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Posts tagged ‘Giralda’

Seville | Tourist for the Day

Here at veoapartment blog we pride ourselves on the invaluable information and advice about visiting Spain that we give our readers and guests, as well as all those insightful historical and cultural tidbits to help you understand what you’re seeing. We were just busily patting ourselves on our collective back when it occurred to us that we haven’t actually “done” the tourist thing for a while, and we should actually remind ourselves what it’s like to be a visitor. The obvious choice was to revisit Seville’s three main monuments, which are all UNESCO Heritage Sites: the Alcázar Royal Palace, the Cathedral and Giralda Tower and the Archivos de India. Despite the daunting prospect of being out of the office for several hours* a crack team of investigative reporters (myself and a colleague) was rapidly assembled, and we set off into the sunshine.

tourist in sevilla (1)the Cathedral and Giralda tower seen from the Plaza Triunfo

Tip 1. The first thing a serious tourist needs is, of course, a good breakfast. We had ours at the excellent La Azotea Santa Cruz (coffee, ham and tomato on toast, and delicious fruit smoothies) in Mateos Gago, the street going up from the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes behind the Cathedral. For a more traditional coffee and tostada try the Horno San Buenaventura on Avenida de la Constitución, across from the Cathedral.

Tip 2. There is often a long queue for tickets to the Cathedral. Avoid it by buying a combined ticket at the El Salvador church (worth having a quick look inside while you’re there too), which will allow you to by-pass the Cathedral queue.

Tip 3. The Cathedral is normally open from 11am to 5 pm (last entrance 4.30), but closes early on Mondays (3.30 pm). It’s a working Cathedral so Sunday mornings it is not open for tourist visits. In the afternoons it’s open 2.30 to 6 pm.

Fun Cathedral Facts: It’s the third largest church in the world, and the largest Gothic cathedral, as well as having the most ostentatious (sorry, biggest) gold altarpiece. The Giralda tower and the outer walls of the Patio de Naranjas (Courtyard of the Oranges) are from the Moorish period (12th century), the main body of the Cathedral is Gothic (15th century), the Royal Chapel and anything with bells in it is Renaissance (16th century), and the sections with rectangular windows are Barroque (17th century). It contains the tomb of Christopher Columbus (probably).

Fun Cathedral Things to Do: Look in the angled mirror that allows you to look down at the vault of the cathedral roof. Play Hunt the Crocodile (yes, there is one – not alive fortunately). Climb the Tower. This is actually the most fun thing. It’s a ramp, not stairs, so it’s not too arduous, and you can look out of the windows on the way up and watch the city spreading out below you. The view from the top is worth the exertion.

Tip 4. If you want to know more, get the audio guide.

tourist in sevilla (3)a fountain inside the Alcázar Palace gardens

Tip 5. The Alcázar and the Cathedral is a lot to do in one sitting (allow 2 hours for the Alcazar and 1 for the Cathedral, but you may want longer), so either do them on successive days, or do lunch in between. We just had a cold beer, and it wasn’t really enough, but we weren’t on holiday, and you are, so don’t worry about the time. In summer do the Alcazar in the morning before it gets too hot. Opening times are 9.30 am – 5.00 pm (October – March), 9.30 am – 7.00 pm (April – September).

Fun Alcazar Facts: Originally the site of a 9th century Moorish fortress, the oldest remaining parts – the outer walls and the Yesio Patio – date to the 11th century. The main palace was built by Peter the Cruel in the 14th century in the Mudejar style, and further additions and modifications continued through the Golden Age into the 17th century. It’s the oldest Royal Palace in Europe and is still the official residence of the King of Spain in Seville. It’s shortly to be used for filming part of season 5 of “Game of Thrones”. The Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla are actually rainwater tanks, but are still one of my favourite bits.

tourist in sevilla (4)baths of Doña María de Padilla

Fun Alcazar Things to Do: Read the English translations of the information signs (can they really not afford a professional translator)? Although the Palace is awesome, the main fun things are in the gardens. Visit the maze, the Pool of Mercury (a fish pond with an airial fountain), and the Wall of Grotesques.

Tip 6: Get a map (it’s surprisingly easy to get disoriented) and an audio guide, and remember to look up at the ceilings as well as horizontally at everything else.

tourist in sevilla (2)Archivos de India entrance on Avenida de la Constitución

Our final stop was the Archivos de India, the big square building between the Cathedral and the Alcazar Palace. The document boxes are actually empty (the main archive is now across the street), but they give an idea of what the building looked like in use. You can see some of the old documents in display cabinets and there are often exhibitions, so check to see what’s on. When we were there it was hosting a gold and silver model of Columbus’s ship the Santa Maria. Admission is free. Opening times are 8.00 – 2.30 pm (Monday – Friday ).

Fun Archivos Things to Do: Watch the little film about the history of the building, including its connection to the Americas’ trade (in Spanish with English subtitles). Fascinating.

*Bear in mind this was July and the office has air-conditioning…

Miradores of Seville

This week’s post is by guest blogger Peter Tatford,
former Londoner and long-term Seville resident, aka Seville Concierge

Okay, it’s true that Seville doesn’t have miradores (lookout points) in the sense that Granada has them, up on the hillside facing the Alhambra, but if you want a bird’s eye view of the city, and most of us do, there are several vantage points you can head for that take you up and out of the maze of narrow streets.

The first, and it has to be admitted, most obvious, is the Giralda tower, alongside the Cathedral in the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes. Built in the 12th century as the minaret of the Moorish Grand Mosque, it’s original purpose was not for vision, but for sound – allowing the voice of the muezzin to carry across the city unobstructed by taller buildings. This is also the reason why the top of the tower is reached by means of a ramp, rather than stairs; climbing the tower five times a day in Seville’s summer heat was too demanding, and the ramp allowed the muezzin to ride up on his donkey. From the top you can see a fabulous roofscape of the Barrio Santa Cruz (it’s a whole other world up there, invisible from ground level), and of the Alcázar Palace and gardens.

View from the Metropol Parasol, Seville

Stop number two is the Espacio Metropol Parasol, the futuristic mushroom-shaped structure in the Plaza de la Encarnación. Completed just two years ago, it features not only the rooftop bar and walkway, but also the Antiquarium Museum, and one of the city’s principal provisions markets. Great views of the Macarena and San Vicente, and towards the river and la Cartuja.

Moving on to stop number three we arrive at the Torre de Los Perdigones, near the Macarena end of the Barqueta Bridge (the one that looks like a strange musical instrument). The original purpose of the tower was the making of lead shot, but it’s now been converted to house a camera oscura and an external viewing platform that’s a bit of a challenge for anyone with vertigo. Worth the trip, though, for the unusual views of the Expo ’92 site, the Alameda, and the old walls.

Finally, although not as tall, the Torre del Oro offers not only an excellent vantage point overlooking Triana and the river  (its original function), but also an unusually clear view of the upper parts of the front of the Cathedral.

If you’re more adventurous, or just have more time, you could head out across the river to the Aljarafe, specifically to Camas, where you can look right across the valley from the hilltops, a view that visitors don’t often get to see.

In addition there are a number of rooftop bars that give good views of the city (personal favourites are at the Fontecruz and the Hotel Inglaterra), so take advantage of the one at your hotel, or the terrace of your apartment.

Seville will shortly acquire a new lookout at the top of the Torre Cajasol. This will have the double advantage of being the highest in Seville, and also the only one which doesn’t have the tower itself as a feature of the view. Enjoy!