the queen of 2018!
World famous guide-book publisher Lonely Planet has chosen Seville as the best city in the world to visit in 2018, particularly because of the transformation of the city in the last ten years. Some cities blast you away, others slowly conquer you. Seville disarms and seduces you.
Its historic center, dominated by a colossal Gothic cathedral, is an intoxicating mix of beautiful Mudéjar palaces, baroque churches and winding medieval streets. Flamenco clubs keep the intimacy and intensity of this centuries-old tradition alive whilst aristocratic mansions recall the city’s past as a showcase Moorish capital and, later, a 16th-century metropolis rich for the results of New World trade.
Seville has been Arab, Jewish and Roman, and its river Guadalquivir – the ancient Betis, which flows between the foothills of the Sierra Morena to the north and the Sierra Sur mountains in the south, irrigating a rich and fertile valley – and its river port have served as a privileged destination for trade with the West Indies. In the 16th century, Seville experienced its period of maximum splendour. The port of Seville received goods from all over Europe, as well as precious metals from the New World, which contributed to the development of western Europe.
Now, Seville is the capital of the province of Andalusia. It is the fourth biggest city in Spain with over 700,000 inhabitants. It has the largest old town in the country and one of the three largest in Europe, and has a great historical and cultural heritage.
Seville is bright, warm and vital. Visitors share their moments of leisure with the Sevillians, since life there is usually enjoyed outdoors…with good weather and fun-loving locals. Seville and its universities are so popular that it is is one of the first three destinations chosen by Erasmus students from all over Europe!
Among its most representative monuments are: La Giralda, built as a minaret 76 mt. high for the Mosque between 1184 and 1198 reused as a bell tower later on; the Patio de los Naranjos, originally the Courtyard of Ablutions of the Mosque and nowadays, together with La Giralda, the only remains of the old main Mosque of the city; the Reales Alcázares, for a thousand years the centre of power and royal residence; the Catedral, the third-largest Cathedral in the world after St Peter’s in the Vatican and St Paul’s in London, constructed on the Great Almohad Mosque; the Archivo General de Indias; and the Torre del Oro, the Puente de Triana, the Plaza de España, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Metropol Parasol.
La Giralda was built as a minaret for the mosque between 1184 and 1198 by Ahmed Ben Baso, who also built other twin minarets in the North of Africa, especially in the Magreb region: the Kutubia in Marrakesh, the Hassan tower in Rabat and the Mansuriah of Tremecen. They are the three Giraldas on the other side of the Strait. This 76 mt. high minaret was crowned with four large golden balls which were said to be seen from more than 40 km away. The Giralda was such an admired building that when the Moslems surrendered the city, they asked for permission to destroy the tower, and Prince Don Alfonso replied with a sentence which has already become famous in history: “If only one brick were removed from the tower they would all be stabled to death”. The foundation of La Giralda, which go underground fifteen metres were built with Roman ruins from Seville and Itálica. The tower itself is made of bricks and as decoration there are four large sets of the diamond-shaped high-reliefs known as “sebka” motives. In the middle of the wall there are lobe shaped windows overlapping with Roman light splitting columns. In order to admire the views of the city from the top of this impressive minaret 35 ramps, and no steps, have to be climbed. The reason was so that the muezzin in charge of calling the people to prayer could climb to the top on his horse. The second important moment of La Giralda happened between 1558 and 1568. As the city became wealthy with the gold brought from America the church authorities decided to build a new top as a symbol of Christian power. Therefore a Renaissance style belfry was added to the Islamic body and reached up to 93 metres. The Cordoba architect Hernán Ruiz II el Joven was in charge of reform. After this transformation the Giraldillo was added, a weather vane with the shape of a woman, known in Seville as The Giant and really represents the triumph of faith. Each one of the 25 bells has its own name. Those of San Miguel and Santa Cruz, dating back to the year 1400 are the oldest.
El Real Alcazar is a complex of palace buildings called Reales Alcázares located in the downtown. Its historic background and the spectacular beauty of its buildings and gardens make it one of the most striking and seductive Spanish monuments. For a thousand years it has been the centre of power and royal residence. Their construction, which began in the late Middle Ages, displays many overlapping styles, from the Islamic art of its first inhabitants, the Mudejar and Gothic of the period following the conquest of the city by Spanish troops to the Renaissance and Baroque of later reforms. The Palace is used as a residence for members of the Spanish Royal Family and Heads of State visiting the city. It was declared a World Heritage Site, together with the Cathedral and the Archive of the Indies, in 1987. After walking though the Puerta del León there is the Patio del León, used as a boundary between the city and the palace. Next is the Patio de la Montería. The main part of the palace are the Patio de las Doncellas, surrounded by lobe shaped arches, around which are the official quarters and the Patio de Las Muñecas, which is surrounded by the private rooms. The walls are covered with fine vegetable motive decorations and tiles from the XVI century which belong to the Mudejar style. The gardens of the Real Alcázar Palace make up one of the great palace sites of the Spanish crown, and possibly the oldest. They are the most original representation of a truly Hispanic style – the Mudejar – a Muslim artistic expression adapted to the Christian world. From their Moorish origins, they underwent continual transformations, especially during the Renaissance period and the reign of Philip III. The results are seen in the delicate pavilion of Charles V in the Alcoba vegetable garden, the wonderful Grutesco Gallery and many gardens, such as La Danza, Las Damas, Las Galeras and El Rústico. The materials used, such as tiles, and many features, water channels, fountains, water spouts, etc. give them with a special Moorish character.
The Puerta de San Pedro, originally the main entrance to the old Mosque, once led into the The Courtyard of Ablutions where El Patio de los Naranjos stands today. Together with La Giralda it is the only remains of the old main mosque of the city. The wooden doors are plated in bronze and engraved with latticework, Arabic inscriptions and plasterwork. Orange trees cover the whole courtyard joined by little canals for irrigation on the brick pavement. The walls surrounding it have hand-made engravings with more than 880 sentences of the Coran in Arabic. In the middle of the courtyard there is a Visigoth fountain where according to tradition Saint Hermenegildo was baptised. On the sides there are galleries with pointed horseshoe arches which enclose the Chapter Library and the Colombino Library as well as the only chapel which remains from the old Mosque Cathedral, that of the Virgen de Granada.
La Catedral de Santa María de la Sede de Sevilla was built over the main Almohad mosque of the IX century. The church has a structure of five naves. The middle one is the widest and the highest, and the more than 30 chapels are formed by 60 pillars which support 68 ribbed vaults. It boasts other special spaces such as the Ornaments Room, the Ante-chapter, the Chapter House, the Main Sacristy, the Sacristy of the Chalices, the Choir and numerous altars. One of the most important aspects of its grandeur is the 18 mt. high main Altarpiece, where scenes of the Old and New Testaments are represented, with more than a thousand sculptures, and considered one of the largest of all Christianity.
Inside the cathedral is one of the wealthiest artistic treasurers, its paintings. It has more than five hundreds pieces, which range from XVI century to nowadays. Statuary and painting apart, there is also the choir stalls’ extraordinary wood carving, the Baroque organ, the stained glass windows, the ceramics, the rich collection of choral books, of sacred ornaments.
The highly Flemish stained glass windows are from the XVI centuries. In the central nave is the Main Chapel with iron rods and pulpits which date back to the XVI century, and the great Choir which was built between the XV and XVI century. On the right there is a mausoleum with the mortal remains of the Christopher Columbus. It shows four heralds representing the kingdoms of Castile, Leon, Aragon and Navarre holding the coffin of the discovered on their shoulders.
The Archivo General de Indias, which used to be the Mercaderes Market, was built in 1572. Designed by Juan de Herrera and built by Alonso de Vandelviva and Juan de Minjares. During the XVII century the second floor and the cross of the Oath were constructed. A century later Carlos III chose the building as the site for the Indies Archive with the mission of bringing together in one single repository all of the documents referring to the Indies which were, until then dispersed between Simancas, Cadiz and Seville. The driving force behind the project was José de Gálvez, Secretary of the Indies, and it was carried out by the academic and historian, Juan Bautista Muñoz, Head Cosmographer of the Indies. There were consequent modifications made to the building including the rebuilding of the main staircase. A building with a square floor plan with a large central patio. Inside valuable documents are kept that recreate history of the relationship of Spain with the overseas American colonies.
The Torre del Oro was the last major building that the Muslims constructed in Seville. It was built around 1220, during the time of Yusuf II, when the Almohad Empire was in decline after their defeat by the Christians at Navas de Tolosa in 1212. Designed as an outer defensive tower to protect the port to the south of the city, it formed the end of a coracha, a fortified structure which provided access to the river. On the opposite bank, stood another tower which has not survived. The towers were linked by a thick chain which prevented ships from entering or leaving the port without authorisation. The chain was broken by Admiral Bonifaz’ ship in 1248 during the siege of the city. In 1830, in the times of Governor Arjona, the demolition of the coracha meant that the tower was left to stand alone. After being used for many purposes over the years (it served as a chapel, prison, gunpowder warehouse, post office), the tower now houses the Maritime Museum. According to chronicler Ortiz de Zúñiga it was named “golden” because its walls were covered with gilded tiles, although others maintain that the name referred to the fact that the tower was used to store valuable objects. After its restoration in 2005, it is believed that the name might derive from the golden tone given from the plaster composed of mortar, lime and straw.
In 1174, Almohad Caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf ordered the construction of a bridge over the Guadalquivir river, which consisted of a series boats tied to each other over which large wooden boards were arranged. Several projects were drawn to replace it but nothing was done until 1852, when the Isabel II, known as Puente de Triana, was built. It was the first engineering work in iron carried out in Seville and one of the first in Spain. It was designed by French architect Gustavo Steinacher and Fernando Bernadet, who were inspired by the Parisian Caroussel bridge. The construction of the Triana bridge was part of a series of measures which were aimed at modernising the city under Isabel II’s reign. These included the laying of railway lines in 1859. Although the railway system revolutionised transport, it gave rise to a serious urban problem: railway lines strangled the city preventing good communication between the centre and the periphery. This problem was finally solved with the works undertaken in 1992, which included the construction of the new Santa Justa station.
The Plaza de España of Seville is one of the best known and most spectacular spaces of regionalist architecture. It was the masterwork of Aníbal González, built between 1914 and 1928 and is a free interpretation of Renaissance and Baroque styles, with references to other Spanish monuments, and executed in traditional Sevillian architectural materials: brick, wood and ceramics. It was the place of the Ibero-American Exposition held in Seville in 1929. This Plaza of worldwide fame, consists of a semi-circular lake, a marvellous fountain in the middle, two twin towers and tiled benches representing the 48 Spanish provinces. Some of its highlights are the beautiful coffered ceilings and the structure combining exposed brick with polychrome ceramic tiles and assorted ornaments. It symbolises the embrace of Spain and America.