Seville: romantic, lively, passionate and historical, and being located along a flat plain on the Guadalquivir River, it's entirely walkable for a perfect day of exploration. Seville (pronounced "Seveeya") is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia. Its Old Town, with an area of 4 square kilometres (2 sq miles), contains 3 UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Alcázar palace complex, the Cathedral and the General Archive of the Indies. An easy 2-hour drive from La Cazalla, this popular city makes for a wonderful day out during your stay, and there is ample parking available close to the action.
Here are our recommendations for a one-day walking tour in this beautiful city:
1. Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold)
Allegedly once gilded in gold (hence the name), the tower is an ideal starting point for your walking tour of Seville, as the view from the top offers exquisite, panoramic views of the area you are about to explore. The tower was built between 1220 and 1221 by the Moors to defend the city from Christian invaders since it was a great observation point. It also served as a prison in the Middle Ages. It is one of the most popular monuments of the city and houses a naval museum displaying documents regarding navigation and models of ships, including the three ships that were used by Christopher Columbus in his voyage to the Indies. The tower is open from 9:30-18:45 Monday to Friday and 10:30-18:45 on Saturdays and Sundays. Admission is €3.00 for adults.
2. Plaza del Cabildo
When you leave the Tower of Gold, turn left (keeping the river at your left shoulder) and head towards the bullring. Immediately after the bullring, turn right into Calle Dos de Mayo and continue towards the cathedral. Just before you reach the cathedral, take a moment to stop by this delightful little hidden plaza to your left. It's a public area, so there's no entrance fee to pay. Simply enjoy the cool walkway beneath the arches of the semicircular building with its pretty painted ceilings and trickling fountain.
3. Cathedral of Seville
After your peaceful interlude in the Plaza del Cabildo, it's time to be awed by the largest Gothic cathedral in the world: the Santa Maria de la Sede. Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1987, its construction lasted over a century from 1401 to 1506. The basilica occupies the site of the great Aljama mosque, built in the late 12th century by the Almohads, of which the only remaining parts are the Patio de Naranjas (containing a fountain and orange trees), the Puerta del Perdon (on Calle Alemanes, on the north side), and the Giralda (formerly the minaret, now the bell tower).
The bell tower stands 105 metres high (343ft) and you can walk up to the top for incredible views of the city. As the cathedral is a popular tourist attraction there can be long queues for the bell tower, so we recommend arriving at the cathedral as soon as it opens at 11:00. To add some extra sound to your experience, coincide your time in the tower with the ringing of the bells on the hour!
In the main body of the cathedral the most noticeable features are the great boxlike choir loft, which fills the central portion of the nave, and the vast Gothic retablo of carved scenes from the life of Christ. This altarpiece was the lifetime work of a single craftsman, Pierre Dancart. The central nave rises to an awe-inspiring 42 metres and even the 80 side chapels each seem tall enough to contain an ordinary church. The cathedral is open on Mondays from 11:00-15:30, Tuesday to Saturday from 11:00-17:00, and Sundays from 14:30-18:00. Admission for adults is €9.00.
4. Las Setas (the Metropol Parasol)
For a refreshing contrast between the old and new, head northwest from the cathedral on the Calle de Placentines for a 10-15 minute walk to Las Setas in the Plaza de la Encarnación. As its architect, Jürgen Mayer H, was inspired by the magnificent fan tracery vaulting of the cathedral, it is interesting to view one immediately after the other, and, now that it's likely to be the middle of the day, you can take a little time in the shade under the parasols designed for that purpose.
Finally completed in 2011 after a number of structural and historical challenges (when excavation for the foundations was commenced, Roman houses were discovered on the site), the fascinating parasol is said to be the largest wooden structure in the world. 150 metres long, 70 metres wide and about 26 meters high (492 x 230 x 85 ft), it's a fine example of contemporary architecture.
To protect the Roman ruins underground, the structure rests on just a handful of large pillars which act like trunks from where the tree-like 'parasols' rise. The lower levels contain an archaeological museum, a public plaza and a farmers market. The other two floors feature panoramic terraces, a restaurant, and the roof is an open-air public plaza where events often take place. Elevators in the concrete columns bring visitors to the rooftop where winding walkways lead to a platform with magnificent views over the city.
Las Setas is open from Sunday to Thursday from 10:30-23:45 and on Fridays and Saturdays from 10:30-00:45. Adult admission is €3.00, although, of course, you can admire the structure from the outside for free.
You now have a number of different options at this point in your walking tour, according to your personal tastes. If you adore Roman artefacts and mosaic tiles, the sumptuous Palacio de Lebrija is less than a five-minute walk from Las Setas at the Campana end of Calle Cuna. This family palace was styled by the Countess of Lebrija in the 19th century to house the magnificent collection of antiquities she had amassed during her travels. As opening times vary according to the time of year, check their website in advance for more information. Admission is €6.00 to visit the ground floor only, or €9.00 for both levels.
Alternatively, if your feet are getting a bit sore by this point, you might like to visit the Aire de Sevilla Arab Baths for a treatment, or if your interests bend towards historical documents, try the second of Seville's UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies).
Our preference is to head back from Las Setas to the cathedral and wander through the old Jewish neighborhood of Santa Cruz before arriving at Seville's third UNESCO site: the Real Alcázar de Sevilla.
5. The Royal Alcázar of Seville
Prepare to stand with mouth agape once more as you enter the palace renowned as one of the most beautiful in Spain with the best examples of Mudéjar architecture. Incidentally, it is also a filming location for the HBO series, Game of Thrones. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence, making it the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe.
The Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, a monumental complex that retains 7 hectares of gardens and 17,000 square meters of buildings, was an authentic military and palatine acropolis. It brought together several palaces and urban defenses (still preserved) that cover a wide chronological area between the 11th and 16th centuries (with later modifications), having been the main palace of the Abbadí taifa kingdom, seat of one of the three capitals of the Almohad empire, palace of the Castilian monarchy during the Late Middle Ages and Royal House during the Early Modern Age.
You enter the palace from the ticket office inside the Puerta del León (Lion Gate), emerging into the Patio del León (Lion Patio), which was the garrison yard of the original Al-Muwarak palace. From here you will weave your way through patios, halls and rooms displaying beautiful Mudéjar plasterwork, mosaic tiling, archways, ceilings of interlaced beams with decorative insertions, collections of paintings and elaborate fans.
The palace is open every day during October through March (except for certain public holidays) from 9:30-17:00. Daily opening hours are slightly extended during peak season from April to September, opening every day from 9:30-19:00. Adult admission is €9.50.
6. Parque de María Luisa and Plaza de España
For a relaxing and romantic end to your day, walk 8 minutes southeast of the Royal palace via the Avenida Isabel la Católica to public park María Luisa. This large green space close to the river is endowed with hundreds of exotic trees lining shady avenues, and historic, fairytale buildings, with exotic touches provided by colourful tiled benches, and Moorish fountains and pools.
Large enough to never feel crowded, the park is a delightful place for a quiet stroll, a kids' runabout, or romantic horse-and-carriage or boat ride. The park is also home to the photogenic Plaza de España: a fine example of a mixture of Renaissance and Moorish Revival style. This plaza, built in 1928, is famous mainly for its beautiful mosaics decorating the square, and boasts a beautiful fountain in its center.
Still curious for culture? If you are happy to extend your visit into the evening hours, we highly recommend polishing your day off with a flamenco show. The Flamenco Dance Museum is located in the Santa Cruz quarter, just a few steps from the Plaza Alfalfa, and is the place to see good flamenco in Seville. As well as its impressive museum with interactive exhibits showing the origins and evolution of flamenco, there are one hour performances at 17:00, 19:00, 20:45 and 22:15. Bookings for the show can be made in advance on the museum's website and cost €20.00 per person for just the show or €24.00pp to include a visit to the museum.
Phew! Certainly a busy, but entirely fulfilling day out in Seville. If you'd like more information on visiting Seville or other cities during your stay at La Cazalla, don't hesitate to get in touch - we're always happy to help.