Spring and autumn are the perfect times to visit the Andalucian city of Seville and explore the real Spain
In the heart of Andalucia, Seville is a romantic, beautiful city, where you will discover Moorish architecture mixed with Arab influences and enhanced by Spanish style. These are my suggestions for some of the city's highlights...
Make an early start to beat the queues and head towards the narrow streets of the Barrio Santa Cruz. These tightly-knit alleyways were originally the Jewish Quarter and you can wander at will or follow a guided tour. Stroll around the small squares lined with orange trees (especially Plazas Doña Elvira and Santa Cruz) and get lost in the maze of improbably narrow alleys. Make sure you stop at one of the numerous cafes and watch the city wake up while dipping churros, a kind of doughnut, into a mug of hot chocolate, just like the locals.
For the best views of the city, head to the magnificent Cathedral and climb up its famous 298-foot-high Giralda Tower, a stunning Moorish minaret that has become the symbol of Seville. After 34 gently sloping ramps and then a final flight of steps, you emerge beneath the massive bells where you can catch your breath and admire the city below.
At lunchtime, you can't get better than Plaza Santa Cruz as an atmospheric dining location. On a sunny day you can linger over a plate of paella and a cool glass of wine and watch the world go by.
Hopping on a horse and buggy is a touristy but fun way to see the main sights, with Parque Maria Luisa being a favourite destination. One of the main pick up points is outside the Cathedral but it can be pricey so haggle over the fare. Expect to pay around €40 for up to four people.
The Parque Maria Luisa and adjoining Plaza de Espagna are among the most pleasant - and impressive - public spaces in Spain. They are an ideal place to spend the middle part of the day with the gardens offering some shade and tranquility under palms and orange trees, elms and Mediterranean pines. The beautiful gardens and fountains of the Alcazar are also especially worth visiting, as they provide a calm retreat from the hustle and bustle of Seville.
The main area for some retail therapy is Calle Sierpes and Plaza del Duque de la Victoria. Wander around Spain’s largest department store, El Corte Ingles or hunt out some Andalusian mementoes such as castanets, personalized bull fighting posters, mantillas or handmade shawls in the more specialist shops.
Don't miss out on the tapas. Seville is credited with the invention of tapas and has more than a thousand bars where the choice of food is virtually unlimited, ranging from seafood to sausage and from vegetable to cheese. The Sevillians actually make a meal of them, moving from bar to bar and trying one dish at a time. A popular place to enjoy a beer and a tapa or two is El Rinconcillo, near Plaza de Los Terceros. This is Seville’s oldest bar, founded in 1670. There are plenty of traditional tapas to go along with the very typical atmosphere. The collection of antique liquor bottles is so rare that companies who still produce the brands have tried to purchase them back from the bar – but without success!
Flamenco is one of the enduring symbols of Seville and shows are on offer all over the city. For a traditional show visit Casa de la Memoria in the heart of Barrio Santa Cruz. Here you will see the best young artists perform on the outdoor patio of a beautiful 15th-century Jewish House. Shows usually take place here every night and cost just €15.