The popular capital of Andalucia, Seville, is also the largest city in the province and the fourth largest in Spain; 40% of the province´s population live here. It lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir river and is packed full of beautiful churches, monuments and the Cathedral which is the third largest Christian church in the world after St Peter´s in Rome and St Paul´s in London. If you climb to the top of La Giralda tower in the north-eastern corner of the cathedral you can experience breathtaking views of the city. Across the square from the cathedral is the Alcázar Palace which was the home of Spanish kings for nearly seven centuries. All of these landmarks help to make Seville one of the largest historical centres in Europe.
The architecture in Seville is magnificent and reflects centuries of culture by the variety of people who left their mark; romans, jews, arabs and gypsies. Inscribed long ago on the Jerez Gate are the words “Hercules built me; Caesar surrounded me with walls and towers; the King Saint took me.”Take a visit to the Barrio Santa Cruz with its narrow streets and whitewashed houses which is home to many monuments and was once the Jewish quarter but is now known as the fashionable part of the city. Seville is particularly famous for its many tapas bars where you can enjoy some good company and some excellent food, maybe washed down with some of the locally produced fine sherry wines. The cuisine is likely to include specialities such as gazpacho, fresh fish fried in olive oil, chickpea stew, cured cod fish and bull´s tail. Also worth trying are the butter cookies called “mantecados” or the sweets made from egg-yolks called “Yemas de San Leandro”.
The Plaza de España heading south from the city centre has a series of arches bearing crests of all the provinces of Spain and is surrounded by an artificial river, or the Parque de María Luisa which is open daily from dawn till dusk and is situated close to the plaza. Although situated in the centre of the city there are 400,000 m² of woodland and two museums in the park.
La Calle Feria is one of the longest streets in Seville and is steeped in history. Its also a popular place for shoppers, having a whole range of retailers and also a street market every Thursday where you can buy just about everything!! There is also a public market for fresh produce.
The comarca de la Sierra Norte is the only natural park in Seville and lots of oak and cork trees grow here. In the centre of the park is a beautiful picnic area. Las Cascadas del Huéznar are a must for visitors; these waterfalls are spectacular and are well signposted from in the park.
In April every year Seville hosts one of the largest parties in Spain, the “Feria de Abril” and people from all over Spain travel to take part in the festivities. The feria was originally just a cattle market, but through the years it has turned out to be one of the greatest popular festivals in Spain. It takes place just after the celebrations for Holy Week, Semana Santa, when some spectacular processions take place. There are over 1000 marquees, known as “casetas” at the feria site and every day at noon a procession called the “Paseo de Caballos” takes place. Girls in their traditional flamenco dresses are escorted through the city in carriages pulled by fine Spanish horses and in the late afternoon the bullfights begin and there is a terrific atmosphere of excitement and the whole city is buzzing!
Heading east from Seville the countryside is vast and dominated by cereal crops and olive groves, but there are some delightful towns dotted across the landscape.