Barrio Santa Cruz
Located to the east of the Old City, the Barrio Santa Cruz is bordered by the Guadalquivir River. The neighborhood was Seville’s Jewish quarter until the late 1300s, when synagogues were closed, homes were confiscated and thousands of Jewish people were either killed or forced to convert to Christianity. A neighborhood of narrow, cobbled alleys and streets, the barrio is filled with orange trees, colorfully tiled patios and small-scale plazas as well as a wide array of tapas bars and restaurants. Closed to vehicle traffic, the neighborhood is perfect for visitors who want to experience the ambience of a medieval Spanish city.
Torre del Oro
No other structure in Seville better explains the role that the Guadalquivir River played during Spain’s colonial period than Torre del Oro, the Golden Tower. Seville owed much of its success in maritime trade to the navigable river, which offered ships more protection than a traditional European port. For centuries, a heavy chain was strung across the river from the tower to protect the city from seafaring invaders. Built in the early 1200s, the watchtower’s name comes from the golden glow that the reflection of its building materials casts on the river. Today, the tower is home to a maritime museum that outlines the river’s importance throughout Seville’s history. Visitors can enjoy views of waterway and city from a rooftop viewing platform.
Built on the site of a grand Almohad Mosque, Seville’s medieval cathedral was built to demonstrate Seville’s power and wealth after the Reconquista. At the time of its completion in the 16th century, it supplanted the Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world. It is still the third-largest church in Europe, and the biggest by volume. The mammoth Gothic structure features an altarpiece depicting the life of Jesus that includes more than 1,000 figures covered in gold leaf. The cathedral’s artistic treasures include Pedro de Campaña’s Descent from the Cross, Francisco de Zurbarán’s Santa Teresa and Bartolomé Esteban Murillo’s masterpiece, La Inmaculada. Within the church’s transept lies the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
Alcazar of Seville
Still used today by Spain’s Royal family on state occasions, the Alcazar complex of royal palaces, patios and gardens has undergone many transformations over its more than one-thousand-year history. In the 11th century, Muslim Moors constructed a palace on the site of a 10th-century fort, which was converted to a Gothic-style structure in the 13th century. One hundred years later, King Pedro hired Moorish craftsmen to rebuild and expand the palace in the Mudéjar style. From the starry design of the domed ceiling in the Salón de Embajadores (Ambassadors’ Hall) to the delicate arches and plasterwork of the Patio de las Doncellas (Patio of Maidens), the Palacio de Don Pedro is considered one of the top tourist attractions in Seville.
The Giralda is the only remaining structure of the 12th-century mosque torn down during the construction of the Seville Cathedral. Moors built the minaret with a series of ramps so that guards could ride to the top on horseback. Today, the 35 ramps make it easy for visitors to ascend to the summit to enjoy panoramic views of the city below. The bell tower is capped with a bronze weathervane called El Giraldillo, which is a symbol that represents the triumph of faith. The entrance to the tower is located in the cathedral’s northeastern corner.