I moved to Seville in 2003, after 10 years of working in London and Quito. The city has an amazing history, with hugely varied architecture; even now, I’m always discovering new corners. Also, it’s packed into a small area, so you can walk almost everywhere. The sunshine, great food and friendly people are a plus.
When I’m looking for something sweet… Heladerías (ice-cream parlours) have always been popular in sweltering Seville, but these days it’s about more than just a scoop of vainilla in a cone. Choose your polo (popsicle) from fruit sorbets (raspberry) creamy (chocolate) or cocktails (Mojito), add a dipping sauce, and then finish off with chopped nuts or sprinkles. Wander through the streets of this dreamy city, nibbling your perfect concoction. Or sit on a bench in Plaza del Duque, a few steps away from The Loco Polo store.
The best time in Seville is… No doubt about it – if you’re able to, come in spring. The days are balmy and the nights mild, the sun will warm your face without roasting you mercilessly, and the scent of orange blossom fills the air. The streets are buzzing as people prepare for Semana Santa, the Holy Week processions which see hundreds of life-size wooden statues carried all over the city, by day and night. Be prepared for figures in medieval-looking hooded robes, like dementors from Harry Potter, and loud brass bands, accompanying the floats. Feel the raw emotion as a devotee belts out a saeta, a spine-chilling lamentation sung to the Virgin Mary, from a balcony as she passes below. Just a couple of weeks later, the ambience flips from mournful to merry, and it’s time to don your flamenco frock and go dancing, sup fried fish and glug manzanilla sherry at the Feria de Abril – in a horse-drawn carriage, if you’re lucky. The Sevillanos can party like no one else – from lunchtime until the small hours every day for a week.
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The best places in Seville are… The Alcazar palace, where Game of Thrones was filmed, is undeniably stunning and a great microcosm of Seville’s history (from Moorish patios to Mudéjar pools, Gothic arches and Renaissance). The gardens are delightful, and if you happen to visit in summer, the outdoor night-time concerts are unmissable. The other must-sees are Triana, the riverside barrio where all the city’s ceramic tiles were made – check out the market, with its hanging legs of hams and mini-flamenco theatre, and walk along Calle Pureza to Santa Ana, the oldest parish church in the city; and Plaza de España, the breathtaking monument in Maria Luisa Park, built to welcome the old colonies back to the motherland at the 1929 World’s Fair. Its sweeping colonnade, tiled panels (one for each province in Spain) and pretty canal are at the same time romantic and impressive.
My go-to foodie spots… Torres y Garcia is an airy contemporary Andalucian restaurant in the Arenal district, with high ceilings and huge windows. Carnivores can tuck into classics such as beef tongue and pig’s trotters, while humble veggies are cleverly elevated to god-like status: delicate slivers of zucchini paired with papaya and spicy Thai dressing; and hearty wood-roasted cabbage with black garlic, cashew and cumin. Best of all, the excellent sommelier Alex can suggest excellent wine pairings, including with sherry – try Sanchez Romate Fino Perdido (the gorgeous label is Instagram heaven) or Manzanilla Pasada Sacristia.
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One thing to avoid… If you want to visit the old Jewish quarter, Santa Cruz, home to arms-width narrow alleyways and pretty shaded squares lined with tiled benches, go early in the day. Leave it too late, and it will be filled with tour groups – tricky when some streets are only one person wide, and you come upon a mass of people trying to head past you in the opposite direction.
One tip… While the Alcazar is stunning, a more under-the-radar option (no need to book tickets in advance) is the Palacio de las Dueñas, one of the homes of the late Duquesa de Alba. This colourful aristocrat, who had more titles than the Queen of England, adored Seville, the Feria, Semana Santa and Betis football club. The Duchess welcomed the likes of Grace Kelly and Jackie Kennedy to her 15th-century palace, with its garden of citrus trees and stunning patios with Mudejar stucco-work arches. Don’t miss the shop, where you can buy honey, cookies and olive oil under the “Casa de Alba” logo, as well as tasteful arty gifts galore.
When I want to cool off… In the swelteringly hot Seville summer, the coolest place is either by the river, or on a rooftop where you can catch any breeze. As night falls, head to one of the many roof terrace bars – two favourites are The Corner House in the boho Alameda district, which has a relaxed vibe (and outdoor heaters, making it perfect for cooler months too) and Puravida, close to the cathedral, where you can watch live flamenco fusion with the Giralda as a backdrop, while sinking a cocktail.