Compared with sober Castilian devotion and silent processions, the people of Seville surprise visitors—as they surprised the poet—with their sacred songs and overwhelming fervor, completely taking over the city during Holy Week.
The floats of the processions, authentic sculptural and artisan gems, are worth visiting all year round, as are the city and its churches: every neighborhood has a cofradía (brotherhood), and each cofradía has a devotion whose traditions and secrets are passed down from parents to children, who will eventually act as penitents in the religious brotherhoods.
Indubitably, the city shines brightest during the religious celebrations and, in particular, during the processions, when rows of hooded people who accompany the images, carried by costelaros (men who carry the floats), proceed through the streets filled with decorated balconies, from which people sing sacred songs, an oration which, in Andalusia, has the flavor of flamenco.
The Alhambra, declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984, is a truly singular place in Spain, representing more than 400 years of Islamic heritage, which affords it historical originality with respect to the rest of Europe. There’s no other crossroads in the world as important as this Nasrid palace, no place as spellbindingly beautiful, where a sunset over its battlements alone makes the journey worthwhile.
The Mezquita, or Mosque, in Cordoba, the Caliphal city of Medina Azahara, and the Alhambra in Granada, are singular examples of the Moors’ cultural splendor on the Peninsula, which, throughout history, has continued to feed the fantasies of travelers and the inquisitive.
The coexistence of Moors and Christians for such a long period resulted in the creation of rich urban, artistic and, of course, gastronomically significant settlements, that continue to endure and of which Spaniards are the true heirs.
It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is the best-preserved building from its period. It increased in both size and beauty as the city gained more political and social importance, and was even spared during the Christian Reconquest. It was converted into a Christian cathedral in 1238, and its Byzantine mosaics and the extraordinary system of two-tone horseshoe-shaped arches underwent several expansions, emulating both Renaissance and Baroque styles.
A few kilometers from here, following the coast west, we find another fascinating enclave: the Doñana Natural Reserve, declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and World Heritage Site. This is the most important marsh and protected area in Spain: made up of a mosaic of ecosystems, wetlands, pine forests, Mediterranean scrub, beaches and moving dunes which house a large variety of animal species and plants. It also has the greatest population of Iberian lynx, considered the most endangered mammal in all of Europe.
Different olive varieties yield different types of oils with very specific qualities and truly particular attributes. Learn about them, taste them, and follow our map in search of the finest oils in what is truly one of the best ways to get to know Spain.