Only 45 miles from the coast, Seville is still beaming with the splendours of the Muslim era: palaces, gardens and old mosques which have now become churches, and the beautiful cathedral. All these things blend together with the riches brought back from America; flamenco, corridas, ferias and tapas. The old town centre, lined with orange trees (a total of 80,000!) and Neo-Mudejar style façades, is totally enchanting. It is the capital city of Andalusia and all its gems are just a few hours' flight away from home.
Some of Seville's must-sees include the following: the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede and the Giralda bell tower, and one of Unesco's World Heritage Sites, the Alcazar palace and its gardens. Seville also holds less famous but just as fascinating sites such as the Flamenco Museum, the Andalusian contemporary art centre on the site of the 1992 Universal Exposition, and the former monasteries of Carthusian nuns. Lose yourself in the maze of narrow, picturesque lanes in the districts of Juderia, Santa Cruz and El Arenal, with little squares and flowery patios here and there, and do not hesitate to go across the Guadalquivir river and explore the popular district of Triana, an old Gypsies' and sailors' haunt.
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Start off in the Santa Cruz quarter, the city's famous old town, where you can stroll through the small streets getting lost in what was once the city's Medieval Jewish quarter. Look out for the boutique shops and tapas bars on every tiny street corner, and the hint of yellow on building exteriors. Getting lost in the labrynth of of its streets and exploring some of Seville's most famous sights you will get a real feel for the city.
When tired of walking make sure to check out the Parque Maria Luisa which lies just south of the Santa Cruz quarter. It is the most attractive park in the city and makes a delightful place to escape the hustle and bustle of the city. With pretty ponds, colourful flowers and snaking paths beneath the trees, it's the perfect spot for a sleepy Spanish siesta whilst most things in the city centre close between 2 and 5pm.
Seville sees the famous Guadalquivir river running directly through it. Take a boat cruise down the river to see what the city is like from the water and learn about some of its fascinating history along the way. For those who are a little more adventurous, there is also kayaking and canoeing possible on the river.
Of course, one of the main things to do in Seville, at any time of day, is to grab a bite of tapas in any of its fanstastic restaurants and bars. As the evening draws in a must-do in Seville is to catch a "tablao de flamenco" (flamenco show) which take place all over the city going late into the night. The best neighbourhood to see a flamenco show is in the Triana district. Seville is also home to the Museo del Baile Flamenco, which is a great visit as it gives you a true insight into the enchanting history and form of flamenco dancing and how it came to Spain (and Seville in particular).
Seville is famous for its bullfighting culture and is home to the most spectacular bullring in Spain, Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza. You can take a guided tour of the elegant and intricately designed ring, or stick around to watch a fight.
For art lovers there is the Museo de Bellas Artes, hich is set in a striking old convent building. It includes remarkable works of Spanish art from the Gothic period through to the 20th century, including El Greco, Pacheco, Velazquez and Cano. This is the Andalusian contemporary art centre which holds the 1992 Universal Exposition.
To relax, grab a coffee and sit for hours in one of the tree-lined squares in the Almeda de Hércules quarter, the most relaxed and bohemian area of Seville. Here you also may be able to find some of the city's best "heladerias" (ice cream parlours).
If sightseeing and exploring gets too much, or you have kids with you on a trip to Seville, there is also the fantastic theme park, Isla Magica, which is just a stone's throw from the historic city centre and is a magical universe with shows, rides and much more.
Seville has many stunning and fascinating historical sights around the city. Start off with the most spectacular, the Alcazar Palace, which was built in the 12th century by Moorish kings so it has a very unique Moorish architecture that is more like something you would find in an arabic country than in Spain. It is definately worth the EUR8.50 admission for a couple of hours spent wandering its inner courtyards and ornate chambers.
The other most significant sight in Seville is the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, which is the third largest church and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. The tomb of Christopher Colombus can also be found inside. Just next door is the beautiful Giralda, the bell tower, which provides wonderful views over the cobbled streets below if you climb the narrow steps to the top!
When walking/cruising along the Guadalquivir river, make sure you spot the Torro del Oro (Tower of Gold), which was once a military watchtower that would watch over the comings and goings along the river and has now become one of the most emblematic landmarks of the city.
An unmissable part of Seville is the beautiful square, Plaza de la Encarnación. This large square was once the city's main marketplace and now has become a huge tourist attraction due to the city's newest viewpoint being constructed in 2011, the Metropol Parasol, which now towers down onto the square. It is a huge, modern wooden structure and if you head up to its summit, to the Mirador de la Seta, you can see the best views of the whole city.
Once hungry, a must-see is to visit the Mercado Lonja del Barranco, which is in a beautiful riverside glass and iron building designed by famous French architect, Gustave Eiffel. Inside is a gormet food market with hundreds of food stalls selling everything from fresh local meat, fish, fruit, vegetables and cheese to delicious on-the-go lunch options or flowers, wine and olive oils to take home as gifts.
Surface area : 33,700 sq mi km2
Population : 8,300,000 inhabitants
Time difference : GMT + 1
The best thing to do in Seville is to get lost on foot. Therefore, remember to pack a pair of comfortable shoes with you. If you are driving, park the car by the Ronda (ring road) and walk into the city. Do not hesitate to use taxis as they are very cheap! You can get free city maps and other information at the tourist information point on Plaza Nueva square, near the townhall.
In the summer months between May and August the tourist sites can be overcrowded and the temperatures can reach 40°C, which may be best avoided. During "Semana Santa" (Holy Week/Easter), the city's visitors double as everyone comes together to celebrate and it can be almost impossible to walk around in the centre.
Tapas of course! In Seville, and everywhere else in Spain, tapas represents the great local gastronomy, however it is said to have been invented in Seville. At a bar, on the terrace of a cafe, in a restaurant, there are so many places around the city to taste small portions of the most diverse dishes (charcuterie meats, cheese, prawns, olives, etc), all best served with a glass of Malaga, Rioja, Sangria or a chilled cerveza (beer).
The special drink is Manzanilla, which is both sweet and very strong! The region surrounding Seville is where the world's best "jamon" or "Pata Negra" (Iberico Ham). The price is high because it is a very luxury and high quality product.
In Seville, they also cut fish into small pieces and dip it in a spicy batter for frying. Gazpacho is also among the Andalusian specialities: this is a chilled soup, served cold, and includes oil, garlic and tomato and it is garnished with cucumber, onion, tomato, peppers and bread.
In Seville you can also try delicious Flemish eggs, which are baked over a layer of tomato, chorizo, ham, green beans, asparagus, etc. During you trip, don't forget to taste all the available fresh fruit: pomegranate, persimmon fruit, figs, strawberries and oranges. Breakfast cannot be savoured without delicious freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Seville is famous for being the place where Spain's best ham is made: 'Pata Negra' Iberico Ham, and in particular, Jabugo's. For guaranteed quality, request a 'cinco jotas' of the brand Sanchez Romero Carvajal.
Seville is known for its azulejos, ceramic squares usually found in the district of Triana, on the other bank of the Guadalquivir, which are an old traditionc from gypsies and sailors passing through on the river.
Small markets can be found on Duque or Magdalena squares. They have a large choice of leather goods, castanets, flamenco dresses and fans. The flamenco accessories can be found particularly around La Campana and the pedestrian streets of Tetuán and Sierpes. You can also buy many souvenirs, both gastronomic and handicraft-related, from the department stores called El Corte Ingles.
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