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Though not as large as Barcelona or Madrid, Seville is, in many respects, the quintessential Spanish city. It was first settled in about 600-700BC by native Iberians and, over subsequent centuries, passed through the hands of the Phoenecians, Carthaginians, Romans, Vandals and Moors, before becoming Christian in 1248. Its greatest period came in the 16th and 17th centuries when, for 200 years, it enjoyed a monopoly on American trade and was the most populous city in Spain. Its pre-eminence faltered at the end of the 17th century and it endured various ups and downs before being put it back on the map by the 1992 Expo, which ignited its current popularity as a tourist destination.
It may not boast the great art museums of Barcelona or Madrid, but Seville seems to embody all the romantic notions of traditional Spanish culture that most visitors to the country come in search of. Though stiflingly hot in summer, its climate is perfect in spring and autumn. To spend time here is to immerse yourself in the pungent aroma of orange trees and jasmine, the machismo of the bullfight, the twisting cobbled streets of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, with its warren of tapas bars, and the purple haze of jacarandas along the banks of the Guadalquivir River. But, its intoxicating Andalucian atmosphere aside, Seville also boasts some superb historical and cultural landmarks. The cathedral is one of the finest in Spain, the Alcázar Palace evokes memories of a great Moorish civilization (as does much of the other architecture) and the Museo de Bellas Artes has one of the country's best fine art collections. If you can afford to stay during either of the big festivals that take place during the spring – the pious Semana Santa and the boisterous Feria de Abril – you are guaranteed an unforgettable experience.
Seville's San Pablo airport is located about 10 kilometres north east of the city. A bus service operated by Los Amarillos runs every 30 minutes on weekdays and every hour on weekends and holidays between the airport and the Santa Justa railway station in the centre of the city. There are stops on various streets, including C/Palos de la Fontera and C/San Francisco Javier. It costs €2.30 for a single ticket. A taxi to the town centre from the airport will cost a flat fee of €17 on weekdays and €21 on weekends and holidays.
The best way to get around Seville is to walk, since the city suffers from a chronic traffic problem and the new, four-line metro system isn’t due to open 2006. If, however, you want to reach an outlying area the bus system is fairly good. Routes C1 and C2 take in Triana, Isla Cartuja and Santa Justa. Routes C3 and C4 loop the old city on the Ronda. There’s also a hop on/hop off tour bus that you can catch every 20 minutes (10.00 – 23.00 daily) anywhere along the east bank of the river between the Puente Triana and Torre del Oro.