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Did You Know … ?
- The name tapa (lid) refers to the custom of serving wine in a glass topped with bread and meat.
- Christopher Columbus planned his expeditions in a Seville monastery.
- The fictitious Don Juan character of literature and opera originated in Seville.
- The painter Diego Velazquez was born in Seville.
- The name Andalusia came from the Moorish name for the Iberian Peninsula, Al-Andalus.
Tapas and flamenco
Seville is a star among Spanish cities in large part because of its geography. Located in southwest Spain with access to the sea, it became Europe’s richest city because of a monopoly on trade with the Americas. The good times lasted for a couple of hundred years, until the early 18th century, when its Guadalquiver River could not accommodate larger trading ships. But, while the money lasted, it funded numerous churches, convents and public works, and it supported the arts.
Another previous life — 500 years as part of the Moors’ Islamic empire, including a stint as administrative capital — also shows in the look and nature of the city today. To that point, visitors will note the narrow medieval streets in the historic Santa Cruz area, houses that look onto interior courtyards and a penchant for fountains.
The grandest example of the Moorish influence is the Alcazar, a royal palace rebuilt by a Christian king in the 14th century but copying the styles of the city’s recently evicted overlords.
Tourists come to see these things, but they also like Seville for its mild climate and relaxed atmosphere. The blossoms on hundreds of orange trees perfume the air in the spring; on warm evenings, sidewalks are abuzz with diners at outdoor tables, and the dry climate takes the edge off summer heat. Going for tapas is standard throughout Spain, but Seville is noted for the quality of its between-meals appetizers.
Seville is in the heart of flamenco country; visitors can buy tickets to a staged show, or they may take classes and learn some of the moves for themselves. When it comes to the major festivals— particularly Holy Week processions and, soon after, the April Fair — it’s showtime in a big way in the streets of this city.
The active traveler may break off sightseeing to go boating on the city’s broad river or head north to explore the Sierra Norte Nature Park on foot, by bicycle or on horseback. Or, climb La Capitana, the park’s highest mountain at 3,146 feet, for the great views from the top. The park is in Seville province.
Things to do for Venturers
- Go sailing or kayaking on the city’s Guadalquivir River.
- Sample the nightlife in the Santa Cruz or Triana district.
- Enjoy the scenery in the Sierra Norte Nature Reserve on foot or from a saddle.
- Locals are mad about soccer. See one of the city’s teams at play.
- Climb to the top of the Giralda tower for a good view of the city.
- Take flamenco classes. You can work on your skills for a few days, or months.
Things to do for Centrics
- Go out for tapas in the city known for this food-with-drink tradition. Check out options in La Macarena and the Triana districts.
- In Seville, start your journey along the Washington Irving Route, a touristic route meant to reflect the travels of the 19th century American writer.
- Do your bird-watching in Seville province’s Donana Nature Reserve.
- See a flamenco show in the city’s Santa Cruz district.
- Buy the Sevilla Card, which provides free entrance to most museums, free public transport, a guided tour of the Santa Cruz neighborhood and discounts at select shops, shows and restaurants.
- Book a sightseeing trip to Italica, site of roman ruins about 10 minutes outside the city and birthplace of the Roman emperors Hadrian and Trajan.
Things to do for Authentics
- Take a walking tour of the historic heart of Seville, and see a rich treasury that includes the Seville Cathedral and the Alcazar, plus the evocative Santa Cruz area, formerly the Jewish Quarter.
- Time your visit for the April Fair, a celebration of Andalusian traditions. Locals show up in short jackets and chaps, for the men, and colorful ruffled dresses for the women.
- In summer, cool off by ordering a cold soup, gazpacho.
- Play golf at any of several courses.
- Shop for ceramics, fans, lace and shawls — useful souvenirs that remind you of this visit to southwestern Spain.
- In May, take the kids to the Puppet Festival at the Alameda Municipal Theatre. Or, see the entertainment even if you don’t have kids in tow.
For more information, consult the Tourist Office of Spain at www.spain.info