Spain’s great southern city of Seville has a romantic past and a rich Moorish heritage. Seville has an impressive collection of historical sights, including its cathedral, which is one of the largest Gothic buildings in the world Having been occupied by the Moors for 500 years, the city also has a legacy left by the Arab kings in the form of the Alcazar, a palace-Fortress that is regarded as one of the finest surviving examples of Moorish architecture.
Seville is the perfect setting for high culture and romantic operas like Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro, and the romance is not just cultural: the poet Byron famously rated Seville for its women and oranges
Modern visitors might add Flamenco, tapas and bull fighting to the list of attractions. Seville is the regional capital of Andalucia, which contains the densely populated beach resorts of the Costa del Sol along its southern reaches, and the mountain villages of the Sierra.
Nevada range further inland, about 25 miles (40km) from the coast. The area around Seville itself does not provide much in the way of tourist attractions except for the rural villages of of the Sierra Morena to the north .
This area offers some of the most perfect walking trails between the modest peaks, particularly during the spring offers some perfect walking trails between the modest mountain peaks, particularly in spring when the area is carpeted with wild flowers.
|Places of InterestSightseeingWandering the narrow maze of Santa Cruz, Seville’s most romantic neighbourhood – all balconies, flowers and stately Mansions – is one of the best touristic experiences in Spain, and can occupy visitors for days, with courtyard cafes, bars and restaurants to rest at whenever the charming labyrinth becomes overwhelming.Seville is a city best explored on foot, and Santa Cruz is one of the districts where tourists can tap into the soul of this special Spanish destination. Other famous Seville attractions include the enormous Seville Cathedral, one of the biggest Gothic churches in the world; the recently renovated Plaza de Espana, the stately square constructed in 1929; and the Maria Luisa Park, one of the loveliest green lungs in Europe. However, the city’s most famous attraction is the UNESCO-listed Alcazar of Seville, an ancient palace complex considered one of Spain’s great treasures. Visitors to Seville should also be sure to take in a cultural performance as the city is alive with authentic Spanish music and Flamenco. There are several wonderful performing arts venues, including the Casa de la Memoria de Al-Andalus and La Casa del Flamenco Auditorio Alcantara. Good museums in Seville include the Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Museum of Fine Arts).Seville Cathedral |
As a monument to Christian glory, Seville’s cathedral has few equals, in fact it is still undecided whether it is the largest
church in the world when measured against St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London. This massive Gothic edifice
took more than a century to build, after a group of religious fanatics decided in 1401 to build a church so wonderful that
‘those who come after us will take us for madmen’. The cathedral was built on the site of the Almohad mosque, which
was demolished to make way for it, leaving no more than the minaret, built in 1198, known as La Giralda, which is today
open to tourists to climb. Along with the Alcazar and the Archivo de Indias, the cathedral has been declared a UNESCO
World Heritage Site and is undoubtedly one of the highlights of a visit to Seville. The interior of the cathedral contains
some marvellous sights in its 44 chapels, including mahogany choir stalls made from recycled Austrian railway sleepers.
It is claimed that Christopher Columbus’ remains are here in a tomb dedicated to him, but there is some controversy
over this. Artworks to be seen include gilded panels, glittering icons, and intricately carved altar pieces. The cathedral
is imposing and quite overwhelming in its scope, but the intricate detail is also incredible.
Alcazar of Seville
Alcazar is Seville’s top attraction and one of the most famous attractions in Spain. The palace complex is a UNESCO
World Heritage Site and an undisputed architectural masterpiece by any standards. The site of Seville’s Moorish
Alcazar palace has been occupied by the city’s rulers since Roman times, and has been a favoured residence of Spanish
kings since the Middle Ages. The palace was established by the Moors as early as the 7th century, although it was
primarily built in the 1300s, and has been added to and altered by successive occupants ever since. First to enlarge
the building was the infamous al-Mu’tadid of the Abbadids, who reputedly kept a harem of 800 women and
decorated the terraces with flowers planted in the skulls of his decapitated enemies. Of the early Christian additions
most notable is the colonnaded quadrangle of the Patio of the Maids. The golden-domed Salon de los Embajadores
was a wing built by Fernando and Isabel, and was where the royal pair welcomed Columbus back after his discovery
of America. The palace is set in beautiful, extensive gardens where it is possible to picnic if you bring your own food.
Otherwise, there is a small restaurant overlooking the gardens. Visitors should allow several hours to explore this
spectacular palace complex.
Visitors usually need to visit a tourist office to obtain a detailed map of the winding alleys, gateways and courtyards of
this enchanting and fascinating section of Seville, a former Jewish ghetto, where every street corner has a romantic
legend attached to it. The balconies and windowsills are all festooned with flowers and the fragrance of jasmine pervades
the air in this picturesque corner of the city, which can be reached via the Calle Rodrigo Caro. Santa Cruz is also
bordered by the Alcazar, the Jardines de Murillo, and Santa Maria La Blanca. Some of the sights to look for are the
Hospital de los Venerables, which contains Sevillian art works; the beautiful mansions in the Calle Lope de Rueda; the
Convent de San Jose, which boasts relics of Saint Teresa of Avila; and the Iglesia de Santa Maria la Blanca, which
features Murillo’s ‘Last Supper’. Apart from many notable buildings, the neighbourhood is home to numerous quaint
and quirky shops, art galleries, artisans workshops, hotels, guest houses, tapas bars and restaurants, making it a
tourists’ paradise. Santa Cruz is also a favourite haunt for locals though, and the area is fun to visit during the day and
at night. Many walking tours of the district are available and joining one makes for a good introduction to Santa Cruz.
Museo Provincial de Bellas Artes de Sevilla A restored convent, dating back to 1612 and hidden in a tiny plaza off Calle
de Alfonso XII in Seville, houses one of Spain’s most important and largest art collections. The museum was established
in 1839, and houses art spanning from medieval times to the 20th century, with the pride of the collection being the range
of paintings from the 17th century, Seville’s Golden Age. Highlights include the religious paintings of Seville’s own
Esteban Murillo, but the collection also includes other Seville School artists such as the macabre works of Juan de
Vales Leal and Francisco de Zurbaran. There are also two paintings byEl Greco among the exhibits. The museum
has a surfeit of religious art, which will delight some and bore others; it is probably not the best attraction for
children. The convent is an incredible housing for the collection, and would be worth exploring even if it were empty,
with frescoes and ornate vaulted ceilings that make it hard to tell where the building ends and the art begins.
On Sundays there is usually an art market in the square outside the museum where local artists set up stalls and sell
their work. A must for art lovers, this gallery is generally considered to have the second best collection of Spanish art
in the country.
Maria Luisa Park
Regarded as one of the loveliest parks in Europe, this half-mile area in southern Seville, near the port, is planted with
palms, orange trees, elms and Mediterranean pines. Bright and beautiful flower beds vie for the eye with hidden bowers,
ponds, pavilions, water features and statues in this little paradise, which was designed in the 1920s and thus reflects a mix of
Art Deco and Mudejar styling. The park was originally part of Seville’s World Expo, which brought a burst of creative
architecture and rejuvenation during the 1920s, and which included the re-direction of the Guadalquivir River and the
construction of some opulent buildings, like the stylish Guatemala building off the Paseo de la Palmera. Also fronting
the park is the city’s archaeological museum, focusing on the Romans and prehistory of the province of Seville. Near
the park is the Royal Tobacco Factory (today part of the university), immortalised by the fictional operatic gypsy
heroine Carmen, who is said to have worked there. Many of the buildings surrounding Maria Luisa Park are attractions
in themselves. The park is a pleasant refuge for relaxation and a stroll, and a great place to have a picnic in Seville.
Credited both as the birthplace of bullfighting and the home of one of Spain’s great architectural feats, Ronda is an easy
and entertaining escape from the city. Dramatically situated on the edge of a deep gorge, Ronda is a very picturesque
place offering plenty of fodder for photographers. Ambling about the cobbled streets, handsome mansions and well-established artisan boutiques is enough to fill a day, but no visit would be complete without a trip to the beautiful old bull ring and
Ronda’s most famous attraction, the Puento Nueveo (The New Bridge). The structure straddles a magnificent chasm
and connects the old town to the new, while allowing visitors a vista of the region unfolding around them. The Old
Town, La Ciudad, is a labyrinth of narrow streets and historic old buildings which is a delight to explore.
Calle la Bola is the main shopping street, and La Alameda, right next to the bull ring, is a pleasant park for a rest in the shade. Ronda is small and best explored on foot, with plenty of drinking fountains in the Old Town. Those who have energy to spare can walk
down to the bottom of the gorge, which affords great photo opportunities.
This large lump of limestone stuck to the end of the Iberian Peninsula is as famous for its bizarre geology as it is for its
overly-friendly furry friends. Though many countries have claimed the beacon over the years, it’s officially owned by the
British government and thus it is advised that tourists exchange Euros for Pounds here for ease and economy. The Rock
of Gibraltar is easily conquered by cable car, but it’s worthwhile to hire a guide (around 25 USD per person) to explain
the countless caves and mites, and to coax the wild monkeys to give a toothy grin while atop your head. On clear days
visitors can even view North Africa. St Michael’s Cave, long believed to be bottomless, is a thrilling attraction with many
myths and stories attached. Part of the massively deep cave is open to visitors and is even used as a concert venue. The
labyrinthine Great Siege Tunnels, an incredible defense system constructed to repel the Spanish and French invaders
between 1779 and 1783, is also fascinating. The Moorish Castle complex, dating back to the 11th century, is another
impressive attraction in Gibraltar. The fit and brave should consider walking up the steep Mediterranean Steps, which
wind up the eastern side of the Rock, providing stunning views, but this hike is not suitable for those afraid of heights!
Andalusia’s chalky soil is ideal for the cultivation of the palomino grape, from which the world-famous sherry (jerez) of
the region is made. The main sites of sherry production in Andalusia are Jerez de la Frontera and Montilla, and these
charming towns are home to plenty of self-proclaimed sherry connoisseurs, who will debate the quality of the sweet amber
-coloured blends with the seriousness usually reserved for appraising the finest French wines. An increasingly popular
tourist activity for visitors to southern Spain is to tour the bodegas of the region, wineries with a history dating back to
Roman times, which specialise in the fermentation of palomino grapes and the production of sherry. Tasting tours of these
bodegas are fun and informative, and – especially in the case of Jerez de la Frontera – can be combined with other great
cultural attractions, such as checking out a flamenco dance performance, or admiring beautiful Andalusian horses at a
dressage event. A bottle of Andalusian sherry makes for a great Spanish souvenir for friends and family back home: visit
the bodega of Pedro Domecq and pick up a bottle of their amontillado variety. Many tour operators offer day trips to the
bodegas but it is also easy to explore without a guide.