Lying on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Seville is the capital and largest city of Spain’s Andalusia region. Home to the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and thousands of orange trees, the historical significance and cultural heritage of this vibrant city is unmistakable. From the historic district of El Centro to the colorful neighborhoods of Santa Cruz and Triana, the way in which Seville combines history and culture is incredibly special. Last weekend, I arrived in this orange tree paradise on the bus from Málaga and immediately started roaming the vibrant streets of the Andalusian capital.
Plaza del Triunfo
The Reales Alcázares de Sevilla, Catedral de Sevilla, and Archivo de Indias are connected by the Plaza del Triunfo and are each recognized as UNESCO World Heritage sites. I first visited the Alcázar, a royal palace built by the Moors in the 8th century and the oldest active palace in Europe. With architecture spanning several centuries and a maze of gardens filled with fountains and orange trees, I spent an entire morning getting lost in the palace and its Jardines de Murillo. Next I entered the Seville Cathedral, known for its iconic La Giralda, Giralda Bell Tower, which dominates the city’s skyline. Combining Renaissance, Baroque, Gothic, and Muslim architectural styles, the design and grand size of this cathedral have placed it at the top of Seville’s must-see sights. After admiring all the detailing on the walls and ceilings until my neck hurt, I followed the series of ramps leading to the top of the Giralda where I was rewarded with magnificent views of the city. Now the third of these UNESCO sites, the General Archive of the Indies, is one to skip because well, there’s nothing to see. The building is highly regarded for the documents it contains, but these files are tucked away leaving nothing but an empty building on display.
Bordering the Plaza del Triunfo is Seville’s former Jewish neighborhood of Santa Cruz. A labyrinth of narrow streets leading to old churches and charming squares, people come here to discover “the real Seville”. Weaving between the picturesque houses and cute gardens, I discovered several cafés, restaurants, and tapas bars. Doors to souvenir shops and ceramic stores stand wide open, inviting visitors to step inside and find a piece of Spain to take home. Orange trees line the sidewalks, adding a splash of color to the already lively area, and while these oranges may look tempting, resist the urge to taste them. Seville’s oranges are incredibly bitter and mostly used for marmalade and gin, only true tourists fall victim to the trap.
Separating Seville’s Old Town from the neighborhoods of Triana and Los Remedios, the Guadalquivir River is one of the longest rivers in Spain. On the east bank, the neighborhood of El Arenal offers recreational areas for activities such as running and cycling, as well as green spaces for enjoying the outdoors and soaking up the sun. I took a seat on the river and watched the boats cruise by in both directions, then headed to Mercado Lonja del Barranco for a bite to eat. This modern gourmet food market offers a beautiful interior with many stalls and a large outdoor seating area. From stuffed olives and shrimp cocktails to sushi rolls and a sangria bar, the options are endless!
Joining the east and west banks of the river, the iconic arch bridge named Puente de Isabel II leads directly into Seville’s former gypsy neighborhood of Triana. Sitting at the foot of the bridge is the Castillo San Jorge, Castle of San Jorge, the very site of the headquarters for the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Adjacent to this medieval fortress, Mercado de Triana is a traditional market with an authentic feel and lots of fresh produce. From one market to the next, I walked across the Bridge of Isabel II and straight into the Market of Triana to pick up some fruit and nuts for later and then continued exploring. My favorite thing about Triana was how non-touristy it felt, especially compared to the Old Town. Pastel-colored houses featuring balconies decorated with flower pots and ceramic tiles, I enjoyed the local vibes and laidback atmosphere of this part of town.
Seville is a vibrant city oozing with historic monuments and cultural traditions, one that definitely deserves a spot on your travel bucket list!