The Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza is a very large bullring in Seville, Spain. Seating 12,000 spectators, it is one of the oldest and most famous bullfighting rings in Spain as well as the world. Construction began on the stadium in 1749 and the highlight of the bullring is the “prince’s box”, which has ornate arches and columns and was exclusively reserved for the Spanish Royal Family. It is still an active bullfighting ring that has bullfights from March/April until September. Certainly there are passionate feelings about bullfighting, its cruelty as well as its cultural significance. The history and architectural design of the bullring make it worthwhile to visit regardless of your opinion of bullfighting.
We were in Spain in November, so we did not have an opportunity to go to an actual bullfight, but the bullring offers daily tours that allow you to see the inside of the ring as well as visit the bullfighting museum. The museum is very interesting as it contains paintings of bullfighting, famous matadors or bullfighters, as well as matador costumes, and even the heads of a couple of very special bulls that fought in bullfights. The bullfighting ring is actually one of the most visited attractions in the city of Seville. If you decide to take the tour, you should plan on about an hour at the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza.
When visiting Seville in Spain, the Catredal de Santa Maria de la Sede, better known as the Seville Cathedral, will certainly be one of the top locations on your itinerary. It is certainly a beautiful, gothic cathedral and is one of the largest churches in the world. Just walking around and through the church is certainly worth spending an hour or two at the cathedral, but going to the top of the Giralda, or bell tower, should absolutely be part of your visit. The views of the city of Seville from the cathedral’s bell tower are absolutely stunning.
As you approach the cathedral, you will likely be approached by gypsy women offering you bundles of herbs or flowers. If you accept them, you will immediately be expected to give them money and they can be quite aggressive, so we avoided them. We have also heard that their can be a lot of pickpockets in the area, but we didn’t have any issues during our visit to Seville. Because it such a popular tourist location, another thing that you will find are horse-drawn carriages that will take you on tours of the city. We did take one tour at the end of our first day and it was interesting for many different reasons.
Standing at the viewing platform of the Giralda, the views of Seville are amazing. You get wonderful views of the Alcázar Palace, which is next to the cathedral, and is also a place that you should visit after spending time at the cathedral. The winding, narrow streets of Seville spread out before you from the height of the bell tower. The Guadalquivir river can also be seen off in the distance.
It is hard to miss the cathedral and the bell tower as you enter Seville. As with most gothic cathedrals, the façades around the doors are quite impressive and beautiful. After spending time at the Seville Cathedral, be sure to head into the Old Jewish Quarter, wandering the narrow streets, and shopping at the many local stores that are located there. Seville is certainly a wonderful city and seeing the cathedral will surely be one of the highlights of any visit.
There are so many wonderful places to see in Southern Spain, so we have put together what we considered to be an ideal itinerary for visiting the region. We rented a car for the 2 weeks that we spent there, which is ideal as it is easy to get around and the highways are not very busy. Although we stayed at one central location so that we didn’t have to continuously pack and unpack, it could easily be done by going to each place individually.
Granada – You will want at least 2 days in Granada with the highlight of city being the Alhambra Palace. There are wonderful restaurants and plenty of quaint hotels to choose from. Situated near the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains, the city has breathtaking views. Although we only spent a couple of days in Granada, it is certainly worthy of more time if you have it available.
Malaga – We flew into this city and then immediately drove to our home-base in Estepona, but we made sure to come back and spend a day in the city later. You can also catch a high-speed train to Madrid if you want to see something other than Southern Spain. Sitting on the coast of the Mediterranean with a history that stretches back almost 3,000 years, it is certainly worth at least a couple of days during your time in the region. There are also several museums that are worth visiting in addition to the many sights around the city.
Marbella and Estepona – Basically the Spanish Riviera on the Costa Del Sol, you could easily spend two weeks just enjoying the beach, water activities, shopping, resorts, and award-winning restaurants. We stayed in Estepona, so after every day trip, we would return back to watch the sun set over the Mediterranean. Not a bad way to end a busy day of sightseeing. Even if you can’t spend a couple of weeks in these resort towns, you should at least plan on a couple of days to enjoy the beautiful beaches and eat some fresh seafood.
Benahavís – With only a single road that leads to this town in the mountains, it is a food lovers paradise. Even if you don’t spend a full day in the town, it is certainly worth visiting if you are in the Marbella area. It is quintessential Spain with a truly relaxed atmosphere and some of the best restaurants and wine that we had during our time in Spain.
Ronda – The bridge that spans the canyon is worth seeing from both above as well as below. There is also the oldest bullfighting ring in Spain within the city and there is a unique and historical bullfight that takes place in Ronda once a year. While in the area, it is certainly worthwhile to visit one of the many vineyards and olive farms for a tasting. We spent a day in Ronda and felt that we were able to get a true sense of the city, but you could certainly spend more time if you have it available.
Tangiers, Morocco – Although not in Spain, we would highly recommend taking a ferry across the Strait of Gibraltar to see this historic city. Being at the crossroads from Africa into Europe, Tangiers is a fascinating city with a cultural blend that is unique to Northern Africa. We hired a private tour guide so that we had transportation to get outside of the city, but it certainly isn’t necessary. Although we only spent a single day in Morocco, we would recommend getting a hotel and at least spending 2 days if your travels allow.
Gibraltar – Just seeing the Rock of Gibraltar and the fortress is worth making this part of your travel plans. Given that it is part of the United Kingdom, walking the streets of Gibraltar will make you feel like you are walking a street somewhere in England with all of the pubs, British flags, and fish and chips vendors. A day in the city is enough to take the tram up to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar to see the amazing views as well as to walk through the city itself.
Seville – As the capital of Andalusia, it is certainly a highlight of any trip to Southern Spain. To truly get a sense of everything that this historic city has to offer, you will want to spend at least 3 days in Seville. With its historic cathedral, old town, Jewish quarter, and museums, there is much to see in the city. If you do drive to Seville, the narrow streets can be difficult to navigate. Be sure to enjoy some Iberico ham while you are in the city as it is truly delicious.
We certainly enjoyed our full two week adventure in Southern Spain and would highly recommend it to anyone traveling there. We visiting during November, which turned out to be ideal as far as temperatures go, but if you want to spend more time on the beach, then you should consider summer. If you do go during summer, expect the coast to be packed with visitors as many people from across Europe head to the beaches and resorts in the area.