Following on from his trip to Lisbon, Shafquat Arefeen travelled to Seville for three days- he shares his experience of the Spanish city.
To get to Seville from Lisbon, we decided to hire a car at Badajoz. Spain’s roads are significantly better than Portugal’s, which made travelling pretty comfortable. Seville is considered the capital and largest city of Andalusia, the southern province of Spain. It has a wonderful subway system that lets you discover all parts of the city without having to tire yourself out walking long distances. Littered with dozens of attractions, one can easily spend days (we spent 3) getting lost in the beauty of the city. In the centre lie two of the city’s most well-known landmarks, the Cathedral and the Real (Royal) Alcazar. The Seville Cathedral is an immense Gothic structure, so big that it is the largest in the world, surpassing even Hagia Sophia. You can find Christopher Columbus’s burial site here, a man known for exploring new lands in name of the Spanish rulers.
The 16th century Cathedral stands on the site of a previous mosque. The bell tower, La Giralda, is in actual fact the 12th century minaret of the former mosque, which was converted after the Reconquista. With its square base, it was built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh, and its decorative features still remain today. You can climb all the way to the top of La Giralda and look down upon the beautiful city. Its a long climb up, so I was relieved to feel the cool breeze at the top to cool me back down!
Opposite the Cathedral is the Real Alcazar, a royal palace that you can literally spend a whole day in. Just stepping into the building is like being transported to another age, which is probably why many episodes of the popular television show Game of Thrones have been shot here. Originally built by the Muslim Almohads, the building still contains a lot of the original Moorish architecture. There is Arabic script all over the palace, and the traditional eight-point star on the walls, ceilings and floors. In addition to the beautiful building itself, you could walk through the the palace gardens for hours.
The Plaza de España is a more contemporary structure, built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Exposition. The grand building offers perfect panoramic views; we went at around 8am and had the entire Plaza to ourselves! About an hour later, it was covered with tourists. As the Plaza is a little further out from the other main attractions of the city, it’s recommended to visit this first and then move onto the city centre.
We also had the chance to see the view from Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), a watchtower built by the Muslims in the 13th century, as well as the incredible, and ultra-modern, Metropol Parasol, completed in 2011 and claimed to be the largest wooden structure in the world. There are also many other Cathedrals throughout the city that have free/cheap entrance fees. The Plaza de Toros is a giant bullring and if you happen to be in the area during the Seville Fair, you may be able to catch some of Seville’s infamous bullfighting.
Unfortunately we were not able to find any functioning mosques during our trip (they are not easy to find), however, there is the Fundacion Mezquita de Sevilla, an Islamic Centre where prayers are held five times a day. The group has been campaigning for the right to build a mosque in the city since 2000. There is also a small mosque, the Mesquite Ishbilia.
Halal food is a little more accessible compared to Lisbon. We found ourselves eating at a halal shawarma shop beside the Puerta de Jerez station (click for map). It’s open pretty late and close to many landmarks, the nearest being Torre del Oro. We also had some Moroccan food at Fez Restaurante. It was great food, but a little pricey, and took a long time to arrive even though we were the only customers in the restaurant.
Quicktip: If you’re a student, make sure to bring your Student Card with you. Students get incredible discounts for access into venues.
For more details about Shafquat’s trip, check out his blog here.