When you’re only in town a few nights, it’s hard to know where to go and what’s a tourist-trap. Cat Gaa, who lives in Seville, breaks it down for you.
By Cat Gaa
Seville makes up a part of the Spanish tourism trifecta – many tourists choose classy Madrid, vanguard Barcelona and Southern Spain’s flamboyant capital when taking a trip to Iberia. Like any touristic destination, there are things to do – activities, excursions, visits – that end up on travelers’ lists but aren’t worth the time or money.
Honestly, it’s difficult to decide what’s not worth it or what’s overrated in Seville – just as its new tourism motto says, ‘We Love People,’ and there really is something for everyone in the city. Between world-class museums, architecture and a lively nightlife scene, there are loads of money-sucks and overrated options. Here are a few to avoid while in town:
Flamenco at a tablao
For my 20th birthday, a visiting friend bought us two tickets to a flamenco ‘tablao’ near the Guadalquivir River. A tablao is a sorry excuse for a dinner theatre where drinks and sometimes tapas are served, and these establishments in Seville will run you 70€ and not another Spaniard will be present save the dancers. Expecting an authentic introduction to flamenco, we got swindled.
To get as real a flamenco experience as possible, opt for a few morsels at a crowded bar before and then catch a show at a small bar that offers flamenco. Or, pay a bit more to see a professional dancer at a theatre. Another option is Casa de la Memoria on Calle Cuna, whose show is more authentic and wallet-friendly.
Flamenco at La Carboneria
Speaking of flamenco, many tourists end up at La Carbonería, a flamenco theatre that tops guidebook lists. While the venue is free to enter and the shows won’t cost you a cent, the flamenco is mediocre and the drinks are overpriced. What’s more, the dancers will literally stop dancing if anyone talks, then stare that person down until they’ve realized the dancing has stopped because of them. The hostile atmosphere for so-so flamenco is way overrated.
If you’re looking for a flamenco-bar combo, you can catch a performance at Casa Anselma in Triana, though the place gets packed and Anselma herself will ask why you haven’t got a drink in your hand.
Taking a taxi
Seville may have the largest medieval city center in Europe, but its’ extremely walkable – flat, pedestrian-friendly and lined with beautiful buildings. Why people choose to bus themselves around is beyond me, because taxis are expensive.
If possible, choose to walk or take the tram in Seville and pocket the extra euros.
Taking the touristic buses or boats
Like many big cities, Seville has several companies that run touristic buses through the city’s main sites with double decker buses, and there’s even a boat that goes up and down the Guadalquivir River with music that makes it sound like a Disney World ride.
While these buses aren’t terribly costly (17€ for the bus and 16€ for the boat), they are impersonal, slightly rushed and unnecessary. Seville is small enough to see the cluster of historical monuments by foot, and the river is a beautiful spot for a stroll or a drink. Do yourself a favor and skip it.
As kitschy and fun as it is, the immense popularity of this Holy Week bar means that the drinks are far from reasonably priced, matching those of Seville’s hottest discos. Located on Calle Boteros in the Alfalfa district, this bar pokes fun (or not) at the ever-present Catholic traditions of the city with large busts of saints, sorrowful background music and wafting incense. There’s a lighter version a bit further up the street on the corner of Cabezas del Rey Don Pedro.
Taking gifts from gypsies
Near the cathedral, you’ll see several gypsies sprigs of rosemary out to you, coaxing you to take them. Do so at your own risk – thought they’ll call them ‘regalos’ or gifts, as soon as you grab one, you’ll be asked to pay 10-15 euros, making a measly little plant a costly souvenir.
Extra Scoop: Many museums and sights have reduced admission or free days, and EU citizens can often get them any day of the week. Hospital de los Venerables, for example, is free on Sunday afternoons, netting you savings of about 5 euros. Stop by the tourism office to request a free guide to opening hours and free days of all of Seville’s sites.
Seville is a relatively cheap destination, especially when compared with the other big cities, and it’s best seen from the chair of a terrace bar in a lively plaza anyway. Talk with locals, do your research and plan a trip suited to what you’re interested in seeing and doing.
Cat Gaa left the skyscrapers of Chicago for the olive groves of Southern Spain six year ago, making her home in Seville. She often gets asked if she wants to take the touristic buses, though you’d think that all of the attendants would know her by now and that she’s a local. She raves and rants about Seville on her personal blog, Sunshine and Siestas.