Weekend break: Indulge the senses in scenic Seville

Carolyn Moore explores the wonderful treasures this old Spanish city has to offer.

Seville bears the traces of its history, from Roman ruins to the Alcázar and the 15th century cathedral.

Spring may have sprung, but here in Ireland, sporadic bursts of sunshine only make us long for a summer we might never have, so it’s about that time when we all start wondering how soon we can escape to the sun. 

Too early and the rest of the year feels like an eternity; too late and you risk a Vitamin D deficiency by the time your holiday rolls around.

This is why God invented city breaks, and possibly Spain. 

Combine the two and you get to enjoy all the things that make a holiday great — glorious sunshine, beautiful sights, amazing food and copious amounts of good wine — while also assuaging any guilt you might feel about cramming in an extra holiday by immersing yourself in history and culture.

As a city break destination, Andalucía’s capital, Seville, scarcely needs any introduction, and spring is the perfect time to appreciate its many charms.

Relentlessly picturesque, Seville bears all the traces of its rich history, from the Roman ruins on the outskirts of the city to the 11th century Alcázar — testament to hundreds of years of Moorish rule. 

Once the palace of the Muslim kings, the architectural integrity of the complex was sensitively maintained when it fell into the hands of the Catholic Spanish royal family.

Looming over the Alcázar is a 15th-century Gothic cathedral, and together they account for two of Seville’s three city-centre UNESCO World Heritage Sites. 

The third, the General Archive of the Indies, is a fine example of Spanish Renaissance architecture, and emblematic of what can only be described as Seville’s almost obscene prettiness.

Everywhere you turn the vista is picture postcard perfect. With lush, manicured parks, beautiful baroque buildings, and countless cosmopolitan outdoor cafés, it’s a city best — and easily — explored on foot.

A day of sightseeing in Seville should begin bright and early. Culture-starved or just curious, coach-loads of tourists are bussed in from Andalucía’s Costa del Sol resorts each day, arriving en masse around lunchtime. 

The colossal cathedral absorbs them easily enough, but to truly appreciate the visual and spiritual serenity of the Alcázar (admission €9.50), you should aim to beat them to it. 

Both Laurence of Arabia and Game of Thrones filmed scenes here, and it’s without a doubt Seville’s busiest tourist spot.

Next, pay a visit to the cathedral (admission €9). Revisionists might think twice about paying their respects at the reputed final resting place of Christopher Columbus (his remains were almost as well travelled as he was; their actual whereabouts is the source of some dispute), but it’s worth noting that Seville’s golden age, reflected in the splendour of the cathedral and the city at large, was a direct result of his explorations.

The cathedral’s bell-tower, La Giralda, offers an opportunity to get an unrivaled view of said splendour. 

From the top, you can see the old town spread out into the sprawling suburbs and get a fresh perspective on the elegant mish-mash of architectural influences at play in the historic centre.

Assume you’ll be inundated with tapas options come nightfall and break for lunch in the charmingly old-fashioned Bistro Del Alabardero, a culinary college where you can enjoy a friendly but formal three-course meal for under €20 (see www.tabernadelalabardero.es

After lunch, stroll through the city’s old Jewish quarter towards the building that most embodies the eclectic beauty of Seville: the Plaza de España.

Built for the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929, the complex blends distinctive Mudejár and Renaissance Revival styles with traditional glazed ceramics, and might be recognisable to eagle-eyed film buffs as a location from Star Wars, Attack of the Clones.

Today’s kids might be less than impressed by that piece of trivia, but the spacious, open plaza and its surrounding park, with boat rides and horse-drawn carriages, should make for a fun outing for all ages.

And judging by the enraptured faces of children watching the flamenco show at the Museo del Baile Flamenco, that’s a good option for a fun family night out.

Performed by husband and wife team José Vidal and Cristina Gallego Durán, the show can be the precursor to a tour of the museum (show plus tour €24), with exhibits outlining the origins of flamenco and commemorating some of its biggest stars.

Alternatively, visitors can book a private flamenco lesson and then feel hopelessly inadequate when the professionals take to the stage.

After the mild exertion of a dance lesson, you can soak your weary bones at a traditional Hammam, Aire de Sevilla (from €33, last admission 10pm weekdays, midnight weekends, see www.airedesevilla.com), before taking to the rooftop bar of the Hotel Inglaterra for a nightcap. 

Central and oozing old-world grandeur, the hotel is a perfect base for a few days spent unwinding, indulging the senses, and exploring the bountiful treasures this beautiful old city has to offer.

Literary types might enjoy an excursion to the stunning town of Ronda, oft-visited and highly recommended by Ernest Hemmingway.

Perched on the edge of a steep gorge, its unspoilt charm and breathtaking scenery are worth the two-hour drive. 

The ‘Puente Nuevo’, or ‘New Bridge’ (ironically it’s over 200 years old) is as stunning a sight as you’re likely to see.

Appetites whetted by the Alcázar, Game of Thrones fans should visit the town of Osuna.

This quiet, unassuming little spot, an hour from Seville, has a quiet, unassuming little bullring that was dramatically transformed into the Pit of Daznak for a pivotal scene in season 5 — reputedly the most expensive 17 minutes of television ever produced.

The town museum has a Game of Thrones section with costumes and signed cast photos, and locals are happy to regale you with anecdotes of their brushes with stardom. 

Stop by Casa Curro on Plaza Salitre for a feed fit for a queen — or a Khaleesi. Emilia Clarke celebrated her birthday here at a star-studded bash while the crew was in town.

Fly from Dublin to Seville with Ryanair.

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