Rick Steves' Europe: Episode # 313
In the flamboyant city of Carmen and Don Juan, bullfighting is still politically correct and girls dream of growing up to become flamenco dancers. Sevilla has soul — and we feel it in its lacy Moorish palace, massive cathedral, labyrinthine Jewish quarter, and people-filled streets.
- Read the script from the show.
Los Gallos gives nightly two-hour shows (arrive 30 min early for best seats, Plaza de Santa Cruz 11, tel. 954-216-981). El Arenal also does a good show (near bullring at Calle Rodo 7, tel. 954-216-492). El Patio Sevillano is more of a variety show (next to bullring at Paseo de Cristobal Colón, tel. 954-214-120). El Arenal may have a slight edge on talent, but Los Gallos has a cozier setting, with cushy rather than hard chairs — and it's cheaper.
Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus (House for the Memory of Al-Andalus) offers more of an intimate concert with a smaller cast and more classic solos. In an alcohol-free atmosphere, tourists sit on folding chairs circling a small stage for shows featuring flamenco, Sephardic, or other Andalusian music, and there's exhibits on Sephardic and Muslim art and musical instruments (arrive 45 min early for best seats, Ximénez Enciso 28, in Barrio de Santa Cruz, next to Hotel Alcántara, tel. 954-560-670, email@example.com).
Impromptu flamenco still erupts spontaneously in bars throughout the old town after midnight. Just follow your ears as you wander down Calle Betis, leading off Plaza de Cuba across the bridge. The Lo Nuestro and Rejoneo bars are local favorites (at Calle Betis 31A and 31B). For flamenco music without dancing, consider La Carbonería Bar (near Plaza Santa Maria, find Hotel Fernando III, the side alley Cespedes deadends at Levies, head left to unsigned door at Levies 18).
Concepción takes small groups on several worthwhile English-language-only walks (tel. 902-158-226, mobile 616-501-100).
Originally a 10th-century palace built for the governors of the local Moorish state, this still functions as a royal palace...the oldest still in use in Europe. What you see today is an extensive 14th-century rebuild, done by Moorish workmen for a Christian ruler (tel. 954-502-323). Concepción Delgado also offers a tour here.
This is the third-largest church in Europe (after the Vatican's St. Peter's and London's St. Paul's) and the largest Gothic church anywhere (tel. 954-214-971). Concepción Delgado also offers a tour here.
Basílica de la Macarena
Sevilla's Holy Week celebrations are Spain's grandest. During the week leading up to Easter, the city is packed with pilgrims witnessing 50 processions carrying about 100 religious floats. Get a feel for this event by visiting Basílica de la Macarena to see the two most impressive floats and the darling of Semana Santa, the Weeping Virgin (tel. 954-901-800).
Museo de Bellas Artes
Sevilla's passion for religious art is preserved and displayed in its Museum of Fine Art — the Museo de Bellas Artes. While most Americans go for El Greco, Goya and Velázquez (not a forte of this collection), this museum gives a fine look at the other, less-appreciated Spanish masters — Zurbarán and Murillo. Rather than exhausting, the museum is pleasantly enjoyable (Pasarela de la Cartuja, Plaza Museo 9, tel. 954-220-790).
The April Fair
For seven days each April (starting two weeks after Easter), Sevilla packs into its vast fairgrounds for a grand party. Horses clog the streets in an endless parade until about 20:00 when they clear out and the street fills with exuberant locals. The party goes for literally 24 hours a day for the entire week. The city's entire fleet of taxis (who'll try to charge double) and buses seems dedicated to shuttling people from downtown to the fairgrounds. You may be better off hiking: from the Golden Tower, cross the San Telmo bridge to Plaza Cuba and hike down Calle Asunción. You'll see the towering gate to the fairground in the distance; just follow the crowds (no admission charge).