Visit Seville-Barrio Santa Cruz
The Santa Cruz quarter of Seville is the most beautiful quarter of Seville and contains Seville's three UNESCO World Heritage listed sites. This was once Seville's old Jewish quarter and is a wonderful network of narrow streets with whitewashed houses opening up here and there for beautiful squares and, of course, the flamboyant cathedral, moorish Azcabar and the Archivo de Indias full of documents relating to Spain's conquest of the Americas.
Exploring the Barrio Santa Cruz, Seville
Seville's three World Heritage Buildings are all on the edge of th Plaza del Triunfo. Notice the statue in the middle of the square; this was built to celebrated Seville's survival of the 1755 earthquake. It is a statue of the Virgin Mary.
At the heart of this quarter is Seville's cathedral. It started life in the 12th century as a Mosque. These Moorish origins are particularly evident in the seperate bell tower of the cathedral called La Giralda, the lower two thirds of which were the minaret of the mosque. The Mosque's courtyard has also been preserved and the fountain in the middle is where worshippers washed their hands and feet before entering the Mosque to pray.
The Mosque was converted into a cathedral in 1248 and around a century later construction of the cathedral began in Gothic style. Some later additions are Renaissance and Baroque but Seville cathedral remains the most extensive Gothic cathedral in the world.
Inside the cathedral is the incredible and huge golden alterpiece - the Retablo Mayer whose gilded panels by Pierre Dancart took 44 years to finish and now form the biggest and richest alterpiece in the world.
Also of particular note in the cathedral is the tomb of Christopher Columbus. His coffin is held aloft by stone statues representing the kingdoms of Aragon, Castille, Leon and Navarra.
Christopher Columbus and his conquistadors set out from the port of Seville to the New World at the begining of the 16th Century. His dying wish was in fact not to be buried in Spain as he was in dispute with the Spanish crown about royalties he felt he was owed.
The Archivoe de Indias
Outside of the south entrance to the cathedral on the Plaza del Triunfo is the Archivo de Indias. This 16th century building is a very simple especially as it is situated between the flamboyant cathedral and the exotic Reales Alcazare. The Archivo de Indias used to be Seville's stock exchange but is now home to an incredible set of archives of the conquest of the Americas. Columbus' log of his voyage is on display as are many maps and documents related to this period of Spain's history.
The Reales Alcazar (Royal Alcazar)
Also on the plaza del Triunto is the Reales Alcazar. The Alcazar started life as Moorish palaces for different Muslim rulers including the Abbadids and the Almohads. Parts of the early structures survive but most was built during the Christian period and especially during the reign of Pedro the Cruel in the 14th century.
Pedro undertook extensive renovations and rebuilding but used fragments of Moorish buildings from Seville, Cordoba and Valencia.
The many different rooms in the Alcazar have stunning Moorish and Mudejar features. Particularly noteworthy are the Patio del Yeso, which remains from Almohads era, the Ambassadors Hall with its horseshoe arches, the Palace Pedro I with stunning Mudejar features, and the Patio de las Doncellas whose plasterwork was carried out by the best craftsmen of Granada.
One of the highlights for me were the gardens where there is a wonderful wall edgeing one side of the gardens which has been built in a Moorish style. It has a walkway along the edge giving views of the gardens through the many arches.
Leaving the Plaza del Triunfo head for the Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, like the Plaza del Triunfo this square is always full of horses and carriages waiting to take you for a ride round the historic centre if you are so inclined. This square gives you a great view of the bell tower of the cathedral and is also home to the pretty Convento de la Encarnacion with its white walls and blue-tiled dome. Also on the square is the 18th century Archbishop's palace.
Continue along Calle Mateos Gago and into the heart of the lovely narrow streets of what used to be the Jewish Quarter. Many of the houses in this area are whitewashed though tend to have the outlines of the windows and doors painted in gold, burgundy red or attractive pastel shades. Other houses are painted in attractive warm colours. You may recognise the streets from the Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz film Knight and Day.
On the neighbouring Meson Del Moro there is a restaurant called the 'San Marco' restaurant which is housed in a beautiful 12th century Arab Baths. The interiour is wonderful, the food was very very good and yet the set lunch menu was very cheap. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz both went to the restaurant during filming and Madonna visited too apparently.
As well as being a location for popular films Seville and its residents have inspired a number of important plays and operas. Don Juan, the legendary womaniser is based on a Seville resident and has inspired many works including Molière's 'Dom Juan ou le Festin de pierre', Byron's poem 'Don Juan' and the opera 'Don Giovanni' by Mozart. Seville itself inspired the 'Barber of Seville' by Rossini and the 'The Marriage of Figaro' by Mozart. These operas regularly feature in Seville's opera house.
Near to here is the Hospital de los Venerables which was a home for elderly priests. It can be visited to see the frescoes by Juand de Valdes Leal. The ceiling with a fresco of the 'Triumph of the Cross' is particularly impressive. It also has an attractive patio.
As well as visiting the streets during the day be sure to visit again on a night when the streets are heaving and the tapas bars overflowing onto the streets. The atmosphere is wonderful and festivities carry on throughout the night.
For those unfamiliar with tapas you will find ordering one or two to share between 2 is great for early evening if you are then going to eat late when the restaurants open. If you don't want to eat late like the Spanish then you can enjoy a very nice and very cheap meal by ordering 5 or 6 tapas to share between two. (If you are still hungry you can always order an extra couple but we always found this to be plenty). Most tapas cost around 3 to 3.5 euros each.
Also in Seville
See our Seville article for an overview of what to visit in Seville and our El Arenal page for tourist information about Seville's El Arenal quarter. Also visit our More Places to Visit in Seville article.