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Posts tagged ‘Metropol Parasol’

Seville | Metropol Parasol

Most people who come to Seville for the sightseeing, and to absorb the unique atmosphere of the city have in mind its late mediaeval heritage sites, the Cathedral, the Reales Alcazares (Royal Palaces), and perhaps the Archivos de Indias. Throw in the Old Jewish quarter (Barrio Santa Cruz), Plaza España, and a quick visit to Triana across the river, and Bob’s your uncle – job done.

IMG_7554Plaza Encarnación and the Metropol Parasol

Or at least, almost. The Metropol Parasol, to give them their proper name (they’re also known as las Setas or the Mushrooms), are Seville’s contribution to modern, avant-garde architecture and can come as something of a surprise if you stumble upon them unexpectedly. The swooping umbrella shaped lattice structure comprises six parasols, and rises about 26 metres above the ground, and is, in fact, the world’s largest wooden structure. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann, who won the competition for a building to complete the redevelopment of the Plaza de la Encarnación, and after six years of work was completed in April 2011.

view metropol parasolView from the top of the Parasol

The shape was said to have been inspired by the vaults of the cathedral roof, and by the giant fig trees in the nearby Plaza Cristo de Burgos. Predictably, the design, location, delays and cost overruns made it a controversial project, but now it’s completed its eyecatching shape and open spaces have helped to restore the economic and social life of the neighbourhood.

1-038-mar182014 041The Parasols at Night

Like the city itself, the site of the Metropol Parasols is something of a historical layer cake. The name of the square, Plaza de la Encarnación, derives from the Convent of the Incarnation, an order of Augustinian nuns, which was located here from 1591 until its demolition in the early 19th century (the order then moving to its present home in the Plaza del Triunfo). In about 1840 the city’s central provisions market was established here, continuing in operation until 1973, when the building, by then in a ruinous state, was demolished as part of an urban renewal project. The stallholders were moved to “temporary” accommodation in the northeast corner of the square, where they were to languish for the next 37 years.

060-mar182014 019Roman fish salting works – Antiquarium

The site of the original market was left abandoned until 1990, when work on the construction of underground parking for a new market began, only to be halted shortly afterwards by the discovery of Roman ruins beneath. These can now be seen in the Antiquarium, the museum in the basement of the complex, and include a fish salting factory, esidential buildings and some well preserved mosaics. It’s well worth a visit, and is a nice contrast to the modern structure above. At ground level is the market, reinstalled in a modern market hall in its original location, and the main commercial hub of the neighbourhood. The roof of the market hall forms a plaza which holds various public events, such as small concerts and the christmas fair. From the basement take a lift up to the bar and walkways on the top of the structure for great views across the city.

IMG_7553Seasonal mushrooms in the market of the Mushrooms

Almost next door, our holiday apartments in Calle Laraña have views of the Mushrooms and are within easy walking distance of other sights and facilities.

Seville | Top 4 Must See Sights

Although different people have different priorities for the kind of holiday they want, and what they want to do (or not do) with their time, there are enough reasons for choosing Seville to suit most of them. First, there’s the weather. Spain has long been a popular destination for sun-seeking northerners, and although July and August are actually too sunny for some (including me, and I live here), the spring and autumn are as near perfect as you’re likely to find anywhere. Warm enough to be out and about (or lounging by the pool, if that’s what you’re after) in shorts and T-shirt without being uncomfortably hot or cold, and for eating al fresco. And Seville is the perfect place to come for both those things. Beautiful, colourful gardens and neighbourhoods of picturesque narrow streets and small squares to wander through, and lots of little tapas bars to stop in for a glass of wine and a snack.

santa cruz 019archway in Barrio Santa Cruz

But although these are some of my favourite things to do, and in general beat the usual sightseeing type of activities, a city as venerably old and culturally important as Seville is going to have a few places that you have to go and see – both because they are actually well worth seeing, and because you don’t want to have to admit when you get home that you went to Seville and didn’t see them. So this is my list of the 4 things you have to see in Seville, in between the things that are actually important.

The Reales Alcazares (Royal Palace) is number one on the list, especially since being used for the filming of one of the locations in Game of Thrones. With origins dating back over a thousand years, and Europe’s longest serving official Royal residence, the 13th century palace of Peter I is regarded as one of the finest examples of Mudejar architecture in Spain, and the gardens are stunning too.

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The Mudejar Palace

The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See is the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral, and was built during the 15th century on the site of the Grand Mosque, of which the Giralda Tower (former minaret and now bell tower) and the wall and outer gate of the Courtyard of the Orange Trees still remain. Inside the Cathedral are the world’s largest gold altarpiece, the tomb of Christopher Columbus and a crocodile. The highlight, though, is the view from the top of the tower, reached by a ramp, not stairs, and the highest point inside the historic centre.

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Courtyard of the Oranges

The Plaza de España in Maria Luisa Park was built as the Spanish pavilion for the 1929 Spanish American Pavilion, and is a magnificent colonnaded semi-circular building in a mix of styles from Mudejar to Regionalist surrounding an open space with a fountain and boating lake. It features wonderfully colourful tiles and bridges, and illustrations of scenes from the history of each of Spain’s forty provinces. An breathtaking backdrop that’s been the setting for a number of films, including Star Wars Episode II.

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Plaza España

The Metropol Parasol is the world’s largest wooden building and Seville’s contribution to modern architecture, completed just five years ago. Apart from being unique in itself it houses one of the city’s provisions markets, has Roman ruins in the basement, and a walkway on the top with views across the city.

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Metropol Parasol at night

Stay in one of our range of self-catering apartments to give yourself a base for all these activities. Happy holidays!

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Teodosio Terrace Apartment

Seville | El Centro

Often overlooked for the more obvious tourist neighbourhoods around the Cathedral, El Centro, the commercial hub and main shopping area of Seville, has a surprising amount to offer the visitor. It starts with the shopping, of course. Seville’s two main shopping streets, Sierpes and Tetuan-Velazquez run parallel from La Campana (the bell) to Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Nueva. They tend to be dominated by international names these days, but Sierpes still has a number of “Sevillano” shops like Juan Foronda, where you can pick up a nice handmade fan or shawl, and SohoBenita around the Metropol Parasol is the up and coming area for trendy boutiques. At weekends browse the street markets in Plaza del Duque or Plaza de la Magdalena. And of course there are always lots of shoe shops.

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The limits of El Centro are set in a rough triangle by three of the city’s most important buildings (after the Cathedral and Alcázar). The splendid and ornately carved (on one side) edifice with plazas to either side at the end of the Avenida de la Constitución is the Casa Consistoriales, which houses the ayuntamiento (city council). The original casa was built in the early 16th century along the outside wall of the Franciscan friary, which occupied what is now the Plaza Nueva, and gave its name to Plaza San Francisco. The archway at the end of the building was originally the entrance to the friary. When the friary was demolished in 1840 to create the new square a new facade and main entrance were built. The sculptures by the archway include the figures of Hercules and Julius Caesar, the “founders” of the city.

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To the west of El Centro is the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum). This is one of the most important collections of (mainly) classical age art in Spain, housed in the lovely old Merced convent. Outside is one of those pretty plazas that Seville is so good at, where you can relax in the shade of a pair of enormous fig trees. It also has a local art market on Sundays. Buy a painting, put it in your attic, and who knows – in a few hundred years your descendants might suddenly become very rich indeed.

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To the east is Seville’s contribution to modern architecture, the Metropol Parasols, the world’s largest manmade wooden structure. Completed four years ago, after a long period of gestation (the old Encarnación market that stood here before was demolished in 1973), there was a lot of controversy about both the design and the cost of its construction, but now it’s done it’s one of my favourite places in Seville. Come here during the day to visit the market and the Roman ruins in the basement, and take the lift up to the walkways on top for a bird’s eye view of the city. Come after dark to see it lit up like a scene from Close Encounters.

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Other things to see in El Centro include the Motilla Palace (you won’t find it in the guidebooks as it’s still a private residence, but it’s the Italian style palace with the tower on the corner just down from the Parasols), the elegant Baco 2 and the Casa de la Memoria just across the street, the Casa Palacio of Lebrija and the El Salvador church. This was built on the site of the old Grand Mosque (and the Roman basilica before that), and still has original Moorish archways and minaret (now the belltower).

Veoapartments have a wide range of apartments in this central neighbourhood that cater to all budgets and numbers, and give you an excellent central base to explore the historic centre of the city.

Seville | Markets & Mushrooms – Metropol Parasol

Overpriced, overdue and out of place – Seville’s Metropol Parasol (popularly known as “las Setas”, or the mushrooms) has been no stranger to controversy, but since it’s completion in early 2011, it’s curving, swooping ultra-modern shape has become an important tourist attraction in the heart of the old city, and helped to revitalise an area that had become rather run down.

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The Parasols can be found in the Plaza de la Encarnación, straddling the main east-west streets Calle Laraña and Calle Imagen. The square is named for the late mediaeval monastery that stood here until the early 19th century, when it was demolished to make way for a new central provisions market (whose successor is on the ground floor). In the 1970s the area was the target of “urban renewal” and the market building (by then in a poor state of repair) was pulled down, and the stall holders moved to “temporary” accommodation on a vacant lot beside the square. Although it had always been the intention to restore the market to its original location, the site was effectively abandoned until 1990, when work began on a proposed underground car park. But after substantial Roman ruins were discovered on the site, work stopped, plans were shelved, and the archaeologists moved in. Finally, in 2004 the local council held a competition for a design for a new market building in the square, which was won by the German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann‘s futuristic parasols. Despite technical and financial problems the project was finally completed in April 2011.

mushrooms 3But it was all worth it in the end. The first time you see them is definitely one of those “Wow!” moments. Said to be the largest wooden structure in the world, it swoops and arches above you like, well, a giant mushroom. But it’s functional, too. At ground level, as promised, is the Encarnación market, back in its rightful home after a break of 37 years, with shops and bars alongside. The roof of the market provides an open space for public events, especially the Christmas fair, world cup finals on the big screen, and occasional concerts. Below ground-level is the Antiquarium, the museum that houses the Roman ruins, which have been carefully restored and are a must-see for anyone with an interest in history. From there you can also take the lift up to the top. The walkways give you a great view of the surroundings, and you can enjoy a drink and a tapa at the Gastrosol bar complex.

The neighbouring streets have been rejunevated too, especially the two areas of small boutiques, Soho Benita and Regina, with their emphasis on local designers and artworks, and the open part of the square with trees and benches is a pleasnt place to sit in the shade of a summers day. This is a part of Seville that’s fairly new to tourism, but as the mushrooms have drawn people here, it has become a busy vibrant space, and one of the city’s treasures.

mushrooms 1

The walkways and bar are open from 10:30am to midnight, entrance €3.00 (though you get a discount on your first drink), and the Antiquarium from 10.00am to 8.00pm Tuesday to Saturday and 10.00am to 2.00pm Sundays, entrance €2.

Veoapartment has five holiday apartments in Laraña with views of the Parasols.

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!