Viva Andalusia: Seville

Posted on January 24, 2014 by Toothpicker There have been 0 comments

Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de CaballeríaParlamento De Andaluciaseville

Main and bottom right: Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza; bottom left: Palacio de San Telmo

 

Traveling is one of my life-long passion, so being able to travel for work is something that I love. However, in the last few years, my travels have revolved either around work or visiting family and friends, and so I felt that it was time to take a proper holiday after the hectic Christmas season. In terms of location, it was basically anywhere not too far and south of the U.K...

I have always wanted to go to Seville, but somehow I never managed it, so Andalusia was on the top of my list... The best thing about traveling in January is that it is an off-peak season, so flights and accommodations are cheaper and there are less tourists to deal with at the tourist attractions.

 

Torre del OroGiralda Tower Giralda Tower sevilleseville

Top left: Torre del Oro; top middle and right: La Giralda; Bottom left: El puente de triana designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel; Bottom right: a commemorative plaque of a bullfighter in the Triana district

 

When I saw the blue and sunny sky upon arrival, I knew I had picked the right place! And within hours, I started to wander why it took me so long to come to this beautiful city! I rented an apartment via Airbnb right by the Cathedral, and my host was so friendly and helpful that I just knew I would love my stay.

 
Plaza de Españagiralda towersevillesevilleMaria luisa parksevillesevillesevillesevilleseville

Top left: Plaza de España; Top middle: bells on the top of La Giralda; middle right: Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares in Parque de María Luisa; Bottom left; Sunset at Plaza Nueva; bottom right: the marble columns at Almaeda de Hercules

 

I love walkable cities, so I walked everywhere in Seville, except that I did consider renting a bike at one point when I was rather lost on the other side of the river. Realistically, four nights were not enough to see all the wonderful sights, but I managed to squeeze in a few sights in a day, as well as getting lost in the back streets of Santa Cruz. This was part of the fun though, I loved walking aimlessly and getting lost in the narrow alleyways throughout my trip in Andalusia... there was no rush to get anywhere, and every corner there was something new waiting to be discovered...

 

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Real Alcazar

 

Sights

Seville is a city full of beautiful architecture and amazing churches, and I love the fusion of different cultures and influences. Out of all the must-see sights, I really enjoyed walking around the magnificent Real Alcazar, particularly its gardens. It was rather empty when I was there, so it felt incredibly peaceful, and I am sure it would look more amazing in springtime. Parque Maria Luisa is vast and full of wonders, the Plaza de España is spectacular, but I spent most of my time inside Museo de Artes y Costumbres and Museo Arqueológico, both situated within the park and were opened until 8:30pm.

Honestly, I was not too keen on the Cathedral, yes, it is the biggest in Europe and it is jaw-dropping to see the extraordinary craftsmanship, but I find it too ostentatious, overwhelming and disjointed. The Moorish Giralda tower, though, is worth the climb. I was especially keen to see the bells that woke me up every morning without fail!

 

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Casa de Pilatos

 

Whenever I travel, I have always enjoyed the smaller and quirkier private homes or palaces than the main sights, especially if they were once owned by some eccentric and wealthy aristocrats or merchants like the mesmerising Quinta da Regaleira in Sintra, Portugal. In Seville, there are a few wonderful houses/ palaces that I highly recommend:

Case de Pilatos is a 16th century palace that is the residence of the Duchess of Medinaceli, who died last year at the age of 96. The architectural style is a fusion of Mudéjar, Renaissance, Gothic and Roman, with a small but lovely garden at the back. The first floor is available to visit only via a guided tour, where visitors can see Spanish artwork, antiques and family photos in the living and dining rooms.

 

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Hospital de los Venerables

 

Hospital de los Venerables is a 17th century mansion that took over 20 years to complete was once a residence for elderly priests and now restored as a cultural centre. The courtyard with a sunken patio is extremely tranquil, but the highlight is the splendid baroque chapel hand-painted by Juan de Valdés Leal and his son Lucas Valdés. The 3-dimensional ceiling in the Sacristy is stunnung! The current exhibition, "Nur. Light in Art and Science from the Islamic World" is fascinating and very informative, it demonstrates the intelligence, innovation and creativity of the ancient Islamic culture esp. in the fields of science, astronomy and mathematics.

 

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Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija

 

Palacio de la Condes de Lebrijia is a 16th century mansion/ palace bought by the Countess of Lebrijia ( an archaeologist) in 1901, who decided to spend 13 years restoring and turning it into her own private archaeological/ mosaic museum! I love this palace, it is full of character, and has mix-mash/ fusion style with the most marvellous mosaic floors and tile work (around the stairs case). The first floor can be visited with a guide, and since I was the only person there, I fired a bunch of questions at the guide who sometimes couldn't even provide me with an answer! Oops!

Most disappointing...

Although it is not a sight, but my experience at the Aire de Sevilla ( Arab baths) was more stressful than relaxing! I was hoping to get a bit of pampering after walking for days, but the place was packed when I arrived ( they have a 2-hour time slots, so everyone would arrive at the same time and be shuffled in like sheep without much explanation). I was supposed to use the baths first, but was called straight into the massage room with several other people... I felt that the place is more about 'style over substance', the baths and steam room were not hot enough, the stairs were slippery and the changing rooms did not look clean at all. Even with the 10% discount, I felt it was overpriced and was probably one of the worst spas I have ever been to. Beware!

 

sevillesevillesevilleThe Church of El SalvadorThe Church of El SalvadorIglesia de santa anaP1070340seville

Top left: Convento san leadro; Top middle and second row: Iglesia del Salvador; Top right: Iglesia de la magdalena; Bottom left: Iglesia de Santa Ana; Bottom right: Capillita del Carmen

 

Churches

There is no shortage of churches to visit in Seville, especially the Baroque ones, and each showcases outstanding craftsmanship and splendour. One of the best example is Iglesia del Salvador, which was once a Roman temple and a Mosque! It is also the most important church in the city after the Cathedral.

Most churches are open in the mornings and evenings, I particularly enjoyed visiting them during services and on Sunday to absorb the religious atmosphere ( even though I am not religious). I often find religious sanctuaries incredibly peaceful, whether they are churches, Cathedrals, temples, mosques or Synagogues, it is a shame that this tranquility only be found within these sanctuaries!

 

Metropol ParasolTorre TrianaMetropol ParasolLa Barqueta BridgeEl Alamillo Bridge

Top left and main: Metropol Parasol; Top right: Torre Triana designed by Francisco Javier Sáenz de Oiza; Bottom left: La Barqueta Bridge; Bottom right: Alamillo Bridge

 

Modern architecture

There is almost no skyscraper in Seville, I saw one on the opposite side of the river when I was up on the top of La Giralda and it looks rather lonely and out of place. The rather controversial modern architecture is the world's largest wooden structure, Metropol Parasol ( it has been labeled as 'setas' by the locals i.e. mushrooms!) designed by Jurgen Mayer H. Architects and completed in 2011. Personally, I really like the structure, it creates a sharp contrast against the backdrop of traditional architecture and the bright blue sky, but I think this is precisely the point and I love the fact that it looks different from every angle. Visitors can also walk on rooftop and visit the Roman and Moorish archaeological site underneath, which was discovered while excavated to build a car park!

Although there are not many contemporary buildings in the city, there are some modern and interesting bridges like Alamillo Bridge designed by Santiago Calatrava Valls and La Barqueta Bridge by Juan J. Arenas & Marcos J. Pantalerón for the World Expo in 1992.

 

Andalusian Contemporary Art CenterAndalusian Contemporary Art CenterMuseo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla Centro Andaluz de Arte ContemporáneoAndalusian Contemporary Art CenterCentro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneoseville

Top right: Museo de Bellas Artes, bottom right: Galeria Rafael Ortiz ; the rest: Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo

 

Art

Most guidebooks rave about Museo de Bellas Artes, which is indeed a beautiful museum ( converted from a former convent), but after visiting so many churches and seeing endless relics and artifacts, a museum full of religious paintings was too much for me! I also think that without context, these paintings provide less impact and meaning. I walked through the rooms swiftly and spent most of my time at the exhibition of the famous artist from Cordoba ( my next destination), Julio Romero de Torres.

One of the highlights for me in Seville was the few hours spent at the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, I love this contemporary art centre, and if I didn't get lost beforehand, I would have spent more time there! The architecture of this former monastery and pottery factory is fascinating, and I think the organisation has done an amazing job in restoring the old while infusing something new with the modern art work. There are several exhibitions showing in different parts of the complex, but the one that really moved me was the exhibition of Spanish artist/ architect/ sculptor/ designer, Guillermo Pérez Villalta. I have never heard of this artist before, and even though he is a very well known in Spain, it seems that he is not as recognised internationally. His work is so thought-provoking, mesmerising and some of his architectural work is almost mind-blowing. It was a shame that I couldn't find a bookshop on site to buy a book on the artist!

Even if you are not a fan of contemporary art, the site itself is worth a visit ( if you can find it) and it has an outdoor space/ garden filled with some weird and wonderful sculptures!

 

People

I tend to get along very well with Spanish speaking people, perhaps it is because of their warmth, passion and openness. People in Andalusia are well known for their hospitality and even in a buzzling city like Seville, most people I encountered were friendly despite the language barrier. Throughout my trip, I sensed that people in this area are quite laid-back and even in winter, people still like to hang outside listening to street performances or socialising with friends outside of bars in the afternoons. I am beginning to wonder if London's way of life really suits me as I am finding the place more hectic than ever! And now I finally understand why so many British have left home and moved to southern Spain!

 

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There will be more posts on food, shopping, flamenco, and street art to come...

 


This post was posted in Architecture, Travel, Art, Andalusia and was tagged with art and design exhibitions, architecture, museums, seville, Andalusia

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