Seville, capital of Andalucia, lies on the mighty Guadalquivir -- one of Spain's longest rivers -- and is an enchanting city of leafy parks, mosaic-paved riverside promenades, winding medieval streets and grand squares lined with spectacular buildings and studded with fragrant orange trees.
It also has a history that dates back 2,000 years and is displayed in a dazzling array of buildings from Roman ruins and Moorish minarets to magnificent Baroque palaces, Gothic and Renaissance churches and more recently constructed futuristic extravaganzas.
For although it is proud of and eager to preserve its past, modern-day Seville -- which gained eight new river bridges, super-fast rail links and a vast international fan base after hosting the 1992 World Expo -- looks forward as well as back. The city has bike-sharing, a tram and underground metro links, as well as more high-speed train services and even an electric car program. A major upside has been fewer traffic fumes, more pedestrianized streets and cleaner buildings.
But that's not all that recommends this fabulous city. For us, what makes Seville really memorable is its quintessential Spanishness.
Heartland of the flamboyant Flamenco and -- more controversially -- the bloody sport of bullfighting, Seville is also notable for the spookily spectacular religious processions which take place during Semana Santa (Holy Week), when living tableaux re-enact the Easter story, elaborate statues are carried from churches and sinister-looking white-hooded "penitents" process through crowded streets.
A rather more joyful festival takes place after Easter, when the Guadalquivir's west bank plays host to the Feria de Abril (April Fair, which oddly enough is sometimes held in May). This weeklong funfest involves around-the-clock feasting and dancing. Then in June the locals deck the streets with flowers and whoop it up again to celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi.
And if you love tapas, those tasty tidbits that go down so well with a glass or two of ruby Rioja, Sevilla (as the Spanish know it) will be your idea of seventh heaven.
Most cruise passengers get to Seville on a day trip from the nearby big-ship port of Cadiz. Smaller ships can navigate up the Guadalquivir -- a fascinating journey past basking fishing boats, lush vineyards, cotton fields and olive and citrus groves.
Another tip; join a cruise which stays here overnight if you can, as Seville is just delightful in the evening when the tapas bars which line its narrow streets fill with relaxed and stylish locals.
Grab a glass of wine, chilled sherry or ice cold beer; whistle up a few plates of tasty local delicacies like Jamon Iberico, olives, salty anchovies and puntillitas (fried squid) and then lap up the atmosphere of this lovely city.