48 hours in . . . Seville, an insider guide to Spain's steamy southern city

The small, sun-soaked capital of southern Spain

Known for its steamy-hot summers, mild winters and sultry operatic gypsy heroine Carmen, Seville is a bijou city whose fabulous food, extraordinary Mudejar, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and exotic flamenco rhythms never fail to charm and seduce. History oozes through its very pores, with ancient Moorish walls, Roman ruins and Baroque churches at every turn.

Follow the locals to hole-in-the-wall bars, sip cañas (small glasses) of beer, and then get lost wandering the tiny streets of Barrio Sant Cruz, dotted with orange-tree-filled plazas, before resting in a quiet, shady corner on a tiled bench. For a more authentic experience, head to boho Macarena or tile-and-gypsy quarter Triana. Then, after dusk, head up the rooftops to admire the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and its Moorish-Christian tower from a terrace bar.

Hot right now . . .

    Fiona Flores Watson, our resident expert, offers her top tips on the hottest places to eat, drink and stay this season.

    Eat

    Incongruously located in the Prado de San Sebastian bus station, elegant Ispal (Plaza San Sebastián 1; 00 34 955 54 71 27) has kick-started a new trend for tasting menus in the city. Theirs use only ingredients from Seville province or nearby for dishes such as suckling pig, olives with anchovies and vermouth and tomatoes with dried roe. 

    Ispal restaurant, Seville

    Ispal has kick-started a new trend for tasting menus in Seville

    The fashionable street-food hub Urban Food Market (Calle Feria 83; 00 34 955 11 54 18) is well-located on bustling calle Feria, which is full of restaurants, shops and a large fresh-produce market. Stands serve tempting treats such as choripan (Argentinian hot filled rolls), noodles and tacos; you can eat in – décor is hip and post-industrial – or take away. 

    Urban Food Market, Seville

    Pick up some tasty street food at Urban Food Market

    Credit:
    Rafael Garcia/Rafael Garcia

    Drink

    Craft beer-lovers should make for Hops and Dreams (Jesus del Gran Pode 83; 00 34 955 19 86 54), where eight draft brews and 40-plus bottles (try Seville’s Rio Azul) are served up in a relaxed space near the Alameda. Grab one of their free maps which mark all of Seville’s craft beer joints. 

    The best bars in Seville

    Hops and Dreams, Seville

    At Hops and Dreams there are eight draft brews and 40-plus bottles to try

    Credit:
    Rafael Garcia/Rafael Garcia

    Stay

    The stylish One Shot Palacio Conde de Torrejon (Calle Conde de Torrejón 9;  00 34 854 56 58 54) in the Macarena district is one of the hottest hotels in the city. Two large patios in a 18th-century former palace are edged with wood-floored rooms with quirky touches. The stunning rooftop pool and excellent restaurant add to the allure. Double rooms from €109 (£97).

    The best hotels in Seville

    One Shot Palacio Conde de Torrejon, Seville

    One Shot Palacio Conde de Torrejon is housed in an 18th-century former palace

    48 hours in . . . Seville

      MORNING

      Be swept back in time to King Pedro the Wise’s Mudejar (Christian-Moorish) royal court at the 14th-century Alcazar Palace (Patio de Banderas; 00 34 954 502 324), with its exquisite ceramic tiles and heavenly gold ceilings. Explore the gardens, home to peacocks, pavilions and pools. Look familiar? You may have seen it as the Water Gardens of Dorne in Game of Thrones. In summer they hold outdoor night-time concerts here, probably Seville’s most magical venue, with the grutesco stone wall as a backdrop as moonlight streams through the palm trees. Note: entry is free on Monday afternoons. 

      Then cross Plaza del Triunfo and be wowed – inside and out – by Seville Cathedral (00 34 902 099 692), the third-largest in the world. The basilica’s scale is jaw-dropping, with a 40-metre-plus high nave and 80 chapels. Be sure to climb up the Giralda belltower, formerly the minaret of the mosque which stood here, for fabulous views over Barrio Santa Cruz. For lunch, reward yourself with some divine modern tapas at nearby La Azotea (Calle Conde de Barajas 13; 00 34 955 116 748) – try sea bass ceviche or razor clams with butter beans.

      Seville Cathedral

      Cross Plaza del Triunfo and be wowed – inside and out – by Seville Cathedral

      Credit:
      Marcus Lindstrom

      AFTERNOON

      Head down Calle San Fernando, stopping off at food store Mimo (00 34 854 556 800), inside the palatial Hotel Alfonso XIII (00 34 954 917 000), for some gourmet goodies such as own-label sauces, organic jams and extra virgin olive oil (you can make your own blend) – they also offer wine-tastings and cooking classes.

      Admire the Royal Tobacco Factory next door, one of the settings for Seville’s famed Carmen – spot the head of Colon (Christopher Columbus) on the entrance – and stroll on to Parque Maria Luisa, home to pretty tiled benches, shady corners named after love poets, and magnificent Plaza de España. This vast brick structure, built for the 1929 Expo, is a photographer’s dream, with its wide plaza, elliptical walls, and colourful ceramics and flowers. Lookout for the statue of architect Anibal Gonzalez, gazing at his creation.

      Parque Maria Luisa

      Parque Maria Luisa is home to pretty tiled benches, shady corners named after love poets, and magnificent Plaza de España

      Credit:
      (C)2016 Chiara Salvadori, all rights reserved/Chiara Salvadori

      LATE

      Of the latest crop of new restaurants, Seis (00 34 955 440 030)in central Plaza Nueva, ticks all the boxes for décor (jungle-themed with myriad trailing tendrils), service (efficient, friendly staff in smart white uniforms), and food (modern Mediterranean-Asian), as well as offering superb value. Start off with a house-designed exotic cocktail at the lively bar (you’re under a tree canopy), which might be served in a Moroccan mosaic-tiled bowl. Then slide into a cosy booth for a crab taco or rice with duck and mushrooms.

      Finish off your evening at rooftop bar EME Catedral Terraza (Calle Alemanes 27; 00 34 954 560 000), where you can mingle with the smart crowd, and sip a mojito at eye-level with some gravity-defying flying buttresses.

      EME Catedral Terraza

      The terrace bar at EME Catedral Hotel has the best cathedral views in town

      Credit:
      unknown

      Day Two 

      MORNING

      Head over the river to the bohemiam, sailor and ceramic tile neighbourhood of Triana. Start off with a visit to the Museo de Tolerancia (Plaza del Altozano; 00 34 954 33 22 40), housed in the ruins of the Castillo de San Jorge, the original seat of the Catholic Church’s 400-year purge – interesting without being overly grim.

      Then pop next door and absorb the sights, smells and sounds of Triana Market (00 34 674 074 099), replete with fresh local produce – don’t miss the fabulous fish stalls, with scary-looking seafood, or skilled jamon-carvers. Saunter down calle Pureza to Seville’s oldest parish church, Santa Ana, built in 1266. Look out for the painting of Santa Rufina and Santa Justa, Christian martyrs who were potters from Triana; the city’s patron saints, they’re pictured with the Giralda, which they saved from an earthquake, according to local legend.

      Triana Market

      At Triana Market you can watch flamenco in the micro-theatre, have tapas or sushi, nibble on pretty pastries, and even take a cooking class

      AFTERNOON

      Back over the river in the San Lorenzo district, venture into the cavernous Antigua Abaceria de San Lorenzo (Calle Teodosio 53; 00 34 954 38 00 67), a restaurant/grocery store packed with eclectic knick-knacks which feels like someone’s house. Here you’ll eat elbow to elbow with Sevillanos – the menu is traditional local fare, no fancy plating or artful design – tortilla or fried eggs with chorizo and tomato.

      Over on the Alameda de Hercules, centre of bearded hipster-dom, go up to rooftop bar at the Corner House (34 954 913 262) for a bird’s eye view of alternative Seville – the terrace offers an unpretentious, laid-back vibe; Aperol spritz is the drink of choice.

      Corner House, Seville

      Seville’s most stylish roof terrace bar, at Corner House, is found high up above the tree-lined Alameda de Hercules

      LATE

      Cross back into the gypsy district and head to T de Triana (00 34 954 331 203) on Calle Betis, which has authentic flamenco shows on an intimate scale – the performers are swishing their skirts inches from your face. You might even see a neighbour joining in spontaneously, in the true spirit of flamenco. Have a beer (you get one with your ticket) and tapas overlooking the river.

      Triana, Seville

      Spend the evening in fun barrio Triana

      Then head down Calle Betis to Embarcadero (00 34 610 727 755), a nautical-feel bar with tables almost on the water. Alternatively, if you feel inspired to take to the floor yourself, go back towards Triana Bridge to Lo Nuestro (00 34 699 995 241), where locals practice Sevillanos, a local version of flamenco performed in pairs at the Spring Fair, to live music all year round. A gin-tonic will give you the Dutch courage you need.

      Flamenco in Seville

      You’ll find plenty of authentic flamenco in Seville

      Credit:
      Alex Lapuerta

      Where to stay . . .

        Luxury Living

        The magnificent Hotel Alfonso XIII, which is framed by palm trees, is a much-loved piece of Seville’s history. With lamps bearing crowns and regal beds, you could say it’s fit for a king or queen. It’s also one of only two five-star Gran Lujo hotels in the city, and offers on-site cooking courses and wine tastings. 

        Doubles from €275 (£240). San Fernando 2; 00 34 95 491 7000

        Hotel Alfonso XIII, Seville

        The vibe at Hotel Alfonso XIII is opulent and luxurious which is fitting – the hotel was built by the the eponymous king in 1929

        Designer Digs

        Triana House is an uber-chic hotel with an Art Deco vibe, located in trendy yet down-to-earth Triana. The small but well-appointed rooms boast classy décor by Seville’s most-wanted designer. Clever extras include a stylish booklet with well-chosen tips on where to eat and shop.

        Doubles from €119 (£105). Calle Rodrigo de Triana 96; 00 34 664 889 810

        Triana House, Seville

        From the sharp monochrome logo, to the signature scented candle, Triana House shows faultless taste throughout

        Budget Beauty

        The great-value Alminar is a small hotel is hidden away on a winding alley in the warren of the Santa Cruz Old Town, only yards away from the Cathedral and La Giralda. It’s simple but smart and contemporary, and staff are wonderfully courteous and helpful.

        Double rooms from £67; Alvarez Quintero, 52; 00 34 954 293 913

        Hotel Alminar

        Hotel Alminar feels amazingly quiet, but it couldn’t be more central. The Cathedral and La Giralda are less than five minutes’ walk away

        What to bring home . . .

          Azulejos (ceramic tiles) are a must-buy – Ceramica Triana (Calle Callao 14; 00 34 954 332 179), with a spectacular façade, has a mind-boggling selection of colourful wares, and takes commissions too. The shop is handily located next to Centro Ceramica Triana, a factory-turned-museum about the craft. 

          Andalucia produces a large proportion of the world’s olive oil (here, it’s drizzled on toast for breakfast). Get your hand-luggage-friendly 100ml bottle of ‘liquid gold’ from the friendly folk at deli Ueno Ueno (García de Vinuesa 30; 00 34 678 486 773) near the cathedral.

          Ceramica Triana, Seville

          Ceramica Triana has a mind-boggling selection of colourful wares and takes commissions too

          When to go . . .

            Spring and autumn are the best times to visit the city, when the daytime temperatures are warm, with mild evenings. The city comes to life for Semana Santa (Holy Week) in March/April, followed by Feria two weeks later – the sherried-up, frilly-dress-and-dancing party in a fairground to the south of the city.

            In summer, the afternoons and evenings are sweltering, with siestas a must and a pool for cooling dips advisable, while winter days can be cool and rainy. But the sun shines (almost) all year round, so you‘re virtually guaranteed get blue skies and amazing light.

            Know before you go . . .

              • Seville is a very relaxed city, but it’s good to be prepared about the dos and don’ts. The biggest difference between southern Spain and Britain is the timing of meals. Lunch doesn’t happen for most until at least 2pm – although these days some places open as early as 12.30pm – or 9.30pm for dinner (some places at 8pm). If you eat early, be prepared to eat in a quiet restaurant without locals or a buzzy atmosphere.

              • In terms of dress codes, shorts are fine, though as anywhere, in smarter restaurants trousers or a skirt is more acceptable, while covering up in a church is respectful.

              • Public transport is excellent, although if you’re staying in the centre you’re unlikely to need it, as you can walk everywhere. It is very affordable per trip, with one or three-day passes also available. The tram goes from Plaza Nueva via the cathedral and Puerta Jerez (for the Alfonso XIII hotel), to Prado de San Sebastian (for Parque Maria Luisa) and terminates at San Bernardo. The most central Metro station (only one line) is Puerta Jerez; the line goes westwards via Triana and Los Remedios (for the Feria ground) to the suburban Aljarafe area, and eastwards through Nervion (for Sevilla FC stadium) to Montequinto.

              • Cabs are easy to find (white and yellow), with ranks outside luxury hotels (Inglaterra on Plaza Nueva, Gran Melia Colon on Calle Canalejas, Alfonso XIII at Puerta Jerez), Calle Mateos Gago in Santa Cruz (by the cathedral), El Corte Ingles department store on Plaza del Duque, and Plaza de Cuba in Triana. They are very well-priced, and a ride within the historic centre (area inside the ring road) won’t break the bank.

              • Tipping is not expected, and there is no service charge, although some restaurants have a cover charge for bread. A tip of around 10 per cent in a restaurant will be gratefully received.

              The basics

              Currency: Euros €

              Telephone code:
              00 34 954/955

              Time difference:
              GMT +1

              Flight time: Around two and a half hours from London

              Essential contacts:

              British Consulate (00 34 952 35 23 00; gov.uk), Calle Mauricio Moro Pareto 2, Edificio Eurocom, 29006 Malaga, Spain.

              Police: dial 091

              Ambulance: dial 112

              Tourist Office: Plaza del Triunfo 1, Sevilla, Spain; 00 34 954 210 005

              Author bio

              Fiona has lived in the historic, flamboyant Andalucian city since 2003. As a city guide, she revels in visitors’ reactions – jaws dropping in wonder – at its delights, such as the world’s largest Gothic Cathedral and the resplendent Plaza de España.

              Experience Seville with The Telegraph

                Telegraph Travel’s best hotels, tours, cruises and holidays in Seville, tried, tested and recommended by our Seville experts.

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