Sunshine, oranges, delicious tapas, beautiful historic buildings, vibrant festivals – Seville is a city with endless possibilities. I grew up a stone’s throw from the Giralda and Cathedral, in what I consider now the most beautiful area in Seville. However, when I was younger, I never fully appreciated the beauty and magic that surrounded me. Perhaps I took for granted that my play ground was an area suited to getting lost through the serpentine streets and alley’s of the Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter?
If you only have one day to explore Seville, I would start wandering around el Barrio de Santa Cruz, a quarter teeming with history where dozens of small and narrow streets will transport you to another time in history. That area is surrounded by UNESCO World Heritage monuments that include the Cathedral and the Giralda. The Seville Cathedral is the largest existing Gothic cathedral in the world and home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus or Cristóbal Colón, in Spanish. The Giralda is the bell tower of the cathedral, although originally built as the minaret for the Great Mosque of Seville. With a height of 104 metres, it was once the tallest tower in the world, and it currently is the fourth tallest building in Seville after the newly built ‘Torre Sevilla’ and the bridges of ‘Alamillo’ and ‘Centenario’. I recommend to climb up the ramps of the Giralda for an unrivalled view of the city. It always fascinated me that those ramps were place instead of steps to allow horses to climb up to the top of the tower. In order to visit, you will need to purchase a ticket, which also includes a visit to the cathedral and ‘Iglesia del Salvador’ – a church located in the vicinity that faces a very popular square and where locals gather to have a drink or to eat tapas in one of the bars.
The Alcázar, a Mudejar (style of ornamentation used in post-Islamic Christian Iberia with Moorish infuences) royal palace is a must if you are looking to experience one of the finest architectural examples in the city. It was built over the ruins of a boorish fortress by the Christians after the re-conquest of Seville and it is decorated with breathtaking plasterwork and splendid tiling. Perhaps my favourite spot is the magnificent wooden dome composed of many star patterns that symbolise the universe.
After all of this cultural intake, it is time to stop for a refreshing drink at bodega Santa Cruz, better known as Las Columnas (the columns). I grew up close to that bar, which is located on Calle Mateos Gago. It has a number of columns, as its known name suggests, and it is painted on an unmissable yellow colour. The waiters still write your bill over the bar with a piece of chalk, exactly as I have seen it since a was a child. All the tapas are delicious and very affordable. Among my favorites, montadito de pringá, a small sandwich with a pulled-pork style filling, cazón en adobo, marinated dogfish and ensaladilla rusa- potato salad with vegetables, tuna and mayonnaise-. Add to this a cold cerveza Cruzcampo and you are ready to move on another of my favourite bars, taberna Alvaro Peregil. This tiny and full of character tavern, was opened in 1904 as a selling point for wine from the Huelva region. Hence that the speciality here is the delicious vino de naranja, a sweet wine made with oranges. It feels like a place lost in time, with its Mahogany bar and its aged paper signs announcing that they have ‘vino de naranja’. Alongside with the speciality of the house, «orange wine», you shouldn’t leave without trying the tasty chickpeas stew, a recipe that has been passed on for generations.
With the stomach full it’s time to carry on discovering this culturally bustling city. Head to the junction of Calle Aire with Calle Mármoles, just a short walk from Las columnas and Taberna Alvaro Peregil, to find a great example of the the past roman presence in the city. Currently there are only three remaining columns from the original six that were found in 1574, although they seem somehow forgotten by sharing their existence with much newer buildings that engulf the site.
Make your way through the serpent-like streets to the locally known ‘Las Setas’ complex that holds the title of being the largest wooden structure in the world. ‘Metropol Parasol’, its official name, was built under major controversy due to its appearance, location and the cost of its construction. Leaving aside these controversies, Las Setas has become a point of reference in Seville where you can enjoy some tasty tapas and drinks, visit the archaeological museum located underground as well as have some fabulous views of the city from the view point on the upper level of the complex.
Becoming increasing popular in the last few years is all the area that surrounds Calle Regina, which is just off Las Setas. From artisan breweries to vintage clothing shops, this an area that has fallen into the hands of gentrification, bringing with it many new shops and bars. Allow some time to explore the area before moving on to Calle Feria, where you can find theMercado de la Feria. It is a market that has gone through a renovation bringing it to life with a combination of the traditional stalls to be found in a market and a few ones transformed into tapas bars. I believe that you wouldn’t find fresher ingredients because those tapas must have the smallest carbon footprint as they probably come from one of the grocery stalls within the market!
Over the years, I have come back to visit Seville with many friends from university and friends from other parts of the world. Taking on the role of a tourist guide for those friends I slowly realised that my home town is a very special place, crammed with extraordinary architecture, with countless bars offering mouth watering dishes and a vast repertoire of activities for everyone. I find it bizarre that I have to go and live somewhere else for many years to then truly start appreciating Seville, my birth place, although to be honest, I almost prefer it this way, because it feels like I keep exploring my city with fresh eyes. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!