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Eugene Weekly : Coverstory : 10.15.2009

Winter Getaways

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Go Sunny in Seville

Spain offers culture — and vitamin D

by Kate Loftesness

Seville offers something for everyone. From a rich cultural history that left its mark in distinct art and architecture to a robust nightlife and beautiful countryside, Spain’s fourth-largest city, where I’m studying this term, caters to every kind of traveler.

Seville Cathedral, left, and the Archivo General de Indiás. courtesy spanish tourism bureau.

Located in Andalucía in Southern Spain, Seville is generally known for its distinct Semana Santa and Feria celebrations in March and April, causing many vacationers to ignore the city in the winter. But locals agree this is one of the best times to visit. 

 “You don’t have to come just for Semana Santa and Feria,” says Nancy Merchant, a 21-year resident of the city and Coordinator of Student Services for the Council on International Educational Exchange in Seville. “You can see culture in the winter, too.”

Seville’s cobblestone streets and hundreds of plazas are year-round fixtures, but winter brings Christmas celebrations in the city. Nearby provincial towns hold numerous festivals, many emphasizing the region’s Iberian ham.

Though the locals bundle up and turn on the heat in the coldest month, January, the city’s website lists an average temperature of 51 degrees and a mere 2.5 inches of average rainfall — a nice difference from Eugene in the winter. In contrast, temperatures in July or August usually remain in the triple digits.

Also in the winter, travelers can find off-peak hotel and airfare prices, making it easier to access Seville’s historical and cultural sites.

The city’s most famous landmark, Seville Cathedral (officially, Catedral de Santa María de la Sede) is a clear example of its rich and varied cultural history. It’s the world’s third-largest cathedral and largest Gothic cathedral, but it’s also located in the heart of the city and stands alongside La Giralda, the minaret of a 12th-century mosque. Inside, the tomb of Christopher Columbus (with it’s highly disputed remains) is borne up by four figures — kings of the Spanish regions Castille, León, Aragón and Navarre.

Across the Plaza del Triunfo from the cathedral is the Alcazar, which features a mix of Christian and Muslim art and architecture and an expansive garden.

“It was built as a Muslim fortress in the 12th century,” says Ángel de Quinta, a scholar pursuing his doctorate in Spanish art history. “It was destroyed by Christians in the Reconquest in the 14th century, but they immediately started rebuilding and copying it.”

Seville is also home to world class museums, including the Fine Arts Museum, featuring paintings by Murillo, and the Archaeological Museum, housing Roman artifacts from the nearby ruins of Itálica. 

De Quinta says that, with fewer tourists and better weather, winter gives visitors an opportunity to see Seville at its purest. “The culture, the life is better in the winter,” he said. “If you want to see Seville with the Sevillians, you need to come in the winter.”

 

Kate Loftesness is a senior at the UO, majoring in magazine/news-ed and history and minoring in Spanish.