Seville, Spain, an overview of the Andalusian city

Luxos takes you on a journey through Seville's past and present, with culinary and shopping highlights

by 15 April 2011

Seville is the capital of Andalusia and one of Spain's top tourist destinations. Located on the River Guadalquivir, Seville has been an important centre throughout history. Its art and culture have been greatly influenced by the different civilizations that held power over the ages, from the Ancient Romans, to the Moors and then the Castilians. Each of them left important traces that can still be seen in Seville today, especially its culinary sector. Seville’s cuisine has benefitted greatly from its complicated past filled with diverse foreign influences and the introduction of a variety of ingredients.

One of the best views of the city is on a boat ride along the Guadalquivir River. The Marques del Contadero pier is close to Torre del Oro, with ferries leaving around every half hour, from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. The Torre del Oro itself is an important landmark, built in 1220 and originally covered in gold. It stands high overlooking the river and is home to the Naval Museum.

Other notable monuments include the famous Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See which is a wonderful combination of architectural styles. It is also the third largest church in the world. Nearby, at a height of 104 metres, stands the famous Giralda Tower, constructed as a minaret during the Moorish occupation and later converted into a bell tower for the adjoining cathedral. Seville prospered immensely during the early years of the Spanish Reconquista, not only economically but also gastronomically, with the introduction of new spices and produce, such as tomatoes – an essential ingredient in Gazpacho, a cold soup dish typical of the area.

A short walk from the Cathedral brings you to the large square named Plaza de España, which is an exquisite example of Moorish-Spanish architecture. It actually dates back to 1929, designed in an imaginative mixture of revivalist styles, including Art Deco and Neo-Mudéjar.

Continuing the tour through the narrow streets of the old town, in both the Triana and La Macarena neighbourhoods you will find some of the best tapas that Seville has to offer. Try the pescaito frito (fried fish) and the prized Jamón Ibérico (cured meat).

Here, you will stumble upon the majestic Real Alcázar castle, a UNESCO World Heritage site built in the 14th century. It is Europe’s oldest Royal Palace still in use today. Originally a fortress, the Real Alcázar is a gem that changed dramatically over the years, especially with respect to its gardens and courtyards, where numerous concerts are held during summer. The Real Alcázar is open for visits Tues-Sat 9.30 a.m.– 7 p.m., Sun 9.30 a.m.-5 p.m. Closed on Mondays.

A great place to shop in Seville, just as in other Spanish cities, is El Corte Inglés on Plaza del Duque, a department store that carries just about everything. The two main shopping streets in the city are Sierpes and Tetuan, as well as Nervión, the location of many luxury brands and shopping mall, Nervión Plaza. The Triana area is well known for ceramics (one of Seville's craft specialities) while other shops in the area sell lace and antiques.

Spring and summer are the best time to visit Seville, because many festivities are held at this time, such as the Feria de Abril (April Fair) and Easter celebrations. In addition, you can also enjoy concerts and flamenco performances. All of these occasions offer great opportunities to enjoy Seville’s cuisine. Remember to try the Pato a la Sevillana, roast duck with olives and sherry sauce. Sherry is very popular in this region. To complete your meal, order the Tocino de Cielo (a rich custard) for dessert. You could also try a locally-mixed Rebujito, a cocktail made from fino sherry, fizzy lemonade and ice. Some mixologists use fresh lemon juice. As far as cocktails go, this one is low on the alcohol and high on antioxidants in the sherry and the vitamins in the lemon and fruit (as berries may be added in some variants) This makes for a healthy drink and a refreshing way to spend a hot Andalusian afternoon.

Luxos City Guide to Seville

Spain SS2011