By Cat Gaa
Seville’s tumultuous history is full of conquests and reconquests, making it a virtual outdoor museum. In 2000 years of life, Seville has played host to Visigoths, Moors, Arabs and Christians, all who have lent their traditions, architecture, and religion to Andalusia’s capital city.
Seville has no shortage of museums which pay homage to its history – the good, the bad, and the downright ugly – from religious alters to the Virgen Mother to old, opulent palaces (the Duchess of Alba did live here, after all!) to award-winning cultural centers. While the city itself is a living museum of architecture and traditional culture, its museums are renown and the prefect escape on a (seldom) rainy day or in the hot midday hours.
1. Museo de Bellas Artes
Seville is home to one of Spain’s best-kept art secrets: The Fine Arts Museum. Housed in a beautiful, salmon-colored convent, the galleries placed around a central patio contain some of Seville’s biggest painters and sculptors – Velázquez, Zurbarán , Murillo, Juan de Mesa – and is noted for its abundance of religious art. On Sundays in the shady square just in front of the main entrance, there’s a wonderful art market where local painters sell their watercolor scenes of the city. Well worth a visit, even if just for the gorgeous building itself.
Plaza del Museo, 9. Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am – 8:30pm; Sunday and holidays 9:00am – 2:30pm. Closed Mondays. 1,50€, free for EU citizens.
2. Museo de Arte Andaluz Contemporaneo (CAAC)
In the spirit of fusing the old with the new, Andalusia’s premier modern art museum was opened in Seville’s Cartuja Business Park in 1998. Inside, elements and art forms come to life through rotating, oft interactive exhibits, and the exterior preserves its long-standing purpose: The Cartuja Monastery was once a ceramics factory, and the kilns are still standing in the lawn! Apart from hosting music and art workshops, the CAAC also holds Miércoles de Compás, a once-weekly flamenco show held on Wednesdays from January – March (3€). It’s a long way from the city center, but buses C1 and C2 let you off right near the main entrance.
Camino de los Descubrimientos, s/n. Open Tuesday – Saturday 11:00am – 9:00pm; Sundays 11:00am – 3:00pm. Closed Mondays.
3,01€ entrance fee; free Tuesday – Friday after 7:00pm and Saturdays 11:00am – 9:00pm
3. Museo del Baile Flamenco
One of Seville’s newest museums pay homage to the art form associated with its gypsies and sultry nights, flamenco. Now an Intangible World Heritage Tradition through UNESCO, the museum chronicles the history of the art through four floors full of artifacts and interactive material. What’s more, there are often shows, workshops and flamenco classes, so you can perfect your golpe, punto, tacón moves. The first-floor gift shop has a wealth of CDs and books, as well as dance shoes and accessories. A must-see for anyone interested in flamenco.
C/Manuel Rojas Marcos, 3. Open daily 9:30am – 7:00pm. 10€ adults, 8€ students (TIP: Look at your hotel for the city cards, which will give you a 2€ discount off the adult price)
4. Roman Ruins
The city of Seville is said to have been settled by Hercules himself, and Roman ruins are scattered around the city (and, by law, must be preserved!). From the columns jutting up out of the ground on Calle Mármoles to the recent discovery in Plaza de la Encarnación, the Roman past of Hispalis is ever-present. If you’ve the time, take the bus from Seville to the nearby town of Santiponce to Itálica, once the most important Roman settlement in Iberia. Both Trajan and Hadrian lived in this city, whose ruins contain beautiful mosaics and an amphitheater. Simply get off at the last stop on the bus and cross the street.
Bus M-172 from the Plaza de Armas bus station takes you directly to the entrance of the park; it’s about 30 minutes. 1,50€ entrance fee, free for EU citizens.
5. Museo de Artes y Costumbres
Ever wonder how the religious statues that are paraded about during Holy Week are made? Or wanted to witness a matanza (yearly butchering of pigs for meat)? Seville’s Arts and Traditions Museum has exhibits on everything from bedpans to ceramics to wine making from around the region, making it a perfect introduction to traditional culture. The museum is housed in a stunning Mudéjar palace on the whimsical Plaza de las Palomas (Pigeon Square), located inside the María Luisa Park.
Plaza de América, 3. Open Tuesday – Saturday 9:00am – 8:30pm. Sundays and Holidays 9:00am – 2:30pm. Closed Mondays and 6 January, 1 and 30 May, 15 August and 25 December. EU citizens are free; the rest of us pay 1,50€. Use buses 34 or 6 to get you to the front door.
6. The Torre del Oro Seafaring museum
Sure, the Torre del Oro and its gold dome, standing guard on the banks of the Guadalquivir river, seems like a cool place to visit. The tower once stored gold and other treasures of the New World, and was made into a small naval museum just before the Spanish Civil War by the Spanish Navy. Still, the views from the top are restricted, the museum lackluster, and the Torre del Oro best admired from across the river on Calle Betis, beer in hand.
Paseo de Colón, adjacent to the Puente San Telmo. Tuesday – Friday 10:00am – 2:00pm. Saturday and Sunday 11:00am – 2:00pm. Closed Mondays. 1€ entrance fee; free Tuesdays.
The Ugly, Strange and Utterly Sevillano
7. Maestranza Bull Ring
From Holy Week and into the sweltering summer, Sundays are characterized by a single cornet horn announcing the entrance of six bulls marked for death. If the spectacle isn’t your thing, you can learn about the modern bullfight at Seville’s small but smart museum, located inside the ring. The route will also take you past the chapel where the toreros pray before a fight, to the stables, and even to the infirmary before entering the ring itself. Open every day but Christmas and Good Friday, but note that hours and availability are different on the day of a bullfight. There’s a small gift shop with reproductions of posters, mini capes and banderillas, and even colorful cushions to protect your rear, should you see a fight.
Paseo de Colón, s/n. May – October 9:30am to 8:00pm; November – April 9:30am – 7:00 pm. 6€ adults, 4€ students and retirees, 2,50€ children 6-11.
8. Castillo San Jorge (Inquisition Museum)
Seville’s staunch religious tradition made it a central part of the Spanish Inquisition. Sites related to this dark period of the Catholic Church’s history are found throughout the city, but a museum to intolerance was inaugurated in the Triana neighborhood in the Saint George Castle, where infidels were once judged and sentenced. Worth a quick visit, if not for the old ramparts that are housed beneath the market, for the views that prisoners had of Catholic Seville from their cells.
Plaza del Altozano, next to the Triana Bridge and municipal market. Monday – Friday 11:00am – 6:30pm; Saturdays, Sundays and holidays 10:00am – 3:00pm. Free.
There are, of course, plenty of other museums around the city, including convents, old palaces and churches. You can visit the tourism office (Plaza San Francisco, 19, Edificio Laredo) for a handy guide to museum locations, opening hours and cost, as well as maps and information about bike rental, flamenco shows and spas in the city.
Upon receiving an offer to work at a radio news broadcast center in Chicago, Cat Gaa turned it down and turned up at the Consulate of Spain. Five years and daily cravings for Cruzcampo later, she writes at Sunshine and Siestas about Sevilla and is counting down the days till she can live in her new flamenco dress at the Real.