Those of you who want to travel across Andalusia should visit its capital city – Seville. It is the largest city in the region and the fourth largest city in Spain. Its strategic location – in the heart of Andalusia and by Guadalquivir river – have made it a place of great significance.
It was founded in the second century BC by the Iberians. After Julius Caesar’s conquest in 45 BC, the city changed its name to Colonia Iulia Romula Hispalis and became the most economically developed city in the region. Amazing reminders of that period are partially preserved first fortified walls – Murallas de Sevilla, Restos del Acueducto – remains of an ancient aqueduct, and Alameda de Hercules – dignified columns surmounted with sculptures of Julius Caesar and Hercules, built in 1574 to honour the founders of Seville. After Roman rule, in 461, the contemporary Hispalis fell into Visigoths’ hands, who started to call it Spali. Due to civil wars of 549, Andalusia was conquered by Byzantine emperor, Justinian the Great, who made Seville the capital of the archdiocese. It was a period of social unrest, divisions and further takeovers. Finally, saint Isidore became the metropolitan bishop of Seville. He achieved great things during his 35 years of rule over the archdiocese of Seville. He is considered to be the author of the most beautiful sermons of the contemporary Western Europe. You should already know one of his most popular pearls of wisdom: Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever”… and visit Seville, one may add :)
Next, in 712, Seville got conquered by the Moors and received a new name – Isbiliya. The city stayed in Cordoba’s shadow for the next few centuries. In 1248, a Catholic kind, Ferdinand III, became its new ruler.
From the times of Muslim conquer, you can see the remains of an amazing royal palace, Alcazar. It was a place, where decisions were made concerning Ferdinand Magellan’s expeditions. Christopher Columbus came here to see Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon after his trip to America. It is one of the most famous and the fines palace complexes in Spain. Its walls encompass gardens, squares, fountains and amazing relics. It is best to start the tour as early as possible. Around 11 AM, a crowd of tourists gathers in front of the palace and the queues, especially during the high season, leading to the palace and Giralda tend to be veeeery long.
In the thirteenth century, the governor Abu l-Ul issued an order to build the famous Torre del Oro. During the Arabic rule, it was used to protect the city. Together with a second tower situated on the other side of the river, it blocked the entrance to the harbour. Here is a myth saying that it hid gold stolen during the great expeditions. The name comes from the colour of lime mortar used to build it. Today, there is Museo Maritimo exhibiting nautical maps, paintings, and other mementos. You really should come and see it.
From Torre del Oro, you can see La Plaza de la Toros de la Real Maestranza de Caballeria de Sevilla – a bullring. Inside, there are mementos, poster collections inviting to the corrida, elements of toreadors’ outfits – an attraction worth the money, especially if you are interested in it.
The beautiful Seville has been developing and illuminating the maps of Western Europe. Its true glory days started together with the successful conquers of the New World. During that period, in 150 years, 18 tons of silver, 2000 tons of gold ore, newly discovered fruit, vegetables, sugar cane, cotton, tobacco, and many other oversea loots was brought to the city. Seville became a transshipment point, a great trade centre and the third largest city in the western world.
The largest and the most splendid building of Seville is, obviously, the Cathedral of Saint Mary. It is the biggest and the most splendid gothic church in the world! It was built between 1402-1506 in a place that used to be a mosque. All that remained of the mosque is a 96 m tall Giralda – today, it is a component of the block of the church. You have to go there – the view from the top is unforgettable! Inside the church, there is Columbus’s tomb, the royal chapel and the main chapel, as well as a 27,8 m tall and 18,2 m wide altar believed to be the largest in the world. Its surface is covered by 3 tons of gold. The size of the structure makes a great impression.
Attention! – In Spanish tourist guidebooks and on leaflets, you will not find the full name of Christopher Columbus – his Spanish name is Cristobal Colon, and that is what they call him in Spain.
Near the cathedral, you will find other grand and historic structures, including the city hall, a renaissance exchange building from the sixteenth century. Since the eighteenth century, there is the General Archive of the Indies. Inside, they used to gather information and documents concerning Spanish oversea properties. It is over 9 km of topical documentation!
If you go to Seville, keep in mind that it is called the Frying Pan of Andalusia – during summer, the temperature goes over 40 degrees! Exploring in such conditions is rather tiring, so you can hide from the heat in the shadows of trees when you go from the centre, through Maria Luisa Park to Plaza de Espana, which was built in 1928 to hold Iberian-American exhibit in neo-mudejar style with art deco elements. In the middle of Plaza, there is a refreshing fountain and an artificial river with charming bridges. On the lower level, there are richly decorated places, depicting all Spanish provinces. You absolutely should visit Plaza de Espana! It is very distinguishable and it is often used a background in movies.
Here, movie scenes for the Star Wars: Attack of the Clones were filmed.
To see the panorama of Seville, you need to go to the other side of the river, i.e. through Puente de Triana, to one of the most beautiful parts of Seville – Triana. There, you can participate in a spontaneous flamenco show and take a break for, i.e. carvezie (beer) and tapas :)
Another district worth visiting, due to a variety of streets with bars, is Barrio de Santa Cruz. You will find Casa de Pilatos there – Pilate’s House. It was built in 1483 as an imitation of Pontius Pilate’s house, near Cruz del Campo church.
You can also watch the panorama of Seville from the famous Metropol Parasol – due to its characteristic shape, it reminds of gigantic mushrooms. In the underground of this avant-garde construction, designed by a German architect, Jurgen Mayer, there is a museum exhibiting excavations from the ancient El Antiquarium!
A walk through the city centre brings lots of excitement. You will be impressed by building facades, the smell of burning incense coming from small stores, music played by the local buskers, squares and… TAPAS. Seville seems to be the best place to try Spanish delicacies. There are many of them.
As many cities as many histories. Seville also shares the history of the beginning of flamenco culture, especially Triana district, where many remarkable artists were born.
In the city centre, there are Museo del Baile Flamenco – the Museum of Flamenco dance, and Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla – the Museum of Fine Arts with a rich collection of Spanish authors.
Seville is a large city. In order to visit all the important attractions, it is best to rent, i.e. a bike. All around the city, there are bike rentals. Here are a few:
You can also travel by car and the tube or taxi:
April – a great fiesta of April – one of the largest fiestas in Andalusia
April – the Holy Week celebration – the most important holiday of Spain. The method of celebration is very similar in all parts of the country, however, in Seville and Malaga, there are the biggest processions, the platforms tend to weight about a few hundred kg – participating in the Holy Week celebrations is an amazing experience!
Below, you will find a map with the most representative attractions of Seville.
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