Few are the cities that can show off so many surviving and coexisting architectural styles. From the horseshoe-shaped arches and delicate wooden carvings proceeding from Moorish architecture to the simple but daunting structures of the Renaissance-escorialense period, Sevilla is truly an architecture gem.
Having ruled Spain for centuries it comes as no surprise that the Muslim culture had a lasting effect on Spanish architecture. Even when the Moorish empire fell to the forces of the Catholic kings Fernando and Isabel, the typical Muslim architectural forms lived on through the Mudéjar style.
In Sevilla, you can find the two most important examples of buildings with Moorish influences located conveniently side by side: the Giralda and the sprawling Alcázar. You can easily pick out the Moorish elements, such as the lobed and horseshoe-shaped arches, the peaceful courtyards, the ornately carved ceilings, and the repetition of geometric and nature-based designs, that give buildings in Sevilla an exotic touch.
What better way to show off your city’s prosperous epoch than by complementing it with an architectural era of enormous size and grandeur? Sevilla’s greatest Gothic contribution is without a doubt its massive cathedral, in which Gothic elements like colossal altarpieces, flying buttresses, sparse decoration, soaring heights, and impossibly large and beautifully crafted stained glass windows fuse together in a simultaneously somber and spectacular display.
Within the broader category of Renaissance architecture, two styles really shine in Sevilla. The first, called plateresque, incorporates Renaissance, Gothic, and Mudéjar motiffs into one intensely decorated style. A great place to really see the plateresque in all its glory is the Ayuntamiento (city hall), where it’s hard to find a free square inch between the sculptures, busts, and complex floral designs that cover building’s façade.
As a multi-tiered reaction to all that the Renaissance stood for, the Baroque period offered a totally different approach to life, art, and, of course, architecture. In fact, architects essentially threw out the stricter classic forms that dominated the Renaissance. The result? Dazzling displays of twisting columns, altered shapes, and highly stylized façades.
Stop by and admire some of Sevilla’s numerous Baroque churches – Santa María la Blanca and El Salvador are a couple of good ones to start out with – and let yourself be wowed by the sensational ornamentation.