Even in the winter months the sunny vitamin D steadily falls down from the sky more than any Seattle rain ever could. Maybe this is what has long enchanted travelers from around the world. If not the sun, then maybe the impossibly blue sky, ocher-color palaces, or the vividly painted wall tiles that seem to bring a building to life. Seville is Spain’s fourth largest city, but runs like a tiny town. Famous for its tapas, oranges, and flamenco I visited in June 2017 and absolutely gushed about it to all my friends upon my return. The magic isn’t necessarily in the sights, the food, or the ease of being there but rather all of it combined. Not having accessibility battles for each attraction, local shop, transportation opportunity, or hotel really made the city even more attractive. Over Seville’s history it has passed through many Kingdom’s hands and the architecture serves as a visual history lesson. First the Romans, then the Muslims, and finally the Spanish, each layer stacked upon the other to create a rich cultural history. Travel there to visit the second oldest cathedral in the world, see where the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones is, roll along the river, and stay for the food and dance.
Like many places in Spain, Seville is an excellent location if you use a wheelchair or have limited mobility. The landscape is relatively flat, the walkways are well maintained, and many of the local businesses including restaurants, hotels, shopping fronts, and attractions allow those of us on wheels to just zip right in. That’s not to say that everything is perfect. I did find a pair of earrings and an adorable dress in a storefront that had a lip that was too high for me to get through. Luckily, people are so friendly and helpful that I was able to buy it from the sidewalk and walk away with my new threads.
People do a significant amount of walking here because the city is so easy to get around. In fact, there is very little parking in the city center. If you’re looking to park your car you can do it for relatively cheap on the outskirts, or pay handsomely for an underground parking garage while you are there. You likely will not want to drive much. That said, if you have limited mobility all of the walking could really fatigue you. There are a few great options to manage this:
- Can you ride a bike? I cannot but Seville has a great city bike rental program. They have 2500 bikes in over 250 different locations. Do you think you are a really fast rider? If you get to your destination in under 30 minutes it is free! (With a €12 weekly registration, sorry for the hype)
- Excellent rental companies will let you rent a scooter or a wheelchair for a few days or longer. Sometimes for as low as five euros a day. Check out these organizations that would be happy to help:
- Public transportation. The city’s metro network is all set for people with chairs, walkers, scooters, you name it. Every train station is equipped with lifts.
This city is incredibly accessible especially compared with a variety of other European destinations. I went there after spending a few days in Tangier, Morocco and it felt so good to have the freedom to ride wild and uninhibited.
Real Alcázar Palace and Gardens
Most architecture created in the 15th century was not created with wheelchair users in mind. However, the Royal Palace has really adapted itself well over time and is a fully accessible palace and garden. It still functions as one of the oldest European royal palaces that is still in use today. One of the most beautiful things about the palace itself is the way it has visibly adapted over time. It was initially settled by the Romans, and later used by the Visigoths. Through time you can see the blend of Muslim architecture and Gothic architecture that came together to makes stunning rooms. This unique design can only be found in small parts of Spain and Portugal.
Just because you may have limited mobility does not mean that you will have to miss out on anything at this location, ramps and lifts will get you to where you need to go. As a Game of Thrones fan I was pretty jazzed to walk around and imagine myself immersed in all the drama. There were quite a few scenes in season five shot there and it required the palace to shut down for about a month. If you ask me, it was well worth those few beautiful shots!
Bonus: there will likely be a long line here. It’s an incredibly popular attraction and well worth the wait and the €10 – 15 entrance fee. However, if you have a disability feel free to go to the front of the line and ask them what their policies are and how they would like you to go forward. More than likely they will let you straight in, and for free!
One of the many interesting things about this cathedral is that it was first a mosque. The Christian architects used the existing rectangular base and built up, up, up to add the extravagant height. Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See is the third-largest church in the world and unsurprisingly the construction lasted over a century. As the church elders were working with the architect to decide what the finished product would look like they are famously quoted as saying, ” Let us build a church so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it finished will think we are mad.” Its main dome was so large that it collapsed twice: once in 1511, and then again in 1888. The interior is very accessible and the best entrance is located in the south transept.
Tapas tapas bo bapas!
This is one of the things that Spain has really learned how to do right! Just like Americans have hotdogs at a ballgame, one of Spain’s favorite culinary pastimes is tapas and cocktails. These smaller portions of food make it perfect to order a variety to share and enjoy a taste of everything. I don’t think you can really go wrong with any place you stop at because the spirit behind tapas bar hopping is very serendipitous. There are more than 4000 tapas bars in the city! Keep in mind that people dine later in Spain, mostly due to the heat. Head downtown around eight and stroll through the picturesque city until you find a place that strikes your fancy and settle in for a few delicious bites and of course many delicious adult beverages!
The “keep Austin weird” part of Seville. The Triana district is famous for having its’ own resilient identity for being the old gypsy quarter of Seville that sits across the Guadalquivir river near the city’s main attractions. There is so much soul and pride here that it seeps from every little crack in the sidewalk to the spiritual hearts of the flamenco dancers.As you walk down the main drag, Calle San Jacinto, you may hear “mi ‘arma” called out to you by a sweet old woman who invites you into her shop. This term of affection is mainly used in Seville and is a genuine term of endearment equivalent to our “honey.” You will find excellent shoe stores, tapas, handmade ceramics, and the bustling square of Plaza del Altozano with the statue of famous bullfighter Juan Belmonte. If you’re ready to fall in love with the city, this is the place to start.
It’s deep and it’s real! The costumes, the stomping, the clapping, the facial expressions, and all the heart that goes into it makes this an absolute must see while you are here! Flamenco dancers express their deepest emotion with dance using body movement, facial expressions, kicking, and clapping. Sometimes the song and dance is intended to be romantic, or comforting, or just entertaining, but it is always an emotional style of dance.
There are a few ways to see a Flamenco show in Seville. A Tablaos show typically costs €30-€40, has the biggest venues, and includes highly choreographed extravaganzas of music and dance. There are five or six of these types of venues in Seville, the largest, Palacio Andaluz can seat around 400 guests.
If you’re interested in a smaller venue, something more authentic and intimate, head towards the cultural institutions – you will find many of them in the Triana neighborhood. These tickets will cost you between €10-€20 and will definitely leave you feeling exhilarated. There are many choices, and probably no wrong ones. The only mistake that you could make is not getting your tickets ahead of time. Make sure to call, or even better go to the venue and buy your ticket to make sure that the seating is accessible.
I particularly enjoyed the performance at Los Gallos. Known in town as one of the most authentic and longest running flamenco shows in Seville I knew I had to check it out. I was glad I did! I was also glad that I bought the ticket ahead of time and they knew that I would be coming with my wheelchair. When I arrived they had a special entrance for me, and a spot to sit where I didn’t have to navigate the crowds. Many of these places have tight seating! I left thoroughly impressed and in dire need of one of those little clapping percussion instruments that the ladies use.
A city worth your bucket list and definitely a return trip for me.