Between the big medieval wall of Seville and the sandy shores of the river Guadalquivir once lied the industrious port of Seville. Since then the sands of time have eroded the shores making the once world renowned port obsolete. Nowadays the palm-lined shores is home to the neighbourhood known as El Arenal, which we are going to explore in this tour.
The tour starts at the old neighbourhood market: Mercado del Arenal. The market was created in 1947 to serve as a market for a fruit and vegetable storage, a grocery market for the neighborhood, and housing for municipal officials.Yet this market has a rich history.
In 1624 it was built as a convent. Theconvent was called Convento del Pópulo, because it was outside the city walls. Where the poor people were.
In 1837 the building was turned into the Prison of El Pópulo. A regulation from 1837 describes the inmates. “The prisoners belonged to the poorest class, and whose education has been neglected: accustomed from children to vagrancy and indecency. they are precipitated at their greatest age in all crimes, and finally lamented in them, they become Soulless.” The original building was demolished from 1937.
Afterwards our tour takes us to the river where we head south (left).
Our second stop is a building once described as “The Maestranza is without doubt one of the City's most beautiful monuments (...) one of those pre-eminent edifices which are able to confront alone the passage of time and which make Seville what it is. Is there, by any chance, a site more beautiful than that of the Maestranza? Looking over the river, the Maestranza has seen the waters of the Guadalquivir flow past without feeling time passing.”
Spain’s second biggest bullring, or plaza del toros, is the venue of the corrida de toros (literally a "running of bulls"), or tauromaquia. It is considered one of the most beautiful bullrings in Spain. It has been dubbed the Cathedral of Bullfighting.
You can visit the Bullfighting Museum of the Real Maestranza de Caballería, which is housed underneath the stands of the Plaza de Toros, to learn more about the Maestranza, the bullfighting and its history. If you are interested to come watch the bullfighting, you should check the calendar first.
Our next stop is next to Plaza del Toros is only a couple of hundred metres further. It’s the Seville Opera House, or the Teatro de la Maestranza. Sevilla is the romantic backdrop of over 150 operas. Beethoven’s Fidelio, Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Bizet’s Carmen to name a few. It’s only fitting that the city of the opera has a opera house worth the name.
Across the street you can see the most impressive of the three remaining towers of the medieval walls in Arenal: la Torre del Oro, the Tower of Gold; la Torre de la Plata; the Tower of Silver and la Torre Abd el Aziz. Of these three towers, la Torre del Oro - the one you are currently looking at - is the most impressive to see. Especially at night.
La Torre del Oro is on the banks of the river, and is open to the public for there is a naval museum inside.
During the daily bike tour the guide will tell you about the legends and history of this nearly 800 year old watchtower and its long lost brother.
Next to the Teatro de la Maestranza there’s a little park. If you go through there, you will see the Church and Hospital of Santa Caridad right in front of you. This 17th century building is the champion of Sevillian Baroque. The charity hospital was founded in 1674, and still cares for the aged and infirm. The hospital's chapel is open to the public. Feel free to visit.
Our last stop is the yellow and white building next to the Church. Although it says Plaza de Artilleria above the door, the building is known as the Reales Atarazanas, the Royal Shipyard. This was a special ship building facility from the 13th to 15th century.They were specialized in the construction of galleys, which played an important role in the struggle for control of the Straits of Gibraltar, as well as in the Hundred Years' War.
Now this little walk was just one neighbourhood, if you want to discover the city on foot. Our guided walking tours might just be for you.