Smitten by Seville

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We were Smitten by Seville

We were in Seville for the MyVuelingCity Game, where the Barcelona-based budget airline Vueling sends travel bloggers on exchange trips, shipping off Spanish bloggers to enjoy some of the European destinations on its ever growing list of destinations and giving people like us the opportunity to spend a weekend in a Spanish city.

"Smiten by Seville with the Metropol Parasol "

You are probably aware that we are always on the lookout for interesting hiking trips. This is more or less the entire raison d’etre of this blog.  But Seville was always going to be a tricky one in this respect, mainly because this time, we only had a single full day in town. Now, trying to make Mrs. Easy Hiker spend that day in the countryside would have been a tough sell.

You see, Seville has history for us. In my previous life as a sports journalist, I went there and came back bombarding Mrs. Easy Hiker with tales of tapas bars, exotic architecture and cups of iced sangria enjoyed on long afternoons in the shadows of an orange orchard. Unsurprisingly, Seville has since been on her (and our) “to go” list.

But there was always something else that kept it off the top slots. There were other destination that – to use a sports journalist’s metaphor – took the inside lane on the last corner and won the day. So, Seville was kept off the podium for 15 years until we received the invitation to participate in the Vueling city game.

I only mention this to explain why hiking in the Andalucian hills was never a serious option. And – with no offence to the Andalucian hills – this would indeed have been a less than perfect use of our available time because Seville has so much else to offer.

Do not let Seville’s current status as a (mere) regional capital deceive you. For more than a century, it was the most glamorous city in Europe. Just take the number of famous operas set in the city: the “Barber of Seville”, “Don Giovanni” (Don Juan was a nobleman from Seville), “Figaro’s Wedding” and, of course, “Carmen”,  giving Seville  4 slots on Operabase’s list of the 10 most frequently played operas. Not bad for a “regional capital”, eh? (Beat that, Birmingham.)

16th to 17th century Seville owed its wealth and cultural standing to the city’s monopoly on trade with the American colonies, a result of its position as Spain’s only viable river port (the Guadalquivir river flows into the Atlantic Ocean, 80 km away from Seville’s town centre).

During that period, Seville would have been a place where soldiers of fortune, hustlers and traders rubbed shoulders with members of the high aristocracy …

"A baroque church tower seen from the Mirasol Parasol building in Sevilla"

… and some of the city’s greatest buildings were constructed in the High Baroque style of the time.

"Fabrica Real de Tobacos of Sevilla"

Fabrica Real de Tobacos of Sevilla

Grandeur became the default style for later buildings, too: the Tobacco Factory – where the “real” Carmen would have worked – is so grand that the director Francesco Rosi decided he could not use it as a location for his movie version of the opera (the one featuring Julia Migenes). A tale of earthy passion set among gypsies and street folk would have sat too uncomfortably in such magnificent surroundings. (The Royal Tobacco Factory was the world’s “largest industrial building” of the 18th century and today is used by one of the city’s universities.)

More grandeur at Plaza de España, the Spanish contribution for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition …

"Smitten by Seville with the Plaza de España"

… and even today, when Seville builds, it does so on an epic scale: the West Bank of the Guadalquivir river is dominated by the modern bridge built for the 1992 Universal Exposition …

"Smitten by Seville here in the Almillo Bridge over the Guadalquivir"

Almillo Bridge

… while the Metropol Parasol in Plaza Encarnacion – a new shopping-plus-community centre with a “walkway in the sky” around it – is the largest wooden structure in the world.

"Part of the Mirasol Parasol in Sevilla"

What makes Seville unique, however, is its role as the bridgehead of Muslim culture in the Christian world. (Seville was ruled by the “Moors” from 712 to 1248.) Strolling through the city centre, one of the largest preserved “Old Towns” in the whole of Europe, you can marvel at the large number of buildings with a distinct Muslim flavour …

"Fabrica Real de Tobaco of Sevilla showing moorish influence"

.. but the truly fascinating thing is that very little of it was actually built by the Muslim rulers themselves. The main bit of Muslim architecture in the city is the Giralda, Seville Cathedral’s clock tower which was once the minaret of the local mosque. The top section was only added after the original copper spheres had fallen off in the same (1356) earthquake that also irretrievably damaged the rest of the mosque.

Until then, apparently, nobody in “reconquered” Seville had felt the need to replace the converted mosque with a “proper” Cathedral. (Once they started building the new Cathedral, however, they pulled no punches: it still is the largest and perhaps the most sumptuously decorated church in Spain.)

"The Giralda tower in  Seville"

The Alcazar next door is an even more intriguing example for the way in which Catholic Seville has absorbed its “Moorish” traditions. It may look like a quintessential “Moorish” residence, but much of it is, in fact, a Spanish Royal Palace, built around the core of a Moorish fortress in the “Muslim style”.

"In the courtyard of the Alcazar in Sevilla"

There is clearly much to do and much to enjoy in Seville – and I have not even said anything about the local style of serving “tapas” yet. Rightly or wrongly, I had always thought that tapas were just some sort of glorified finger food – until I came to Seville where restaurants offer you the choice of ordering most of their dishes either as a full portion or as a snack-size “tapa”.

Order five or six of these “tapas” for two with a bottle of wine, and you will not have many better meals this year (or next).

"Selection of Tapas that led us to be smitten by Seville"

And yes, though smitten by Seville with its tapas and our excursions into the local culture, we even found the time for a half-day walk. More about that next time!

 

Here’s where we went walking in Seville.

 

Gratitude to Vueling, Spain’s best budget airline, for the chance to enjoy the pleasures Seville has to offer. Visit MyVuelingCity online magazine if you want more tips and information on their destinations.

24 comments to Smitten by Seville

  • Almond

    that is a beautiful city i am planning to go for new year’s eve, i hope it would be as amazing as your own experience.

  • I like Plaza de España, the Alcazar and the Cathedral in Seville. And… its food too. Where is the graffiti down by the river? Which river?

  • I studied in Seville during college, and ended up returning afterwards to live! It’s a hypnotic city, with so much to love about it. I tend to overlook the history when I describe it, but your post reminds me that’s a huge disservice. Thanks for the perspective!

  • Yummy on the tapas but those diverse architecture are enough to lure me to Seville. Love that first picture!

  • I’ve always thought of Seville as a fabulous place. I nearly went there in the 70s, can’t remember now why I didn’t go. Thanks for reminding me why I liked it.

  • We would go back there in a heartbeat just to stuff ourselves with tapas again, Linda.

  • This took me right back to my last visit, just over a year ago – also October, which I agree is a perfect time, although there was a heatwave! I was once there at the end of July, and, yes, it was, er, really hot!

    I adore Sevilla, and you covered so much in such a short time! Its history is utterly fascinating, and I discovered so much last year that I hadn’t known before. It’s also very tourist-friendly I think, easy to wander, friendly folk, and, yes, marvelous food. Having made a mistake the first night, arriving late and hungry, we made sure that we didn’t do it again, hunting along the narrow side streets for bars, and we ate wonderfully….in fact some of my photos look very similar!

  • Manuela

    Bellissima città.

  • Seville looks incredible! I’m in love with Spain, but need to do more exploring outside of Catalonia, much as I love it.

  • OK, now Seville is high on my list. Love the grandeur and diversity of the architecture and I’m totally hungry for the tapas. Very enticing photos, Mr & Mrs Easy Hiker!

  • What I love about Seville is it’s unmistakeable architecture. Spain as a whole sounds TREMENDOUSLY appealing. Have never visited!

  • November is really the best time to visit Seville, Toon. Summer could be a scorcher here.

  • I was there last year November. A beautiful and inspiring town. The architecture and the ambiance is great, even in November.
    A highly recommended city for every one.
    Thanks for posting this

  • Joe

    An interesting city to visit after looking at the photos, and I love the tapas.

  • Jeremy, I too would stay away in August. This time, mid-November, the weather was very pleasant.

  • Shawn, there were so many tapas bars waiting to be tried and tested, but only so much we could eat. Thanks for dropping by!

  • Glad you had a fun weekend and found some great looking tapas. I hope some of my suggestions were helpful.

  • Jeremy Branham

    When I went to Seville a few years ago, I loved it. May be my favorite city in Spain. I was there in October and it was PERFECT! I even liked the Alcazar better than the Alhambra. I loved walking around the city. However, I may feel a little different about it if it was August :)

  • I would have to admit that Seville looks better than Birmingham. There is so much of Spain that I have not seen and Seville is one of those places. It certainly looks stunning and I have to plan a visit.

  • Seville is at the top of my list of cities I want to visit. I have never been but the architecture is very interesting to me.

  • Thank goodness it’s almost lunch time :) I’m starving after reading this! I have wanted to visit Spain for quite awhile and, like, you have no real reason why I haven’t been yet. When I do, Seville is definitely on the itinerary.

  • I should know better than to read blogs when I’m hungry. Lovely city, lovely food – looks great!

  • Envy. . .yes, that’s what I am feeling. We loved Seville and you brought it back to life in this post. And, the envy comes from your ability to take a day trip of sorts to this magnificent city. We’d have to spend a day getting there and another day back to participate in this most-fun sounding event!

  • I think Seville is a really pretty city but I wish I’d done more research on the food before visiting. We did no better than average for a couple of meals. But we did enjoy several fabulous walks and I found the graffiti down by the river quite creative.

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