There is a song I’ve loved since I was young. It starts with tribal drums, and then a piano comes in, eventually joined by shakers, a cello, and finally a horn, swelling into a warm, fizzy Spanish song perfect for dancing around the kitchen with a wooden spoon in your hand. It’s called “Andalucia” by Pink Martini (a cover of an old Ernesto Lecuona tune), and when I first arrived in Seville, the capital of Andalucia, the southern region of Spain, I unconsciously started to hum its melody.
Seville is like a city out of a storybook. Rich with history and romance, its small streets brim with tapas bars and shops, opening into quiet little plazas with tiled benches for taking a rest in the shade. Its cathedral is legendary, its palace gardens are ethereal, and the food… Well, there’s a reason tapas were born here. If you ate more than bitefuls of each thing at a time, you might die of bliss.
Seville’s city motto is “No me ha dejado,” which means, “It [Seville] has not abandoned me.” By the end of your trip, you’ll be ready to abandon everything else to stay.
Where to Stay
When visiting a city as intimate and romantic as Seville, skip the hotel. Just a few quiet streets from the cathedral you’ll find Apartamentos Los Venerables, beautiful serviced apartments around a private vine-covered courtyard. The location is ultra central, making it the perfect starting point for exploration, but it’s tucked just far enough from the fray to be a peaceful retreat at the end of a long day. If you have a chance, go up to the patio and lay in a chaise lounge to watch the sun set over the top of the bell tower.
What to Eat
One word: Tapas. You are in Seville. You are henceforth under strict instructions to avoid anything that looks like a restaurant you’re used to. You will not have a white tablecloth. You will not have an appetizer and then a main course. This is southern Spain, and if your plate is bigger than eight inches across, you’re doing it wrong. Find a bar that looks busy with people who speak Spanish. Be brave, elbow your way to the counter, smile and order something with jamón ibérico (a type of cured Spanish ham) in the name. Try a slice of tortilla (a potato and egg frittata), too. Start at one bar. Go to another. Ask the bartender what he likes, and don’t be afraid to order something you don’t recognize. If you don’t like it, just try something else!
Spanish people don’t really do dessert, but if you’re in the mood for something sweet, follow your nose to Bar el Comercio for a platter of hot, fresh churros con chocolate. These are not the floppy, sugar and cinnamon-dusted pipe cleaners you’re used to, these are chewy, airy tubes that crack when you bite into them. Perfect for dunking in that mug of hot chocolate sauce. They’re not as sweet as you’re used to, but don’t worry — that just means you can rationalize eating them for breakfast every morning.
This is southern Spain, and if your plate is bigger than eight inches across, you’re doing it wrong.
Pro tip: Seville is packed with tapas bars, and even if you follow the Spaniards it’s hard to know where to go and what to order when you get there. We Love Tapas offers tapas tours throughout the city, and will guide you through several authentic (read: not touristy) bars and teach you how to order the best thing at each place. They speak English and really know their way around a cured ham.
What to See
Seville’s un-missables include the cathedral (history/ architecture nerds will be wowed by the gothic architecture and Moorish influence, and the rest of us will just get to ignorantly admire its staggering beauty); Plaza de España, the Moorish, art deco-style square built for the 1929 World’s Fair; and the real jewel in the crown of Seville’s historical sights, the Alcázar of Seville, the royal palace of Seville. One of the most beautiful palaces in all of Spain, the upper rooms still function as housing for current members of the royal family. It was originally built by Moorish Muslim kings and features spectacularly colored tiles, a pond, and lush, outrageously gorgeous gardens. (You may also recognize it from Season 5 of Game of Thrones.)
If you’re on ancient architecture overload, Seville is home to a fantastic (and huge) department store — El Corte Inglés. Its main floor houses every major department store beauty brand you’re used to, plus drugstore items, fragrances, haircare, and Spanish beauty brands. For something a little more local, snake your way through the side streets to Wabi Sabi, an art gallery/ interior-design store with a vintage vibe and beautiful, locally-designed clothes.
Above all, your task is simple: soak it in. Wind through the streets, walk across the river, listen to the flamenco music floating from the windows and sit in the shade of a flowering tree to drink a tall glass of tinto de verano. You’re in Seville, and everything is beautiful.
Have you been to Seville? Where did you love?
Images via Jessica Doehle