Seville is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and the province of Seville, Spain. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of 7 metres (23 ft) above sea level. The inhabitants of the city are known assevillanos (feminine form: sevillanas) or hispalenses, following the Roman name of the city, Hispalis.
Seville is the fourth largest city of Spain with a municipal population of about 703,000 as of 2011, and a metropolitan population (including satellite towns) of about 1.2 million, making it the 31st most populous municipality in the European Union. Its Old Town is one of the three largest in Europe along with Venice and Genoa (covering almost four square kilometers), which includes three UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The city was known from Roman times as Hispalis. Important archaeological remains also exist in the nearby towns of Santiponce, Italica and Carmona.
Existing Roman features in Seville include the remnants of an aqueduct, a temple in Mármoles Street, the columns of La Alameda de Hércules, the remains exposed in situ in the underground Antiquarium of the Metropol Parasol building and, finally, the remains in Patio de Banderas square, near of the Seville Cathedral. The walls surrounding the city were originally built during the rule of Julius Caesar, but their current course and design were the result of Moorish reconstructions.
Following Roman rule, there were successive conquests of the Roman province of Hispania Baetica by the Vandals and the Visigoths during the 5th and 6th centuries.
The city's development continued after the Castilian conquest in 1248. Public buildings constructed including churches, many of which were built in the Mudéjar style, and the Seville Cathedral, built during the 15th century with Gothic architecture. The Moors' Palace became the Castilian royal residence, and during Pedro I's rule it was replaced by the Alcázar (the upper levels are still used by the Royal Family as the official Seville residence).
In the late 16th century the monopoly was broken, with the port of Cádiz also authorized as a port of trade. The Great Plague of Seville in 1649 reduced the population by almost half, and it would not recover until the early 19th century. By the 18th century its international importance was in decline. After the silting up of the harbor by the Guadalquivir (river) upriver shipping ceased and the city went into relative economic decline.
The writer Miguel de Cervantes lived primarily in Seville between 1596 and 1600. Because of financial problems, Cervantes worked as a purveyor for the Spanish Armada, and later as a tax collector. In 1597, discrepancies in his accounts of the three years previous landed him in the Royal Prison of Seville for a short time. Rinconete y Cortadillo, a popular comedy among his works, features two young vagabonds who come to Seville, attracted by the riches and disorder that the 16th-century commerce with the Americas had brought to that metropolis.
Modern Seville has a wide variety of entertainment to offer throughout the day, but especially from the late evening to the early morning hours. The pleasant climate and the natural sociability of Sevillians lead people to spend most of their spare time outdoors talking, drinking and eating tapas. The nightclubs and disco-pubs don't fill with crowds before 2 am.
The main nightlife attractions are located within and around the city center. The La Alfalfaneighbourhood houses many pubs and tapas bars. A more alternative atmosphere can be found in La Alameda, with a frenetic nightlife of entertainment that ranges from traditional flamenco to heavy metal. Another popular area is El Arenal. Most of the discothèques are found in Betis street in Triana and in La Cartuja.
During spring and summer, outdoor cocktails bars (known as kioskos) are opened along Paseo de Colón, next to the Guadalquivir river.
The Seville oranges that dot the city landscape, too bitter for modern tastes, are commonly used to make marmalade and lotions; according to legend, the trees were imported when the mosque was constructed in order to provide shade and mask the scent of the medieval city. However, many tourists insist on trying the oranges which taste like sour lemons.
- The Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See better known as Seville Cathedral, is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Seville. It is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third-largest church in the world. It was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, along with the Alcázar palace complex and the General Archive of the Indies. After its completion in the early 16th century, Seville Cathedral supplanted Hagia Sophia as the largest cathedral in the world, a title the Byzantine church had held for nearly a thousand years. The cathedral is also the burial site of Christopher Columbus. The Archbishop's Palace is located on the northeastern side of the cathedral.
- The Giralda is the bell tower of the Cathedral. Its height is 343 feet (105 m) feet. Its square base is 23 feet (7.0 m) above sea level and is 44 feet (13 m) feet long per side. It was built to resemble the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakech (Morocco), although the top section of the bell tower dates from the Renaissance. Construction began in 1184 under the direction of architect Ben Ahmad Baso. According to the chronicler Ibn Sahib al-Salah, the works were completed on March 10 of 1198, with the placement of four gilt bronze balls in the top section of the tower. After a strong earthquake in 1365, the spheres were missing. In the 16th century the belfry was added by the architect Hernán Ruiz; the statue on its top, called "El Giraldillo", was installed in 1568 to represent the triumph of the Christian faith.
- The Torre del Oro (English: "Gold Tower") is a dodecagonal military watchtower, built by the Almohad dynasty in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river.
Constructed in the first third of the 13th century, the tower served as a prison during the Middle Ages. Its name comes from the golden shine it projected on the river, due to its building materials (a mixture of mortar, lime and pressed hay). The tower is divided into three levels, with the third and uppermost being circular in shape and added in 1769. This tower has a lesser-known half sister: the Torre de la Plata, an octagonal tower.
- The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace, originally a Moorish fort. It is the oldest royal palace still in use in Europe. The Almohades were the first to build a palace, which was called Al-Muwarak, on the site of the modern day Alcázar. The palace is one of the best remaining examples of mudéjar architecture. Subsequent monarchs have added their own additions to the Alcázar. The upper levels of the Alcázar are still used by the royal family as the official Seville residence and are administered by the Patrimonio Nacional.
- Metropol Parasol is a primarily wooden building located at La Encarnación square, in the old quarter of Seville. It was designed by the German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann and completed in April 2011. It has dimensions of 150 by 70 metres (490 by 230 ft) and an approximate height of 26 metres (85 ft) and claims to be the largest wooden structure in the world. Its appearance, location, and delays and cost overruns in construction resulted in much public controversy. The building is popularly known as Las Setas de la Encarnación (Encarnación's mushrooms). The structure consists of six parsols in the form of giant mushrooms, whose design is inspired by the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville and the ficus trees in nearby Plaza de Cristo de Burgos. Metropol Parasol is organized in four levels. The underground level (Level 0) houses the Antiquarium, where Roman and Moorish remains discovered on-site are displayed in a museum. Level 1 (street level) is the Central Market. The roof of Level 1 is the surface of the open-air public plaza, shaded by the wooden parasols above and designed for public events. Levels 2 and 3 are the two stages of the panoramic terraces (including a restaurant), offering one of the best views of the city centre.