Seville Spain

Exploring Seville, Spain – Part 2

In my first post on Seville, we explored its amazing Gothic cathedral, located in the heart of the old quarter of Seville. In this post we’ll explore some other nearby sights.

Real Alcázar

The Real Alcázar is right across the plaza from the Cathedral, making it convenient to visit at the same time. The Alcázar was (and still is) the home of the rulers of Seville and Spain. It dates back to Moorish times (11th and 12th centuries) and then continued to be a home for subsequent Christian monarchs including Ferdinand and Isabella, King and Queen during the time of Columbus. Later, 16th century kings remodeled and added rooms. The royal family of Spain still uses some of the upper floor rooms today.

Looking down at the Real Alcázar (located inside the crenellated walls) from the Cathedral’s tower.

Since Seville was a gateway to the New World in the 15th and 16th centuries (being just 50 miles from the Atlantic via the Guadalquivir River), the palace holds a major place in history as the site where plans were drawn up to explore the western hemisphere. The Alcázar has a long and complicated history, with many changes over the centuries.

The Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of the Maidens) with plasterwork by master craftsmen from Granada.
Ambassador’s Hall. It is believed that in this room Columbus was given his commission to explore the New World.
Admiral’s Hall, 16th century. Although this room may look plain, the course of world history changed here. Amerigo Vespucci and Magellan planned the first around-the-world travel here and the first map of the world was also drawn here.
The Alcázar‘s beautiful gardens are the last stop on your visit.

Santa Cruz

This is a neighborhood directly east of the Seville cathedral and was once a Jewish ghetto. It is worth walking through this area – restaurants, picturesque alleys, and beautiful architecture are the rewards for doing so.

One of the many beautiful little streets in Santa Cruz.
A little plaza (with orange trees!) in the Santa Cruz neighborhood.
The Hospital de los Venerables – a 17th century home for elderly priests, is located in Santa Cruz.

Torre del Oro

The “Tower of Gold” was one of two towers that stood beside the river to protect Seville from invaders. The 2nd tower across the river no longer stands. A chain could be raised across the river from the towers to stop ships from entering the harbor of Seville. The Torre del Oro is now the launch point for river cruises and “hop on – hop off” bus tours. It’s about a 10-15 minute walk along the Guadalquivir River from the Cathedral to the Torre del Oro.

Torre del Oro.
This scene of rowers in the Guadalquivir River reminded me of the Charles River in Cambridge (Boston) where you can see serious rowers almost any time of year.

Exploring Seville, Spain – Part 1 (Seville Cathedral)

From Mérida, we drove south to Seville. Seville is one of the great cities of Spain and for that matter, one of the great cities of Europe. Seville sits primarily on the eastern bank of the Guadalquivir River which is drains into the Atlantic, just 80 km (50 miles) to the south. It has been a port city for centuries. It is a large city, with about 1.5 million people living in the greater metropolitan area. In spite of its size, the main tourist sites can be visited comfortably over a couple days. We will divide our tour of Seville into three posts. This first one will cover the marvelous cathedral.

Map of our car tour route. Seville is 193 km (120 miles) south of Merida.
Another beautiful evening in Seville along the Guadalquivir River, with the cathedral tower (La Giralda) in the distance (on the left) and the Torre del Oro on the bank of the river (upper right). Our apartment was on the west bank of the river (to the right of this photo), just about a 10 minute walk from the river and the old quarter of Seville.

Seville Cathedral

The Seville Cathedral is one of the great Gothic cathedrals in Europe, and in fact the largest in Europe. It was built on the site of a great mosque, of which the tower (La Giralda) and a courtyard (Patio de los Naranjos) are remnants. This is the where the tomb of Columbus is located. It is difficult to get a great exterior photo of this cathedral due to its size and somewhat cramped location in the old Jewish quarter (Santa Cruz) of Seville.

La Giralda (Bell Tower) dates back to 1198 and was part of the original mosque located here.
Tomb of Columbus in the Seville Cathedral – his coffin is held by representatives of the kingdoms of Castile, León, Aragón and Navarra.
A view of the La Giralda and the northwestern entrance of the Seville Cathedral, from the shady and cool Patio de los Naranjos.

Cathedral Rooftop Tour & La Giralda Tower

We took a tour of the Seville Cathedral rooftop (“Cubiertas”). We planned this tour in advance since tickets and tour times are limited and crowds can make for long lines. The tour was offered only in Spanish, but our tour guide was kind enough to give us a short summary in English after each stop. It was fun getting a more intimate experience with the cathedral than offered by just visiting the main hall. The rooftop tour was 20 Euro/person and the Cathedral & Tower entrance fees were 11 Euro/person as of March 2022. If I had to choose, I would just do the Cathedral & Tower, since the views are a bit better from the tower than the rooftop. The best European cathedral rooftops I have visited are Milan (Italy) and Chartres (France).

Unique views of the cathedral and its construction are provided on the rooftop tour.

The rooftop tour also included a short interior walk high above the main floor, for a view of the cathedral few people see.

La Giralda Tower

We also climbed La Giralda tower, dating from the 12th century. Rather than steps, there is a sloping ramp all the way to the top of the tower, making the ascent a bit easier.

In my next post, we’ll explore the beautiful Real Alcázar, a 14th century Moorish palace-fortress located right next to the cathedral.