Where? Sevilla, Andalucia, Spain
When? December 2018
With whom? This was my Christmas present to Martin, so he was there too.
Seville is a beautiful city with a stunning old town, and this is definitely the best place to stay; it has cobbled, narrow streets with tall buildings (this is for the summer months when it is apparently unbearably hot so acts as protection from the sun) and plenty of tapas bars and restaurants for meal times.
We explored Andalusia’s surrounding areas during our trip, going canyoning, hiking the world’s most dangerous walk called El Caminito del Rey, and clambering over Hueznar Falls. Read about that here. We also wanted to see the city, so I got together a bunch of information about each monument and used Google maps to calculate the most efficient route so that we could do our very own walking tour. To make things more interesting, we incorporated a tapas crawl, where we would stop to have one plate to share in each restaurant that we either liked the look of when passing, or had come with highly recommended reviews online. Each bar has a review below including the dish we chose and a rating out of 5 tapas plates.
We walked to the bottom of the city to explore Plaza de Espana, which is where scenes on Naboo were filmed for Star Wars episode II. It is situated in a huge park called Parque de Maria Luisa. The park is famous for its many exotic plants that envelop its grounds and some claim it is the most beautiful park in Europe.
If you are a regular reader, I am sure by now you have realised that we are not the most sensible people when we’re travelling, and some idiot handed over the keys to a four-wheeled buggy bike and let us loose in a public space. Obviously we were absolute morons and terrorised the pathways of the park by careening round corners, jumping out of the cart and back in again as the other one pedalled ferociously ahead to make it more of a challenge.
As it turns out, these little buggies fare pretty well when off-roading! We passed water features, statues, strange-looking trees, and many irritated people. We didn’t have a horn, so saying “beep beep” had to suffice as we deliberately aimed for the most densely packed area of the park. We were so obnoxious.
We did spend a fair amount of time admiring the palace in the plaza, and listening to the buskers that were at the base of every staircase. One group of buskers were performing a flamenco dance, but we were more entertained by the seedy man who thought he had a chance with the female flamenco dancer and kept cutting in front of her partner to perform some amateur moves for a very unimpressed professional.
The Seville Cathedral, also known as Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede, is a magnificent building, even if it saddens me to see so much money spent on religion. As generations have built the cathedral it consists of Moorish, Gothic and Renaissance architecture, and you can see the varying styles as you walk around the building. One particular part looks like the pumpkin carriage from Cinderella.
It is the third largest cathedral in the world, and inside holds the tomb of Christopher Columbus and a very detailed altar. We did not fancy the queues to check out the interior when a tapas bar was awaiting. Nonetheless, we were both awed with the building’s ornate exterior.
We checked out the bullring, which was closed but you can have a guided tour if you wish to. There are many souvenirs which support the trade, so be careful what you buy if you want to stick to your morals!
On the river bank stands El Torro del Oro, which is now a maritime museum. What’s really fun is upsetting a naval keen bean by calling everything a boat, when you know full well that’s it’s a ship. It had some intricate scale models of famous Spanish naval ships with a brief history of when and how they were used to the advantage of Spain.
From the top of the tower, which is exposed, we could see a semi-decent view of the city. The sun shining always makes things look better too, so that helped. The price to get in was only 3EUR unless on a Monday, in which case is free, but otherwise as small fee that is worth it to check out the view and read about the interesting naval history.
Seville’s quirky landmark is called the Parasol, or ‘Las Setas’ to locals. It is a giant wooden structure that towers over the main square of the Old Town and at the top of the high street. In December, there were many Christmas market stalls to peruse.
The structure itself is unlike any other landmark I have seen with interlocking wooden slats to make some sort of mushroom cloud. For 3EUR you can go up and walk around the top of the structure, which gives you an amazing view of Seville from all angles. Then you can use your ticket for a free drink at one of the surrounding cafes.
If you are doing a walking tour around the city, be sure to include Don Barato, a shop that sells everything from chinchillas to kettles to pencils.
We managed to fit in an hour’s flamenco class and a flamenco show, using completely separate booking entities. Maria was our flamenco teacher and she took us to a studio to learn a short routine. She was very personable and a fantastic teacher despite Martin’s total lack of rhythm (I think she found his effort endearing). She was from the gypsy community so gave us insights to the history of the dance, telling us how raunchy it is to flick your skirt at a man. With our innate British awkwardness and the passion of the dance, there was a lot of laughter as we tried to seduce our imaginary dance partners whilst trying to get the right footwork and rotating and keeping to time!
She speaks fluent English and Spanish. Find her website here http://mariaserrano.com/about/.
We saw our flamenco show at Tablao Alvarez Quintero, as this was one of the cheaper tickets we could find at 18 EUR each. There are others around at similar prices and if you book early enough, you can also get a free drink thrown in. For any flamenco show, you will need to arrive early to get good seats. We arrived 20 minutes before the start and got seats in the middle. Ideally, you want to be able to see the dancers’ feet, as they do a lot of impressive footwork! With only one lesson, we appreciated how co-ordinated the dancer must be to maintain the rhythm for that long, continually building up on her footwork. This show was fantastic and even included a short ten minute lesson at the end with the main flamenco dancer.
Here are our thoughts on each tapas bar, the plate we ordered, and a rating out of 5 tapas plates.
El Rincon de Beirut ❶❷❸❹
This place does the best falafel I have been able to find since I was in the Middle East and super cheap sangria. Service is quick and staff are friendly. It is opposite the university; a very fancy building with its own flag!
Bodega Santa Cruz ❶❷❸❹
You can’t miss this place as it is always so full of locals that they are pouring out onto the street! There is no seating area, instead, you go to the bar, which is completely manic – they have no time to deal with you if you speak to them in English. You place your order using the blackboards as your menu reference, and the bartender will write your order on the bar until you pay, and then it will be wiped off. Everybody was eating Pringas, so we ordered that too. We later discovered that is was a mini circular panini with barbecued black pudding as a filling. It was delicious. This place has to be on your list if for nothing else but the experience of going!
Bar Baratillo ❶❷❸❹
This bar is open when others close for the afternoon siesta period. As long as you are happy with taxidermized bulls’ heads staring at you whilst you eat, this place has a great atmosphere. We ordered pork cheek, and it was very tender. Service was great and the food lived up to expectations.
This place is not far from Bar Baratillo, but has less of a queue outside. When we ate there, we understood why. Juice is advertised as fresh for 3EUR but it from concentrate and really bad. They offered Carlsberg beer rather than anything Spanish, and food took forever to arrive. We ordered pork cheek again, and it tasted like meatballs from out of a tin. We would not recommend.
Bodeguita Romero ❶❷
This place was a shovey, less charming version of Bodega Santa Cruz. There is seating, but it is packed in uncomfortably and the bar staff were rude. We ordered spicy chorizo, which was good, but not much else was. Everyone was shouting at each other and seemed really stressed but there were a lot of people outside so it seemed like a good idea at the time.
La Barandilla ❶❷❸
This place is in a great location, surrounded by other restaurants. With all of these, be careful of the sneaky extra service that they charge you for a basket of bread. Each time, we sent this back as we didn’t want to pay the extra 1.20 EUR or similar. There was a little bit of a wait for our food, we ordered homemade pork stew sandwich tapas, which was really good.
Bodega de la Alfalfa ❶❷❸❹
This place is teeny tiny but so worth being cramped for what goes on inside. We ordered cream cheese and walnut bruschetta, and got a little carried away with our one plate rule when we ordered the chocolate brownie, which was delicious. The bar staff were fantastic and helped us choose the right sherry for us. As it turns out, no sherry is the right sherry for us.
Our only FIVE tapas plate rating. We accidentally stumbled across this place on night one when we were looking for somewhere away from the main parts where all the tourists would be. We were told there would be aa 15 minute wait but only waited about 5 minutes, but it would have been worth waiting 15. On tap, are local beers and our favourite was Mayo. We ordered a selection of plates including bull tail croquettes, all of them were amazingly satisfying, and we even stuck around for another beer and dessert. The bar staff were amazing with quick service and were very friendly. This is a must if you are in Seville.
Casa Toni ❶❷
It feels posh but the prices are very reasonably. We ate here for dinner on night 2, and had a variety of small plates because Spain. Food, unfortunately, was subpar, although the sangria was delicious!
Dona Fraciquitta ❶❷❸
it seems a little unfair to give this a tapas plate rating given that we came here for paella. It is a restaurant among many near where we saw our Flamenco show and seemed to specialise in paella. It was nice enough but we weren’t raving about the food and the staff were really grumpy.
Ice Wave is not a tapas place but an ice cream place on the high street near Las Setas. You order your ice cream with a filling and a topping, then you are able to watch your filling on a cold plate being mushed up with milk with spatulas until it is all completely frozen and thinly spread over the plate, to be rolled up into your cup and drenched in whatever topping you requested.
Galle Tanas – This isn’t tapas either, it’s a cookie shop and they are good enough to rival Ben’s Cookies. I would recommend the milk chocolate and orange but we tried a few and they were all delish. Be careful if you have a nut allergy.
Another tapas place that was on our list was El Rinconcillo, the oldest bar in Spain, but we were simply too full by the time we got here. Nightmare.