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Discover Spain: Seville Excursions

Travel is a favorite component for many study abroad students, and we’re sure to incorporate it within the context of our program’s academics. And since Spain includes so many regions known for their diverse geography, climate, and culture, it’s impossible to show semester students “all” of Spain. We’ve selected trips based on their educational and cultural importance while also including sites of natural beauty; best of all, your entrance, transportation, and accommodation fees are included in your program fee!

Day Excursion: Aracena Caves

A fount of beauty that never runs dry, the Aracena caves are a network of limestone caverns that were created by the interaction of two simple ingredients: water and stone, over a period of millennia. The Gruta de las Maravillas was discovered by a shepherd in 1886, and is the first cave in Spain dedicated to tourism. Located below the hill where the Aracena Castle stands, the caves are the most spectacular in Spain.

The Gruta’s stunning formations have inspired countless artists, and they serve as a popular vacation spot for royalty, heads of state, and SJU students, of course. It’s truly one of Andalusia’s must-see attractions.

Day Excursion: Ruins of Itálica

Within the locality of Santiponce—just 7 kilometers from Seville—sits the ancient city of Itálica, a 2nd century (B.C.) Roman town. The city was founded by Scipio Africanus, and its ruins make up one of the most important and interesting archaeological sites on the Iberian Peninsula.

Within the context of our program, why is the city so special? Today’s Seville sits upon two thousand years history—and it’s not just Roman history, but also subsequent Moorish, Christian, and modern “reworking.” As a result, hardly any vestiges of the original Roman city remain. The town of Itálica, however, was deserted long before these major architectural upheavals and retains its Roman character. Therefore, today’s ruins give you a sense of what Seville might have been like nearly two millennia ago.

For example, you’ll discover the remains of a Roman neighborhood built on the orders of Emperor Hadrian, who was born in Itálica, with thermal spas, aqueducts, mansions and mosaics. You’ll also explore the superb theatre, built to take advantage of the natural geography of the Cerro de San Antonio hill, along with a magnificent amphitheater, which in its day could accommodate 25,000 people and went on to become one of the largest in the entire Roman Empire. Itálica is a true gem, and allows you to envision life in the ancient Roman Empire.

Weekend excursion: Granada & Alhambra Palace

A three-hour bus ride from Seville, Granada is the Spanish city most influenced by Moorish culture. During the time of the Nasrid Dynasty, which began in the 13th century, Granada was an emirate, and the Alhambra—a remarkable palace—was the final seat of power of the Muslim emirs in Spain. It’s now one of the most visited monuments in the country. You’ll have the chance to explore this centuries-old complex, and hear the story of the Holy Roman Emperor who constructed a renaissance fortress inside the compound.

Students will also spend time exploring the narrow streets and alleys of the buzzing Albaicín district, where the Muslim culture of the Al-Andalus era comes to life through its Moorish architecture. The cultural significance of the district was forever cemented when it was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.

The hybridism of Granada, with its unique blend of modern day Spanish culture and ancient Moorish roots, has attracted a host of artists, poets, and writers who found inspiration in the city’s charm. Washington Irving, Henri Matisse, and the legendary Granadan poet Federico García Lorca have all produced work in the region.

5 Day Trip: Madrid & Surrounding Areas

Madrid isn’t just the capital city of Spain; it’s also the country’s cultural center — making it one of Spain’s most important cities to explore.

While Madrid possesses a modern infrastructure, it has preserved the look and feel of its historic neighborhoods and streets. Influenced by Iberians, Romans, and Moors, Madrid has grown into one of Europe's most beautiful capital cities, both for its distinct cultural atmosphere and for its splendid mix of modern and classical architecture.

Students will have the opportunity to taste a staple of Spanish culture while in Madrid: tapas. It’s common for the city’s cafés to carry tapas that are influenced by Northern, Central, and Southern Spain, ensuring your taste buds receive the full Spanish treatment. But a complete Spanish experience isn’t limited to cuisine. If Students wish, they will be able to visit Lavapiés and Chueca, two of the most culturally stimulating areas in Madrid. Lavapiés was a fairly neglected area that has emerged from impoverishment to become a unique, multicultural place marked by distinct graffiti that serves as a visible reminder of the neighborhood’s past and present.  Chueca is very lively in its own right. It’s located in the Justica neighborhood, with many street cafés, boutique shops, and an inclusive and inviting atmosphere.

Madrid is also considered one of the top European destinations for art museums. With that in mind, this five-day trip to the capital city will include excursions to two of the world’s finest: the Museo del Prado and the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofía. The Prado features one of the most renowned European art collections, while the Reina Sofía, the twelfth most visited museum in the world, serves as Spain’s national museum of 20th-century art. It’s best known for Picasso’s revered and haunting Guernica.

Students will also visit the Royal Palace, which was built by the Bourbon Dynasty, and has survived a tumultuous three-century-span of Spanish history. 

The outskirts of Madrid are full of essential cities that will add to students’ cultural knowledge of Spain, such as Toledo, the old capital of the Visigoth realm. The city, founded more than 2,000 years ago, serves as home to a host of significant historical sites associated with the Romans, Visigoths, Muslims, Jews, and Christians, including the Gothic Cathedral and Santa María la Blanca Synagogue. Students will also visit the Greco Museum and Santo Tomás Church, where work from the revered renaissance painter El Greco is on display.

We’ll also explore Segovia, a city famous for its dramatic Roman aqueduct—a feat of ancient engineering that ensured a consistent flow of clean water into the city. However, Segovia’s most prominent attraction is El Alcázar, one of the most enchanting medieval fortresses in all of Spain. Students may also visit the Granja de San Ildefonso, the former summer residence of the King of Spain. The palace boasts baroque fountains and French style gardens – which is why it’s sometimes likened to France’s Versailles.

Last but not least, back in Madrid, students will take various walking tours that will give them the chance to visit the Plaza Mayor, Madrid’s famous central plaza, and El Rastro, the most popular open air flea market in the city.