You cannot hope to get closer to “Real Spain”, than a trip to the Andalusia city of Sevilla. Bursting with culture, character, and historic architecture, this is certainly a step into the side of Spain which you read about in the holiday brochures!
The beautiful, southern city of Sevilla, lies along the banks of the Guadalquivir River, and is dubbed one of the largest historical centres in Europe. Legend has it that it was originally founded by Hercules centuries ago, with archeological evidence pegging its age at around 2200 years old! During Roman times it was known as Hispalis, and many original features of the era still remain, such as the relics of an aqueduct, a temple, the columns of La Alameda de Hercules, and remains of the underground Antiquarium of the Metropol Parasol building and Patio de Banderas square near the Cathedral. It is documented that the walls surrounding the city were originally built during the reign of Julius Caesar, although they were demolished and redesigned during the Moorish era, when the city was reborn as Isbiliya.
Today, La Giralda, the bell tower of the city’s lavish cathedral, lies among Sevilla’s many treasures. Standing at 104.1 metres high, it was originally constructed as a minaret during the Moorish period, with a Renaissance style top being added by the Spanish later on. If you have the energy to climb the steps to the tower, you will be rewarded with breathtaking views across the city! La Giralda was registered as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1987, along with the city’s other land marks – the Alcazar Palace and General Archive of the Indies, where the historical records of the American Continent are stored. Other important places of interest include the Casa de Pilatos, Torre del Oro, the Fine Arts Museum, which is the second largest picture gallery in the country, and the City Hall itself, which was built during the sixteenth century Renaissance period, and adorned with intricate architectural decorations. Historical and mythical figures that can be seen along its walls include the city’s founder, Hercules, and Julius Caesar who restored the city to its former glory after defeating Pompey there.
Whilst Sevilla hosts some spectacular monuments and a fascinating history, it is the energy and enthusiasm which are infused into the local fiestas which really give the city its sparkle. Its people are known to be dramatic and vivacious, as can be witnessed during the internationally acclaimed annual Feria de Abril, which is basically a week-long street party featuring all of the best bits that Sevilla has to offer! The flamboyant festivities are always held two clear weeks after Easter, and typically consist of copious amounts of food and alcohol, coupled with singing, dancing and socializing long into the small hours!
The “Real de la Feria” where all the action takes place, is a massive area beside the river, spanning twelve streets and 1.2 square kilometers! It incorporates an amusement park called “Calle de Infierno”, or “Hell Street”, along with over one thousand “Casetas”, which are the tents housing the bars, restaurants and other attractions. The majority of the casetas are privately owned by local residents or business owners, and only open to members and their guests. However, there are usually also seven public casetas- the “Caseta Municipal” along with one for each of the six districts of Sevilla, where drinks and tapas are served, and Sevillanas music blasting throughout the night, so that eager dancers can hit the floor.
The activities also include daily parades around the fairground, in carriages and on horseback; as well as bullfighting, which used to be central to the festivities although its popularity is beginning to waiver in recent years. Many of the participants attend wearing traditional costume; which for the men, particularly those riding on horseback, consists of a “Traje Corto”- a short suit comprising fitted pants and a short cut jacket with a wide-brimmed hat. Women can be seen in the famous “Traje de Gitano” Flamenco dresses, which are brightly coloured and flamboyant, often accessorized with a coordinating flower or comb in their hair, a shawl and overstated jewellery.
One final thing that you simply must try if visiting Sevilla is the Tapas. It is accepted that this is where the tradition originated from, and the tasty snacks remain central to its culture. Sevillians are not afraid to experiment with their tapas combinations, and with over a thousand bars to choose from the choice is virtually endless. Local people often respect them as a meal in themselves, moving from bar to bar supping wine or sherry, and munching on various types of ham, cheese, seafood, sausages and other meat dishes throughout an entire afternoon and evening…… Not a bad way to while away the hours eh?!