Sevilla is a majestic city and we are thankful we saved it for our final destination in Andalusía. We often awoke to the soothing sounds of horses clip-clopping past on the street below.
Sevilla is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and with a population of ~700,000, it is the 4th largest city in Spain, after Madrid, Barcelona and Valencia. It is also one of the hottest cities in Spain, with the average summer temperatures around 35°C (95°F). During our visit in early October the temperatures continued to reach up to 90°F (32°C).
At one time this city was one of the most strongly fortified cities in Europe. We walked all along the street next to the impressive and well-preserved quarter of a mile section of the remaining 12th century wall. The original walls would have been close to 4 miles in length surrounding the city and were designed to defend the city against both enemy attacks and frequent floods from the river Guadalquivir. At one time there were 166 watchtowers and nine gates but only 3 of each remain today.
The first building we visited when we arrived in Sevilla was Casa de Pilatos. (Pilate’s House), which today is the permanent residence of a local Duke. The building represents a typical Andalusian palace. We were amazed by the colors, variety and quality of the approximately 150 different azulejo (Spanish glazed tiles) designs created in the 1530s by two brothers. It is one of the largest azulejo collections in the world. There is a statue collection as well as more than 25 Roman busts found in this casa, some dating back to the 5th century.
And finally, the famous movie, Lawrence of Arabia with all of it magnificent scenes, was filmed on location in Casa Pilatos in 1962.
Each of the Alcázars we have visited in southern Spain reflect Spain’s rich history. The Alcazar of Sevilla, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a palace composed of areas built from every historical stage beginning in the middle ages. It includes touches of Islamic rule, the Castilian conquest and Renaissance, Gothic and Baroque styles. Today it is the residence of the Spanish Royal Family when they visit Sevilla, making it the oldest royal palace in Europe.
The sour orange trees found in the gardens of the Alcázar of Sevilla are believed to be well over 600 years old. The Moors introduced the sour orange tree into southern Spain using the trees for shade and decoration and the tree’s flowers and rinds of the oranges for making perfumes. The sour or bitter orange fruit is edible, however the taste is pungent enough to dissuade most people from eating them raw but, apparently, they do make a fantastic marmalade. These beautiful 4 season trees are prevalent in every city we have visited to date from Valencia to Sevilla.
Catedral de Sevilla
The Cathedral in Sevilla, Spain is a breathtaking UNESCO world heritage site. It is the third largest church in the world and the largest Gothic church. The cathedral has an amazing 80 chapels!
Christopher Columbus and his son Diego are buried in this cathedral.
The Giralda tower, originally built as a minaret, is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It rises 342 feet high (104m) and has been a symbol of Sevilla since it was built in the 12th century. To get to the top we climbed a series of ramps, instead of the usual stairs, winding up the tower. The ramps were designed with enough width and height to easily accommodate a horse and rider.
Museo de Bellas Artes
Another striking building, the Museum of Fine Arts of Seville, was built in 1594 as a Convent.
The collection within is primarily made up of works of Spanish artists from medieval times up to the early 20th century. We found some magnificent tiles here as well.
Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares
The Museum of Arts and Popular Customs is housed in a gorgeous building, called the Mudéjar Pavilion, located in the María Luisa Park. Built in 1914, the exterior of the pavilion is beautiful! It is decorated with ceramic over brick and the three doors are covered with outstanding glazed tiles.
The exhibition inside included beautiful antique household furnishings, vases, dishes, ceramics and goldsmithing, metalworking and wine-making tools.
Metropol Parasol, aka Las Setas
Metropol Parasol, built in 2011, is an intriguing designed wooden structure found in the old quarter. The four level structure is made up of six parasols reminding you of giant mushrooms (“Las setas” in Spanish). It is quite large (490 x 230 feet) and although not overly tall (85 feet high) it provides wonderful views of the city. After spending time on the rooftop, we spotted a number of additional sites we wanted to visit.
The underground level is the Antiquarium museum, where Roman and Moorish remains were discovered on the site. At street level there is the local Central Market. Above that are the terraces and restaurants where the outstanding panoramic views can be found.
Casa de la Ciencias
This is a smaller museum with an Aztec decorated theme. The current exhibit is about poison found in plants, animals and soils. We saw the usual spiders, snakes, frogs and more. A sign on the wall called ‘The Poison’s Law,’ read: “Nothing is poison, everything is poison. Only the dose makes it poison.” By Paracelsus, 1493-1541.
Our grandson currently is fascinated with rocks and we found interesting rock specimens in this museum as well.
El Parque de María Luisa
Considering we visited this park a couple of times, we probably spent 8 hours or more exploring these 100 acre woods, um, I mean park. We discovered dozens of fountains, gazebos, bridges, acres of gardens and thousands of trees that provided much appreciated shade.
We also came across the Isleta de los Patos, where doves, ducks, swans and more are protected on a few tiny islands surrounded by water. We first found the outstanding Plaza de España in the park one evening when the buildings were lit up by the last rays of a brilliant sunset. The colors of the brick buildings were glorious.
Plaza de España was built between 1914-1929 for the Ibero-American Exposition exposition and it is impressive. There are ceramic-coated benches representing each of the 48 Spanish provinces, excluding Sevilla, and beautiful ceramic-coated lamps in the huge square. Also in the main square is a gigantic fountain, where at night, changing colors of light create a rainbow of colors in the water spray.
Our WiFi was so slow in our Airbnb that one afternoon in order to get some work done, we visited a lovely little tea shop / tienda / book store and were treated to a book reading (albeit in Spanish, delightful nonetheless). The shop was full and had a great vibe, with lots of interaction and participation during the reading.
We spent only one week in this captivating city and found we were immediately comfortable. Our Airbnb was once again in the middle of old town with it’s windy narrow streets. It is easy to meander and get lost for as long as you desire in the old towns of these southern cities and yet so easy to find your way when you choose. A fantastic week and we wish we could have spent a few weeks more.
Salud from the Sevillanos,
Ted & Julia
(click on any picture to go to slideshow view)