Seville (or Sevilla in Spanish), the capital of Spain’s southern community of Andalucía, is a captivating, intoxicating sprawl of colourful buildings with exotic tiled patios and protruding balconies. In the spring, the purple flowers of the Jacaranda trees dot the pavements and the silhouettes of swallows dart through the dusk sky as the 9pm church bells sound.
Seville is a city infused with deep passion; it has a warm heart due to the friendly people and flamenco is the beat of the city. Perhaps this is why it is—as I found—possible to fall in love with Seville in 14 days. Here’s my recipe to become enamoured with Seville
Have a Drink on a Seville Rooftop
Seville is not short of rooftops to enjoy. Look up and you will see private rooftops decorated with potted flowers, bright-coloured furniture, and clothes lines. The Casa Roman Boutique Hotel, the EME Catedral Hotel, and the Patio de la Alameda are just some examples of hotel rooftop bars accessible to the public. Sipping tinto de verano (summer red wine) on a rooftop is one of the best ways to get acquainted with the character of this vibrant city.
Take Flamenco Lessons
Seville is synonymous with Flamenco. Although the art, history, and practice of Flamenco span many countries, there is no better place to take flamenco lessons than Seville. This can include dance, palmas (hand clapping), and guitar. An insight into flamenco offers an important insight into Seville. I recommend taking dance classes at Taller Flamenco: Slamming your foot down on the floor in flamenco shoes is cathartic, the music of Fandango is infectious, but most importantly, you will meet other flamenco students you can pass your time with—and who will enrich your time—in Seville.
Pass Time in the Alameda de Hércules
I was not expecting to be charmed by the dry expanse of brick called the Alameda de Hércules; but this area became my backyard, my home. It is where I had coffee, caught up with friends, ate tapas and lunch, walked through the markets, read books, admired the bougainvillea, and watched people enjoy the sunshine. I walked this plaza countless times, crossed it, and cooled in the shade of the white poplar trees. This area is lively at night, too, with bars open and live music into the early hours of the morning.
Walk Along the Guadalquivir River
As the sun sets, the Guadalquivir River reflects its surroundings and this is a good (and cooler) time to walk along the river. South of the Triana Bridge, there are restaurants and bars along Calle Betis to enjoy. From the San Telmo Bridge, you can admire many of Seville’s important monuments, such as the Torre del Oro (Golden Tower), which was constructed as a military watchtower in the 1200s.
Visit the Arabic Baths
Aire de Sevilla is a beautifully scented, tranquil network of ancient baths and varied treatment experiences. I had the wine bath experience, which included: a massage; time in a bath of red wine; paddling through the baths of different temperatures; and soaking in the afternoon sun in the rooftop pool while enjoying wine and cheese and a 360 degree view of Seville.
Have the Menu of the Day
One of my favourite things about Spain is el menú del día, the (lunch) menu of the day, which includes a starter, a main, and a dessert for a fixed, and often, very reasonable price. For under 10 or 15 euros you can enjoy a feast where you can try the flavours of Andalucía, of Spain, or even of Japan (one of my favourite menus of the day was at a Japanese restaurant: Restaurante Matsuri). The best way to enjoy a city is on a full stomach.
The Spanish appear to eat all day. As far as I could tell, they have a small breakfast, a second breakfast at around 10 or 11am, lunch between 2 and 4pm, dinner (or afternoon tea), and a late-night dinner. To approximate the Spanish grazing style, I often relied on tapas: small plates of food. Traditional tapas bars display their tapas at the bar in trays. To some, the tapas soaking in olive oil may look unappetising, but once heated, they are delicious with fresh bread. There are also modern tapas restaurants, such as Duo Tapas in the Alameda, which serve elegantly styled tapas dishes in a bright, vibrant atmosphere.
Sip Manzanilla or Other Wines from Andalucía
Part of understanding a culture comes from eating the local foods, and since the local foods and wines evolved together, in Seville I sipped wines from Andalucía. Mostly, I sipped dry, tangy Manzanilla, which is a type of Fino Sherry made from Palomino grapes. Although Manzanilla (or Sherry in general) may not be so fashionable, I enjoyed it with olives and almonds and the sounds of flamenco. There are also quality wines made in Andalucía that may suit more international wine preferences. For example, I loved the silky red Cortijo de los Aguilares, from Ronda, Málaga, which is made from Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot and which I tried at the fabulous slow food Restaurante ConTenedor.
See a Flamenco Show
There are flamenco shows all over the city, and some are more touristic than others. I liked the shows at Casa de la Memoria, which vary according to the artists performing, though the best flamenco I saw was at the Peña Macarena Torres cultural centre, or ‘Peña’ for short. At the Peña, the artists’ passion for flamenco felt raw and the atmosphere, electric. The tariff is relatively cheap for the privilege of joining local flamenco supporters and artists who keep the compás (beat) and yell olé.
Visit the Plaza de España
It seems that when the people of Seville ask you where you’ve been in Seville, they want to know if you’ve been to the Plaza de España. They ask with good reason, since the Plaza de España is a visual treat where Spanish families and foreign tourists alike take photos in front of the ceramic-tiled alcoves that represent each of the provinces of Spain. There are bridges to cross, park benches to rest on, and boats to row in the canal. It is here, I think, one truly feels they are in Seville.
Visit the Market on Calle Feria
The Mercado de la Feria is the oldest market in Seville and here you can buy flowers, fruits, vegetables, and seafood, among other items. On the right-hand side of the market, there is a lane-way terrace where you can enjoy freshly-cooked seafood from La Cantina (Calle Feria, 98). Here, you order at the counter, they write your name on the tiles and then call your name when your order is ready. This place is frequented by locals and tourists and has a warm, friendly atmosphere.
Get Lost in the Small Streets
A walk in Seville is like looking through a kaleidoscope of coloured ceramic tiles. Tiles decorate the outside of buildings and as you look in at the many tiled patios, they are decorated with rose bushes and lanterns, and some have fountains too. Walking the small streets is a great way to discove new tapas bars and bakeries and sometimes you can hear the strumming of a flamenco guitar from an apartment. There are different areas to discover, though Barrio (Neighbourhood) Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter, is perhaps the most interesting.
Take Siesta and Live on Seville Time
Taking siesta (an afternoon nap) is necessary if your day formally starts at 9am and doesn’t end until 2 or 3 the following morning. Taking siesta is also necessary after eating the menú del día. Living on ‘Seville time’ forced me to enjoy my days more, to eat in different places and positions (sometimes standing up at the bar), and to return home to reenergise for the evening adventures. I have never felt more alive and so connected to others as I did in Seville.
Marvel at Seville’s Cathedral
Seville’s gothic cathedral, Santa Maria de la Sede, is a marvel to see in the day, but in the night, it has a powerful, mystic pull. In spite of its incredible history and sheer size, there is something intangible about the dizzying effect this cathedral can have on you. At night the bats circle above it and there is this sense that you were meant to be there looking up at it, that it could even transport you through time…
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