With its reliably sunny climate, Seville is an ideal family destination where you can nearly always be outside – although indoor activities offer a welcome respite from the summer heat. Mother of two small children, Fiona Flores Watson of Scribbler in Seville gives her top family-friendly activities in Andalucia’s largest city, for toddlers and teenagers, from high-tech to historic – which parents are guaranteed to enjoy as much as little ones.
By Fiona Flores Watson
PARK LIFE – PLAYGROUNDS, CART AND BOAT HIRE, MUSEUMS, FILM SET, ALL AT THE PARQUE MARIA LUISA
Best for: all ages, especially toddlers and sporty kids. Free, except vehicle hire.
Where better to take small children who need a runaround than the park? Shade, check; playgrounds, check; refreshments, check. But as well as the usual small person requisites, the Parque Maria Luisa in Seville – the city’s largest park at 45,000m2, located a short walk from the centre – offers a legion of other activities to keep you and your family happy for an entire day. And it’s a work of art in itself, too.
Climb the waterfall mountain, visit the island on the lake, feed the ducks, and explore the glorietas (mini plazas), with their tiled pavilions, fountains, pools and benches, featuring lots of hidden corners for playing hide-and-seek (spare clothes are always useful in case of excessive splashing!). Several playgrounds with climbing frames, slides, spinning roundabouts, and swings will keep the smallest members of the family happy, while you soak up the sun on a bench.
Next to the park, the impressive Plaza de España is a vast space surrounded by four bridges crossing a canal, every surface resplendent with the azulejos (ceramic tiles) made in nearby Triana – climb the stairs to the upper level for great views over the plaza and park. Sharp-eyed young film buffs may recognise the plaza as the palace of Naboo from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.
Clip from Star Wars: Attack of the Clones
If you don’t mind splashing out a few euros, you can rent a rowing boat on the canal in Plaza de España, or take a horse-and-carriage ride – both cheesy but heaven for kids; some drivers will let children sit up next to him, which always goes down a treat.
For older kids, there are pedal cars, go-karts, or for families with young children canopy bikes (shaded vehicles seating four or six, powered by two pedal bikes, with smaller seats at the front for little ones) – look out for them on Plaza de America, outside the Archaeological Museum, and near Plaza de España. And so to the learning zone: at the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions you can see displays of traditional crafts such as tile-making, leatherwork and goldsmithery, although they’re a tad old-fashioned. History fans can wallow in the glories of Roman Seville at the Archaeological Museum (both museums are pavilions from the 1929 Expo) – look out for the mosaics with animals, and Roman toys and games, found at nearby Italica. The bling of the Tesoro del Carambolo, a hoard of Tartessian (pre-Phoenician) gold jewellery unearthed locally, will dazzle any accessory-loving chica.
When it’s time to refuel, you’ll find plenty of cafes and restaurants, snack bars and ice-cream stalls all around the park, or just join the locals picnicking on the grass.
ADVENTURES ON THE HIGH SEAS
Best for: pirate-loving five-year-olds and up. Entrance fee.
One of Seville’s newest museums, the Pabellon de Navegacion is all about sailing the high seas – think pirates, galleons and exploring the New World, starting with Columbus in 1492. The Pabellon de la Navegacion is located, appropriately enough, on the river, and as the city’s most high-tech, hands-on museum, is ideal for kids. All information is in both English and Spanish.
Originally built for the 1992 Expo (which commemorated the 500th anniversary of the great discoverer’s voyage), this pavilion has a sea of LED lights on stalks at child height, designed to fade on and off resembling rolling waves, so you feel like you’re in the ocean. Among them you’ll find models of sailing ships and animated films of characters who went off in search of new lands and wealth, from merchants to missionaries. You can find out about life on board – what the sailors and explorers ate, how they smelled (pretty stinky), games they played, rudimentary medicine that was practiced (delightfully gruesome instruments).
Along the back wall are huge video screens for interactive games of shoot-the-pirate, steer-the-ship, hoist-the-main-sail and pump-out-the-water, using hands-on mechanical devices which kids will love – a great combination of visual and manual.
For refreshments, a glass-walled café on the river side of the building offers tapas and sandwiches, with views across to the city.
Open Tuesday to Saturday 11am – 8.30pm and Sunday 11am-3pm.
Admission price: adults 4.90 euros; children aged 5-14, 3.50 euros; under-5s free.
I’VE GOT RHYTHM : THE MUSEO DE BAILE FLAMENCO
Best for ages eight and up, especially music and dance-lovers. Entrance fee.
Seville is famous for its flamenco, and here you can learn about the dance, take a class, and watch a performance. The Museo del Baile Flamenco is a traditional Sevillano house with patio, transformed into a multi-media centre for learning about this most typically Andalucian art form in a way guaranteed to appeal to children.
Drawing on audio-visual technology, this museum uses sound and video – music, interviews, experiences – to take you into the world of flamenco via your eyes and ears, explaining how it is melded from influences as far afield as Africa and India. Children can listen to the different rhythms and instruments – any young person who is interested in music or dance will love it, especially since it’s less about reading texts (though information is provided in English), more about using your senses, true to flamenco’s instinctive, oral tradition. In one room, the entire wall is taken up by a life-size video of dancers performing, and you feel as if they’re in the room with you – the closest thing to seeing a live flamenco performance. Enough to begin to grasp the idea of duende – or ‘spirit’.
The shop has an excellent selection of books, CDs, DVDs and flamenco accessories (jewellery, shawls, shoes, castanets), including smaller versions for children – what young girl can resist a frilly flamenco dress? Performances are held in the patio nightly at 7pm; times of classes vary.
Open daily, 10am – 7pm.
Admission price: adults 10 euros, children aged 6-12, 6 euros; under-6s free. Performance price: adults 20 euros, children aged 6-12, 12 euros; under-6s free. Combined price: adults. 24 euros, children aged 6-12, 15 euros, under-6s free.
For details of classes, please ask.
STEP INTO SEVILLE’S HISTORY: PAST VIEW
Best for: ages ten and up, especially tech-loving teenagers. Fee.
Take a step back in time and experience Seville as it was hundreds of years ago, in an augmented-reality video tour – perfect for youngsters hooked on screens.
This new technology, pioneered by Sevillano company Past View, offers a glimpse into Roman, medieval and Moorish Spain. Whether or not your child is interested in history, he or she will be captivated by these 3-D films, viewed through videoglasses which you wear while standing in the spot where each is set. Meet the Moorish architect of the Giralda (former minaret in the cathedral), Cervantes’ servant on the day the Don Quixote writer is arrested in Plaza San Francisco, and see the dodgy types who inhabit the Arenal’s river port in the 17th century.
Using geo-positioning, an iPhone and the headset with earphones, you listen to audio information and watch the movies (all available in English) for each spot, accompanied by the Past View guide – an experience which brings history to life as no book can. And will appeal to children, especially, far more than print.
The Metropol tour takes you up on top of the “Mushrooms”, Seville’s new architectural wonder, officially named Metropol Parasol, consisting of six vast fungi-shaped shades. On a 26m-high walkway, you watch a video reconstruction of Roman Seville – inspired by, rather than based on, fact. This is the best introduction to the city you can give to a screen-happy teenager.
Prices: Seville tour: 15 euros (price is same for adults and children).
Metropol tour: 5 euros, plus 1.40 euros entrance fee.
Combined price: 18 euros, plus 1.40 entrance fee.
Have you traveled in Spain with children? Tell us about your experience!