Essential guide to Seville

Street delights range from the Moorish to the moreish, writes Shaney Hudson.

STAY

Budget

Pension Vergara in the Santa Cruz district has some of the cheapest rooms in Seville, if not Europe: 10 rooms with shared bath are available from €20 a room a night (Ximenez de Enciso 11, 421 5668, pensionvergara.com). Nearby, the stairs and ceilings are high but the prices low at YH Giralda (Abades 30, 422 8324, yh-hoteles.com), which offers airconditioning, 14 rooms with en suites and internet access in a restored historical building, from €50-€90 a room, a night. Another budget option is Murillo Apartments in Santa Cruz, with one to three-bedroom apartments priced from €120-€235 a night and which offers reduced weekly rates (Lope de Rueda 16, 421 0959, apartamentosmurillo.com).

Mid range

A popular new option, boutique-style Fontecruz Sevilla opened at Easter last year in a former school, with rooms from €95- €125 (Abades 41, 497 9009, fontecruz.com). Amenities include a swimming pool and hamman. The Hotel El Rey Moro (Lope de Rueda 14, 456 3468, elreymoro.com) features individually decorated rooms set around a spacious green courtyard, free bike rental, a room for disabled travellers and Segway tours from the courtyard. Rooms from €69-€155 a night. Set in a quiet but central street, Hotel un Patio al Sur is a fresh option with friendly reception and spacious rooms decorated with great art, from €83 (Fernan Caballero 7, 422 1035, patioalsur.es).

Luxe

Next to the Cathedral, Hotel Casa 1800 (Rodrigo Caro 6, 456 1800, hotelcasa1800 .com) is a converted palace-house featuring hand-carved furniture, timber floors, exposed brick walls and understated yet professional service. Some suites include private terraces from €138 a room, a night. Gran Melia Colon (Canalejas 1, 450 5599, preferredhotels.com) has visually stunning interiors that fuse contemporary design with classic touches, including paying tribute to Spanish artists on each floor of the hotel. Rooms from €195. The Palacio de Villapanes (Santiago 31, 450 2063, almasevilla.com) offers 50 modern rooms clustered around a beautifully decorated inner courtyard. The 18th-century building includes a roof terrace with views to the Cathedral and a wellness room for guests, from €169 a night.

Lash out

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The Hotel Alfonso XIII (San Fernando 2, 491 7000, luxurycollection.com/alfonsoxiii) occupies a Moorish mansion on an entire block in the city centre and is considered the most elegant property in town, with rooms from €439. Even if you can't stay, be sure to peek inside and have a coffee to experience its old-world hospitality. Hacienda Benazuza (San Lucar La Mayor, 570 3344, elbullihotel.com) is the concept hotel for the famous El Bulli restaurant. About 20 kilometres from the city centre, it offers rural luxury in a converted 10th-century Moorish farmhouse, with doubles from €350.

SHOP + PLAY

Shop

A riot of frills, primary colours and jumbo polka dots, flamenco dress shops are found at Plaza Salvador.

Professional dresses will set you back at least €500 and can enter the thousands.Aurora Gavino (Blanca de los Rios 1, 421 1069, auroragavino.com) is a good starting point to look at the real thing. However, FlamencoRevuelo (Hernando Colon 5, 422 0812, flamencorevuelo.com) has a nice mix of swirling ruffled skirts priced from about €50, aswell as ruffled tops and ties. The sun soars high in Seville, so secure a sombrero at Manuel Eguia Padilla (Adriano 16, 456 4414), which specialises in handmade hats for men and women.

Markets

In the Arenal district, the Mercadillo del Duque la Magdalena artisan’s market is open Thursday to Saturday (centre Plaza de la Magdalena and Plaza del Duque). Those after antiques and bric-a-brac should head to El Jueves market (Alameda de Hercules, Feria) on a Thursday, where the open-air morning market sells golden treasures on the street. Great finds include Moorish tiles and old tools and books. Across the river, the 150-year-old Mercado de Triana is a good place to find local delicacies and fresh produce (Plaza del Altozano, 462 3151, www.mercadodetriana.com).

Music

Popular with tourists and students alike, La Carboneria (Levies 18, 421 4460) in Santa Cruz iswell known for its free outdoor music in summer months, cozy winter sessions and reasonably priced drinks. For something more lowkey, small flamenco bars with live music cluster over the river in the Triana district, including LoNuestro (Betis 31) and the unmarked Casa Anselma (Pages del Corro 49). Nu Yor (Marques de Paradas 30, 421 2889) plays great Cuban music and has salsa sessions and live flamenco shows.Most live music starts late and goes into the early hours.

Nightclubs

Several clubs cluster on the river during summer, changing hands and names with the seasons, so check with locals to see what’s open and in vogue. Sure bets include Boss, a multilevel club (Betis 67, 499 0104, salaboss.es) in the Triana district but dresswell if youwant to get in. Antique Theatro is where the beautiful people hang out and pretend to listen to music. It’s a theatre-style space with sessions from Tuesday to Sunday (Matematicos Rey Pastor y Castro, 446 2207, antiquetheatro.com). Dance events featuring international DJs are held at Sala Q (Metalurgia 25, 678 415 820, salaq.com), a converted industrial space outside the main part of town.

SEE + DO

Icons

Towering over the city is its best-known landmark, the Giralda (Euro 8, Plaza del Triunfo, 421 4971), which juts out fromthe north-eastern corner of one of theworld’s largest cathedrals.

Originally the minaret of amosque built in the 1100s, the ramps to the 90-metre tower take about 10 minutes to climb but the viewover the city isworth it. Across the plaza is the Alcazar ( below, Dean Miranda, 450 2323), the oldest inhabited palace in Europe, where you can visit the royal residences and gardens (closed Mondays, €7). The Museo del Baile Flamenco (entry €10, Manuel Rojas Marcos 3, 434 0311, museoflamenco.com) is the best place to experience authentic flamenco culture.

The interactive museum is excellent, with flamenco classes and spectacular shows seven days aweek.

Culture

During HolyWeek in spring, the city swells with pilgrims drawn to see an incredible series of religious processions. However,more low-key processions take place all year, so be sure to keep an eye out.Whether you agree with it or not, bullfighting is a key part of Seville’s culture.

To find out why, visit the city’s beautiful 14,000-seat Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza (Paseo de Cristobal Colon 12, www.plazadetorosdelamaestranza.com). The Archivo de Indias (Santo Tomas, 421 1234) holds more than 80 million documents from Spain’s exploration of the Americas in a beautiful historical building next door to the cathedral.

Fancy footwork

Seville is tiny enough to cover on foot; however, there is a lot to cover. The tourist office has created mappedwalks, including one based on the sights mentioned in operas such as Carmen and The Marriage of Figaro. Pick a map from the tourist office in Plaza de San Francisco (Edificio Laredo 19, 459 5288). Favoured places to pound your feet include Santa Cruz and the Jewish Quarter, which takes in Roman columns, churches and convents, while a stroll along the river to see the 13th-century Torre del Oro, built to defend the city, and over the iconic Triana Bridge into the lesstouristy Triana district is another great route.

Tours

Highly recommended by the author, Sevilla Tapas Tours runs threehour tours that concentrate on local neighbourhoods, priced from €35, including food and drink (608 636 290, azahar-sevilla.com). Vegetarians and larger groups arewelcome. Horse-drawn carriage rides are available fromin front of the cathedral and cost from€50 for 45 minutes. If you prefer two wheels to four legs, three-hour bike tours taking in most historical sights leave daily from in front of the bullring and cost €25 (456 2625, sevillabiketour.com). Toros Tours runs private tours of the haciendas where bulls and pure Andalusian horses are bred (645 453 148, torostours.com).

EAT + DRINK

Snack

Next to the tourist office, Robles Laredo (Sierpes 90, 421 3150, casa-robles.com) is a little pricey but has amazing desserts and misted outdoor seating to help you escape the mid-afternoon heat. If you're after a sweet cultural experience, a number of convents bake snacks and make sweets to supplement their incomes, including Convento de Santa Ana (Santa Ana 34, 438 0603). A perfect pit stop on the tourist trail through the Jewish Quarter, Casa Roman (Plaza de los Venerables 1, 422 8483) specialises in Iberian ham and quality snacks. Locals shop here.

Tapas time

Run by an Argentine, Vineria San Telmo (Paseo Catalina de Ribera 4, 441 0600) does fantastic modern tapas, including dishes such as king prawn carpaccio with sesame seeds; cracked wheat with wild mushroom and truffle oil; and oxtail pastries. Part wine bar, part delicatessen, Purcepa (Plaza de San Francisco 8, 421 8119) is a sophisticated semi-modern tapas bar that serves delicious food and cava in an elegant setting. The service is friendly and food reasonably priced at Modesto (Cano y Cueto, 441 1816, grupomodesto.com). Be sure to eat inside with the locals, where the favourite dish is a large plate that includes tempura prawns, onions and chillies.

Bars

Popular with students and raucous during soccer games, El Patio (San Eloy 9) is in a former Turkish bath and so has tiled stadium-bath seating along its back walls. During spring and summer, locals raise their glasses under wide umbrellas in Plaza de Salvador after grabbing a drink at La Antigua Bodeguita (Plaza del Salvador 6, 456 1833). In colder months, they mingle in the back bar at Casa Morales ( , Garcia de Vinuesa 11, 437 3735) among huge, old, ceramic wine vats. The bar with the best view is undoubtedly the rooftop of the Fontecruz Sevilla (Antonio Maura 14, 497 9009, fontecruz.com), overlooking the cathedral, where you can lie on white leather beds.

Top of the town

One of the hottest new restaurants is Gastromium (Ramon Carande 12, 462 5555, www.gastromium.com). Housed in an understated space, it has an exceptional tasting menu as well as al a carte options. Make sure you reserve in advance. Restaurante Egana Oriza (San Fernando 41, 422 7254, www.restauranteoriza.com) serves modern Andalusian cuisine in a converted mansion near the university, with a seasonal menu that focuses on game. Casa Manolo Leon (Guadalquivir 8, 437 3735 manololeon.com) is the locals' pick for a quality Mediterranean menu and regional specialties. The restaurant is housed in a 19th-century Andalusian residence.

Hot tip

Quality accommodation, dining and drinking options are available at bargain prices in Seville, except during Holy Week, known as Semana Santa, when prices soar as pilgrims flood the city. Book well in advance or choose another time to visit if you want to avoid spending too much.

Getting there

Etihad flies from Sydney to Madrid, from $2035, 1800 998 995, etihad.com. The fast train (Alta Velocidad Espanola) from Madrid's Atocha Station to Seville's Santa Justa Station takes two hours 30 minutes, with multiple departures daily. raileurope.com.au.

Visa and currency

The Spanish currency is the euro (€1 = $1.37). A 90-day visa is available for Australians on entry.

Calling Seville

The Spanish country code is +34 and 95 for Seville. To call Seville from abroad, add +3495 to the numbers listed.

Further information

visitasevilla.es.

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