La Giralda Seville

Seville is in my opinion one of the most interesting cities to visit in the south of Spain. All the things that will pop in your mind when thinking of Andalusia and Spanish culture will come true when visiting this beautiful city.

Seville is vibrant, you can feel it´s history when walking around the small alleys, but you can also feel the grandeur when strolling along it´s wide boulevards and aside of the Guadalquivir river. Due to the location more inland, Seville has not suffered a lot of damage during the centuries, meaning there are a huge amount of ancient buildings still to be found.

It is also a city of extremes, temperatures in the summer go way up, making the place look like a ghost town when most of the villagers leave the town to go to the coast in order to find refreshment. Summer definitely is not the best time to visit Seville unless you love walking around with temperatures well over 43 degrees celsius (115 Fahrenheit) and find many of the bars and restaurants closed for the summer.

But as soon as college starts and people go back to work in September, you can immediately feel the energy back in the streets and it becomes the vibrant capital of Andalusia again. If you love the southern Spanish culture it is almost impossible not to fall in love with this city.

Seville people are also extreme, the most important holy week celebrations, the Semana Santa, are in Seville and they are probably the most outgoing of all Andalusian people and of course Seville is where that typical Spanish dance originated, giving the Sevillians yet another thing to be extremely proud of.

In 1992 the International Expo was held in Seville which has brought upon a lot of changes and improvements to the city. A whole new huge train station was built and many areas of the city have been renovated in order to bring out the grandeur of the city. Roads were improved, bridges were built to improve communication and the whole area of the Isla Cartuja underwent a total facelift.

One of the most important bridges that was built for the ´92 Expo is the Puente del Alamillo, designed by the world famous architect Santiago Calatrava. You can see this bridge tower over the whole city from far and at night it is beautifully lit, making it even more spectacular.

Another thing you can see from a distance is of course the Seville Cathedral which is called by many the biggest cathedral in the world but let´s just say it is the biggest of Spain to stay on the safe side, seeing that the classification "big" is relative. It certainly is among the most impressive catedrals in the world and was built between 1402 and 1506. The height of this cathedral is still respected, town council does not give permission to make any building higher than the cathedral tower it self, ensuring that the cathedral is the first thing you will see when approaching the city.

Officially this cathedral is called the Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede but it is lovingely known as La Giralda, because of the rotating weather vane that is placed on top of the tower. This Giralda tower is an original Almohad minaret and only two others remain in this day and age in the whole world.

It was finished in 1196 and now is the bell tower of the cathedral, which can be visited. Curious fact about this tower is that there are no stairs. Instead you will have to walk up 34 slopes which were constructed so that in the early ages people could go up on horseback fast to ensure the safety of the city.

You will find a lot of little churches and chapels when walking around in Seville and it is a common joke that there is always a procession going on somewhere in Seville, so don´t be surprised if you have to stand and wait while some "hermandad" is crossing the streets, carrying their Virgen Mary around and of course followed by a lot of people and a music band. It is one of those things that shows the pride of the Sevillian even though most are not that religious anymore.

Nearby the Catedral you will find the Reales Alcázares, the royal palaces. It was first started being constructed in the 12th Century but little remains of those original buildings, the only original feature of that period can be seen in the Patio del Yeso. The Reales Alcázares as we know today were mostly constructed between 1350 and 1369 and of mudejar architecture but several additions were made by the monarchs that followed living in the palaces.

The Reales Alcázares is a Unesco World Heritage site, as well as the Cathedral and both are worth a visit. Walking around in the gardens of the Alcazares is a wonderful experience and you can still feel it´s history. In the summer special little concerts are given at night and if you happen to be around, you should really go and experience the magic of classical or flamenco music in that magical environment.

As to this day the palace is still used by the Royal family on occasions but the whole site is open to the public when they are not in town.

Apart from these beautiful sites, Seville has a lot more to offer. The city is easy to walk through but if you prefer you could also enjoy a short carriage ride that will give you the opportunity to see the most important sites in one afternoon. Another way to see it all is of course by using a small tourist bus, that will stop at specific points around town so that you can walk around and visit the most important places.

However, I would recommend to just buy a small tourist map and start walking around, because that is the only way you can really experience the feel of the town. Make sure you plan in several short stops so that you can have a nice little tapa and a refreshment before continuing your tour, it is part of what makes living in Andalusia so special and it is the perfect way to observe the Andalusians in their normal life.