It is a seductive, sun-drenched city of orange blossoms, the twirl of the flamenco dancer, the strumming of the solo guitar and the delicious smells of Spanish cooking.
It is a city where orange trees adorn every street and square. On every patio and every terrace birds sing and geraniums bloom.
‘Who hasn’t seen Seville, has seen no wondrous thing’. Andalucian saying
At one time, Seville was Spain’s largest city. It was the gateway through which the vast wealth of the New World poured. It served as the host of two World Exhibitions.
Seville certainly is one of the most beloved places by visitors to Spain. Although today Moorish influence is architectonically most evident – Andalusia was occupied by Moors for about 800 years – it had been a cultural center long before. The fertility of this land, its climate of mild winters and an average 3000 hours of sun per year encouraged the Phoenicians and Carthaginians to settle here. Later came the Romans and two of their emperors in fact, Trajan and Hadrian, were both born here.
Seville is the setting for Bizet’s Carmen as well as Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro.
The April fair of Seville (Feria de Seville)
Seville is at its best during the spring. In the month of April Sevillanos celebrate their beloved Feria de Abril (April´s Fair), an explosion of colour and music that thousands join in a week of dancing and singing. The climax of spring may very well be Semana Santa (Holy Week). Dozens of lavish processions thread their way through the city each day, celebrating religious piety with Andalucian flair. Thousands upon thousands of people line the streets to participate in the colourful festivities.
Seville has been home to a number of famous and infamous figures of history. The legendary ‘Don Juan’ started from here, conquering the hearts of women across all Europe, while Columbus started from a port close to Seville to discover a new world.
Prosper Merimee’s ‘Carmen’, who couldn’t make her decision between the officer Don Jose and the bullfighter Escamillo – the consequences you can watch still today in opera houses – was a worker in Seville’s old tobacco factory. By the way, this factory serves today as University, a fact that might give you a glimpse on Andalucian talent for improvisation.
When you visit this city, you are in the very heart of Andalusian culture, the centre of bullfighting and Flamenco music. Take yourself time and take life easy, as Andalucians use to do, and interrupt sightseeing from time to time to have a few ‘tapas’, those typical ‘small Spanish dishes’, and a glass of Sherry wine in one of the thousands of bars in this city, and consider a few of the hints from the following information to make your stay a memorable one.
Places of interest in Seville
Barrio Santa Cruz
This romantic part of town, formerly the district of Moors and Jews, is located right in the historical centre of Seville. You can take a walk through the narrow shady lanes, in between beautiful buildings with courtyards plenty of flowers or visit some of the town’s major monuments.
The impressive Cathedral with its tower, Giralda, Seville’s landmark. The king’s palace Alcazar in its typical Moorish style, surrounded by high walls. The Archivo de Indias, a Renaissance building which serves as an archive of all the documents related to the discovery of America. The Archiepiscopal Palais. All these buildings are located in one single large square.
More monuments worth visiting in this district are the churches Hospicio de los Venerables and Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca, the latter located at the edge of the beautiful park Jardines de Murillo. Walking from the Giralda towards the river you will find in Santander Street the Torre de la Plata, a tower which served as a silver depot in the times of the Moorish domination. Just to its right, there is the Hospital de la Caridad and the church Iglesia de la Caridad.
Park of Maria Luisa
This great park is named after Infanta Maria Luisa, who presented to the town half of the gardens of her Palace of San Telmo in 1893.
In 1929 the Ibero-American Exposition took place here and many buildings of note were constructed.
Especially remarkable are the works of architect Hannibal Gonzalez, his great Plaza de Espana, Pabellon Mudejar, Pabellon Real and the Archaeological Museum, as well as many smaller buildings of Latin-American style.
San Telmo Palace
If you walk from Plaza de Espana towards the Guadalquivir river, you arrive first at a sort of ‘micro-castle’, the so-called Costurero de la Reina (‘the Queen’s Sewing-Room’) at the edge of the gardens of the San Telmo Palace. This palace is a very beautiful example of Baroco Sevillano, the regional baroque style. Directly behind it, you’ll find the Real Fabrica de Tabacos, the old tobacco factory (the most prominent worker of which was Carmen, the opera-figure), which today now serves as Seville’s university.
Torre de Oro (Tower of Gold)
A Moorish tower located at the river is another famous landmark of the city. Opposite you will find the bullring Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza.
Crossing the river at the Bridge of Triana, you enter one of the most typical and traditional quarters of Seville, the Barrio de Triana.
The Palaces of Seville
There are many beautiful palaces and manorial houses in Seville, many of them strongly influenced in their architecture by the Moorish past of the city. Most impressive is perhaps Casa Pilatos, built in the 15th and 16th century. If by any chance a taxi-driver tells you that this ‘House of Pilatus’ was a holiday-house of the famous Pontius Pilatus (who would visit Seville during Easter-week to watch the famous processions) don’t believe him.
Another building that is absolutely worth a visit is Palacio de las Duenas, a palace belonging to the Dukes of Alba.
The new Seville after 1992
The World Exhibition EXPO’92 brought many changes to Seville. No fewer than 70 kilometres of new streets were built, a new train station, Santa Justa, and the high-speed train AVE connects Seville with Madrid in less than 3 hours.
Also the Guadalquivir river, which had been detoured around the city for centuries, was brought back into its original river-bed. Some impressive new bridges, among the city’s most important monuments of this century, were also constructed:
Puente del V Centenario, Pasarela de la Cartuja, Puente de las Delicias, Puente de Chapina, Puente de la Barqueta, and Puente del Alamillo.
Other buildings made for the EXPO ’92 are the Maestranza Theater, opposite the bullring, the Cartuja Auditorium and the Congress Palace with its huge golden cupola. The old train station (modernist style) Antigua Estacion de Cordoba, was restored and serves today as an exhibition hall.
Isla de la Cartuja
The ‘Cartuja Island’ is the exhibition ground of the EXPO where you will find large gardens and an artificial lake. Many of the pavilions are still in use and there are numerous concert and theatres performances.
One of the most the historically interesting buildings is certainly the Cartuja Monastery. Christopher Columbus is buried here. Later on, it was the seat of an important producer of traditional ceramics, while today, after having been restored, it serves as a museum.
The enormous cathedral, the burial place of Christopher Columbus, is the third largest in Christendom and claims to be the largest gothic building in the world. It’s bell-tower – the famous 12th c. Giralda – was originally built by the Moors as a minaret and later appropriated by the Cathedral.
Seville offers one of the finest hotels in the world – a 1929 landmark, built by King Alfonso XIII to house his guests. It still serves as a meeting place for Sevillan society.
For those who prefer a more intimate setting, Seville is also home of a lovely, small inn made from renovated houses in the medieval Barrio de Santa Cruz.