Seville is the gate to exploring the Southern Spain – Andalusia and it was always intriguing to me due to its mixture of Spanish and Moorish influences. I remember I literally just arrived in the city center and I was feeling in the air the warmth and the scent of jasmine and orange flowers. This is the city if flamenco, tapas and toros. Somehow Seville is able to maintain a magical atmosphere with narrow cobblestone streets, palm promenades flooded in the calm sun, elegant buildings, street lamps and horse drawn carriages.
I have to admit that I just dipped my toe in the Andalusian experience.
You do not need a map in Seville. You really need to get lost.
I simply followed the scent of orange flowers and that led me to the Barrio de Santa Cruz which is Seville’s most charming neighborhood. It is labyrinth of narrow streets and alleys which provide shade from the sun. Inevitably you will find plazas and squares. My favorite by far was the Plaza de Doña Elvira for the simple reasons that you could not get rid of the enchanting scent of orange flowers, the murmur of the fountains and you could spend the whole afternoon on a brick-and-tile bench reading your favorite novel.
From there be sure to head for the Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (more colloquially known as Seville Cathedral) which is the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world. Before the Cathedral on the same spot there used to be a mosque built by the Almohad dynasty from Morocco. After the Spanish rules took over the land they wanted to show their power and decided to “construct a church so large future generations will think we were mad” (or so the legend says). One hundred years later, at the beginning of the 16th century, they made their promise a reality. The cathedral is massive. One of the main attractions is the tomb of Christopher Columbus and the former minaret – the Giralda.
If you manage to climb the 104m you will be able to see Seville’s rooftops. Very similar to minarets from Morocco, this tower keeps on showing the influence the Moroccans keep on having on the region. It’s brick-pattern decoration and color changes with the light making it unique everytime you look at it. The Spanish kept the minaret and transformed it into the bell tower of the cathedral. At the top you will see El Giraldillo, a 16th-century bronze statye which represents ‘faith’ – a symbol of Seville.
If you want to hide from the burning sun of the afternoon look no further than the Maria Luisa Park, Seville’s main green area. Originally they used to be the gardens of the Palace of San Telmo, but they were donated to the city at the beginning of the 20th century. The layout you see today was made during the same time. The park looks more like a botanical garden. There are many plant species, native or exotic (I was gasping and acknowledging species from the botanical atlas I used to have when I was a kid), birds, mostly doves but also green parrots, ducks and swans.
Right next to it you will find Plaza de España – I could actually see it from my hotel and after I checked in and took a shower I spend the entire evening there. I was not tired anymore. Built due to the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition World’s Fair, the Plaza de España is complex of a huge semicircle with buildings continually running around the edge constructed in the Renaissance and Moorish Revival styles. The walls of the Plaza are covered in tiles represent a different province of Spain. You will see the many people trying to find their own region.
This place is the most representative in Seville and it is very crowded. If you think you can catch it deserted you can try to visit it early in the morning – like 6am early although even then there are no guarantees.
I was definitely seduced by Seville and its accords of Spanish guitar. And who can blame me. As my plane was taking off I was already thinking – OK. When can I come back?