Seville is the capital of the charming region of Andalusia in Southern Spain. One of Europe’s most beautiful cities, this dreamy enclave has the most extensive historical quarters in Spain and one of the three largest historic districts in Europe, along with Genoa and Venice.
Seville’s intense history dates back more than 3,000 years. It was colonized by Phoenicians and Carthaginians, conquered by the Romans, and later occupied by Vandals and Visigoths. After the end of the Germanic rule came the Muslims, who settled along the Guadalquivir River Valley, where they found a familiar climate and fertile lands. The Arab occupation of Seville lasted more than eight centuries, and that influence is not lost on the city’s charm and peculiar beauty. After the fall of the Caliphate of Córdoba, Christian kings took back Andalusia, and Seville, in particular, was repopulated with people who came from the kingdom of Castile.
Seville is now a bright, bustling and cheerful city. The balmy weather invites travelers to share the life on the street alongside the friendly, fun-loving and welcoming Sevillanos. Visitors will find a great number of flamenco “tablaos” and bars where they can taste delicious tapas, usually accompanied by excellent sherry.
There is a lot to see and do in this beautiful corner of Southern Spain. We recommend a stroll through the old town, starting at Constitution Avenue, which takes you to the majestic Seville Cathedral, the world’s largest Gothic cathedral–built in the 16th century. It is only surpassed in size by the St. Peter’s Cathedral in the Vatican, and Saint Paul`s Cathedral in London.
Brimming with artwork, the cathedral is also famous for the monument that crowns its main tower. The Giralda–as it is called–is a majestic 343 feet high minaret, which was part of the former Aljama Mosque, the site where the cathedral was built. Seville also boasts the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies), an old Italianate palace that houses documentation and bibliography related to the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. Visitors should not overlook Plaza de España, built for the Iberoamerican Exhibition of 1929. Also, deserving of a visit is the nearby Park of María Luisa, which was part of the gardens of the San Telmo Place, the property of the Dukes of Montpensier. The park was donated to the city by the Duchess Maria Luisa Fernanda de Orleans.
The Alcazar—a truly magical place— is a masterpiece of Moorish art, strongly influenced by the Alhambra in Granada. The solemn structure underwent changes and renovations during the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella, but still retains its beautiful Yeso courtyard and its fortified arches.
If you really want to imbibe the essence of Seville, you should walk around its neighborhoods, observe its people and visit its palaces, museums and gardens. But above all, you should enjoy its picturesque corners, like the Andalusian patios that can be seen behind the gates of its great homes and manors. The city’s most traditional neighborhoods are Triana and Macarena. Triana is the birthplace of flamenco singers and dancers, sailors, and bullfighters while Macarena is one of the most popular and oldest enclaves of Seville, a place to celebrate Easter week with sacred devotion and unique events.
Very much like Rome or Venice, Seville is an open air museum. Its impressive cultural and artistic heritage makes it an important center for national and international tourism. In fact, today it is considered the third most visited city in Spain, after Barcelona and Madrid. ■