Whether you want to experience the city from land or water, at a leisurely pace on foot or by bike, or even by a high-tech voyage into the past, there are many ways to see Seville. Long-term resident, journalist and occasional tour guide, Fiona Flores Watson of scribblerinseville.com has tested them out for you.
By Fiona Flores Watson
Seville is the perfect city for seeing by bike – in fact, it was recently voted one of the top five cities in the world for cycling: small, flat, with 120km of designated bike lanes – and sunny year-round, too! I tried the classic tours which follow a route visiting the main sites and monuments: Plaza Nueva and the Ayuntamiento, the Alcazar and Cathedral, then along the river by the Torre del Oro, over to Triana, and back into Maria Luisa Park and Plaza de España (the shade offered by the trees is much-needed by about midday in the hotter months). Bike tours generally leave at around 10am, take 2-3 hours and cover around 8-10km.
Bike – Sam Lister
The supremely affable Sam is just the ticket for an easy introduction to Seville’s rich, multi-layered history. Hailing from England, Sam is a fount of knowledge, great company, and has a tale for every building. Sam can also take bike groups to Santiponce near Seville, to see the ruins of Italica, the first Roman city outside Italy. Other tours he offers are walking and Segway, and tapas.
Best for: history buffs, and lovers of perfect English manners. Price: from 30 euros per person (including bike hire); maximum 8 in group. Minimum age: 8 years.
Electric bike – Elecmove
I’d never ridden an electric bike before I did my Elecmove tour, and they’re much more powerful than you’d expect. But once you get used to them – one spin of the pedals, and you’re whizzing off for a good 20 metres – they’re a great way to get around, with minimum effort involved (their top speed is 25km/h, though you won’t go that fast). My guide was Niek, a fun, enthusiastic Indonesian-Dutchman. He’s an excellent raconteur, good at building up dramatic pace, and clearly loves the city. Another route Elecmove offers is Cartuja Island (the Expo 92 site) and the riverside parks.
Best for: the slightly less energetic. Price: 35 euros per person (including bike hire); maximum 8 in group; private tours 50 euros per person. Minimum age: 13 years.
Walking is one of the best ways to see a city full of narrow, dog-legged lanes and hidden plazas like Seville. If you haven’t got a clued-up local with you, it’s easy to walk straight past some of the most fascinating hidden spots. It’s also the best way, obviously, to go if you’re imbibing cerveza or vino.
Walking – Not Just A Tourist
This wonderfully-named company takes visitors on less-well-beaten paths of the city. “The Alternative Tour” covers the bohemian Alameda and Macarena districts, including corrales de artesanos – shared courtyards with artisans’ studios and workspaces, while “Seville, a city of queens, nuns, prostitutes and witches” introduces visitors to the murkier, more colourful aspects of Seville’s past. On the “Rooftops Tour” you visit private houses and hotel roof terraces offering spectacular views; more themed routes are in the pipeline. One of NJAT’s partners, native Sevillano David, is a marine biologist, and offers Doñana Park visits too.
Best for: second-time visitors, and those who want to see the contemporary, creative side of Seville. Price: 15 euros per person (2 hours, includes one drink, reduced price for under-14s).
Tapas – Shawn Hennessey
Tapas are a way of life here in Seville, but with an estimated 3000 bars in the city, including a clutch of questionable-quality “gastrobars”, how do you know which ones to go to? Trust the expert, ditch the guidebook, and be taken to the finest establishments.
Originally from Canada, Shawn is Seville’s unofficial Queen of Tapas. After more than 20 years living here, this woman knows all gastronomic hotspots, from the most authentic tiled bodegas, to innovative, contemporary places offering delectable avant-garde dishes (rather than those vain pretenders which charge 6 euros for a dainty style-over-substance morsel). Shawn offers various versions: tapas tours visiting three locales; a four-hour gourmet route; tapas and market visits; and tapas and flamenco. Wine tastings can also be arranged.
Best for: those who want to eat well without research or risk. Prices on request; standard tapas tours last three hours; maximum 6 people.
Electric boat – Guadaluxe
Spain’s first-ever electric river-tour boat will whisk you smoothly down the Guadalquivir, with hardly a sound, zero emissions, and a clean eco-conscience. From the pick-up point at Muelle de la Muelas on Calle Betis (next to Puente San Telmo), you are taken past the Expo 1929 pavilions, the Torre del Oro, Triana and the riverside Seat of the Inquisition, five bridges, including Santiago Calatrava’s Alamillo Bridge, and the Expo 1992 site. The driver/guide Alberto’s commentary is delivered in a delightfully conversational, un-shouty way, so small and quiet is the boat. It’s a very relaxing and peaceful way to see the city from another angle. They can also collect or deliver at any of the other four new piers along the river by previous arrangement.
Best for: those who prefer a sedentary view of the city; the less able-bodied (they can accommodate one wheelchair). Price: 15 euros per person for one hour (children over 6 years, 8 euros; under 6s are free), or from 110 euros per hour for private use (maximum 11 passengers); light meals (ham, cheese, tortilla) can also be provided, 20 euros per person.
Another Seville tour which I highly recommend was mentioned in a previous article – Past View, shows alternative-reality recreations of the city as it was centuries ago, through special video-glasses.
Have you been on a tour in Seville? Tell us about it!