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5 Top-Rated Tourist Attractions in Seville

1 Catedral de Sevilla

Seville Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral in Christendom, unmatched in its impressive scale and abundance of art treasures. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this incomparable monument was constructed between 1402 and 1506 on the site of the town's principal mosque. The Giralda Tower was originally the minaret of the mosque built in the 12th century by Almohad Moorish rulers. This 93-meter-high tower of the cathedral is still the emblem of Seville. To arrive at the cathedral, visitors walk through the Patio de los Naranjos (Patio of Orange Trees), which was the forecourt of the mosque. The octagonal fountain in the center is a remnant of the Islamic midha, the fountain for religious ablutions. Entering the cathedral, visitors are immediately awestruck by the immense proportions of the nave. The five-aisled interior extends 117 meters in length and 76 meters across and soars to 40 meters in height. This overwhelming space is the most grandiose Gothic interior in Spain. The Capilla Mayor (Main Chapel) features a resplendentretablo, considered a masterpiece of Gothic woodcarving. In the center is a silver image of the Virgen de la Sede surrounded by 45 scenes from the Life of Christ and the Life of the Virgin. In the south transept stands a striking monument to Christopher Columbus, fitting of his historic stature. Behind the Capilla Mayor is the Capilla Real(Royal Chapel). Built between 1551 and 1575, this domed Renaissance chapel contains the royal tombs. The Sacristía Mayor is a magnificent 16th-century chamber that contains a large candelabrum and a crucifix by Pieter de Kempeneer. Within the Sacristía Mayor, the Treasury displays the precious gem-adorned crown of the Virgen de los Reyes. For a break from sightseeing after visiting the cathedral, head to the Calle de las Sierpes, north of the Plaza Nueva. This narrow pedestrian lane is Seville's main shopping street, lined with shops, cafés, and restaurants. For a special treat, stop at the Confiteria la Campana to sample enticing Andalusian confections such as candied figs, oranges, and pears.

Address: Catedral de Seville, Plaza del Triunfo, Avenida de la Constitución, Seville

2 Barrio Santa Cruz: Seville's Most Charming Neighborhood

Brimming with old-fashioned Sevillian charm, the Barrio de Santa Cruz was theJudería (Jewish quarter) during the medieval era under Moorish rule. Many of the quarter's churches were originally synagogues. The Barrio Santa Cruz is found in between the cathedral and the Alcazar. This medieval neighborhood is characterized by its labyrinth of cobblestone pedestrian lanes (too narrow for cars), whitewashed houses with attractive patios, and picturesque shaded plazas with outdoor cafés. Many of the quiet courtyards, such as the Plaza Doña Elvira, are planted with fragrant orange trees. The Plaza Santa Cruz features rose beds and a 17th-century wrought-iron cross in the center. At the Plaza Refinadores, visitors will find a statue of Don Juan Tenorio, a famous local literary character. The Barrio Santa Cruz has two noteworthy museums: the Centro de Interpretación Judería de Sevilla (Calle Ximenez Encisco 22A) that illustrates the history of the city'sSephardim (Spanish Jews) and the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes (8 Plaza de los Venerables), a 17th-century hospital for retired priests that now houses the Fundación Focus Abengoa collection of Spanish paintings and sculptures. Be sure to stroll through the Jardines de Murillo, beautiful gardens filled with palm trees, fountains, and beautifully tiled benches. For an excellent view of the cathedral, head to the Plaza del Patio de Banderas.

3 Real Alcázar

Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Real Alcázar was originally the medieval fortress of Moorish rulers and later of the Christian kings. The palace was built in the 10th century for Moorish rulers. In the 11th century, it was governed by the legendary Moorish ruler and poet al-Mutamid. After the Christian Reconquest in the 1360s, Moorish architects created the Mudéjar-style buildings for King Pedro the Cruel. Visitors enter the palace through the Puerta Principal that leads to the Patio de las Doncellas. This elegant courtyard was built between 1369 and 1379 and exemplifies Islamic architecture with magnificent arches featuring open arabesque work above 52 marble columns. The oldest of the rooms, the Sala de los Embajadores (Hall of the Ambassadors) has a splendid stalactitic dome ceiling with decorative friezes and inscriptions in Arabic script. Off the Patio del Leon (Patio of the Lion) is the Sala de Audiencias, one of the most ornately decorated rooms in the palace, featuring a lavish artesonado (intricately carved wood) ceiling. Be sure to save plenty of time to explore the gardens. These beautifully manicured grounds are filled with leafy palms, sweet orange trees, and colorful roses. In traditional Andalusian style, courtyards, decorative pools, and refreshing fountains are the centerpieces of the landscaping. Across from the Alcazar is the Casa Lonja, which houses the UNESCO-listed Archivo de Indias, an archive of documents from Spain's colonial years in the New World.

4 Parque de María Luisa and Plaza de España

Inside the Parque de María Luisa, the Plaza de España is one of Seville's most impressive landmarks because of its scale and grandeur. The enormous 50,000-square-meter plaza is surrounded by the balustraded balconies of a Renaissance Neo-Moorish style building. This semicircular building curves around, following the shape of the canal running through the square. A monumental fountain is a graceful centerpiece of the square, while the peaceful canal is crossed by four footbridges. Tourists can rent a rowboat for the afternoon to experience the "Venice of Seville" or opt for an equally romantic horse-drawn carriage ride through the park. The Parque de María Luisa, with the Plaza de España at its center, was the site of theExposiciones Universales in 1929. The park is close to the river, and the main entrance is at the Avenida de Isabel la Católica. This expansive and beautiful green space was created by the Infanta María Luisa Fernanda de Borbón. The grounds are filled with exotic palms, orange trees, elms, and Mediterranean pines. Lovely historic buildings and colorful tiled benches add to the dreamy ambience, and the landscaping features decorative flower beds, shady avenues, Moorish fountains, and ornamental pools. Visitors will enjoy a leisurely stroll through the park, while discovering hidden surprises along the way such as ponds and pavilions.

5 Museo de Bellas Artes (Museum of Fine Arts)

Seville has an exceptional museum of fine art, housed in the 17th-century Convento de la Merced. This museum is considered to have the best collection of painting in Spain after the Prado in Madrid. The collection covers art works from the Gothic period through the 20th century. The representation of works by 17th-century Spanish painters is especially noteworthy. Visitors will see some of the best paintings by famous Spanish artists including as El Greco, Pacheco, Velázquez, and Alonso Cano. The museum has a special focus on masterpieces by Murillo as well as works by the Seville school of the 17th century. The religious paintings by Zurbarán are also excellent.

Address: 9 Plaza del Museo, Seville

Date: 15:42 13/08/2016
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