In Seville you can spend all day strolling round plazas, appreciating the culture, sampling the tapas, or listening to live flamenco guitarists. Some plazas are well known, but others are a secret
Here are my top seven plazas; in reverse order.
7th - Plaza Nueva
Often used as a place for art exhibitions and book fairs, Plaza Nueva, in front of the Town Hall, is an ideal spot to chill after a shopping spree up Calle Tetuan, Sierpes, or round the Plaza. (Shops include: http://www.purificaciongarcia.com, http://www.zara.com, http://www.bershka.com, http://www.carolinaherrera.com, http://www.loewe.com)
In the middle ages, the area around Plaza Nueva used to be part of the River Guadalquivir. It took the Town Hall until 1936 to decide on the name of Seville’s oldest square. The monument of San Fernando, Seville’s Patron Saint after conquering the city from Muslims in the 13th century, stands proud in the centre, and you can see his tomb in the Cathedral.
Relax on the benches and admire the flowers, grab a cold drink from one of the kiosks, or watch Sevilliano families wander round complaining about the youngsters skateboarding. There are no places to eat, but you can stay at Hotel Inglaterra, see below.
Hot Tip: Catch the tram here for €1 a trip or half price if you have a bonobus - discount card and travel along Avenida Constitución and up to El Prado; great to catch the airport bus.
6th – Plaza Museo
Art enthusiasts will love this plaza on a Sunday morning. Local artists display their paintings of Seville, Andalucía, other parts of Spain, and even Morocco. The square is in front of the Museo de Bellas Artes, (Tue-Sat 9am-8.30pm, Sun 9am-2.30pm, Mon-closed, €1.5 or free to European Citizens). www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura/museos/MBASE/
During the week it’s a quiet place to read under the overhanging trees, smell the rose bushes in the gardens, or visit El Museo, one of Seville’s churches. There are a couple of tapas bars around the square if you fancy spending the evening there.
Hot Tip: Free guides of the museum, Tuesday to Friday from 9am, every two hours until 7pm. During spring, summer, and part of autumn, you can watch, or even participate, in Tango classes (Thurs night 10pm-12am). http://www.rincondeltango.com/tango/sevilla/asociacion/casadeltango_es/
5th - Plaza de Triunfo
This square was declared World Heritage in 1987 because of three important buildings: the Alcazar - Seville’s royal palace, the Indian Archive Building – a government building with important Spanish documents; and the third largest Cathedral in the world.
If you fancy catching some live flamenco guitarists strumming traditional Spanish tunes, or posing for historical photos, then this is the best plaza. I’m privileged because I get to walk my dog round this plaza most days; it’s always buzzing.
Hot Tip: If you happen to be in Seville on the Day of Inmaculada, 7th or 8th of December, then you can witness the madness of Los Tunas. Los Tunas are not a group of fishmongers, but a special musical University group who wear clothes from the 16th and 17th century as they try to serenade local ladies, or even guiris - tourists. It’s a great all night party and gives you a chance to mingle with the locals. You might even get a group of Tunas singing to you if you’re lucky.
4th - Plaza España
Built in 1928 as part of the Ibero-American exhibition, Plaza España is one of Seville’s most famous attractions and has appeared in Lawrence of Arabia, and Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones.
The semi circular Moorish style plaza has two large towers and a tiled alcove representing each of Spain’s provinces. In the centre is a huge fountain, but be careful if it’s a windy day because you can get soaked.
Known to expats as the place to sort out annoying residency paperwork (there’s a government building on the left hand side), Plaza España is a great area for couples and families to explore, grab and ice cream or granizado – a type of slush puppy, before heading onto Maria Luisa Park.
Hot Tip: Catch a horse and cart from the Cathedral (between €30 and €40, depending on your bargaining power) and they’ll pass by Plaza España. The local council are currently renovating the square, so in the near future you’ll be able to take a gondola trip on the moat.
3rd - Plaza Salvador
You must be hungry by now. Plaza Salvador is one of the liveliest squares to grab some tapas, sip on an ice cold caña - beer, and ligar- flirt with the locals. It’s situated in front of one of my favourite churches in Seville, Iglesia Salvador, and is a great place to watch many processions during Semana Santa.
Plaza Salvador is busy from 12pm until about 5pm, when the waiters start kicking you out, and then kicks off again from 8pm until about midnight. There are three tapas bars, all with typical Spanish dishes and you can get beers or tinto de verano – red wine with lemonade - for just over €1. There are also a couple of cafeterias if you just fancy a coffee.
Hot Tip: At the weekends it gets manic, so get there early if you want to get a table, which will be a standing one, no seats I’m afraid. Also, just opposite the plaza is Cafe Universal (Blanca de los Ríos, 1, 41001), which does excellent tapas. It has started to get a bit pricey, but it’s still worth it.
2nd - Plaza Virgen de los Reyes
This is the best plaza to get the perfect photo opportunity of the Cathedral. If you stand at the start of Mateos Gago Street then you can get in the fountain and the Giralda tower. It’s also a good place to haggle with the horse and cart drivers for a tour of the city.
This plaza is always packed with tourists. I love it at night when everyone has either gone to bed, or out clubbing. The lights shine up the Cathedral and you can hear the bats flapping about.
Mateos Gago is full of tapas bars and restaurants, my favourite is Las Columnas. If you want to splash out then try El Giraldillo (Plaza Virgen de los Reyes, 2, 954214525; www.barriosantacruz.com/giraldillo).
Hot Tip: If you can plan it well, and you’ll need good planning, then this is a great place to be when Sevilla F.C, Betis F.C (not very likely at the moment), or Spain win a trophy. The plaza goes mental and most Sevillianos end up in the fountain.
1st - Plaza Doña Elvira
I shouldn’t be telling you about this square.
When I want to disconnect and feel romantic, then I go to Plaza Doña Elvira in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz. It’s a small delicate plaza that is often on the photo shoot of newlyweds, so you can imagine how pretty the setting is. In spring the smell of azahar - orange blossom fills the air, and the temperature is perfect to sit on one of the benches and read or write while listening to the dripping fountain.
There are several good restaurants around this plaza, try Restaurant Doña Elvira (Plaza Doña Elvira 6, 95 421 54 83; www.barriosantacruz.com/elvira/). You can sit out in the plaza or inside.
Hot Tips: I’ve already given you name of the plaza, what more do you want?
Where to stay
For views over Plaza Nueva then try Hotel Inglaterra. Right in the centre, five minutes from the river and loads of tapas bars, plus you can see swanky shops from the reception. Prices start at €111 a night.
Okay, so here’s one tip for Plaza Doña Elvira, try La Hosteria de Doña Lina. It’s a cosy little hostel with a terrace overlooking the square. Downstairs they have a restaurant, also with seats in the square. Prices start from €40 for a double in low season and up to €110 in high season.
For an exclusive hotel just behind Plaza Museo, the Gran Melia Colon. This, recently renovated, classy place is where Real Madrid sometimes stay before their games. Prices start from €149 for a double.