Seville is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir. The inhabitants of the city are known as sevillanos (feminine form: sevillanas) or hispalenses, after the Roman name of the city, Hispalis. It is the fourth-largest city in Spain.
This Andalucian metropolis was founded, according to mythology, 3000 years ago by the Greek god Hercules. Roman Seville, named Hispalis, was a port on the Río Guadalquivir, which is navigable to the Atlantic Ocean 100 kilometres away.
Muslim Seville, called Ishbiliya, became the most powerful of the taifas (small kingdoms) into which Islamic Spain split after the Córdoba caliphate collapsed in 1031. In the 12th century a strict Islamic sect from Morocco, the Almohads, took over Muslim Spain and made Seville capital of their realm, building a great mosque where the cathedral now stands. Almohad power eventually crumbled and Seville fell to Fernando III (El Santo, the Saint) of Castilla in 1248.
By the 14th century Seville was the most important Castilian city, and was in sole control of trade with the American colonies from 1503. It rapidly became one of the most cosmopolitan cities on earth. However, over the next 300 years, both plague and the silting up of the river contributed to Seville’s long decline. Seville fell very quickly to the Nationalists at the start of the Spanish Civil War in 1936. Things looked up a few decades later in the 1980s when Seville was named capital of the new autonomous Andalucía within democratic Spain. The Expo 92 international exhibition in 1992 brought to the city millions of visitors, eight new bridges across the Guadalquivir, and the speedy AVE rail link to Madrid. In the new century, Seville is experimenting with green initiatives, including trams, a metro and bikes that glide quietly alongside antique monuments to past glory.
Certamen Internacional de Guitarra Clasica Andres Segovia, a notable classical guitar event held at the beginning of each year.
Los Carnavales, with colourful carnival parades around central Seville.
Cristo de la Expiracion, an exciting fiesta which takes place on the Friday one week before Palm Sunday.
Festival Internacional de Teatro y Danza, with a range of theatrical performances and events held at Seville's Teatro de la Maestranza.
Dia de San Juan, known for its large bonfires and spectacular fireworks displays, with many similar events held throughout Spain at this time of the year.
Fiesta de la Exaltacion del Rio Guadalquivir, with horse racing along the Sanlucar de Barrameda beaches, takes place during the third week of the month.
Sevilla en Ontono, a popular Seville festival featuring music, dance and sport.
Fiesta del Vino, held in the nearby village of Cadiar, close to Seville, where each year the fountain in filled with wine.
Sevilla International Airport is about 25 minutes drive from the city center.
A bus service "Especial Aeropuerto (EA)" runs about every 30 minutes from just outside the "Arrivals" hall during most of the day (though with longer gaps from 1pm-4pm) and costs 4 EUR (6 EUR for a same day return). Taxis are always available next to the bus stop and run on a fixed fare to Seville centre, about 18 EUR during the day and about 21 EUR after 10pm and on weekends/holidays.
La Parra Internation Airport (IATA: XRY) is located 10km from Jerez de la Frontera, on the way to Seville and is used by discount airlines such as Ryanair.
Sevilla Santa Justa Station to the east of Seville city centre was completed in 1991, the station is the southern terminus of the Spanish high speed AVE train service.
High-speed mean Seville is less than an hour from the wonderful city of Cordoba, and less than three hours from Madrid to Seville. However, slower trains are cheaper, and there is an overnight train that runs from Barcelona to Seville in under 11 hours.
Driving is also always an option for long distance travel in Spain, but isn't as convenient or as useful once in town.
The Spanish bus service is comfortable with most having air-con and a toilet. The buses run regularly to/from most major cities, departing either from the Plaza de Armas bus station near the river, or the Prado de San Sebastian station near the University/Santa Cruz. Sometime queue for buying ticket from the ticket office on a busy day might take up to 20 min or more.
Sevilla has a great public transportation system. The buses run frequently and cover most of the city in their routes. You can purchase bus cards at many news stands. Trips cost 60 EUR cents or 70 EUR cents, and it costs 1.50 EUR to buy a refillable bus card (which can be topped up at many newsstands).
Sevici bikes are available throughout the city with special docking stations that allow you to easily grab a bike and go wherever you need, then drop it off at another station when you arrive. Bikes cost 11.50 EUR for a week pass, which allows the first half hour free and subsequent hours are 1 EUR each. Also, year passes can be purchased for 23 EUR with each half hour free and additional hours 50 EUR cents.
Scooters are available for rent for 30 EUR for the day and 120 EUR for the week. These are a cost efficient way of getting around and a drivers license is not necessary.
A tram system is currently being incorporated into Sevilla's local transportation and is running from the San Bernardo Train Station to the Plaza Nueva but is expanding North and West into Triana.
Taxis are easily accessible throughout the city.
Seville's new metro opened on 2 April 2009. It follows an 18 kilometre reverse U from the south-west to the south-east through the southern end of the city centre where it stops at Plaza de Cuba, Prado de San Sebastian and San Bernardo. Tickets are 1.30 EUR for a single zone or 4.50 EUR for all 3 zones unlimited trips, and the metro runs from 6.30am-11pm on weekdays, and late departures are available on Fridays and Saturdays until 2am.
The Alcazar, the Cathedral, and the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The Cathedral of St. Mary was built from 1401 to 1519 on the former site of the city's mosque. It is among the largest of all medieval and Gothic cathedrals, in terms of both area and volume. The interior is the longest nave in Spain, and is lavishly decorated, with a large quantity of gold evident.
The Alcazar facing the cathedral was developed from a previous Moorish Palace. Construction was started in 1181 and continued for over 500 years, mainly in the Mudejar style, but also in the Renaissance style.
The Torre del Oro was built as a watchtower and defensive barrier on the river. A chain was strung through the water from the base of the tower to prevent boats from traveling into the river port.
The City Hall was built in the 16th century in high Plateresque style by master architect Diego de Riano. The facade to Plaza Nueva was built in the 19th century in Neoclassical style.
The Palace of San Telmo, formerly the University of Sailors, and later the Seminary, is now the seat for the Andalusian Autonomous Government. It is one of the most emblematic buildings of baroque architecture, mainly to its world-renowned churrigueresque principal facade and the impressive chapel.
The Royal Tobacco Factory is housed on the original site of the first tobacco factory in Europe, a vast 18th century building in Baroque style and the purported inspiration for the opera Carmen.
The Metropol Parasol, in La Encarnacion square, is the world's largest wooden structure. A monumental umbrella-like building designed by the German architect Jurgen Mayer, finished in 2011. This modern architecture structure houses the central market and an underground archaeological complex. The terrace roof is a city viewpoint.
The General Archive of the Indies, is the repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines. The building itself, an unusually serene and Italianate example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, was designed by Juan de Herrera.
The Plaza de Espana, in Maria Luisa Park (Parque de Maria Luisa), was built by the architect Anibal Gonzalez for the 1929 Exposicion Ibero-Americana. It is an outstanding example of Regionalist Revival Architecture, a bizarre and loftily conceived mixture of diverse historic styles, such as Art Deco and lavishly ornamented with typical glazed tiles.
The neighbourhood of Triana, situated on the west bank of the Guadalquivir River, played an important role in the history of the city and constitutes by itself a folk, monumental and cultural center.
On the other hand, La Macarena neighbourhood is located on the northern side of the city center. It contains some important monuments and religious buildings, such as the Museum and Catholic Church of La Macarena or the Hospital de las Cinco Llagas.
Museum of Fine Arts of Seville - the most important art collection of Seville. It was established in 1835 in the former Convent of La Merced. It holds many masterworks by Murillo, Pacheco, Zurbaran, Valdes Leal, and others masters of the Baroque Sevillian School, containing also Flemish paintings of the 15th and 16th centuries.
Other museums in Seville are:
The Parque de Maria Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), is a monumental park built for the 1929 World's Fair held in Seville, the Exposicion Ibero-Americana. The so-called Jardines de las Delicias (literally, Delighting Gardens), closer to the river, are part of the Parque de Maria Luisa.
The Alcazar Gardens, within the grounds of the Alcazar palace, consist of several sectors developed in different historical styles.
The Gardens of Murillo and the Gardens of Catalina de Ribera, both along and outside the South wall of the Alcazar, lie next to the Santa Cruz quarter.
The Parque del Alamillo y San Jeronimo, the largest park in Andalusia, was originally built for Seville Expo '92 to reproduce the Andalusian native flora. The impressive 32-meters-high bronze sculpture, "Birth of the New World" (popularly known as Columbus's Egg), by the Georgian sculptor Zurab Tsereteli, is located in its northwestern sector.
The American Garden, also completed for Expo '92, is in La Cartuja. It is a public botanical garden, with a representative collection of American plants donated by different countries on the occasion of the world exposition.
Seville, like most Andalusian destinations, is known for its tapas. “Tapa”, while it is associated with certain dishes, is actually a size and many restaurants or bars will offer a tapa, half racion (half serving, although sometimes enough to make a meal) and racion (serving) of the same dish. There are many great tapas places around the foot of the cathedral in the center of town. Some typical tapas include tortilla espanola (potato omelet), pulpo gallego (Galician octopus), aceitunas (olives), patatas bravas (spicy potatoes), and queso manchego (sheep's milk cheese from the nearby La Mancha region). Also be sure to try the ham, which you often see hanging above the bar. Most restaurant kitchens do not open before 8.30pm but some easy to prepare meals are available before that time.
Bars near the river offer nice views but aren’t as good of a deal in terms of the quality of the food. For the most typical and interesting meal, stop at one of the many bars, especially one which doesn't offer English menus (the prices are likely to be lower).
If you're vegetarian, make sure you specify that you eat no fish or tuna as vegetarian only implies no flesh here.
If you would like to purchase your own food, head down to one of the markets close to the centre of the city.
Bars usually open 6pm to 2am weekdays and 8pm to 3am at the weekend. Drinking and partying really get going around mid-night on Friday and Saturday (daily when it’s hot). In summer, dozens of open-air late-night bars (terrazas de verano) spring up along both banks of the river. Ideal bar-hopping neighbourhoods include the Barrio de Santa Cruz and the web of streets around Plaza de Alfalfa.
There’s no shortage of banks and ATMs in the central area. Santa Justa train station, the airport and both bus stations have ATMs.
The craft shops in the Barrio de Santa Cruz are inevitably tourist oriented, but many sell attractive ceramic tiles and poster art. Shoe fetishists beware: Seville has possibly the densest quota of shoe shops on the planet, primarily focused in El Centro around the pedestrianised shopping streets of Calles Sierpes, de la Cuna, Velázquez and Tetuán. El Corte Inglés (Plaza del Duque de la Victoria 8; 10am-10pm Monday-Saturday) department store occupies four separate buildings west, on Plaza de la Magdalena and Plaza del Duque de la Victoria. Further north, Calle Amor de Dios and Calle Doctor Letamendi have more alternative shops. In the traditional tile-making area of Triana, a dozen shops and workshops still offer charming, artistic ceramics around the junction of Calles Alfareria and Antillano Campos.
Seville comes to life after dark, with live music, experimental theatre and exciting flamenco. It is flamenco Seville is famous for. Soleares, flamenco’s truest cante jondo (deep song; an anguished instrument of expression for a group on the edge of society) was developed in the Triana area of the city; head here to find some of the more authentic clubs. Elsewhere, the city puts on nightly tablaos (flamenco shows) at about half a dozen different venues.
There’s a good range of places to stay in all three of the most attractive areas – Barrio de Santa Cruz (close to the Alcázar and within walking distance of Prado de San Sebastián bus station), El Arenal (convenient for Plaza de Armas bus station) and El Centro.
High season is from March to June and again in September and October. During Semana Santa and the Feria de Abril rates double and sell out completely. Book ahead at this time.
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