Seville is the Capital City of Andalucia and the third most visited city in Spain after Madrid and Barcelona. The Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville were inscribed by UNESCO in 1987.
Setas De Seville
Before starting the tour of Seville, it is worth considering that most of the sites are in the old part of the city, the area once surrounded by the city walls. Driving is not recommended, and parking is difficult. Take a city centre hotel, or one just outside and leave your car there. Walking is free, and taxis are plentiful. Even better, if you get the chance, use the Metro. The Seville Metro Centro Tram was opened in 2007 and trundles above ground right through the centre of the city. There is a very reasonable standard price for any distance travelled.
The Real Alcazar Seville
Of the Roman, Vandal and Suevi periods there is little that remains today, all having been built over. The Real Alcazar, Royal Palace, is perhaps the oldest surviving building, started in 931 AD there are traces of the original Moorish architecture, but then you notice much later additions from the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque periods.
The Torre del Oro
The Torre del Oro, Golden Tower, is named after the reflection of the sun on the gold tiles on the roof dome. The 12 sided tower was built at the beginning of the 13th Century and formed part of the cities defences. The Torre del Oro overlooks the river alongside which there is a fine river walk.
Seville Cathedral is the largest cathedral in the world by volume, according to a Guinness Book of Records entry, and the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The Cathedral is lavishly decorated with gold from the Americas. The famous Giraldo Tower was once the minaret of a Muslim mosque whilst the Patio de los Naranjos outside, with its orange trees providing shade, was once the entrance courtyard to the mosque.
Plaza de España
From there it is a short distance to Plaza de España. This two hundred metre diameter semi-circle was built in 1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition in what has been described as a 'theatrical' style. Today it is a series of offices in a monumental 'Peter Pan' like building that encloses a huge fountain and a moat. The public are allowed into the cloisters at the lower level. Notice the exquisite tiles with the coats of arms and emblems of the various regions of Spain set into the walls.
Archaeological Museum in Parque De Marie Luisa
Opposite Plaza España is a huge park, Parque De Marie Luisa. In 1893 Princess Maria Luisa donated half the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo to the city. In 1929, again for the Exposition, they were modified to what you see today. Kilometres of paths wind through formal and less formal gardens. There are orange trees that are 100 years old, masses of flowering shrubs and flowers, fountains, ponds and lakes. It seems that most of the pigeons of Seville call the park home, along with a surprising selection of other birds for a location in the centre of a city. Keep your eyes open for the Roman style statues on 15-metre-high columns giving a real 'Imperial' feel to the area. They, together with the horse-drawn carriages, (no cars allowed), transport you back to a less frantic era.
Within the Parque De Marie Luisa, there are other places of interest, the Museum of Arts and Popular Customs, the Royal Pavilion and the Archaeological Museum. The latter has a magnificent display of gold jewelry and ornaments collectively called the Tartessian Treasure hoard and one of the best graphical 'timelines' with example artifacts covering the Prehistoric to Roman periods in Andalucia. The museums are free for ECU residents.
The Torre del Oro is supposed to house the Naval Museum but I found it very disappointing considering Seville’s connection to the Americas.
Completed in 2011, Setas de Seville claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world. The structure consists of six parasols in the form of mushrooms. The Setas are organized in four levels. The underground level houses the Antiquarium, where Roman and Moorish remains discovered on site are displayed in a museum. Level 1 is the Central Market. The roof of Level 1 is the surface of the open-air public plaza, shaded by the wooden parasols above and designed for public events. Levels 2 and 3 are the two stages of the panoramic terraces (including a restaurant), offering a view of the city centre.
For those more inclined to shopping then this city is a paradise. Walking a gentle spiral outward from the cathedral takes you through narrow streets, most are pedestrian only, shaded at roof level by great swathes of muslin during the summer, in which you find all the 'big name' stores as well as smaller specialist and artisan shops. Scattered amongst them are innumerable tapas bars, coffee shops and restaurants. In the evenings the place comes alive as the tables appear in the streets and peripatetic musicians and entertainers wander between them.
The Sevillanos all seem to dress for dinner on any night of the week. Join in the fun and do likewise.
Together these three buildings form a remarkable monumental complex in the heart of Seville. The cathedral and the Alcázar – dating from the Reconquest of 1248 to the 16th century and imbued with Moorish influences – are an exceptional testimony to the civilization of the Almohads as well as that of Christian Andalusia. The Giralda minaret is the masterpiece of Almohad architecture. It stands next to the cathedral with its five naves; the largest Gothic building in Europe, it houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. The ancient Lonja, which became the Archivo de Indias, contains valuable documents from the archives of the colonies in the Americas.
Seville is one of the five hottest cities in Spain during July and August. The other four are Granada and Córdoba, both in Andalucia, Badajoz in Extremadura and Murcia. The best times to visit Seville are from October through until June.