So many people forget about the small but beautiful cities outside Spain’s tourist-magnets of Madrid, Barcelona, and the country’s many coastal attractions. That’s a real pity, as somewhere such as Seville (not forgetting the likes of Girona, Cadiz, Santiago del Compostela) is a weekend away, perhaps even a week, to die for. The capital of southern Spain is renowned for its mild winters and piping-hot summers (it has more hours of sunshine than any other principal European city), its authentic history and architecture, and its hot-button status as a foodie city. Full of the kind of charm you thought was no longer around, its tri-part attractions include nonconformist Macarena, Bario Santa Cruz, and Triana. One word? Enchanting.
WHAT TO SEE/DO
You’re in Seville, so why ever not? The largest wooden structure in the world is Metropol Parasol (setasdesevilla.com), at the top of which is the Mirador, at 28.5 metres in height. Otherworldly it may seem, but its design is inspired by nature (the fichu trees in close by Plaza de Cristo de Burgos) and historical architecture (the vaults of the Cathedral of Seville), while the views from its upper-level terraces (on which a restaurant and bar are located) offer some of the best of the city centre.
Aside from Metropol Parasol, there are two other principal tourist sights that draw the eye. The first is the Cathedral of Seville (Avenida de la Constitución; catedralesevilla.es). Its official (and lengthier) title is Cathedral of Santa Maria de le Sede de Sevilla, but never mind that – this structure is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Among its many visual splendours is a 12th-century minaret, and a stunning tomb within which rests the once busy globetrotting bones of Christopher Columbus. Try and count all of its chapels, by the way (there are 80 in total!). The second tourist attraction is the exceptional UNESCO-listed Alcazar Royal Palace (alcazarsevilla.org), a truly eye-calming vision of Islamic-Christian architecture complete with pioneering design plasterwork, multi-hued ceramic tiles, and a gold-domed ceiling that symbolises paradise. Fans of Games of Thrones will recognise the Alcazar as the Water Gardens of Dorne.
One of Seville’s most atmospheric neighbourhoods is Triana, located opposite the old city on the left bank of River Guadalquivir. Conventional and hip blend here, and the best way to experience both is simply to walk around its streets. You won’t miss the Mercado de Triana, as it’s located slap-bang in front of the Puente de Triana (aka Puente de Isabel II), the oldest iron bridge in Spain. Beneath the market, which has about a dozen in-situ café/bars, you’ll find the Castle of San Jorge. Here, you can visit a museum (the oddly-titled Thematic Centre of Tolerance) that presents intriguing observations on the Spanish Inquisition.
EAT AND DRINK
From sophisticated, velvet-lined restaurants to traditional tiled tapas joints – Seville has a full range of foodie experiences. For our money, we are advising (geographical discrepancies aside) to take the ‘when-in-Rome’ approach and go from one tapas bar to the next. Whatever you decide to choose, you can be guaranteed that what you eat will be totally delish.
In keeping with the tenor of the gastronomic authenticity of what Seville has to offer, visit the Urban Food Market. Located on the busy Calle Feria, which is choc-a-bloc with restaurants, the Urban Food Market has stalls, stands and pop-up shops galore offering fresh produce and the kind of tasty-bite treats you have dreamt about but rarely ever experienced. Noodles, tacos, and tapas of every stripe and variety are available for very reasonably prices. If you want to take the weight off your feet, you can eat in.
If you’re a fan of craft beers, make a bee (of, perhaps, a beer) line for Hops & Dreams (Jesus del Gran Poder). In a chilled area close to the Almeda, you can avail of numerous draft brews (including Seville’s very own Rio Azul) and over 40 bottles of different beer creations. A nice bonus for the beer lover is the free map provided of the city’s craft beer bars.
Another bar that is rightly garlanded with praise is Café Bar Las Teresas (Calle Santa Teresa 2; lasteresas.es), one of the city’s most valued and valid places to have a drink. With uneven wooden tables on the outside, and joints of ham hanging down from the ceiling on the inside, this idiosyncratic place is open from 10am to 1am, so you have no excuse not take a look-see.
Dinner that isn’t tapas-oriented? Where do you begin? Why not with Seville’s only Michelin-starred restaurant? With simplistic but very stylish interior décor across one sizeable room, the focus at Abantal (Calle Alcalde José de la Bandera; abantalrestaurante.es) is strictly on the food, as overseen by chef/co-owner Julio Fernández Quintero. Mains are priced in the region of €25-€35 (give or take a euro or two), and feature such inventive yet unembellished combinations as oyster with cream of corn and dill, caramelised lamb sweetbread with Moorish cream and beetroot, and marinated Iberian pork shoulder, pumpkin, and mushroom. Needless to say, reservations are essential.
Located in Santa Cruz, Seville’s gorgeous, historic-laden Jewish quarter (and regarded as the city’s proper centre), Hotel Elvira Plaza (Plaza Doña Elvira; hotelelviraplaza.com) is a small establishment (nine rooms). Opened in 2012, a full refurbishment has given a new lease of life to a historic building. The rooms are bright and spacious (although with no wardrobes, you’ll need to be tidy with your clothes), it is centrally situated, and boasts a rooftop terrace with amazing views. Plus points here, too, for the splendid plaza location, which comes with thriving foliage, a gurgling fountain, and ceramic-tiled benches.
If you’re on the mooch for an area of the city that’s somewhat livelier, then you might think of staying in the Alameda and/or Macarena districts, which are home to more cafés, beer haunts and tapas bars than you’ll ever get to even if you were visiting Seville for a month. If you fancy something far less contemporary, check out Alcoba Del Ray (Calle Bécquer; alcobadelray.com), an old-fashioned townhouse with traditional furniture, chequered flooring and those striking whitewashed walls. Located beside the Macarena Arch (one of the city’s ancient gates), from here you have full entry to old-world streets and lanes, as well as a wealth of day/night entertainment.
Don’t fancy walking too far from the central attractions? Stay, then, in central Seville (aka Centro neighbourhood), which is bounded by Plazas Encarnacion and Nueva, between which there is all the shopping (from typical High Street to many independent stores) you might need to succumb to over the course of several days. You could, of course, choose to stay in a super-smart and super-expensive place (that’d be EME Catedral Hotel, Calle Alemanes; emecatedralhotel.com), but personally we’d like to save our money for more foodie/visitor experiences. Hence, we’re recommending Hotel Doña Maria (Calle Don Remondo; en.hdmaria.com), a family-friendly and spacious place to rest the head.
For further information about Seville, see visitasevilla.es/en
WRITTEN BY TONY CLAYTON-LEA