I have always wanted to go to Spain, something about the music, the street dancing, the sangria and the warm people has always drawn me to that place. So when I started my annual “where to go for my birthday” research and noticed the relatively low fares from DC to Madrid, it was on.
We took an Air Lingus direct flight from Washington to Madrid - highly recommend flying into Madrid because many US cities have direct flights and it's easy to take a train from there to many of the major cities.
In Madrid, we took a cab to the train station and got on the fast AVE train to Seville. I have done my fair share of train travel in Europe but have honestly never been on such a nice clean train.
Travelling at speeds up to 300 km/hour the AVE is smooth and elegant and your ticket, even in coach, includes a drink and snacks. Chris of course did not want to miss the chance to start the journey with a cervesa (beer) and after several olive plates we all took a 2-hour nap and were in Seville in no time.
I had looked at a ton of hotel options for this trip and finally settled on renting a 1-bedroom apartment right in bario Santa Cruz – the charming maze of little streets, alleys and flowery court yards fascinated me.
By the time we got to the building, Victor, who did not get much sleep during the flight as he tried to play all the available games on the little personal TV monitor, was starting to get tired and cranky. So we met the manager, got our keys and crashed inside. Here is Victor in front of our apartment building:
Our apartment was tiny (literally smaller than our living room at home) and had a miniscule kitchen with a pull-out sofa and a separate bedroom with a double bed. It did have an awesome rooftop deck though, from which you could see the entire city.
It was located in one of the typical old-style courtyard buildings which, come to find out, were not as romantic as I thought. Most windows looked into other people’s houses and the courtyard echoed each time Victor ran through it. But we did not plan on spending a ton of time there so it was fine. My recommendation for those visiting Seville with kids is to stay in an apartment if you can find a reasonably-priced one in Santa Cruz or the town center. Most of the hotels we visited were very small, had single beds ans tiny rooms. The larger more corporate-style ones were away from the historic center and would require a lot of travel.
After a few hours of napping it was time to explore the city. First stop – the famous Cathedral. Our apartment was only a 10 min walk to the main city square and by that time it was already around 4 pm so the city was coming to life with lots of people out on the streets.
The line for the Cathedral was not very long and the inside was gorgeous. There are many individual chambers dedicated to various saints and lot of beautifully painted nooks and crannies to explore. We could have spent hours inside but of course Victor got bored after about 30 minutes so we decided to have an adventure and climb to the top of the bell tower. It is a long way up (I believe 30+ floors) but it’s a ramp and not stairs so it’s manageable even with little kids or strollers.
It is quite crowded in both directions but there are amazing views from many view points along the way. Victor loved the climb up and was excited to reach the top by himself.
When we got to the top we sat down to catch our breath when all of a sudden all the bells started ringing (apparently every hour on the hour, we were told) – this was literally the highlight of the trip for Victor and throughout the entire trip he was fascinated by the bells ringing throughout the city, day and night.
Seville with kids:
1) Seville is a very walkable city – both locals and tourists walk everywhere, distances in the tourist part of town are not very long and there is lots to see everywhere. Actually some of the most interesting things you will see will be off the guidebooks.
2) Travels with kids of any age seems really easy and kids are well accepted everywhere. You see kids of all ages including babies late at night, as late as midnight. Strollers can do anywhere including churches though high chairs are not abundant. However, kids are welcomed in restaurants. Be aware though that in some restaurants tapas are only available if you sit at the bar and I did not see any little kids doing that.
3) If you go there for a week or less it is not worth trying to adjust to the local time zone. We woke up around 11 am each day and seemed like the cafes and restaurants did not open until noon anyway. We also did not go to bed until at least midnight and the central area of town, including most of the restaurants were still open at that time.
Things my son found most fascinating:
- Ice cream – there are ice cream vendors on pretty much every street corner and the variety of ice cream was amazing. We made an adventure our of tasting as many kinds as possible each day. At one point Victor had 4-5 ice creams per day
- - Bell towers and churches – not something you see in the US and a fascinating sight and sound for kids of many ages. There are so many churches in Seville that you hear bells every 15-30 minutes.
- - Horse Carriage rides – few US cities offer those and the ones in Seville are quire romantic and a good way to see the touristy part of town
- - The doves in front of the American Pavilion in Park Maria Luisa – literally hundreds of them who are not afraid to land on people’s heads, hands and shoulders. If you bring some food they will be all over you. Can be a bit scary for little kids but victor had a blast.
- - The maze in Alcazar – cute little maze allowing the kids to run around a bit without any real chance of getting lost