A 'bitter orange' tree with green leaves and bright orange Seville oranges protrudes from the pavement on the streets of Seville. Graffiti overlay featuring a quote from the article: "Oranges weave seamlessly into every aspect of life here..."

The Bitter Truth: What is Seville Famous for in Spain?

Here You’ll Find:
🍊 An Unlikely Hero
From the Himalayas to Andalusia
The City Adorned in Orange
Beyond the Beauty
🏰 More Than Marmalade
Get a Taste of Seville's Soul
Orange or Art?
🌳 Legacy
Symbols of Resilience and Sustainability
As Civil As An Orange
Taste the Future


In the heart of Andalusia, the sun-soaked city of Seville - or ‘Sevilla’ in its native Spanish - boasts a rich history and vibrant culture that has been shaped by an unexpected hero. The variety of orange known world-over as the "Seville Orange", is a fruit which is delicious on the eyes, but terribly bitter on the tongue. Renowned for its fragrant citrus groves, Seville's association with oranges is more than just a source of local pride – it is an integral part of the city's identity. From its role in shaping the landscape, to influencing the economy, and even inspiring art and architecture. The presence of bitter oranges in Seville has left an indelible mark on this enchanting Spanish city.


An artistic interpretation of the Moors feeling blessed by a bitter orange tree in Seville. In the image, the Seville orange tree glows as people in North African dress gather around.

An Unlikely Hero

From the Himalayas to Andalusia

From the vibrant streets of Seville to the countryside of Andalusia, a citrus treasure has woven its way into the very fabric of this Spanish city. It is none other than the illustrious Seville orange. But exactly what are Seville oranges? The 'Citrus × aurantium' tree bears fruit known in modern terms as the 'Seville Orange', or very literally the 'bitter orange'. This variety of orange is an aromatic fruit that exudes a unique ultra-tangy bittersweetness. So, can you eat the oranges in Seville? Our recommendation is to consider the Seville oranges uses more-so along the lines of a cooking orange, much like you would cooking apples or cooking chocolate.

Have you ever wondered how this captivating fruit found its way into urban Seville orange groves? Prepare to embark on a journey that takes us from the majestic peaks of the Himalayas to the enchanting lands of Andalusia. Long before oranges graced European tables, they were gazed upon by ancient Romans, through Egyptian trading routes. However, it was with the arrival of the Moors in Spain during the 8th century that changed the course of our investigation. Because what did the Moors bring to Europe, other than sugar cane, cotton, rice, and the entire concept of Islam? Importantly, the Moors introduced the Iberian peninsula to citrus crops and, by the 10th century, to the relationship between Moors and orange trees, where one particular citrus variety truly blossomed - the bitter orange.

The Moors believed that planting bitter orange trees brought forth happiness and joy into their lives, attributing mystical properties to these zesty wonders. This belief led them to gracing every corner of Seville with magnificent groves filled with what are now affectionately known as Seville oranges. Their influence not only shaped Seville's landscape but also left an indelible mark on Spain as a whole.


White orange blossom starting to form on some of Seville's bitter orange trees, after orange season has finished and the oranges have been picked.

The City Adorned in Orange

As you stroll through the streets of Seville, it is impossible to escape the captivating presence of orange trees. With over 40,000 of them gracing the city's landscape, these vibrant citrus trees have become an indelible part of Seville's identity. From parks and gardens to plazas and private courtyards, these trees flourish in abundance, casting a glorious veil of green and orange hues throughout the city.

One cannot help but be enchanted by the smells that fill the air during Seville's orange blossom season. The orange blossom, known as "azahar" in Spanish, releases an intoxicating scent from the delicate white flowers that adorn each tree during the season for Seville oranges. It is a fragrance that lingers on your senses long after you've left Seville, evoking memories of enchanting walks through narrow alleyways lined with blooming orange trees. The best time to visit Seville for orange blossom tends to be anywhere between the end of February and start of March, depending upon the years' weather patterns. If you're looking for an orange blossom festival, why not stay on in Seville for 'La Feria de Sevilla' an annual festival held in April, which is a true spectacle and engulfs the entire city for a whole week.

But if you're wondering, can you eat the oranges in Seville just as you would a regular sweet orange - technically you could, but it's highly unlikely you'd want to do so. They have a lot of seeds, the flavour is highly concentrated and they're extremely bitter. All of this lends the Seville orange to cookery, fragrances and even to medicinal uses.

It isn't just their visual appeal or aromatic allure that makes these oranges truly special. The fruit they bear holds its own charm as well. Bursting with an unparalleled strength of flavour, Seville oranges are highly sought after for use in culinary creations around the world. Whether it's marmalades infused with their tangy taste or traditional recipes passed down through generations, these fruits have found their way into countless kitchens beyond Seville's borders. If you're hoping to travel to Seville, you'll se that it truly wears its citrus crown with pride, making it impossible to resist the allure of this enchanting city adorned in orange.


A jar of marmalade made from Seville oranges.

Beyond the Beauty

Other than holding ornamental beauty, what are Seville oranges used for most commonly? Beyond its stunning appearance and historical significance, the Seville orange holds a legacy that goes far beyond mere aesthetics. Its most popular use is in British marmalade production. Known for their intense bitterness, Seville oranges are perfect for creating this beloved sugary treat. The tartness and distinct flavour of these oranges add a unique twist to traditional citrus preserves, making them a favourite choice among discerning palates.

In fact, the love for marmalade with Seville oranges extends even to prestigious figures such as Queen Elizabeth II herself. It is said that she started each day with a slice of perfectly toasted bread slathered with this delectable treat. And who can forget Paddington Bear's unwavering fondness for marmalade sandwiches? These bear-tested and approved treats have become an iconic representation of British culture. Who would’ve guessed that a Peruvian bear would be at the heart of such an important Anglo-Andalusian diplomatic relationship?

But it doesn't stop there – the uses of Seville oranges extend further into realms untouched by their more common citrus counterparts. The distinctive scent emitted from Sevillano blossoms has found its way into orange blossom perfumes throughout history. Fragrance houses have harnessed the orange blossom scent, blending it harmoniously with other notes to create fragrances that captivate and enthral wearers around the world. 

Moreover, essential oils derived from Seville oranges possess various therapeutic properties believed to promote relaxation and vitality. With their invigorating aroma and potential health benefits when utilised in aromatherapy or massage oils, these fruits offer a natural way to elevate well-being. Whether it be for the culinary, perfumery, or medicinal industry, the economic impact of Seville oranges is an important one for the city.


Using the juice from Seville Oranges in cooking.

More Than Marmalade

Get a Taste of Seville's Soul

Do Seville oranges come from Seville in all cases? The Spanish oranges of Seville were undoubtedly exported and planted across the world throughout the centuries, but if you're partial to British marmalade you're almost certain to have sampled Seville oranges from Seville. The city exports thousands of tonnes of oranges to the UK each season; these particular oranges in Spain are ripe to be picked and shipped between December and February. When it comes to Seville orange recipes, most people immediately think of their renowned use in making delectable marmalade. However, these vibrant citrus treasures have so much more to offer when it comes to tantalising our taste buds. From delicate pastries and refreshing liqueurs to mouth-watering dishes that showcase the unique flavour profile of Citrus aurantium.

One popular treat you mustn't miss on your culinary exploration is the famous 'Naranjito,' a traditional soft biscuit made with freshly squeezed Seville orange juice and zest-infused dough. These golden delights are baked until they develop a heavenly aroma and melt-in-your-mouth texture. With every bite, you'll be transported into a world filled with zesty tanginess and sweet indulgence – a true celebration of Seville's love affair with its homegrown citrus hero.

For those seeking an intoxicating sip infused with the essence of sophistication, look no further than orange wine, a viscous wine more akin to sherry that is aged in local Sevilliano orange peels. This exquisite beverage boasts complex flavours ranging from floral undertones to subtle hints of bitterness derived from the natural sourness found in these special fruits. It’s no wonder that locals are proud that sipping on orange wine is an authentic sensory experience exclusive to this part of Spain.

If you're feeling adventurous in the kitchen, why not try your hand at creating candied peel? The fragrant peels steeped in syrup transform into delightful bursts of sweet citric delight that can enliven any dessert or serve as an irresistible standalone treat. Alternatively, indulge yourself by getting hands-on with homemade orange liqueur recipes like Ponche de Naranja or Triple Sec, each one capturing the spirit (and spirits) of local traditions with just the right touch of orangey zest.

With a wealth of culinary possibilities, Seville oranges invite you to explore and savour their versatile nature. So book a plane ticket, dive into this vibrant world of flavours, immerse yourself in the soulful craftsmanship of Seville's pastries, liqueurs, and dishes – and discover how these remarkable citrus gems can elevate your culinary encounters to new heights.


Gardens, with Seville orange trees in the foreground and Seville's Moorish palace 'Real Alcázar' in the background.

Orange or Art?

Of the Moorish cities in Spain, Sevilla may be the finest example of such a city embracing its ancient past and bright future, in all of Southern Spain. The city's architectural beauty is etched in the very fabric of its courtyards and gardens, where the influence of the Moors can still be seen today. These enchanting spaces have long been adorned by fragrant orange blossoms and towering citrus trees.

Particularly interesting to fans of the Game of Thrones Seville connection, an iconic site that beautifully showcases the marriage between nature and architecture is the Real Alcázar gardens. As you stroll through the meticulously designed landscape, it becomes evident why they served as one of the Game of Thrones filming locations. The intricate patterns on the arches, fountains shimmering with sunlight, and perfectly manicured hedges all serve as a testament to the Moors influence in Spain.

The Patio de los Naranjos (Patio of Oranges), on the grounds of the Seville Cathedral, is an example of urban and natural spaces metaphorically shaking hands. This tranquil courtyard features orange trees planted in an orderly fashion, like decorative natural columns drawing crowds in through the cathedral doors. Here, visitors can pause amidst ancient stone walls to soak in both earthly scents wafting from oranges ripening under Andalusian sunbeams—and echoes reverberating from centuries past. This being said, it's not just grand Moorish architecture that brings this union to life; even humble corners within Seville bear witness to this artistic fusion.


Rows of Seville's famous bitter orange trees in the courtyard of the Seville Cathedral. The trees are in the Patio de los Naranjos of the Catedral de Sevilla.


Symbols of Resilience and Sustainability

Seville's orange trees are more than just a beautiful sight lining the streets; they have become a symbol of resilience and sustainability for the city. These iconic trees not only provide shade on hot summer days, but they also play a crucial role in Seville's well-being. Is Seville famous for oranges and oranges alone? Of course not, but it's undeniable that they are as much of a draw as the many more typical Seville tourist attractions. Not to mention, the environmental benefits of orange trees in urban spaces is something this Andalusian city should be lauded for.

Seville takes its commitment to sustainable practices seriously with innovative techniques like anaerobic fruit composting to produce electricity. Oranges and their peels that would otherwise go to waste are collected and processed in specialised facilities where they undergo anaerobic digestion. This process generates biogas that is then used as one of the energy sources that power Seville. It's a remarkable example of turning agricultural byproducts into clean energy while minimising waste.

Of course, every success story faces its fair share of challenges along the way. When looking at the challenges and future of Seville's orange groves, protecting the trees from natural threats is a full-time job. One such challenge for the orange trees in Seville streets, is dealing with pests and diseases like Yellow Dragon Disease (Huanglongbing for short). To combat this threat sustainably, rather than resorting to harmful pesticides or drastic measures, Seville encourages natural predators like birds and insects which prey on pests spreading the disease. By utilising nature's own mechanisms, they strive for an ecological balance that safeguards both crops and biodiversity.


The Semana Santa event in Sevilla, otherwise known as Holy Week. There is a gold float with religious iconography, held aloft by crowds of people. The streets are lined by oranges trees.

As Civil As An Orange

In the vibrant city of Seville, the bitter orange is more than just a fruit; it has become deeply ingrained in Seville folklore and traditions. Legends of these bittersweet fruits add an enchanting touch to the already rich tapestry of Andalusian culture. The cultural significance of Seville oranges is exemplified by William Shakespeare’s coining of the phrase “as civil as an orange” in ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. Here the word ‘civil’ is a play on the English translation of Sevilla - Seville - and cleverly references the natural bitterness of Seville oranges.

The religious observances during Holy Week (Semana Santa) further highlight the connection between Seville's identity and bitter oranges. During Holy Week, Seville is treated to swirling incense that wafts through ancient streets lined with towering churches, as processions adorned with elaborate floats make their slow journey towards redemption. Alongside these mesmerising spectacles are arrangements using fragrant Sevilla oranges - symbols reminding believers not only of Christ's sacrifice but also mirroring purity amidst suffering.

It's the traditions and celebrations around oranges in Seville that are sure to ensure this humble Seville tree holds an emotional connection to the city with Sevillianos for centuries more. Whether whispered among friends or depicted in grand parades, the cultural significance of bitter oranges weaves seamlessly into every aspect of life here in Seville.


A section of Seville's Metropol Parasol, otherwise known as Las Sets de Sevilla. In the foreground there is an orange tree with bright green leaves and orange Seville oranges.

Taste the Future

Because Seville has built its fame on the legacy with oranges from Seville, it continues to nurture a strong and evolving relationship with these vibrant trees. Recognising their significance as symbols of cultural heritage and economic prosperity, there have been ongoing initiatives to preserve and protect the orange trees that adorn the streets and parks of the city. Efforts are made to safeguard the Seville fruit from disease and urban development, ensuring the intoxicating sensory experience of orange blossoms is guaranteed for generations to come.

As Seville embraces progress while preserving its rich history, one thing remains certain: The oranges will always be an integral part of this ever-evolving identity; one that we have the Moors in Seville to thank for. Whether it's through traditional recipes like marmalades, or more innovative and unique culinary uses of Seville oranges in mixology or other culinary experimentation, Seville finds new ways to celebrate and showcase its beloved fruit. As visitors stroll through the grounds of many Seville famous landmarks, particularly ancient Moorish gardens, or they sip on freshly squeezed (sweet) orange juice at a bustling café alongside avenues lined with giant orange trees laden with ripe fruit – they cannot help but feel enchanted by this timeless connection between Seville's past and present.

So, what is Seville famous for in Spain? A great many things, from its near year-round sunlight and fantastic flamenco, to its ancient architecture blending so seamlessly with new projects such as their big wooden mushrooms ("Las Setas" or "Metropol Parasol"). But somehow an inedible fruit takes centre stage…

The journey of the Seville orange has been a captivating tale of cultural exchange and fruitful contributions. From its ancient arrival in Spain with the Moors to its ubiquitous presence in Seville's visual and olfactory landscape, the bitter orange tree has left an indelible mark on the city. Beyond ornamentation, this Seville orange plant has found practical uses that enrich daily life, while its culinary versatility extends far beyond mere marmalade. Moreover, the intertwining of the orange tree with Seville's architectural and artistic heritage stands as a testament to its enduring influence. As we consider how these orange trees contribute to the city's well-being and delve into their cultural significance, we are reminded of the ongoing relationship between Seville and its beloved orange trees—a relationship that is sure to bear fruit for centuries to come. Sevilla is beautiful at any time of year. However, if you’re looking for an early Spring city break in Europe, Seville is a must-see unforgettable experience.