Scenes from Seville Beyond Game of Thrones

La Giralda, the city’s most recognizable landmark, is the bell tower of Seville’s St. Mary’s Cathedral

#Bucketlist this: Spain

Ah, Seville. The scent of citrus permeates the air, the mosaic of Spanish and Moorish architecture pleases the eyes and the history and the romance infuse the traveller’s senses. And it is this architecture that enchanted the producers of the hit HBO series, Game of Thrones. The Alcazar Palace is where many scenes from Season 5 of GoT were filmed, standing in as the palace from which the House of Martell rules Dorne. But you can go beyond the fantasty of the Seven Kingdoms and experience Seville for all its beauty, as we did, during a guided tour with our Insight Vacations guide.

This is the Andalusian city of orange trees and ornate decoration, the city of passionate flamenco and fiery-hued buildings, the city of Magellan, and of Don Juan and the Barber of Seville. The medieval city, some say, founded by Hercules himself, more than 3 millennia ago. The stadium still stands for the bullfights, the plaza de toros, and its resplendent façade belies the carnage that sometimes lies inside. No matter, you can still appreciate its architectural beauty, whether you agree with the sport.

In the old quarter, the streets wind their way through tiled courtyards, wrought-iron gates, miniature plazas that serve as meeting places for the locals. Everywhere, when the sun is out, are tables and chairs, Sevillanos sipping their coffee, or their chocolate and churros.

On this day, the Seville cathedral, St. Mary, is closed to the tourist. There is a slight melancholy that fills the air. The Duchess of Alba has passed, and she lies in state in this Catholic cathedral, the largest Gothic, and third largest church in the world. It is the seat of the bishop here, which would also rank it the largest cathedral on the planet, after Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

Its bell tower, La Giralda, pierces the sky at nearly 350 feet (over 100 metres), and is beyond a doubt, the city’s landmark. Need a meeting place? La Giralda. Lost? Look for La Giralda. Before its turn as a bell tower, it was a minaret for a mosque that stood on this site.

At night, Seville glows with a warm light. Just head to the Metropol Parasol (or, as the locals call it, Las Setas – or The Mushrooms). The red and white polka dotted dresses in shop keepers’ windows (no, not for Minnie Mouse, but for the Flamenco dancers who made this costume famous) are put away. Everyone is out now, on the streets or in the bars, on horse and buggy rides past the Plaza de España and to Maria Luisa park. Seafood-rich paella is plated and served, back rooms at taverns are alive with the fierce beat of Flamenco, and we say, ole!

For more info on a Spanish guided getaway, go to www.insightvacations.com

Click through for a visual tour – 24 hours in Seville

2A-sevilleOrange trees and saffron-hued buildings dot the old quarter

3-sevilleA Moorish courtyard in a private home

4-sevilleMosaic tiles welcome the locals home

5-A-plazade-toro2The plaza de toros de la real Maestranaza de Caballeria

6-sevilleThe balcony from where Dona Rosina perched, and was first spied by Don Juan

7-sevilleDon Juan’s favourite watering hole, La Hosteria del Laurel

8-sevilleThe sun wraps around curving alleyways

9A-horse-buggyRomantic carriage rides take one through historic Seville, where cars can’t go

10-sevilleThe glow of La Giralda at night

11-sevilleFlamenco, at El Patio Sevillano

12-sevilleMetropol Parasol, or The Mushrooms, Seville’s largest wooden structure

old-quarterIn the old quarter, street corners and signs are as intricate as the buildings themselves

paella

And finally, the food! Paella, a favourite Spanish dish, is served at table in its cooking pan, for all to share

For more culinary adventures see A Taste of Portugal