I spent a glorious 3 weeks learning Spanish in Sevilla. The weather was ideal (minus a couple of thunderstorms), there was plenty to see in my free time, other cities were in easy reach for day trips and my Spanish lessons were great.
Spanish lessons in Sevilla
I attended Spanish lessons for 3 hours every afternoon, 4 – 7:30pm with a 30 minute break, at Sevilla Habla school. They’re located in the city centre, just a few minutes from the Alcázar and Cathedral, and they also arranged a shared student apartment for me a 20 minute walk away. I chose Sevilla Habla out of the many Spanish schools in Sevilla because:
- Their rates were much lower than the bigger names (€80/week lessons + €93/week accommodation).
- The reviews on their Facebook page were almost universally 5*, with several people mentioning repeat visits and the small class sizes.
It was a good choice – I now intend to become one of those people making return visits!
Having not done any Spanish lessons since GCSEs aged 16, I didn’t quite know what to expect. I had done an online multiple choice test beforehand and had a quick chat with Pablo, the owner, on my first day (in Spanish of course – a sign of things to come). Somehow I ended up in the B1 class (based on DELE / CEFR levels) and turned up later that afternoon for my first lesson with the teacher Isabel and four other classmates, one of whom was also new. That first class was a little like getting dropped in the ocean after a week of swimming lessons, with Isabel explaining the conditional tense (“I would go” / “you could do”) entirely in Spanish, but I just managed to keep up.
Student numbers stayed low the entire time I was there, between one and five, which was great for individual practice and requests. We normally focussed on a grammar topic (e.g. indefinite past tense or when to use por/para), picking up vocab through the conversation practice and exercise book or writing tasks. Sometimes conversation diverged onto such diverse topics such as bull fighting, pancake day, euthanasia and (inevitably) the royal wedding.
Fast forward three weeks (45 hours of lessons, plus more in homework time) and I’d covered 8 tenses, several pages of vocab and my listening / speaking / reading skills had come on tremendously. In the museums I could read a lot of the information with just a few dictionary references, I went on a Spanish walking tour organised by the school and understood most of it, and attended my first intercambio (language exchange with conversation partners). Running the lessons entirely in Spanish may be difficult for the first couple of lessons but once you get into it it’s so helpful for your ability to listen and understand – which is the whole point of learning a language. You want to be able to communicate, not just pass an exam on grammar rules.
Tips for taking Spanish lessons
- Build up a vocab list at the back of your notebook so it’s all in one place. Use a flashcard app like Anki to learn the words or phrases that get repeated.
- Write tense reference sheets that you can refer to at any time without flicking through pages of notes.
- Talk to your classmates in Spanish, not English!
- The phrases “¿por qué?”, “¿otra vez?” and “no entiendo” are your friends. Use them.
- Do your homework!
- Look for examples of what you’ve been studying outside of class – both vocab & grammar, in adverts / museums / shops.
Sightseeing in Sevilla
With Spanish lessons only taking up 3.5 hours / day, I had plenty of time to sightsee – but even with 3 weeks in Sevilla I still didn’t see everything! There is a ridiculous amount on offer – get a map (preferably in Spanish!) from the tourist office for an extensive list.
I normally spent a few hours in the morning sightseeing, reading, writing or skating (see below), returned to my apartment to cook lunch about 2pm then did my homework before class in a nearby sunny square.
Alcázar (Arab Palace)
The most important & well-known tourist attraction in Sevilla. If you didn’t know if existed before you arrived, you’d discover it soon enough when you stumble on the queues wrapping around the medieval walls – book a ticket online to avoid these. It’s one of the few fortresses in Spain still intact as it was never destroyed or badly damaged during the battles for Sevilla, and is still an official royal residence when the king comes to visit.
On the upper floors are the furnished royal quarters, which requires an extra timed ticket with no photography allowed, and on the lower levels are the rooms in various styles, showing how the Alcázar was reused by whoever conquered the city. Outside are extensive gardens, including a cellar protected from the summer heat.
Sevilla is famous for its flamenco – so much so that it has its own museum, the Museo del Baile Flamenco. You can learn about the history of flamenco and its various forms, and they also host shows in the evenings (these sell out fast though). There are lots of full-on 1 hour flamenco shows around the city (and all of Andalucia), but for just a sample you can visit La Carbonería where for the price of a drink you can see a 3-person half hour show. It’s mostly tourists there but the atmosphere is great.
Free walking tours
Google ‘free Sevilla walking tours’ and you won’t be short on choices. For my first tour I went with ‘We Are Seville’, which started at the Torre del Oro and looped around the city centre for a couple of hours before ending at Plaza de España. You get a brief history of Sevilla (especially its status as the sole port permitted to sail to Spanish America, and subsequent decline when Cádiz was added as an alternative), information on the main monuments and also tips on where to eat / how to skip queues. As is customary with this kind of free walking tour, you tip at the end what you think it was worth. There were both Spanish and English groups, and you could just turn up at the start time without booking.
My second tour I have already mentioned – it was provided by my Spanish school and was entirely in Spanish, although at a slow pace. This one was great because it avoided all the main tourist attractions and instead took us through less central neighbourhoods with local history – it didn’t repeat anything I had already heard on the first tour.
One of the quieter attractions, away from the bustle of the city centre, is the Cámara Oscura inside the Torre de los Perdigones. It’s to the north (but still walking distance) near the river, and only costs a few euros for views around the city. For a little extra at certain times, they give a demonstration of the Cámara Oscura / Camera Obscura, a pinhole device made of lenses and mirrors that projects a live reflection of the views of the city onto a wide, spherical screen. The 50 minute talk / demo was entirely in Spanish, but again he spoke slowly so I could understand most of it.
I also visited:
- Plaza de España (recognisable on many Sevilla postcards) from the 1929 exposition, with its military museum.
- Torre del Oro – more views across the city from another angle, which also contains a small naval museum.
- Archivo de las Indias – the national archives for Spanish travel to & from the Americas.
- Castillo San Jorge – the old headquarers of the Spanish Inquisition in Sevilla, now castle ruins and a museum (although not gruesome) on the Inquisition. This is in the lovely neighbourhood of Triana over the river.
I did not manage to see the cathedral – to be honest, I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals over the past month and wasn’t convinced it would be anything that different. I also didn’t get to the roman ruins at Italica, which was disappointing, due to Game of Thrones filming (apparently the entire cast was in Sevilla at the same time as me, staying in a hotel 10 minutes from my Spanish lessons!)
Roller Skating in Sevilla
There were plenty of roller skating opportunities in Sevilla along the river. A lovely smooth cycle path runs alongside it, and next to the bus station is the Plaza de Armas skatepark with lots of ramps and a couple of very nice bowls. Both mornings I went to the skatepark it was almost empty, and I could skate from my apartment along the riverside to several nice spots to settle for an afternoon.
Skating through Seville with my SRT mascot #skatetheworld #roundtheworldonrollerskates #seville #sevilla #andalucia #spain #spaintravel #instatravel #instago #passportready #quadskates #outdoorskating