Visiting Seville on a Budget
Free – and its three variants in Spanish – is not a word synonymous with Seville, Spain’s most romantic city. While the city won’t burn a hole in your pocket with its reasonable prices for accommodation, food and entertainment, the capital of Spain’s southernmost reason still has a load of free activities to keep you occupied while visiting a metropolis where flamenco echoes through empty streets and bullfighters are carried out of the rings on shoulders. Just taking in the city’s clash of Moorish, Jewish and Gothic art and architecture is enough to make the trip.
Your first stop should be at the city’s tourism hub, located in the Laredo building on Plaza de San Francisco. Apart from providing free Internet access, the knowledegable workers will provide you with free maps, postcards and city discount cards, as well as advice on venturing outside of the city. If you’re keen on visiting Seville several times, a tourist card, valid for discounts all around the city, may be for you. Tourism website.
Take in Free Flamenco
Ever since the UNESCO declared flamenco – a gypsy art said to have taken on its modern form in Seville – an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity, flamenco has been infused into the lives of sevillanos and its visitors. Peñas flamencas, small bars dedicated to artists of years past, often put on free or discounted shows in small, dark locales, the guitar wailing as a dark-haired sevillana taps and claps her way across the stage.
La Carbonería – Seville’s landmark flamenco joint makes it into every guidebook for good reason: shows are free and nightly at 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. Still, the popularity of La Carbonería and its location in the heart of downtown means that the place is packed, the drinks are expensive and the dancers just sub-par.
Peña Hípica El Búcaro – At the back of this unassuming bar is a dim cavern of flamenco, lit by candles. Lesser-known artists tend to dance, sing and play guitar here, but the juerga continues long after the show is finished, and they’ll often invite you along. Shows are Fridays and Saturdays from 10:00 p.m.
T de Triana – This bar / flamenco haven features free shows on Tuesday and Thursday nights around 10:30 p.m. It’s location on Calle Betis makes it ideal for the start to a night on one of the city’s best-known nightlife spots. (Calle Betis, 20).
Seville has many museums that boast free entrance, though museums and monuments often have a day set aside for free entrances.
Museum of Intolerance / Castillo San Jorge – free everyday
Archivo de Indias – free everyday with appointment
Torre del Oro – free all day Tuesday
Fine Arts Museum – free all day Tuesday
Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo – Free Tuesdays after 6p.m.
Casa Pilatos – free Tuesdays 1p.m. – 5p.m.
Hospital de los Venerables – Free Sundays 4p.m. – close
Cathedral and Giralda – Free Sundays 2:30p.m. – 6p.m.
If you’re an EU citizen, your entrance to the museums at La Encarnación is always free, as is your entrance to Itálica, a Roman settlement outside the city.
If you’re a student under 26 with a valid ID card, you can enjoy discounted rates or free entrance at the Alcázar, Cathedral, Fine Arts Museum, Archaeological Museum and Arts and Customs Museum.
Lounge in one of the city’s expansive parks
From María Luisa to Alamillo to the banks of the Guadalquivir, Seville’s parks are a defense against the hot summers. Bring a picnic lunch for a cheap dining option, or come prepared for an afternoon siesta.
Visit Seville’s famed markets
Nowhere in Seville can you witness the way its people live than in its city markets. Old ladies jab you with their elbows to get through the fruit stand, their husbands having a morning anise in the bar. You’ll be shocked by the cuts of animals, the array of fish and the mounds of spices sold at each, and a gourmet edition is set to open early 2013 at the end of the Triana bridge. Most markets are open Monday – Saturday from 8a.m. until 2p.m. Likewise, there is a fine arts fair just in front of the Fine Arts Museum every Sunday morning, weather permitting.
Take advantage of the city’s new free wi-fi spots
Seville is a city straddling old and new. With the inception of the “Setas,” as they’re know to locals, has come a surge in boutiques, gastrobars and even wi-fi hotspots. While the system allows you to be connected for just 30 minutes, you’ll have access for free. These sites include the lightrail tram that snakes through the city center, Plaza Nueva, Plaza del Pan, Plaza de la Pescadería, Plaza Salvador, Plaza de la Encarnación, along with all McDonalds, Starbucks and many other restaurants. Just look for the wi-fi sticker in the window because, let’s face it, you’d rather spend your money elsewhere!
Wander the Exposition fairgrounds
Seville, for two brief periods in its long history, had the world’s attention when it hosted the Iberoamerican Festival in 1929 and again in 1992. Large portions of the city were dedicated to these projects.
In 1929, Seville became home to the Iberoamerican Fair, and event that brought together Latin- and South American countries in order to strengthen ties, most of which were Spanish colonies. Located on the southern end of the historic quarter in the gorgeous María Luisa Park, each country designed its own pabellón, or exhibition hall, crowned by the Plaza de España.
On the opposite side of the city in the Isla de la Cartuja, Spain again hosted an exposition designed to welcome the 21st century with over 100 countries in attendance. Preparations for the site included building several new bridges to span the Guadalquivir River and a monorail, and the site is reputed to be from where Columbus left for his journey to America. While it remains largely abandoned, the expansive area is worth a visit. Both sites are completely free.
Visit San Fernando Cemetery
While the idea of visiting a cemetery is a bit disconcerting, visiting Seville’s city cemetery is worth the visit for its beauty and peaceful respite from a bustling city. Inaugurated in 1852, the city’s most illustrious names have been lain to rest here, including bullfighters like Paquirri and flamenco singers, war heroes and criminals. The cemetery is open during daylight hours and on holidays, so it’s common to see burials and mourning loved ones, so silence and no photography is enforced. Take bus 10 from Ponce de León until you see the cemetery (1,40€ one-way).
Get lost in the city’s old quarters
It’s believed that Seville has the largest old city center in Europe, and its Moorish roots mean that everything in the district is cramped, chaotic and easy to get turned around in. Throwing your map back in your bag will allow you to find architectural details and interesting bars while witnessing daily life in the center of town.
Discover the city’s Roman roots
Seville is a city that has been conquered, reconquered and conquered again, creating a matrix of architectural and artistic legacy. Perhaps the Roman roots of the city are best preserved, as city decrees outlaws the destruction of ruins or artifacts. Such objects can be seen in the archaeological museum of María Luisa Park, but tourists can discover many of its ruins for free. The corner of Calle Mármoles and Calle Abades houses columns of a temple; in Plaza de la Pescadería, giant marble blocks preserve the ruins of a fish monger’s; and in Plaza de la Encarnación, visit gorgeous mosaics and old city walls that lie underneath the square (1,50€ for non-EU citizens). There are also ruins of a Roman aqueduct just outside the city center on Luis Montoto.
Visit one of the city’s dozens of churches
Seville is home to the most renowned Holy Week celebrations in Spain, a somber week that transforms the last days of Jesus Christ into life-sized floats that cramp the city center. While it’s free to watch, you can visit the floats the other 51 weeks of the year and relish in the city’s devotion at most churches and chapels. Only the Cathedral and San Salvador cost money, so even just popping in for the relief from the hot Andalusian sun is worthwhile. Don’t miss the venerable Macarena, or the teeny chapels under the Postigo Arch or the end of the Puente de Triana.
Enjoy views of the city center from Triana
On the opposite side of the city center sits Triana, the gypsy barrio seeped in lore. Watching the lights of the city go on from the Triana bridge or along Calle Betis affords tremendous views of the city.
Watch a Novillada
If you’re interested in experiencing a bullfight while in Spain, Seville’s Maestranza ring is a superb place to do so. While this famed plaza de toros hosts some of the big names in bullfighting, the late may and early June novilladas bring in young bullfighters looking to make a name for themselves. Seats in the sun are typically under 15€. Schedule available on the ring’s official website.
Take part in the Tapeo Culture
Like Granada, Seville’s tapas scene is a must when visiting, and visiting the free sites means you’ll work up an appetite. While very few eateries will give you more than some nuts or olives for free, Torero serves a few complimentary tapas with your drink (C/Argote de Molina, 21) at lunchtime. Budget hunters tend to chow down at Taberna Los Coloniales (C/Cristo de Brugos, 19) for big plates at a low cost. Bodega Las Columnas (C7 de Rodrigo Caro, 1) is another cheap option with plenty of charm, just out of the shadow of the striking Giralda minaret.
Upon receiving an offer to work at a radio broadcast center in Chicago, Cat Gaa turned it down and turned up at the Consulate of Spain. Five years and a daily craving for Cruzcampo later, she writes at Sunshine and Siestas about life and culture in Seville. Follow her on twitter and instagram at @sunshinesiestas .