Seville - A City to Awaken the Senses!
If you are planning your outings during your stay at our holiday villa in Andalucia, Seville is a must! Seville is a vibrant and exciting city which fully engages all the senses. The sound of guitars emanating from a flower-filled patio, the smells and flavours of traditional cooking in a local bar, brightly-coloured gypsy dresses worn by Andalucian ladies at the April Fair and lastly the intense summer heat can all overwhelm the first time visitor to this vibrant city! Seville is often called the ‘quintessential southern city’ and it would be hard to disagree with this description. Those who are used to the work-orientated cities of northern Europe, with their grey suits and even greyer skies, will find this beautiful city on the banks of the Guadalquivir a real revelation.
Fortunately the areas of Seville that really should not be missed are fairly centrally located, and can be easily visited on a day trip from our Andalucia villa. This city has always been well-known (or notorious!) in Europe. Named Hispalis by the Romans, it subsequently became a major city in Moorish Spain. The Almohad dynasty was responsible for the construction of the magnificent Giralda tower which now adorns just about every piece of Sevillian memorabilia. Once the minaret of the Almohad mosque, it was retained when the mosque was destroyed and is still Seville’s crowning glory today. Those who wish to see the view from the top will appreciate the fact that there are sloping ramps rather than stairs, created so that King Fernando III could ride his horse to the top. The lower half of the Giralda is the original Moorish tower, while the ornate top is a later Renaissance addition.
The Almohad mosque was destroyed to make way for Seville’s gargantuan cathedral. It took over one hundred years to build and its founders intended to build a church so large “that everyone, on beholding it, will take us for madmen”. They certainly succeeded - it is officially the largest cathedral in the world and contains magnificent works of art by Goya and Murillo among others. The Patio de los Naranjos (Courtyard of the Orange Trees) still remains and calls to mind the original mosque.
After the Islamic rulers were ejected from their territories the Christian kings continued to make use of their craftsmen, resulting in a decorative style known as mudejar. This style can be seen at its most impressive in the Alcazar of Seville. Built on the site of a Moorish fort by the aptly-named Pedro the Cruel in 1366, its palatial rooms are the apex of mudejar craftsmanship. Later additions were built by Isabel La Catolica to plan expeditions to the New World, which set off from Seville at that time. The beautiful Moorish-style gardens of the Alcazar are a wonderful place to wander after a busy morning’s sightseeing before returning to our villa in Andalucia.
Seville reached the peak of its prosperity during Spanish domination of the trade routes with the Americas in the sixteenth century. Silver-laden treasure ships arrived in great numbers during these years, bringing great wealth to Spain and to many of Seville’s inhabitants. The Archive of the Indies in Seville is one of the world’s richest historical archives and contains some 80 million pages from this era, many as yet unreviewed by scholars. Christopher Columbus himself is (probably!) buried in Seville cathedral. Seville’s glory days lasted until the silting of the Guadalquivir led to its eclipse as gateway to the Americas by the Atlantic port of Cadiz.
In 1929 Seville was the location for an Ibero-American exhibition, which resulted in the construction of the Plaza de Espana next to the subtropical gardens of Maria Luisa park, one of the most beautiful parks in Europe. It is such a delight to wander among the exotic palms, finding endless secret and shaded corners in which to relax on the benches covered with typical Seville azulejos (tiles). I can think of no better place to escape from the summer heat. Children in particular will enjoy the horse-drawn carriage rides through the park, just as they will also enjoy a trip to the pirate ships and roller coasters of Isla Mágica, Andalucia’s largest theme park, on the other side of the river!
Another wonderful place to escape the heat and soak up the real atmosphere of Seville is the Barrio Santa Cruz, a maze of typical Andalucian narrow streets with elegant old houses and cool patios. Locals claim that the temperature in this area is 3 degrees lower than in the rest of Seville! Now the most sought-after area of Seville, the Barrio is the ideal location for an evening paseo, sampling delicious tapas in the innumerable bars and restaurants to the sounds of nearby flamenco music. Among the many souvenir shops of Santa Cruz you can pick up beautiful sevillano ceramics or a stunning hand-embroidered Andalucian shawl. Serious shoppers should also not miss the ceramics available in the atmospheric former gypsy district of Triana on the other side of the Guadalquivir.
Seville is a wonderful place to visit at any time of year. Many visitors try to plan their trips to coincide with the unforgettably emotional processions of Holy Week or with the exuberant festivities of the April Fair shortly afterwards. However you plan your trip to our Andalucia villa, you are certain to experience the true spirit of Andalucia in Seville.