Villas in Asia Pacific
A strategic position in the valley of the Guadalquivr River meant that 16th century Seville literally became the golden gateway from Spain to the riches of the American continent.
Silver and gold from the New World all flowed into Spain through Seville’s Guadalquivr River – a timeless landmark that has helped travellers through the centuries find their way around the Andalucian city.
Once capital of the Moorish empire, Seville remains a steaming hotpot of regional traditions, from exuberant religious festivals to gruesome bull fights. As a visitor, you will not only notice these deep-seated traditions, however, but also enjoy a fresh, modern vibe that makes it a fascinating city to lose yourself in.
Active in Andalucia
It’s tangled network of cobbled streets perfectly lends Seville to exploration on foot. However, the many bicycle stations peppered across the city (known locally as ‘Servica’) mean that it is also easy to rent out two wheels and marvel at the opulent Moorish, Renaissance and Baroque architecture with the wind in your hair.
A large proportion of the city’s major sites, including the Cathedral of the Virgin Mary and Giralda (bell tower) can be found on the eastern bank of the river. It is also worth visiting what remains of the city’s ancient walls, which were originally built by the Romans but improved by the Moors. If you are walking, be sure to explore the tangled web of cobbled streets in the Barrio Santa Cruz region of the city, which once housed its Jewish Quarter.
Step back in Time
The Cathedral and La Giralda, the bell tower, are at the top of most travellers’ Seville itinerary. The largest Gothic building in the world, Seville’s cathedral is a spectacular sight to behold. Built over the remains of an Almohad mosque, the cathedral also houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The magnificent bell tower at the back of the Cathedral was originally intended for the mosque, however a short climb up its 34 steps now yields spectacular views of the city. Visit at sunset to see Seville bathed in the peachy golden hues of dusk.
The Reales Alcázares Palace is another of Seville’s unmissable gems, whether it is the exquisite architecture of the palace that pulls you there, or its fascinating history. Built by the Christian kings of Castile, the Alcázares is a complex of several palaces built together, so it is worth setting aside a good chunk of time to explore. To this day, the King and Queen of Spain still stay at Alcázares when they visit the city.
Located opposite the Maria Luisa park, the Plaza de España (Square of Spain) is one of the best places to sit and soak up the city’s lively atmosphere. The square was originally constructed for the Ibero-American exhibition in 1929, and is sprinkled with superb ceramic tiles, bridges and baroque arcades. Today, Plaza de España is home to many government buildings, but its striking architecture and design means that it is an un-missable destination if you enjoy dabbling in a little photography. If you are in the area, many of the largest mansions in Maria Luisa park have been converted into museums, some of which are home to ancient Roman mosaics.
Off the Beaten Shopping Track
If your Euros are burning a hole in your pocket, you can splash your cash on some of the authentic Spanish pottery for which Seville is famous. Triana, a bohemian neighbourhood on the west bank of the river is home to a plethora of workshops where it is possible to get your hands on custom designed tiles and plates made by local craftsmen. Triana is also one of the best places to head for a few drinks once evening settles over the city.
Showtime in Sevilla
Travellers seeking the soul of the Sevilla experience shouldn’t miss the chance to take in some Flamenco dancing. After all, Seville is the birthplace of this fiery dance. The ‘Museo del Baile Flamenco’ offers a mine of knowledge to visitors regarding the history of the dance and its culture, while the true Flamenco flavour can be absorbed at one of the performances which take place on Friday and Saturday evenings. If you are in the mood for some Flamenco, the city’s cultural centre is also a good place to take it all in.
However, if dancing is a little tame for you, Seville is also one of the few remaining places in Europe where traditional bullfights still take place. A bullfight is certainly not the right place for the faint of heart, however, or travellers with strong convictions regarding the treatment of animals.
The historical city of Seville offers up a fine opportunity to delve a little deeper into some of the unique traditions that still play a major part in the local culture. Here are some of the city’s peculiarities to seek out for and enjoy during your trip.
- Unlike many other Spaniards, Sevillanos tend to consume more beer than they do wine. As such, don’t miss the chance to sip on an ice cold glass of Cruzcampo, the local beer, after your walking tour of the Barrio Santa Cruz Quarter. Alternatively, indulge in a jug of sweet Sangria if you are in the mood for something a little fruitier.
- Legend has it that the exquisite little bites we now know as Tapas originated in Sevilla. Home to over 4,000 tapas bars and tavernas, the city is the perfect place to indulge in your favourite spicy potatoes or sample something new – like the local speciality, salted cod in tomato sauce. The best tapas can be found in the Alameda area, although a short wander down any of the city’s side streets will undoubtedly lead you to tapas heaven.
- If your schedule allows, head to Seville during the springtime to experience the city at its most vibrant during the Semana Santa festival. A mass of ‘casetas’ (small marquees) are laid out to form a miniature city of their own – with each caseta hosting its own party. Enjoy the sights of horse riders dressed in tradition Spanish robes as you roam the network of casetas, until evening time when the Flamenco dancing begins.
- If you want to explore the deep-rooted spirituality of Sevilla during your trip, why not attend mass at La Iglesia del Divino Salvador? After the cathedral, this is Sevilla’s largest church and offers up a fine example of Baroque architecture. Mass takes place every Sunday at 11am.
- If you are on a longer break and in the mood to escape the heat of the city for the day, take a day trip to the nearby Doñana National Park, which is situated directly adjacent to the Atlantic Ocean. The vibrant green of the park forms a sharp contrast with the sapphire blue of the Atlantic, and activities including bird watching and horse riding are popular before sitting down to sample the fresh catch of the day at a local seafood restaurant.