“Seville is the most Spanish of the cities of Spain”
With this phrase, the British Albert Frederick Calvert began his historical and descriptive account of the city, published in 1907. The author came to join the long list of European travelers who since the 18th century had passed through Seville as part of their picturesque tours of Spain and Portugal. They were guided by a romantic vision of these lands, which were seen wrapped in an exotic and almost mysterious air. His stories tell us in a very early way about the attraction that this city has historically generated as a destination for visitors from all over the world.
Today, Seville has only consolidated that attraction. It is one of the most visited cities in Spain, only behind Madrid and Barcelona, and every year around three million people come to it from all over the world.
But why Seville? The reasons are numerous and many of them obvious to anyone who has passed through here. The first that comes to mind is because it is a beautiful city where they exist. It is true that the beauty of a place is not a quantifiable objective aspect, but we can say that in this case it is the result of a broad consensus among those who know it. In addition, if we accept that the beauty of a city is largely related to the historical and artistic heritage that it treasures, in that case we must speak of Seville as an indisputable first power.
In one of the largest old quarters in Europe, an infinity of assets protected for their cultural value are gathered. Over the centuries, Seville has been configured as a beautiful catalog of works of art that tell us not only about its past but also about the evolution of the history of art in Western Europe.
This wealth is linked, as it cannot be otherwise, to the history of the city itself and of those who have inhabited it. All contributed in their measure and Seville continues to have something of Roman and Moorish. Something of a conquered city and something of a metropolis of half the world.
But perhaps it is this last factor that most helps to explain its wealth of heritage. Seville was between the 16th and 18th centuries the port of departure and arrival for all commercial traffic between Europe and America. The Crown’s decision to centralize all American commerce here would forever change the appearance and character of the city, enriching it materially and humanely in an extraordinary way.
All this heritage wealth has an indisputable epicenter around the Plaza del Triunfo. The Cathedral and the Alcazar constitute an exuberant compendium of artistic achievements that alone justify any trip to the city. UNESCO emphasized this value by declaring them a World Heritage Site in 1987. Along with them, the Archivo de Indias received this recognition, also located around the same square, thus highlighting the aforementioned link between the character of Seville and its role as a metropolis during part of its history.
And together with a rich past that has been configuring one of the most interesting urban environments for its monumental wealth on a global level, the characteristics of today’s city add up to a lot when it comes to answering that why Seville that we raised at the beginning.
Seville is currently a modern European city, the capital of Andalusia, a highly touristic region in one of the most touristic countries in the world. With an economy based mainly on services and to a large extent on the reception of visitors, it has first-class infrastructures, both for transport and accommodation, and a privileged environment from the tourist point of view.
Seville is largely conceived to accommodate travelers and that is how the Sevillians understand it. Accustomed to sharing their streets, bars, churches and museums with people from all over the world, they support the universalist vocation of the city with their work and attitude.
It is easy to feel welcome in Seville. It is even possible to share with its inhabitants some of the festivals, customs and rites that most define their personality. It is not possible to even sketch Seville without mentioning some of the celebrations that have helped sustain its name and fame. Holy Week and the April Fair are the two clearest expressions. Both constitute a fundamental part of the Sevillian being and identity. In some way they are the ritual and cyclical return of the city to its spiritual, cultural and festive roots.
Every Easter the city becomes the scene of what it has been for centuries. Its streets become the setting for the solemn and dazzling representation of the Passion of Christ. What for many is a beautiful act of faith, is also an act of bond and communion with the past, with family roots and traditions, with one’s own identity.
A few weeks later, the Fair air fills the city with a more joyful and festive than spiritual aroma. With a livestock origin, which is still perceived today in the weight of the world of horses and bulls, the Fair has been for decades the great social event to which the people of Seville are summoned.
People from all strata of society come to it, each one according to their possibilities. The Fair is not the same for everyone, but it does share a form of celebration and party linked to its own culture and folklore.
The physical setting of the booths and their decoration, music, song and dance, allude to the connection with folklore and their own traditions as a sign of identity. Dancing Sevillanas is a fundamental part of the Fair, as is the flamenco dress. The characteristic attire of women has been defined as the only regional costume subject to its own fashion trends. It is a beautiful accessory, sometimes haute couture, that with its beauty highlights the leading role of women that week.
In addition to Holy Week and the Fair, the Sevillian calendar is dotted with festivities and celebrations, own and shared with the rest of Andalusia or the country. Visitors to the city participate to a greater or lesser extent in all of them.
You can not only travel to Seville, but live it and feel it in part as its inhabitants do, even in their moments of greatest joy.
For all this, as a tourist guide of Andalusia, I recommend you travel and get to know Seville. Come back, if you already know it, and learn another way of looking at it if you are from here. If you want you can contact me and arrange a guided tour.