Our roving retirement nomadic lifestyle sometimes gives us the flexibility to change our travel plans on the fly. Seville was not on our original Spanish tour list, but we realized we hadn’t really seen the city on our last trip to Spain and we had to drive right through it anyway on our way to Portugal. So, we decided to give the city another look along with a day in Cadiz.
Staying in the heart of the old town of Seville, near the Cathedral, gave us a good feel for the city vibe, which was pleasant and similar to many of the other towns we have visited in Spain. There were lots of horse-drawn carriages available for the tourists and it was nice to listen to the clip-clop moving around the streets.
The last time we visited Seville, we stayed miles outside of town and took a bus into the city. This time we decided to stay in the old town at Las Casas de Los Mercaderes, which gave us a very different view of Seville than before.
The hotel had a traditional Moorish style and wasn’t too expensive. There was also garage parking nearby. Thankfully, it wasn’t quite as tricky as the parking in Almeria, with no car elevator this time. But I couldn’t testify to that myself because I’m not allowed to accompany Mike when he parks the car in a city garage. Go figure. The hotel was a bit of a letdown and the air conditioning didn’t work very well, but we only stayed a few nights.
The highlights of our visit were definitely the Cathedral and the Alcazar. We decided to take an organized tour of the Cathedral and the Alcazar because we really only had one full day in Seville. I’m so glad that we sprang for the tour. The Cathedral is huge and is anchored by the La Giralda Tower. The tower was part of the mosque that originally sat on that site.
When the Christians drove the moors out of Spain, they just added a bell tower to the top. The tower is unique because of its internal ramp to the top, instead of stairs. When the tower was part of the mosque, it was used by a muezzin to call the faithful to prayer five times a day. The honor of being the muezzin usually went to one of the elders, and you can imagine climbing the tower five times a day would be quite difficult. So, they built a ramp to the top so that the muezzin could ride a horse or a donkey, up and down the tower.
Interesting as that story is, we climbed the ramp to the top and there are 35 levels. I don’t know exactly how tall the tower is, but I can tell you it feels really tall on a “smoking hot” day. The views from the top were spectacular. We could see the entire city and then some.
Cathedral of Seville
After the tower, we visited all of the other sites in the Cathedral and there is some really interesting stuff in there. The highlights included a huge altarpiece made out of gold that came from the New World. There were also numerous pieces made from silver procured from the New World. Notably, what remains of Christopher Columbus is in a huge monument held up by four statues. It took us over an hour just to tour the Cathedral and I’m sure we would have seen half as much if we had gone on our own.
Alcazar (Royal Palace)
When we started the tour, we didn’t know how long it would take. It turned out to be a four-hour tour on a really hot day. But overall, it was really worth it. We found out that the Alcazar was built by Christian kings who admired the Moorish architecture. So the Royal Palace, built after the Moors were driven out, is Moorish style. The palace is still used by the Spanish royal family when they are in Seville. The building includes many rooms, fountains, and spectacular gardens. I’ll let the pictures tell the story.
We had always planned to take a day to see Cadiz, which has been an important port for a thousand years. It was only a 30-minute drive from Jerez through fields and salt ponds. Cadiz is on a peninsula and the quickest way to reach it is to go over one of two bridges. The bridge on the route we took was modern and amazing.
We were so engrossed in the bridge that we barely saw the ships in port. We did notice an old Carnival cruise ship being dismantled for scrap. But we were more interested in the old town and the Placa de España, which has a statue dedicated to the Spanish constitution. It turns out that the constitution was signed there in 1820. Such was the stature of Cadiz. The old town was nice and we were able to walk from one side of the peninsula to the other. We also get a good look at the Atlantic Ocean for the first time on this trip.
If you have been to Seville, would you go back? If you haven’t been to Seville, would you make the effort to visit?