Like most of the culturally rich cities of the world, Seville’s history is a diverse one. Founded by the Romans, conquered by the Moors and reclaimed by the Spanish, its historical tapestry is luxuriant. This changing of hands has created architectural landscape that can confound the most accurate geoguesser, and offers something more intimate compared to the larger Spanish cities.
The central area of Seville lays on the banks of the Guadalquivir (‘mighty river’ in Arabic) and is the perfect size for a weekend break. The home of Flamenco, Velázquez and Carmen, it’s a city brimming with culture. Thanks to its hot climate, the days are best spent ambling around sampling the unique cuisine, indulging the artistic history and soaking-up the city’s effervescent nightlife.
The Gran Melia Colon is the perfect choice. A bullfighters’ favourite, the hotel is placed centrally within walking distance of the grand gothic cathedral and close to the cobbled streets and tiled walls of the Jewish quarter, Santa Cruz. To celebrate the significant artistic importance of Seville, the floors of the hotel are dedicated to Spanish artists such as Murillo and Velázquez, with each room dedicated to the respective artist’s works.
The hotel boasts a destination restaurant in its own right in the aptly named Burladero (the wooden board behind which the bullfighter seeks refuge). Serving up traditional Andalusian dishes with a modern twist, the pork-cheek risotto and egg and truffle potato are particularly hearty highlights. It’s definitely a good place to hide out, matador or not. If you’re not lucky enough to be staying in the penthouse, the hotel houses a Clarins spa on the seventh floor which offers up treatments but, more importantly, a pool offering panoramic views of the relatively flat city.
As with most things in Seville, the weather dictates the city’s eating habits. In the spring and summer the sweltering heat forces lunch to be taken between anywhere between 2pm and 4pm as it’s far too hot for anything else. This has a knock-on effect on dinner, with locals dining at 9pm at the earliest.
The best way to eat in Seville is little and often. Head to the maze that is the Barrio Santa Cruz to try out the varied local tapas bars. My personal favourite is the airy El Pinton, which features an atrium at its centre and a contemporary vibe. Make sure you make a reservation though; it’s always busy in testament to the frankly delicious menu. La Brunilda also combines a buzzier atmosphere and a modern interior with new-wave tapas. There is often a queue on evenings but the wait is worth it.
If you have your eye on something a little less formal during the day, head to the Calle Feria market which is open Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays to sample a wide verity of local foods – though I’d suggest the Sevillan special: freshly fried seafood from the freidurías.
Around the city the remnants of the Islamic architecture combine with Christian designs to create a blended style known as Mudejar, which is ornate and geometric. There are numerous examples throughout the city, with the most famous being the setting for the Dornish water gardens in Game of Thrones, the Alcázar. It’s definitely worth a visit but I would advise to buy tickets in advance and make sure to get there early.
The Alcázar isn’t the only destination worthy of a film credit however, with the otherworldly Plaza De Espana being used in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones. Don’t worry about queues here however, admission is free and the grounds are spacious. Plus, you know. The Prequels.
If you’re after something less mainstream but equally beautiful head to the Palacio de las Dueñas – less famous than the Alcázar but just as picturesque and a great place to relax in the serene gardens.
The streets are generally abuzz most evenings apart from Mondays. Head to the tree-lined, Almeda de Hercules if you fancy mingling with the trendy locals; there are numerous bars here all with their own unique twist. For something more traditional head to El Rinconcillo. Yes there are numerous bars around the city with a similar look – hanging hams, bottles of wine covering the walls, a dark-wood interior – but this happens to be one of the oldest taverns in the whole of Spain. It’s touristy but a relatively authentic atmosphere remains. Pitch yourself up next to a barrel and drink sherry to your heart’s content.
No trip to Seville would be complete without Flamenco. Take a trip over the river to Triana, the birthplace of Flamenco, to visit Baraka Sala Flamenca. Let the skilful quartet guide you through an emotive performance in an authentic setting.
While sipping on sangria, of course.