Things to do in Seville
As the capital of Andalucia, there are no shortage of things to do in Seville that demonstrate why many consider this the intense, passionate and sensuous soul of Spain. Below are just a few of my favourite neighbourhoods and must-sees.
My Favourite Things to Do in Seville
Seville’s most famous landmark is the beautiful Moorish Giralda. The tower is visible from outside the city, and would have completely dominated the skyline in Moorish times when it served as a minaret and watchtower. The Moors were so enamoured with their tower they planned to destroy it before it fell into Christian hands; thankfully it was left intact. The structure dates from 1184-96, but its full height of 96 metres includes the later Christian addition of the bell tower, the Renaissance balconies, and the 16th century bronze weathervane representing faith.
The Seville Cathedral is the largest gothic cathedral, and third-largest church, in the world. Like many of Seville’s churches, it was originally installed in the old Moorish mosque. When the mosque was destroyed between 1402 and 1506, the Seville Cathedral was born in its place. One of the Cathedral’s main attractions is the huge Gothic retablo (devotional painting) in the Capilla Major. All that remains of the original mosque—apart from the Giralda—is the Patio de los Naranjos, which constituted the Moorish entrance court to the mosque.
This fortified palace was occupied since Roman times by successive rulers, but it was not until the 11th century that it was expanded to form the great court of the Abbadid dynasty. Later, in the 12th and 13th centuries, the Almohads turned it into a citadel. Although some of the original walls remain, the greater part of the building dates from the time of the Christian conquest in 1248. For the next four hundred years, it became the favoured residence of the Catholic Kings, who expanded and elaborated its Mudéjar architecture.
El Barrio del Arenal
El Barrio del Arenal used to be Seville’s busiest area, back when the port was established and the Guadalquivir River was the main mode of communication and transport between Seville and the world. Here you’ll find the Torre del Oro, a Moorish tower from the 13th century that now holds a maritime museum. You’ll also find the Teatro de la Maestranza, where you can enjoy international opera and classic dance. Further north, the Museo de Bellas Artes (The Museum of Fine Arts) hosts works from Zurbarán, Murillo and others; for many, the museum is reason enough to visit Seville.
Barrio Santa Cruz
With their whitewashed walls and terracotta roofs, the houses of the medieval Jewish quarter of Barrio Santa Cruz are among the most romantic images of Seville. The tiny squares and narrow alleyways are wonderful for strolling and catching a glimpse of beautiful patios. The compact structure of the buildings serves to keep out the intense summer sun, while ornate wrought-iron bars over windows help to keep intruders out—and hold innumerable potted plants as an attractive bonus. Admittedly, this district is one of the more touristy things to do in Seville, but it also holds hidden gems, including gorgeous patios and small, quiet squares. It’s the perfect place to get lost and breathe in the town’s life, especially around 7 p.m. when the whole town goes out on the traditional paseo, or stroll.
Strolling through the Triana neighbourhood, on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, is one of my favourite things to do in Seville. The birthplace of Andalusian pottery since Roman times, its name is derived from the Roman Emperor Trajan. Triana has always been a working-class neighbourhood, and is known for its cobbled, lively streets. In the north part of the neighbourhood, a Carthusan monastery was built in the 15th century, giving the area its name: Isla de la Cartuja. Christopher Columbus lived here, and this is where he planned his first trip that led to America. In 1992, on the 500th anniversary of Columbus’s exploration, the area hosted the Universal Expo, and many pavilions are still in use. Along the river on Calle Betis, you can enjoy magnificent views of Seville from any of the many bars and restaurants.
Plaza de Espana
Originally built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Expo, Plaza de Espana epitomizes the Renaissance Revival style of Spanish architecture. Designed by Aníbal González, the building (pictured in the banner at the top of the post) combines Art Deco with ‘mock Mudejar’ and Neo-Mudéjar styles. Among the plazas highlights are the Alcoves of the Provinces, intricately designed sections that represent each province in Spain.