SOL Series: Love Music? There Is More To Seville Than Just Flamenco
The region of Andalusia, located in the southern peninsular of Spain, is known for its rich history. Within Andalusia lies eight provinces, and its capital, Seville. From controversial bullfighting to the seductive art form of flamenco, the region’s strong identity is also evident in its Hispano-Moorish architectural styles, all of which we’ll get to later.
In 2006, Seville was appointed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as the first “Creative City Of Music”, securing its position as a precious legacy.
Even within the Old Town itself are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Alcazar Palace, Seville Cathedral and the Archive Of The Indies – which makes this charming city not just a gem for music lovers, but also a treasure trove for travellers who desire something off the beaten path.
Visit Famous Locations That Have Appeared On Screen
Any self-respecting Game Of Thrones fan will know the Water Gardens of Dorne, private estate of the wheelchair-bound Prince Doran Martell. In real life, the Royal Alcazar of Seville (also known as Alcazar Palace) served as the location, befitting the sunny climate of Dorne.
Featuring stunning Mudejar art, with smatterings of Gothic, Renaissance and Romanesque design elements, the palace and its grounds are a breathtaking sight. When the royal family is in Seville, they still reside in the upper storeys of the Alcazar, which was registered in 1987 as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
That’s not all – Star Wars fans must pay a visit to Plaza De Espana (Spain Square). It was there where the scenes featuring Queen Amidala at Theed Royal Palace on Planet Naboo were filmed in the 2002 Star Wars: Episode II – Attack Of The Clones.
Today, Plaza De Espana houses mainly government buildings, after the city council spent 9 million euros on its restoration from 2007 through 2010. Across the curved exterior are 48 tiled alcoves, each representing a different province in Spain.
The majestic Plaza is a celebrity in its own right, having appeared in numerous movies like Lawrence Of Arabia (1962), The Dictator (2012), and even a Simply Red music video: Something Got Me Started.
All The Music You Can Enjoy
The monastery of Santa Maria De Las Cuevas (also known as Cartuja Monastery) has come a long way – from becoming a temporary resting place for Christopher Columbus’ remains, to a ceramics factory, and in present day, the location of Centro Andaluz De Arte Contemporaneo (CAAC), a contemporary art museum.
Though no longer used as a monastery, visitors can still explore its historical grounds, including the atrium, chapels, cloisters, cells, refectory and more. And once a year in the summer, it hosts POPCAAC, a music festival featuring pop, alt-rock and “everything else in between” concerts. Can’t make it to POPCAAC? There’s also El Dia De La Marmota, Mr. Saturday and Rainbow Fest.
For the past two decades, The Gardens of the Royal Alcazar come to life at night, where the oldest royal European palace still in use becomes an amalgamation of music and heritage. Tucked in a spectacular enclave, Noches Jardines Real Alcazar (Nights in the Gardens of the Royal Alcazar) is set to enthrall music lovers come June 27 to Sept 21, with an extensive programme comprising flamenco, jazz, swing, blues and more.
It’s also here that you’ll find a functional water organ called the Fountain Of Fame: one of the only three that still exist in Europe, and the only one of its kind in Spain. The water organ, or hydraulis, is the earliest-known mechanical pipe organ, which uses water and air pressure to operate a set of pipes automatically.
Hide Away From The Crowds At These Hidden Spaces
Depending on the season, Seville’s weather can go up to 36°C in August. Weary feet and sun-beaten bodies need a space to find solace, and there is definitely no shortage of such places, liberally dotted around the city.
After a visit to the stunning Alcazar, it’s time for a midday pick-me-up at Jester Bowls, a cosy hideaway just outside the walls of the palace. Smoothie bowls, iced coffee, plus a playlist on your phone (with headphones plugged in for total privacy, of course) that matches your mood of the day – pure bliss.
La Jeronima, on the other hand, is a mash-up of bookshop-meets-art gallery-meets-bar, with a rustic aesthetic vibe that looks haphazardly thrown together and yet feels so unpretentious. Open through midnight, you can enjoy locally-brewed beer, admire some artwork, and hopefully be lucky enough to catch a book presentation by the authors themselves.
If live music is what you prefer, come for the coffee, but stay for the music at Naima Cafe Jazz. Drop by for some delicious desserts, and hang around until later on in the evening, when jazz artists come to showcase their skills. It opens until 3am, so if you’re in the mood for some music after a movie (just next door at Cervantes), you know where to go.
Beautifully Unique Locations
Affectionately known as Las Setas (The Mushrooms) by the locals, the waffle-like Metropol Parasol is an undulating wooden sunshade. Built as part of the redevelopment of the Plaza De La Encarnacion in 2011, the new icon of Seville has become one of the region’s most fascinating places to visit.
Said to be the largest wooden structure in the world, the inspiration for the Metropol Parasol’s form came from the vaults of Seville’s expansive cathedrals. According to its architect Jurgen Mayer, he wanted to create a “cathedral without walls” that would be “democratic”.
Six parasols come together as one, organised in four levels: a museum on the underground level, the central market on street level, an open-air public plaza on the roof of level one, and panoramic terraces on the top floors, boasting some of the best views in the city. In the evenings, when the weather is nice and balmy, make your way up to the top and enjoy a drink in the dappled sunlight.
Beautifully-tanned with delightful curves visible from every angle, yet so pliable to the well-experienced hand, Spanish guitars are a true work of art. La Casa De La Guitarra, founded by acclaimed flamenco guitarist Jose Luis Postigo, has a beautiful collection of old guitars from the 19th century. Here, you’ll also be able to enjoy the three main disciplines of flamenco – dance, singing and guitar – in an intimate setting.
At Rompemoldes, Seville’s artisan craft venue, you’ll find true artisans at work, with over 25 studios dedicated to different disciplines, from pottery to bookbinding to glass jewels. Luthier Pablo Fernandez Romero specialises in the making of the viola da gamba or bass viol, vowing to recover the lost splendour of this instrument. In his studio, Romero also dedicates his time to repairing other string instruments like the violin, cello and double bass.
Music In A market? First, You’ll Have To Find It
CasaLa Teatro is another venue that takes pride in smaller-scale performances: with only 28 seats (repurposed from another theatre), music lovers have the golden opportunity to watch performers up close and personal. Part of the thrill is finding this performance venue itself, which is discreetly tucked in the Triana market, surrounded by “produce from the land and sea, the scent of spices and the sweet smell of fruit”.
From films on Thursday afternoons to theatre on Fridays, weekends are also fun-filled experiences for all in the family. Daytimes are reserved for children with magic shows, storytelling and puppetry, while at night, CasaLa bursts into life with cabaret, flamenco and concerts galore.
Cover Image: Max Van Den Oetelaar/Unsplash
Writer | Michelle Tan
Lover of all things bizarre, Michelle has a soft spot for dinosaurs, raccoons and a strong G&T. Her lifelong dream is to become an urban hermit.