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Temperamental Seville on the Guadalquivir is a city that leaves no one untouched. Some say that this city is the heart of the real Spain. It is, in any case, the capital and the heart of dreamy, romantic Andalusia in the south of Spain. It is a city with a historic center that is the largest of Europe and that still radiates the former power and wealth. Seville, the city of flamenco and tapas. Seville, in a deep siesta in the afternoon and a city full of life at night. Add to this the fact that the city organizes festivals all year round and it will be clear: You have to see Seville, or rather, experience it!
The old city center consists of winding and sometimes extremely narrow streets and squares. The Real Alcázar (Royal Palace) is one of Seville's main attractions. It was built after the Christians had defeated the Moors, at the place where there used to be an Arabic fortress. Although the Christians had taken control, they were apparently very impressed by Arab architecture. Moorish master builders were employed and this is how the so-called Mudéjar style originated in which Arab and Christian elements were combined. In the courtyard of the Alcázar you feel as if you are standing inside an Arab palace. In the summer, outdoor concerts are held, late in the evening, in the gardens of the Alcázar.
The Seville cathedral is also an unmistakable mix of Arab and Christian culture. This Gothic Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede was also built on a spot where there used to be an Arab building, a mosque. The mosque's minaret was preserved and now forms the church' best-known part, the Giralda bell tower. Explorer Columbus is buried in the cathedral's Royal Chapel.
Around the cathedral there are plenty of tapas bars, but they are very much geared towards tourists, and priced accordingly. The tapa is said to originate from Seville to cover a glass of sherry with a piece of bread or a slice of ham, to prevent flies from entering the glass. The verb 'tapar' means to cover. In authentic, local bars, it is still common practice to serve a free (simple) tapa with a drink. A good tip: For traditional, Andalusian dishes, you have to go the Seville's oldest bar, El Rinconcillo.
Between the gardens of the Alcázar and the cathedral lies the charming, old Jewish quarter Barrio de Santa Cruz. Here again you will find narrow streets with whitewashed houses. Don't limit your visit through this neighborhood to the very touristy Calle Mateos Gago crammed with souvenir shops. Although Don Juan is a fictional character, the Spaniards believe this womanizer really existed. On the Plaza los Refinadores they have honored him with a statue.
West of the center lies the former harbor area La Arenal. The main attraction here is Plaza de Toros de la Maestranzas, probably Spain's most beautiful bullring. Bullfights (corridas) are mainly held on Sundays. On other days you can walk on the sand in the bullring, without having an angry bull attacking you. Just as safe...
The Plaza de España is built in a semi-circle for the Ibero-American Exposition. The frescoes depicting scenes from the Spanish provinces' history are extraordinary.
Just like in the rest of Spain, Seville's nightlife sets in late. It is quite normal getting something to eat at 10 p.m.; only afterwards Spaniards go to a bar or outdoor terrace to make their way to a discotheque or nightclub even later. If you want to visit a bar or discotheque you have to put on smart clothing. This is very much appreciated by Spaniards. A short and slippers are not done! These are only for going to the beach, not for a night out.
When in Seville, you absolutely have to visit a flamenco bar, as the city is, after all, the birthplace of this dance. There are lots of tablaos flamenco, but these are mainly frequented by tourists. Try to find a flamenco bar that is not swarming with tourist buses in front. Or even better: Visit Seville in September of an even numbered year when the best dancers come to the city for the large Bienal de Flamenco Festival. In the Museo del Baile Flamenco you can learn more about the various dance styles.
At only ten kilometers from Seville lie the remains of the Roman Italica. They include for example the ruins of one of the Roman Empire's largest amphitheaters, accommodating over 25,000 people, as well as mosaic floors of houses and public buildings. Italica can be reached by rental car via the M-172.
North of Seville lies the Sierra de Aracena Natural Park. For many people this natural park is a pleasant surprise: It is much cooler here than in the Guadalquivir Basin and you can make beautiful walks through wooded hills where many wild flowers grow. To reach the park you take the A66/E-803 from Seville in the direction of Merida. The exit to Aracena is signposted after approximately 35 kilometers.
The Isla Mágica amusement park is fun for young and old. There are rollercoasters, theater shows and other attractions, in a setting of sixteenth' century Spain.
Seville's center is pedestrianized and most of the city's attractions are within walking distance. It is not easy to find free parking space out on the streets, but fortunately there are many parking garages around the center. Some are extremely costly, but the rates in the Paseo de Colon parking are very reasonable. You can park free of charge near the large bus station on the other side of the river. Do not leave any valuables in your car here!
Seville Airport is located ten kilometers northeast of Seville. You can easily reach the airport by rental car as the airport is situated right off the A-4 freeway, which connects Seville with Córdoba and Madrid. The exit to the airport is near km 532 and is clearly signposted.