Seville is the centre for culture, art and finance in southern Spain and the regional capital of Andalusia. "Sevilla", as it is known in Spanish, is the fourth largest city in Spain and is bursting with life, attractions and events for all tastes.
Culturally, Seville has one of the richest heritages of any Spanish city. Initially founded by the Romans, the city was overrun in 712 AD during the Moorish conquest of the Iberian Peninsula. Seville remained under Moorish control right up until the end of their occupation of Spain at the end of the 15th century.
Even today the city is brimming with evidence of its Moorish past in the form of iconic structures. These include the famous Alcázar de Sevilla, a former fort turned royal palace by the Castilian monarchy. In addition, La Giralda, the cathedral's bell tower and city symbol, was converted from the minaret of the mosque that formerly stood on the same site during the Moorish rule.
Seville's abundance of stunning buildings dating back over hundreds of years stand in sharp contrast to the cutting edge designs constructed when the city hosted the World Expo in 1992. Over one hundred countries from across the globe participated in building highly innovative pavilions for the Expo in order to promote their culture and economies. The site of the Seville World Expo remains a popular attraction to this day.
Seville April Fair "Feria de Abril"
As is typical of all villages, towns and cities in Spain, Seville has a large festival every year known as the April Fair, or La Feria de Abril. This is one of the most renowned festivals, or fiestas, in the whole country. The Seville April Fair, which originated in 1847, generally begins at midnight Monday two weeks after Easter and runs until the following Sunday. The vast fairground on the banks of the Guadalquiver River contains tens of individually decorated marquees, called casetas owned by prominent families and groups of friends. In the casetas, Seville's natives known as sevillanos can be found partying, drinking the local wines and Sherries and eating tapas until dawn.
Another traditional aspect of the Seville April Fair is bullfighting. Seville has the oldest bullring in Spain, La Real Maestranza de Caballería de Sevilla. La Feria de Abril is one of the most important bullfighting festivals in the world where matadors face a crowd known to be notoriously hard to please. The area around Seville is also famous for producing some of the biggest, strongest and fiercest fighting bulls in the country, like those from the Miura Cattle Ranch which in the past have dealt fatal injuries to some of the country's best matadors.
Throughout the fair bullfights take place every night and sell out well in advance. One of the spectacles of the Seville April Fair includes the parade of carriages and riders that take the city's leading citizens dressed in extravagant ceremonial clothing to the bullring at midday in order to meet the matadors and bull breeders in the run up to the fight.
Flamenco in Seville
Another highlight of Spanish culture that features strongly in Seville is flamenco, which was developed in the latter part of the 18th century by gypsies living in Andalusia.
Flamenco is characterised by the four basic elements of guitar playing, singing, dancing and handclapping. As with other aspects of Spanish culture, flamenco has a wide range of influences and even today historians are unsure of its true origins. What is certain, however, is that this style of music and dancing epitomises the passion and desire present in Andalusia and is best experienced in the intimate bars late at night in Seville's atmospheric old town.