Sevilla, capital of Andalusia
Sevilla, the capital of Andalusia, is a city with millions inhabitants full of contrasts. The old town represents the Spain of medieval times with some labyrinthine alleyways, a wonderful and partly Moorish arquitecture and numerous small restaurants. Contrasty to this, there is the modern Sevilla with some distinctive and impressive modern buildings, a traffic of a world city and an artistic and cultural life that is very notable.
Also the river Guadalquivir that flows through the city and with its distinctive bridges also contributes to the general arquitectonical impression of the city that is very attractive. The special attraction of this city is its contrasts, the old Moorish arquitecture and arts and the extreme modern and quite gorgeous new city image.
Sevilla is, by the way, considered as one of the hottest places of Europe; We could not confirm this as our tour was relatively short. During our stay it was sunny and considering it was October also very warm.
City tours through Sevilla
Being in such a worth seeing city as Sevilla, a city tour should be considered. By this way, one gets the first overview in which one can oversee each of the sightseeing points much better.
There are different possibilities offered for this in Sevilla. The most "classic" way is, of course, the city tour by bus. As in Sevilla, two companies are competing, the red buses of the Sevilla tour City Sightseeing and the yellow-green ones of the Tour por Sevilla. Of course, each one considers itself as the best. If there are differences and which ones these are can be only tested by using both. The line does not differ considerably.
By looking at the offer, the red tour should be the better one. This line is served by very modern double-decker buses with an open upper deck and air conditioner. The latter is, according to our opinion, anyway the only alternative that makes sense as this is the only way one sees enough from the city. In the closed lower deck one surely also hears a lot of interesting things, but one can see relatively few.
The advantage of this tour is that with the ticket one can also use the tram. Otherwise, the ticket is valid for 24 hours stop and go. Thus, during the validation time, one can get in and off the bus whenever one likes to and by this way, one can have a better view to each of the destinations.
We generally use to have the complete tour at first. By this way, we get a first overview and can then decide which points we want to approach in order to have a more intensive view. The yellow-green buses are partly some older models, but this can be also attractive. Here, the upper deck is also open and the tickets also have a validdity for one day with the option to get in and off any time one wants to.
We finally decided to take the Tour por Sevilla, and then we immediately had to decide again, as to be exactly, the sightseeing tour consists on four tour-options. The bus tour "Tour Exposición del 29" leads in a big loop to many important sightseeings of Sevilla, the "Tour Romantico" in a small loop to a villa district with some gorgeous buildings and museums. What was not very pleasant to us was the quite few information provided for each tour; Not even the personnel knew exactly which bus is going to drive which tour, neither the buses where signposted accordingly; As a result, we made two times the "Tour Romantico" without wanting it. This was not a big problem at all and in dit very interesting, but we could have used the time for some other sightseeings.
But the narrow and labyrinthine oldtown of Sevilla is not passable for buses. But on the other hand, just there are many important sightseeings. As a result, the responsible people made a virtude out of this need and added two tours on foot to their bus tours, the "Tour a Pie por Santa Cruz" and the "Tour a Pie por Triana". By taking part on all these tours, one really made use of the ticket.
The tour times of both companies are almost the same. During the winter time, the red buses tour from 10.00 a.m. to 05.00 p.m., in the summer time from 09.30 a.m. to 08.00 p.m. The yellow-green ones tour during the winter time from 10.00 to 05.30 p.m., in the summer time from 09.30 a.m. to 08.00 p.m, each of them every 30 minutes. In all buses it is offered to listen to the explanations via headphones. The red buses certainly offer an advantage with 16 different languages in contrast to the yellow-green ones with 9 languages. But for the German tourist this might not be interesting, as German is always available.
The trip on boat is an interesting addition. From Torre del Oro, one navigates on the Guadalquivir for about half an hour passing the shore buildings and under the very interesting and impressive bridges of Sevilla, and back again. We consider this boat tour should not be missed.
Those who prefer it more romantically can rent one of the numerous hackney carriages and be taken for a round trip through the oldtown. But the price for it is, with 40 euros for 40 to 60 minutes, not very cheap. Those who accept the very first offer might probably pay much more. The trip surely is a nice experience, but as per our opinion, one sees relatively few things and the explanations also are rather sparse.
The Cathedral Santa Maria de la Sede
The name of the cathedral of Sevilla, "Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede" is so gorgeous and splendid as the building itself. After all, it has beaten some records. By this way, the building is the biggest gothic cathedral of the world and the third biggest of all cathedrals. It also has the biggest altarpiece of the world that is located in the Capilla Mayor.
It is already a gorgeous building either from the interior as also from the exterior that outstands the oldtown of Sevilla. With a length of 115 m, a width of 74 m and a height of 40 m it cannot be missed. Thereby, the Giralda, the bell tower is not even considered, as this is of a height of 97 m.
Also the cathedral of Sevilla was built on the sockets of the Roman times and that looks back to a long history. It began with a roman temple over which the first church had been set. At this place, the Moors built their mosque from which still the former minaret, the Giralda of today, as also the orange-tree patio are kept.
In this case, it has to be appreciated that the christs, after having taken over the power, conserved the church mainly in its original way. Finally, an earth quake led to the decision to build a new cathedral and by this way, this impressive and still today admirable building was originated.
What is unusual for churches and reminds on the moorish times is the Patio de los Naranjos, in which centre an octagonal fountain is standing. The church nave is also specially impressive, an interior that is standing on some massive but still weak appearing pillars. Numerous chapels with high valued art treasures make the visit of this cathedral to be a long effective event. In the already mentioned Capilla Mayor, there is the world biggest altarpiece which surface is of a width of 20 m and a height of 23 m. In the other chapels, there is still a range of other valuable paintings to see and also some sarcophagus with the mortal remains of famous personalities are also accommodated in the cathedral. Also the remainings of Christopher Columbus are supposed to be here, but it is not very clear.
The Patios de los Naranjos accommodate a very special treasure in the eastern wing, in which there is the library of the cathedral chapter, which first works were from the 13th century and that contains highly valued works from several centuries. By this way, one finds some hand writings of Columbus about the discovery of America and some valued bibles. The portals of the cathedral area a real feast to the eyes for arts and arquitecture lovers, adorned with ornaments and reliefs, they complete the picture of the church.
With its height of 97m, the Giralda, the former Moorish minaret, rises far over the surrounding buildings and the city. Originally, the tower was topped by four golden copper balls, but during the usage of the Christians, also the Giralda was restructured and instead of the copper balls a belfry with 24 bells was placed there. Everything is topped by a 4 m heighted female figure that serves as a wind flag.
The interior of the Giralda also goes back to the Moorish times. Here, one does not find any stairs as usual but a ramp of a width of 2,50 m that ranks slightly uphill alongside the walls of the Giralda. During our ascend to the bell tower, we were enthusiastic by this variant. The foot path certainly gets longer compared to the stairs, but the ascend is significantly easier and more pleasant. Also the width of 2,50 m is favourable to the visitors, as despite of the high numbers of visitors, there is no rush there. We can only recommend everybody to dare this ascend, as the view from the gallery at a height of 70 m really is phantastic and adventurous.
The King's Palace Reales Alcázar
What is very nive of Sevilla's old town is that here, all the most important sightseeings are located on a small space and it is very easy to get there also on foot. At only a few metres distance from the cathedral there are the palaces and gardens of the Reales Alcazáres, the Kings Palace.
This complex is also based on Moorish builders who made the Reales Alcázares to be built since the 9th century. But Sevilla was relatively early reconquered by the Christian Kings. But they left the complex practically untouched but expanded it by some new buildings. Pedro "The cruel", after whom a part of the palace was named, ordered some Moorish builders for this from the allianced and rich cities Granada and Toledo. By this way, a palace in Arabian style was originated under Christian authority that counts to the most beautiful ones of Andalusia.
A further additional building was founded by Charles V., but in total, the palace complex remained in the Arabian style it was originally built. Fortunately, as due to this, today, the tourists rush to this place in order to enjoy this unforgettable and valuable sightseeing.
With the ticket it is possible to borrow a video guide and also, one gets a plan of the complex. By this way, it is possible to get an explanation in one's mother tongue, a thing one also should not abstain from. We think that without these explanations, we could not have had explored the complex intensively enough and many important details would have got lost.
One is guided room by room through the complex that one concludes bit by bit. One really gets a lot offered for the entrance fee of 7 euros, the Palaces, the chambers and patios are a feast for the eyes. Specially the Palace of "Peter the Cruel" is very attractive with its abundantly adorned rooms full of fine designs made of tiles, ornaments and stuccoworks. An inscirption in Arabian language is a little juicy, saying that Allah is powerful and there is no other conqueror except him. Therewith, the suspiction comes up that the Arabian builders have "coned" their Christian clients a little.
The Palace of Chales V. built in the style of the Rennaissance is far not as gorgeous but well worth seeing. What is specially outstanding here are the twelve Brussels tapestries representing some scenes of the leaguer of Tunis by the royal troups.
In the gardens of Alcázar one can see that the Moorish monarchs well knew how to have a nice live also in this hot area. Dense green bushes, shady places and cool grottos, nerved by water flows as also bathing complexes proove this.
Further sightseeings of Sevilla
Reales Alcázar and the cathedral are surely the most famous sightseeings of Sevilla, but therewith, the highlights of the city are far not over. Practically at every turn one finds some interesting buildings and monuments.
At the river Guadalquivir, right at the landing points of the ship tours, the gold tower is standing, the Torre del Oro. The origin of this name is not really clear as there are two explanations. The first says that in former times, the roof of the tower was covered with golden stones and the second one says that in former times, the gold and the silver from America had been kept there.
The tower itself is one of the last buildings of the Moors in Sevilla. It was founded in the 12th century as the tower of defense. Today it serves as a museum that is focused on shipping.
In the year 1929, the Ibero-American Expo took place in Sevilla, a thing that provided a series of new and impressive buildings and parks to the city. The apparently most significant one is the Plaza de Espaņa, a very popular sightseeing today. It is an ensemble of impressive buildings of a curved shape and in which the arquitects tried to concentrate all styles of the Spanish arquitecture in it. The 82m heighted corner towers are conected by two galleries in the central point, the Palacio Central. From these galleries, one has a very beautiful view over the complex. The place in front of the buildings leads to a water flow with abundantly adorned bridges. What is also very interesting are the fountains alongside the building, that present and represent all spanish provinces.
At the adjacent Plaza de América there are some museums arranged in the three former exhibition pavillons, the Museum of Popular Art (Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares) and the Arqueology Museum (Museo Arqueológico).
The bridges over the river Guadalquivir are partly of a breathtaking elegance and boldness, specially the relatively new ones Puente de la Barqueta and Puente del Alamillo. The best way to admire them is by enjoying a boat trip on the river.
One island in the Guadalquivir plays a major role. The Isla de la Cartuja was chosen in the year 1992 as exhibition complex for the world exhibition EXPo that took place that year. It was the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America by Columbus and by this way, the motto of this EXPO was the topic "Era of discoveries". Up to then, the only building on this island was the convent Santa Maria de las Cuevas, in which Columbus planned his journey at that time. It was choosen as a centre point ans as a royal pavillon around which the sightseeings of the EXPO had been arranged. They were a total of 70 pavillons from which today 44 are remaining. Today, one can admire some contemporary arts in the former convent.
The old Expo complex has been revaluated as a high-tech leisure park. As a "Magic Island", Isla Mágica, an imaginative game all around discoveries is commercialized. From May up to mid September it is daily opened and in the other months only on the week ends.
Otherwise, the old town of Sevilla is full of interesting sightseeings. Mentioning all the buildings, churches, monuments or simply the beautyful antiquated alleyways would go beyond the scope of this report. But still there is to mention that of course, Sevilla also has a bulllring. Such an emblem is simply obligatory in an Andalusian city .
Hotel Casona de San Andrés
We were very relieved when we arrived at our hotel, the Casona de San Andrés. We arrived in Sevilla during the rush hour; Generally, it is not a pleasure to drive with the car through Sevilla, thus at such a daytime it gets even worse and the hotel is located amidst the historical old town. Those who could manage to orientate in this tangle of alleayways and labyrinthine streets can be really relieved.
To be exactly, we did not arrive by car, as there are no parking possibilities. There is practical no parking space in the historical old town, thus one can only park the car in the underground car park of the department store EL Corte Inglés. From there, it takes about 5 minutes walking up to the hotel. We left the car in the garage during our whole stay in Sevilla, as we were really not keen on getting with it into the hustle. But there is also no need for this, as due to the location of the hotel amidst the old town, all important sightseeings are accessible on foot. The less positive surprise came before the departure, thus the parking fees. This was the most expensive parking within our whole journey.
The Casona de San Andrés is centrally located at a place beside the church San Andrés in a renovated Palacio of the 19th century. The first impression from the exterior is very good and also the second at the reception in the patio was. We were satisfied with the room we got. But we had been told by some travellers who were also doing a tour through Andalusia that we had been very lucky to get a room with a window to the exterior. In Casona de San Andrés this is not a matter of course at all. There is a number of rooms with only a door and a window to the stairways.
After we had to leave our first room as the door was broken, we got a larger room that surely belonged to the better ones. The room was pleasant, clean and equipped with a heating, telephone, SAT-TV and a safe. There also was enough space in the room, a thing that is not a matter of course in an hotel room. The bathroom was very spacious, with a bath tube and a shower, soap, towels, tooth utensils and hair dryer.
But what we had to get a little used to was the proximity to the church. At the same level of our room there was the church tower at a distance of approximately 10 metres which bells rang decently and very loudly any 30 minutes. Fortunately, this ended around 11.00 p.m., so that sleeping got possible.
There are enough restaurants within the area of the Casona de San Andrés so that one finds a suitable location within a few minutes. Due to the reason it is located amidst the old town, it is anyway recommendable to have a walk through the alleyways in the evening.
But the included breakfast resulted to be a big surprise. The hotel certainly appears to be tasteful in the building of a former Palacio and architecturally very attractive, but the breakfast and the breakfast room are absolutely disappointing. The room appears as a small cheap waiting room without any charme and very narrow. One will surely experience a higher level in any station coffee bar, as one gets his breakfast served on some plastic plates with other plastic tableware, as usual in a snack bar. There are some paper cups for the tea or the coffee; Everything is afterwards thrown in a garbage bag that is standing in the room. The breakfast itself was rather spartan. Beside some bread and rolls there is butter, marmelade and packed cookies.
Conclusion: The Casona de San Andrés has the big advantage to be located amidst the old town of Sevilla, a thing that is of course very useful. If one gets a room with a window, there is nothing to say against the accommodation. But the breakfast offered and the high parking costs are everything else but delightful.
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Author: Michael Nitzschke; Copyright: Patrick Wagner, www.tourist-guide.biz