As I mentioned in a blog post last autumn, Seville tends to be quiet for months at a time, and then suddenly burst into frenzied activity.
This time, with Christmas and Reyes behind us and a new month starting, visits to historic buildings, a restored palace, and an avant-garde art exhibition are heading up the cultural agenda.
Guided tours started recently to the Casa Consistorial - the Ayuntamiento (Town Hall) building in Plaza Nueva. This is where civil weddings take place, and other ceremonies and receptions are held. The tour, which has a Spanish guide but with audioguide available in English and other languages (you need to ask), takes in the original, previously-closed-to-the-public Renaissance building, inside the later, 19th-century part. The highlights are the two Sala Capitulars, Bajo and Alto, the former with a ceiling covered with centuries' worth of Spanish kings in relief (ground floor), while the latter has a breathtaking gold coffered ceiling (first floor); throughout you can see priceless art works by Murillo and Valdes Leal. The tours are at 4.30pm and 7.30pm Monday to Friday, and 10am on Saturday. They are free if you live in Seville city, otherwise 4 euros. You can book here.
A few weeks ago, the official (re)opening of the Palacio de los Marqueses de la Alcaba took place. This palace, which has already been open to the public for some months, dates from the 15th century, and it plays host to even more ancient treasures: the new Centro de Mudejar, with artefacts by mudejar craftsmen (Moors who stayed behind after the Christian reconquest) - sections of painted wood pannelling and carved details, clay pots and other relics, as well as a fascinating map showing exactly where Moors and Jews lived in the city. You can also enjoy the beautiful patio and colonnades with high vaulted ceilings. The Palace (located beind Calle Feria market) is open 10am-2pm and 5pm-8pm Monday to Friday, 10am-2pm Saturday, and entry is free.
During the summer, the Alcazar holds a programme of evening concerts and plays, which take place in its gardens. But now you don't have to wait till June for an atmospheric night-time visit to this emblematic architectural treasure. As of next week, after-dark guided tours bring the palace's rich history to life with actors portraying key characters in Seville's past such as King Fernando III, Queen Isabella (La Reina Catolica) and playwright Lope de Vega. Tours are on Thursday and Friday nights only, at 7.30pm, 8pm, 8.30pm and 9pm (9pm. 9.30pm, 10pm and 10.30pm April-September), and cost 12 euros; you can book here.
And finally, Friday 1 February sees the opening of the Ai Wei Wei exhibition at Seville's contemporary art museum, the CAAC. The pieces on show by the Chinese dissident artist were selected to complement the industrial heritage of the CAAC's home: the 14th century Carthusian monastery once housed a ceramic factory. Many are of porcelain, most famously the Sunflower Seeds, which were displayed at Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2010. Subtitled "Resistance and Tradition", the exhibition follows Weiwei's consistent themes of determination to express himself in the face of government opposition (previously held in prison and under house arrest for months, he isn't allowed to leave China), and of the importance of tradition at a time of mass commercialisation - as a stand against the cheap plastic goods which pour out of China - the pieces are hand-made. This exhibition is open Tuesday to Saturday 11am to 9pm, Sunday 11am-3pm (Closed Monday), and costs 1.80 euro. Entry is free Tuesday to Friday 7pm-9pm, and all day Saturday; it is on until 23 June. For more information click here. You can also see Alison Klayman´s acclaimed documentary about the artist, Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry, which won the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival last year, at the Avenida Cinema, from 1 February.