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After his recent adventure to southern Spain, TPG Points & Miles Editor Peter Rothbart shares his list of reasons why a trip to Seville should be on your bucket list.
My ideal vacation includes a lot of wandering on foot, a luxurious crash pad, some dashes of history and culture, a steady flow of amazing local cuisine and hopefully a memorable mountain to climb or swimming hole to dive into. The four days I spent in Seville last month showed me that the city and the surrounding region has all of that in abundance.
In case you need convincing, here are six reasons why I loved my first visit to Seville:
This Category 6 Starwood property is part of the Luxury Hotels Collection, and fits the bill perfectly. Situated within easy walking distance to major attractions like the Royal Alcázar, the Plaza de España and the rest of Seville’s bustling center, the hotel offers a lavish spot to unwind and cool down after exploring the city.
Your stay there won’t be cheap — rooms begin at about €200 ($225) or 20,000 Starpoints — but you get what you pay for. The hotel has a stately elegance that can’t be faked. Between the comfortable room, the delicious buffet breakfast and a few dips in the pool, the night I spent there was thoroughly enjoyable. Check out my recent review for more info.
2. The Royal Alcázar Gardens
This attraction is really touristy, but people line up to see it for good reason. I wasn’t as impressed with most of the Alcázar itself, but the outdoor portion was exquisite. As a Game of Thrones fan, I was pretty excited to explore one of the current season’s shooting locations, but even if you’re not into fantasy television, you can indulge in fantasies of being royalty while you stroll around the beautiful, impeccably manicured gardens that surround the former palace. You’ll find an expanse of pleasant walkways, fountains, a hedge labyrinth and no shortage of places to sit and enjoy the scenery.
Tickets are about €10-15 (roughly $11-17), depending on how much of the estate you want to see. Buy in advance to avoid the long (unshaded) lines that regularly form at the gate. Otherwise, it’s less crowded in the afternoon when the sun is high.
3. The Neighborhoods
If you want to venture beyond the crowded, touristy central district, there are plenty of other areas worth exploring. Cross the Guadalquivir River into Triana and meander through this lively, artsy neighborhood full of cobbled streets, seedy bingo halls and impeccable tapas. There’s no shortage of beverages to be found if you visit on a hot afternoon, and both the main strip of Calle San Jacinto and the riverbank along Calle Betis are great spots for an evening stroll. If you’re lucky, you might even find an impromptu flamenco show.
The more northerly neighborhoods of La Macarena and San Vicente (among others) are a bit quieter, and offer a more accurate glimpse into the Sevillian lifestyle. Head north or northwest from the iconic Las Setas to find quirky shops, shaded patios and plenty of drinking opportunities. The food is cheap and the locals are friendly, so take time to mingle.
4. The Markets
If you want to sample Sevillian cuisine, head to any of the city’s food markets, where you’ll find an assortment of fresh raw ingredients and mouthwatering prepared dishes to rouse your curiosity and quell your appetite.
The Mercado de Triana (at the west end of the Triana bridge) specializes in produce, meats, cheeses and baked goods, while the nearby Mercado Lonja del Barranco offers a mouthwatering selection of tapas, entrées and desserts at reasonable prices. The Mercado de la Calle Feria (in La Macarena) is a hybrid of the two, with a twist of flea market thrown in for good measure. Whether you’re hungry, thirsty or just browsing, all are good spots to pass the time.
5. Sevici Public Bike Rentals
Public bicycles are gaining popularity, and Seville has done an excellent job making its own program, Sevici, both easily accessible and very affordable. Parking stations are conveniently distributed throughout the city, so you never have to look far to pick up (or drop off) a ride. A one-week membership only costs about €13 ($14.65), though you’ll need to authorize a €150 ($170) deposit that’s fully returned so long as your bike is undamaged. The first 30 minutes are free for each rental, and that’s generally plenty of time to make it from one spot to another within the city. For longer rides the next hour is about €1 ($1.10), and you’ll pay about €2 ($2.25) per hour beyond that.
Seville isn’t known for its smoothly paved streets, so expect a few bumps, especially near the city center. For a fairly easy, scenic ride, check out the pedestrian walkway along the east side of the Guadalquivir River. The city has a surprisingly large network of bike lanes, but if you expect to be riding in traffic, please get yourself a helmet!
6. The Gateway to Andalucía
Okay, this is bending the rules a bit, but one thing I personally loved about Seville was how easily and affordably I could explore the rest of Andalucía. By train, bus or car, you’re within a few hours of the ancient cities of Córdoba, Cádiz and Granada, the beautiful mountainous White Towns (including Zahara, Ronda and others), and the stunning Costa Del Sol. If the mood should hit you, Seville is also not far from Algeciras, where you can catch a ferry to Morocco and take your adventure intercontinental.
Seville is incredible, but I highly recommend setting aside some time to travel beyond the city limits, as the rest of the region has a lot to offer. For more info, check out TPG International Contributor Lori Zaino’s post on Seville and other Andalucían destinations.
What do you love most about Seville (or if you’ve never been, what are you most eager to see)? While Citi announced some negative changes to this card back in July — including a lower sign-up bonus, the elimination of Admirals Club access and the end of the free rounds of golf benefit — one of its most valuable perks still remains, which is the 4th Night Free perk. This benefit alone can save you thousands of dollars a year if you use it to its full advantage.