Spain's Cities: Seville, Valencia and Madrid

by Maritravel

Visitors to Spain can only touch on one or two of its marvellous places, but which ones to pick? Top of my list are Seville, Valencia and Madrid, seen here with photographs.

Always go for a city with interesting places nearby capable of being covered in a day. For instance, from Seville you can travel to Corboba, the fabulous Moorish city which like Seville is on the River Guadalquivir, from Madrid take the train to Toledo or Zaragoza, and from Valencia you can visit Malaga, famous Granada and the trendy Costa del Sol.

Plaza de Espana, Seville
Plaza de Espana, Seville
Mari Nicholson
Little Senoritas Dressed for the Parade
Little Senoritas Dressed for the Parade
Mari Nicholson


The Easter Parade in Seville is the perfect way to enjoy the Spanish experience

My all time favourite because it has that very special Andalucian atmosphere, the people are friendly, and above all they love life.  Go when the warm evenings tempt everyone outdoors and live the tapas culture, ambling from bar to bar and eating small portions (un ratión) of delicious food with a glass of wine or the local manzanilla.  There is even a verb for it in Spanish, to tapear.

Entrance to Alcazar

The old centre of Seville, the Barrio Santa Cruz, is a place of flower-filled courtyards and narrow streets just made for wandering. Barrio Santa CruzToo narrow for traffic, the lanes and squares of the Barrio Santa Cruz surrounded by deep pink and ochre houses, are heady with the scent of orange blossom during the season and when the trees are heavy with the fruit, it is enchanting.Cheese seller in Seville

In this area you’ll find the city’s most famous sights: its great cathedral and the Giralda, the Moorish tower.  Inside it is huge, so huge that you can feel quite alone despite the other visitors to whom the tomb of Christopher Columbus is a focal point. By The Cathedral, SevilleThe Giralda can be very busy, but don’t let that put you off because the view from the top over the city’s famous coloured tiled roofs is worth it. 

Take a ride on a boat down the Guadalquivir River and see the city from another angle. Torre del Oro on the Quadalquiver River Calming and serene, this is one of Seville’s best tours.  The Guadalquivir is also used for local sportsAfter a morning’s sight-seeing on foot, there is no better way to relax than cruising down the river in a comfortable seat with a hat tilted against the sun while listening to a guide describing the passing scenery.Guadalquivir with Triana Bridge

Don’t miss: The Bullring (think Carmen), Bullring, SevillePlaza de Espaῇa, the Alcazar, the Triana district, and the 16th century Casa de Pilatos, with fountains in every ante room.  But walking around is the best way to absorb this intoxicating city: you’ll find your own special places hidden from view.  Al Fresco eating in SevilleCastle of St. George on Triana Bridge




If you are there for a week or so and have time to go out of town, don’t miss Cordoba, the magnificent Moorish city just a short train-ride away.  La Mezquita in CordobaA day trip will enable you to get around it quite well and it will be one of the highlights of your stay in Andalucia, trust me. 

Another good day trip is to the sherry city of Jerez where you can sample the golden nectar at several of the sherry houses that offer tastings and guided tours.  View of Seville from the Giralda

Best thing in Seville:  the already mentioned tapas-grazing in the barrio with the sound of Flamenco  echoing down the lanes.

Madrid, Capital city of Spain

Where nothing starts before 11 p.m.

Madrid is Spain’s capital city and Europe’s highest capital at 2,000 feet above sea level with gracious avenues, impressive architecture, fountains and squares bisected by streets lined with elegant shops and designer boutiques.  It is a city for night-lovers as it comes alive around midnight.  No one eats before ten o’clock and for a lot of Madrileῇos it can be midnight before they think of supper.   

The symbolic central square of Spain is the Puerto del Sol where everyone eventually ends up.  Plaza Mayor, MadridFrom there is only a short distance to the Plaza Mayor where underneath the famous arches, are restaurants and cafes, many famous as the haunt of bullfighters.  In fact the square once hosted bullfights and public executions but is now the place where locals meet to eat and drink. Famous Bar in Madrid frequented by Bullfighters Here you will find the famous bars selling Jamón Serrano, the massive joints hanging high up above the counters. 

Student Procession in MadridArt lovers are well catered for in Madrid.  Velazquex, Goya, El Greco and Hieronumous Bosch are  especially featured in the Prado while the Reina Sofia has an eclectic mix of old and new.  The Reina Sofia however, has possibly the most famous of Picasso’s painting, Guernica, and if for nothing else, a visit to see this makes it well worthwhile.  The Thyssen-Bornemisza gallery features Dutch masters to German expressionists.

Out of town and just 45 miles south is Toledo, a  town long associated with El Greco, and easily reached by train (book ticket the day before).  JamonIt is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a walk from the station affords magnificent views of the ochre coloured town with its imperious 13th-century cathedral.  Craft shops, artist studios, galleries, restaurants and bars crowd the narrow medieval streets and it can be tempting to remain longer than planned.

Beach and Promenade at Valencia
Beach and Promenade at Valencia
Mari Nicholson

Valencia - Rice fields, beaches and Ultra-modern City of Arts & Sciences

The contrast between old and new is startling but both are typically Valencian

It used to be the city that attracted only other Spaniards but nowadays Valencia attracts a wide variety of tourists from beach-lovers who can’t believe the size of the beach within walking distance of the city’s hotels, and architects and architectural students who come to admire the stunning City of Arts & Sciences designed by Santiago Calartrava.  This wondrous city park of museum, aquarium, opera house and cinema is located just outside the city on a regular bus route but within walking distance for those who don’t mind the distance.  But it indoor pursuits are not to your taste, just wandering around the complex is experience enough.City of Arts 7 Sciences, Valencia

City of Arts & Sciences, ValenciaThe famous Las Fallas, a festival of fire-raising when giant papier-mache sculptures are set alight in the city, takes place in March (check dates with the tourist board) and attracts thousands of visitors from both Spain and abroad.  It is very special, very Spanish, and the festival is well worth the trip to Valencia.Wide beaches at Valencia

Cocktails on the Beach at ValenciaValencia’s sandy beaches with a delightful promenade running alongside are incredibly wide.  Lined by restaurants the area is a favourite with the locals themselves and if you want a table at the week-end booking may be necessary.  The famous Valencia Paella as served in La Pepica restaurant The local dish of paella is best tried here, washed down with a bottle of San Miguel or a glass of the local wine.  Boat rides are available from the port and if you want to have a look at the coastline this is about the best way to do it. 

The old city is dominated by The Cathedral and the Bullring which is nearby. Part Bullring Park Cathedral  The cathedral while not in the same class as that of Seville, is in many ways more approachable being slightly smaller.  Throughout the old town area you will find buildings with curious inscriptions, gargoyles, beautiful doors and gates – especially The Silk House – and a walk through the narrow streets behind the cathedral will yield great photo opportunities. Gargoyle on Silk Exchange building The craft market which takes place in the streets around the cathedral is a great place to buy locally made terracotta dishes and the painted Valencian plates.Street Market Pottery  And if it’s fresh food you are after, The Mercado Central is one of Europe’s oldest markets and is a hymn to local food.  Red Prawns, a speciality in Valencia

Trips to take from Valencia:  To Gandia, home of the Borgias, Alicante and Benidorm the two best known resorts in Spain, but nearer to the city is Albufera with its distinctive architecture and roofed houses somewhat reminiscent of those in Madeira.

Updated: 01/22/2014, Maritravel
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Maritravel on 05/13/2015

Nice to hear from you again Mira. Have a look.out for Ballet Flamenco which tours regularly and although a theatre performance has the heart and soul of real flamenco.

Mira on 05/12/2015

Nice article. I enjoyed your comments and photos. Like Kathleen, I would love to go to a flamenco bar in Spain.

Maritravel on 01/20/2014

Ro Dustytoes. Yes, my images. Thank you for your comments. I love photography although I often take rubbish pictures. I'm not good at watching for the right moment and often seem to lean to one side!

dustytoes on 01/20/2014

Are these images yours? They are wonderful. I've never been to Spain, but it looks so interesting. Great page!

Maritravel on 01/20/2014

Glad you love Seville as much as I do. They had an 'Indian Summer' there last November and the whole city was on virtual shut-down as they all piled into the streets at night to enjoy the bonus of extra hours of sunshine and warmth. I actually queued to find a seat at the tapas street near the cathedral.

KathleenDuffy on 01/20/2014

Loved this article - and the photos are wonderful! I really love Seville - I remember going to the old Jewish area and seeing some amazing flamenco in a courtyard under the stars. In another life I will be born in Seville! :)

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