Time for another solo getaway! After such a successful trip to Barcelona and Madrid last May, I was itching to get back to Spain and discover more. My favourite hostel chain, Hostel One, has hostels in Seville so I chose to start there. I was craving some beach vibes too, so the next stop planned was Valencia.
Seville: An Unexpected Greeting
The journey to my hostel was supposed to be easy. Bus to the train station and then a 25 minute walk into the city centre. As I was waiting at an intersection, I noticed a police barricade and a crowd in the distance (in my line of direction). Suddenly my parents reminder to stay away from big crowds popped into my head. The light was about to change and then in the corner of my eye I saw the man beside me, in a white robe, put on a pointed white hood. My stomach dropped. What the fuck?? The light changed and I quickly moved in the direction of my hostel, aka into the crowd only to see hundreds of men in the same robes and hoods. Aside from being terrified of extremists, I’m also very claustrophobic and not a fan of being trapped in crowds. Every detour I took to avoid the massive crowds had me trapped. I took side street after side street trying to escape the madness and get to my hostel. An hour later, I arrived and immediately asked, What is going on??
I used to be the girl who planned trips on spreadsheets, but as I’ve learned to love the freedom of freestyle I’ve stopped researching ahead of my trips. This was the wrong trip to stop researching. I was told by the person at the front desk of the hostel, that the processions were to mark the start of Holy Week in the south of Spain (click the link to see what it looks like). People travel from all over to witness it, and the madness escalates each day leading up to Easter. So basically I picked the busiest time of year to come to Seville. And as for the hoods, it has religious significance and dates back far beyond the KKK. That doesn’t make it any less scary. I will admit you get used to it … you have to when processions are going on all day and all night.
The hostel I stayed at is Hostel One Centro. I met a few cool people that night at dinner and we all laughed about how surprised we were with our first impressions arriving in the city. After a bit of sangria, we headed off to a free Flamenco show. It took three detours to avoid the processions and make it to the bar, but alas we made it. I expected the emoji of the woman dancing in a red dress, but instead was treated to a man who reminded me of Prince. He danced while an old man sang and clapped to the Flamenco rhythm. It was really cool to watch.
My Top 3 For Seville
1. Metropol Parasol (For a Free Drink with a Sunset View)
Going here is a no brainer. For €3, you get access to the building and a free drink. My new friend, Maria, and I went there for sunset for an amazing view and to enjoy some Tinto de Verano (cheaper version of Sangria). The drink itself is €2 if you want more than one. So for a tourist place, it’s extremely affordable – and a beautiful site.
2. Plaza de España (For Star Wars Fans)
This place is a show stopper. No picture I took could do it justice. The building is beautiful and the manmade canal going through with row boats is lovely. See it for your self … it’s free! There’s also an amazing garden by it (didn’t get a chance to go there but everyone told me about it). For Star Wars fans, it was the setting for a scene in one of the Star Wars movies.
3. The Real Alcázar of Seville (For Game of Thrones Fans)
This was by far my favourite spot in Seville. It costs €9.50 to get in … and a massive line! We got there before it opened and still waited over an hour, but luckily we were in the shade at that time of day. This place transports you to Morocco (and Game of Thrones). The gardens are immaculate and a lot bigger than expected. We spent 2-3 hours in there but I could have spent all day.
Self-Guided Sangria Tour
What better way to spend a day in Spain then Sangria Hopping? After a busy day of tourism and dodging the processions and crowds, we were looking to have a chill day. Food, drinks, sun, … relaxation. The aim of the day was to check out Triana, the neighbourhood across the river which is known for their authentic restaurants and nightlife. Unfortunately, all the places were closed because of Holy Week, but we did stumble upon some nice spots on the way.
This was an accidental discovery, but Mercado Lonja Del Barranco ended up being one of the nicest Mercados I’ve come across. It’s by the water, modern, full of flowers, delicious ready to eat food, and drinks to cool you off. We just got sangria, but I wish we went back for the food!
Across the river in Triana we just stopped at a restaurant with outdoor seating overlooking the water. We were warned it was tourist expensive there, but since we were just ordering sangria, a big glass for €3 was no issue.
After saying goodbye to Seville, I caught a train to Valencia, with a nice little stopover in Madrid – enough time to relax in Buen Retiro Park.
Valencia: Where’s the Beach?
Valencia had some big shoes to fill after my visit in Seville. I’m not going to lie, it didn’t live up to the expectations I had. Again with my poor research, I didn’t realize the city center wasn’t actually by the beach. It was definitely a beautiful city, but after Barcelona, Madrid, and Seville, it didn’t feel like anything new and exciting. That being said, I still had a good time!
The hostel I stayed in (Center Valencia Youth Hostel) had a nice rooftop, so the first night I had some drinks up there with the girls I met in my room. There is a walking tour that meets at the hostel, so I joined that with a big group of other solo travellers the next morning.
Our tour guide was a young guy from Scandanavia, who also ran the pub crawls. During the tour he told us about Agua de Valencia. It’s the strongest drink you can order (and it tastes like fresh orange juice). About 8 of us were all curious how powerful it was, so after the tour he took us to the bar he usually orders them from. We sat outside in the sun then each ordered the drink and some tapas. It was so refreshing after a long walk in the heat. One of the American guys wanted to test his limits; he was in a competition with the so called record of four. I will note that this was happening at 2pm. Once he finished four Agua de Valencias, he stood up and left us to go to the beach. We all burst into laughter watching this tall man drunkenly walking away to the beach (that is over an hour away).
After the drinks we headed towards the City of Arts and Sciences (the area of Valencia you see in most pictures). To get there we walked through the Jardines del Turia, which pretty much runs through the whole city, as it used to be a river. It was relaxing but by the time we got to our destination, we were ready for a nap, especially since we were going on the pub crawl that night!
The next day was dedicated to the beach. It was a long walk, but it was worth it. A group of us sat by the sea chatting and sun tanning (with sun screen on, don’t worry Mom). It was the perfect last day for my trip!
Have you been to Seville or Valencia? What did you think?
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