"Seville," wrote Byron, "is a pleasant city, famous for oranges and women." And for its heat, he might perhaps have added, since SEVILLE's summers are intense and start early, in May. But the spirit is about right. Seville has three important monuments and an illustrious history, but what it's essentially famous for is its own living self – the greatest city of the Spanish south, of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro, and the archetype of Andalucian promise.
Seville's reputation for gaiety and brilliance, for theatricality and intensity of life does seem deserved. It's expressed on a phenomenally grand scale at the city's two great festivals – Semana Santa (Holy Week at Easter) and the week-long Feria de Abril (starting two weeks after Easter Sunday). Seville is also Spain's second most important centre for bullfighting, after Madrid.
Seville's old city – where you'll want to spend most of your time – is sited along the east bank of the Guadalquivir. At its heart, side by side, stand the three great monuments: the Giralda tower, the Catedral and the Alcázar, with the cramped alleyways of the Barrio Santa Cruz, the medieval Jewish quarter and now the heart of tourist life, extending east.
North of here is the main shopping and commercial district, its most obvious landmarks Plaza Nueva, Plaza Duque de la Victoria and the smart, pedestrianized c/Sierpes, which runs roughly between them. From La Campana, the small square at the northern end of c/Sierpes, c/Alfonso XII runs down towards the river by way of the Museo de Bellas Artes, second in importance in Spain only to the Prado in Madrid. Across the river is the earthier, traditionally working-class district of Triana, flanked to the south by the Los Remediosbarrio, the city's wealthier residential zone where the great April feria takes place.
Despite its elegance, charm, and wealth, Seville lies at the centre of a depressed agricultural area and suffers from high unemployment. The total refurbishment of the infrastructure boosted by the 1992 Expo – including impressive new roads, seven bridges, a high-speed rail link and a revamped airport – has so far failed to regenerate the local economy.