Seville is a bubbling city, overrun with tourists. We arrive late at night after a long day in Ronda, and immediately settle down to sleep. As with all our other accommodation, we stay in an AirBnb apartment in a nice little residential area. This apartment is just about comfortable. The lounge has air-con, but the shared-bathroom does not have a lock.
We agree on a sign to display the bathroom as vacant, manage to sleep through the sweltering heat during the night, and are up and ready to see Seville the next morning.
The roads in Seville are modern and very comfortable to navigate, compared to the small winding roads of Ronda. We find an underground car park close to the Puerta de Jerez Square, which is centered with the Fuente de Sevilla.
The walk is exciting, with resturants and cafes in all directions and the occasional horse and carriage passing by. Our first stop is the Seville Cathedral and Giralda tower.
Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower
The Roman Catholic Seville Cathedral is a grand structure taking the spot as the third-largest church in the world. It was built to demonstrate the city’s wealth after it became a major trading centre, and was initially completed in early 16th Century. However, the dome of the cathedral collapsed and was rebuilt many times until early 20th Century.
I wait in a long queue to go into the building, and pay a small ticket price. Many of the sights I visit in Andalusia have consessionary tickets for young people (under 25) and students. So it is definitely worth carrying a student card around.
As we enter into the cathedral, I notice that much of the inside of the is undergoing renovation, and only some parts of the key architectural features were visible. True to the gothic style, the pillars are extremely tall with high, pointy arches linking them together.
We walk through the cathedral, and make our way into the courtyard linking it to the Giralda tower.
This is the part I am really interested in. The Giralda Tower was originally built in the early 12th Century as a minaret attached to a mosque. It was designed by architect Ahmad Ben Baso, and Jabir Ibn Aflah (mathematician and astronomer). Two thirds of the tower is from the Almohad period of Seville, built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia mosque in Marrakesh. The top third which is identifiable as Spanish Renaissance architecture was extended after the minaret was converted for use as the church bell tower.
The courtyard is bright and sunny: a sharp contrast to the dark gothic architecture inside. Remnants of Moorish (Islamic) architecture can be seen in the arch of the entrance, and a star-shaped fountain surrounded by geometric water-paths.
The tower’s original purpose as a minaret was for the Muezzin (caller to prayer) to climb up and call people to prayer (adhan)*. As the minaret is so high, it has a wide winding slope leading to the top which allowed the muezzin to ride a horse to the top.
In the unfortunate absence of horses, we climb to the top, and I try my best not to slip on the sloping floor. Along the way, little windows on the right give glimpses of the view, adding more of the skyline as we climb. On the left are Islamic and Christian artifacts.
Although the winding slope is wide, its a slow walk up with the amount of tourists going up and down on either side. However, it is definitely worth it in the end. At the top (the top third) is a set of steps leading to the bells, and a stunning view.
The round tower offers 360 degree views. One section looks out over the top of the cathedral and into the courtyard we entered from. Another gives an excellent view of the narrow and busy streets below. I can see the Seville Bullring, and the river in the distance, as well as pink and orange roofed houses as far as the eye can see.
After taking in the amazing views, we make our way back down the tower. Going down is a lot more fun than the climb, and we reach the bottom quite fast, despite the crowds.
We make our way down the street to the Real Alcazar: the second stop for the Seville day out.
Reales Alcázares de Sevilla (Royal Alcazars of Seville)
The Alcazar of Seville is a royal palace originally built for the Muslim kings during the Almohad period. Alzacar means ‘castle, palace or fort’, and is derived from the Arabic word Al-Qasr (القصر). The upper levels of the still used by the Spanish royal family as their official Seville residence. It is the oldest royal place still in use in Europe.
The entrance to the Alczar leads down a path surrounded by beautiful greenery, into a courtyard with the grand building winding around it. Different rooms lead out from the courtyard, showcasing exhibition displays and the beautiful design of the Alcazar. The mix of different types of architecture from differing eras defines when and where it was renovated and extended.
For more information on the architecture of the Alcazar of Seville, read “The Alcazar of Seville and Mudejer Architecture”. (JSTOR link for limited free member access).
Some of my pictures of the Alcazar and gardens are below:
After exploring the Alcazar, we grab some ice cream, go back to the car, and make our way to Cordoba.
The architecture I had the opportunity to see in Andalusia is stunning beyond words. Leave a comment below with any places you’ve visited where the architecture is unmissable.
*Muslims pray five times a day. Before each prayer, the Muezzin calls people to prayer (Adhan). In the past, he was required to climb to a high place, so more people could hear the adhan, and was one of the key purposes for a minaret. Nowadays, mic systems do not require the muezzin to call out from the top of the minaret, but minarets still remain a key feature of the mosque.
Other parts of my #AndalusianAdventure: