Castle. Cathedral. Atmospheric Old Town. Tapas. Wine. Seville has all of the essential ingredients we’ve come to expect in a Spanish city but managed to dazzle us even further by adding more to the mix.
After the cool weather and overcast skies that dominated much of our time in Spain, sultry Seville enveloped us in sunshine and the scent of orange blossoms. Trees abundant with the colorful fruit and delicate white flowers were everywhere, lining streets, decorating plazas, and infusing the city with an exotic and romantic atmosphere.
This 2,200-year-old city has been coveted throughout the ages. The Moors seized Seville from the founding Romans, only to have conquering King Ferdinand III of Castile come along and lay claim to it in 1278. Seville’s layered history is on display at the Alcazar Real, or royal palace, originally a Moorish fort and embellished by subsequent rulers.
A Christian king, Pedro I, was responsible for some of the Alcazar’s Islamic-inspired architecture. When he decided to spruce up the place by adding a grand new edifice on the grounds, his ally, the Muslim emir of Granada, sent along some artisans to help with the job—craftsmen who had worked on no less than the famed Alhambra Palace in Granada.
The Alcazar’s architectural rival is the Cathedral of Seville. Founded in 1403 on the site of a former mosque, it’s the largest Gothic building in Europe and the third-largest church. The mosque’s minaret became the church’s bell tower, the Giralda, the top of which is reached not by the usual steep, spiral stairway but by a cobblestone ramp used by city officials who traversed it on horseback. Windows along the way offer close-up views of buttresses and gargoyles. Our last stop was the church’s courtyard, where we lingered among the rows of orange trees.
Our First Flamenco
A recommendation from a fellow hostel guest led us to Casa de la Guitarra, a tiny venue where every seat had an up-close view of a traditional Flamenco performance—a vibrant spectacle of swirling skirts, rhythmic stomping, singing, and guitar playing.
It’s Always Happy Hour
No matter the time of day or night, Seville was always bustling. The liveliest of the Spanish cities we visited, outdoor café tables were always full. Taberna doors and windows were wide open, and outdoor bar areas often overflowed with patrons spilling into the streets to sip wine under orange trees.
Simply rambling down twisty stone passageways and boulevards is an experience in Seville. An evening that started with tapas and wine at the city’s oldest taberna, ended with a random stroll through the city. Leaving the medieval quarter behind, we happened upon a plaza we recognized from photos. But even in an area dominated by a modern-looking structure dubbed “the umbrella” by locals, history is only a glance away.
Attention to Detail
As twilight descended on our last night in Seville, we headed for the colorful, half- moon-shaped Plaza de España. Created for the Ibero-American World’s Fair in 1929, the space is a dazzling delight with painted ceramic balustrades, a fountain, and bridges and canals that give it a Venetian flair. Running the entire length of the curved wall are some 50 alcoves, each decorated with a unique tile mural depicting characteristics of Spain’s provinces.
Then it was time for a final stroll along orange tree-lined streets before saying adios to Seville.