Seville: culture, tapas and warm weather

Stunning Seville is a world away from the package holidays and binge-drinking of the Costa del Sol

IF YOU think a Spanish holiday has to involve Irish pubs and tattooed, sunburnt Brits, then you obviously haven’t visited Seville.

I arrived in Seville on a cloudless November day with the temperature in the mid-20s and the sun illuminating the beautiful old town district of Santa Cruz. It’s the best place in the City and has been immaculately preserved in all its cobbled, pastel-coloured glory. Houses are painted in summery pinks, yellows, blues and greens and are adorned with elegant iron rail balconies. Running along the pavements are the famous orange trees that grow in almost every corner of the sun-drenched city.

The fierce sun rarely stops shining from April to October and it is barely dimmed by the mild Andalusian winter. It’s a great short haul option, if you’re in need of some post-Christmas warmth. For hours I was happy to get lost in the quaint back streets of Santa Cruz and the neighbouring districts of the old town. I spent most of my days sauntering from tiny, lovingly maintained squares to peach-blushed palaces that look good enough to eat. Huddled period buildings hide petite churches from the eye-lines of the inattentive passers-by. On virtually every street there is a building demanding to be photographed.

The occasional stop at one of the many tapas restaurants and sherry bodegas is obligatory, and at night, the cobbles ring with the clatter of late night revellers. The evening bubbles with local chatter, well oiled by the local wines and sherry from nearby Jerez.

There are several worthwhile sites to visit, the most important being Seville Cathedral. Renowned for housing the tomb of Christopher Columbus, it is the largest Gothic Cathedral in the world and stunning both inside and out. The intricate buttresses and domes dominate the skyline.

Also worth a visit is the Plaza de España, a palatial crescent traced by an arcing canal, ornate Venetian bridges and tiled alcoves representing the different provinces of Spain, a tranquil spot to sit in the shade, read and people watch.

But it would be a mistake to dash from tourist attraction to tourist attraction. Seville is best enjoyed ambling without an agenda, stopping for tapas and coffee when you feel like it, and moving on again when the mood takes you. It is one of the best kept secrets in Europe.

NEED TO KNOW

WHERE TO STAY:
Puerta De Sevilla (Puerta de la Carne, 2, Casco Antiguo) is a lovely 1-star hotel. Its picturesque double rooms are a bargain at £36 a night.

For glamour try Hotel Alfonso XIII (San Fernando, 2, Casco Antiguo). It’s £300 a night rooms are the last word in Andalusian opulence.

WHERE TO EAT:
Taberna Coloniales (Plaza Cristo de Burgos 19) is a cosy tapas restaurant with great food and desserts but get there early or reserve a table as space is limited.

La Manzanilla (located off Calle de Alphonse) serves traditional food that’s both delicious and affordable.

HOW TO GET THERE:
Easyjet and Ryanair both fly there direct from £150, while British Airways fly indirect via Madrid from £250.

Matt Morris