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Santa Cruz Quarter map
Santa Cruz Quarter map
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

What did Seville look like in the 14th and 15th centuries? To find out, we time-traveled back to medieval Spain on a walking tour of Barrio de Santa Cruz.

It was easy to get to the district, located east of Plaza del Triunfo between Seville Cathedral and the Real Alcázar. Walking south from the plaza to Patio de Banderas, we continued along pretty Calle Juderia (Jewish Quarter Street) to a labyrinth of shady streets.

Map of Santa Cruz Quarter attractions

Some homes incorporated olive oil mill stones and Roman columns into their whitewashed walls to protect them from scrapes as carts threaded their way through the narrow streets centuries ago.

It is easy to get lost here. We planned our route with a Barrio Santa Cruz map on one of the walls, which showed the location of attractions in the jumbled maze of streets.

Tapas restaurant
Tapas restaurant
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Tapas restaurants

Lined with potted geraniums, tapas restaurants and souvenir shops, the streets intersect at tiny plazas. The district received its name from the Church of the Holy Cross (Iglesia de Santa Cruz) which once dominated a square named after it.

The city-within-a-city was originally called the Jewish Quarter because Jewish people settled here and lent funds to the Catholic kings for their conquests. The kings protected them until 1492 when they were expelled after the last conquest.

In addition to the Jewish Quarter wall and seven-kilometer-long main wall, another wall from the Islamic Period (11th to 12th century) supported clay pipes that transported water from an aqueduct to the city and royal palace. We viewed a restored portion of the wall.

Roasted almonds

There were no squares in the Santa Cruz Quarter until the Christians destroyed some houses to build a market. What remains are plaza names indicating the products that were sold there, such as the Square of the Bread.

Making candied nuts
Making candied nuts
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The market no longer exists, but the aroma of roasted nuts drew us to the Sabor a España shop on Calle Susana, which sells delicious nougat (turrón) and candied nuts, seeds and fruit. A candy-maker caramelized nuts in a round-bottomed copper pot over a fire, creating the tantalizing scents.

Don't eat Seville oranges

The fragrance of orange blossoms permeates Seville twice a year — in spring around Easter and in September and October. Oranges brighten the trees year-round.

We noted several fallen oranges in the plazas, some with bites taken out of them by visitors who didn't realize that Seville oranges are very bitter. City Hall employees harvest the oranges to export to England to make marmalade.

Few visitors know that the government of Seville imposes fines of up to 400€ to anyone caught picking Seville oranges.

Azulejo tiles decorate private courtyard
Azulejo tiles decorate private courtyard
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Private courtyards

Orange trees, fountains and colorful azulejos (ceramic tiles) make Plaza de Doña Elvira the most picturesque square in the Barrio de Santa Cruz. At the nearby corner of Lope de Ruedo and Callejon del Agua, Figaro serenaded Rosina on her Plaza Alfaro balcony in The Barber of Seville opera.

More azulejos enchanted us as we strolled along the zig-zag streets. We peered through an open door into the courtyard at #30 Ximenez de Enciso.

Decorated with azulejo tiles, potted plants, a fountain and a wrought iron gate, it was a memorable glimpse into the home of Santa Cruz Quarter residents.


Tourist Office of Spain

More things to see & do in Spain:

Alicante - Santa Barbara Castle, City Hall Dali and Esplanada Tour

Almeria Alcazaba, Cathedral and Central Market Shore Excursion Tour

Barcelona Self-Guided Walking Tour of Gaudi, La Rambla and Boqueria