Seville is more than 2,000 years old and has a distinct personality, a large and well-preserved historical centre with strong medieval, renaissance and baroque heritage and heavy influences from Arabic culture, which can be seen in the most famous monuments and places.
I have a love affair with Seville, it is just one of those places that my soul seems to connect with as I recognise it from a past life. After living here for a few months in 2000, I can’t help but become a prisoner of the charm that Seville has to offer, the people are content, and I miss evenings watching the sun go down along the banks of the Guadalquivir river, the deepest in Spain
It was here that Christopher Columbus set sail for the new world and discovered the Americas, his tomb can be found in the largest gothic cathedral in the world, though speculation has it may not be his remains in the tomb and is still to be proven, his body was returned for the 1994 Expo of Discoveries.
Seville is not a major tourist destination, often missed by visitors to Spain, Seville still remains a pure Spanish destination culturally, its relatively easy to get around. The old part of the city contains some of the smallest alleys and roads I have seen but also some of the best finds of authentic cafes and bars, getting lost here is all part of the charm.
Known from Roman times as Hispalis, the nearby Roman city of Italica is well-preserved with Roman roads, mosaics and remnants of an aqueduct. The city was taken by the Moors in 712 and renamed Isbiliya, from which the present name “Sevilla” is derived. The city retains many Moorish features, including the royal residence the Alcázar. The city experienced a golden age of development within the Spanish territories in the New World, merchants from all over the world went to Seville, as it was the gate to America.
The Cathedral of Seville was built from 1401-1519 on the former site of the city’s mosque. It is the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals, in terms of both area and volume. The Giralda, originally a minaret, was converted into a bell tower, topped with a statue, known locally as El Giraldillo, representing Faith. The tower’s interior was built with ramps rather than stairs, to allow the Muezzin (a man who calls Muslims to prayer from the minaret of a mosque) to ride on horseback to the top.
The Alcázar facing the cathedral has developed from the old Moorish Palace in Mudéjar style. The Torre del Oro, a defensive barrier on the river where a chain was strung through the water from the base of the tower to prevent boats from travelling into the river port. Plaza de Espana was built for the 1929 Exposición Ibero-Americana and is an example of Regionalist Architecture, nearby, the Maria Luisa Park contains two museums, the Archaeological Museum, and the Museum of Traditional Arts and Costumes.
The most well-known festivals of Seville are Semana Santa and the Seville Fair, La Feria de Sevilla. During Feria, families, businesses and organizations set up casetas, marquees, in which they spend the week dancing, drinking, and socializing, traditionally, women wear elaborate flamenco dresses and men dress in their best suits. Semana Santa is a week of processions celebrating Catholicism.
With a fun nightlife of Seville, no other European city has so many bars per inhabitant than Seville. In summer go to Isla Cartuja with plenty of open-air discotheques. Attend a Bull Fight at the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza if you are brave enough, which also houses the Museum of Bullfighting. It is the biggest arena in Spain due to the origination of bullfighting in Sevilla. Flamenco can be seen throughout the city, not thought to be of Sevillan origin but traditionally gipsy, Triana was a major centre in the development of flamenco and still enjoyed today.
Having lived here and made new friends, and family, I still dream about days wandering its labyrinth of alleys and walkways, the smell of orange blossom and all the historic sites, its like reliving a past life.
On my visit to Seville in 2011, I come to a city which appears to be in constant change and development, for the better. The pedestrianised streets around the cathedral and Alcazar are new, at last, the great monuments at the core of the city centre can be enjoyed in its full glory, clean from the pollution of cars and traffic that once used to be run around it. Other cities have something to learn from this.