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Seville is the fourth largest city in Spain and the largest in Andalusia. It is a beautiful city that everyone falls in love with and also a very Spanish city with a fascinating history. For the person who has time, it merits a three day stay. However for tourists who do not have the time, it is possible to do a day trip to Seville with the AVE. The AVE (the high speed train) allows one to make many day trips from Madrid, which is in the geographical center of the Spanish peninsula.
One can take the AVE 02080 at 08:00H from Madrid’s Atocha Station and arrive in Seville’s Santa Justa Station at 10:30H, a trip of 2 hour and 30 minutes. One can return to Madrid on the AVE 02181 at 18:45H and arrive in Madrid at 21:16H. This gives one about 8 hours and 30 minutes to see Seville.
The Santa Justa Station is located at Calle Kansas City, 2.4 km from the Cathedral. It takes about 30 minutes to walk this. However to save time one should take a taxi. There is a tourist office at the train station where one can get a map of the city.
One has to plan this trip ahead of time to try to get the web discounts 62 days ahead of time that reduce the cost of the trip. Also the schedules can change.
Best Sights of Seville
Seville is the biggest city in Andalusia and is one of the cities with more history, more art and culture. When America was discovered, Seville was the gateway to the Americas, since it was the only city to be allowed trade with America. Later on this privilege was given to Cadiz. Seville is enchanting to visitors because the center of the city has been preserved to human scale, with no high rise buildings. The Andalusians are very friendly and like to help tourists. They love food, enjoy parties, and enjoy flamenco. This is a list of great things to see.
1. Seville Cathedral
The building of the Cathedral of Seville was started in 1401 after the destruction of the Moorish mezquita that was in that location. The legend is that it would be so large that when people saw it, they would think that the builders were madmen. The Church of Santa Maria de la Sede was inaugurated in 1507 and is the biggest Gothic church in Europe. It is also the 3rd largest church, after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London. Because the ceiling is so high, the cathedral is the largest volume church in the world. The church also has renaissance and mannerist designs. The dimensions of the church are 116m long, 76m wide, and 56m high at the crossing. The final cathedral was finished 3 centuries after the inauguration. When one enters the church, one has the sense of being very small in such a large church.
The retable of the high altar is huge, the largest in the world. It has an area of 264 square meters. The style is flaming Gothic, and it was designed by P. Duncart, A. Fernandez, and de Covarrubias. There are seven naves in all. The best materials and furnishings were used in building the church. This included Flemish altar screens, 75 stained glass windows, sculptured portals, wrought iron grills, marble floors, and bronze candelabra.
The Sacristia Mayor has the treasures of the Cathedral. Some of the paintings here are by Murillo. There is also the Key of Seville, from 1248. The Capilla Real is a Renaissance structure with a high dome. It has the 13th century Virgen de los Reyes, the patron saint of Seville. It also contains the tombs of King Fernando III, the Saint (who liberated Seville from the Moors), and King Alfonso X, the Wise, and his wife Beatriz de Suabia.
At one corner in the front of the church, in the transept, is the tomb of Christopher Columbus, held aloft by 4 big statues of soldiers. Recent DNA analysis by scientists show that the remains in this tomb belong to Christopher Columbus, as they were compared to the bones of his son Fernando Colon, whose remains are in in a tomb at the west end of the nave. Hernando Columbus, son of the great navigator, bequeathed his collection of thousands of illustrated manuscripts and codices to the Cathedral. These documents form the bulk of the Columbus Library housed within the Cathedral. The library was founded in the 13th century, but the majority of its manuscripts and documents are about the discovery of America.
The cathedral has the Unesco World Heritage designation. Also it has 500 priceless works of art, such as paintings by Murillo (the Immaculate Conception and Saint Anthony), Zurbarán and Francisco de Goya. The cloister has the beautiful Patio de los Naranjos. The garden is of Moorish origin and was built on top of the old mosque. There is an octogonal Visigothic fountain in the center that was used by the Moors for religious ablutions.
When one buys a ticket to the Cathedral, one is given a ticket to the Church of El Salvador.
2. Giralda Tower
Beside the church is the Giralda, the bell tower that is the symbol of Seville. It used to be the minaret of the old mosque and was designed by Abou Yakoub and built in 1184. The Christians topped the minaret with a five-story bell tower in 1568. On top of the bell tower is a weathervane in the form of a statue of Faith, called the giraldilla (something that turns), since it turns with the wind, and this is 4 meters high. The statue has a standard and a palm frond in his hands. That is how the tower got the name of La Giralda. The platform is 70 meter high and is reached by a ramp that two horsemen could pass abreast. One can go up the tower and get a bird's eye view of the city. The total height of La Giralda is 93m. The tower has 24 bells.
3. Real Alcazar of Seville
The Real Alcazar of Seville is the oldest European royal residence and is not one building, but a group of buildings from different time periods and each building has a different architectural style.
In the 9th century, the Moors built a military fort on top of a Visigothic basilica, and this was during the reign of the Emir Abdul Rahman II. Later Caliph Abdul Rahman II expanded it to make it a residence for the governor. In the 11th century, King Al-Mutamid of the Abbadid dynasty expanded the palace enormously. The Christians then reconquered Seville and Don Pedro (Peter the Cruel) renovated the palace to his tastes in 1364. The Puerta del Leon (Lion Gate) became the main entrance to the palace. There is a heraldic lion on top of the gate, in a tiled panel. This gate leads to the Patio del Leon (Courtyard of the Lion).
The Alcazar is one of the most beautiful palaces in Spain. Actually it has a Mudejar Palace and a Gothic Palace by its side. The Mudejar Palace has the most beautiful patio, the Patio del Yeso with its reflecting pool and sunken gardens. It is surrounded by columns supporting Moorish arches. The pillars support a very decorative mesh of stucco. The tile work in the palace has some of the most beautiful tiles in Andalusia and the stucco work on the walls is impressive. The Mudejar ceilings also call attention for their beauty and color. There is a three tier gallery that is on the southern side.
There is an impressive hall called the Chamber of Justice. The ceiling is made of wood and is very elaborate. There is elaborate stucco work on the walls and the ceiling of the hall. On the floor is a small round fountain with a shallow channel that goes to the garden outside.
The Palace of Rey Don Pedro is one of the most important Mudejar style buildings in Spain and contains the second floor apartments of the King, which can now be seen. One has to pay an entrance fee of 4 euros to see the apartments. The visits last 20 minutes and are timed, and only 15 people are allowed at any one time, accompanied by a guard. Everyone is given a recorder in Spanish or English, which explains each room as one walks through it. The apartments are very luxurious and have beautiful furniture, chandeliers, and many Mudejar ceilings with gold decorations. The apartments are closed to tourists when the King is in Seville. This palace also contains the Salon de Embajadores, the Patio de las Muñecas, the Patio de las Doncellas, and many other rooms.
The Gothic Palace is also beautiful with its tile work, of a different style than the Moorish tiles in the Mudejar Palace. It was built by King Alfonso X in the 13th century and underwent many alterations after that in the 16th and 18th centuries. There are also impressive tapestries hung on the walls of this palace. From the porch of this palace one can go to the gardens. The Vaulted Room (Sala de las Bovedas) contains tilework from 1577 and were designed by Cristobal de Augusta. They are made of polychromed glazed tile and are in the form of tapestries. The colors are very beautiful.
The Jardin del Estanque is a tank full of water with a fountain with the figure of Mercury. On one side is a pavilion and a building that goes to the Gothic Palace. This has a raised viewing gallery with round arches on marble columns. There is one garden after another. Among the gardens are the Jardin de la Danza, Jardin de Troya, Jardin de la Galera, Jardin de las Flores, Jardin del Principe, Jardin de las Damas, Jardin del Laberinto Viejo, and the Jardin de la Alcoba. All are beautiful, with many fountains. The gardens have many lemon and orange trees and are also planted with jasmine, so the gardens are perfumed, which is a wonderful sensation when one walks in the gardens. There is a very large area that contains the New Gardens, built in the 19th century in the English style. The gardens include the Jardin del Retiro and the Jardin de los Poetas. All the gardens should be viewed with plenty of time to be able to appreciate all their details.
4. Plaza de España
The Plaza de España is a beautiful Mudejar plaza with a section for every province of Spain and includes a very large palace behind the open plaza. It was designed by Aníbal González and constructed for the Latin American Expo (Exposición Ibero-Americana) of 1929. This is one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. The plaza has a semicircular form and is very large. The building has towers that are supposed to remind one of La Giralda. The facade of the building is Baroque and the rest of the building has the Renaissance style. There is a canal over which Venetian style bridges cross, with beautiful balustrades of ceramics. The canal follows the curve of the building.
Beside the palace there is a bench for every province, with beautiful ceramic tile that represents each province and its history. The Plaza de España is located 1.3 km from the Cathedral and can be walked to in 20 minutes.
5. The Church of El Salvador
The Church of El Salvador has recently been renovated and is one of the most beautiful churches in Seville. It is a Baroque church built in the 17th century and has several chapels done in gold. It has many religious sculptures by famous sculptors of the past. This is one of the finest Baroque churches in Andalusia.
The church was built on top of the Mezquita of Adabbas after the Mezquita was demolished in 1671. The church construction took place between 1674 and 1679. When the church was almost finished, the church fell down on Oct. 24, 1679, leaving only the exterior walls standing. A lot of analysis was done to try to figure out why the church fell down. One of the theories was that the base on top of the old Mezquita was not solid enough. Rebuilding was restarted, with care to make the church stronger. This was finished in 1712. The architect was Leonardo de Figueroa.
The form of the church is the Latin cross, with three naves. the vaults are of the barrel and cross types. There is a big cupola on the ceiling. The main retable and that of the Sacramental Chapel were done by Cayetano de Acosta. Among famous sculptures are the Jesus of the Passion, by Martinez Montañes, and the Christ of Love, by Juan de Mena. The minaret of the old mosque is part of the church. The statue of the Virgen de las Aguas is one of the oldest in Seville. There are many important paintings in the church also.
6. The Barrio Santa Cruz
The Barrio Santa Cruz is beside the Alcazar and is bounded by the Alcazar, the Jardines de Murillo, Santa Maria La Blanca, and Calle Mateas Gago. The barrio used to be the old Jewish quarter. The streets are narrow and form a labyrinth, where it is easy to get lost. This is part of its charm, because when one is lost, one may discover a convent or a palace or a hotel. The air in the barrio is perfumed by jasmine flowers and the orange trees that one finds here. Many of the palaces have wrought iron gates that allow one to peep into their beautiful patios. There are many small stores and some artisan shops, as well as good art galleries, which make this area very interesting.
One of the important palaces is the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes (Hospital of the Venerable Priests). This is a Baroque palace that was finished in 1695 by the architect Leonardo Figueroa and is decorated with paintings by Valdes Leal and his son Lucas Valdes. There is a very beautiful patio, with plants arranged geometrically and with a fountain in the middle. The owner of the palace is the Focus-Abengoa Foundation and the palace is many times used for art exhibitions.
The Murillo Gardens were donated to the city by the Alcazar in 1911, which had used the land for its vegetable gardens before that. Juan Talavera designed the gardens. He also codesigned with Collaut Valera the monument to Columbus, which has two columns and an image of the ship Santa Maria, and an image of a lion in its cornice.
Another important building is the House of Murillo, where the painter lived his last years and died. His remains are buried in one part of the Plaza Santa Cruz. There is also the Plaza de Doña Elvira, which used to have the open air Theater of Comedies, where the Sevillian dramatist Lope de Rueda worked in the 16th century. Both squares are lined with orange trees. This barrio is very picturesque and is one of the favorite gathering places of the Sevillanos. The narrow streets of this charming barrio in the center has many restaurants, tapas bars, and flamenco. It is fun to get lost in the barrio and discover old historic palaces and peep into their beautiful patios.
7. Hospital de la Caridad
The Hospital de la Caridad was built by Don Miguel Mañara, who was a Seville aristocrat of Italian descent. In his early life, he devoted himself to the pleasures of the typical aristocrat. However his wife died in 1661 when Mañara was 34 years old. This caused him to reflect on his life and he decided to devote the rest of his life to doing good. He was the driving force to complete the church in 1670 and build the adjacent hospital to help the poor.
The architect of the church was Pedro Sanchez Falconete and the designer of the main altarpiece was Bernardo Simon de Pineda, while the sculpture of The Funeral of Christ was done by Pedro Roldan. The Baroque church is full of paintings by Bartolome Esteban Murillo and Juan de Valdes Leal and the church is one of the most beautiful Baroque churches in Spain. There is a large cupola over the main altar and there are large windows that let in a lot of light into the church. The vault of the church is filled with paintings by Juan de Valdes Leal. Some of the Murillos are copies of the originals, because the originals were stolen by the French general and marshal Jean-de-Dieu Soult when this general invaded Seville in 1810. This French general is famous for looting the artwork of Andalusia.
The entrance has a courtyard that consists of a double patio that is divided by a high passage on top of columns. Each patio has a marble fountain and there is one sculpture on top representing Mercy, and another representing Charity. There are blue and white ceramic tiles on the walls that depict scenes. These tiles were made in Holland in the 17th century and represent biblical scenes.
Mañara decided to leave his mansion in Seville and lived in a spartan room in the hospital. He devoted his fortune to taking care of the poor. Today the hospital is a home for the aged. There is a monument to him on the grounds, with a statue depicting him, done by the Sevillian sculptor Antonio Susillo. His remains are found in a crypt of the church. His message was that the Christian can achieve eternal salvation only through charity.
8. The Archivo General de Indias
The Archivo General de Indias is located by the Cathedral and it is the place where all the records of the New World empire of Spain were kept. It is also called Casa Lonja. Lonja means a place where merchants meet. Until the 16th century, the merchants in Seville met daily at the Patio de los Naranjos beside the Cathedral. When the weather was bad, they met in the Cathedral. This was not to the liking of the bishop because the merchants were loud and noisy, and the bishop did not think this was appropriate for the house of God. He threatened to excommunicate the merchants. So King Felipe II decided to order the construction of a building for the merchants beside the Cathedral. This was done between 1585 and 1598. The building has two floors with a square plan and a very large patio in the middle. Juan de Herrera was the architect and he designed it as a serene Renaissance palace without too much exterior decoration.
When the merchant exchange lost importance in the 18th century, King Carlos III converted the building to the Archivo General de Indias in 1785, which kept all the historic documents of the colonial empire of Spain in the Americas and the Philippines. The Spanish turned out to be very meticulous record keepers, so there are millions of documents in this archive. It includes bills of lading for all the ships. There are journals of Columbus and the conquistadores, and the maps they made. This is the place where many researchers go to look for records they are interested in. It is literally a document gold mine. The archive contains 80 million pages! The building and its contents were given the title of World Heritage Site by the UNESCO in 1987. The building hosts many exhibitions related to history and displays the original documents and maps they have, so the exhibitions are usually very interesting.
9. Calle Sierpes
Calle Sierpes is the main shopping street of Seville and is located not too far from the Cathedral.
10.Museo de Bellas Artes (Seville)
The Museo de Bellas Artes was founded in 1839 in the old Convento de la Merced Calzada, which was originally built in 1602. The building is an example of Andalusian mannerist architecture of the 17th century. At that time the government confiscated all the art in the convents and monasteries of Spain, and the art from Seville was placed in this museum. This museum is one of the most important in Spain.
The art in this museum dates from the medieval times to the modern times, with an emphasis on the Seville school. This includes artists such as Francisco de Zurbaran, Juan de Valdes Leal, and Bartolome Esteban Murillo.
The former church of the convent is a very large structure with the most beautiful architecture. The ceiling and the cupola are amazingly beautiful.
The Sevilla School painted mostly huge altarpieces, that could be seen from far away. There are about 15 large paintings by Murillo, the most beautiful he painted in his lifetime. Other painters found here are Francisco Pacheco, Velazquez, and Cano. You can also find El Grecos and Goyas in the museum.
Good Restaurant near the Cathedral:
Calle Alvarez Quintero, 58
Casa Robles is one of the better upscale restaurants in Seville and is a place where one can see Spanish celebrities. There is a second floor dining room that is filled with traditional paintings and sculptures, a place that is very elegant. The food is traditional Andalusian cuisine and everything tastes wonderfully. It is located very near the Cathedral. The Spanish Agriculture Ministry awarded the Robles family a special award in 2007 for having one of the best restaurants in Spain.
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