Seville is on #1 on Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2018, and on my Top 10 destinations in 2018 for the cultural explorer!
And there’s good reason. The southern part of Spain is nothing like the north, and Seville is nothing like Barcelona and Madrid. The Moorish influence can be seen in the architecture, language and food, and it makes Andalucía and Seville into a colourful dream filled with palaces and oranges!
We visited Seville on a 2-week roadtrip through Andalucía. My husband lived here for a while studying Spanish, so we visited some of his old friends. So we sat in the hot evenings on a beautiful square with tapas and cava and beer – and I didn’t understand a word anybody was saying… But my husband was happy, and the city is beautiful.
One think I really enjoyed drinking was a kind of champagne cocktail mixing cava with orange. It was so hot, that I didn’t really eat that much, and they also eat so late, that I’m usually asleep before the starters. But needless to say, this is Tapas Land!
Seville is known as the frying pan of Spain, so be careful when it’s hot! You’ll see lots of rolled down blinds, but also cloth going from to roof across the narrow streets to create shade.
There’s a lot to see in Seville, so deep into history and discover the past (you can read more on the past further down). 3 sights are World Heritage listed: Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias in Seville. But remember to take a break in between and drink a glass of beer.
CATHEDRAL OF SEVILLE
One of the main sights are the Cathedral a World Heritages site, the biggest Cathedral in the world and the third largest in the world! Now bigger isn’t always better, but it’s impressive. It’s a mixture of Gothic and Renaissance which you can see in the decorations. Just like in Cordoba, it was also a mosque once, but you can only see the minaret now. This is the Giralda Tower now (more further down).
Christopher Columbus is buried here. (He might not have discovered America, but he’s still a interesting historical figure).
The fantastic courtyard is filled with orange trees. They are now called Seville oranges, but the trees was imported by the Moors. They are too bitter to eat, but look lovely and provide with much needed shade (and good in drinks).
The tower La Giralda is integrated into the Cathedral. Originally it was the Islamic minaret, but now it’s the cathedral’s bell tower. The tower dates back to the end of the twelfth century, and is one of only three remaining Almohad minarets left in the world. In 1356, the four bronze spheres that had crowned the tower fell to the ground and were destroyed. The 104 metres high bell tower is in Renaissance style and was designed by Hernán Ruíz in the 16th century. On top of the bell tower is a weathervane: el Giraldillo, a symbol of Seville.
Another site worth a visit is the Alcázar (you’ll know this word very well after two weeks) from 10th century. Real Alcázar is a group of palaces surrounded by a wall. This is like the Cordoba mosque-Cathedral a conglomerate of styles, notably Renaissance and the Moorish Mudejar architecture. You’ll find a great resemblance to Alhambra…
The ceramic tiles is still a major feature of the architecture. You’ll find a ceramic Virgin Mary further down. We were so much in love with these tiles, that we now have a table at home with ceramic tiles we imported from Andalucía!
I haven’t been inside, but it’s an important historical place, since it holds irreplaceable documents on the conquest of the New World. The building was constructed in 1585 to house the Consulate of the merchants of Seville, but from 1785 it has become home to the greatest collection of documentation concerning the discovery of and relations with the New World. The architect behind the building also completed the impressive El Escorial near Madrid, and it’s one of the clearest examples of Spanish Renaissance architecture. It symbolizes the link between the Old and the New World.
Factories aren’t usually a thing, but when in the hometown of Carmen, you gotta see the tobacco factory. The place look not so much as a factory as a palace. It it still one of the largest buildings in Spain. The factory was Europe’s most important tobacco factory, producing around 75% of the cigarettes consumed in Europe.
The opera by Bizet (a Frenchman) tells of the gypsy Carmen, who works at the factory and ends up in a deadly love triangle with a toreador and a soldier. (It’s sad – although it’s strange they speak French when in Spain). I recommend playing the great and well-known Habanera Song, when sitting looking out on the river.
OTHER SIGHTS IN SEVILLE
Spend some days here to also see Torrel del Oro, a 36 m tall military watchtower from 1220, the spectacular Plaza de España designed for 1929 Expo and just chillax.
I’m an NOT into bull fighting, but the architecture is interesting. The Plaza de toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballería can seat 12000 and holds one of the world’s most well-known bullfighting festivals in the world during the annual fair in Seville. Come for it or avoid it. Instead we went drinking at a bar, where the toreadors came (or used to maybe), and that’s was fun.
MOORS & CHRISTIANS & …
To really appreciate and understand the mixed culture and architectural styles of Seville, it’s good to know a little history (always good to know).
Seville is the main city in Andalucía with the big Guadalquivir river dividing it. This is a big city compared to the others in the region, and it has been so a long time. The name Andalucía probably comes from Al-Andalus. To really appreciate the sights, it’s good to have a crash course in the history of the region. So: First came the Phoenicians, then the Carthagians, then the Romans (2 Roman emperors were born here), then different Romans, Then the Visigoths, then the Byzantines, then Islamic rule for 800(!) years under both the Umayyad Dynasty and Izirids, then the Crown of Castille took it back – hence the Reconquista (back to Christianity, although that’s not where it started). And it’s pretty much been Catholic since then…
The city became very wealthy after the “discovery” of the Americas which brought in a lot of goods to Spain, where the city was used as port trading with the Americas..
Descended from North African tribes of Berbers and Arabs, the Moors ruled parts of Spain from the 8th-15th century, focusing much of their domination on the southern province of Andalucía. During their 800-year rule, the Moors clearly influenced the region’s culture, which is still visible all over the region today. Andalucía can thank the Moors for their thriving tourism today, that’s for sure. They gave the region it’s own unique architecture and atmosphere, that I really like. And oranges!
MORE? Go to the official website for Seville. Got more time in Andalucía? See a fantastic UNESCO site close by is Heaven on earth! Enchanting Alhambra in Granada, Spain.