Standing gallantly along the Guadalquivir River in Seville, Southern Spain is a simple-looking twelve sided tower called Torre del Oro. This incredibly deceptive tower once stood watch over the city, ready to defend against enemy invasion by the river. Built in the 13th century by the Almohad rulers, Torre del Oro was recognised as a historic symbol of the city of Seville in 1931. The tower is presently a maritime museum. The panoramic terrace offers great views over the city.
1 | The history of Torre del Oro | Tower of Gold in Seville
Located on the left bank of the River Guadalquivir, the noble Torre del Oro or the Tower of Gold was constructed between 1220 and 1221 by then rulers of Seville, the Almohad Caliphate. Its purpose was a military watchtower to protect the city of Seville from the Castilian fleet during the Reconquista. As a watchtower, it also served as one of the two anchor points for a large chain that would have blocked any on-coming enemy ships in the River.
While protecting the land from the river entrance, the tower also stood defence by protecting the city area of industrial activities.
The Tower of Gold was built using mortar, lime and hay. The combination of these materials projected a subtle golden shine against the river waters, hence it inherited the name, in Arabic, Borg al-Dsayeb or ‘Tower of Gold’ in English.
Interestingly, not all of what we see today of the 36 metres tower was built in the 13th century. The Torre del Oro has three levels.
The first twelve-sided level was built in 1220 – 1221. Added to this dodecagonal structure was a further 8 metres of the same design, built by the King Pedro 1, (‘Peter the Cruel’) in the 14th century. The third and the uppermost circular level were added in 1760. This incredible tower has been honoured with the title of a historic-artistic monument since 1931.
During its very many years, the Gold tower had been a chapel, a noble prison, a gunpowder warehouse and a strategic post of Naval Command.
The Torre del Oro today is home to a small naval museum occupying two floors along with a panoramic terrace.
2 | The Maritime Museum at The Torre del Oro in Seville today
Opened in 1944, the Tower of Gold is home to the Maritime Museum of the Torre del Oro in Seville. There are a series of exhibitions in this monument, beginning with its history, and view of the tower before the walled enclosure of 1760. A model of ‘Real Fernando‘, the first steamboat built in Spain.
You will also find ancient marine charts and documents along with compasses, nautical mechanisms, and fossilised marine debris.
A visit to the Tower of Gold also affords access to the panoramic terrace, with views of Seville city and the Guadalquivir River.
3 | Practical tips on how to visit the Maritime Museum of Seville
Accessing and visiting the Tower of Gold is easy and it does not really take too long to enjoy what the Naval Museum of Seville has to offer. We recommend that you combine this quick visit with one of the many popular boat tours of the Guadalquivir River. Enjoy a different view of Seville from the famous waters of Guadalquivir River. Torre del Oro is ideally located and is the departure point for many of the river cruises in Seville.
These top rated and the very best guided tapas tours in Seville offer one of the best ways for you to make the best use of your time in enchanting Seville.
Why would a visitor join tapas tours in Seville?
A guided tour offer you the comfort of knowing that you are in the best places at the best times and places you ought to skip for a non pleasant encounter.
Knowledgeable guide make a tour enjoyable and usually are experts on the local areas that they work in. They have wide knowledge about their neighbourhood and more than happy to share stories on history, people and culture.
Seville is a unique city with over 2000 years of history. Rich in architecture, passionate about their culture and proud of their heritage. This welcoming southern city of Spain has a delightful cuisine that ought to be savoured, with tapas being the most popular. Therefore, joining guided tapas tours in Seville is one activity that a visitor should look forward to experiencing.
4 of the very best tapas tours in Seville for you to select from:
1 | Tapas Crawl in Seville
The tapas crawl guided tour in Seville allows you to discover the hidden side of the city through its tapas. This gastronomical experience takes you on a journey of discovery as you visit hidden bodegas and eat authentic Sevillian tapas.
The tapas crawl in Seville tour includes the following:
A minimum of 10 to 13 tapas servings;
4 to 5 drinks
A knowledgeable guide
The duration of the tour is about 3 hours. Prices start from £54.27 per person (Jan. 2022)
2 | Guided tour of tapas, taverns and history of Seville
This small group tapas tours in Seville may be more suitable if you have a busy itinerary or on a short visit to Seville.
The tour is available in the evening which means you can do sightseeing during the day. An all encompassing tour offers an introduction Seville’s history which contributes to understanding Seville’s people and culture. It begins with visiting one of the oldest bodega in Seville serving one of the best Iberian ham and covers the very best of tapas eating.
The tour includes the following:
Visiting a 100 year old tapas bar;
Discover Spanish wines and sherries – 4 different specials;
A minimum of eight delicious tapas;
Lots on history and local tips.
The tour is scheduled for 3.5 hours. Prices start from £74.31 per person (Jan. 2022)
3 | Flamenco and Tapas Night – Typically a half day event
Get into the rhythm, wine and dance of the Sevillian culture for a memorable, timeless experience of the historic city. In this walking tapas tours in Seville, you will experience the passion of flamenco, delicious food and wine. The walking tour covers some of the best hidden streets of Seville and you will learn about its exquisite architecture along with the city’s 2000 years of history – Romans, Arabs, Christians and the Gypsies.
Flamenco and Tapas Night experience includes:
A local walking tour;
Three tapas and three drinks
Lots of insider tips.
Duration of the Flamenco and Tapas Night experience is 4 hours and prices start from £105.62 per person.
Plan ahead, check availability and have a smashing time in Seville!
4 | Tapas and Flamenco Experience in Triana, Seville
Set off on a walking tour from Calle Betis, in the passionate barrio of Triana, located across the River Guadalquivir. On this tour you shall visit bars and charming old taverns that embodies the culture and spirit of Trianeros in this part of Seville. Learn about the historic Triana, the birthplace of flamenco and a place once home to pottery and the tile industries.
Tapas and Flamenco experience in Triana includes:
Professional guide who knows the ins and outs of this eloquent barrio;
4 tapas and 3 drinks;
Tickets for the flamenco show.
This is a small group tour and the duration is 3.5 hours.
The remarkable Antiquarium Room in Old Seville is an important archaeological site. It represents Seville’s ancient Roman roots going back to the 1st century and the later influences of the Almohads on the Iberian peninsula of Southern Spain.
This post gives an overview of the historic context of the Antiquarium Room in Old Seville along with what visitors’ can expect and the highlights to look out for.
The discovery of the archaeological remains in Old Seville are quite recent. They were discovered when a wider project to regenerate the area of the Plaza de laEncarnación was undertaken in 2005, with the construction of Metropol Parasol. The Antiquarium Room sits in the basement of the iconic Metropol Parasol.
1 | A HISTORIC PERSPECTIVE INTO SEVILLE’S OLD TOWN & METROPOL PARASOL
The area in general was a square at which the town came together since Roman times. In ancient Roman cities, the axis was known as ‘cardo’, the north-south streets and ‘Decumanus”, the east-west street which served as the primary street in the town. This area developed over the centuries into an important market and commercial centre.
In the 1830s, a fresh food market was established, the first of its kind in Seville. The square grew over the years into a thriving area, but its prominence declined in the 1970s. With a view to breathe life back into the area, the local council decided on an urban redevelopment project. The project was assigned to Jürgen Mayer-Hermann, a German architect.
Mayer-Hermann designed a five-storey building incorporating a colossal undulated honeycombed parasol made of a wood called Kerto. The parasol were designed and constructed in mushroom-shaped timber lattice. This is the largest timber construction in the world ever built. This construction was aptly named Metropol Parasol but more affectionately known locally as Las Setas de Sevilla or just, Las Setas.
2 | THE COOL ANTIQUARIUM ROOM IN OLD SEVILLE AT THE METROPOL PARASOL
The Antiquarium Room located at the basement of the Metropol Parasol is outstanding. The cool museum was designed by the Felipe Palomino Architects. The primary purpose was to create a sensational space where visitors can enjoy the remarkable archaeological discoveries made during the excavations for the construction of the iconic Metropol Parasol in Seville’s old town.
2.1 | What to experience at the Antiquarium Room in Old Seville
The Antiquarium Room in Old Seville at the Metropol Parasol is located at 5.45 metres below ground level. The archaeological museum has no natural light but visitors will not feel that they are in a ‘dungeon’. The museum is astutely designed to encompass a giant open-space floor area of about 5,000 square metres with no visible boundaries. However, as you walk along the clearly marked dedicated walkways, and as you approach each excavation site, the boundaries become visible.
Each excavation site is wrapped by a set of membrane, made of glass. These glass panels permit transparency, and visibility, creating a sense of space with no enclosures. The design also allows a visitor to gauge the whole spectrum of what was unearthed, thus an idea of a market place, shops and houses that once existed in this ancient square.
The Antiquarium Room has two artificial lighting installed. The lights create a slightly dim, but a cool sensation for visitors while also allowing for sufficient illumination of the excavation site.
2.2 | Highlights of the Antiquarium Room in Old Seville
It is hard to pinpoint the highlights of the Antiquarium Room as the entire museum is a highlight! The Room showcases an exclusive contemporary design with no walls while creating a unique sensation for visitors to experience. Not for a moment will you feel that you are in a basement!
If you plan on visiting this remarkable Antiquarium in Old Seville, here are some exhibits to look out for:
2.2.1 | An early 6th century house at the Antiquarium Room in Metropol Parasol
One of the excavations that stood out was the foundation of a house from the 6th century, called the Sigma House.
The Sigma House was a great hall where banquets were held by the ‘dominus’ (the leader or head). This was also a centre where the social hierarchy was boasted, and well received. The excavated site clearly shows the stucture of a ‘stibadium’, a semicircular shape where guests were reclined in the apse.
2.2.2 | Exquisite mosaic work exhibited at the Antiquarium Room in old Seville
Following are some of the skilled mosaic work discovered during the excavations, suspected to originate from the 12th century during the Almohad reign of Seville.
2.2.3 | Pottery of a bygone era
On exhibit are a small collection of pottery of a bygone era.
There are just a few of beautifully sculpted jars with handles, and painted decorations which were once used to store water.
Oil lamps must have been popular back then as there were several on display here. Some were shrewdly designed with a sign of a pigeon. Most of the oil lamps discovered were discarded by its owners because of defects.
On a final note
The Antiquarium Room in Old Seville has a different persona to a traditional museum. It is cool, contemporary and provides a small insight into what life was like all those many years ago in Old Seville. Worth visiting if you are at the Plaza de laEncarnación, Seville.
Written by: Georgina | We may earn a commission through affiliate links
An undulating honeycombed canopy, Metropol Parasol Seville is a gigantic cosy oasis of sunshade, offering stunning panoramic views over the city and a glimpse into the city’s ancient history through its archaeological discoveries.
Metropole Parasol Seville is an expansive wooden structure and an iconic landmark in the old town of Seville, on the northern side of the Andalusian capital city. The structure is more popularly known locally as Las Setas de Sevilla ( “the Mushrooms of Seville” or simply as Las Setas ( “The Mushrooms”) for its unusual shaped structure. Las Setas is located at Plaza de la Encarnación and is one of the city’s most visited attraction.
This post entails an overview to the Metropol Parasol, what to experience on the five levels of this immense structure along with essential information to support your visit for an immersive experience.
PLANNING A TRIP TO SEVILLE?
You may find the following articles helpful to make the best of your vacation:
The largest bonded wooden construction in the world was built in 2011. The structure is made-up of six mushroom-shaped lattice parasols. Measuring 150 x 70 and approximately 28.5 metres in height, this exemplary “mushroom” is the brainchild of a German architect, Jürgen Mayer.
Mayer won the international competition to regenerate the Plaza de la Encarnación by putting forward a design inspired by the centennial Ficus of the Plaza de San Pedro and the vaults of Seville Cathedral. His design incorporated the space needed for Seville’s historic Market which had been trading here since the 1830s. Along with the Market, was the much needed shade in the sultry summers, while also respecting the ancient heritage of the city. Above all, his idea incorporated an area where the life, splendour and joy Sevillanos once enjoyed would return.
WHAT TO EXPERIENCE AT THE METROPOL PARASOL/LAS SETAS SEVILLE
Metropol Parasol is an alluring colossal sight with a ripple of sunshade alongside gigantic support trunks. The structure offer access to five levels:
1 | The Basement at Plaza de la Encarnación
The basement of the Metropol Parasol, at 5 metres below street level is accessed via escalators. It houses the ticket office, lifts to the upper floors and the Antiquarium Room.
Lifts from the basement run up to the to the meandering walkway above, El Mirador for stunning views over the city. Tickets can be purchased for the Mirador and for the Antiquarium at the ticket office here.
1.1 | The Antiquarium Room at Metropol Parasol
When works for the Metropol Parasol were undertaken, excavations led to the archaeological discovery of Roman remains from the 1st century and further discovery of an Islamic house built during the Almohad era, between 12th and 13th centuries.
The Antiquarium Room is well-designed. With clearly defined walkways and each excavated area is separated with a glass membrane, giving a sense of space and light to reflect. Among many of the artefacts discovered on display are mosaics, foundation of a house and oil lamps. There are information on display here that cover the middle and modern ages.
2 | The Ground Floor at Plaza de la Encarnación
On the ground floor of Las Setas, is the renovated modern Mercado de la Encarnación and catering spaces. The historic market that began in the 1830s was the first fresh food market in Seville. The Encarnación Market now still retains its reputation as an important source of fresh food frequented by the locals and tourists. The Mercado has about 40 stalls of fish and seafood, fruits and vegetables, meat, grocery and cheeses along with pickles and bars.
3 | The Lower Level at Plaza de la Encarnación
The lower level encompasses the area below the parasol, a shady elevated space known as Plaza Mayor. This space is designed to host all kinds of entertainment and music events. A popular space for the local teens to hangout as well.
4 | Central Parasol at Plaza de la Encarnación
At the height of 22 metres, in the central parasol of the Las Setas de Sevilla is a tapas restaurant
5 | El Mirador Metropol Parasol Seville
The lifts from the basement run up to the celebrated winding walkway (Mirador) that offer spectacular views over Seville. The views are spellbinding in the evening!
The Mirador consists of 250 metres of footbridges, offering various nostalgic views over the colourful city from several view-points. Visitors can enjoy an immersive experience at daytime or at night Both occasions are worthwhile experiences.
The Metropol Parasol is an impressive, mind-blowing gigantic wooden structure that attests to Seville’s cultural and historic importance. Despite its vast size, it creates a huge never-ending oasis of a playground offering sunshade from Seville’s scorching summer sun, while the coziness of gentle breeze and the rolling hues of the evening sunlight makes an unforgettable experience. A visit is highly encouraged.
ESSENTIAL INFORMATION ON METROPOL PARASOL/LAS SETAS SEVILLE
Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville | Best Guide to Where to Stay Eat and Things to do
Stunning Seville, the rhythm of Andalusia celebrate a myriad of local customs, traditions, boundless energy and the marriage of spices in their salivating dishes. There is no better place to experience the Sevillanos passion than in the heartbeat of Seville, Barrio Santa Cruz.
What to expect from this guide on Barrio Santa Cruz
Having wandered and wondered around the city for three days, exploring the thrills of the many labyrinth of alleys in the Old Jewish Quarter, in the backdrop of the flamenco dancing and the strumming of the guitar, amidst the chatter, laughter and the friendly neighbourhood vibe, I share the highly rated places to stay at Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville including the one I stayed in.
Also included in this best guide are 14 highlights of the very best things to do in this barrio Santa Cruz so you do not miss anything on the history, vibrancy and culture of this colourful city.
As the Santa Cruz neighbourhood is highly touristy, this guide offers suggestions on where to eat along with tips for enhanced experiences so you do not fall into the tourist traps.
Whether your visit is for one day, three days, a week or even longer, this best guide will help you choose where to stay at Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville, select places and things to do along with where to eat that best suits you like a breeze.
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Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville – Seville City Centre / Old Town / Old Jewish Quarter
Welcome to my guide on Barrio Santa Cruz in Seville, the best guide to where to stay, eat and the very best things to do.
Barrio Santa Cruz was the Parish of the Holy Cross and is the oldest part of the city of Seville. Located within the perimeter of the Roman city walls, the first settlement dates back to the 1st century , with a large Jewish community settling here after the Reconquista in late 1248. Thereafter, followed a period of dark history encapsulating deceit, destruction and the loss of many Jewish lives.
Today, Seville City Centre or Seville’s Old Town, also known as Barrio Santa Cruz was the old Jewish Quarter of Seville. This area is the heartbeat of Seville, ideally located to public transportation (not that you will need it) and is home to the most popular tourist attractions. Seville City Centre is the area around Seville’s Gothic wonder, the breathtaking spectacle of Mudejar palace, Plaza Nueva and El Arenal.
Santa Cruz is one of the most picturesqueneighbourhoods, in Seville. Encompassing white-washed houses, a labyrinth of narrow alleys of cobblestone, and charming Andalusian balconies. This is an area where you can wander for hours trying to decide which bar or restaurants to go to as each has its own appeal and warmth.
Staying anywhere in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood means you are only minutes away from the city’s historic attractions, the famous Bull Ring in Seville and dangerously close to Calle Sierpes, the heart of small business and a place where you can get anything you want. If you are looking to stay in Seville at the heart of the city, barrio Santa Cruz is the place to be.
While the Santa Cruz neighbourhood is splendid for a stay, the barrio is also one of Seville’s busiest and touristy neighbourhoods. Hence, the streets can be noisy at night if you are visiting Seville during the high season such as the summer months.
I | WHERE TO STAY IN BARRIO SANTA CRUZ
Barrio Santa Cruz boasts a splendid collection of hotels and boutique accommodations, ranging from high-end to budget finds.
i | Luxury Hotels in Barrio Santa Cruz
1 | The historic and much desired Hotel Alfonso XIII
The historic Hotel Alfonso XIII was designed by the famous Spanish architect, José Espiau y Muñoz and built between 1916 and 1928.
2 | For luxury and a modern feel, stay at EME Catedral Mercer Hotel, Seville
The EME Catedral Mercer Hotel in Seville is housed in a 16th century building, merging contemporary design with historical values. Located only 50 yards of Seville Cathedral. Guests’ favourite is the hotel’s panoramic terrace, offering beautiful views over Seville Cathedral and Giralda.
3 | Hotel Colón Gran Meliá
Hotel Colón Gran Meliá is categorised as a Travel Sustainable Property and is a design luxury hotel with stylish rooms. It offers a gourmet restaurant and a terrace along with a rooftop pool. The restaurant serves traditional dishes with a modern twist. Ten minutes walk to the Royal Alcazar and Seville Cathedral.
Other luxury hotels to stay in Sevilleat Barrio Santa Cruz
Located just steps away from the towering Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower, Hotel Casa 1800 is a converted 19th century mansion which features a traditional courtyard. The accommodation offers rooftop terrace and buffet breakfast.
2 | Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana
Georgina: “We stayed at Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana in Seville. Ideally located to all attractions that were on our list, and a few blocks away from the tram station. It was quiet.”
Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana is a Travel Sustainable Property with stylish modern furnishings housed in a 19th century building. This modern boutique hotel features rooftop terrace with views over the city. Continental breakfast is served every day. Located just 2-3 minutes of Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar. The Bull Ring and Setas de Sevilla were all within minutes.
3 | Hotel Las Casas de la Judería
Hotel Las Casas de la Judería is set within twenty-seven traditional Sevillan houses connected by passages and courtyards while featuring traditional Andalusian patios. The property has retained much of its original features and classic decor. Seville Cathedral is located 7-minutes away.
Other mid-range accommodations in Barrio Santa Cruz
iii | Budget accommodation at the edge of Barrio Santa Cruz
1 | Basic Hotel Puerta de Sevilla
Basic Hotel Puerta de Sevilla is decorated in traditional style and feature air-conditioned rooms, en-suite bathrooms and hairdryers. Ideally located within 10-minutes walking distance of Seville Cathedral
2 | Hotel Murillo
This no-frills budget hotel is housed in an historic building within minutes of the Alcazar and Seville Cathedral. Hotel Murillo feature original ornate wooden ceiling, antique objects and suits of armour along with a library. There is a rooftop terrace, seasonal bar and guests enjoy their daily buffet breakfast served in the dining room.
II | WHAT TO DO IN BARRIO SANTA CRUZ
Primary attractions and places to visit in Barrio Santa Cruz are:
3 | Iglesia Colegial del Salvador — Church of the Divine Saviour at Plaza del Salvador is the second most important church in Seville following Seville Cathedral. Built on the site of a former mosque, the Salvador Church is filled with remarkable altarpieces in solid gold. Definitely worth a visit.
Tip: Join a guided tour of Seville Cathedral and /or the Royal Alcazar.
4 | Casa de Pilatos — besides the Alcázar, there is more insanely beautiful architecture in this well-preserved 16th century palace.
5 | Archivo de Indias — the General Archive of the Indies along with the Alcázar and Seville Cathedral are listed as UNESCO World Heritage Sites since 1987.
6 | Plaza Nueva —this is the central square in Seville and has a statue of King Ferdinand III of Castile. Everyone goes here! 🙂
7 | Jardines de Murillo — a serene park with a monument dedicated to Christopher Columbus.
8 | Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes — this building was a hospital for the priests in the 17th century. The most attractive part is the church with exquisite frescoes.
9 | Palacio de la Condesa de Lebrija — Palace of Lebrija is another architecturally fascinating palace. Home to a beautiful collection of colourful mosaics ranging from ancient Greece to Roman times. An unmissable experience.
10 | Plaza del Cabildo — a lovely quiet semi-circular square to just enjoy… except on a Sunday when it is not so quiet. Stamp Collectors market takes place from very early in the morning till about lunchtime.
11 | Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza
Plaza de Toros de Sevilla is an emblematic monument of Seville. Built in the 18th century, the bullfighting arena is the most important in Spain and can accommodate 13,000 spectators. Bullfighting takes place throughout the year but there are some days when the arena is open to the public for a visit. There is a museum that tells the story of the arena’s evolution and the bullfighting scene.
Georgina: I do not support bullfighting and would never pay to watch a live bullfighting event. I respect those who do as each is to our own. As many of you may already know, I love history and I always visit monuments and landmarks that tells a story of a nation’s culture. I visited this monument to learn of its story and to see for myself what an incredible arena it is. It is an incredible arena indeed!
12 | Experience the spirit and passion of Flamenco
One of the best things to do in Seville is to experience the spirit and passion of flamenco. There are so many venues that offer flamenco shows only while some others offer flamenco and dinner. Most times, these venues are geared towards tourists and it might be difficult not to fall into a tourist trap. Having said that, experiencing a flamenco show is highly recommended.
When walking around Santa Cruz, you are sure to bump into an impromptu flamenco performance. These are pretty good to watch, in return for a small tip. Watch a short video below:
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13 | Walk around Barrio Santa Cruz
… explore the winding and narrow alleyways unhurriedly – the mysterious cobblestone paths are both romantic and intoxicating with its bright, bold colours along with the white-washed walls. The architecture is delightful showcasing a varied of cultures with a unifying trait – conquest, and so many conquests! You can see that the Romans were here, the Visigoths, the Moors, the Castilians and the Spanish Empire.
While exploring the labyrinth of barrio Santa Cruz, go also in search of Calle de los Besos (Street of Kisses) – the narrowest street in the city.
Georgina: We were out late on both nights and it was kinda nice to see the Cathedral glow against the night skies, with not many people around.
14 | Horse-drawn carriage ride
This appeared to be a popular activity among tourists but we did not participate in this activity. If you wish to, learn more about a horse-drawn carriage ride and what it entails here.
Santa Cruz neighbourhood is a great place to try any and all of Seville authentic food — seafood, tapas and drinks.
While Vineria San Telmo is highly recommended and rightly so for their exquisite dishes, Lobo López is a restaurant I would return to in a hearbeat for its natural and relaxed feel. Both were excellent.
Vineria San Telmo — Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4 41004 Sevilla
Lobo López — C. Rosario, 15, 41001 Seville, Spain
For traditional tapas, try Casa Morales > Garcia Vinuesa 11, Seville. Two minutes from Seville Cathedral.
While Seville’s most popular eating spots serve tapas and cañas, you must not leave town without trying Seville’s Spanish ham! This is no ordinary lunch meat ham bought off the shelf, for sure. Once you try, you will want to try again.
The traditional ham is the celebrated Jamón Ibérico — Iberian ham, cured to perfection over years at a time. For the best in Central Seville, go to Flores Gourmet.
Flores Gourmet: Calle San Pablo 24 | Centro, 41001 Seville, Spain
IV | HOW TO MAKE THE BEST OF YOUR VISIT TO SANTA CRUZ, SEVILLE
Seville is a small city and compact. The best way to explore the city is by foot. I can assure you, public transport is not needed at all when visiting the barrio Santa Cruz and all you need is a good pair of walking shoes.
However, if you do wish to experience the public transport in Seville, the Tram (Metro Centro) is the best option. It is a 1.4 kilometre line that runs through the centre of Seville. The Centro Tram line connects Plaza Nueva to Seville Cathedral, with stops at Archivo de Indias, Puerta de Jerez, San Sebastian and San Bernardo.
While exploring the city centre independently is encouraged and easily done, your visit to Seville is significantly enhanced if you join a guided tour. A knowledgeable guide who knows exactly where to take you for the best tapas, best dining, best bodegas, best JamónIbérico and for the best stories ever told.
You may want to consider the following tours when in Seville:
The majestic Seville Cathedral | A Visitor’s Guide to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World
The majestic Seville Cathedral in the sultry Andalusian capital is an astounding sight that awes visitors by its sheer size and glorious splendour. The sprawling interior presents immensity, grandeur and beauty, with towering and massive column arches, ribbed vaults along with various multicoloured stained-glass windows throughout the cathedral. A collection of art treasures and liturgical items provides a glimpse of the opulence and richness the city of Seville enjoyed from the expeditions during the New World.
The largest in Christendom of Gothic style in the world and the third largest in Europe following the Neoclassical Saint Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City and St Paul’s Cathedral in London, Seville Cathedral is an awe-inspiring architectural marvel.
Built on the site of a former 12th century mosque, the magnificent Cathedral is home to a mind-blowing 30-metre tall altarpiece gilded with the finest gold brought back during the New World discovery era. The interior is adorned with masterpieces of Spanish painting and precious religious objects. This remarkable majestic Seville Cathedral is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus and a former minaret converted to a bell tower with the most bells which offer spectacular views over the medieval city.
This wondrous cathedral is of cultural and historic importance and has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987 along with the Real Alcázar and the General Archive of the Indies.
What to expect from this guide
Welcome to The majestic Seville Cathedral | A Visitor’s Guide to the largest Gothic Cathedral in the World. This unmissable guide is specially curated for you to provide historical context as well as practical tips so that you can make the most of your visit to this grandiose sanctuary. You could easily spend a few hours discovering this heritage and in this guide, you will find all the best listed.
Learn about the story of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla), the highlights of the glorious interior, things to do and places to stay nearby.
I | Story of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Sevilla)
The official name of Seville Cathedral is Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede in Spanish) but is better known as Seville Cathedral or Catedral de Sevilla in Spanish.
Nothing prepares visitors for the monumental and glorious sight of the majestic Seville Cathedral in the heart of Seville city, the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia. This Roman Catholic Cathedral is the world’s largest in Gothic architecture and is registered by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site since 1987, along with the Alcázar and General Archive of the Indies.
Construction of the majestic Seville Cathedral was long and ardous, about 106 years to complete.
Here is how it all began …
1 | The history — Good to Know before you go
We know from ancient history, temples and places of worship had been adapted to new spiritual purposes to reflect the spirituality and beliefs of new dominant rulers when a region is conquered. For example the Pantheon of Rome was converted into a church when Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. Similarly, the Hagia Sophia was built in 537 as a cathedral and was the largest cathedral during the Byzantine era in the imperial capital of Constantinople. In 1453, following the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, the Hagia Sophia was converted into a mosque. A number of minarets were added over the years and is now officially known as The Holy Hagia Sophia Grand Mosque.
This phenomenon was no stranger in medieval Spain. During the 781 year-long battles famously known as the Reconquista, Christian monarchs from the north were reconquering the southern cities of Al-Andalus. The Muslim (Moors) ruled some areas of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain. This included the city of Seville which was reconquered in 1248 by Ferdinand III.
2 | When Seville Cathedral was a Mosque
It is generally recorded that the Moors ruled parts of the Iberian Peninsula for 800 years, from early 8th to late 15th centuries. Although they were expelled from Seville in 1248 and finally from the entire Western Europe by 1492, the Moors had left a distinct legacy and a mark on Andalusian culture which are richly noticeable today. One such legacy was the Almohad mosque, construction of which began in 1172 and completed in 1198.
The Almohads were Berber Muslims with origins in the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. The Almohad Caliph, Abu Yaqub Yusuf who ruled Seville in the 12th century ordered a construction of a new great mosque, aimed at making Seville the capital of Al-Andalus.
The mosque was designed by the well-known Ahmad ben Basso. His design encompassed a rectangular building space of 113 metres by 135 metres. It consisted of 17 prayer halls, a minaret and an ablutions courtyard.
The Moors also brought the distinctive orange trees (bitter oranges!) to Seville and the fragrance of oranges can be experienced in Patio de los Naranjos even today.
3 | When the mosque in Seville became the Cathedral in Seville
With the conquest of Seville by Ferdinand III of Castille in December 1248, the great mosque of the Almohad’s was converted to a cathedral. The spaces were partitioned and chapels created.
After half a century of maintenance and repairs, it was decided that a bigger cathedral was built to reflect the city’s wealth as the city was a major thriving trading centre after the reconquest. Accordingly, it was decided in 1401 by the church elders that they would:
“… build a church so beautiful and so grand that those who see it finished will take us for crazy.”
True to their words, the Seville Cathedral is one of the largest places of worship in Christendom and the largest in Gothic style in the world today built on the very site of the Almohad’s great mosque.
Construction began in 1401 and took over a hundred years to build this landmark in the centre of Seville, when it was completed in 1506. Almost half of the eastern side of the cathedral is occupied by the royal chapel, containing the royal tombs.
Seville Cathedral is also the final resting place for Christopher Columbus and his son Ferdinand (Diego) Columbus.
The belfry that towers over the cathedral and the city has its origin in the 12th century. The origin of base of the Giralda is from the Almohad reign and is the oldest part of this monument.
With this nutshell history, let’s dive in to the highlights of the majestic Seville Cathedral.
II | Highlights of the glorious interior of the majestic Seville Cathedral
An architectural masterpiece, Seville Cathedral boasts a spectacular interior and a breathtaking exterior. Access to Seville Cathedral for cultural and tourists visits is via the Puerte de San Cristobal (Door of the Prince) on the south of the building from Plaza de Triunfo (which is also the same access point for the Real Alcazar). Upon entering the Seville Cathedral, visitors will see a small display of works by Murillo and Zurbaran, just a taster of what awaits in the chapels, vestries and treasury.
Here are some of the glorious highlights to take note of when visiting the largest Gothic cathedral in the world:
1 | Gothic interior of the majestic Seville Cathedral
The astounding sight of this sumptuous Gothic haven is a jaw-dropping experience. With a length of 126 metres by 83 metres wide along with a soaring 37 metres in height at the transept and central nave, this colossal cathedral is extremely spacious, airy and exudes an overall sense of harmony. The towering, massive and slender pillars emphasize the height of the extravagant vaulting, while elegantly arch over to support the ribbed vaults. Much of the vaulting is simple and modest, with some uniquely designed geometrical patterns on the ceiling.
There are five aisles laid out in this rectangular floor plan. Much of the aisles are empty and this adds to the immense space that one feels upon entering this cathedral.
The interior is relatively dark but illuminating the interior are the noted 81 stained glass windows which represents the very core of the grandeur of a Gothic cathedral. The oldest stained glass windows dates back to the 13th century, while it is estimated about 75 dates from the 16th to the 19th century.
2 | Silver Altar at Seville Cathedral – A mastery of Sevillian silversmithing
At the northern arm of the transept, is the magnificent Silver Altar, named after the abundant use of silver by the famous silversmiths of Seville.
The centrepiece is the statue of the Virgin Mary with the Child Jesus with the sculptures of San Isidoro and San Leandro on the sides.
Standing testament to the incredible mastery of Sevillian silversmithing are the large, exquisitely crafted sun-like shaped silver monstrance at the rear of the centrepiece which is topped with an intricately designed silver crown.
Just above the Silver Altar is a fine painting of the Ascension of the Virgin Mary. Above this painting, sits a lovely stained-glass window depicting the Ascension of Jesus, by Carlos de Brujas in 1588.
3 | High Altar Main Chapel (Capilla Mayor) at Seville Cathedral
In the centre of the Cathedral is the magnificent High Altar. A masterpiece.
The High Altar is an opulent showpiece of Gothic woodcarving measuring 20 metre high and 23 metre wide – the largest Gothic altar in the world. Given its height, the sculptures higher up are larger, just so to keep the perspective when viewed from floor level. The centre piece features the Virgen de la Sede and is surrounded by 45 wood panels of carvings depicting the Life of Christ and His Apostles along with the Life of the Virgin.
The design of the High Altar was initiated by Pieter Dancart, a Flemish artist in 1482. The 45 panels of intricate work of art which include over 200 figures of saints took some 80 years to complete.
The exquisite masterpiece is lavishly gilded with 3 tons of pure gold brought back from the Americas during the Age of Discovery, pioneered by Christopher Columbus.
The vaulted ceiling above is covered with beautiful, geometrical patterns that are aesthetically pleasing. The vaulted ceiling rests on slender, tall and massive columns that are lined up along the naves. Just below the vaulted ceiling are some stained glass windows.
4 | Tomb of Christopher Columbus at Seville Cathedral
One of the last additions to the majestic Seville Cathedral is the monument to Christopher Columbus in 1899. The tomb of Christopher Columbus is one of the famous attractions at Seville Cathedral. His sarcophagus is held aloft by four life-sized statues who symbolically represent the four kingdoms of Spain during his time — Castile, Aragon, Navara and Leon. The bronze plate rectangular bottom of the coffin is inscribed with the coat-of-arms of Spain along with words in Spanish which reads:
Aqui jacen los restos de Cristobal Colon desde 1796 los guardo la Habana y este sepulcro por R.D.to de 26 de febrero de 1891
Translated to read in English:
(Here lies the remains of Cristobal Colon kept in Havana since 1796 and this sepulchre by R.D.to of February 26, 1891)
The four kingdoms were united into one nation, (modern Spain) by Queen Isabella I and her husband Ferdinand who also funded the explorer’s journey to the New World in 1492.
4.1 | A little about Christopher Columbus
Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451, Christopher Columbus (Cristobal Colon in Spanish) was the famous explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic. He believed that he ‘discovered’ the New World of the Americas, although he never really discovered North America. His exploration brought much trade and wealth to Seville. He was revered a local hero. He died in 1506 at Valladolid, Spain.
Columbus was buried in Valladolid but was moved to Seville in 1509. He was subsequently moved to Santa Domingo in 1537 but he was moved again in 1778 to Cuba.
It is believed that following Cuba’s independence, the remains of Christopher Columbus were returned to Seville in 1898 and was finally laid to rest in Seville Cathedral. It is guaranteed, according to a DNA test in 2006, that the bones in the coffin at Seville Cathedral is that of Christopher Columbus. Sadly, the coffin only has a fifth or less of his bones.
His sarcophagus that is seen at the Seville Cathedral today was designed by sculptor Arturo Melida and was initially installed in Havana, Cuba before being moved to Seville.
4.2 | Ferdinand Columbus – Second son of Christopher Columbus
Ferdinand Columbus also known as Fernando Colón, or Hernando Colon was the second son to Christopher Columbus. Ferdinand was a bibliographer and a cosmographer. He wrote a biography of his father entitled, The Life of the Admiral Christopher Columbus by his son, Ferdinand.
Ferdinand also started a private collection of books and created a library called, La Bibliotheca Colombina. This library is now located on the north side of Patio de los Naranjos.
Ferdinand Columbus is buried in Seville Cathedral. His tombstone is etched on the floor below the central nave near the west entrance.
5 | Royal Chapel (Capilla Real)
The Royal Chapel is a lavish Renaissance styled chapel and is the final resting place of King Ferdinand III of Castille, who reconquered Seville, his wife and Alfonso the Wise, along with their descendant King Peter the Just. King Ferdinand was canonised in 1671 and his tomb is inscribed in Arabic, Hebrew, Latin and Castilian.
Much of the Royal Chapel was completed during the reign of Charles V, King of Spain (Castile and Aragon) from 1516 1556. The chapel is surrounded by an 18th century grille. Steps lead to the crypt below.
6 | Side Chapels and Art in Seville Cathedral
Along with statues and tombs, Seville Cathedral is host to some exquisite works of art.
Among displayed are notable works by the local Baroque artist, Bartolomé Esteban Murillo. In Capilla de San Antonio is The Vision of St Anthony, an incredible piece by Murillo as well as the Baptism of Christ. The Guardian Angel at Altar del Nacimiento and the Immaculate Conception on the ceiling of the Chapter House.
The side chapels are home to some opulent tombs – the Gothic monument of Juan de Cervantes in the Capilla de San Hermenegildo and the tomb of Arcbishop Mendoza in the Capilla de la Antigua are worth seeing.
7 | Sacristy and Treasury
The architectural details of the Main Sacristy (Sacristia Mayor) are an exquisite Renaissance style addition to the Gothic Cathedral. The Greek cross-shaped structure is adorned with columns, richly decorated with plateresque details and crowned by a circular dome. The dome is sculpted with the Final Judgement in three rings (the fiery hell is the lowest ring) and a beautiful roof lantern designed to provide daylight to the hall below.
Preserved within these walls of the sacristy are art treasures that highlight the glorious era of when Christianity was core and religious art flourished in Seville. Finely crafted liturgical items, custodias and crosses made of gold and silver are on display, while the walls are adorned with masterpieces by Goya, Murillo, Campaña (1503 – 1586) and Zurbarán (1598 – 1664).
Click the below to watch a sneak preview. Click the replay button if you wish to watch it again:
8 | La Giralda of the majestic Seville Cathedral (Bell Tower)
The Giralda is the Bell Tower at Seville Cathedral and stands as a symbol of the city of Sevilla’s multicultural heritage. The tower was originally a minaret to the 12th century Almohad mosque but was converted to a church tower after the reconquest. The base of the tower is a testament to the Almohads influence while later additions were made during the Renaissance years. The tower was topped in the 16th century with a four metre high bronze statue, nicknamed Giraldillo, for its function as a weather vane. A full size copy of this weather vane can be seen at the main entrance to the Cathedral (Door of the Prince).
The Giralda Tower is accessible via ramps. Visitors walk up the 35 ramps and there is a short flight of stairs at the top.
Entry to Giralda Tower is included in all ticket types to Seville Cathedral.
Finally, exiting the Seville Cathedral is via Door of the Conception into a pleasant courtyard full of orange trees, Patio de los Naranjos, located on the northern facade of the Catedral de Sevilla.
Patio de los Naranjos has its origins in the Almohad era. There is a fountain in the centre of the courtyard that once was the spot that served as an ablution area for the Almohad mosque.
This nice little courtyard is perfect to relax in, both before and after visiting Seville Cathedral.
II | Seville Cathedral’s Exterior Highlights
The majestic Seville Cathedral has an exterior encompassing magnificent Gothic characteristics. With tall structures, flying buttresses and beautifully adorned doors makes this gigantic structure strikingly pleasing.
There are a total of 15 doors (puertas). Most of the these doors are kept inaccessible and only three primary entrances/exits are often in use. Here are some of the Cathedral’s exterior highlights in addition to the Patio de los Naranjos.
1 | The Door of Assumption or Main Door
This elaborately decorated entrance is located on the west of the cathedral. This remain closed at most times and is open only during festivals.
2 | Door of the Conception | Puerta de la Concepción, Catedral de Sevilla
Door of the Conception (Puerta de la Concepción) is a Gothic style door at the entrance to the north facade of the cathedral. This ornate door was crafted by Demetrio de los Rios and the work was completed in 1895 by Fernandez Casanova.
Visitors exit through this door through to Patio de los Naranjos.
3 | Door of the Prince | Puerta del Príncipe
Door of the Prince also known as Puerta de San Cristobal and is the entrance to the south of the cathedral. It was built by the same architect, Fernandez Casanova between 1887 and 1895.
Standing in front of Puerta del Príncipe is a bronze statute of a young woman dressed in traditional Roman attire, holding a shield and a cross. She is a symbol of victory of Christian Faith. This sculpture is a replica of El Giraldillo, atop the Giralda Tower. However, this sculpture does not rotate.
4 | The Door of Forgiveness (Puerta del Perdón)
The Door of Forgiveness or Puerta del Perdón in Spanish was the main entrance to the Almohad mosque during their reign. These days, the Door of Forgiveness acts as one of the visitors’ entrance to the Cathedral. The name originates from the believe of the faithfuls that only sinners entered through this door to seek forgiveness.
The Door of Forgiveness at the majestic Seville Cathedral tells the story of fusion of Christian and Islamic art. The horseshoe shaped arch is the heritage of the Almohad era while the surrounding plasterwork is from the 16th century. Flanking the arch are four beautiful statues. On the left are Archangels Gabriel and St Peter and on the right are Virgin Mary and St Paul. Above the arch is a depiction of Jesus expelling merchants from the temple.
III | Practical tips to support your visit to Seville Cathedral
Seville Cathedral is located in Barrio Santa Cruz, the heart of the historic city of Seville. The neighbourhood’s maze of winding streets and hidden corners offer a multitude of varied dining options, vibrant nightlife and widest range of accommodations ranging from 5-star to budget. You may also wish to stay a little out of the city and take the inexpensive tram, metro or taxis to and from your accommodation.
The heart of Seville is compact and easily walkable. Many of the city’s attractions are close together and only minutes away on foot. It is perfectly feasible to explore several attractions in a day and explore the tapas bars and the night scene, feeling perfectly refreshed!
1 | Where to Stay near Seville Cathedral for Sightseeing
Anywhere in the vicinity and/or within a short walk of Catedral de Sevilla is ideal for visitors to stay.
1 | Hotel Alfonso XIII
One of the most prestigious hotels in Spain, Hotel Alfonso XIIIis located within minutes of the Reales Alcazares of Seville and the Catedral de Sevilla. Elegantly designed and include Arabic style arches and beautiful colourful ceramic tiles. Guests also enjoy casual al fresco dining as well as breakfast, lunch or dinner.
2 | Eurostars Sevilla Boutique
Within a short walking distance of Seville Cathedral is the Eurostars Sevilla Boutique. This accommodation provides amazing overview from its rooftop terrace and features an outdoor swimming pool and cafe. Includes complimentary breakfast buffet.
3 | Hotel Palacio De Villapanés
Hotel Palacio De Villapanés is a converted 18th century palace and is located just outside of Bario Santa Cruz. Spacious rooms and modern furniture along with rooftop sun terrace and a small plunge pool makes this accommodation ideal for two travellers.
Hotel Casa 1800 Sevilla is a charming boutique hotel located just steps away from the majestic Seville Cathedral and the Royal Alcazar. The property is a renovated 19th century mansion with a traditional Andalusian central courtyard. Features spacious rooms where some are ideal for 3 person family stay, rooftop terrace and breakfast buffet.
2 | Hotel Amadeus Sevilla
Located within yards of Seville Cathedral in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz, Hotel Amadeus Sevilla features a roof terrace with views over the city and the Giralda Tower. The property is based on a classical music theme and instruments are available if guests wish to have a go. Guests are welcomed with a complimentary drink in the 18th century interior patio.
3 | Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana – Travel Sustainable Property
A restored 19th century building, Petit Palace Marques Santa Ana is a boutique hotel with wooden floors and stylish modern furnishings. The property features a rooftop terrace with views over the city. Located less than two minutes walk to Seville Cathedral! Continental breakfast is served every day.
**Georgina: We stayed here on our recent visit in November 2021 and couldn’t have been more pleased with its location, cleanliness and helpful staff.
La Bella Sevilla is a small hotel of only 11 rooms located in a quiet pedestrian street within close proximity of Seville Cathedral, Giralda Tower and the Royal Alcazar. Highly rated for its location as guests can visit all the monuments, landmarks and cultural centres without the need for public transport.
2 | Itaca Sevilla
Hotel Itaca Sevilla is a converted mansion house and is located just 800 metres from the Catedral de Sevilla. Features a seasonal swimming pool and free WiFi. Rooms are soundproofed, air-conditioned and has a minibar and flat screen TV.
2 | Tips and Tours: How to make the best of your visit to Seville Cathedral
1 | Best time to Visit:
Early morning is best as soon as the Cathedral doors open to beat the crowds.
Monday through to Friday: 10:45 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: 2:30 p.m. to 6.00 p.m.
** The ticket office closes one hour before the Cathedral and sometimes earlier.
2 | Experience a Mass:
Mass is said daily throughout the day and is free to attend. Check schedule on the official website here.
3 | Tickets to Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower
If its just the Seville Cathedral you wish to visit, and you do not wish to be in a guided tour, buy the fast-track ticket which gives you access to Catedral de Sevilla and the Giralda Tower. This ticket is valid for the whole day, you do not have to wait in queue and you can explore at your own pace. Peruse and buy your ticket to Seville Cathedral >>
4 | Timing
Allow ample time to explore, at least a couple of hours and a little more if climbing up to the top of the Giralda Tower. Last entry to the Giralda tour is one hour before closing time.
5 | Experience a Journey through Time – A Guided tour of the Roofs of the Cathedral
A tour of the Roofs of Seville Cathedral is offered by the Cathedral at specific times of day. The tour is a journey through time, between 15th and 16 centuries when the Cathedral was built. Tickets for this tour are available directly from the Cathedral’s ticket office. It is not included in the Seville Cathedral and Giralda Tower admission ticket.
6 | Guided Tours
Guided tours of the Cathedral and Giralda Tower are available throughout the week. There are several options to suit visitors’ preferred language also.
This tour gives you skip-the-line access with a guided tour of the Cathedral and Giralda. Check availability >>
A perfect option if you wish to explore more in a day. Visit Seville Cathedral along with the iconic Real Alcazar with a tour guide who will ensure you know all there is about these two monuments. Check availability >>
3 | What’s Nearby / Nearby attractions
1 | Visit the Royal Alcazar
Visit one of the most important palace complexes in the world for an experience you will never forget.
The Royal Alcazar has captivated one and all with its Mudejar architecture spanning hundreds of years across civilisation, cultures and dynasties. Walk in the footsteps of the Spanish kings and be transported to a different era. Truly an unmissable experience.
Take a break from sightseeing and visit one of the best and fun places for shopping in Seville.
Calle de las Sierpes is lined with quaint shops, inviting little boutiques and atmospheric cafes.
3 | Stop for a snack or lunch
Stop-by at Confiteria La Campana for a little treat of candied oranges or figs. Try some Spanish pastries and fuel up to explore more of the city. La Campana has been serving sweet toothed’s since 1885.
On the other hand, if you are peckish and wish to try some delicious tapas, Restaurante Baco is a great place to relax and enjoy a delicious selection of tapas. Great service and friendly staff.
Address: C. Francos, 42, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Finally … the lasting legacy of the majestic Seville Cathedral
An iconic landmark of Seville the majestic Seville Cathedral is exquisite, immense and a sight to behold. It stands robust after 600 years with a legacy that continues to draw millions of visitors each year. You can gaze from the outside, be blown away when viewing from the top and absolutely marvel at the grandiose and opulence inside from the moment you step in. This is one majestic cathedral not to miss.
Watch this youtube video, a sneak peek into the majestic Seville Cathedral.
Our trip to Seville was undertaken in late November, 2021. All travel and safety protocols were adhered to. It was fully self-funded and no part of our trip was sponsored in any way.
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Add: Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Hours: 10:45 – 5:00 pm
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Presiding over the city of Seville for almost a millennium is the Giralda, a monument that stands as testament to the fusion of architecture, reflecting the cultures and civilisations that has enriched this historic city.
Many define it as special while some say it is just built of stone. The Giralda Tower in Seville is indeed unique. It gives a sense of permanence, and perspective on the passage of time across civilisations as well as the union of cultures that is emblematic of the passionate and mysterious Andalusian capital in Southern Spain. Perhaps also, because the iconic Giralda Tower in Seville was born of the Almohad dynasty, a minaret to the then famous mosque and now, is a Renaissance style bell tower for Cathedral Santa Maria de la Sede (simply known as Seville Cathedral) today. The Giralda Tower remain as one of the most iconic symbols of Seville since the Middle Ages.
The Tower offer charming views over the bijou city — Patio de los Naranjos, sounds of guitar music, close-up of the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and the exotic flamenco rhythms that never fail to seduce and charm you.
‘Giralda’ means “one that turns” in Spanish and takes its name from the weather vane at the top of the tower (the bronze sculpture).
The Giralda Tower or La Giralda (in Spanish) of Seville Cathedral is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO since 1987, along with the Real Alcázar and the General Archive of the Indies. It is a popular attraction, accessed from within Seville Cathedral. We highly recommend that you go. La Giralda will not disappoint. Access to Giralda Tower is included in the Tour to the Seville Cathedral.
This guide shares a brief history of the Giralda Tower, features on what makes the tower unique and ways on how to explore the monument.
The Giralda Tower was born in 1184 as a minaret to the mosque that was built in 1176. The base of the minaret was in cut stone and the main body of the minaret was built in brick, with a later addition of a small secondary shaft at the top of the tower. Crowning the minaret were four golden balls and metal spheres to top the tower. In addition to bricks sourced locally, recycled marble were used from old Umayyad masterpieces. It was the biggest mosque in the Andalusian territory and the pride of the Almohads during their reign.
1 | The design of the minaret
The mosque had a rectangular floor measuring 113 by 135 metres decorated in Cordoban style with stucco and wood, embellished with sandalwood, ivory, ebony, gold and silver. Its base was a square at street level. The foundation was built with solid stones and the tower consisted of two sections, the main shaft and a smaller shaft with a series of ramps so a horse or donkey could carry the Islamic leader to the top of the tower five times a day so he could call for prayers.
2 | From a minaret to a bell tower
However, when Seville was reconquered in 1248 by the Castillian Christians, the mosque was converted to a cathedral. In doing so, some exits and archways were closed off and a number of small chapels were created. The minaret was used as a bell tower.
3 | Rebuilding of the mosque/cathedral
The mosque/cathedral was badly damaged in 1356 during the Basel Earthquake. The metal spheres that topped the structure fell and these were replaced with a cross and bell around 1400s.
Following the earthquake, rebuilding of the Cathedral commenced. The construction project brought together the best artisans in the trade from all over the Castilian empire, as far as the Netherlands and Germany. Work was entrusted to the famous architect of the time, Hernan Ruiz II. The Cathedral was completed in 1506, after some 106 years.
Known simply as Seville Cathedral, it is the largest Catholic Cathedral of Gothic style in the world.
II | What makes the Giralda Tower in Seville unique| 5 features to lookout for when you visit
There are no great ornaments that adorn La Giralda but its uniqueness lies in its marriage of architecture between a fine example of Arab design of the time and the 16th century Renaissance additions, along with its famous bells in the belfry.
Here are some features across civilisations to look out for when you visit:
1 |Design of the Giralda Tower in Seville
The original design of the minaret was inspired by Koutoubia, the great mosque of Morocco, located in Marrakech. As can be noted from the photo above, the facade of the minaret reflect simple stone base and bricks. The main shaft followed by a smaller shaft with netting design on the walls. The windows on the tower are placed in tune with the ramps in order to maximise light coming through to the path, and vary from a single horseshoe arch to double arched openings. They are framed by marble columns and arabesque carvings.
When Seville Cathedral was constructed in the 16th century, the architect, Hernan Ruiz II also constructed an extension to the solid stone tower of two shafts and winding ramps. The Christian Renaissance style belfry was added to the top of the tower to house the bells. The belfry was constructed between 1458 and 1568. With the addition of the belfry, the tower stood at 96 metres.
The additions encompassed several tiers. The lower base is square, to fit the top of what was the minaret. It is adorned with lantern-like ‘windows’ structure and an arch in the middle on each of its sides. It is here that the Cathedral bells are hung, in between the pillars. On each corners are mounted bronze flower vases with lillies. In the centre, there is a circular opening like a dome and the top edge is decorated with stone urns. Another tier is added to this section.
This second tier is narrower and features two square sections. In 1765, a beautiful bell was installed in the upper level (attic) of this story. The top of the upper square is home to two circular sections of decreasing sizes. The fourth looks like a jar, and is named “La Tinaja.” (The Jar). Black tiles are used as decoration throughout the belfry.
On the summit, sits a rotating sculpture, known as Giraldillo, (weather wane), that gives the Tower its name. With the Giraldillo, the height of the tower is 103 metres. The Giralda Tower dominated the skyline for 800 years but now, it is the second tallest structure in Seville following Sevilla Tower at 178 metres high.
2 | The Bells at the Giralda Tower in Seville
A unique feature of the Giralda Tower is that it has 25 bells. There are 24 in the belfry and 1 in the attic. Out of the 24 bells, 6 are clapper bells. The other 18 turn around. Therefore, Seville Cathedral is not only the largest Gothic cathedral in the world but it is also one with the greatest number of bells.
3 | Giraldillo Seville — a symbol of victory
The Giraldillo was originally called the Triumph of the Victorious Faith, to symbolise the victory of Christianity over the Muslim world. It was regarded as the largest sculpture of European Renaissance, weighing at more than 1000 kilograms. It embodies a sculpture of a woman about 4 metres high and 4 metres wide carrying a flag pole and a cross, symbolising the victory of Faith. She is made of bronze and is held together with metal bars, while being supported on a vertical metal axis. The vertical axis allows the statue to rotate around like a weather vane.
Time took a toll on the Giraldillo. Damaged and worn, the Giraldillo was moved to the Andalusian Historical Heritage Institute for restoration in 1999 while a replica was placed on the summit of the Giralda Tower. The Giraldillo was returned to its rightfully honoured place in 2005 together with instrumentation to monitor its condition.
The unique design of the Giralda Tower in Seville appears to have inspired some countries or states to replicate their very own towers. More on this, below.
4 | The 35 ramps at the Giralda in Seville
Visitors can visit the belfry and reach the top of the tower via a series of ramps and a short flight of stairs.
There are 35 ramps, wide enough and gently inclining, winding around the perimeter of its core to the top of the tower. You get to walk in the footsteps of history as these are the very same ramps that were placed instead of stairs to ease the journey of a horse that carried the Islamic leader to the top of the tower five times a day so he could call for prayers back in the 12th century.
There is a short flight of stairs to reach the top for spectacular vistas over the historic city of Seville.
5 | The Views over Seville from the Giralda Tower
For a 360 view of the historic city of Seville, you need to reach the belfry. As you climb to the belfry, up the 35 ramps, you can stop at each ramp and look out the windows to view the surroundings. At the belfry, you can walk around the four sides for spectacular views of Seville.
III | The Giralda Tower in Seville has inspired other buildings
There are some towers across the world that appear to have borrowed their design from the La Giralda. Here are just a few as examples.
IV | How to visit the Giralda Tower
There are so many ways with a good selection of ticket options to visit the Giralda Tower for best experience. You could select from either to visit on your own by pre purchasing your ticket online or select to join a guided tour. Both options are available by pre purchasing your ticket online and both include priority access. Your experience will be significantly enhanced if you opt for a guided tour as you will learn of the history from a knowledgeable guide.
TTS recommends the following three best ways to experience the La Giralda to suit your interests:
1 | Explore independently by pre purchasing a ticket online that gives you skip-the-line access.
In the midst of evergreen magnolias, fan palms, jasmine and myrtle, wisteria, trees of lemons and oranges is the enchanting Mercury Pond at Royal Alcazar in Seville.
A distinguished destination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, in the sunny Andalusian capital city of Seville, the Royal Alcazar in Seville is a “must see” attraction for visitors to this part of the Iberian Peninsula in Spain.
The enchanting Mercury Pond at Royal Alcazar was built at the height of the palace. Therefore, it is located at the highest point of the gardens at the Royal Alcazar of Seville, thus giving visitors a strategic vantage point of a broader perspective of the surrounding gardens. It is usually the first point from whence you would begin your garden walk at the Royal Alcazar.
The Mercury Pond is a large pool with a fountain filled with fish. Formerly it was a storage point supplying water to the palace brought from Carmona, a town on the outskirts of Seville. Water crashes from a spout about eight metres high from the upper building into the basin below. The Pond takes its name from the bronze statue, a Renaissance addition. It is also famously known as Garden of the Pond.
Accenting the pond is a statue of the Greek god, Mercury, a deity of industry and commerce. The bronze statue was sculpted in 1576 and have been credited to Diego de Pesquera and Bartolome Morel. Surrounded by railings, figures of lions holding shields at the angles and 18 balls with pyramidal spikes.
The Mercury Pond was important to King Philip V. It was at this very pond where the king would listen to the famous Italian singer, Farinelli until late/early hours of the morning.
Backdrop to the Mercury Pond is Galleria de Grutesco.
An overview of Galleria de Grutesco — the backdrop to the Mercury Pond
Behind the Mercury Pond is a long wall of 160 metres that runs northwest-southeast direction which make up the Galleria de Grutesco (Grotto Gallery). The wall is covered with a series of various stones, plastering and frescoes of classic mythological scenes together with some Renaissance paintings. The original foundation to the Galleria de Grutesco (Grotto Gallery) dates to the 12th century when the Almohad were rulers of Seville. Then, the wall was built as a defensive wall against flooding of the Tagarete River. However, in 1612, the architect Vermondo Resta set out to transform and built upon the defensive wall into a Grotto Gallery. The work continued into the 19th century, giving the wall an appearance it has today.
It has an upper corridor, all through the 160 metres via some narrow steps. The views from the upper gallery over the gardens of the Royal Alcazar are incredible, one not to miss.
How to visit the Mercury Pond at Royal Alcazar Seville
The Royal Alcazar in Seville is a very popular attraction and the waiting time to purchase a ticket and entry can run into hours. In addition, there is a capacity limit of 750 visitors a day. So , if this limit is reached, it is reached! You may have to return on another occasion to experience the Royal Alcazar. To avoid disappointment, you could book your tickets with alcazarsevilla. org or you may wish to combine your visit to other attractions in Seville on a skip-the-line guided tour tickets.
Hours:Apr-Sept: 9:30 am to 7 pm | Oct-Mar: 9:30 am to 5 pm
Essential Information you need to know before your visit:
The Palace has a maximum capacity of 750 visitors. When it is full, it is full! Waiting times can be extremely long during peak times. Avoid the queues, save time and book ahead your skip-the-line tickets.