The news that Lonely Planet designated Seville as the #1 Travel Destination of 2018 sent shockwaves through the expat community here.
On the one hand, it justifies what we’ve been telling skeptical family and friends for years: this is one of the most delightful places in the world. On the other hand, we’re just a teeny bit panicked at the idea that yet more visitors will be heading our way.
When Rich and I first moved here more than a dozen years ago, Seville was a sleepy touristic backwater, one of those also-ran places that got scratched off everyone’s destinations-to-consider list in favor of fashionable spots like Maui and Morocco. Today our city gets 11 million visitors a year. And while we’re delighted that the flagging economy is getting a much-needed shot in the arm, we’re a bit aghast at the massive tour groups clogging sidewalks, overrunning restaurants, and driving up prices. And it’s about to get much, much worse thanks to Lonely Planet.
So my advice to you is this: If Seville is on your vacation-there-someday checklist, visit in January, February, or early March.
When we first discovered Seville, Rich and I came here every February to escape the snow belt of Cleveland, a city that gets just 69 days of full sun a year, not one of which occurs between New Year’s and Easter. While our neighbors were busy shoveling a path to the car and scraping ice off their windshields, we were sitting at sunny sidewalk tables sipping espresso and watching the world stroll by. One of the beauties of Seville’s climate is that the mild winters — a trifle too cool for serious sunbathing, entirely too warm to produce any snow for sports — offer the kind of unremarkable weather that doesn’t demand excessive activity from anyone.
Like any city, Seville has seen many changes in the last dozen years, but it hasn’t lost its two-thousand-year-old capacity for charming the socks off people. (Yes, I know, technically people didn’t wear socks 2000 years ago. But somehow "charming the togas" off people didn’t sound quite right either.) The city continues to enchant visitors with its magnificent Moorish palaces and gardens, vibrant street life, and pitchers of sangria for less than you’d pay for a glass of chardonnay back home.
Arriving in winter or early spring, you’ll avoid the teeming hordes and inflated prices of the high season, which peaks during Semana Santa (Holy Week, March 25 to April 1 in 2018) and the Feria de Abril (April Fair, held this year April 15 to 22). You won’t find the frenzied atmosphere of vacation hotspots devoted to winter sports or spring break at the beach. And you’ll be just in time to enjoy the exploding new foodie scene that has transformed local dining into a world-class pleasure.
Best of all, you’ll find the city breathing a collective sigh of relief and settling down to enjoy itself in the just-us atmosphere that prevails between the bustling holiday season and the spring festivals. Sidewalk cafés are still packed, but instead of tourists, you’ll find crowds of Sevillanos doing what they do best: enjoying themselves. People in this city devote the same energy and attention to their social lives that Americans expend on their careers. Finding time for family and friends isn’t pushed into the margins of life, it’s a top priority every single day. It’s downright inspiring.
When we first arrived in Seville and were living in a cramped tourist apartment near the cathedral, Rich and I used to lie in bed at night listening to the hum of voices rising from the café-bars that lined our street. At first I desperately wished that everyone would go home and let me sleep in peace. But I gradually got used to it, then began to find it deeply soothing, a kind of cheery white noise that reminded me that for tonight, at least, all was well with the world outside my doorstep. And that, perhaps, is the best thing that Seville can offer us. Having weathered thousands of years of astounding triumphs and crushing defeats, the city has learned to focus on what truly matters: spending time with the people we love, enjoying small pleasures, and doing our bit to add to the joyful noise of the world.
Want to Know More About Seville?
This is the story of how Rich and I fell in love with Seville, began exploring its quirkier byways, and keep re-discovering its charms.
"I loved this book," Lonely Planet wrote about Dancing in the Fountain. "I must have laughed aloud at least once in every chapter ... The advice in the book is terrific."
"A delightfully well-written true-life adventure story," says New York Times bestselling author Chris Brady. "McCann's writing is inviting, immediately charming, and constantly entertaining."
Dancing in the Fountain takes its title from one very hot night when Rich and I were sitting on the edge of a big stone fountain near our Seville apartment. Dabbling our feet in the cool water, pretty soon we were wading, then waltzing in the fountain. An old Spaniard passing by growled, "Hey you two, is that any way to behave? You wouldn't do that back where you come from." And that's the whole point. Traveling and living overseas, you get to try things you'd never do in the old country.
1/3/2018 06:37:11 pm
I want to come visit right now!
1/3/2018 06:51:45 pm
Hop on a plane, Andrea! We'll meet you at the airport. Love to have you visit any time — bring Matt & the kids, too.
1/3/2018 07:54:24 pm
I want to come back! Last time I was there was 37 years ago, in March. Planning on before the 40th anniversary of the last time I was there! How do I get a copy of the ebook if I already subscribe to your blog, sign up again?
1/4/2018 06:39:49 am
Returning to Seville after nearly 40 years ? Wow, Sherri, you will really see a lot of changes, some regrettable, but many wonderful ones, too. What an exciting visit that will be! No need to sign up again, I'll send you a link to the free e-book "How to Meet People on the Road." Happy travels!
1/4/2018 12:58:25 am
The countdown is on for the release of the hard copy of the latest book!!! Can't wait!
1/4/2018 06:48:10 am
The paperback is available now, Tracy; you can order it on Amazon.com. I'm sending out a big announcement on Friday, when the Kindle is released. Exciting times!!
1/4/2018 07:00:59 am
Great post. We also expected increased hordes of people when one of the 'majors' named the Peloponnese as the number one European travel destination last year or the year before. (which I should add didn't phase those skeptical family and friends back home) but the hordes didn't come. What has happened is that tourism's season seems to be extending and we do have more 'adventuresome' visitors to our area. Oh yes, the US travel guru, Rick Steves, now has most of his tours here 'wait-listed' for this spring. . . (Loved your book!)
1/4/2018 02:16:44 pm
Fingers crossed we don't get massive hordes either, Jackie! I don't mind a bit of crowding, but the last time I was in Barcelona it was like Disneyland on half-price day: wall to wall people, horribly long lines for everything, and general pandemonium. May we all avoid that fate! And thanks for your kind words about the book! Great fun to write and it still thrills me every time someone connects with the story.
1/4/2018 09:01:38 pm
A friend, Jackie Smith, sent me the link to your blog, since I have told her my husband and I might want to spend more time in Granada (she forgot and thought it was Seville, which we like, but thought Granada might be more manageable in terms of size and meeting people). As soon as I returned to my main computer screen, there was my photo taken from the top of the cathedral (which I put there years ago and hardly remember or pay attention to any more) and below were some of the cafes you undoubtedly liked to spend time in when you lived in that neighborhood. Serendipity.
1/4/2018 09:15:50 pm
Maybe you need to re-think Seville, Ann! ;-)
1/6/2018 07:36:14 am
Seems like the universe is saying you should consider Seville, Ann! In my (admittedly biased) view, it's a much easier city to navigate than Granada, and is very sociable. Either way, I hope you do make Spain part of your life. It's been great for us!
1/5/2018 06:31:30 pm
I love this post! What a lovely life you two must lead in Spain.
1/6/2018 07:39:51 am
Thanks, Kate. We do love living here. Today is Three Kings Day, the highlight of the holiday season in Spain and the day on which gifts are exchanged. I always pause a moment on this day to be grateful for the gift of discovering Seville. It's been more than a dozen years and I still can't believe my luck!
1/7/2018 04:25:22 am
As always, your write a great blog. Loved the video and nearly weep missing Seville and all the fond memories and exhilaration I enjoyed there last April. Miss you!
1/7/2018 07:46:26 am
Miss you too, Patricia. Fingers crossed you'll find a way to visit us again soon. And thanks for you kind words about the post. It's not hard to find fun things to say about Seville, my favorite city on earth.
1/9/2018 11:07:32 am
You are just making me jealous again. We're stuck in chilly, grey UK while OH undergoes surgery and a ban from flying for weeks. I miss my blue skies in Portugal and sneaking over the border for tapas in Andalucia
1/9/2018 01:29:15 pm
Carolyn, I am so sorry to hear OH has to have surgery. Fingers crossed that all goes optimally, recovery is swift, and you're back in sunny Portugal soon. And perhaps it will make you feel better to know that we have grey skies and drizzle today, with temperatures of 5 degrees C — pretty much the same as the UK at the moment. You're not missing all that much, weather-wise.
1/9/2018 02:53:46 pm
We fell in love with Seville in 2002. Hoping to get back for a few days while we're in Spain Feb/Mar. Would love to just get lost again like we once did!
1/9/2018 04:31:18 pm
Kay, the good news is that no matter how much may change in Seville, getting lost on those labyrinthine back streets is always on the agenda. I hope you do get back for a visit soon. Let me know your dates; we're gone part of the time you're here, but if we overlap maybe we can grab a coffee or a beer while you're in town. Happy travels!
1/15/2018 06:26:20 pm
Love these as we will be in Andalusia for three months starting end of March. And a week in Seville in May:) Just realized that we start our journey through Spain right around Easter hols. How crazy is it in other towns as we'll be driving from Madrid or Barcelona down to near Gibraltar with dog and 3 kids! Poor planning LOL.
1/15/2018 06:54:23 pm
Many towns celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week, March 25 to April 1 this year) but most have smaller processions and are good fun without the massive chaos we get here in Seville. Be aware this is a super-popular time to visit, so prices will be higher and you should book in advance if possible. Seville in May is a perfect time to visit with lovely weather and a few small processions and fiestas to keep it lively. I think your timing is terrific, Kate.
Leave a Reply.
Winner of the 2023 Firebird Book Award for Travel
#1 Amazon Bestseller in Tourist Destinations, Travel Tips, Gastronomy Essays, and Senior Travel
This blog is a promotion-free zone.
As my regular readers know, I never get free or discounted goods or services for mentioning anything on this blog (or anywhere else). I only write about things that interest me and that I believe might prove useful for you all to know about. Whew! I wanted to clear that up before we went any further. Thanks for listening.
TO I'm an American travel writer based in Seville, Spain.
Wanderlust has taken me to more than 60 countries. Every week I provide travel tips and adventure stories to inspire your journeys and let you have more fun — and better food — on the road
Don't miss out!
SIGN UP HERE
to be notified when I publish new posts.