Category Archives: walks

Seville | The Squares of Santa Cruz

The Santa Cruz is the best known of Seville’s old neighbourhoods, and corresponds roughly to the late mediaeval Jewish quarter. It’s a major part of the oldest section of the city, but although it’s still based on the old Roman street layout and has many authentically old buildings, it actually owes much of its picturesque charm to the renovations and general prettifying that began in the Napoleonic era and peaked during the preparations for the 1929 Spanish American exhibition.

river walk 35Plaza Virgen de los Reyes

La Plaza Virgen de los Reyes (Virgin of the kings) is the classic square behind the Cathedral and in front of the Barrio Santa Cruz. It’s enclosed by three of Seville’s most important historic buildings, the cathedral (including the Giralda tower), the Archbishop’s Palace and the former Hospital of Santa Marta that now houses the Convent of the Incarnation. Although these buildings date back 500 years or more, the square itself was only created in the 18th century by the demolition of the Church’s administrative buildings within it, and its modern form was achieved with the remodelling of the entrance to Mateos Gago in the 1920s. The fountain and ornamental streetlight in the centre was added for the 1929 Spanish-American. Spend a few moments in the shade of the orange trees enjoying the view of the tower and doing some people watching.

photo 2 (12)Classic view of the Giralda from Patio de Banderas

From Los Reyes take a short detour into Plaza Santa Marta, the little square at the end of alley behind the statue of the Pope, and discover an oasis of peace and quiet. The cross in the centre dates to 1564, but was only brought here in the early 20th century from the old hospital of San Lorenzo in the Macarena. The door to the right is the back entrance to the Monastery of the Incarnation.

Next to Los Reyes is the “second square”, La Plaza del Triunfo, which is effectively the World Heritage centre, with the Cathedral, the Alcázar Palace and the Archivos de Indias on three sides, and the Casa de la Provincia on the fourth. The walls are over a thousand years old, and were once the outer walls of the city. The square takes its name from the small monument in front of the Archivos, erected in 1757 to commemorate the Cathedral surviving the Great Lisbon Earthquake. Like many others the square was remodelled in the early 20th century, and the monument to the Immaculate Conception was erected at this time.

santa cruz 010Plaza Santa Marta

Through the archway beside the square is the Patio de Banderas (Courtyard of the Flags), where the Kings of Spain once greeted foreign ambassadors. The rectangular promenade around the outside is formed by two rows of orange trees, but the fountain that used to grace its centre has disappeared since the recent archaeological investigations into the earliest stages of the Palace’s history.

Passing up the street alongside the wall brings you to the Plaza de la Alianza (formerly the Plaza del Pozo Seco or dry well), a charming little square with a simple central fountain, and a couple of bar terraces from which to enjoy it.

santa cruz 074Plaza Doña Elvira

Follow the wall to reach Plaza Doña Elvira, possibly the most picturesque little square in Seville, and certainly one of the most frequented by tourists. During the day it seems to be almost full of restaurant tables and chairs, but don’t let that put you off enjoying its ceramic benches, fountain and orange trees. It’s supposedly the birthplace of Doña Elvira, the impossible love of Don Juan.

santa cruz 045Plaza Alfaro 

Carry on along the wall through Life Street and Water Street, and past the Washington Irving house, and you’ll come to the Plaza Alfaro, the little square at the entrance to the Murillo Gardens. Look for the Moreton Bay fig trees just inside the gardens, the water pipes in the exposed end of the old wall, and the circular balcony on the corner of the Casa Palacio.

santa cruz 049La Cerrajería, Plaza Santa Cruz

Just beyond is the Plaza Santa Cruz, which was once the site of one the Jewish quarter’s three synagogues, destroyed in the pogrom of 1391. It was replaced by the original parish church of Santa Cruz, demolished in turn in 1811 during the Napoleonic era to create the square as it is today. The rather strange metal sculpture in the centre is the Cruz de la Cerrajería with its serpents and four book-reading little figures on the corners, moved here from Calle Sierpes in 1921.

santa cruz 051Plaza de los Refinadores

Down Calle Mezquita you come to Plaza de los Refinadores (the refiners). I love the circular benches around the palm trees (sadly, two have recently had to be cut down), which make a quiet and shady spot for a few minutes tranquil contemplation. The statue is of Don Juan Tenorio, the legendary womaniser, and was erected in 1975. Also of interest is the house on the corner with the big window balcony, designed for Luis Prieto by Aníbal González, who also designed the Plaza de España.

santa cruz 056Las Cruces

Through tiny Calle Mariscal you come to Plaza de las Cruces, surprisingly not named for the crosses on the columns, which arrived later than the name, but for the wooden crosses at the far end of the street. Turn left there and walk up the hill, and near the top you’ll find a little alley on your right. Through a door at the end is the tiny Plaza de la Escuela de Cristo, one of my favourites for its sheer unexpectedness.

IMG_7146-001Plaza Escuela del Cristo

For a great base to explore the Santa Cruz, we have a wide range of quality holiday apartments around this enchanting neighbourhood.

The White Villages of Andalucia

The major cities of Andalucia, like Seville, Granada, Cordoba and Malaga are now well-known as tourist destinations and draw hundreds of thousands of visitors every year, but in the mountains between the coast and the valley of the Guadalquivir River is another attraction that is becoming increasingly popular.

arcos de la fronteraThe Pueblos Blancos, or White Villages of Andalucia, are actually a number of small towns, mostly in the northern part of the provinces of Cadiz and Malaga, that are characterised by their white painted houses (hence the name) with red or brown-tiled roofs. Many of them are in spectacular locations, often clustered round hilltop castles or churches, a legacy of the region’s turbulent history, which stretches back to ancient times.

In medieval times the region was the border between Christian and Moorish kingdoms; towns with names like Vejer de la Frontera and Arcos de la Frontera were on the Christian side of the border. Others, especially to the east and south, were on the Moslem side, and still retain something of that Moorish feel in their narrow hillside streets and alleys. The mountain locations make this an ideal area for outdoor activities, especially walking and trekking, but also rock climbing, hang gliding and even potholing.

Algondonales and Villamartin
The most important Roman remains in the region can be found near these two villages. Also visit the Santa Ana church in Algondonales, and Torre Pajarete, perched on a crag just outside Villamartin. It’s also a centre for birdwatching and hang gliding.

Vejer de la Frontera
Perched on the top of a hill and reached by a road that winds up and around it, Vejer is one of the prettiest of the White towns and still retains part of the old wall, narrow streets and a castle.

rondaArcos de la Frontera
My personal favourite, the way up to the citadel at the top being through steep, narrow streets whose tight corners that seem to defy the passage of cars. Have a drink at the Parador and enjoy the view over the surrounding countryside.

Ronda has the most spectacular location, straddling a deep gorge that separates the old town from the new. The Puente Nuevo that crosses it is worth the trip on its own, but there’s plenty more to see in what was one of the last strongholds of the Moors in Spain.

With its mountain scenery and steep cobbled streets, Grazalema, in the heart of the National Park, is a popular base for walking and trekking. It also has a local handcrafted textile industry and is famous for being the rainiest place in Spain.

Although most of the villages can be reached by public transport, you really need a car to be able to travel around easily.

For guided tours of the Pueblos Blancos:

From Seville:

From Malaga: We Love Malaga (contact Victor)

Granada | El Realejo

To the south and southeast of the Alhambra Palace, on the slope of the hill dropping down to the River Genil, is the district of El Realejo, one of Granada’s most important historic neighbourhoods. In mediaeval times, until the conquest of the city by the Christians, it was the Jewish quarter of the city, and was known as “Granada of the Jews”. Originally this was outside the city walls, and reached by passing through the Torres Bermejas, an impressive group of towers that protected one of the gates of the Moorish period. After the expulsion of the Jews and Moslems it was given the name El Realejo, the Royal quarter, and although it still retains much of its original street layout, its character owes much to later rebuilding of the city.

View from Carmen terrace looking over the Realejo.

View from the Almanzor Alta Carmen terrace overlooking the Realejo.

From the Plaza Nueva a walk up the steep street of Cuesta Gomérez takes you through the Puertas de las Granadas towards the palace and the upper Realejo, but its worthwhile to make a short detour up Almanzor Alta street, and with the walls of the fortress looming above you take in the views of the Albaicin and the city centre.

From there walk past the Torres Bermejas into the Realejo proper. It’s an area of picturesque narrow streets and lots of busy bars and restaurants, especially around the Campo del Principe (Field of the Prince), the main square in the centre of the neighbourhood. It is said to have come by its name because a prince died there after falling off his horse. Stop here for a drink or a bite to eat while you absorb the atmosphere.

A little further on is one of Granada’s gems, the Carmen of the Martyrs. This was the site of the first Christian hermitage in Granada, named in commemoration of the Christians who had languished or perished in Moorish jails. In the 19th century it was rebuilt as a small palace, and surrounded with gardens in various styles and a small lake. It’s a place to visit for its tranquil beauty and views of the Alhambra.

Make your way back to the city centre along the main street, the Calle de Santiago (which becomes calle Pavaneras in its lower part), which will take you past many of the grandest buildings in the neighbourhood, including a number of religious foundations, such as the Convents of Santiago and the Carmelitas, and palaces like the Casa de los Tiros, or the Casa Arabe Girones, which is unusual in preserving a Moorish house in its interior, and is worth visiting for that alone.

For a perfect base for visiting this and other parts of Granada, have a look at our apartments in Almanzor Alta and Cuesta Gomérez.

Seville | How Seville Got Rich

This week’s post is by guest blogger and long-time Seville resident Peter Tatford Seville Concierge.

Next time you’re in Seville (or if you’re here now), make your way down to the river and take a stroll along its banks from the Puerto de Las Delicias, past the Torre del Oro (the Gold Tower), to Triana Bridge, enjoying the sunshine, the breeze, and the peace and quiet beside the water.

arenal torre del oroBut it wasn’t always like this. Allow your imagination free rein to go back to when this short stretch of the Rio Guadalquivir was one of the busiest ports in Europe. The sun is still shining and the breeze is still blowing up from the sea (if you’re lucky), but the peace and quiet has been shattered, seemingly beyond repair. Moored along the banks are dozens of the sailing ships that ply the trade with the recently discovered New World of the Americas across the nearby ocean. A shipment of gold is being unloaded, ready to be carried under guard to the storerooms of the Casa de la Moneda (the Royal Mint). Spices and other valuable trade goods sit on the docks, awaiting collection. Other ships are being loaded with provisions, or being readied for sailing. Coils of rope and canvas sheets abound. The docks are crowded with ragged sailors and stevedores, a few gaudily dressed noblemen and merchants, and even more gaudily dressed young women plying the oldest trade of them all.

This is what has made, is making, Seville the greatest, richest city in Europe, and this month marks the anniversary of the two world-changing voyages of discovery that set it all in motion.

On the evening of August 3, 1492, three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Santa Clara, slipped anchor in the little harbour of Palos de la Frontera, near the mouth of the Guadalquivir, and set off in search of a western route to the spice islands of the far east. Their commander was, of course, Christopher Columbus, actually an Italian from Genoa, not a Spaniard, but his voyage was being sponsored by the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabel, and he had a strong association with Seville, both in life, and in death, his tomb being in the city’s Cathedral. As we all know, he never found a way to China and India. Instead he discovered America, and for the next two hundred years Seville had a monopoly of the trade with the New World, and grew fat on the proceeds.

His goal of reaching the East by sailing west was achieved a generation later by another foreigner in the pay of the Spanish crown. Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese, making him almost guilty of treason given the competition between the two countries at that time. He set sail from Seville on his voyage to circumnavigate the world on August 10, 1519 with a fleet of five ships and 237 men, from a spot next to the Triana end of the Puente de San Telmo now marked by a rather abstract memorial. Magellan himself never returned, being killed in 1521 at Mactan in the Philippines, but just over three years after setting out the last remaining ship limped into Sanlucar de Barrameda under the command of Juan Sebastian Elcano, who has a street named after him next to Magellan’s memorial. There were just 18 men left on board, the rest having perished on the journey. Wealth doesn’t come cheap.

For more information on Seville’s seafaring past visit the naval museum in the Torre del Oro.

Apartments with a perfect view of this stretch of the river include Betis Blue 2, and two others in the same building.

Malaga | Muelle Uno and Parque Malaga

muelle unoBelow the historic centre and the walls of the old Alcazaba, the Moorish fortress and palace, lies one of Malaga’s prettiest areas, the gardens of Malaga Park and the harbour.

Malaga has been an important port ever since the Phoenicians first arrived here nearly three thousand years ago, but these days much of the commercial life of the port has been moved to modern installations in the outer harbour, and the inner harbour, now called Muelle Uno (Quay One) has been redeveloped as a tourist attraction with a marina and shopping centre.

It’s modern and open, lined with palm trees, and looks every inch a Mediterranean playground. As well as the shops there are play parks for the kids and plenty of bars and restaurants where you can enjoy a bite to eat (and drink) while looking out across the harbour with the sun sparkling off the water. And if you’re a real foodie you’ll want to eat at Restaurante José Carlos García, Malaga’s only Michelin star restaurant.

malaga parkAlongside the harbour is the long promenade of Malaga Park, and one of the joys of a lazy summer afternoon is to stroll along its shaded paths, admiring the exotic plants and statuary, and relaxing beside the central fountain. Across the Alameda are more gardens, with quiet pathways winding around the Alcazaba to the Customs house, currently being renovated as a museum. It seems a world away from all the hustle and bustle, but once you’re refreshed it’s only a few minutes walk back to the old centre.

We have holiday apartments to let in the historic centre, in ideal locations to enjoy your stay in Malaga. You can also check out our Malaga information pages for insider tips on places to see, upcoming events and great places to eat.