Seville, Spain | city guide.
My Instagram feed has been heavy on the Seville-spam recently, because I went on a little trip there for 5 days last week with my friend Katy for some sun, sight-seeing and some time doing absolutely nothing. It was a dream.
Before I go anywhere, I always do a bit of research on the area, looking into the best food, shops and tourist attractions. I use an app called CityMaps2Go where you can download an offline map of any city in the world, and plot all the places you want to go, so when you're there you can just look on your map and see what's around the in area. It is THE BEST.
PLACES TO EAT
Now Seville is a city of tapas. Tapas everywhere. And tapas places, well.....they're all very similar. There's always a plate of (delicious) ham, always a plate of manchego cheese, and always a plate of croquetas. Some places are better than others, but when it comes to these traditional tapas joints, I find the location and atmosphere to be the differentiating feature. So, as well as some specific places, I'll recommend some streets to have a wander down and look for wherever seems to be busy but also have a free table - the sweet spot of dining.
The Barrio Santa Cruz neighbourhood is known to be particularly good for a little tapeo on an evening, working your way through the bars with a drink and a little plate of something/croquetas, it'll always be busy but there's enough places that you'll be able to find somewhere to sit or stand. The Pasaje de Vila is one of the main streets in this area, and we ate at quite a few places here, although I couldn't for the life of me tell you what they were called - their measures of gin are very generous. Calle Mateos Gago is just down the way from here and right by the cathedral - we had a lovely meal at one of the places with a load of stuffed bulls heads inside. This does not narrow it down, sadly.
Calle Álvarez Quintero and Calle Conteros are two lovely little streets off the main tourist area, and further down there's El Pintón on Calle Francos which is a more modern tapas and cocktail bar. The interior is beautiful, with contemporary details and more traditional tiles, and the menu is a lot more varied than the other restaurants and bistros in Seville. We had a lovely truffled burrata salad with a slightly OTT amount of rocket, and a tempura egg dish with truffled polenta. As always, if there's truffle, I'm eating it. The lamb shank with potato and pistachio praline was delicious and nutty and sweet, but the seafood fideuà was a bit of a let down, after it had been hyped on all the reviews I read, strong-flavoured but nothing special. Don't be fooled by the dessert list - we ordered a salted caramel brownie but got a deconstructed-in-a-jar thing with mousse and some sponge cake. Save room for a nice ice cream elsewhere.
El Rinconcillo is the oldest tapas restaurant in Seville, and was incredibly busy when we went - very authentic and very difficult to get a seat. Reserve a table ahead of time or resign yourself to standing and mingling like a local.
La Azotea is another modern tapas place, with a couple of branches throughout Seville. they take reservations for lunch during the week, but it's walk-ins only for dinner or at the weekends. We queued for about 30 mins before it opened which, if you're not used to the new wave of no-reservation-restaurants popping up in the UK may seem like quite a lot, but the place filled up immediately and people were then told it would be a couple of hours before a table was ready. The food here is amazing and super fresh, the the staff are incredibly friendly and helpful. We had a small bump in the road when the shrimp-crusted hake I ordered was literally a piece of hake covered in tiny, fried, whole shrimp, but steer clear of this and you'll be fine.
The best ice creams in Seville came from an Instagrammer's recommendation - Raya's. They have two shops in the centre and of course we tested both, and they are equally great. The variety of flavours is impressive and mouth-watering, and I strongly suggest you get the Sachertorte with chocolate gelato and chocolate cake and apricot conserve all mixed in. I'm dreaming of it now and staring at my own ice cream machine, but nothing could come close.
Other places that I heard good things about but didn't manage to get around were La Brunilda, Eslava and the Mercado de Abastos Calle Feria. If you do go to these places, let me know how they are!
THINGS TO DO
Visit the Plaza de Espana and marvel at all the ceramics. It was built in the 1920s for a world fair held in Seville, and there were little ceramic alcoves built all around the plaza to represent all of the different provinces of Spain. These alcoves are beautiful but some are.....slightly nicer than others. Cadiz and Alicante did well, but I wouldn't want to be from one of the lesser known regions.
There's a moat running around the Plaza, and you can hire a little boat for as little as 6 euros to try to steer your way around. If at all possible, go with someone who really loves rowing so you can just sit there and admire the scenery, because lots of families there seem to think letting their small children steer is a great idea so there's the potential for multiple near-collisions.
Go and admire the Seville cathedral, which is the largest Gothic cathedral and the third largest church in the WORLD. Not even just Europe. There's always lots of queues to go and look inside, and I find the architecture much more interesting than all the gilded interiors, so I'm a big advocate of avoiding the queue and just finding a bar nearby to sit and have a cold drink and enjoy the view.
Something that is worth the queue, however, is the Alcazar. which is a big royal palace, originally built by Moorish Muslim kings, and it is DREAMY. Gardens everywhere, lovely archways, and lots and lots of orange trees. There's a cafe in the Alcazar, but if you're organised enough you could take your own little picnic and a book and settle in on a tiled bench.
We also visited a modern art museum, the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporàneo. I was in charge of directing us here, but as all my family will attest, I have a terrible sense of direction. Terrible. I mean, truly godawful. So we had a slight detour into the shady side of town and ended up wandering around a power plant and then a government building, but we found our way in the end. I would recommend just going to the San Vicente area and crossing the bridge there to avoid witnessing dodgy drug deals. The museum is incredible cheap (3 euros for two people) and has a good selection of art by the Guerrilla Girls, and lots of other bits and bobs, and is a good option for a not-so sunny day.
Over in the Triana neighborhood there's a ceramic museum in an old tile factory, as well as a lovely indoor food market selling the most beautiful seafood, ham (of course), and even some delicious pastries and tiny choux buns decorated to look like fruit.
If you're staying in Seville for more than a couple of days, it's the perfect location for day trips out to the Alhambra, Córdoba and Cadiz, but if you're anything like me, I say just load up your kindle and plan for days of wandering, eating and reading.