Why do people travel all over the world to sit in a square? Not a box, or a cage, or take the lid of one of those poufe things and sit in there like my daughter does when she’s watching TV, but a square ‘in the street.’ I’ve done it in almost every city that I’ve travelled to in Spain. There’s always a square, there, under the stairs.
But what it is about them? Who designed them? Why are squares so big in Spain? I don’t mean big, as in huge, but as in popular. They seem to be the most lively parts of Seville.
For me, a square is great for so many things. It can be a place of solitude, to think over your life’s worries, to catch some sun, to read, listen to music, watch pigeons fight for the crumbs. It’s also a place to meet, sit and chat, have a beer; as long as there is a bar there, or, like I have done on many occasions you can take a cold one from your fridge.
Other people I know, or have seen, use squares to wait for people, to chat people up, to skateboard, jump about, and take your dog and leave poo so everyone else can see and smell it. Such nice people.
Squares are a massive part of Spanish culture. In Seville I’ve spent many an hour in the squares here, with my wife, back when we started we had no place to go, it was either my flat – which normally meant speaking to my annoying house mates, or at hers, which didn’t quite have the intimacy we were looking for.
So we got to know each other in the squares in Seville. There’s something soothing about sitting in them. We used to sit with a dictionary, writing notes to each other, teaching each other our languages so we could communicate. I miss those simple moments, when we were just chilling and getting to know each other, life was simpler then. We should probably still use a dictionary now and then because we still don’t always understand each other, like when we are putting up a shed.
I remember walking round plenty of squares with my parents too. They like squares, but they love the benches more, normally because they are knackered after walking round with us.
I’m not sure why there are so many squares in Seville, but they are there, calling you, connecting the streets, and so they sort of make you want to go, have a look, and then just sit, and walk off again.
Imagine if Seville didn’t have any squares. I’m not sure what I’d want to do in the centre, apart from avoid the shops and go and have a beer. I prefer the river to walk, and the parks, but the squares are a lovely option.
Which ones are the best though, and what can you do in each one?
Plaza Dona Elvira
One that I have to see when I go to Seville, is Plaza Dona Elvira. It’s hidden in the back streets in Barrio Santa Cruz. One reason why I have fond memories is because my wife used to take me there when I had a break when I used to work in the centre. At the start we had to go out in secret because dating wasn’t allowed with the students. So we went there illegally, it was exciting and the buzz of sitting there snogging was fun.
I try to take visitors there, mainly because it’s so shady too. The funny thing is I’ve never eaten there. There are so many restaurants that look splendido, but I know they are expensive. Maybe this year we’ll treat ourselves one afternoon; if someone will have the kids and we can escape.
There are a couple of hotels there too, which will have great views over the square. It’s a popular spot for wedding photos. At peak times you can see 5 or 6 couples waiting to have their photograph taken. I didn’t know at the time, and always used to be shocked by how many people got married at the same time, and how they managed to organise the timing. But I found out from a friend later that most are just doing their wedding photos, on a different day to their wedding day.
It’s no wonder that the Plaza features so heavily in my novel. It’s the place where my main character, Charlie, works in a restaurants as he tries to master Spanish. It’s also the place where Mercedes, the flamenco dancer, sees him play the guitar for the first time. It’s featured quite a bit because I guess I just feel at ease there, and it’s one of the most romantic spots. I often imagine my book being filmed there. I can imagine sitting at the back, watching the actors perform. That would be a dream come true.
I’ve also taken my kids there. They love the fountains, and normally try to get in somehow, but haven’t as yet.
If you go to Seville, then you have to check it out. Get a bite to eat, just chill and read a book, and try to get in people’s wedding shots.
This is Spain’s square for a reason. It is the centre of Spain for a lot of people, especially the locals. But the real reason it’s called Spain’s Square – according to me – is because you can buy candy floss there. Not just any candy floss, but sticky Spanish candy floss.
I’ve never actually bought any, I don’t like the stuff, but I guess it could make you feel Spanish for a second.
Plaza España is actually called that name because of the symbols of Spain scattered around the place. Search for any article on Seville, any blog, browse through flicker, and you’ll see hundreds of photos of this marvellous place. Not surprisingly, it’s such a peaceful place to be, even though it can get busy at times, there is so much space there that you can’t help but feel relaxed, unless you get in the way of the horse and carts, or decide to get a rowing boat, and that’s not exactly stress free, unless you’re a qualified sailor, then I guess it would be a peace of piss.
I remember one day especially, as it was a day out for me and my wife. We hadn’t been out for the day for ages, I think because it was summer and the heat had forced us to stay in an air conditioned flat. But it was a Sunday and I just fancied being out, didn’t want to go home, even though sitting in the air-con would have been more comfortable. Instead I persuaded my wife to go to walk by the river, at 4pm in the afternoon this was a bit crazy. We made it all the way down to Puerta Delicia, one of my favourite places, then nipped into the park. It was summer, and the park was dead, we strolled up to the plaza España and decided to hire a boat out. Seeing as there were less people to knock into, I thought I’d give it a go. I still remember that day quite well, both of us laughing and smiling as we went round the arch, under the bridges, and only knocked into a few ducks and maybe one or two boats. We’ve only ever done that once, which is silly really, as it’s quite cheap. I’d definitely recommend it.
Before, or even after that, you have to take a stroll round the place as well, there are areas for each country, which symbolises the main culture from each region. It’s worth checking out how many places you’ve been to, or heard of, wouldn’t it be great if you had been to them all?
If you’re lucky you might catch a few musicians up there too, either flamenco, or just guitarists, and you can buy stuff as well, like mini bulls, flags, and of course, candy floss.
If they filmed a scene from Star Wars, then it must be worth going.
If it’s beer, flirting, and tapas you fancy, then check out Plaza Salvador from about 1pm most days. This place gets rammed at the weekends, both with locals and tourists. We used to live up the road from there, and it’s funny but we never used to go there much, probably because we began to tire of the place over time, especially at 3am when people were walking home from there and decided to shout outside our flat.
I often go there in Semana Santa as it’s great for watching processions coming out of the main church el Salvador, and plenty of processions pass there.
It’s a great place to meet someone and have a few beers too. There’s a real friendly vibe and you can sit on the steps of the church and just enjoy the day and evening. It’s great all year round too, maybe not so much in summer as it’s probably too hot as there’s not much shade, but there are plenty of ice cream shops round where you can chill out.
One of my favourite memories there was one Christmas. It was actually the first Christmas with my son. I don’t think we’d been on the beers with him, he wasn’t drinking, just present, and we went out for just a couple of beers with my wife’s brother. We ended up getting back at about 10pm, after doing a crawl of Sevilla. I still have pictures of us with him in that square, and in the several bars we went in after, probably not the most responsible parents, but we have those memories now, and can always tell him in the future.
The most triumphant square in Seville. The place where battles were won, goats were slaughtered, drunks were kicked off the streets, and also the place where I once found 10 centimos.
Plaza Triunfo is right next to the cathedral. It’s a great place for sitting on some concrete, pigeon-poo stained steps, and listening to live flamenco. It’s probably once of the squares I’ve been round the most. For about 5 years I walked my dog, Pepa, round there every lunch time, apart from in the summer where walks were confined to just outside in the shaded streets.
The guitarists gather here for a reason; it’s one of the busiest areas, most sought after place, and also you can get some tapas in plenty of places up the road. The cathedral and Alcázar are right there too.
This was also featured in my novel quite a bit. It turns into an important meeting spot between Charlie and Mercedes. Mercedes normally chooses this spot because she doesn’t want Charlie to walk her home as she’s scared her dad will see him. Which is a major part of the plot, and one of the main reasons their relationship is so difficult to maintain.
Plaza Triunfo is also a great place to see Semana Santa. You can see some excellent pasos, one of my favourites, Santa Cruz, is great here, just as it enters the top of the square.
The last time I went for a day out in the centre with my son, last summer actually, we went here. It was mainly to watch the bells as he loved the bells in the cathedral. But that was before his abuelo took him up to see the big ones, in the tower, and now he’s scared of them.
I remember playing a sort of eye-spy game with him, but without the letters. It was more of a point at what I’m saying game. We had fun though, but he was more interested in chasing after the pigeons.
What about you? What Plaza in Seville, or Spain is your favourite? If you wrote a novel set in Seville which squares would feature?