Seville - one of the world’s most stunning cultural destinations
Features Editor - John Newton can't get enough of Seville
'Like a giant roller coaster, the world’s largest wooden structure looks out of place as it towers over the old quarter of Seville - one of the world’s most stunning cultural destinations'.
The Metropol Parasol, designed by a German architect and inspired by the expansive vaults of the city’s cathedral, caused a public outcry over its location and appearance at Plaza de la Encarnacion, as well as its construction delays and cost overruns.
But since its opening in 2011, the imposing 28.5-metre high, four-level structure has become Seville’s new eye-opener, rather than an eyesore.
Its avant-garde architecture includes a large open-air plaza, a farmers market, shopping centre, exhibition hall, multiple bars and a panoramic restaurant underneath and inside huge wooden parasols.
But the star drawcard is in the basement, where Moorish and Roman remains discovered on site are displayed in a museum. Called Antiquarium, it boasts the most comprehensive collection of archaeological treasures from Seville’s long and distinguished history.
Situated 5.5 metres below ground level, it displays 1200 years of the city’s urban history in the form of architectural fragments, objects found during the excavations and information. The oldest structure on display is a salting factory, including the tubs where fish were soaked in brine. In those days the city was much closer to the sea and a wide variety of species - such as sardines and horse mackerel – were fished to make hallec, a savoury, strong-tasting paste that most citizens could afford.
Made from birch tree imported from Finland, the Metropol Parasol’s balconies on the upper levels overlook Seville’s medieval city, including the Giralda - the city’s symbolic feature - which towers almost 100 metres and is one of the most remarkable pieces of the Spanish Renaissance.
“I have to admit that many people in Seville don’t like it (Metropol Parasol). But you know what? Most Parisians hated the Eiffel tower in the beginning,” said Metropolitan Parasol designer, Jurgen Mayer H.
It’s certainly a far cry from Seville’s historic centre, one of the largest in Europe, where many of its glorious buildings were built by the Moors (Arabs), while the Santa Cruz quarter - Spain’s second most important Jewish quarter after that of Toledo - oozes romance, charm and beauty with its white-washed houses, stately palaces, courtyards filled with flowers and orange trees.
As Spain’s fourth largest city, Seville is acclaimed for its monumental buildings, none more so than its Gothic cathedral and the Royal Alcazar. Built in the 15th century on the site of an Islamic mosque, the cathedral, which has more than 30 chapels, is the third largest cathedral in the world after St Peter’s in Rome and London’s St Paul’s. All that remains of the original mosque is the Orange Tree Courtyard (Patio de los Naranjos) and the Giralda. A World Heritage site, the Alcazar (fortified palace) is the oldest royal palace currently in use in Europe.
If the queues are too big, go back later as the city abounds with cultural treasures.
After hours, Seville becomes a city of indulgence with many of its more than 3800 bars dishing up a vast array of local and Andalucian tapas delicacies, such as cazon en adobo (marinated dogfish), garbanzos con bacalao (chickpeas with cod) and papas con choco (potatoes and cuttlefish), washed down with vino de Jerez (sherry wine). In some tapas bars, they offer a free tasting plate when you buy a beer.
Alternatively, you can have dinner at the Sevilla de Opera, located in Arenal market in the heart of the city, or follow the locals to a traditional flamenco show native to Andalucia. You won’t find a better performance than those on regularly at La Casa Del Flamenco (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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