Deep in the region known as Andalusia is one of Spain’s most popular tourist destinations, the city of Seville. It is certainly one of the most beautiful Spanish cities and artfully blends modern promenades and a lively social scene with ancient buildings, towering churches, and Hispanic architecture. Seville is said to have existed in Roman times and hasn’t ceased to grow until the modern era. Luckily, many aspects of the past have remained. One of the things that makes Spain so special is the country’s attention to historical preservation.
One of the first things you will probably see as you start puttering around this terrific city is the Gothic Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla). Though its origins are from the 15th century, the church has been continually worked on, beautified, and added to since that time. One interesting tidbit: at one time a mosque stood where the cathedral now stands; for centuries Spain was ruled by Muslim Moors. Interestingly enough, a country once noted for tolerance in an era known as “la convivencia,” became a ruthless persecutor of these Middle Eastern people throughout the 15th and 16th centuries.
At the cathedral you will see many things of note. The Catedral de Sevilla is dripping with exterior decor. A trip to the top will award you beautiful, breathtaking views of the old city, and the stained glass is exquisitely crafted. You can find Christopher Columbus’s tomb here, although even historians disagree about his actual place of burial.
When you continue traveling through the city (and perhaps get your “land legs” back if you trekked to the top) you will find a huge gilded tower known as Giralda Tower. Built in the Middle Ages, it is of Moorish design. When your eyes travel up the monument you might notice little flourishing details, like arched windows and tiny decorative balconies. Even the bell tower, one of the newest additions, was added in the late 1500s – still over four hundred years ago.
For other religious attractions, you might want to stop by some of the old convents in the city (although you will have to find out if any of these places are open to the public). Even if visitors are not allowed inside, you can still get great pictures and learn some history. One of the beautiful whitewashed convents, livened with splashes of color here and there, is the Convento de Santa Paula (Convent of St. Paula). It was founded in the 1400s. One striking feature is its huge door, full of gild and Moorish design. The convent can be visited every day except Monday at appointed times. Other convents in the city include Santa Clara, Santa Ines, San Leandro, and San Clemente.
Of course, religious monuments are not all there is to see. The Middle Eastern-style Alcazar, a medieval mansion, was begun in the 1300s. At first glance you might think you’re seeing a tourist attraction, but it’s the real thing. The pointed towers and stone construction really are reminiscent of the Middle Ages. Like the famous Alhambra Palace in Granada, another Andalusian giant, the Alcazar has gardens, Moorish arches, and stunning architecture to offer. Beautiful artwork awaits in the Chapel of the Casa de la Contratacion. The brightly-colored tilework and gilded ceilings are certainly a feast for the eyes.
The Torre del Oro (“tower of gold”) is another Moorish expression in the city (you will notice that many Spanish cities carry some memory of their Middle Eastern forebears). The simple rounded tower may not look like much, but it is chock-full of centuries of history. The intervention of Seville’s citizens have kept the tower standing and in good shape. Torre del Oro was built in the medieval era and is one of Seville’s most famous landmarks. You will probably find that the tower shows up in the background of many pictures, since it is a huge building that defines the city’s skyline.
Want to get lost in Seville’s characteristic narrow streets? There is something romantic about the whitewashed houses sandwiched together on opposite sides of a tiny lane, and the Barrio de Santa Cruz will not disappoint those who love solitude. (You may want to keep in mind, however, that you won’t be the only one seeking solitude here, so try early morning or evening if you want some time to yourself). The old streets are beautiful and yet austere and create the exact mental picture many people have of Spain.
By Lacie R. Schaeffer