Another Thursday means another rumble! And today I’m reaching back into the recent past, 2019, with two cities I visited in the same trip, Seville and Porto, to see how these two pretty great cities to visit compare against each other. One has ties with a Moorish past, bull fighting and one of the largest cathedrals in the world, the other is famous for its wine and for a magnificent two-story bridge, and also for just being one of the nicest cities in Europe. BUT – they can’t both win! They must do battle here today and see who will come out on top. So therefore, without further ado – Let’s get ready to Rumble – to CITY Rumble! Yee-haw!
Folks, Portugal and Spain are the last two countries I visited before the Corona Virus, in fact they are the last two countries I visited FULL STOP. Because thus far international travel from (or indeed to) Australia is yet to resume. We hold our breath and cross our fingers that that changes at some point this year.
So it’s not as far in the memory banks to recall the cities of Seville and Porto. Both I think my wife and I preferred to the capitals of their respective capitals. Okay, well, no because we visited Barcelona but not Madrid, but all in all I think these were our favourite cities for each country.
Firstly we visited Seville before flying direct to Portugal (Lisbon) and we arrived in Seville by high speed train from Barcelona. So, connections seemed pretty good and you certainly can fly direct from other European cities to Seville outside of Spain, which is handy.
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A city of a little under 700,000 people and around 1.5 million in its greater metro area. So it’s not Europe’s biggest city, not by a longshot, but it doesn’t feel particularly small either. It’s a reasonably flat city built on each side of the river Guadalquivir River, which is hard to pronounce and even harder to spell! One side contains the old city, it’s most modern on the other side except for some interesting ruins of San Jorge (St George) which are worth a little look incidentally.
The city has grown well past the old town now and there is a more modern part to it surrounding the exteriors of the old town, but once inside the old town you find a labyrinth of alleys and narrow streets which is very cool to explore at the same time as being very easy to get lost in. There are a lot of squares too as you wander around and a plethora of churches.
Being in the south of Spain, not so far from the southern coast I guess it has a warm Mediterranean climate which can be quite dry. We were there in late November very early December where the daily maximums were around 17 degrees Celsius. We saw one day of pretty heavy rain, which were told was extremely rare at that time of year. It’s a very brown city, a bit dusty.
In contrast Porto is not so flat. Or so brown. It’s just in from the coast and so sees a lot more rain than Seville does, and our first day there was full of rain. We were lucky that the rest of our stay we managed to avoid rain.
Perhaps the biggest contrast between the two cities is the terrain. Porto is one of the hilliest cities I’ve ever encountered. It centres around the Douro River, over which this amazing Luiz I Bridge crosses – a bridge that has been proclaimed a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The main part of town is on the northern side of the river. Both sides are very steep and so when walking around the city you are either going straight up – or straight down. For those who are pretty fit, you’ll be fine, but if you could stand to lose a few kilos, like yours truly, then well, take it slow.
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It’s a smaller city that Seville. The population is a little over 200,000 but the greater metropolitan area is around 1.7 million so it’s not THAT small overall in comparison. The town has a gothic/medieval feel to it and also has a lot of colour and some magnificent buildings and churches.
Bother cities boast opportunities to grab high views of the town below, and the resulting views present the visitor with a lot of difference. Seville cathedral is one of the largest cathedrals in the world and is amazing, and you can really explore it as well which is very worthwhile. Then you get to climb the tower and see across the town.
The Church/Monastery Clerigos in Porto is also pretty cool to explore. But it’s up the tower you go to really appreciate what a magnificent city you are in. It’s a little hairy up there too!
What does Seville offer that’s a little bit different and out of the ordinary? Well for starters, it’s been a centre for bull fighting for many many a year, and we were able to take a tour of the bull fighting ring in Seville, which was really cook because you get to walk out into the centre of it. It’s called the ‘Plaza Del Toros’.
Also Seville is famed for flamenco dancing and there is the Museum of Flamenco in the narrow streets of the old city which may take a little finding, but if you do you can learn a little about the history of this pretty cool dance and also see a performance. Performances are held most days in a small auditorium housed inside the museum.
One of the most striking places in Seville is the Plaza D’Espana, dating back to early last century. It’s a large semi-circle building with balconies, and a hive of activity. There are even gondola rides in the ponds below and behold – we saw an impromptu (well, no I daresay it was planned) flamenco performance as well. It’s a grand meeting place and perhaps a little garish, but I would say definitely not to be missed!
The crowning beauty and one of the top if not THE top site in Seville is the Alcazar Palace, built over centuries with different eras apparent in its architecture and design, it is like an example of the history of the city. The gardens are extensive and beautiful as well, it’s quite outstanding. There are many more places to check out in Seville as well, but just roaming the streets itself is a highlight.
Porto itself is a wonderful place that has a lot of things to keep you busy. Port being the number one thing the town is known for, why not do a tour of a winery where you’ll get to sample a few ports yourself at the end. Some are a couple of centuries old, and we found that port is something we are not against drinking!
The wineries are on the opposite side of the river to the main part of town. Also on that side is a cable car where more views of this amazing city can be had. You go over some incredible rooftops on this ride.
Back on the main part of town I think the most interesting building we visited in Porto was the Bolsa Palace with some amazing rooms and wonderful glass roof over the atrium. We took a tour and loved it! You could also check out San Bento Station amongst so many others.
If you’re looking for gardens, well the Jardins de Palacio Cristal I would recommend. They are beautiful and multi-layered and there is this really interesting historic house in the grounds worth visiting too.
Foodwise, we ate at some really nice places in both cities, and I would have to say the costs were around the same in both as well. Perhaps a little more variety in Porto, and in fact the best tapas we tried was in Porto, not even in Spain!
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All in all… Personally I liked Seville more. Was it merely because I didn’t have to walk up so many hills? No! But there’s something very cool about the city, different, a little Spanish and a little Moorish. We both regarded it as our favourite city of the 2019, so how could I not give the win to it? Both are great cities though!
Thanks for reading, and please – I do love a comment or two! Take care, and May the Journey Never End!