Sevilla – Spain’s capital of culture

The beautiful Giralda bell tower
The beautiful Giralda bell tower

Guest post by Lauren Tyler

Mirroring the cascades of historical and cultural differences which have occurred, Sevilla is a lively city where the air, filled with the fragrance of orange blossoms, seems to undulate to the rhythm of flamenco music.

Encapsulating all of Spain’s archetypes, the city showcases gorgeous architecture, boasts a vibrant night life, offers arguably the country’s best tapas and is emblazoned with some of Spain’s chicest.

The city is a network of narrow pathways which lead to shaded plazas and superb architecture from all eras of Spain’s diversified history. Gothic cathedrals are shadowed by Moorish towers and baroque palaces are adorned with Roman mosaics.

Sevilla is the capital of the autonomous community Andalusia, which bears great influence from the Moors during their reign beginning in the fourth century. The UNESCO site Alcazar, a royal palace and one of the city’s most popular tourist destinations exemplifies this influence, specifically the Mudejar style which was characteristic of the Moors who remained in Iberia after the Christians but did not convert from Islam.

Another convergence of the Muslim and Christian world is the Almohad Mosque which was originally erected in 1167. In the context of baroque and Gothic architecture it is highly regarded but also it is widely known for Giralda, the bell tower, which nearly is 100-m high. Originally the bell tower was built to be a minaret, or a focal point for call to prayer.

Semana Santa, or Holy Week, is a festival which lasts from Palm Sunday until Easter Sunday annually. Many Catholic cultures will have similar events but none are considered to be as extravagant as the celebrations in Sevilla.

Easter week procession
Extravagant Easter week procession in Sevilla

Adorned floats with life-sized characters from the Easter story pass through the narrow passageways of the city as the follow the carrera oficial (official route), which are carried by approximately 60,000 hooded members of cofradias, or religious brotherhoods.

Maundy Thursday, the night before Good Friday is one of the most notable points of Semana Santa. Members from the six oldest and most revered brotherhoods lead the sable procession until past the break of dawn.

After two weeks of piety, Sevilla hits the streets again for Feria de Abril (Fair of April,) which is markedly different and better exemplifies the vivacious nature of sevillanos.

Nearly 1,000 casetas (splendidly striped tents) fill the open area of El Real de la Feria. In each caseta wine and manzanilla (dry sherry) are poured freely as families and friends drink, eat, talk and dance.

Folk songs, or sevillanas are authentic to the city and very much a part of the city’s identity as well as the performed four-part dance which accompanies them. The city is also thought to have been a main center of development of flamenco.

Sevilla is a city where no attractions are really necessary. The beauty of the city is intoxicating and much like the locals do, one of the best things to do is to sit at a sidewalk cafes or to lean on strangers in a small, crowded tapas bar who can easily turn to friends.

Lauren has traveled the globe, as is her epicurean duty. She is a freelance writer.