Located on the Guadalquivir River, Seville was a small but successful settlement when Julius Caesar conquered it for Rome in 45BC, but after that, as they say, the rest is history. Under Roman rule Seville thrived to become one of the most important trade cities in the world. The region was conquered in 712 by the Arab Moors, who held Spain for 500 years. Under Moorish rule, Seville and its neighboring sister Cordoba became important centers of learning, housing universities and libraries dedicated to medical, mathematical, astrological and scientific study. The city was reconquered by King Ferdinand and his papal supporters in 1248 and became the trade center between Spain and the New World in the 1500s. Seville also housed the castle of the Inquisition around that time.
Seville is the capital of the Andalucía region and is the cultural and financial center of southern Spain. It is the fourth largest city in Spain with a population of over 700,000. The region is culturally known for flamenco, bullfighting, olive oil, wine production, and Rossini’s famous opera, The Barber of Seville.
Here are a few ways to enjoy your stay in Seville:
- Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza – regardless of how you feel about bullfighting, for a taste of the sport’s history, a stop at the Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza and the adjacent museum is a must. Built in 1758, the Plaza is the oldest bullring in Spain and seats 14,000. Bullfights are held here on Sundays from spring to fall. If you go for a bullfight, choose seats in todo sombra (full shade). The extra cost will be well worth it to get out of Seville’s blazing sun.
- Tinto de Verano – Sevillianos have perfected Spain’s favorite summer drink, which is a cross between simplified sangria and a wine cooler. Red wine is mixed with either lemon-lime or orange soda (or seltzer for less sweetness), and the concoction is served with a squeeze of lemon. It can also be modified to add fruit, like sangria. Either way, it makes a light, refreshing drink to cut through Seville’s heat, and the soda cuts down the alcohol to stave off dehydration.
- Alcazar – The Alcazar has a history spanning over 1,000 years and is still sometimes used by Spain’s Royal family. It is the oldest Royal Palace still in use in Europe and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Alcazar is a huge complex of palaces, courtyards and gardens and is renowned throughout the world for its architecture and stunning beauty. The Alcazar is considered one of Seville’s top tourist attractions.
- Siesta – You know how you have to adjust your internal clock to get on local time when you cross to a different continent? Seville requires one more adjustment: siesta. Literally translating as a 15-30 minute nap, siesta is better known as the 3-hour break taken in the middle of the working day. This happens all over South America, Spain and the Philippines, but it holds a very significant place in Seville’s culture. In Seville, where temperatures regularly reach into the 100s Fahrenheit (37-44 C), it makes sense to shut things down in the hottest part of the day. From 2:00-5:00, most workers head home to spend some time with their family, have a light lunch, and perhaps take a short nap. Life restarts at 5:00, but don’t get your hopes up for an early-bird dinner. Here, dinner time rarely starts before 10:00 pm – another casualty to the heat. So instead of getting frustrated that no one is around to serve you, slow down, relax, and adjust yourself to the new timing. Chances are you’ll find yourself craving a siesta once you get back to your day job.
- Seville Cathedral – In the longstanding Christian and Moslem tradition of building religious sites on top of recently conquered ones, Seville Cathedral was built on top of the Almohad Mosque by the Catholic Reconquistadores. Seville’s cathedral is the third largest in the world, surpassed in size only by St Peter’s in Rome and St Paul’s in London. The bell tower of the cathedral dates from 1184 and was the original mosque’s minaret. The Giralda tower, as it is known, is Seville’s most famous landmark and is designed with ramps for horses to climb, offering stunning city views from the top. The cathedral has 30 chapels and is full of art and treasures, including the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Who else craved siesta after returning from Seville? Share your story in the comments!