Seville is a city of lavish and grandeur. On almost every street and corner you’ll find awe-inspiring buildings, which leave you gazing sky-wards, jaw wide-open in wonder at how man managed to construct so many beacons of glory in one city.
There is an astounding amount of truly breathtaking buildings and an architecture which has an other-world feel to it. A merging of cultures over the years has resulted in buildings with split-personalities, but that makes them all the more unique. You’ll find structures that started as mosques and ended as catholic churches, with elaborate domes and minarets typical of a mosque but also clunky church bells and crucifixes representing the now dominant catholic church.
A deeply religious city, Seville is not short of churches, but each one has a unique character whether it’s a gothic cathedral with the wow factor (the third largest in the world in fact) or a quaint crumbling church in the old town.
Spaniards buzz about their daily lives, ducking into bakeries for some lenguas de gato biscuits or into a bodeguita for a natter over a tapa and a glass of rioja. On the Sunday we were there, the city was observing a religious procession and the streets were crammed full of locals waiting to see the huge cross and somberly dressed candle-holders pass by. Trying to navigate through the narrow streets of the city at this time was near-on impossible. Young children sat on shoulders to observe and elderly ladies dressed in black craned their heads to see the action through the crowds. I had never seen a city so lively, especially one with only a population of not quite 700,000.
With an Instagram-worthy shot on every street, the brightly coloured buildings will have you snapping away constantly, resulting in an album of bright yellow and red hues. You will usually witness these against a crystal-clear blue sky, even into November (when we visited) we were able to soak up some rays.
As expected the food and wine were also a highlight of the trip. Seville is a city with a thriving tapas scene and we decided to explore this by taking a tapas and wine tour. This was run by Wine Tourism Spain who offer a range of truly authentic cultural and culinary experiences across Spain. In a city so crowded with restaurants and bars, it was almost impossible to know where to start. But enter Guillermo, our wonderful guide for the evening. With knowledge only a local could have, he guided us through the labyrinth of streets to the best kept secrets of the city. Tapas in Spain aren’t supposed to be eaten sitting comfortably round a table ordering over-priced plates of small food from a stiffly dressed waiter, but instead they should be enjoyed standing at the bar, yelling your order over the raucous buzz of the room to the barman behind the counter, to find it almost slammed down in front of you just moments later along with a sloppily poured glass of rioja. It was these kind of places Guillermo led us to, with the promise of a more relaxed seated offering at the end.
I have to admit at this point, although I can be adventurous with food, when dining in Spain I did always find myself with a plate of croquettas, padron peppers and some manchego cheese, but what was great about the tour is that we were encouraged to be adventurous with our choices. We left it in the hands of Guillermo who opened our eyes up to some exceptional dishes which I had never tried before; we enjoyed cured tuna, pork loin drowned in whiskey, their popular Russian salad, prawn tortillas and some delicious mushrooms filled with herbs and garlic. To start off the evening to accompany our food we devoured glasses of vino de verano, a more local version of Sangria which was red wine and lemon soda, finished off with slices of orange and served over ice. You can see how this would go down well in the height of the summer when the city can see temperatures of over 40 degrees.
Everything we ate was delicious and I started to realize just how diverse Spanish food is. Although much of the food culture is based around the beloved pig (a busy restaurant is expected to get through an entire leg of jamon in just one day), seafood is also celebrated here as well as vegetables such as spinach and aubergine.
If you think this is just a food tour, think again. Guillermo has an abundance of knowledge about the culture and history of Seville and we were regaled with stories about local culture and fables from centuries past whilst strolling through the cobbled streets from bar to bar. A highlight was visiting a tapas bar that was established in 1853 and had been running in the same family name ever since.
I loved these local bustling bars but we were recommended a more modern restaurant to visit which I will now highly recommend to you. El Perro Viejo served tapas with a twist alongside dishes from the grill and some European influenced larger plates. Here two of us ate extremely well for just €30 and every dish was standout. Visiting on the aforementioned Sunday the place was absolutely packed so rather than enduring the long wait for a table we pulled up high stools to the bar and enjoyed our meal there. We ordered roasted leeks coated in a truffled, hollandaise sauce which was beautiful, a Peruvian style jamon tartar served on a bed of avocado and rocket, their croquettas and a huge plate of ribs coated in a sticky barbeque sauce. This with a couple of beers was a perfect indulgent Sunday meal.
If you have time you must visit the Cathedral which is truly stunning (and I’ve seen a lot of cathedrals), the Plaza del Toro, if you’re there over a weekend the Plaza del Cabildo for the antiques market on a Sunday. Hire a paddle boat around the moat of Plaza Espana and have a drink in the rooftop bar of the Casa Romana hotel. There’s a huge amount to do in Seville but it’s worth going just for a wander round the streets to witness the amazing architecture and enjoy wonderful wine and food at great value. The locals will be pleased to see you and I guarantee you’ll leave with a glow induced by both the sun and that delicious red wine.
Wine Tourism Spain offers a Wine and Tapas Tour in Seville from €49 per person. This includes a four hour tour of the city of Seville and its best tapas restaurants with an English speaking guide, and drinks and tapas in the first bar. Available daily from 8pm.