Seville, Spain, a tourist destination with a lot of history.
Famed for its orange trees, revered for its flamenco dancers, and often criticised for its history of bullfighting, Seville, the capital city of Andalusia in Spain, is home to a wealth of cultural and historic heritage. Sitting on the banks of the Guadalquivir River-itself a place of some historical significance due to the role its harbour played in the Spanish conquest of the Americas – Seville is a must-see city for connoisseurs of history the world over. With its ancient Moorish history and breath-taking Gothic, Baroque and Renaissance architecture, Seville contains a multitude of tourist attractions for young and old alike. In fact, the only problem you’ll have during your trip to Seville is trying to fit in everything in your itinerary. With that in mind, here is a list of just some of the must-see tourist attractions that Seville has to offer as one of the top tourist destinations in Spain.
Alcazar of Seville
If you want to see a truly impressive sight in Seville, then check out the Alcazar, a thirteenth century royal palace, originally built by the Muslim Moors. One of the most beautiful palaces in Spain, the Alcazar is still utilised for special state occasions, and is considered one of Seville’s top tourist attractions. The Alcazar has been renovated and redeveloped on multiple occasions through the years. However, it retains a sense of its authentic architectural grandeur in its intricate design, masterful arches and a domed ceiling of such golden beauty it has to be seen to be believed. Truly a once in a lifetime experience, the Alcazar of Seville should be top on your list of historical attractions to see in Seville. A place of great cultural, as well as architectural importance, the Alcazar was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the late 1980’s. The Alcazar is open to the public, and with an admission price of under €10 for adults, (admittance for children is free) it is well worth seeing.
Also recognised as a UNESCO world heritage site, Seville Cathedral or, to give it its full title, Santa Maria de la Sede, is another of Seville’s most renowned historical landmarks. This Gothic Cathedral is the third largest church in the world. As such it attracts thousands upon thousands of visitors every year. And what, I hear you ask, makes this Cathedral so special? The Santa Maria de la Sede houses the tomb of the famous explorer, Christopher Columbus, that’s what. This tomb, which stands just inside the door of the great Cathedral, is an impressive structure in itself, and was designed by the sculptor Arturo Melida. One of the more unusual facts about this Cathedral is that it is home to a stuffed crocodile, which hangs from the ceiling, and was a gift from the Sultan of Egypt to King Alfonso X. Now, I bet you have never seen a stuffed crocodile in a Cathedral before! I guess there’s a first time for everything. Admission to the Cathedral is €9. A free audio guide is available with prior reservation. It goes without saying that it is free to attend religious services at the Cathedral.
A combination of Moorish and Renaissance architecture, the Giralda is the bell tower of Seville Cathedral. Once upon a time, though, the Giralda was famous in its own right as the tallest building in the whole of Seville. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Giralda, which gets its name from the distinctive weather vane that tops it, still stands tall today at 104 meters in height. As a visitor, you can enjoy the best views in Seville from the bell chamber of the Giralda. From here, you can see the aforementioned Alcazar palace, amongst a host of other sights, building and monuments. An inspirational feat of architecture, the design of the Giralda has been replicated the world over, with many buildings, such as The Freedom Tower in Miami, Florida and The Terminal Tower in Cleveland sharing its design. Fun fact: The Giralda also features in the computer game SimCity.
Museum of Fine Arts Seville
A beautiful sight even before you step inside, the Museum of Fine Arts is housed in a former convent which was built in the late Sixteenth Century. Today, the museum is renowned as one of the greatest museums of fine arts in Spain, housing many works from Seville’s Seventeenth Century great Golden Age of art. Here, you will find works from artists such as Murillo, El Greco and Goya, amongst others. The museum offers guided tours of its permanent collection, which must be booked in advance. Visiting the museum costs just €1.50 and is free to EU citizens. Even if you find that you are not interested in art, and would rather not step inside, the museum’s beautiful historical façade is really worth seeing.
Palace of the Countess of Lebrija
Located right in the bustling city centre, the Palace of the Countess of Lebrija has to be one of the most beautiful houses in all of Seville. Famed for its paved Roman mosaic floors, the palace dates way back to the Fifteenth Century, and although typically Andalusian in style from the outside, it’s a whole new world of Arabic and Roman influence once you step through those impressive gilded doors. An archaeologist who travelled the world, the Countess of Lebrija decorated the Palace with wares from her travels, which lends to its eclectic style. If you’re somebody who loves interior design, or if you just want to have a peek inside of house of historical significance and wonderful design, then the Palace of the Countess of Lebrija is definitely the place for you. Guided tours are available, and if you really want to splash out while you’re in town, the palace can be hired for private events.
Maria Luisa Park
If, when in Seville, you ever want to escape the hustle and bustle of city life, then the Maria Luisa Park is for you. Situated right along the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Maria Luisa Park is the largest green space in the city. This isn’t just any old park, though. Like many of the attractions in Seville, the Maria Luisa Park has a historical significance in that many of its grounds were originally the grounds of the Palace of San Telmo, which is now the seat of the president of the Regional Government of Andalusia. The grounds were donated to the city in 1893, and have been redeveloped over time, in the style of a veritable Moorish nirvana. The park is home to many beautiful attractions. Amongst the lush botanical gardens you will find palm trees, orange trees and maybe even parrots. The water-lily pool is worth checking out, as is the Fountain of Lions, one of the parks most impressive monuments. All in all, the Maria Luisa Park is a great place to get away from it all, where flora, fauna and history combine to make it one of the prettiest parks in Europe.
Archaeological Museum of Seville
So, you came to Seville for history? Well, I have got history for you. Located in the Maria Luisa Park, the Archaeological Museum of Seville is one of the best of its kind in Spain – or anywhere else for that matter. Originally built for the Latin American Expo in 1929, this museum is home to a wealth of artifacts from ancient Greek, Roman and Phoenician times. You can also go way back and check out many items from the Iron, Bronze and even the Stone Age. Of particular interest to history buffs may be the Carambolo Treasure exhibit which is located in the Phoenician sector of the museum, and comprises a multitude of gold jewellery, including a gold crown, dating from the Sixth Century. This exhibit is truly a feast for the eyes, and is not to be missed if you have a particular interest in this subject. General admission to the museum is just €1.50, with free admission for citizens of EU member states.
General Archive of the Indies
Located next to the Cathedral, The General Archive of the Indies is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is the location of the historical archive of the overseas Spanish Empire from the Sixteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries. This Sixteenth Century building currently houses up to eighty million pages of documents and maps, most of which have now been digitized. If you’d like a lesson on the history of the Spanish Empire, then this is the place to go. The General Archive of the Indies houses maps dating way back from the Seventeenth Century, which show every Spanish colony at that time. In our modern world, it’s almost easy to forget that Spain was once such a colonial and all-conquering power, but indeed it once was. To that effect, you can also find letters from Christopher Columbus here, dated 1492. Admission is free.
Torre del Oro
Torre del Oro, which means Tower of Gold in English, was constructed in the Thirteenth Century, and was originally part of the defensive walls constructed around the city by the Moors. Later, the tower served as a prison, albeit one with a pretty name, derived from the golden sheen cast out over the Guadalquivir River from the lime and golden tiles used in its original construction. If you take a walk around Seville at night, be sure to check out the Torro Del Oro. It is quite a sight by moonlight and is just as pretty as anything Paris or Rome has to offer. If you’d like to step inside the tower, there you’ll find a naval museum, which houses a host of nautical memorabilia including maps, diving gear and models of ships. You’ll also find spectacular views out over the city if you climb to the viewing platform on the roof. Admission to the Tower of Gold is just €3, and is free on Monday’s.
Flamenco Dance Museum
I couldn’t end this historical guide to Seville without adding a little flamenco into the mix. If you didn’t know, flamenco is an energetic form of Spanish dance which originated in the Andalusian region as far back as 1774. If you want to learn about all things flamenco while you’re in Seville, and maybe even take in a show, then the Flamenco Dance Museum is the place to go. Located in an Eighteenth Century palace, the Flamenco Dance Museum is the brainchild of Cristina Hoyos, a famous Spanish flamenco dancer, choreographer and actress. At this museum, you’ll find out everything you ever wanted to know about the art of flamenco, from its origins, cultural significance and attire. Entrance to the museum is €10.
When you are holidaying in Seville, remember to pick up the Seville Card city pass. Like most European travel cards, this pass will make your stay in Seville a whole lot easier. It will also cut down on time spent queueing, especially at the Seville Cathedral where the queues can go on for miles. The Seville Pass gives you priority access to the Cathedral, so you can skip all those queues. You’ll also gain free admission to the Flamenco Dance Museum, along with a host of other sites, if you have the pass. The Seville Pass costs €32 and with two glasses of wine included in the price, you couldn’t ask for better value.
So there you have it. If you are looking for a new place to visit, one that is rich in culture and heritage, then you can’t go wrong with Seville. In addition to the sights I’ve listed here, there are many more fabulous thing to see and do in this vibrant city in the south of Spain. As a true history buff, I never get tired of discovering new things about the history of Seville. This really is a city for the historian, or for the seasoned traveller who loves to explore the path less travelled. Just imagine that when you are walking through the streets of Seville, you are following in the footsteps of conquerors.