First time I ate in Seville
I came to Seville at the end of a hectic 6 weeks of interrailing back in 2012. It was July and already the temperatures were in the high 30’s. The intense heat meant I could barely move around the city during the day. While backpackers were getting wasted at the rooftop pool of the hostel, I was hiding away in my room in the cool comfort of my air conditioned private room. I was wiped out emotionally and physically. Too many nights of drinking and the constant stress of moving every 2-3 days meant I couldn’t look at another drink or speak to anyone. I barely saw any of the sights in Seville over these 3 days because of the heat and exhaustion. The only time I emerged was afternoon and late in the evening to look for something to eat. Even though I was burnout and pretty happy to have not moved from my room, my first encounter going to a tapas bar in Seville was like a godly revelation. I had already been to Barcelona and Valencia before where I ate at some wonderful places but the tapas bars of Seville had a different air or vibe to them. I remember walking in and seeing this amazing array of colourful dishes all laid out on the broad counter of this bar and people just pointing to what they wanted and eating it. It felt like eating at your grandmother’s-everything I chose and ate was delicious. There was no time to pause in-between dishes. The small plates of food came thick and fast and I just kept on devouring everything that was suggested to me. I was under some magical trance and it was only when I stepped into the harsh daylight that the spell was finally broken and I realised what I had experienced. I think then it clicked for me, how important food is when it comes to travel. In a world of constant distraction, the simple ritual of eating, slows time down and gives us a moment to reflect about ourselves and the world around us.
It was that trip that made me realise that less is more when it comes to travel and gave me that desire to slow down. I then promised myself one day to come back to Seville and focus on only one thing- eat. That promise took me 7 years to fulfil but I did come back again for a whole week which flew by and then I came the following year for 2 weeks and this still, wasn’t long enough. Given that there are close to 3000 tapas bars in Seville, it might take us both a lifetime to discover all the magic this city has to offer. However, since you probably don’t have the luxury of a lifetime, in order to narrow the field of choice a little and make it easier for you, I thought I would pass onto you some of my favourite places which you can discover in the form of a free self guided walking tour. You can easily eat out and see all the places below in a weekend but it depends on how much time you are willing to dedicate – it goes without saying, the slower, the better you will enjoy the food, it will taste better and you will also digest this city far better.
A free self guided walking tour of Seville for foodies
We start our self guided tour in the El Arenal neighbourhood which is one of Sevilla’s liveliest neighbourhoods in Seville, sitting in a triangle formed by Paseo de Colón on one side, and Calle Adriano and Calle Dos de Mayo on the other. The prosperity of El Arenal dates back to the 16th century when Seville was a thriving trading hub and boats, loaded with gold and silver would arrive here from the Indies to be repaired. The narrow streets here, that were filled with merchants, dockers, sailors and chief mates are now packed with century old “abacerías” (grocery stores) and some of the city’s best bodegas and tapas bars.
First port of call is the Mercardo del Arenal. Created in 1947 the mercado, formerly the site for a convent and later a prison, is now where locals come to buy fresh fruits and vegetables.
Picnic Panes Artesanos
Right next to the Mercardo is Picnic Panes Artesanos. If you are looking for artisan bread, this is the place to come to plus they bake delicious cakes ranging from Dulce de Leche alfajores, cinnamon rolls, apple cakes, cookies & magdalenas
Worth bookmarking and popping your head in to visit later, this historic tavern is one of my favourite places for a cold, cheap beer – plus from Tuesday to Sunday, they perform flamenco shows here.
Back in the day when sailors and merchants were flocking the streets of El Arenal it was common for the old abacerías– grocery stores to double up as bars. Few of those remain and one of the best existing examples is the historic Casa Morales which since 1850 has been quenching the thirst of locals with their chilled local sherry and beers, serving a delicious range of tapas dishes ranging from albondigas (meatballs) to sets (mushrooms), montaditos (small sandwiches) and the classic anchovies on toast with cheese.
Keep your eye out for the hidden but beautiful Plaza del Cabildo in the heart of the city: Seville is filled with beautiful corners like this.
Orange Wine at Taberna Perejil
Continuing the sweet theme, pop into Taberna Perejil where since 1904, they have been serving Vino de Naranja, famous local orange wine which comes from Moguer (a little town from Huelva). It is a sweet wine, perfect for an aperitif or can be enjoyed as a dessert wine. At €1.20, you can easily quaff a few of these.
Taste Solomillo al Whisky Bodega Santa Cruz
Bodega Santa Cruz is another classic tapas bar that I love coming back to- first reason is that the prices of the tapas here is very reasonable, starting around the €2 mark. Secondly, the food is fantastic. Try their delicious meatballs albondigas and the local classic Solomillo al Whisky (pork tenderloin in whisky sauce).
The latter dish is one of the most authentic tapas dishes you can try in the city and tasted damn good here.
Enjoy Carrillada at Antigua Abaceria de San Lorenzo
Another of the few remaining abaceria or bodegas in town, this tapas bar is a little bit off the beaten path but probably one of the best tapas restaurants in the city. The waitress and owner speak little English but are friendly and patient with my questions. In the end we decided to try Carrillada which is braised Iberian Pork Cheeks, slow cooked in the local fino aka sherry over a low heat for at least a few hours. The end result as you can imagine is this delicious, heavenly tender meat which is perfectly accompanied with roasted potatoes.
El Rinconcello-the birthplace of tapas
Close to the Iglesia de Santa Catalina and the Iglesia de San Pedro, where the painter Velazquez was baptized lies El Rinconcello, the oldest tapas bar in Seville and also Spain. It is classified as the the second oldest in Spain after the Madrid-based Botín. Dating back to 1670, the interiors here haven’t changed much in the last 300 years with traditional Andalusian tiles adorning the walls and the centrepiece, the famous carved wooden bar where the patrons are propped up. The bar is standing room only and there are no seats. There are no receipts here. The waiters write your bill in chalk on the wooden bar, which is then added up at the end of the session.
You can try the signature dish of Seville, espinacas con garbanzos. This dish sums up Seville’s rich history. The Moors were the first to bring spinach, chickpeas, and cumin to Spain and all three are the main stars of this dish alongside smoked paprika. My other favourite dish here is bacalau aka cod in a tomato garlic sauce-heavenly stuff!
The selection of wines here is fantastic, with a special focus on Andalusian wines.
If you’re looking for an authentic, local bar then this is as good as it gets in Seville. The ice cold draft beer flows quickly here and at around €1.20 for a glass you will soon be spilling out onto the pavement with other locals and making new friends in no time. There’s also a wide range of sherries on offer plus the famous local orange wine. Drinks are served here with tasty olives and there are some special tapas dishes on the menu like Mojama , a Mediterranean delicacy salt-cured tuna, caviar and Bacalao Saladisimo – salted cod.
Try local craft ales like Zurda Golden Ale at La Jeronima
If you are still feeling thirsty, highly recommend a trip to La Jeronima where you are invited to ‘read our beers and drink our books.’ Part library stocking publications from local publishers and a menu featuring over 30 craft beers from across Andalusia-this is a real authentic slice of Seville. If it is a warm day and you are thirsty I highly recommend a bottle of the refreshing Zurda Golden Ale.
We finish off with some gelato. Freskura, near Alameda de Hercules could be in with a good shout for having the best ice cream in the city: try their lemon basil sorbet ( €2.50 ) ….or just a few hundred yards from the Mercado is Heladeria Artesana La Fiorentina, one of Seville’s best gelaterias where you find a range of exotic and exciting flavours, many of which are original and unique to Seville. Recommend trying the orange blossom or “crema de Sevilla” to get a real taste of Seville’s sweet side.
Explore city’s rich food scene with a local
If this post has whetted your appetite and you want to dig in further, then I highly recommend trying one of Devour Seville’s Food Tours. I’ve been on tours with their guides in Madrid and Barcelona- they are extremely passionate about their food, energetic and full of tips and ideas. Taking one of their tours is a great way to get a sense of history of the place and after the tours they always handout a sheet with tips of their favourite places to eat, drink and see. The emphasis in their tours is always supporting locals: no food chains, corporates are involved so by taking their tours, you are really putting money back into the local economy. I won’t give you the lowdown of where we visited but this food tour had it all: we ate a lot (come with an empty stomach) and the tour was filled with lots of nuggets of local history.
Disclaimer: This post was produced with the kind support of the Spanish Tourist Office UK as part of their #SlowTravelSpain campaign. However, all the views expressed here, good and bad, are entirely my own. Thank you.