Seville is located in south-western Spain. It is the capital of the region of Andalusia in the province of Seville.
The city is Spain’s fourth-largest, and boasted the first high-speed railway line in the country – the Madrid-Seville AVE line, opened in time for the 1992 World Expo held in the city.
“Seville,” wrote Byron, “is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women.” Whilst this is very true, its just the tip of the iceberg as Seville has become one of the most visited cities in Spain due to its rich history, cosmopolitan atmosphere, and its enviable location around the River Guadalquivir; not to mention the year-round warm climate, its friendly inhabitants and its vast array of delicious tapas bars, fine fish restaurants and famed nightlife. Yes, Seville really does offer something for everyone and should not be missed when visiting southern Spain.
Starting on the historic side of the city, it is home to some of the finest monuments and ancient sites in Spain, including the impressive cathedral, the rambling Alcazar gardens, the riverside Torre del Oro (Golden Tower), the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Almohad walls, La Giralda and the famous La Maestranza bullring, the oldest of its kind in the world.
Seville is also famous for hosting one of the best annual fairs in Spain. The famous Seville April fair is held around two weeks after Easter celebrations each year and now draws over a million people a year. A large number of visitors come from all over Spain and all corners of the globe.
The fair began back in 1947 as a cattle fair and over the years took on a more typical Spanish feria feel as we know them today. The Seville Arpil Fair or Feria de Abril, as it is known by, has become very special and important for many reasons.
The Seville Fair starts officially on the Monday with the Dining of Fish ( “La cena del pescaito”), and the parade in which the city mayor presides over before switching on the lights around midnight, this is usually accompanied by a spectacular firework display which booms out across the city announcing that the fair is officially underway.
Apart from the fun, shows, drinking, partying and general merriment, the fair has become a true celebration of flamenco dancing. Many of the most famous dancers , composers and singers of this passionate art form come from Seville.
As most areas of Spain, Seville was fought over and hit hard by many cultures and peoples, including the Roman and Arab Empires. The Alcazar was originally used as a mere palace, which was enlarged to feed the unusual habits of the the ruler al-Mu’tadid, who needed space to house his harem of 800 women, and to home to his ghastly garden of flowers planted in the skulls of his enemies. Under the occupation of the Almohads, the sprawling Alcazar complex was turned into a citadel, stretching to the twelve-sided Torre del Oro on the banks of the river. Parts of the Almohad walls, like the Torre del Oro, still survive today, as does the brilliant minaret known as the Giralda which was used to call faithful Moors to prayer. So venerated was the Giralda that the Moors tried to destroy it before the Christian conquest of the city; this failed, and the Giralda became the bell tower of the Christian cathedral. The cathedral itself is well noted for its magnificent 15th-century gothic architecture and hand-carved wooden altarpiece.
On the other side, Seville is a lively, passionate and fun-loving capital which holds two great festivals every year. The religious Holy Week (Semana Santa) and the enormous April Fair, which on goes for an entire week, are just two of the many local festivals and fiestas.
Seville is noted around the world as the origin of the flamenco rhythm and dance; endless partying, daily bullfights, religious processions and colourful costumes.
Top Seville attractions
Feria de Abril
Sevilla’s week-long fiesta is Andalucía at its celebratory best, with a vast fair of flamenco dance tents, and horsemen and women dressed to kill.
One of the city’s principal landmarks is la Giralda – a colossal tower originally erected by the Moors as a mosque minaret and later converted into a bell tower for the world’s largest Gothic cathedral. You get an incredible view from the top.
María Luisa Park
Beat the heat of the afternoon and steel yourself for a long night on the town with a nap in Sevilla’s elegant Maria Luisa Park. There’s plenty of cool shade to doze in, be sent asleep to the rythmic trickle of the fountains.
As the city which claims to have invented tapas, Sevilla kicks aside all competiton except maybe San Sebastian. A good place to pick up the trail is Bar Modesto , in the Santa Cruz district, which offers just about every tapas imaginable.
Outside Feria week, flamenco music is hard to find in Sevilla, with most venues offering tacky “shows” instead of the real thing. La Carbonería is an exception – a quirky bar north of Santa Cruz church which hosts sessions by local gypsy musicians most night of the week.
The nightlife in Sevilla – known for good reason as la marcha ( marching ), usually means an interminable tapas-bar crawl around Santa Cruz, followed by a session in a nightclub and a mass get-together at dawn in the Plaza San Salvador. Not for the fainthearted.