There is a familiar sound of hooves on cobbles as I wander about on a sunny October afternoon. A horse dips its head, another waves its mane and flicks its tail while they patiently wait in line for the next customer who wants a ride.
This iconic sight is so linked to Seville that I cannot conceive the city without it.
The sound follows you down narrow winding streets in the city centre and along the wide shaded avenues of the Maria Luisa Park. They do a semicircle around the fountain in Plaza de España and gather between the Alcázar and the cathedral, an elegant line of beautiful animals and their owners.
A whif of not so pleasant manure hits my nostrils as a carriage draws up and down pop a couple of laughing tourists with cameras.
“¿Paseo?“, I’m asked. Do I want a ride?
I know the city well enough to not need an expesive carriage tour but I could easily pass as a tourist. I decline politely and wonder if I should ask for a lift home one of these days.
I smile at the banter between drivers, a conversation about everything and nothing, a way to kill time as they wait for the next passenger. With a map spread out before a cute couple a driver explains possible routes around the city. They shake their heads and walk off, uninterested.
On the other side of the square a big Asian group is climbing into several carriages, their tour guide organises everyone into groups of four or so. Minutes later they drive off in a flury of excitement, one carriage after another like ducks in a row.
I’ll admit it looks fun but I feel too local to justify the expense for an hour’s entertainment. That said, split the cost between four friends and it becomes reasonable enough.
Still, I prefer to simply enjoy the familiar image of horses in the street, a symbol of the city I call home.
Have you taken a spin around Seville with a horse and carriage?
How to enjoy a carriage ride in Seville:
- Head to an official stop. There are several along the main carriage tour route. You can find them outside the cathedral, in the Maria Luisa Park or by the Torre del Oro, to name a few.
- Decide on number of carriages. Each carriage can take a maximum of 5 passengers. For comfort, there should be no more than 4 adults, but you could have 4 adults and a child. If you are a bigger group you will need to split among several carriages.
- Confirm route and price. There is a main route that takes between 45 minutes to an hour, depending on traffic. This route has a fixed price, established by local authorities and varies according to 3 times of year: regular days, Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Feria de Abril (April Fair). Official prices should be displayed at main stops (see 1). Alternative routes can be negociated but make sure you settle on a price before hand to avoid surprises afterwards.
- Enjoy a tour of the city! Drivers will likely point out interesting sites and are usually happy to answer questions. However, they’re not tour guides, so don’t expect them to be.
Top tip: Make sure you avoid the hottest times of day both for the horse’s sake and your own. If you are visiting in summer, early morning or late evening will be kinder, althought you may consider skipping it all together at this time of year. I’ve had no qualms over animal treatment in general, although there are plenty of opinions on the matter. (That is a conversation for a whole other post, though). It is also a good idea to avoid Feria and Semana Santa, as the high demand can lead some owners to push their animals too far. It’s also more expensive and very busy.