7 Things I Love About My City (and 3 Why It Sucks): Seville

Living in Seville, Spain

Living in Seville, Spain


By Cat Gaa

When I studied abroad in Spain seven years ago, I planned to spend my summer learning proper castellano where it originated – in Valladolid. The regal castles and wide avenues of the Golden Age called to me more than bullfights and flamenco dancers, so I was shocked to find my outgoing personality is best mirrored in an aldaluza’s fiery character. Two years later, I moved to Seville for a year, and another…and five years after settling in Seville, I’m still here.

While it’s easy to write about loving the typically Spanish things that characterize the city, like sangria and flamenco, I am not an aficionado of flamenco, bullfighting, or Holy Week, and only recently started following football (aka, soccer). My appreciation for Seville has evolved slowly from lust, during those first few hot days, to deep love thanks to finding pieces of the city that felt exclusively mine.

Seven Things I Love About Seville are…

The tapas scene

There are over 1000 tapas bars in Seville, and columnist Antonio Burgos once questioned how it was that the city continues to thrive during the crippling economic crisis. His answer? Tapas bars. While Seville’s cuisine can’t match the celebrated Basque or Catalan cuisine, the lively tapas scene makes dining out a treat in the Andalusian capital.

From brightly-lit bars inhabited by my beloved Spanish grandpas, serving little more than beer, olives and cold meats, to the trendier fusion bars that are popping up all over, the tapeo (being out for tapas) in Seville rarely disappoints. Around 8 p.m., sevillanos flock to the bars around the city center for catching up, having a drinking and eating their way through small dish after small dish, often just having one at each venue.

Tapas in Seville

Tapas in Seville

The varied nightlife

Apart from the tapeo, Seville’s nightlife has something for every taste. From flamenco bars to trance clubs, I can find something for my mood on any given night. The international crowd sticks to Calle Betis in the Triana neighborhood, the hippie hangouts and music bars flank the Alameda de Hércules. There’s also a thriving arts scene in the dozens of theaters scattered around the city. For information about what’s on, pick up the Giraldillo magazine, available at newsstands and tourism offices, or use their website (Spanish only).

The spring festivals

I decided I liked Seville during a muggy day in August, but everyone warned me I’d fall in love during the springtime. The fresh smell of orange blossoms, al fresco tapeo, and trips to the beach became the norm, but my real initiation to Sevillian life came during the highly anticipated spring festivals: Holy Week and the April Fair. The festivities are national touristic highlights and enjoy their own office and director within the city government.

While the life-size floats depicting the finals days of Christ’s life aren’t my thing, my holiday time during Holy Week is: ten days to travel that have afforded me time to visit various cities around Spain, Turkey, Romania, and the Netherlands. And, after just two weeks’ time, the flamenco music roars through the streets of the Feria, the April Fair. Body-hugging dresses, horse carriages and makeshift tents celebrate Andalusian culture. Visit Seville’s Culture page by clicking here.

Seville, Spain, Cat's adopted city

Seville, Spain, Cat’s adopted city

Fairly cheap living

My first year living in Spain, I made a measly 631€ a month from a teaching gig, and chose not to give many English lessons to fully immerse myself. While I did save a lot before leaving for Spain, that money could basically stretch the whole month with careful planning. Unlike Madrid or Barcelona, living in a shared flat is still cheap, and food and nightlife affordable. I love that making a decent salary in my full-time teaching job still allows for weekend trips, new clothes every once in a while and a yearly visit to Chicago.

It’s extremely walkable

Seville’s location along the Guadalquivir River means that the city is as flat as my Midwestern home – there’s just one hill in the whole place! What’s more, the city has turned the historic center into a pedestrian haven, making Avenida de la Constitución similar in feel to a mini Las Ramblas. Seville’s small size lends well to using your own two patas (paws) to get around.

It’s Arguably the Most Romantic City in Spain (and mixes old and new)

After studying in Castilla y León at age 19, I did a trip through Andalusia with a friend and gasped around every corner as we explored Seville. Due to its tumultuous past, Seville has glimpses into Roman, Visigoth, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian cultures, apart from a beautiful riverfront and the modern bridges that span it. Seville’s former mayor, Alfredo Monteseirín, recently came under fire during his final term for trying to modernize the Hispalese capital and doing the groundbreaking on a controversial building, the Metrosol. Nicknamed the “Setas” for their mushroom-like appearance, it’s one of the tallest buildings in the city and smack-dab in the historic center. Some call it an eyesore, but I see it as an interesting addition to a traditional neighborhood.

The andaluz accent

Anywhere I travel, I’m immediately pegged as a resident in Southern Spain. The region’s accent, andaluz (or andalú if you’re sevillano), is plagued with missing consonants, making Ehpaña out of España, or swapping the /l/ sound for /r/. When I took the DELE Spanish exam, the men who conducted my oral exam even laughed at my adoption of the accent!

…and Three I Could Live Without

The heat

As spring’s quick life explodes into summer, the heat and haze settle over Seville, turning it into a ghost town. Due to Seville’s being situated on the low Guadalquivir valley, all of the heat that rolls in from Africa sits right over the city. It’s not uncommon to see temperatures hitting 30°C in May, and August is just unbearable – making the siesta culture thrive and shops close up early. I head for the hills of Galicia and the Windy City every summer to escape the heat!

The social circles

When I started dating my boyfriend five years ago, a co-worker quipped that I’d gotten the golden ticket into sevillano culture and social living. As someone who switched schools often growing up, wasn’t accustomed to the Spanish tendency to have the same classmates from nursery school right up through university, and even opted myself to study far from my native Chicago. I’ve found it hard to make Spanish friends of my own because of this, often seeking solace in my other amercanita friends living in Andalusia.

Cat Gaa at Feria in Seville

Cat Gaa at Feria in Seville

The public transportation

Were it not for my bike, I’d never get anywhere in Seville. The public transportation is far below where it should be in terms of coverage and speed, and I’d cite the medieval streets and poor communication between neighborhoods. What’s more, the local government keeps making changes to the traffic flow, which just confuses and infuriates citizens. There’s just one metro line and buses run once every hour on weekends, so the city’s rentable bike system is a great way to traverse the small city.


Upon receiving an offer to work at a radio news broadcast center in Chicago, Cat Gaa turned it down and turned up at the Consulate of Spain. Five years and daily cravings for Cruzcampo later, she writes at Sunshine and Siestas about life as an American in Seville. Follow her on instagram and twitter at @sunshinesiestas.

23 Responses

  1. This is a great, honest reflection on one of the treasures of southern Spain. I have yet to visit Sevilla but this post made me all the more excited to do so!

  2. admin says:

    Glad you enjoyed the post and hope you make it to Seville soon!

  3. Hi Cat,

    Just come across your article. A decent read. I live in Seville too, been here for 7 years and just got married. I love and hate the place, depends on the day, and time of year. Like what you said about the social circles, totally true.

    Anyway, will keep reading. Thanks for another expat insight.


  4. admin says:

    Thanks for your comment Barry. What other parts of Southern Spain do you enjoy?

  5. Christopher Alexande says:

    We love all of Spain, but have a particular affinity for Seville. We’ve only been once, but will be back in September. We’ve developed ‘Hawaii syndrome’ with Seville; the fantasy that it would be a great place to live based own how the visit went. Don’t know that moving to Seville is in the cards, but looking forward to seeing it in the fall. Compared to most places in Spain we’ve seen, Seville is raw and pure. Thanks for the article;

    Chris and David
    Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA

  6. admin says:

    Albuquerque is not a bad place to be either! Make sure to check out Cat’s and Fiona’s personal blogs, too, for more on Seville. They both live there. Also consider a visit to Tarifa!


  7. Elisha says:

    I just found this post through google and enjoyed it. Planning a first visit to Spain late this month and debating whether to go to Seville or skip it due to the heat. Any thoughts? Would we be better off waiting. Am definitely heading to Granada though, so it seems a shame to be so close, but so far…

  8. admin says:

    Yes, Andalucia is hot in the summer! Definitely Granada though. We recommend the Balearic Islands and the North of Spain this time of year.

  9. Good article. I know what Cat means about the social circles. I lived in Seville for eleven years. It is also not the done thing in Seville to criticise anything about their city. The locals will ask your opinion about their beloved home but they only want you to say that you love it, they aren’t interested in really knowing your objective ideas.

    I also used to teach and one lesson you could never do in class was what things do you like and dislike about your hometown. They thought it was a ridiculous thing to ask. Not once in eleven years with either adults or teenagers was someone brave enough to state that there was something they didn’t like, no matter how trivial. There is plenty to dislike about Seville, if you put your mind to it, as there is about every place. It’s just that in Seville the culture is not conducive to self-criticism. I can say this because I love the place and there is more to praise than there is to denounce; it is a city like none other.

    The tapas scene in Seville is far better than anything in Catalunya where I now live and one of the greatest disappointments here is unquestionably the food. In fact, only Barcelona has tapas. I live in affluent Girona and tapas bars are hard to come by as they are not typical in Catalan culture. Don’t be fooled into thinking the food scene here walks shoulder to shoulder with the Basques, that just isn’t true. The food in the south is far better than here. The famous three star restaurants in Catalunya are an anomaly not the norm. I miss the food of the deep south.

    As for the fiestas and the year-round sound of flamenco and Spanish guitar music, these are the things that keep you trapped in the city. Add to that the ease of gathering in bars and enjoying tapas the well-known saying that ‘En Sevilla, Soledad es nombre de mujer’ (In Seville, Solitude is a woman’s name) becomes a truism.

  10. admin says:

    Hey Mark, the Scoopettes live in Barcelona and have visited Girona many times. I agree that the food scene here can be hard. Especially compared to the Basque Country or Galicia, where the best food in the country is found (in my opinion). And forget about free tapas in Barcelona….though I did get a free tapa in a bar with my 8 euro cocktail the other day. You really have to KNOW where to eat in Barcelona, and it is not an easy task. We aim to do something about this, so stay tuned. In Girona, well, I’m sure there are some great seafood places along the Costa Brava, but tapas, not so sure. How long have you been in Girona?


  11. Hi R,

    Arrived in Girona in 2007. As for seafood, again I prefer the South but there is no beating Galicia and obviously Madrid, which is the second biggest fish market in the world after Tokyo. Valencia also has great food. It seems amazing that it is just down the coast and here the rice, especially paella, is a million miles away from what it should be.

    In Seville they say ‘You eat better standing up than sitting down’, which is true. Girona has the highest number of shops per capita in Spain and things are over priced when contrasted to average earnings, in fact many shops do not even put prices on their items!
    You have to sit down to eat in Girona and it doesn’t come cheap.

    But I love such contrasts. The province of Girona has had the best two restaurants in the world but the rest of the area is not in the same league. Don’t forget England even has the Fat Duck, so you have to be careful with such accolades. This doesn’t mean I’m saying you eat badly here, on the contrary. I’m merely saying that it is nothing when compared to the south, which was always fun and a social event worth looking forward and I haven’t felt the same here. I have my favourite haunts of course, but I have also been greatly disappointed during my time here, including the rudest service I have ever received in my 20 years in Spain. Unfortunately, for the people concerned I knew the owner and made my feelings felt.


  12. admin says:

    Mark, tell us more about why you decided to move to Girona?

  13. Russell says:

    Interesting article. I have lived in Seville for many years now. I am American and from a big city. I’d say she is pretty spot on except for a few things…the varied nightlife? Where? One thing Seville does well is create the same exact bar with the same exact people in a different spot of the city with a different name. People here are very content to go out with the same exact folks every weekend, talk about the same things, and do it all at the same exact bar. Only since the crisis have we seen people take more risks and try to open new places. I am happy for that, but it’s very very far behind other big cities…or even cities like Valencia, which are about the same size. I find people here to be EXTREMELY closed-minded and provincial. If you are from a big, multicultural city, you will notice this. It won’t matter if you are here short-term, but live here longer and it will drive you nuts! The lack of mixing of peoples in the city is its’ biggest drawback in my mind. Seville could be so much more and more interesting, if people really mixed and you had all sorts of different perspectives. On a positive note, it’s a very affordable city, with good tapas, good weather (albeit a bit hot), very walkable, and very beautiful. Perfect for a short visit!

  14. Silvana says:

    Greetings from Southern Italy,
    all one has to do is google a name…..:-)
    I am a Slovenian national, living in Panama, presently in Brindisi, Italy……with Sevilla yet to be seen and lived in!
    I work as a translator and move when I fell like.
    I hte cold weather (although I love skiing) and what I most miss in Panama…..are the ingredients and cheeses and wine!
    What I am drawn by is the history and the culture……flamenco and tapas……
    Hopefully I will make it soon……and meet the others who want to move to the grove.

  15. admin says:

    You will love Seville!

  16. Sandra Bobet says:

    Howdy, from Katy, Texas!!

    I’m a Puerto Rican, that has been living in the states for 26 years. I’ve been to many European cities, but fell in love with Sevilla the moment I visited with my family. Now that I’m older and that my son is out to the University, I’m planning to move to Sevilla.

    What steps do I need to take to make the move? I want to give myself one year to prepare and get everything settled at home and in Sevilla. I am a bilingual teacher, and would love to teach in Seville. How easy/hard it is to find a teaching job, and what do I need to do to pursue that goal?

    Does the fact that I’m Puerto Rican make any difference on obtaining papers to live in Spain? How easy/hard is it to obtain dual citizenship?

    What’s, more or less, the cost of a new, two bedroom, fully furnished apartment? I’ve looked online, but most I’ve found are temporary rentals, and holiday rentals.

    I’m planning on going to Spain, this coming Christmas, so it would be nice if I could get some information before the trip. I’ll be going to Madrid first, and then move around from there.

    Gracias por la ayuda que me puedan ofrecer,


  17. admin says:

    Cat Gaa runs a company called COMO that helps people move to Seville. You might check it out!

  18. Jamal says:

    Hi, I am from India. I’m into Olive oil trading business. ‘Am planning to move to Spain with
    my family, precisely to Granada. Any agency that could guide/help me with the related works of immigration and settling down etc.
    Many thanks.

  19. admin says:

    Not sure Jamal. You might ask the blogger at Spain for Pleasure. He is based in Granada and may have that sort of info.

  20. Travis says:

    Great info on this. My wife and I will be visiting Seville for 4 days during our first trip to Spain. We live in Chicago too! Lincoln Park! Question, what is the best neighborhood to stay in if we’re doing the AirBnB thing and not the hotel thing?

    Thanks much and can’t wait to visit.

  21. The Spain Scoop says:

    Triana is a great ‘hood!

  22. Clare says:

    The question is? Do I want to move to Seville? My husband has been offered a job there and we have 2 young boys who are very settled in London but I would love to live in Sevillle. Is it a good place to live with kids? Worth the upheaval? Please help my feelings of guilt :O(

  23. The Spain Scoop says:

    It’s a great place to live. We say DO IT!

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