Seville Travel Guide

Seville was a great city in Muslim times and again in the 16th and 17th centuries, Seville has seen bad times too, so it knows how to enjoy the good ones when they come.

For more than a century, every April Seville has thrown one of Spain's biggest parties, the Feria de Abril. A couple of weeks before the feria, the city's Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions are among the most magnificent in Spain.

The poet-king Al-Mutamid was one of the first people to fall in love with Seville, and the city's ability to dazzle has not abated since. It takes a stony heart not to be captivated by its exuberant atmosphere - stylish, confident, ancient, proud, yet also convivial, intimate and fun-loving.

The city crowded centre unfolds subtly as you wind your way through narrow streets and small squares. Itsbullfighting, flamenco and nightlife are incomparable. But above all, Seville is an atmosphere. Being out among its happy, celebratory crowds on a warm night is an unforgettable experience.


Facts in a glance

Area: 14037 (sevilla province) sq km
Population: 700,000
Country: Spain
Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1
Telephone Area Code: 95


The ancient culture of Tartessos was influenced by Phoenicians in the Seville area, when iron replaced bronze in Andalucía and a new method of working gold was developed.

The Roman town of Hispalis, founded in the 2nd century BC, was a significant port, but was overshadowed by Córdoba. Visigothic Hispalis was a bit of a cultural centre, especially in the time of its leading scholar, St Isidoro (565-636). Enter the Muslims, who invaded and called it Ishbiliya, and Seville continued to play second fiddle to Córdoba.

1031: After the collapse of the Córdoba Caliphate, however, Seville became the most powerful of the taifa states into which Al-Andalus broke up.

1078: It held sway from the Algarve to Murcia, with its Abbadid dynasty rulers Al-Mutadid and Al-Mutamid presiding over a hedonistic court in their Alcáz.

1085: When Toledo fell to the Christians, Al-Mutamid appealed to the Muslim fundamentalist Almoravids of Morocco for help against the mounting northern threat.

1091: The Almoravids came, defeated Alfonso VI, and turned tail for Morocco, then returned to avail themselves of Al-Andalus, too. They persecuted Jews and Christians, reunified Al-Andalus and lorded over it from Marrakech. But their austere grip soon weakened and a new strict Muslim sect, the Almohads, displaced them in Morocco, then moved into Al-Andalus, which they had scooped up by 1173. The Almohad caliph Yacoub Yousouf named Seville capital of his entire realm (which stretched as far east as Tunisia) and built a great mosque where the cathedral now stands.

1195: His successor Yacoub Yousouf al-Mansour added the Giralda tower and thrashed the Christian armies at Alarcos.

1212: The Christians, however, bounced back with their pivotal victory at Las Navas de Tolosa.

1248: Almohad power eventually dwindled and Castilla's Fernando III El Santo captured several major Andalucían cities, culminating in Seville, after two years' siege.

14th century: Fernando brought an entourage of 24,000 Castilian settlers to Seville, and it was the most important Castilian city. But the reign of the monarch Pedro I (1350-69) was beset by bloody feuds in the ruling class.

1492: Seville's biggest break followed the accidental 'discovery' of the Americas.

1503: The city was granted a monopoly on Spanish trade with the new continent and rapidly became one of the richest, most cosmopolitan hangouts in Europe.

1561: Even though little Madrid was named the capital, Seville remained Spain's major hub well into the 17th century. Lavish Renaissance and baroque buildings blossomed, and many stars of Spain's artistic golden age, Zubarán, Murillo, Juan de Valdés Leal, were based here.

1649: A plague claimed half the city's population, and as the century wore on, the Guadalquivir became less and less navigable.

1717: The Casa de la Contratación, which controlled commerce with the Americas, was transferred to Cádiz.

1800: Another plague ravaged 13,000 Sevillians. A limited prosperity resurfaced for a short breath in the mid-19th century with early industrialisation. While the majority of urban and rural dwellers remained quite poor, foreign Romantics were drawn to Seville's air of faded grandeur.

1929: Middle-class optimism was expressed by Seville's first great international fair, the Exposición Iberoamericana, but the civil war swiftly dashed everyone's hopes. The city fell quickly to the Nationalists at the start of the war despite resistance in working class barrios. Urban development in Franco's time did little for the look and feel of the city, with the demolition of numerous historic buildings.

1982: Things looked up with the coming to power in Madrid of the PSOE, led by sevillano Felipe González.

1992: The city received a huge boost from the Expo World Fair, which was timed to coincide with the 500th anniversary of the discovery of America. As well as millions of visitors that year, Seville got eight new bridges across the Río Guadalquivir, the new high speed AVE rail link to Madrid, and a clutch of gleaming new hotels.

1992: The construction boom that was kickstarted by the Expo has barely skipped a beat since. This has made the city, and Andalucía generally, a leading light in the Spanish revival.

2002: Unemployment in the region was at a 25-year low, and the average wage was only slightly down on the national average.

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