The Cathedral, Alcazar and Archivo de Indias in Seville are testimony to the civilization of Christian Andalusia.
All three of them are also directly connected with the discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus. His tomb lies in the Cathedral, the Archivio the Indias houses an important collection of documents from this period in time.
The Cathedral of Seville is also the largest Gothic building in Europe. Its Giralda Tower was constructed as a minaret during the 12th century, when a large mosque stood at this site. After the Christians reclaimed Seville, they left the minaret intact.
Map of SevilleLoad map
I visited this WHS in July 2020. I had skipped this WHS on my last trip to Andalucia to avoid having any 'fatigue' from the sort of Golden Triangle of Spain - Granada, Cordoba, Seville. This choice turned out to be a wise one as all three cities have quite a lot to see and visit and are really top sites. Of the three, I rated Seville's inscribed sites slightly less than the grandiose Granada and amazing Cordoba.
The Cathedral's highlight is undoubtedly the recently restored Giralda Tower (top left photo). Currently, due to the COVID-19 restrictions, both can be visited with a longish tour with a maximum of 50 people. I enjoyed the views of the tower from the several nearby plazas. Make sure to visit the Prince's Gate and the Door of Forgiveness in the afternoon too. The Spanish Renaissance General Archive of the Indies (bottom left photo) nearby is the repository of extremely valuable archival documents illustrating the history of the Spanish Empire in the Americas and the Philippines (closed on Mondays).
Last but not least, the Alcazar is most probably Seville's highlight, yet it was no match with Granada's Alhambra. The level of Moorish architecture detail in general is more on the level of the Mudejar architecture of Zaragoza's Aljaferia especially when gazing at the marvellous Patio de las Doncellas. A lot of the Alcazar was changed after damage by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. For example the façade of the Palacio Gótico overlooking the Patio del Crucero was completely renovated using Baroque elements and as such the palace together with most of the Alcazar and gardens (bottom right photo) now present a unique blend of styles. The definite highlight of the Alcazar, worth the trip alone, is the Hall of the Ambassadors (top right photo). A walk from the outside of the Alcazar, especially along the Callejon del Agua and the Santa Cruz neighborhood, is worth having.
All three inscribed buildings have a metal UNESCO inscription plaque on the wall. Seville has much more on offer than the three UNESCO inscribed buildings and deserves at least 3 nights to explore at leisure.
Together, according the the UNESCO Website, "the Cathedral, Alcázar and Archivo de Indias as a series, form a remarkable monumental complex in the heart of Seville. They perfectly epitomize the Spanish "Golden Age", incorporating vestiges of Islamic culture, centuries of ecclesiastical power, royal sovereignty and the trading power that Spain acquired through its colonies in the New World." "Epitomize" is truly the perfect word to use here. The 3 monuments as a single ensemble are the best and most complete representation of the world power of Spain and how it came to be. It definitely helps that all 3 are right beside each other too. I visited Seville back in May 2017, arriving from Cordoba in the early afternoon in time to visit the Alcazar and the famous, though non-WHS related, Plaza de España. The next day I got to visit the El Salvador Church and of course, the Seville Cathedral before taking the bus to Tarifa. Actually, I only visited El Salvador Church to get a shared ticket for the cathedral without having to queue up with the crowds, but I highly recommend a full visit to that church as well, as it's got some very rich Baroque architecture that the cathedral doesn't have. Seville as a whole is a wonderful city with so much more to see than what I was able to in the little time I had, but without a doubt, the Cathedral and the Alcazar are its world-class monuments that every visitor lucky enough to get here must see.
Days earlier, I had failed to get a slot for a visit to the Nasrid Palace in Granada. I'd definitely say I looked forward to the Alcazar in Seville to make up for it, and in my opinion, it sure did. Sure, a few things are different. The Alcazar is mostly a European work, drawing more from the Mudejar style than actual Moorish remains, but I don't think that makes it any less valuable. It's definitely no less awe-inspiring. Mudejar architecture came about from Muslim craftsmen working for the Christian political and religious rulers of Spain, so the Islamic designs are just as intricate and authentic as in any Moorish palace. I'd even say this is probably the best representation of the influence the Moors had on European architecture. Of course, other parts of the palace shy away from the Islamic roots and were built in more traditional European styles like Gothic and Renaissance. This likely includes the 2nd floor, which I didn't get to visit. While not as iconic, I enjoyed these areas just as much, especially the room with all the tapestries and the small Gothic chamber near the garden with a pool which reflected the Gothic vaults, making for a picture-perfect scene (sorry, I've forgotten the names of the parts of the palace). The gardens, as well, were beautiful and impressive, if not as extensive as that of the Alhambra. Of course, there's also the significance the palace has for the Age of Exploration that saw Spain become a world power. Overall, I do think the Alcazar of Seville is every bit as important and impressive as the Alhambra, and a must-see when in Spain.
The Cathedral of Seville could be automatically considered WHS-worthy at a single fact: it is the largest Gothic church in the world. Some even claim it is the largest church in the world. Size aside, there may just be a million other reasons this church is so special. Out of the justifications for meeting WHS criteria, 2 out of 4 criteria are hinged on the Giralda, Seville's famously well-preserved minaret-turned-belltower. The best part of climbing it, though, was the views of the roof of the Cathedral. That got me feeling a bit better about missing out on Casa Mila in Barcelona, too. Seriously, the cathedral's roof is almost as impressive as its interior. Speaking of which, the interior holds too many treasures for you to count. There's the gigantic golden altar, made by the riches Spain received from colonizing in the New World, possibly the richest altarpiece in the world. There's the ceiling of complex Gothic vaults, a bit higher up than you'd see in most churches, the stones seemingly shining golden as well. There's the huge choir box. There's the 80 or so magnificent chapels, some in Renaissance style, homes of various royal tombs and treasures. And there's the tomb of Columbus himself. The exterior isn't to be outdone, though. The Cathedral still has the orange patio of the old mosque, as well as a preserved Islamic gate. The many portals and facades don't disappoint either. In short, Seville Cathedral, just like the Alcazar, is a world-class monument, and it's a must-see for any true traveller. While both are world-class, worthy WHS in each of their own rights, they clearly form an outstanding urban ensemble, together with the Archivo, to tell the story of Spain. Perhaps they should consider including more of the city's many treasures, though.
March 2017 - our last two nights of the Andalusia trip we spent in Sevilla, in 1992 I was visiting the Expo, whichs remains look quite awkward nowadays. But the other parts of the City are just beautiful. It's true that it is crowded with tourist, and the flair is not nearly as cozy as in Cordoba, but there are some wonderful part in the city. the tiled house in the city centre, the cathedral and Alcazar but also the Plaza de Espana in the marie Luise park. There are many nice bars that offer Sherrys and Tapas and many small shops. There is an amazing wooden structure in the city, that should be on everyones itinerary, and if your are lucky, we were, there are processions through the city. Due to the entrance fees, but also the long queue we decide not to go into the Alcazar. Maybe a pitty, but we are planning to come back in 2020, so maybe next time. At evening the city calms down a bit and there are many cozy corners in the town. We happened to visit an openair swing festival in a historic court. A wonderful evening for the last night in Spain.
One of the best things are that these 3 sites are next to each others so you can visit them in one day if you want. I visited only in the cathedral and Alcazar. It was very cheap visit for me: for students entrance to cathedral is only 2 euros and entrance to Alcazar is free! The gardens were my favourite part in Alcazar. I think Alcazar is as interesting as Alhambra. In cathedral I liked the treasures that they had there.
The city centre of Seville is quite compact and full of pedestrian only areas, so walking is really the only option. Having taken a #32 bus from Santa Justa station to Encarnacion, I made this my base for further explorations. Besides visiting the WHS I enjoyed an early morning stroll through Barrio Santa Cruz while waiting for the Archivo to open at 10am.
An outstanding feature of Seville were the generous discounts offered to seniors at the cathedral and the Alcazar.
Seville was the most enjoyable city that we visited on our trip through Western Andalucia. It had the feel of a cosmopolitan, modern city and had plenty of things to keep us entertained for three days.
Of the three inscribed sites it was the Alcazar that was my favourite. The level of decoration was incredible. A fair few rooms still have some of the original colourings in the plasterwork, and as you would expect the tilling is magnificent. As stated before there are two parts to the Palace: the more famous Mudejar part and the later Gothic sections. The later, though not as impressive is still a very pleasant place to wander around. The gardens were also worthy of much exploration. I gave the Alcazar 1.5 hours but still didn't feel that I did it justice. I could've certainly spent the best part of a morning or afternoon there.
The Cathedral is massive especially when you view the interior, and the Giralda tower is very understandably the cities main landmark. It's heritage can be clearly seen as it is very similar to the Koutoubia Mosque's minaret in Marrakesh.
I completed the sites by visiting the third of the inscribed sites the Archivo de Indias. Architecturally it is not particularly remarkable, though the undulating roof does look interesting. Its main importance derives from the fact that the archives house a huge array of documents chronicling Spanish rule and trade in the 'New World'. The galleries are themselves impressive and there are continuously changing exhibitions that highlight certain parts of the Archive. When I visited the exhibition was on Spanish influence on the United States and was very interesting. On display were things such as the first map of San Francisco bay and legal documents from early settlements in Florida. I actually found it a rewarding experience and helped to under line the role that Seville played in trade with the Americas.
A side from the World Heritage listed buildings I enjoyed wandering around Seville, the area designed for in 1929 Spanish American exhibition was very nice, especially the wonderfully over the top Plaza de Espana.
Also very nice was Calle Betis which is the river front road in Triana filled with Tapas bars and restaurants which provided a great way to relax in the evening overlooking the sights of Seville.
All in all I really enjoyed Seville and the WHS is a very worthy inclusion on the list.
I spent some more time in Andalucia so i coulnt skip all the WH site which are located here.
I started with Seville - it is a town which absolutely deserves the WH title. It is a vibrant town with great food, architecture and people.
Cathedral from outside maybe doesn't look like the biggest gothic one but as you are inside you start to believe it. Next of all those pillars holding the ceiling you feel so small. Cathedral itself is surrounded with several chapels and with former minaret and now a bell tower - Giralda. There are no stairs inside just a ramp where horses were used in past. View from the top is breath taking.
Later i visited Alcazar and its gardens. This is for me the top of Sevilla. I could spend there whole day without even realising it. Palace is divided in parts - gothic and mudejar (which is nicer). In comparison with Alhambra i liked this place more. So the best advice is to plan at least 2 hours for visiting Alcazar.
The Seville Cathedral is supposed to be the world's largest; it's immense size is quite a sight. The interior is also impressive with its numerous chapels and tombs. The Spaniards claim to hold Christopher Columbus' remains at the cathedral although the Dominican Republic also claim to hold it. Nevertheless, his tomb at the cathedral is still beautiful with the four kings representing the kingdoms that make up present-day Spain carrying it. The Royal Chapel or Capilla Real housing several royal tombs is off-limits to tourists although I managed to peak through the curtains. Finally, the view from the top of the Giralda Tower aftering a tiring climb of 34 ramps is both breathtaking and rewarding.
The Alcazar, right next to the cathedral, is also worth visiting. We had to catch a train to Granada so I only had about an hour to visit it, but from what I saw, the place shared many similarities with the Alhambra in its architecture and beauty and its garden was gorgeous with its palm trees. I would absolutely suggest a visit.
Both the cathedral and the Alcazar were undergoing restorations at the time of my visit and some restored areas were covered up with life-size pictures showing what was behind it. I've attached a picture to demonstrate the practice.
Ann Reeves, California, USA
Sevilla is indeed a sophisticated city like many in large cities in Europe. It is also full of historic detail. We took one of the local bus tours around the city which is alot easier than driving yourself. The historic center is fairly difficult to navigate and we kept going in circles without finding our destination, the Alcazar, finally parking and walking to it. The Alcazar- magnificent mudejar palace. I didn't think it could get better than the Alhambra (Granada) but it did. I especially enjoyed the grounds and the watering system the Moors employed. I climbed to the top the Giralda and I was grateful they had little displays on the landings where one could catch their breath. Wonderful view of Sevilla from the top. The Cathedral is indeed massive and very interesting. The city has many beautiful parks and gardens, an oasis of color. We attended a Flamenco dinner show that our hotel had recommended and it was very entertaining and the food very good. There are also ceramic/pottery shops where the products are made across the river from the bullring, but I can't remember the name of the area. I really enjoyed our stay in Sevilla.
Seville's Cathedral, with two aisles plus chapels on each side of the nave, is the world's largest Gothic building. There's room for a ball game and a church service at the same time, neither would disturb the other. Its bell tower, The Giralda, is one of the finest examples of Moorish tower architecture. The Cathedral is huge, and a portion of the ceiling vaults are embellished by barnacle-like encrustation. There are 45 yard-square sculptured scenes, each filled with intense detail.
The City of Seville and its Cathedral are fascinating and attractive, and certainly deserved much more time than we had available, that time.
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extended from former TWHS Giralda of Seville (1984)
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