In brief: Full of monuments, the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites are all located here: the Cathedral with its Giralda, the Alcázar and the Achivo de Indias. Cobbled side streets, small squares, low houses and elegant courtyards are typical of this area.
Highlights: The Cathedral with its Giralda, the Real Alcázar, the Archivo de Indias, the Avenida de la Constitución, the Jewish Quarter.
Getting there: On foot from the Old Town or Triana. Numerous bus lines, as well as the Plaza Nueva, Archivo de Indias and Puerta de Jerez stops of the Metrocentro (T1). The Puerta de Jerez and Prado de San Sebastián metro stops.
Why stay: Its streets contain the city’s three main monuments. Once the Jewish Quarter, it has a special atmosphere that makes it a unique area full of bars and restaurants.
Despite the fact that the Santa Cruz area is officially located in the Old Town, you need only take a few steps amongst its streets to quickly appreciate the uniqueness of the area and to understand that a series of special events in the history of Seville took place here. Full of old, noble houses, family mansions and authentic Seville courtyards, its streets give off a sense of legend and of memories of magical times.
The district owes its name to the Plaza de Santa Cruz, where the Santa Cruz Parish Church was once located, built over the old main synagogue. The church was destroyed during the French occupation in 1811 and today only the square of the same name remains.
You can begin your route of the district at the Puerta de Jerez, a gate located on the Avenida de la Constitución - known simply as ‘La Avenida’ amongst locals - that leads to Plaza Nueva. Wisely pedestrianized during the restructuring of the city, the street offers plenty of space for the many tourists who move along it, as well as the tram known as the ‘Metrocentro’. Despite being a majestic avenue with important buildings on both sides, the emergence of new shops and restaurants has converted it into a meeting place for both tourists and locals.
Few cities can claim to have three attractions declared as UNESCO World Heritage Sites in their city centres. All three are found in the Santa Cruz district, two of them bordering the Avenida de la Constitución. The Archivo General de Indias, whose structure recalls the Monsterio del Escorial in Madrid, was created by 1785 by King Carlos III. The archive is housed in the Casa Lonja de Mercaderes, a merchants’ exchange that was ordered built by Felipe II, tired of the repeated complaints from the church about merchants using the stairs of the Cathedral to close their deals. La Lonja opened its doors in 1598 and now serves as the repository of numerous documents related to the old American colonies.
After the archives comes the jewel in Seville’s crown, the Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede). It is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and took over one hundred years to build, demonstrating the power of the resurgent city in the time after the Reconquista. Of its nine doors the highlights include the Puerta del Perdón, the Puerta del Nacimiento (the entrance door of the brotherhoods during Semana Santa), the Puerta de Palos, the Puerta del Príncipe and the Puerta del Lagarto that is linked with the famous Patio de los Naranjos (the Orange Tree Courtyard). However this Cathedral would not be unique in the world if it were not for its Giralda, an ancient minaret dating from 1184 that was converted into a bell tower.
If you exit the Cathedral via the Puerta de Palos you will come to the Plaza de la Virgen de los Reyes, with the Palacio Arzobispal and the Convento de la Encarnación on either side. The square is connected to the Plaza del Triunfo where you will find the third of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Real Alcázar. This complex of palaces and gardens began life as an Arab fort and has been occupied by successive rulers of the city during its history, creating a clear evolution of architectural styles, from the Islamic to the Gothic via the Mudejar. It is one of the city’s most visited monuments and continues to be the residence of the Spanish royal family when they come to Seville. Inside, highlights include the Patio de la Montería, the Patio de las Doncellas, the Patio de las Muñecas and the spectacular Saón de los Embajadores.
Leaving from the Patio de Banderas you will find yourself in the Jewish Quarter, one of the oldest and most characteristic parts of Santa Cruz. The area was home to Jews during the 13th and 14th centuries and the best way to get to know the area is to let yourself get lost amongst its streets and admire the mix of cultures that has been evolving here for centuries. A stroll along Calle Vida, Call Susona and Calle Pimienta will take you to the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, one of the city’s most famous baroque buildings whose interior houses an authentic Seville courtyard.
For some good tapas, try Calle Mateos Gago, Plaza de los Venerables and the area surrounding Puerta de la Carne next to the Jardines de Murillo. Plaza de Santa Cruz and Plaza de Doña Elvira offer more restaurants, whilst for a delicious sweet it is well worth a visit to the Convento de San Leandro where they make candied egg yolk threads of the same name.