Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is a unique, colorful, city on the banks of the Guadalquivir River with over 2000 years long history. It’s a city of tradition, a rich culture, famous for exciting corridas and the most passionate flamenco that will make to jump to your feet and dance. Seville, the most shining pearl of Andalusia features a mixture of European and North African impacts, is the south full of fire and lazy afternoon siestas, delicious food and drinks, divine centuries-old architectural achievements and intimate places for whispering. When you think of Seville, the first thing that comes to your mind is an image of Moorish architecture, the sound of the passionate flamenco, the smell of paella and the taste of Andalusian sweet wines.
If for some Spanish city can be said to be the richest in history, it’s definitely Seville! Bring your maps with you and start exploring its landmarks! Seville is looking forward to showing you all its hidden charms and beauty. Walk the streets of Seville and enjoy the beauty of different architectural styles that fit perfectly and form a unique visual whole. Admire ornate façades with lace and floral decorations typical of Moorish architecture.
The upcoming summer holiday is an ideal opportunity to spend a relaxing time, enjoying the warm sun rays and sightseeing its world-known attractions. Seville is a magnificent place for adventure lovers to fulfill their dreams, admiring its beauty in its narrow winding streets, where you can feel the spirit of good old times. Many were thrilled with Seville’s sights, and there ’s no doubt you will be, too.
Here is a list of sincere and warm recommendations to help you spend an incredible time in Seville. Get to know its turbulent past and legends of Seville’s founding and prepare yourself for an exciting adventure through centuries.
1. But first, let’s take a peek into Seville’s turbulent history
According to mythology, Seville was founded by Hercules, who is usually identified with the Phoenician god Melkart. He swam across the Strait of Gibraltar and founded a trading center on the site of today’s Cádiz and Seville. Throughout history, different cultures and influences from the Phoenicians, Romans, Moors, and Jews to Christians, have alternated and this is the real Spain we dream of – with its tradition, soul and irreconcilable differences, which make this city fascinating. In the era of the glorious Roman Empire, the city was named Hispalis. The entire region was conquered by the Moors, Muslims from North Africa in 712 A.D. One can see clearly visible traces of these civilizations on the streets of Seville.
2. Visit Mary’s of the Sea Cathedral – Seville Cathedral
Take a look at this divine medieval cathedral, built in the period between 1401 and 1519 in the Gothic style. It ‘s known for its size and luxurious interior decorations, mainly covered with guilt. This cathedral, the third-largest in the world, was built on the site of the old city mosque. Moorish influence on the cathedral’s construction is noticeable. This is indicated by the 98-meter high minaret, called Giralda, built in the 12th century by Almohad Moorish rulers. It is converted into a bell tower, which is the main symbol of Seville.
Before entering Seville Cathedral visitors, must pass through a large courtyard with a recognizable Islamic influence, which is another evidence that it was a mosque once. The octagonal fountain, placed in the center of the courtyard, is a silent witness of that, used for religious ablutions. Featuring lavish interior decorations and divine artistic achievements Seville Cathedral has always represented a symbol of power and glory of Spain.
Contributing to the wealth of styles, via Arabic, Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque, there is also the most monumental altar in the world, which contains more than two tons of gold, the oldest organ, grand chapel, garden with oranges and fascinating Murillo’s pictures. Deep in the silence of this building between its walls that hide the splendor, power, and beauty, there is the grave of the famous Italian sailor Cristopher Columbus who discovered America in 1492.
3. Breathtaking Alcazar Palace – the Magical Royal Residence
Across from the Gothic Cathedral of St. Mary of the Sea, near Plaza de España square one can see Alcazar, a magical royal residence built in the Moorish style between the 12th and 14th centuries. The magnificent building is dominated by lavish palaces and fairytale gardens. The Spanish kings continued the expansion of buildings by combining Moorish and English styles. Beautifully landscaped gardens were places, where different colors, sounds and smells mix. Fragrant flowers and orange trees made this unique environment a real paradise on earth.
This magical place, filled with beauty and strange mysticism, leaves no one indifferent. The main entrance door ( Puerta Principal) of the Alcazar palace, named after the 19th-century tile-work, which represents the crowned lion holding a cross between its claws, leads to the Courtyard of the Virgins (Patio de las Doncellas). This charming, picturesque courtyard, built between 1369 and 1379, represents a beautiful example of Islamic architecture, showing magnificent marble arches, decorated with breathtaking arabesques.
Many visitors of this stunning royal palace are equally enchanted with other parts of Alcazar, such as Hall of the Ambassadors (Sala de los Embajadores) with plaster arches, which is the oldest of the rooms in the whole building. Here art admirers can also get acquainted with the beauty of well-preserved tapestries and mosaics, which decorate the walls of palaces. Upperparts of these palaces are still used by the Spanish royal family as their official residence. Alcazar Palace and Seville Cathedral have been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1987.
4. Visit Seville’s Most Charming Neighborhoods
In vibrant streets of Seville, there are also noticeable traces of the Jewish community which reflects in the architecture, music and specific way of life, contributing to the particular atmosphere of this city. Macarena, together with the Barrio de Santa Cruz, with their narrow streets, beautiful squares, cute souvenir shops, and restaurants with the best tapas in the whole Spain are one of the most beautiful areas of the city that wear a Jewish stamp.
There is something mystical, and unusual about these picturesque and the most charming neighborhoods of Seville. Maybe the secret lies in the specific atmosphere, alluring smell of orange trees spreading around, unique tastes of exotic spices blending with the sweet fragrance of ripe figs planted in lovely courtyards that hide century-old kept secrets and divine stories that provoke interest and curiosity among people.
5. Climb the Golden Tower (Torre del Oro)
In the Medieval period, the city of Seville was one of the leading trading centers in Spain. Visible evidence of this was a watchtower named The Golden Tower, erected during the reign of the Almohad dynasty in the 13th century. It was used to observe the river and everything that happened around. In the 13th century, all goods brought from the New World had to pass through the Golden Tower, located on the Guadalquivir River.
Among those goods were groceries, today used in everyday life, such as potatoes, tomatoes, chocolate, and tobacco. From there, the world-famous navigators Magellan and Amerigo Vespucci embarked on a journey around the world. This beautiful example of medieval architecture changed its purpose over time, from the former watchtower, gunpowder magazine and the prison to Maritime Museum with a viewpoint, offering a view of the entire Seville.
Although the tower is no longer covered with gold, it keeps the significant historical heritage, including maps, models of ships, guns, portraits of sailors and other objects, as silent witnesses of these glorious times, defending them from oblivion.
6. Take a look at the Town Hall (Ayuntamiento)
It is also interesting to mention some of the buildings, built in the pure Spanish style. Among them is the first Town Hall (Ayuntamiento) built in the 15th century in the Plateresque style whose architect was famous Diego de Rijano. On the southern façade of the building figures from historical stories and mythology are presented as well as emblems of the legendary founders of the city, Hercules, and Caesar. The facade facing the New Square (Plaza Nueva) differs from the appearance of the whole building because it was built in the 19th century in the Neoclassical style by Demetrio de Los Ríos and Balbino Marrón. A small archway connects the town hall building to the Franciscan monastery. Impressive Interior of the building contains several major artistic works, including a painting of the town’s patron saints, Justa and Rufina.
7. Visit the University of Seville
The massive 18th-century building, made in the baroque style, was once home to the first tobacco factory in Europe – La Antigua Fábrica de Tabaco. This is now The University of Seville, an important center of education, with a long tradition of existence. It is said that this building inspired composer of the opera Carmen, famous Georges Bizet, to compile an impressive piece of music about a beautiful gypsy girl Carmen, which together with the opera The Barber of Seville, is a famous symbol of the city.
8. Admire Plaza de España square with beautiful Maria Luisa Park
After visiting landmarks and historic buildings of Seville, take a break in one of the many parks and gardens, which this unforgettable city offers. Maria Luisa Park planted with palm and orange trees, Mediterranean pines, and flower beds are the right choice. Built-in 1929 in the Moorish style, it represents the main green area of Seville.
One part of the park serves as a botanical garden that is home to many exotic species, including birds such as green parrots, ducks, and swans. Here one can admire numerous monuments, lakes, and fountains, which contribute to the fairytale atmosphere. The most impressive fountains are The Lions and the Lake Lotus. Inside Maria Luisa Park there is a square called Plaza de España, which occupies the surface of 50000 square meters. Built-in the Renaissance-Neo-Moorish style, it is considered one of the most impressive landscapes of the city. This complex is made in the form of a semicircle with buildings, which can be reached by crossing the bridges. Each of the walls on this square represents one of the provinces of Spain. The buildings on the square are mainly used for government offices.
9. Visit churches of Seville and enjoy Semena Santa(Holy Week) celebration
In Seville, there is a large number of churches, and each of them is a true masterpiece. When Seville was conquered in 1248 by King Fernando III of Castile, over 20 churches were built in the city, but they have changed their purposes over the centuries. No other city in Castile had so many parishes as Seville. Most of the temples, which were built during this period, are well preserved, and they keep a variety of artworks.
Churches of great significance, which locals are personally attached to are Iglesia Colegial del Salvador, Iglesia de Santa Ana, and Iglesia de San Lorenzo. Residents of Seville, religious and traditional people, gladly take part in numerous religious celebrations. One of the most famous in the whole of Spain is the Holy Week celebration, also known as, Semena Santa celebration, which has been a part of the Spanish tradition for more than 450 years. Devoted to the culture and tradition of Seville, its inhabitants, who belong to different brotherhoods, take part in a glamorous ceremony that passes through the picturesque and narrow streets of the city. The participants of the procession, wear high conical hats that cover their faces, only allowing their eyes to be seen. During the procession, they carry half meter high candles and impressive floats that display lushly decorated figures from the Bible, such as Jesus on the cross or the Virgin Mary.
This religious celebration is held during the week before Easter Saturday in all churches in the city. The celebration of Semena Santa, which takes part in Seville Cathedral is particularly exceptional. One of the most famous churches in Seville is also the Macarena Virgin of Hope (Virgen de la Esperanza Macarena), popularly known as Basilica de la Macarena. The richly decorated interior of the church keeps the relics of unique artistic values. Among them, a beautiful sculpture of the Virgin Macarena stands out, decorated with a golden crown and lavish vestments, representing a symbol of the Holy Week celebration. With a tender expression on the face, she arouses a feeling of affection, admiration, and above all adoration of all citizens of Seville.
10. Visit Seville’s museums, a warm recommendation for all art lovers
As a city of history and culture, Seville boasts numerous museums, special places where you’ll find face to face with the turbulent history of this city. One of the most visited museums is the Museum of Fine Arts that is considered to have the most beautiful collections of paintings in Spain after the Prado Museum in Madrid. Founded in 1835, it occupies the space of the 17-century convent named Convento de la Merced. Here, art admirers can enjoy masterpieces from the Gothic period to the 20th century. In The Museum of Fine Arts exceptional paintings of famous Spanish artists Bartolomé Esteban Murillo, Francisco de Zurbarán, Juan Valdes, El Greco, and Pacheco, attract tourist attention. The museum has a special focus on masterpieces by Murillo, as well as works by the Seville school of the 17th century. The religious paintings by Zurbarán are also exceptional. Museums you can’t miss are also Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Arts and Tradition as well as the Museum of Flamenco Art.
11. Attend the Bullfighting (Corrida) if you dare
In Seville, Sunday cannot pass without (corrida) bullfighting, an event that dates back to the Middle Ages. Being part of this is a matter of culture and national identity of almost every citizen of Spain. In the world, there are those, who dispute this form of entertainment but despite this, it has been part of Spanish tradition for centuries. Seville bullring, the most ancient in the whole country, is called the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, but it is popularly known as La Maestranza.
Built-in the 17th century in the Baroque style, it provides seats for more than 14 000 spectators. With its unique oval-shaped form and beautifully decorated arcades, built to protect spectators from the unbearably warm sun, it ranks among the most magnificent bullrings in Spain. Within La Maestranza bullring one can see the museum that contains different exhibits such as pictures and traditional costumes of famous Spanish matadors. Especially interesting are chapels where matadors pray for good luck. La Maestranza bullring, without any doubt, represents one of the most significant landmarks of the city. For those who enjoy adventure and excitement, La Maestranza bullring is the right choice, an event not to be missed.
12. Enjoy Flamenco to the fullest
Flamenco is a specific art form, which combines acoustic guitar playing, singing, dancing, and staccato handclapping producing a sharp, almost piercing sound. Andalusia is the cradle of sedative and passionate Flamenco, the authentic art form based on the various folkloric music traditions of Southern Spain, with deep roots originating from Gypsy’s culture.
In Andalusia, flamenco is different, more realistic and less commercialized, with the soul and deep emotions, picturesque and vibrant, fulfilled with colors, seductive rhythms, and sounds. If you are lucky, you can have a chance to watch locals, dancing flamenco on the streets and this is an unforgettable experience for everyone. There on the street, watching little kids and people dancing regardless of age, everyone can realize that flamenco represents the way of life, an expression of the soul, and a great passion for life.
If you ever find yourself in Seville, enjoy its colorful scenery, and a lively atmosphere, which allures with strong life energy and special oriental charm. Take a peek into its hidden corners, divine parks and colorful gardens full of fragrant flowers and ripe oranges and indulge in their fascinating aromas and scents, that will fulfill all the senses. If you are the travel lover, a person with an adventurous spirit, embark on this adventure, visiting this colorful city that will enchant you with its gorgeous beauty and inexhaustible treasury of cultural wealth, which has been carefully collected for centuries. Take an opportunity to get acquainted with Seville, its ancient history and culture and feel the real soul of passionate and unsuppressed Spaniards. For the end of this unforgettable journey entertain a bit in one of numerous Seville’s flamenco bars, watching flamenco spectacles full of passion, mystery, and sensuality, and discover Seville in its full glory!
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