Seville’s Golden Age of Adventure

Photo by Jeremy Head

Explore this exciting era of swashbuckle and swagger

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Booty plundered from Spain‘s New World territories in the Americas made Seville one of the world’s richest and most opulent cities in the 16th century. This was en era of swashbuckling adventure and swagger.

Many of the city’s most sumptuous buildings date from this time. Explore a little more on this walking tour which takes in some of them. Moreover, it introduces you to a few of the people associated with them.

Columbus and Seville

Perhaps more than anyone, Christopher Columbus embodies Seville’s exploratory adventures. There’s a monument to him in the Jardines de Murillo, the gardens behind the Alcazar, a good place to start.

From here it’s a short walk through the gardens to what’s now a main University building. However it was originally La Real Fabrica de Tabacos – the Royal Tobacco Factory. One of the most important discoveries in the New World was tobacco. Importing tobacco and making cigars was lucrative trade indeed – particularly for the King who had a monopoly on it. Look out for another bust of Columbus (along with Cortes another of these famous explorers) at the main entrance.

And where to keep all the documents and recordings of the Spanish conquerors as they pushed further and further into the Americas? In 1785 King Carlos III had the remarkable foresight of collecting all these valuable documents in one massive building – the Archivo de Indias. A wander round this ‘Archive of the Indies’ takes about half an hour and is quite fascinating.

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If you need a bite to eat a good local tapas bar that’s right nearby is Casablanca

All this looted gold and silver and other precious metals and stones required storing somewhere. The Casa de la Moneda or Royal Mint was where coins for the whole of Spain were minted using melted down gold and silver plunder.

Seville’s River – the Guadquivir

In previous centuries, the river Guadalquivir that runs through the city was wider and easily navigable for larger ships that sailed home to Spain from the Americas laden with loot. The royal shipyards – Las Reales Atarazanas are now set back quite some distance from the river bank. Sections have been restored and will be reopened for visits in 2019.

The next stop brings together many of these themes – exploration, discovery and plunder in an interesting small museum on the riverside. The Torre del Oro (Golden Tower) may have got its name from the fact that New World treasures were stored here. It’s one of Seville’s most recognisable landmarks and the museum is full of curios. Climb to the top for great views back across the city and up and down the river.

If you have kids in tow (or you’re a child at heart!) and you fancy continuing the New World adventure, pay a visit to Seville’s theme park La Isla Magica. The majority of the park’s big rides take their inspiration from this age of discovery too. You need a good half day to get the most out of a trip here and it’s across the river so best to take a cab to get there.

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