As a result of my experience in Granada a few days before, when it came to driving our rental car into the heart of downtown Sevilla to reach our hostel, I was already on-guard regarding navigating my way through the narrow and convoluted Moorish streets of that part of the city! Fortunately, we arrived on a Sunday afternoon when traffic was not so bad and we actually made it straight to our hostel without any major incidents - other than almost running down a pedestrian and not giving way to a car in one instance as we looked around for directions. This photo shows one of the very pretty intermediate streets located close to the Cathedral, but does not really give an idea of how narrow some of the other streets can be.
I knew that Hostel Atenas did not have any parking of its own, so as soon as we checked-in, I drove off on the single-lane one-way street on which it is located - headed for some sort of nearby public car park as suggested by the front desk clerk. In a matter of minutes I was hopelessly lost because the traffic allowed no time to stop to consult my map. I soon came to rest at the first car-park that I could manage to turn into - called Imagen Parking. After getting my ticket and then abandoning the car there, I walked across the street to Plaza Cristo de Burgos which I was able to locate on my city map. Using that as my starting point, I eventually found my way back to the hostal on foot, only about a 10-minute walk when you don't have to obey one-way traffic signs!
When it was time to leave, Sue and I walked back to the car park with no problem after being in the city for two days. However, I knew that driving was a completely different matter and carried out my plan to walk back to the hostal as if I was in a car - something that had to obey traffic directions. Even on foot we became confused on a couple of occassions, but finally made it back to the hostal with a good picture in our minds of which streets we should be using! Then, it was back to the car park again to retrieve our vehicle and make the return journey - which went quite well due to our having made a 'dry run' on foot!
I have always been surprised about the language barrier even in bigger Spanish cities! One would think that at least the younger people would be quite sufficient in English, but this was not the case here! We did get along, but I really was happy about my two years of Spanish, so that I could at least understand a little....
Quite a few announcements that are pretty important for tourists as well are made in Spanish only, so it does help to know at least a little Spanish!
The Santa Cruz quarter is a true labyrinth!!! It is not easy to find your way through it (at least not on the first day or two)! Do always take a map with you and try to find some specific landmarks to make it easier to recognize places!
The good thing is that there are street names on most street corners!
If you would like to find a specific place again, write down the name of the street at once! We once went to a lovely little tapas bar and were not able to find it again, because we had no clue, where in Santa Cruz it was......
Unlike Barcelona, Granada and Madrid, the Hop On-Hop Off tourist bus in Seville is not worthwhile imo.
It is only a 1/2 hour ride, with 3 stops and cost Euro 16 in September, 2009. The recorded guide was poor.
It does not do a circular route, so you don't return to your starting point.
The last stop is on the riverfront.
From there you can see the Torre del Oro Tower, walk along the riverfront or walk back to the Cathedral area.
The walk back to the Cathedral area was pretty much deserted. Not a comfortable walk, small groups of teenage boys with questionable objectives...
To reach the Cathedral it is necessary to walk along a couple of deserted streets, some with abandoned buildings. Not the best choice of area for a Sunday walk.
With that many wonderful buildings it is almost unavoidable to see construction and restauration works here and there. This is just a gentle reminder not to be too upset when you see scaffolding here and there.
When we visited in September 2008 it was mainly parts of the Cathedral that were being renovated (both from the outside and the inside). Other buildings are the Casa de la Moneda and just quite a few houses all over Sevilla.
Sometimes avoiding trouble means disguising yourself a bit from the people who prey on tourists. What I'm not saying here is that you should avoid walking the streets doing these things, change your hair color or height, and buy new shoes. What I am saying is below there I have listed several things that make you stand-out from Sevillanos here just so you know. Some of them are in conjunction with others. Example: wearing shorts does not always make you stand out, but shorts with blonde hair and a baseball cap will make you an obvious foreigner. One small recommendation - if you can stand a day without your camera, your day-pack and water bottle you can sometimes enjoy yourself more. Take a day off from taking pictures and just wander around feeling "light" and see what you may encounter.
-baseball caps, especially if worn backwards and especially one recently purchased here with something about Sevilla, toros, etc.
-tourist t-shirts (similar to above baseball hat types)
-Nike (or other popular brands) cross-trainers, hiking boots, Teva-type sandals and sometimes flipflops when worn outside of summer months.
-city maps and big guidebooks
-large backpacks with the ever popular wear the smaller backpack on your chest.
-constantly staring up at everything that amazes you (i.e.: not keeping your eye on the people around you in "touristy" areas.)
-height - sorry for the taller travelers, but they will notice a 6'6" person every place you go.
-speaking loudly in English or other foreign languages
-eating, drinking and shopping in the "touristy" places
Many visitors are tempted to take advantage of the siesta to take photos or see more of the city. Don't do it. Don't wander the back streets of Santa Cruz or any place with few people during siesta (2:30-5pm) if you want to avoid problems. More often than not you'll be ok, but why not relax and eat lunch, take a nap and then head out at 5pm with everyone else. On a back street between Barrio Santa Cruz and the Alfalfa there is a corner where I have witnessed thieves looking through a bag or wallet they have just stolen - 3-4 times in the last few years! It has always been around 4pm or so, and it must be a favorite spot for them to stop and see what they got.
In springtime, the weather can be unpredictable. Apparently, the week before I got there, it was warm and sunny, but when I arrived (first week of April), it was cold and sometimes rainy. And whenever it rained, it would start unexpectedly and within minutes it would be pouring (and would go on for hours). Always bring an umbrella with you, even if it's sunny when you go outside!
The daytime can be warm, but even if it's summer weather during the day, the nights can get cold. But I do remember a time in May when there was a heat wave - on one of those days, the heat was unbearable and made everyone lethargic (now I know why siesta is important in southern Spain!) and I was told that the current brought the heat from the African desert.
Be aware of the fact that the pay machines in most underground parkings only accept 5 and 10 EUR notes (not 20!). Credit cards are NOT accepted.
Though the underground parkings are normally supervised, please bear in mind that you are in Spain: it's not impossible that you'll have to wait more than 30 minutes until somebody appears at the manned cash desk.
So if you have don't want to wait for ages please make sure that you have enough 5 and 10 EUR notes handy.
PLaza de Espanha and its surroundings were suffering strong restrictions, caused by many current works.
The beautiful tiled panels in the Plaza are covered, but they reproduced the originals in the fences. A nice idea, but suggesting that the works are there to last.
If you are plannig to come to the April feria and don´t know anyone in Seville, it´s possible that you try enter in the public tends knows as 'Casetas de los distritos' (District tends). There is no problem until 00:00 (more or less). People in there only want to pass a good time. But after that hour I should´t recommend you to go these tends. Don´t ask why.
Watch the birds when dining outside and sitting under the tree. There are lots of birds hiding in the trees. Well, I was lucky but my friend got shot 5 times. After a while he totally lost his appetite... Sigh... ;-)
I would definetly suggest that you allow yourself a day or at least an afternoon just to get your bearings around the city. Most of the roads don't have the names posted. In fact our hotel could not even write out directions of how to get to it. They had a satellite picture of the surrounding area with an arrow pointing to the building. We were driving in, and that was quite a stressfull experience. In the end we had to park the car and walk around the city until we found our hotel.
When drinking, beware that your pension may be hard to find at night. The streets look completely different at 5am as all of the tables & chairs are put up, doors & windows shut, and awnings are rolled up.
I wandered for an hour in a two block radius trying to find my room. BEWARE!
A recommendation - we visited Sevilla at the end of July at a weekend. It was incredibly hot and empty! We assume that everyone leaves town to go to the cooler coast or mountains because on Monday morning, the place was buzzing. Spring is meant to be a better time of year to visit.
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