Seville — or as the Spanish say, Seviyyyyyyyyya! — is a wonderful city, full of rich character and charm. It makes an ideal place in which to spend a long weekend and escape from the daily grind or as a refreshing stop-over en route to somewhere else. This article looks at what makes Seville a unique city.
The word “quirky” immediately springs to mind when one thinks of Seville. (The words “charm” and “character” are another two words that one associates with this glorious city, but above all else it is quirky.) And what makes Seville quirky — and it’s much to the city’s advantage that it is — has something to do with its huge majestic cathedral, La Giralda, which sits so proudly in the middle of the city. But the cathedral itself isn’t what gives Seville its charm and character (it’s a grand and imposing building, the largest cathedral in the world in terms of volume), but rather its proximity to the city’s narrow and winding backstreets that echo with joyous Spanish cries from the local tapas bars. It’s this sort of contrast that epitomizes the wonder of Seville.
Seville, the capital of Andalucia, is more than two thousand years old. It’s in southern Spain, located on the plain of the Guadalquivir River which crosses the city from north to south. The fact that the city was taken by the Moors in 712 and remained under Muslim control until 1248 is heavily reflected in its architecture, which has many Moorish features including large sections of the city wall. La Giralda, the tower of the cathedral, is also one of the remaining Islamic monuments. Originally an ancient minaret from the Almohad Mosque of Seville, the tower was constructed in several distinct stages and the Islamic section is the oldest part.
The city’s cathedral is what draws the crowds to Seville – and it’s easy to see why. It was built between 1401 and 1519, after the destruction of the old mosque, when the Catholic troops recaptured Seville from the Moors and wanted to demonstrate their power by constructing the biggest cathedral imaginable – a feat they certainly achieved! The cathedral is not only impressive from the outside, but houses many works of art and its interior is lavishly decorated with gold.
Next to the cathedral stands the Alcazar (the Palacio Mudéjar); the origins of this palace fortress date back to the eighth century, although the finest parts were built for Pedro I who installed himself here in the 1360s and cavorted with his mistress in an oasis of gardens and marble patios while his wife was locked in the basement! The Alcazar is one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture, an islamic-influenced style that developed after the Christian reconquest.
The cathedral and the Alcazar are the two most popular attractions in Seville but there are many more, including some very attractive parks and gardens in which one can quite easily idle away a couple of hours if the weather’s clement (and it usually is in Seville, although it’s perhaps best to avoid late July and August when it can be oppressively hot). Or do as the Sevillanos do in the summer evenings, and stroll along the banks of the Guadalquivir.
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