Barrio Santa Cruz
What was once a ghetto for Spanish Jews, who were forced out of Spain in the late 15th century in the wake of the Inquisition, is today Seville's most colorful district. Near the old walls of the Alcázar, winding medieval streets with names like Vida (Life) and Muerte (Death) open onto pocket-size plazas. Flower-filled balconies with draping bougainvillea and potted geraniums jut over this labyrinth, shading you from the hot Andalusian summer sun. Feel free to look through numerous wrought-iron gates into patios filled with fountains and plants. In the evening it's common to see Sevillanos sitting outside drinking icy sangria under the glow of lanterns.
To enter the Barrio Santa Cruz, turn right after leaving the Patio de Banderas exit of the Alcázar. Turn right again at the Plaza de la Alianza, going down Calle Rodrigo Caro to the Plaza de Doña Elvira.
Staying Safe at Night -- The most romantic time to stroll around Barrio Santa Cruz is at night, but it's also the most dangerous. Use caution in the evening as you walk along. Muggings are common.
Parque María Luisa & Palacio de San Telmo
Parque María Luisa, named for and dedicated to the sister of Isabella II, was once the grounds of the Palacio de San Telmo. The palace, whose baroque facade is visible behind the deluxe Alfonso XIII Hotel, today houses a seminary. While a bit difficult to visit, the palace has free guided tours Monday and Wednesday by appointment. Call tel. 95-503-55-05 for more information. The entrance is at Avenida de Roma, El Arenal. Originally conceived as the University for Sailors (Universidad de Mareantes), the palace was named for St. Elmo, patron saint of navigation. A lavish celebration of the baroque style, it is largely the work of architect Leonardo de Figueroa and was constructed between 1682 and 1796. In time it became the mansion for the Dukes of Montpensier of the Bourbon dynasty. Today the palace is the seat of the Andalusian government. Its most outstanding feature is its elaborate and confectionary Churriguesque-style main portal, dating from 1734.
The former private royal park is now open to the public. In 1929, when Seville was to host the Spanish American Exhibition, many pavilions from around the world were erected here. The Depression put a damper on the exhibition, but the pavilions still stand. Running south along the Guadalquivir River, the park attracts those who want to take boat rides, walk along flower-bordered paths, jog, or go bicycling. The most romantic way to traverse it is by rented horse and carriage, but this can be expensive depending on what you manage to negotiate with your driver. Do stay alert while walking through this park, as many muggings have been reported.
Plaza de América
Another landmark Sevillian square, the Plaza de América represents city planning at its best: Here you can walk through gardens planted with roses, enjoying the lily ponds, fountains, and the protective shade of the palms. The trio of elaborate buildings is left over from the world exhibition that never materialized: in the center, the home of the government headquarters of Andalusia, and on either side, two minor museums.
The Museo Arqueológico de Sevilla, Plaza de América s/n (tel. 95-478-64-74; www.museosdeandalucia.es), contains many artifacts from prehistoric times and the days of the Romans, Visigoths, and Moors. It's open Wednesday to Saturday from 9am to 8pm, Tuesday from 3 to 8pm, and Sunday from 9am to 2pm. Admission is 1.50€ ($2.40) for adults and free for students and children. Bus nos. 30, 31, or 34 go there. Nearby is the Museo de Artes y Costumbres Populares, Plaza de América 3 (tel. 95-471-23-91). In a Mudéjar pavilion opposite this museum of archaeology is Seville's museum of folklore artifacts. On its ground floor you see traditional occupations, including a forge, a baker's oven, a wine press, a tanner's shop, and other occupations. More interesting on this floor is the stunning collection of ceramics. Upstairs is devoted to such exhibitions as the court dress of the 19th century as well as 18th-century fabrics and embroideries from the factories of Seville. One by Murillo, Children Eating Grapes, is particularly evocative. Gold works and a varied collection of paintings and musical instruments are also displayed on this floor. It's open Tuesday from 2:30 to 8pm, Wednesday to Saturday from 9am to 8pm, and Sunday from 9am to 2pm. Admission is 1.50€ ($2.40) for adults and free for children and students.
Plaza de España
The major building left from the exhibition at the Parque María Luisa is the half-moon-shaped Renaissance-style structure set on this landmark square. The architect, Aníbal González, not only designed but also supervised the building of this immense structure; today it's a government office building. At a canal here you can rent rowboats for excursions into the park, or you can walk across bridges spanning the canal. Set into a curved wall are alcoves with tile murals focusing on the characteristics of Spain's 50 provinces.
Real Fabrica de Tabacos
When Carmen waltzed out of the tobacco factory in the first act of Bizet's opera, she made its 18th-century inspiration world-famous. This old tobacco factory was constructed between 1750 and 1766, and 100 years later it employed 10,000 cigarreras, of which Carmen was one in the opera. (She rolled cigars on her thighs.) In the 19th century, these tobacco women made up the largest female workforce in Spain. Many visitors arriving today, in fact, ask guides to take them to "Carmen's tobacco factory." The building, on Calle San Fernando near the city's landmark luxury hotel, the Alfonso XIII, is the second largest in Spain and is still here. But the Real Fábrica de Tabacos is now part of the Universidad de Sevilla. Look for signs of its former role, however, in the bas-reliefs of tobacco plants and Native Americans over the main entrances. You'll also see bas-reliefs of Columbus and Cortés. Then you can wander through the grounds for a look at Sevillian-style student life. The factory is directly south of the Alcázar gardens.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.