Why go now?
A longtime favourite of foodies and flamenco fans with its steamy dance floors and buzzing tapas scene, Seville was recently named best city to visit in 2018 by Lonely Planet – no pressure, then. Thankfully, an ever-growing gamut of alluring boutique hotels and an impressive cultural programme will not disappoint. The Year of Murillo, with a multitude of exhibitions and events to celebrate the Golden Age painter’s 400th anniversary (murilloensevilla.com), starts on 28 November. A compact and charming city, it’s not hard to see why the Andalusian capital captures so many hearts.
Get your bearings
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The city’s main area lies on the right bank of the Guadalquivir (“mighty river” in Arabic), which curves past the old Expo 92 site (1) and hip Triana quarter (2) on the left. The roughly circular area formerly enclosed by city walls, now marked by a ring road, is the Casco Antiguo (historic district), in whose south-east corner lies Barrio Santa Cruz (3). This old Jewish quarter is a maze of narrow cobbled streets, flower-filled patios, and shady tiled squares. Just outside the barrio, by the Alcazar, is the main tourist office (4) (0034 954 787 578), open daily from 9.30am-7.30pm.
Take a view
Whatever your opinion of its six waffley shades, the panoramic vistas from the 28m-high winding walkway atop Metropol Parasol (5) (setasdesevilla.com) – the largest wooden structure in the world – are unbeatable. Spot elegant arched bridges, tiled church domes, the gargantuan cathedral and the Expo 92 site from its lofty heights; there’s also a small cafe/bar-with-a-view.
Take a hike
Start from Metropol Parasol, turning right out of Plaza Encarnacion onto Calle Laraña. Bear left at Calle Cuna, and stroll past the Palace of the Condesa de Lebrija (6), which hides a treasure trove of Roman mosaics and oriental art, while Teatro Quintero (7) on the other side of the road hosts plays, cabaret and flamenco. Carry on down Calle Cuna, turning right onto Pl del Salvador when you reach the end of the road. Take a right onto Calle Alvarez Quintero and follow the road round until you see Plaza San Francisco (8), behind the Ayuntamiento (town hall) (9), on your right. This was the scene of dark deeds during the Spanish Inquisition. On the Ayuntamiento’s other side is tree-lined Plaza Nueva (10), where King Fernando III, who reconquered the city from the Moors in 1248, stands proud on his horse. The broad main thoroughfare Avenida de la Constitucion (11), which is now for trams and bikes only, sweeps you down past the city’s most unmissable monument: the Cathedral (12). Save this for tomorrow and instead check out the Archivo de Indias (13), which has maps and documents charting the discovery of the Americas.
Lunch on the run
A stone’s throw from the Cathedral is Casa Morales (14) (0034 954 22 12 42) a classic Sevillano tapas joint – long wooden bar, briskly efficient waiters, and a well-heeled crowd. Stand in the front part, or sit next to giant tinajas (wine jars) at the back, and dine on jamon serrano, hearty meat stews or smoked sardines with salmorejo (creamy tomato soup), washed down with the local Cruzcampo beer.
Calle Francos (15), behind Plaza San Francisco (8), is full of small shops selling gourmet treats and unusual trinkets. In Sagra (16) (00 34 666 435269) you’ll find colourful Hebrea sashes used to adorn the Virgin Mary during Lent. Stock up on glorious Seville orange-scented Benditaluz lotions at Dale Un Capricho (17) (daleuncapricho.com), and indulge your inner fashionista at eclectic art gallery and store WabiSabi (18) (wabisabigallery.com) with cute leather bags, quirky ceramics and chic frocks. Smaller shops open 10am-2pm and 5-8pm.
Rub shoulders with the locals at La Antigua Bodega (19) (0034 954 561 833), usually heaving on a sunny weekend. Forget the tiny interior – you’re here to enjoy the square, dominated by El Salvador, Seville’s second-most important church, built over a mosque. Sip a beer or fino sherry (€1.30) and soak up the atmosphere.
Dine with the locals
Outstanding atun de almadraba (sustainably caught bluefin tuna) from Cadiz is the star ingredient, with retinto beef a close second, at funky newcomer Zoko (20) (restaurantezoko.com), or hang with the glam crowd at Lobo Lopez (21) (facebook.com/LoboLopezRestaurante) – think flirty waiters, a living wall and jazzy cocktails. The menu is modern gastro tapas, with ceviche, croquettes and lobster dogs on offer.
Out to brunch
Kök (22) (koktucocina.com) only serves brunch (weekends, 10am-4pm), so you know you’re in good hands. This bright and cheery favourite in the down-to-earth Macarena district boasts four set menus at €15-20, with cheese, cold meat, fish, eggs, and yoghurt with fruit and muesli (vegetarian and vegan options available) presented on cake stands, plus toast with excellent home-made jam. Dare your waistline with bagels and pancakes.
Take a ride
Seville is small enough to walk around, but if you want to take a short hop, you’ve got multiple buses and the tram (tussam.es), plus the Metro (metro-sevilla.es). The tram line is laughably short, running 2km from Plaza Nueva south to San Bernardo, while the Metro line runs east-west to the outskirts. Catch the 01 bus from the Maria Auxiliadora stop (23) and jump off at Avenida Carlos V (24), from where it’s a five-minute walk to one of Seville’s loveliest parks.
A walk in the park
South of Puerta Jerez, near metro/tram stop Prado de San Sebastian, Parque Maria Luisa (24) has shady avenues and tiled benches designed for gentle ambles. Row your boat around the canal of Plaza de España, a vast semi-circular building dating from the 1929 Expo, adorned with tiled homages of Spain’s 48 provinces.
The big two not to be missed are the Cathedral (12) (catedraldesevilla.es) and Alcazar royal palace (25) (alcazarsevilla.org). The largest Gothic cathedral in the world, housing Columbus’ magnificent tomb and a vast carved altar piece, it also features a 12th-century minaret-with-bells-on, well worth the climb. Top tip: buy your double-entry ticket (€9) at El Salvador church first and skip the cathedral queue. The Alcazar, familiar to Game of Thrones fans as the Water Gardens of Dorne, is a slice of Mudejar (Islamic-Christian) paradise with technicolour ceramic tiles, eye-popping 3D plasterwork, and a gold-domed ceiling representing the heavens. Entry is €9.50.
The icing on the cake
Hop over the river to Triana, once the poor working-class area, now with fortunes revived – the buzzing market (26) (mercadodetrianasevilla.com) has fabulous fresh produce, a mini-theatre with daily flamenco and a cooking school, while nearby museums of ceramics (27) (juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/agendaandaluciatucultura/evento/centro-ceramica-triana) and the Inquisition (28) (andalucia.org/es/turismo-cultural/visitas/sevilla/otras-visitas/centro-tematico-de-la-tolerancia-del-castillo-de-san-jorge) explore the city’s industrial and religious history.
Cheapest time to fly
Ryanair (ryanair.com), easyJet (easyjet.com) and British Airways (ba.com) fly to Seville from UK airports; Ryanair flies from East Midlands, Gatwick and Manchester, from £50 return. It’s a 20-minute journey from San Pablo airport (29) to the city centre – taxis cost €22-25 or buses leave every 20-30 minutes and cost €4.
Down a quiet street near Santa Catalina, Palacio de Villapanes (30) nails the historic-contemporary vibe: the 18th-century marquess’s palace impresses with gunmetal-grey walls, sleek bathrooms and Loewe TVs.
Doubles from €220, room only.
Casa 1800 (31) is a converted mansion steps from the Cathedral in Barrio Santa Cruz. Stylish rooms in pale colours splashed with gold are arranged around a central patio, and there’s free afternoon tea.
Doubles from €180, room only.
On the boho Alameda de Hercules avenue, the Corner House (32) has simple rooms with a worldly, colourful feel, plus a gorgeous roof terrace. Doubles from €70, BB when you book direct with the hotel.