Seville conjours up images of castles and medieval lanes, sunny plazas and orange blossoms. This southern Spanish city has a rich Moorish heritage and spoils visitors to the Andalucia region with its food, beauty and pace of life. Here are a five of Seville’s must-sees:
Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla) / The Giralda
Built on the site of a 12th century mosque, Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla) is now, according to Fodor’s, the largest Gothic building in the world. The bell tower, which is now referred to as la Giralda, was the minaret of the mosque. The bronze sculpture, better known as the giraldillo (weather vane), represents victorious faith (fe victoriosa) and has topped the tower since 1568. The Patio de los Naranjos and its main entrance, the Puerta del Perdón (“Gate of Pardon”), date back to the time of the Moors. The cathedral is home to the remains of Christopher Columbus, which returned to Seville from Havana in 1902. The tomb itself is help up by four figures of kings representing the kingdoms of Castille, Aragon, Leon and Navarre.
Alcázar / Archive of the Indies (Archivo General de Indias)
The origins of the Royal Alcazar of Sevilla (Real Alcázar de Sevilla) can be traced back to the time of Abd Al-Rahman III, the first caliph, or ruler, of Andalucia. The Alcázar, which literally translating to fortress or palace, is still used as Seville’s official residence for the Spanish royal family. The Alcázar, the cathedral and the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) make up an UNESCO World Heritage site. King Charles III of Spain founded the General Archive of the Indies in 1785 so that the documents pertaining to the Indies could all be kept in one location. According to the Spanish Ministry of Culture, the archive became the “Mecca of Americanism,” and today houses some 80 million pages of original documents.
María Luisa Park (Parque de María Luisa)
Parque de María Luisa was once part of the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo (Palacio de San Telmo). Infanta María Luisa de Borbón, the Duchess of Montpensier, donated half of the gardens to the city in 1893. The area was redesigned for the Iberoamerican Exhibition of 1929. The Plaza de España, which is located on the eastern edge of the park, was built as the centerpiece of exhibition. Colorful tile benches representing the provinces of Spain line the complex. The Plaza de América, also called the Plaza de las Palomas (Plaza of the Doves) is home to the Arts and Popular Customs Museum and the Archeological Museum of Seville, as well as the Royal Pavilion.
Golden Tower (Torre del Oro)
This 13th century monument was once covered in gold tiles, earning it the name Golden Tower. The watchtower, which is located next to the Guadalquivir River, dates back to 1220 and was once part of the Moorish fortified walls that surrounded the city. The 12-sided lower portion was designed to protect the docks. According to Fordor’s, the harbor could be closed off when a chain was extended from the tower’s base to the opposite bank. Today, it houses Seville’s Naval Museum.
Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza
Whatever your feelings on bullfighting, the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza is worth a visit, if only to appreciate the arena’s Baroque facade. Nicknamed the “Catedral del Toreo” (Cathedral of Bullfighting), the plaza is owned by the Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla (translated as the “Royal Cavalry Armory of Seville”), an organization that dates back to 1248. In addition to witnessing one of the bullfights, you can also tour the arena and visit its small museum.