One of the capitals of Spain, Seville is the most important town in the south. Since its foundation in Roman times until today it has developed a unique heritage and culture. Its relevance increased dramatically in Almohad times, with the Roman conquest and the Discovery of America. All this means that to see it you have to use several days. Here is a proposal of the best things to do in Seville in three days.
Seville’s old town, the area before the expansions that took place during the industrial revolution, is one of the largest in Europe. Therefore, if it is difficult to cover it in a day in a normal city, in the city of Seville this is impossible. What you can do in Seville in three days starts with the main course. The Cathedral, the Royal Alcazar and the Archive of the Indies are three essential World Heritage sites that are the focus of most of the day.
The complex formed by the cathedral and the bell tower is perhaps the most recognizable in Seville. Around it are other renowned places, such as the impressive Hotel Alfonso XIII. Dedicated to Santa María de la Sede, Seville’s cathedral is the largest in Gothic style on the planet. A masterpiece designed by the city council in the early fifteenth century. Approximately one hundred years later, the main construction was completed in 1507.
Since it opens at eleven o’clock at its usual time, half an hour earlier in summer, before going to the cathedral of Seville you can have breakfast in the old town, always avoiding the local traps. Before that you can surround the immense complex and enjoy its facades. Inside, in addition to its extensive display of sacred art, it imposes the width of the naves. The tomb of Christopher Columbus or the Royal Chapel, with tombs of kings of Castile as Alfonso X the Wise or Ferdinand III the Saint. There are an infinite number of other landmarks to pay attention to, so it may be a good idea to acquire the audio guide.
The great cathedral of Seville was built over a large mosque and preserved some of its elements. The Court of Oranges, which served the Muslims for their purification rituals, was maintained. This type of space can be seen in other Arab temples such as the Mosque of Cordoba.
Also of Muslim origin is the Giralda, so called because of the weather vane that crowns it, the Giraldillo. It was the minaret of the mosque, a tower from which the prayer is called. Transformed into a bell tower, its four sides are all different.
The second member of the trio of Seville’s World Heritage buildings is the Archive of the Indies. It is located right next to the cathedral of Seville. This is no coincidence, since a dispute in the 16th century between religious and merchants led to the royal order to build what is now the headquarters. It served as a commercial exchange, a place to do business, thus preventing the pacts from being closed on sacred ground. In this way both the Episcopal and the civil consistories were satisfied.
The exclusive commercial situation that Seville had with the American colonies was reflected in the Archives of the Indies as in no other place. It was in 1785 when Charles III ordered the creation of the entity as such. The mission was to compile the documents related to the Discovery of America, and its colonization. A claim that was the fruit of rationalism that should serve to write the history of that process.
In total there are 80 million pages from the main historical Spanish entities related to America, such as Casa de la Contratación or the Council of the Indies. Today, it depends on the Ministry of Culture and Sports, and the visit to the building is free.
Despite its proximity, the visit to the cathedral and the Archive of the Indies usually takes up the whole morning. For this reason, before setting off to see the Royal Alcazar of Seville it is advisable to have lunch. As it is a great city, there are options for all tastes. Also, as it is in the tourist epicenter, it is advisable to get away from it all and walk around in search of a traditional option that does not cost a fortune.
After having lunch, it is time to go to the city’s most famous palace fortress. Today, it is still the residence of the royal family, making it the oldest active one in the Old Continent. Under Umayyad rule, its site was part of the walled enclosure. Little by little a complex was generated that would be the genesis of the current set of medieval and modern fortresses.
As it happened with the rest of Seville, with the Almohads the complex was very developed. These Islamic fundamentalists invaded Al-Andalus and part of the Christian kingdoms in the 12th century. The Christian takeover by Ferdinand III did not change its importance. It was Alfonso X who ordered the construction of the Gothic palace, while Peter I was responsible for the Mudejar. Subsequently, multiple reforms followed, until the present day, which left samples of other artistic styles.
For centuries, the Spanish Empire had a monopoly on the tobacco trade. It is therefore logical that it was in Seville, the exclusive commercial centre with the other side of the Atlantic, that the first tobacco factory was built. It was in the first third of the 18th century when this immense and beautiful mass was built, whose extension is only surpassed by the monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
A ditch around it prevented smuggling. Meanwhile, the factory workers generated their own folklore that is reflected in works like Carmen. The style of the Royal Tobacco Factory is very sober, with Herrerian dyes. Visits to the interior are limited, as it is now the seat of the local university’s rectorate. However, the simple sight of the outside is already worth it. It is time to have dinner in the centre and wait for the second day of this plan for the best thing to do in Seville in three days.
It is time to cross to the other side of the Guadalquivir to continue enjoying Seville. We have chosen to start the day in the most beautiful monastery of the town, the Cartuja. From there it is time to go to one of the most famous quarters of the capital. The end of the second day will be spent in a square and gardens worthy of a film.
The monastery of Santa María de las Cuevas brings together the two elements that have most characterized Seville in its history: religion and commerce. Before it was a Carthusian monastery, a particularly austere monastic order, there was an Almohad pottery factory on its grounds. A hermitage was built in the area later.
Ruy González de Medina, a knight from Seville, was responsible for the Carthusian monks taking over the chapel. This happened thanks to his relationship with the Madrid monastery of El Paular, close to the A-1 and also of the order. During the 15th century the building was constructed, which over the years would end up having features of Gothic-Mudejar to Baroque. Its possessions extended to Alcalá de Guadaíra, Dos Hermanas or Santiponce, famous for the ruins of the abandoned city of Itálica.
In the 19th century it suffered from liberal depreciation and ended up in the hands of an English industrialist, Carlos Pickman. With him the manufacture of ceramic objects returned. The reconversion of the monastery into a factory respected a good part of the structure and gave its name to one of the most ancient dinner services in Spain. In this way, the fireplaces became a fundamental part of the whole.
In 1982, it was returned to the government. Since then it has had various uses, including being the royal pavilion at the 1992 Universal Expo. It is currently the headquarters of the Andalusian Centre for Contemporary Art. The visit both to the monument and to the exhibitions that it contains is very economic.
Walking towards the south you can visit one of the most typical districts of the capital of Seville. Between the island of La Cartuja, which is not such, and the historical site of Triana is the Navigation Pavilion. It was built during the Universal Exposition of 92 and today is an interesting museum whose theme describes well its name.
While visiting this space you can eat tapas. The target is the Plaza del Altozano and the market of Triana. Here the river was crossed, formerly by boats. The market is located where the castle of San Jorge used to be. In addition to protecting the river crossing, it served the Inquisition as a prison and local barracks. It was rebuilt at the end of the last century, as the 19th century structure was in very poor condition.
The popular character of the Triana quarter prevails over the individual. However, there are certain milestones that deserve at least a glance. For example, the church of Nuestra Señora de la O, headquarters of the famous brotherhood that goes on procession at Holy Week. As a curiosity, the Association of Friends of the Way to Santiago of Seville is very close by. Its Jacobean importance lies in the fact that the city is a regular starting point for the Vía de la Plata, an alternative to Mérida. The chapels of Carmen, in the Altozano, and the chapel of the sailors, a little further south, are also a focus of attention.
In the 19th century the old bridge of boats that connected the Triana district with the centre was replaced by an iron one. The oldest bridge in Spain still built with this material is known as the Triana Bridge. However, its official name is the bridge of Isabel II. The main challenge was to allow the river to flow between Cordoba and Sanlucar de Barrameda.
The complications during the works were great, but finally it was inaugurated in 1852. An idea of its importance is given by the fact that parties and processions were held after the end of the works. Since then it has improved and secured its position. The current Carmen Chapel, dating from 1929 and designed by Andalusian regionalist architect Aníbal González, had to be raised because a renovation of the Triana Bridge forced the demolition of the old one.
The local Almohad defense complex was very powerful. One of its most important elements was the Torre del Oro. It defended the port of Seville and the passage to what is now the old town. It belongs to the type of fortifications called albarranas, towers that project outside the walls and serve as an advanced defense point. A wall connected it to the one known as Torre de la Plata, which was very close and had a similar function.
This fort can be reached by going down the Paseo Alcalde Marqués de Contadero, a river route but similar to a promenade. In the background you can see elements that were enjoyed on the first day of this small guide to what to do in Seville in three days, such as the cathedral. Also the Real Maestranza de Caballería, a bullring that begins the third day of visits.
The walk to Plaza de España and Maria Luisa Park takes about 25 minutes. At the end you can see the curious building called Costurero de la Reina. It was the house of the guard of the gardens of the palace of San Telmo, residence of the Infanta Maria Luisa Fernanda de Borbon and her husband, the Duke of Montpensier. Built in 1893, it was the first example of neo-Mudejar architecture in Seville. Later this style would become very popular, especially following the 1929 Ibero-American Exhibition.
The aforementioned exhibition was responsible for the construction of the Plaza de España. The works covered from 1914 to 1929. As a result, a space was created that was as characteristic of the city of Seville as the cathedral itself or the Real Alcázar. Aníbal González was responsible for the design and directed the project for a large part of its development.
Without a doubt one of the most spectacular squares in Spain, it opens onto the neighbouring Maria Luisa park generating an impressive whole. It is shaped like a cut ellipse, with the central space surrounded by water. Its towers, fountains and decorations represent the twinning between Spanish and American territories. Its ceramic benches, representing each province of the country, are also very famous.
To finish the second day, after taking a leisurely stroll around the Plaza de España, it is the turn of the city’s first modern park. Its name comes from the benefactor who made it possible. María Luisa Fernanda de Borbón donated the gardens of the San Telmo Palace the same year that the aforementioned Costurero de la Reina was built, 1893.
Very large and romantic, it was not until the second decade of the 20th century that the local council decided to intervene in them. The person in charge of renovating it was the Frenchman Jean-Claude Nicolas Forestier. He was inspired for his creations in various places in Spain, from the Alhambra in Granada to the gardens of the Buen Retiro in Madrid. The result was an exceptional space full of art, which has been improved over the years.
The northern part of the old town is dedicated to closing what is to be done in Seville in three days. From its impressive bullring you will cross the oldest part of the place until you reach the area of La Macarena. A purely urban journey in which to discover the essence of the city.
The area known as El Arenal has several very interesting buildings, such as the aforementioned Torre del Oro. One of the most distinctive of the city is its bullring, the Real Maestranza de Caballería. It is located among the most important in Spain next to Las Ventas in Madrid. Since it began to be built in the 18th century it has evolved, taking on a very characteristic regionalist style.
To the south of the square are the also interesting Maestranza and Reales Atarazanas theatres. These brick shipyards date from the 13th century and were the main ones in Seville. Those of Barcelona, from Aragon, were another of the most notable of the time. Meanwhile, in a northeasterly direction, a beautiful walk awaits you, which will lead you to the town hall, the Museum of Fine Arts or the collegiate church of Divino Salvador.
The aim of this short walk is to reach the Casa de Pilatos. Its Renaissance style emerged from the experiences of its second owner, Fadrique Enriquez, the first Marquis of Tarifa. In that 16th century he mixed the Mudejar and Renaissance features that characterize it. Nowadays it is part of the properties of the nobles of Medinaceli.
Officially called the Metropol Parasol project, these striking structures are the largest of their kind built in wood in the world. They were designed by the German Jürgen Mayer, who was inspired by other buildings in Seville such as the cathedral. This pergola gave new life to the Plaza de la Encarnación and has one of the best viewpoints in the city.
Next to the Setas de Sevilla is the museum called Antiquarium. In it you can see the Roman remains of the place. A sample of the great antiquity of the population that allows to know more about the time in which Rome consolidated the importance of Hispalis. It has remarkable mosaics. In addition, there are also Arab ruins, so the historical tour it offers is very complete.
Strolling through this part of Seville’s chaotic old town you can find good restaurants where you can stop and eat. The recommendation is to do it on the way between the palace of Dueñas and the basilica of Jesus del Gran Poder. Like the Casa de Pilatos, the aforementioned palatial home blends various styles including Mudejar and Renaissance.
For a few years now, thanks to the permission of its current owners, the Casa de Alba can be visited. A good thing, since in addition to its architectural beauty it has a complete collection of paintings. After seeing its patios, rooms and paintings, it is time to walk to El Gran Poder. On the way you can stop for a moment at the church of San Juan de la Palma or the church of San Martín de Tours.
With respect to the basilica, it is located in the Plaza de San Lorenzo, next to the Gothic-Mudejar parish of the same name. In neo-baroque style, it dates from the mid-20th century. El Gran Poder is one of several basilical temples that Seville has, such as the Macarena. It houses the well-known figure of Jesus of El Gran Poder, a great protagonist of Seville’s Holy Week.
This park has been functioning since the end of the 16th century. Thanks to this it is considered one of the oldest in Spain. It served as a model for similar spaces in cities like Ecija. Its location was an old flooding area of the Guadalquivir River. However, the change in the local landscape, centred on the displacement of the river, led to an initiative in 1574 to dredge the land.
The Count of Barajas was responsible for this. The name comes from one of the founding myths of Seville, in which it is considered that the Greek hero Hercules would have given birth to the city. A carving of this mythical figure appears on one of the two Roman columns that mark the beginning of the walk in the south. On the other appears Julius Caesar, to whom is attributed the foundation of the Roman colony. Both are from the time when the park was built.
Following the Alameda de Hércules to its northern end, this plan for what to see in Seville in three days is coming to an end. Fortunately, there are still two interesting milestones to see. Very close by is the Basilica of La Macarena, the first to obtain such a papal distinction in the city.
Its visiting hours, closed from 14:00 to 18:00, make it a good alternative to close the day. Like El Gran Poder, it has a neo-baroque style and dates back to the 20th century. In its case, it was built in the 1940s. The Hermandad de la Esperanza de la Macarena is one of the most important local Holy Week brotherhoods. Its main images are the Macarena itself, the Jesus of the Sentence and Our Lady of the Rosary.
The nearby Puerta de la Macarena belongs to what was once the powerful medieval walled enclosure. The Almohad canvases are particularly well preserved in the Macarena district. The Romans already fortified the place, but it was the Arabs who reinforced it the most. Until the expansion of the city, the Christians kept the canvases.
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