The capital of Andalusia is one of the hottest cities in Europe. It is therefore not surprising that much of the city life takes place at night. Don Juan's hometown is an especially exciting place during the Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week) and Seville Fair festivals, which involve week-long, lively celebrations. Although Seville has less Moorish architecture than either Cordoba or Granada, the townscape is considered particularly “Andalusian.” Many major and minor sights can be seen along the route from the Real Alcázar, the Royal Palace, to the Barrio de Santa Cruz, a picturesque district with an abundance of small squares and courtyards decorated with flowers. Outside its historical center Seville has many modern suburbs created by the recent economic boom: new neighborhoods have sprung up practically overnight, resulting in a traffic gridlock that is not limited to the rush hours.
From Alcázar to the Barrio Santa Cruz
This walk begins at the Alcázar and will take you to the city's major sights. It ends in the popular quarter of Santa Cruz, where you will find numerous bars, bodegas and restaurants. (3 hrs, 7 km, elevation change: 30 m)
Royal palace with Moorish origins
This medieval royal palace in Seville was originally a Moorish fortress that was later expanded into a palace. Most of it was built during the Mudéjar period beginning in 1364, when its Christian owners were still using Muslim architecture. King Charles V was the first in a long line of famous guests. Due to the many walls that were built as protection from the wind, the structure seems complex, and its labyrinthine design is largely a product of the early 20th century. The Alcázar is still used as a residence of the Spanish royal family.
Most beautiful palace in Seville
This urban palace from the early 15th century became the prototypical Andalusian aristocratic palace. Its elegance nearly exceeds that of the Alcazar and combines Gothic, Renaissance and Mudéjar architectural elements to create a symbiosis of Moorish and Christian art. The “casa” owes its name to the fact that its owner allegedly saw the palace of Pontius Pilate while travelling in Palestine and reconstructed it in Seville. Today, the building houses a museum surrounding a unique courtyard. On display are paintings, furniture and antiques. The courtyard was used in 1999 for a scene in the movie “Mission: Impossible II,” where the flamenco dancer Sara Baras has a performance.
An evening with flamenco in a traditional courtyard
Flamenco stands for fascinating music full of passion, sorrow and eroticism. It is also known outside of Spain as a typical Andalusian dance, even though its origins date back to Moorish and Jewish traditions. It was also later influenced by the gypsies. Seville, the undisputed capital of Flamenco, has numerous music theaters where shows are held every evening. The largest ones are often very touristy. We recommend the Casa del Flamenco. The audiences are small in this 15th century courtyard, and everyone gets a front-row seat.
One of Europe's renowned art collections
The 17th-century Abbey of Merced Calzada now houses one of Spain's most significant art collections. Works dating from the Gothic period all the way to the 20th century are on exhibit here. The collection arose over the course of decades mainly through the secularization of church property, private gifts and acquisitions on the open market. Masterpieces by El Greco, Pacheco, Velázquez and Alonso Cano are among the works on display. Of particular interest are the religious paintings of Zurbarán as well as the room dedicated to Murillo and the so-called “Seville School” of the 17th century.
Major bullfighting arena
This arena, which was built in the 18th century, is located on the Paseo de Crostóbal Colón, a beautiful riverbank promenade. With a capacity of 14,000 seats, it is the largest such arena in Andalusia. It is attached to a bullfighting museum and the La Maestranza cultural center, which first opened its doors during the world fair. You will also find many typical bars and restaurants in the vicinity.
Harp bridge over the Guadalquivir
This cable-stayed bridge over the Guadalquivir was built for the Expo ‘92 and was the world’s first cantilever spar cable-stayed bridge without backstays. Twenty-six steel cables are attached to a spar reaching a height of 142 meters and which is slanted at a 58 degree angle, causing this elegant and expensive structure to resemble a harp.
The old Jewish quarter with its vibrant nightlife
In Moorish times, this neighborhood east of the Alcázar was the Judería, or Jewish quarter. Today, it is among the most beautiful and vibrant sections of Seville. The alleys were designed to be as narrow as possible to profit from the shade of the whitewashed buildings, but also just wide enough so that two load-bearing donkeys could walk side by side. Santa Cruz offers numerous secluded plazas and cozy courtyards to discover and stays vibrant with life late into the night.
Largest Gothic church in the world
This bishop's church in the archdiocese of Seville is not only the largest Gothic church but in fact one of the biggest churches in the world. It was constructed in the period from 1401 to 1519 on the foundations of an Arab mosque. In addition to its magnificent sepulcher statues dating to the Middle Ages, the church also houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus, which was built in 1902. After he crossed the Atlantic several times, the true location of his bones remained uncertain. His four pallbearers represent the kingdoms of Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra. The most distinctive part of the church is its bell tower, La Girlada. This symbol of Seville was originally the minaret of the main mosque and still bears features of its Moorish architecture despite being modified by the Christians.
Watchtower, prison, silver repository and museum
Seville's second major landmark stands on one bank of the Guadalquivir. The Torre del Oro was once part of the city walls. Its name comes form its gold-colored tile exterior, which, unfortunately, has not survived. A heavy iron chain could be stretched from the base of the tower to the Torre de la Fortaleza on the other bank in order to keep warships out. The tower later served as a prison and as a repository for silver that had been acquired abroad. Today, it houses the Museo Naval de Sevilla where engravings, ocean maps, models and nautical instruments are on display.