Living history

AS THE capital of Spain's Andalusia region, Seville is famous for major landmarks that date back to the Moorish Almohad dynasty of the 12th century.

Three of them – the Cathedral of Saint Mary, the Royal Alcazar palace and the Archive of the Indies – are listed as Unesco's World Heritage Sites.

The Cathedral of Saint Mary (better known as the Seville Cathedral) is a large Gothic-style structure built on the site of a former mosque, and is the third largest church in the world.

It was completed only after 101 years of construction in 1506.

Inside, there is a long nave covered by an ornate gilded ceiling 42 metres above.

The church has a large and beautiful Gothic altar piece of carved scenes from the life of Christ, built by Pierre Dancart.

There are 15 doors on the four sides of the building, and the cathedral has 80 chapels.

Besides being the final resting place of legendary Italian explorer Christopher Columbus, it also houses the tombs of Spanish monarchs Ferdinand III and Alfonso X, among others.

Some of the architectural features of the mosque which once stood on this site have been incorporated into the structure – like the columns and bell tower.

The cathedral's Giralda tower began as a minaret built in 1194, and is one of only three remaining structures of its kind in the world.

When the Moors were conquered in 1248, King Alfonso X insisted that the tower not be destroyed. Instead, it was preserved and became the cathedral's bell tower in 1402.

The Alcazar of Seville is another architectural wonder made up of Mudejar and Gothic styles. The palace complex has been featured in several films, including HBO's Game of Thrones.

At the centre of the complex is King Pedro's palace which was constructed in 1364.

The palace began as one of the many buildings built by the Moorish dynasty which came to power in 1161. The Moors built a grand mosque and palace called Al-Muwarak.

After gaining power, King Pedro I ordered the construction of his palace on the site, where the finest artisans were employed to create the Mudejar interior of the palace surrounded by majestic courtyards and patios.

Visitors can enter the complex via the Plaza del Triunfo through the Puerto del Leon gateway, underneath the figure of a lion on the glazed Azulejo tile panels.

Moving through a triple arch, you arrive at the Patio del la Monteria which borders on the original King's palace. This beautiful patio has arched windows and Mudejar decorations.

The complex also features a magnificent gilded dome interlaced wood, tile decoration and tapestries, and horseshoe arches or Moorish arches.

There are also palatial gardens, ponds and loggia (rooms with an open side facing a garden).

In a grotto beneath the gardens, just before the exit, visitors will be greeted with the spectacular sight of the reflective, cold-water baths of the Dona Maria de Padilla.

Some 400km north of Seville is the historic university city of Salamanca, also known as La Dorada (the Golden City), due to its sun-kissed golden, orange and pink facades.

The city is the capital of Salamanca province and part of the Castile and Leon region. It is home to the Universidad de Salamanca, founded in the 1100s, which adds to the city's vibrancy with its international student population.

One of the city's landmarks and popular gathering area for both locals and tourists is the Plaza Mayor.

Located in the older part of the city, it was built in 1729 by architect Alberto Churriguera and surrounded by colonnaded loggias with each facade having a different number of arches.

The loggias house various restaurants, eateries, pubs and cafes where visitors can enjoy their food and drink while admiring the sight and soaking in the atmosphere.

Every night, at around 9.15pm, the whole Plaza Mayor will be lighted up. During this time, musical groups called Tunas play in the outside seating areas of the restaurants to entertain diners.

For more indepth insights into Spain, let Trafalgar show you the way with its many special curated guided tours. Visit Holiday Tours and Travel website at

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