably clean kitchen with eat-in table

 

Dining room (or office, if you have an Early Retirement Lifestyle Consulting client session).  Love that balcony and view out the front!  We had front row seats to some crazy procession that I think was Seville’s Pride Day Parade (based on copious amounts of rainbow flags and accessories).

 

Food in Seville

We cooked several meals in our apartment but also enjoyed several restaurant meals since everything was so cheap (except the $5 gelato place literally underneath our kitchen window).  Take out pizza was USD$5 each, for example, at the restaurant just outside our door.

Takeout Indian and Mediterranean food. Samosas, doner kebab, several curries, durum wrap, chicken nuggets and fries (for the kids).  I had to really convince the chef that a white guy wanted the chicken curry nice and spicy. Only USD$30 for all of this takeout.  Salads not included as I bought salad mix, blue cheese and tomatoes for $2 at the grocery store.

 

Under USD$20 for the five of us to enjoy paella, fried shrimp fritters, chicken fingers, and jamon iberico sandwiches at this casual eatery right underneath the Setas de Sevilla in a touristy area.

 

I had to do it. Taco Bell España was on my Must Do list for Spain. I’m sad to say it was disappointing compared to US Taco Bells (which I LOVE).  At least it came with a nice Cathedral view.  I can’t complain too much because they serve beer and margaritas.  And they have great air conditioning!

 

Mrs. Root of Good made some fancy tapas out of fresh baguettes, jamon iberico, blue cheese and various greens.  Good eats!

 

Thoughts on Seville

I hope I make it back some day! Hopefully I can return in the spring or fall when it’s cooler.  Seville is a great city with tons to explore in the downtown area.  I wish I had another few days to explore the streets and relax more since we were on the move every day.

Price wise, it’s an incredible value in Europe.  It really disproves the “OMG Europe is SO expensive” generality.  Lodging, meals, and transportation were all modestly priced.  It seemed slightly less expensive than other budget locales like Slovenia and the Czech Republic and not a lot more expensive than Mexico for some things.

If I had to pick just one place to visit out of the three we visited (Malaga, Granada, and Seville), I’m inclined to pick Seville. It’s bigger than the other cities and has more to do and see.  The Alcazar compares favorably with La Alhambra in Granada (our main reason for visiting Granada).  I would allow at least three to four days to explore Seville and a week if you have the time.

 

 

Check out the whole series (so far) of our nine week European family vacation:

 

 

What are your thoughts on Seville?  Can you tell how hot it was from the pics? Some days were 104F.  

 

 

Note to readers: I’ll be incommunicado October 21-28 because we just booked a last minute Caribbean Cruise on the MSC Divina out of Miami for me and Mrs. Root of Good! Flying solo without the kiddos this time! 

45 comments

  • Wow Seville looks beautiful. I’ve never been before but it looks like I need to an excuse to get out there now. Plus the Plaza de España looks amazing. I definitely wouldn’t mind going to work in that beautiful architecture if I had to work 🙂

  • Looks very architecturally interesting. We’re a few weeks away from a trip to Barcelona, combination work and unplanned vacation. Wondering what temps will be like in November.. Your right about price though, we picked a higher end bnb because we’re bringing along six people, it still made our local Marriott’s seem pricey.

  • Would love to see the link for the Air B & B.

  • Thank you for sharing! I look forward to reading about the rest of the trip, as well – it’s amazing that while it’s Europe, the styles, colors, architecture, everything is so varied from one place to the next, that it can feel completely different. Some friends of ours just got back from 1.5 weeks in France and Germany, and once they catch up on sleep, I can’t wait to hear about it. All this I hear of travel is giving me the itch again (I just went on a cruise to Bermuda in September – learned how to dodge hurricanes!) and have nothing planned til next April/May. (However, I do find myself with 5 more vacation days this year, and if only I lived on the coast, I’d look for a last minute cruise booking..don’t know what else to do). Travel safe & enjoy the cruise!!

  • Seville looks like a great blend of old and new. And you guys look amazingly cool considering those temperatures! I have never used AirBnB but it definitely sounds like the way to go in Europe.
    I’m really enjoying your travel stories, please keep sharing!

  • Amazing pictures! Looks like you enjoyed some great food too. I’ve never been to Seville but hope to go someday based on this post, so…gracias!! The pic of Taco Bell rocks. Sadly the Taco Bells around these parts do not include margaritas on the menu.

  • Great pics! I miss the hamon and baguettes!

    We’re going to have to get back and check out the southern parts of Spain. So many things to see, and pretty darn cheap too 🙂

  • That was a fantastic trip. I pick Seville too. We had great food there when we visited. I had the best chicken shawarma ever and haven’t found one as good here in the states yet.
    Airbnb sounds like a great way to go. We’ll have to do that next time. When we went in 2003, there was no such thing. 🙂

    • I never have kebabs and shawarmas here in the US. There are a few Lebanese/Mediterranean places here in Raleigh but it’s not everywhere like other ethnic restaurants. So for me, the cheap eats in Europe (kebab/shawarma) were a real treat and never disappointed!

  • Do you have anymore pictures of the Antiquarium? It looks really interesting.

  • Really enjoying this series of your summer travels Justin! I’m bookmarking these for when we go to Europe in the future.

  • Ooh, Seville! I spent 5 days there last year, 1st week of November. It was beautiful! and perfect weather at that time of year. I loved Seville – so chilled out, so friendly. Cheap, easy to walk around. Lovely food. Anyway I’ll stop, you know all of this! Definitely autumn is a good time to go. And the Setas are brilliant!
    I also find the Alcazar compares favourably to the Alhambra – the Alcazar is a more manageable size, whereas the Alhambra can be a bit much!

    • Definitely a laid back city. And autumn would feel a lot better. I think their weather is close to Las Vegas/Phoenix – very hot and dry summers but mild winters that have perfect weather.

  • The problem with Spain is the people. Arrogant and they think they’re the best of Europe. It’s basically like Argentinians in South America.
    The country is beautiful though

    • It’s funny, I never got that feeling from Spaniards or from Argentinians (from the week we spent there several years ago). Though I’m sure the language barrier would prevent me from picking up on some of that. I didn’t encounter arrogance anywhere in Europe actually. Very nice folks in general all over. And we only spent a week or two max in each place so didn’t get as in depth feel for places as you might have.

  • Wow Seville looks amazing. Also kudos for utilizing so many AirBnBs on your trip, it really is the way to go when travelling- much better amenities at lower rates! I am still shocked that there are people out there that don’t use it.

    • I’m an Airbnb evangelist and tell people about it all the time. It’s not for everyone nor every situation but I’m enjoying it more and more, even for very short stays of 2 days.

  • Wow, that’s some incredible architecture, and a pretty affordable place to boot!

    We’re in Japan traveling right now, and it’s *really different* from Spain here. Two opposite ends of the world.

    Can’t wait to hear more about your adventures!

  • Thanks for the posting. I have been enjoying your insites into Spain. The airbnb listing link is a super nice touch.

  • Hi Justin,

    Nice write-up. Such trip is not possible for those with full-time employment. I am looking forward to such future posts from you.

    Ben

  • Nice recap of Seville. I found myself nodding as l read it. It really is a beautiful place and we enjoyed our 2 years there. November weather for the person who asked is wonderful. Never made it to Granada, the Al Hambra is just not very must see for me and l was happy with the Alcazar and my go to for guests. So glad you liked it a lot. Next time… Valencia 🙂

    • Definitely a nice city to visit and live in too, huh? Weather is nice most of the year barring summer and costs are hard to beat in Europe. The bus system seemed very comprehensive and the food comes in a nice variety (without a big price tag).

  • Seville is a beauty city!
    I love Spain and I have spend a lot of time in Barcelona and on Mallorca.
    The food and weather is great!
    My plan is to retire early and move down there:-)
    Thanks for the inspiration!

    • Sounds like a plan! Spain seems to be a popular retirement destination, probably because of the weather and lower costs versus the rest of Europe and even the US.

  • Don’t you mean the Moops? 😉

  • Taco Bell?!? Jesus, dude. 🙂

    Curious what the buzz was like with respect to the whole Catelon independence movement going on. Interesting times for Spain that’s for sure. Thanks for sharing – great pics and looks like you guys had a blast.

    • I really love taco bell, and had to try it though it proved disappointing (US does Taco Bell better!). So yeah 🙂

      Didn’t hear anything about the Catalan independence movement while there, though we visited in the first part of the summer (this post comes several months later!).

  • I am enjoying your posts on Europe Justin. We are currently based in Asia and making the most of this side of the world, but can’t wait to visit some of the same places you visited in Europe. Spain and Portugal are definitely on my bucket list. Truth be told, I want to visit all countries that specialize and take pride in their ham, cheese and wine.

    I don’t comment on your blog often, but sincerely appreciate your open sharing of how you make early retirement work and the great practical advice intermixed amongst your globe trotting lifestyle. 🙂

    • A tour of the world involving ham, cheese, and wine sounds pretty great 🙂 Europe is a good spot to hit for all three of those things as the prices and quality were the best we’ve experienced in the world.

  • I am glad that you visited cheap or affordable places. I’d love to go back and visit Germany again, but the prices when I was there the first two times were obscene compared to the US. I will probably go back again to show my wife and kids, but have no desire to spend more than a few days there, and spend most of our time in someplace like Slovakia, Spain or Greece.

    Someday when I have time, I’ll write an article about planning for our upcoming 15 day HI trip in May. It’s almost like planning for Europe, at least flight wise.

    Keep on keeping on.

  • Seville looks beautiful and the food delicious …. some great photos
    CPO

  • These photos are incredible, per usual. When you grocery shop in other countries, do you go as a 5 pack or do you or your wife sneak a trip in? I’m fascinated by logistics.

    • Sometimes a 5 pack, sometimes 3 (me+oldest 2 kids). Sometimes just me. Sometimes the older kids are helpful because they can tell me what they want instead of us getting home and them claiming “there’s nothing to eat” 🙂

      With the kids, we’ll often have one parent camp out at the house with the kids and the other parent go out running errands.

  • Somewhat random question, but have your kids ever pushed back on being away from “home” so much? Do they miss their friends? Do they miss playing sports or being involved in other social activities? Or have you raised your kids to love travel and enjoy the wonders of the world?

    I ask because my wife and I are looking to start taking longer journeys (several weeks) and even live overseas at some point. We’re not sure what kind of reaction our kids will have (thus the shorter trips to start), but we expect they may miss their friends or feel like they’re missing out when all their friends are playing baseball or joining the drama club or whatever.

    I’m just curious if you’ve ever had these conversations with your kids.

    Thank you!

    • I asked them this question shortly after you posted the question. The answer was “yes” they miss being home sometimes. Though they haven’t really had a full summer at home for over 4 years now. I think the traveling can get tiresome if we don’t take it nice and slow (which means not seeing as much as we could!). We all miss the simple stuff – picnics, visiting with friends, lazy days at the pool, that kind of stuff. Though many of their friends spend some or all of the summer abroad (not necessarily rich friends, just the children of immigrants) or still have busy schedules throughout the summer.

      I imagine if we stayed here all summer they would get bored by the end of it. And mostly sit around playing video games. Which is okay – I enjoy video games too. 🙂

      • Awesome. Thanks for the insight. We’ll see how our kiddos do. I know every family is different, but I appreciate the answers from your kids. Have fun traveling!

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