Christendom’s third biggest church (after Saint Peter’s in Rome and Saint Paul’s in London), Seville’s cathedral and Giralda top the list of essential visits. In proportion with the building itself, everything about the cathedral is huge: inside you can see the world’s biggest altarpiece and monstrance and the incredible nineteenth-century neo-Gothic monument of Christopher Columbus’s tomb. The view from the top of the Giralda bell tower (which was originally an Almohad minaret) is the best in Seville.
A few hundred metres from the cathedral is the Alcázar of Seville***, the city’s second unmissable site. This royal palace was originally a Moorish fort. Built, enlarged and renovated between the 11th and the 20th century, it comprises an extraordinary overview of Seville’s history.
The district of Santa Cruz*** retains the clearest traces of Seville’s medieval past and is best discovered on foot. Its network of narrow, winding streets and alleys is dotted with beautiful squares decorated with azulejos.
One of the Sevillians’ favourite spot for a quiet stroll is the María Luisa Park*, which is a good place to head when the city’s heat gets too much. The exceptional Plaza de España**, built for the Hispano-American Exhibition of 1929, is in the middle of the gardens. The perspectives of its convergence lines, geometrical patterns, colonnades and vast esplanades, make it one of Europe’s most spectacular squares. The atmosphere is simultaneously theatrical and cinematic and it’s not surprising to find that it’s been used in several films, including Star Wars, Lawrence of Arabia and, more recently, as the palace in Sacha Baron Cohen’s The Dictator.
Special events in Seville
Holy Week̀ - The Passion of Christ and the Adoration of the Virgin Mary are widely and enthusiastically celebrated in the streets of Seville from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday. The processions bring together more than fifty mostly corporatist confraternities, known as hermandades (or cofradías).
The Seville Spring Fair – During this special period, the town is swept along in a non-stop whirlwind of festivities. Along with drinking, corridas and other amusements, the fair provides an occasion for women to sport ruffled, polka-dot flamenco dresses, decorative combs and fans and for men to dress up in sombreros and a short jackets.
Las Romerías – The Andalusians have a particular devotion to the Virgin Mary and the Romerías pilgrimages are made in her honour. A preliminary journey to the church (either on foot, on horse, or in carriages decorated with ribbons and garlands) is followed by a ceremony and processions. The festivities are closed with a countryside dinner accompanied by singing and dancing.
La Fiesta de las Cruces – The Festival of the Crosses is celebrated on 3 May. Crosses are decorated and displayed and singing and dancing continue late into the night.