OFF THE BEATEN PATH SEVILLE
When people contact us about our Barcelona tours, we are often asked if we know similar companies in other areas of Spain, as most of the time travelers don’t just come to Barcelona but also plan to visit at least one other important city. This is why having the right contacts is so important for us.
Madrid, the Basque Country and Andalusia are the most requested areas, and while we already knew Gemma in Madrid and Aitor in the Basque Country, we hadn’t yet found someone to recommend in the South of Spain… Until today!
So we are truly thrilled to introduce you Francesco from Seville, who like us specializes in private tours, is highly rated on Tripadvisor and offers a variety of itineraries including sightseeing, food tours (tapas & markets), handicrafts shopping, day trips and services for cruisers. Francesco and his team can also organize tours in Cordoba and Granada, the other jewels of Andalusia. And what better way to get to start getting to know him than listening to some of his favorite suggestions?
These are Francesco’s recommendations to visit Seville in a unique way:
Rooftop and Tower of St. Mary’s Cathedral
Seville’s Saint Mary Cathedral is the Unesco Spanish site where everything is super-sized: sarcophagus, altar pieces, relics holders, paintings, ceilings, organs, arks, its three-hundred feet bell tower, the giant pillars. It is a must-visit! The diversity of the architectural styles in the cathedral, the third largest church in Europe and the biggest Gothic cathedral of the world, could be better appreciated from the top of the Giralda belltower and especially from the roof top guided walk. Try to access the Cathedral at the beginning of the visiting schedule (11:30 AM the weekdays and 2:30 PM on Sundays) and climb the thirty-five tower ramps before it gets crowded. The ramps seem endless, but they are easy to walk and at the top there are just seventeen steps and you’ve made it to the top. It will be well worth the effort, as you will be greeted by one of the best views in southern Spain. After you visited the tower, you may continue your tour inside the church. The way to access quickly and skip the line is to book the admissions in advance or to enter with a tour guide. What is a real off the beaten path visit is its rooftop. Only thirty people are admitted per turn. The tickets should be purchased at least one month ahead and the visit to the rooftop + bell tower + cathedral lasts three hours.
Private flamenco dance lesson
Flamenco was originated in Andalusia. What is Flamenco for us? It’s the air we breathe here, it’s our lives, our sun and our traditions. A good flamenco show is another must-see of Seville, the world capital of this form of art that involves dance, guitar, drums, clapping, castanets, singing and beautiful gypsy dresses. What makes this experience unique is to “wear the dancer’s shoes” for one hour: this means trying and learn some basics about the music and steps with a private teacher (an artist) dedicated to you and later watch her dance on the stage. You will start to see Flamenco from a different perspective and will understand its power more deeply. On top of this, you and your friends/ family/ partner will find this activity so much fun for it involves your body, hands and feet; the more people you are (well, I mean your party not too many) and the more you enjoy it. Class will start on how to stand, thus some easy set of steps, and the rest depends on your ability or will to learn. If you wish to connect even more with the spirit of Flamenco and do it a bit more seriously, you may opt for having a singer and guitarist joining the class and perform for you while you dance.
Tapas at Mercado de la Calle Feria (and private cooking class)
Go to the calle Feria, the main street of famous Macarena neighborhood, famed but off the beaten path. Right besides the church, you will find the mercado cubierto (local farmers marketplace) and a few stalls that serve tapas. Start with some different kinds of big croquettes that my friend Maria De Mora makes at home and sells there. You will be amazed by the variety of flavors that a croquette can offer: spinach, puchero (meat stew), codfish, mushrooms and more. If you’re fond of Iberian cured ham, Seville is its home and you could buy the supreme hand sliced ham at one third the price of restaurants or tapas bars. The atmosphere is familiar, lively, with children and families making their daily purchase. You may visit El Mercado de la Calle Feria rain or shine, as it’s covered by a big roof. After this, if you wish to learn to cook some of the best Andalusian and Sevillian dishes, we suggest a cooking class based on fresh organic season food. Where? The best place is always a local’s home! Ask your guide and you will bring home new skills and a great experience.
Everybody likes to have a beautiful and comfortable house. In Seville, all traditional houses have a inner court called the patio. There are thousands in the old town, I would say that 50% of the city is hidden to the tourists, for it is located beyond the walls of the houses. Don’t be misguided by the narrowness of Seville old streets and small squares: there are beautiful big spaces waiting to be discovered. All those patios are private, of course. The most beautiful of them belong to the XVI century and only are accessible on certain days of the week, other are known by few guides only. Big groups are never allowed in there. If you have little time in hand, tour the patios of the palace houses of Lebrija, Dueñas, Pilatos and Alcazar royal palace, which are open to the public upon paying admission of between five and ten Euro each. If you intend to indulge more and discover where people really live, then tour the city with someone that knows its secrets and feel the pleasure of the treasure hunt!
Hidden gems out of town
If you have more than one day, I suggest that you drive out of town and visit the less known, but surprising sites located within forty-five minutes drive from Seville:
- The impressive Roman ruins of the ancient city of Italica with its visitable circus (amphitheater) and theater where you could easily imagine gladiators and beasts.
- The natural park of Doñana and the wetlands, which constitutes the biggest National park of Europe; to foodies we recommend to try the local specialty, the risotto with red American crab or risotto with duck meat.
- An unforgettable experience for you may be a ride on the air balloon over the wetlands because the branches of Guadalquivir river form incredible patterns through the flat landscape of the natural park and the only way to enjoy it is from the sky.
- Drive to the town of Carmona and walk its romantic alleys and squares, after which you may sit at the terrace of Parador hotel to sample our coffee while admiring the patterns of the cultivated farmland plain at the foot of the Carmona hill.
- If you love biking, get a rental bicycle and do the Via Verde (Spanish version of the greenways) from the station of Coripe, under the sharp sight of the vultures and surrounded by a relaxing green landscape spotted by old big holm oaks trees.
Francesco Soriquez was born and raised in Italy where he lived for 20 years in his mother’s land. Despite having a scientific background, he spent 10 years escorting groups to the Caribbean and Asia, to finally settle down in Seville (his father’s hometown) where he’s been guiding private tours until today. He lives in the picturesque neighborhood of Triana, home to Flamenco and Sevillian workshops of pottery and ceramic. His little company The Magic of Seville Tours serves private travelers in English, Italian, Spanish, German, French, Russian, Polish and Czech.