Andalucia’s charismatic capital is a good-time getaway of steamy barrios, salt-of-the-earth tapas bars, culinary alchemists, stylish watering holes and layers of city history.
CAFÉ BAR LAS TERESAS
The hanging hams in this Santa Cruz stalwart look as ancient as the bar itself, a wraparound affair with just enough room for two stout waiters carrying precariously balanced tapas plates. Inside, the atmosphere is dark but not dingy, the food – such as shrimp fritters – highly traditional, and the crowd a mix of tourists and locals.
At this long-standing Triana restaurant, massive glass windows overlook a crowded plaza, mirrors artfully reflect framed bullfighting posters and flamenco iconography, and gold beer pumps furnish a wooden bar shielding bottles that look older than most of the clientele. Both bar and restaurant, Casa Cuesta has that wonderful sensation of sevillano fun and authenticity.
BODEGA SANTA CRUZ
Eating tapas becomes a physical contact sport at forever-crowded Bodega Santa Cruz Watch out for flying elbows and admire those dexterous waiters who bob and weave like prizefighters amid the chaos. The traditional tapas, such as montaditos (tiny rolls) or cheese and ham platters, are best enjoyed alfresco with a cold beer as you watch marching armies of Santa Cruz tourists go squeezing past.
Seville’s crown as Andalucia’s tapas capital is regularly attacked by well-armed rivals from the provinces, so it constantly has to offer up fresh competition. Enter La Brunilda, a font of fusion tapas sandwiched into an inconspicuous backstreet in the Arenal quarter.
REDHOUSE ART & FOOD
With its mismatched chairs and abstract wall art, Redhouse, in El Centro, flirts with hipster territory, yet inside you’ll find everyone from families to students and seniors enjoying tea, coffee and Andalucia’s best homemade cakes.
Eslava shirks traditional tilework and bullfighting posters to deliver fine food backed up with equally fine service. There’s a ‘nouvelle’ tinge to the costillas a la miel (pork ribs in honey and rosemary glaze), but there’s nothing snobby about the local atmosphere. It’s on the Alameda de Hercules.
The Alameda de Hercules was once a no-go area reserved for the city’s painted ladies, pimps and shady characters, but after a makeover it’s crammed with fashionable bars. This place gets busy at night but is pleasantly chilled in the early evening. Its spirit-reviving breakfasts pitch earlybirds with up-all-nighters.
CAFE DE LA PRENSA
Triana’s Calle del Betis is second only to the Alameda de Hercules as a major communal Seville watering hole. Café de la Prensa is perfect for kicking off a riverside bar crawl. You can sit inside between walls covered in old newspapers or squeeze outside for better views of the Guadalquivir River, and admire the Giralda bell tower beckoning beautifully in the background.
Dedicated entirely to the iconography, smells and sounds of Semana Santa (Holy Week), El Garlochi in EI Centro is a true marvel. Taste the rather revolting-sounding cocktail, Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) and Agua de Sevilla (Seville Water), both heavily laced with vodka, whisky and grenadine. It’s a little expensive here, but undoubtedly one of a kind.
BA and easyJet fly direct to Seville in under three hours from London Gatwick, and Ryanair flies to Seville from Stansted. The Especial Aeropuerto bus makes the trip between the airport and the Plaza de Armas bus station in central Seville roughly every 20 to 30 minutes throughout the day, with a slightly reduced Sunday service. Seville operates a sleek tram service in the city centre.
WHERE TO STAY
- Hidden improbably in a rather ordinary tenement in El Centro, Hotel Boutique Dona Lola is a little haven of modernity and well-positioned for everything. Rooms make good use of the limited space and there’s a sun terrace with an outdoor hot tub.
- Possibly Seville’s best deal, the delightful Hotel Sacristia de Santa Ana makes a great base for bars and restaurants. It’s a heavenly place with a courtyard and excellent service.
- The word casa (house) is taken seriously at Hotel Casa 1800, a positively regal Santa Cruz pile. Staff are charming, there’s afternoon tea, and penthouse garden suites enjoy Giralda views.