Seville is a beautiful, lively city, bisected by its famous river, the Guadalquivir. Its landmark is La Giralda, the great tower that was built as a minaret in the 12th century and now stands guard over the city’s enormous Gothic cathedral, built in the 15th century on the site of the original mosque.
Despite its elegance and charm, and its wealth, based on food processing, shipbuilding, construction and a thriving tourist industry, Sevilla lies at the centre of a depressed agricultural area and has an unemployment rate of nearly forty percent – one of the highest in Spain.
Alongside it is the old neighbourhood of Santa Cruz, once the Jewish quarter and now a rather smart, fashionable area of town with pretty whitewashed houses closely packed along narrow streets. This and other areas in the historic centre are delightful to explore on foot.
The best way to experience the city is to adapt to the local rhythm and sit down for a late lunch followed by an afternoon siesta.
Seville is packed with lively and enjoyable bars and restaurants, and you’ll find somewhere to eat and drink at just about any hour. With few exceptions, anywhere around the sights and the Barrio Santa Cruz will be expensive. The two most promising central areas are down towards the bullring and north of here towards the Plaza de Armas bus station. The Plaza de Armas area is slightly seedier but has the cheapest comidas this side of the river.
Seville’s immense cathedral, one of the biggest in the world, was built on the site of Muslim Seville’s main mosque between 1401 and 1507. One highlight of the cathedral’s lavish interior is Christopher Columbus’ supposed tomb inside the south door.
The tower which adjoins the Cathedral is La Giralda. It was the mosque’s minaret and dates from the 12th century; climb up for great views. Use the same ticket as for the Cathedral.
On the banks of the River Guadalquivir stands the Torre de Oro which today represents one of Seville’s major landmarks. It was originally built by the Moors as a way to close access to the harbour by attaching a chain to it and to the opposite bank of the river.
Seville’s magnificent Moorish palace, the Alcázar, is the equivalent of Granada’s Alhambra, although it was in fact mostly built in the 14th century.
Other highlights include the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum), the María Luisa Park (site of the 1929 Exposition), and the Maestranza (bullring).
Seville, more than any other Spanish city, is also known for its exuberance, culminating in the Feria de Abril (the April celebrations), and expressed through music and dance, most famously the flamenco.