A neighbourhood guide to Seville

The Andalucian capital may have a collection of classic sights, but that’s only half the story. Its atmospheric barrios, home to fresh flavours and burgeoning art scenes, are breathing new life into the city.

Published 24 Dec 2020, 08:00 GMT
Seville claim's the world’s largest gothic cathedral and one of Europe’s biggest old towns.

Seville claim's the world’s largest gothic cathedral and one of Europe’s biggest old towns. 

Photograph by Getty

Claiming the world’s largest gothic cathedral and one of Europe’s biggest old towns, Seville serves up historical superlatives as big and bold as its world-famous tapas. Of course, all that soul-stirring Moorish architecture and fine food plays a major role in the allure of Spain’s fourth-largest city, but veering away from its historic centre reveals a cool, contemporary edge. Spread across the city are neighbourhoods that hum with an undercurrent of creativity; it’s in these pockets that old traditions are given a new lease of life, artists’ enclaves are springing up and new culinary traditions are being cemented. Make no mistake — this is a city that promises the best of modern Spain.

Triana

“People come to Triana and say there’s nothing to see,” Shawn says, nodding towards some nondescript apartment buildings from the 1970s. My guide admits her favourite neighbourhood has some shabby corners, especially when held up against the picture-perfect Old Town across the canal to its east. “But,” she explains, “you just have to know where to go.” Shawn Hennessey was born in Canada but has lived here for the past 27 years and knows the city intimately. She was one of the first people to start tapas tours here over a decade ago, after first launching an online culinary guide, Azahar Sevilla. These days, the site commands a loyal following for its knowledge of the city’s best kitchens.  

In Triana, she’s showing me the lesser-known corners of the neighbourhood and the tapas worth detouring for. Triana is sandwiched between two channels — the Guadalquivir River and the Alfonso XIII Canal — and, as such, prides itself on its apartness, Shawn tells me. Cross the river and call a local a sevillano and they’ll correct you: these are trianeros through and through. 

The area’s identity is wrapped up in its past, too. Historically, it was a magnet for wayward souls — gypsies, sailors, artists and flamenco dancers gravitated here — and was, until recently, defined by its ceramic industry, which dated back to Moorish rule. The coal-burning kilns were discouraged in the 1970s to help improve air quality, and the last factory, Ceramica Montalvan, extinguished its furnaces in 2012. But the tradition of turning riverbed clay into art lives on in the artisan shops that dot the side streets. Colourful azulejo tiles still decorate the neighbourhood, from bridges and balustrades to window frames and facades — and even the stands of Mercado de Triana, the central covered market built atop the ruins of the Castle of San Jorge. 

Our tour takes us to the counter of the family-run restaurant Las Golondrinas, a haven for all things porcine. The server laughs as I ask how long it takes to get through a leg of jamón; there’s a whole herd of them strung up behind the bar. “Less than a day,” he says as he plates up something special for us. It’s a punta al galope: a lard-soaked hunk of bread topped with bacon and pork loin. This is no place for vegetarians. 

With our next stop, Shawn is showing off again. The delectable aroma of something cooking hits my nostrils as soon as we turn the corner. “I bring people here for a bird and a beer,” she tells me. At Casa Ruperto, a cheap-and-cheerful tapas bar founded in 1970, they do one thing and do it well: deep-fried quails. We tear the meat apart with our hands and mop up the juices with hunks of bread as day turns to evening, and local trianeros troop in for a post-work tipple. 

A butcher’s stall hung with legs of jamón at Mercado de Triana. 

Photograph by AWL

Feria

If it’s art you want, Seville doesn’t disappoint. Beyond the architectural flourishes on show across the Old Town, the city offers up historically significant paintings and sculptures at the Museo de Bellas Artes de Sevilla (Museum of Fine Arts) and the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo (Andalucian Contemporary Art Centre), both housed in grand former monasteries. 

But I’m on a mission to find the epicentre of the city’s newest creative scene — a crowd of young artists, entrepreneurs and free spirits who have set up shop somewhere in the Feria neighbourhood. Los Corralones, as their headquarters is known, has an air of myth around it, and I’m struggling to pin down an address.  

While searching, I meet Sonia in her zero-waste homewares shop, El Jarrillo Lata, set on the district’s main drag, who sends me in the right direction. Her emporium of sustainable items chimes with an eco-ethos I also sense elsewhere: walking down Calle Relator, another main artery, I see sacks groaning with pulses and organic ingredients. There’s no plastic in sight. 

At the end of the street and past the cobblestone Plaza de Pumarejo with its former town hall overrun with artists, I find Los Corralones on Calle Castellar, a street full of ramshackle studios, galleries and event spaces hidden behind peeling 17th-century facades that dwarf the narrow lane. A tinkling of live music slips out of open windows. Posters are plastered on doors advertising intimate flamenco gigs and dance lessons; graffiti-emblazoned alleyways lead to open studios that, by night, often hold parties into the small hours.

This is the vibrant home of the city’s dancers, sculptors, inventors, painters, musicians, furniture restorers, designers, costumiers and goldsmiths. Each artist has carved out their space off this street, breathing fresh life into a complex that once functioned as the stables for the Duchess of Alba’s horses and for the upholsterers who dressed her carriages. 

I head, slightly furtively, up some stairs in one huge building into a bunting-strewn, smoke-filled room. This is the home of Trompeta Verde, a collective that broadcasts its own radio show and holds screenings and workshops on subjects as diverse as social action, new technology and creative writing. It’s Sunday afternoon — siesta time, traditionally — but it’s alive with conversation and live music.  

As I leave, I notice that someone has amended the road sign: Castellar has become CastellART. It feels appropriate. 

Trompeta Verde, a collective based in Los Corralones in the Feria neighbourhood.

Photograph by Josephine Price

San Lorenzo & Alameda

“There’s a really interesting gastronomic experience to be had here. People are coming and starting to discover that something is happening in this area,” Cinta tells me. Bosco chimes in: “It really is happening, you know.” This pair of locals have a knack of either reinforcing what the other has just said or finishing each other’s sentences. Their charismatic partnership is probably why their new restaurant and first venture together, La Cochera del Abuelo, is working so well. 

And then there’s the food. They serve me mackerel and melt-in-the-mouth rice, and a cheesecake that ensures I’ll never eat another cheesecake again unless it’s made by Bosco. Unlike the classic Seville tapas bars that sprawl out onto the pavements, this establishment keeps its patrons behind a huge wooden door, as if guarding a secret. It all feels different. But then again, this neighbourhood has a reputation for
culinary surprises. 

Nearby establishment Eslava was considered a trailblazer when it launched its experimental tapas menu in 1988; the cuttlefish and algae filo pastry cigarillo I try, followed by manchego ice cream, suggest that the chefs are still pushing the boundaries. What sleepy San Lorenzo lacks in volume of restaurants and buzz, it certainly makes up for in quality. 

The riotous yin to San Lorenzo’s yang is the next door neighbourhood, Alameda. Famous for its nightlife, this formerly downbeat barrio unwinds from the central plaza of Alameda de Hércules. Built in 1574 as a public garden — thought to be the oldest of its kind in Spain, and also Europe — recent years have seen it become a paved playground for students and dedicated night owls, hosting live music sessions and dancing throughout the summer. It sets the tone for the rest of the area.

I stroll around after dark, taking in the shisha bars, live music venues, clubs, drinking dens and a rainbow flag-bedecked bookshop-cum-cafe. The energy is infectious. This is a place to bounce between venues, to discover a new gem around every corner, and where the life on the streets is almost as noteworthy as the action in the bars. It’s a whirlwind compared to my slow and sensual culinary adventures earlier in the day. Yet, like many great pairings, this contrasting duo of neighbourhoods is worth discovering in tandem.

The cheesecake at La Cochera del Abuelo restaurant, lead by chef Bosco Benítez Ruiz del Pozo. 

Photograph by Jose Laguna

When in Seville
 

In the kitchen
Hands-on cooking classes in the heart of Mercado de Triana, Taller Andaluz de Cocina offers a window into the region’s passion for paella. With ingredients sourced from nearby stalls, the results couldn’t be fresher. 

Try two wheels
The 75 miles of bike lanes that carve up the city have revolutionised the way its inhabitants get around. Discover the city from two wheels with the help of local company, See by Bike

Craft work
Get a taste for the city’s expanding craft spirits scene and meet the artisans behind the trend at Vermutería Yo Soy Tu Padre on Calle Conde de Torrejón in the Feria neighbourhood.

Island jazz
Enjoy free live music on Sunday afternoons on the Isla de la Cartuja, an island in the Guadalquivir River, which takes its name from the old monastery that now houses the Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo. 

Mushroom clouds 
The striking arches of Metropol Parasol (nicknamed Las setas, meaning ‘the mushrooms’), caused controversy when erected in 2011. The wooden wonder in the Old Town’s La Encarnación square is home to a viewing platform, restaurants, a museum and a market. 

How to do it

Kirker Holidays offers three nights at Las Casas de la Judería from £598 per person based on two sharing, including flights from Stansted, return private car transfers, B&B accommodation, entry to the cathedral and the Royal Alcázar palace, and the services of the Kirker concierge to book expert local guides or a table for dinner. 

Published in the Nov/Dec 2020 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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