When travelling abroad, there is always that one thing that connects us back to home. In Seville, the predominant use of cycles was that bond for me.
Spain’s fourth largest city, Seville, is evidently flat. When I looked out from my window, there were no ridges and no inclines. The topography contributes to the extensive use of bicycles.
While returning from dinner on my first night here, I enquiringly pointed at the green paint on the tiled pedestrian. I was told me that these are dedicated cycle tracks which run through the city. Wondering if these were redundant, a cycle zoomed past me. I paid attention to the frequency of bikes and lost count in the next three minutes!
Divided into old and new town, the former is quaint and the bike lanes here are partitioned with steel knobs on the cobbled streets. Many corridors of this part of the city are limited only to pedestrians and cyclists. On the other hand, the new, busier part has broader roads for buses, cars and motorbikes. However, this does not deter the number of bikers. Here, the cycleway is a ‘cooler’ green, tarmacked lane. With large cycle icons on it, a pedestrian must be clueless to miss it!
I observed that a majority of Seville’s crowd constituted the youth. With a flourishing university, which invites students, the two-wheels are a low-cost affordable option. Occasionally I did see a few corporate employees with their bikes too. And I have to admit, their bikes were sleek, envy worthy—to match their profession perhaps.
But what if a tourist wants to cycle around? As I searched for the answer, I came across a Sevici dock. Claiming to have 250 docking stations at 300 meters apart around the city, Sevici is on a mission to make Seville more bike-friendly. Tourists can hire a bike by getting a weekly subscription from the machines at the station itself.
The old town secrets
This is the most charming part of the city. The broader roads of Avenida del Cid is a perfect starting point. The University of Seville, previously a tobacco factory, lies opposite, which is also a magnificent structure. Passing the renowned Hotel Alfonso XIII and riding alongside the canal, the Golden Tower (or Torre del Oro) appears next. It is a 13th century tower, illustrating the Almohad style of architecture.
The wide roads narrow down and the cobbled lanes take their place. This is an indication of Old Town’s centre. The impressive Royal Alcazar, which homes the most extraordinary Moorish architecture, is the main highlight in the neighbourhood. The lanes of Santa Cruz or Jewish Quarter borders with the Alcazar making it the next to explore. The bright colours, the numerous turns and the welcoming patios—are in sharp contrast to the Alcazar. I saw a number of cyclists here with parked bikes and on a break, as they admired the beauty of the Quarter.
I noticed another group of cyclists just in front of the Cathedral of Seville. They were a part of a guided tour and a couple of them greeted me, as I proceeded within the Cathedral. Considered as one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world, the Giralda is most popular for it exquisite work. Built by the Almohad dynasty, this minaret (presently a bell tower) was originally built as a part of the grand mosque. It now adorns Renaissance work above the original Mudejar architecture.
A slight distance away from the Cathedral, through the compressed lanes, is Calle Tetuán. Running parallel to it is Calle Sierpes. And together they make Seville’s upscale shopping locale.
After the cobbled roads, I felt a slight incline that led me to Metropol Parasol, an example of Seville’s modern architecture. The structure looks like a giant mushroom, though with the light around sunset is brilliant for panoramic views of the city.
I thought I had seen enough but Seville without flamenco is incomplete. And even though the distances between these sights isn’t much, the wealth of information that comes along is enormous.
Without further delay, I made my way exhaustingly to the Museo del Baile Flamenco (Flamenco Museum). Here I participated in my pre-booked class, where I laughed incessantly at my out-of-tune steps. Hurriedly, I sat to witness the outstanding performance that evening, which engulfed me in its the passion and energy.
With darkness in the lanes and dim yellow lights in each corner, I assumed that perhaps the bikes would have reduced. Surprised, yet again, it made me realise that this was their way of life.
After my dinner at Seville’s oldest bar, El Rinconcillo, I stepped out and bump into a friendly cyclist, as I breached the cycleway partition. Coolly, he smiled and reminded me of it.
Perhaps, that’s the charm of cycling—it’s fun, it makes us fun and it makes discovering any alien city an exhilarating experience.
-Bikes can be returned to any docking station in Seville.
-Bikes require registration. A weekly registration fee is €12.30.
-The first 30 minutes of biking are free, and the onward hours are charged at €1 (for the first hour) and €2 (for two hours and beyond).
Which bike-friendly destinations have you visited?
I travelled to Seville in the autumn of 2015. The information here, however, is updated to date. An edited version of this story was published in Travel+Leisure.
Note: I was invited to this media trip by Tourism Office of Spain and Turkish Airlines.