Tag Archives: plaza españa

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.


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.


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.


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!


Teodosio Terrace Apartment

Seville | Plaza España and the 1929 Exhibition

1-IMG_5240Plaza de España

Seville has played host to two major international exhibitions in the last 100 years, the 1929 Spanish American exhibition, mainly intended to promote the commonwealth of Spain and the former Spanish colonies in Latin America (but also including the US, Portugal and Brazil), and the 1992 Universal Exhibition commemorating the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus.

Perhaps surprisingly, given that it’s further back in time, it’s the site and remaining buildings of the 1929 exhibition that are of the greatest interest to the visitor. It is, of course, much closer to the city centre, but the site is also in and around Seville’s largest park, the Maria Luisa. The park was once the gardens of the Palacio San Telmo, but was donated to the city in 1893. Following the 1910 decision to hold an exhibition in Seville, the gardens were remodelled by the famous landscape gardener Jean-Claude Forestier, and in 1914 Anibal González, the architect in charge of the project, began construction work on the pavilions.

1-april102013 162Statue of Anibal Gonzalez

Eighteen countries took part, and although many of the minor buildings have gone, most of the national pavilions, many of which were intended to become consulates of their respective countries after the expo finished in June 1930, are still in use, together with some of the other principal pavilions, and can be found either in or near the park, and along the Paseo de las Delicias.

The park itself is Seville’s largest green space, and was designed as a “Moorish Paradise”, with ponds, pavilions and walkways, and the famous Fountains of the Frogs and the Lions.

The centrepiece of the exhibition was the Plaza España and the surrounding semicircle of the Spanish pavilion. Built in a mixture of art deco and neo-Mudejar (an early 20th century revival of late Moorish architecture), this held the largest Spanish exhibit, the Salon of Discoveries, about the exploration of the New World. Nowadays the building mostly houses government offices, as well as a small military museum. In front of the pavilion are the forty alcoves representing all the provinces of Spain, with illustrations in ceramic tiles of important scenes from their histories. The four bridges across the boating lake to the Plaza represent the four ancient kingdoms of Spain. Everything is decorated in a profusion of tiles showcasing the craftsmanship of Seville’s ceramics industry. Not surprisingly the complex has featured in a number of films, including Star Wars – Attack of the Clones, Lawrence of Arabia and The Dictator.

1-photo 2 (1)Plaza de España boating lake and tower

Other important buildings in the park include the Palacio Mudejar (now the Museum of Popular Culture), the Palacio Renacimiento (now the Archaeological Museum), and the Palacio de la Casa Real, all in the Plaza America at the far end of the park, and the horseshoe shaped pavilion of the Telephone Company (now the Gardening School), just beyond the Plaza España.

mudejarPalacio Mudejar

Prominent among the national pavilions, and worth looking out for, are those of Portugal (next to the Prado San Sebastian), Peru (now the Casa de las Ciencias), and those of Argentina and Mexico (both now used as schools) on the Paseo de las Delicias.


Pavilion of Argentina

Preparations for the 1929 exhibition also included the building of new hotels (most notably the splendid Alfonso XIII for the Royal family and visiting heads of state), the widening of many streets, including what is now the Avenida de la Constitución, and the refurbishment of the old Jewish quarter as a tourist attraction. This area is a perfect place to rent an apartment to explore the old expo site and Seville’s other principal monuments.

Aníbal González – The Man Who Built Seville

This week we have another guest post by blogger, teacher, tour guide and history buff,
Peter Tatford, former Londoner and long-term Seville resident, aka Seville Concierge

anibal gonzalez

Unless you’re interested in architecture you may not even have heard of him, but if you’ve been to Seville you’ll certainly have seen quite a lot of his work. If you have heard of him it’s most likely in connection with the iconic Plaza de España, built for the Spanish-American exhibition of 1929, and one of Seville’s top must-sees for any visitor.

But there’s more to González (Aníbal González Álvarez-Ossario, to give him his rather impressive full name) than just the Plaza de España. He was one of the few who accomplished the architect’s dream of not only designing great buildings, but of leaving his mark on an entire city.

He was born in modest circumstances in 1876, the eldest of three children, and developed an early interest in books. It was a struggle for his parents to pay for his schooling, but in 1902 the sacrifices bore fruit, and he qualified as an architect. In 1910 he was appointed director of works for the proposed Spanish American exhibition, a post he held until 1927, when he resigned because of disagreements with the new Royal Commissioner for the exhibition, José Cruz Conde. In 1920 he was the target of an attempted assassination, and from then until his death in May 1929 he was always accompanied by a bodyguard. The exhibition opened just a few days before he died.

Although his early work was in a modernist style, as Director of the exhibition he developed what would become known as Neomudejar, utilising many aspects of the classic Mudejar architecture of the 13th to 15th centuries, particularly the use of brick, tiles and horseshoe arches, but combining these with elements of Gothic and Baroque, as well as his own personal touches.

plaza espana

The Plaza España in Maria Luisa Park, the semicircular centrepiece of the exhibition with its representations of all the Spanish provinces, boating lake, fountains and towers, is undoubtedly his crowning achievement (a statue of him erected two years ago stands outside the entrance to the Plaza), but he was also responsible for the Plaza America, including the buildings that now house the Archaeological Museum and the Museum of Popular arts and Customs, and the Royal Pavilion.

Away from the exhibition some of his best known works include several buildings on the west side of the Avenida de la Constitución, especially the house of the Marques de Villamarta on the corner of Garcia de la Vinuesa (it’s the one with the narrow circular turret), the Bankinter building in the Campana, the Capilla del Carmen at the end of Triana Bridge, and the house with the big glassed-in balcony on the corner of the Plaza de los Refinadores (which I always tell visitors is where I want to live).

He was Seville’s most prolific architect in the first third of the 20th century, and his work also inspired a number of others who followed in his footsteps, and helped create an important part of the appearance of the city today.