Rooftop concerts, food markets, kayaking on the Guadalquivir and flamenco done properly are amongst Mary Biles savvy selections for an original city break in the south of Spain

I love Seville, I’ve been living here for five years after all. But there are only so many times you can marvel at the immense grandeur of the cathedral’s Giralda Tower or pad in rapture through the maze of water features in the Alcazar Palace. Eventually you come to realise that the true essence of the city lies in those less frequented nooks and crannies that only nosey parkers like myself tend to find. But fear not, in this Secret Seven things to do in the Andalusian capital I’ll cut out the leg work for you and take you straight to the city’s clandestine treasures… where you’ll feel like you’re the only tourist in town.

1# Visit A Flamenco Social Club

Ok, so it would be a missed opportunity to come to Seville and not see any flamenco. But forget the touristy ‘tablaos’ with their steep entry fees and head instead to a ‘peña’. Peñas are best described as a flamenco social club and are home to some of the most authentic flamenco on offer in the city. I love the Peña Cultural Flamenca Torres Macarena for its fighting spirit (it was temporarily closed down by the local council due to regular complaints by a non-flamenco loving neighbour), the beautiful, orange tree bedecked courtyard and the explosive and impassioned shows that guarantee quality on every visit. Performances are only on Wednesday evenings so for weekend flamenco try the Peña Níño de la Alfalfa. Top tip: be sure to stay until the end of proceedings to enjoy the ‘fin de fiesta’ in which any flamenco artists in the audience, dancers or otherwise are encouraged to take to the stage for a flamenco free-for-all.

cool things to do Seville Spain
Dance like everybody’s watching (photo by Nino de la Alfalfa).

2# Pelicano5 Art Collective

From Moorish times Seville has been a city where family life unfolds inside the cool, interior courtyards that form the heart of many traditional dwellings. This principle also extended to working life in the form of corralones, where craftsmen’s studios lined a private central area. The corralones continue to function to this day and range from those languishing in states of decaying splendour to modern ones constructed in Berlinesque minimalist lines (check out Rompe Moldes for an example of the latter). My favourite is the Corralón de Pelicano, in the San Julián district, lying just within the old city walls. Dating back to the 19th Century, it was the city’s first industrial estate. But don’t be fooled by its olde worldy cobbles, geraniums in pots and images of the virgin; inside there beats a very modern, creative pulse with the artsy, collective Pelicano5 featuring contemporary artists, a mad inventor and an artisan, high-end carpenter.

pelicano
Get creative in a corralón…

3# La OSA Mallol Boutique

When shopping in Sevilla, forget the big name Spanish brands like Zara and Mango and go straight to local individual designers and their studios. My favourite is La OSA Mallol, comprising ex-architect Lourdes and her ingenious, multi-use, reversible designs and theatre costume designer Isa with her own one-off pieces for women, super cute kids’ line and exquisite, couture-clothed, character dolls. But La OSA Mallol’s creativity doesn’t stop there, and if you’re in town for a little longer you might want to check out one of their workshops on upcycling and dressmaking.

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Make friends with some local designers (photo by La OSA Mallol).

4# Paddle Down the River Guadalquivir

Seville is really stunning, but god do I wish it were closer to the sea. Still, it has got the beloved River Guadalquivir and instead of just strolling along the river banks, why not take a kayak tour where you can see the bridges from the bottom up and commune with the local flora and fauna. Local tour company Not Just a Tourist offers a two hour kayak tour along the closest thing Seville has to the sea, just make sure you pick a sensible time of the day to be out in the water as the midday Spanish sun can be cruel indeed.

alternative attractions Seville
Can I kayak it? Yes you can! (Photo by Not Just a Tourist).

5# Estraperlo Organic Food & Tapas

Sevillanos vehemently defend their cuisine as not only being the best, but also the healthiest going. Frankly, I beg to differ as after a few days of mostly deep-fried fare, my intestines generally long for some fat-free days off. Imagine my delight then when I recently discovered ‘Estraperlo’ a shop selling organic produce which is so hidden away that even I didn’t know about it. Nestled in a shady courtyard in the hip Alameda de Hercules district, Estraperlo doesn’t just sell locally grown, organic produce; it also boasts a working kitchen at the back producing a daily tapas menu to be enjoyed in situ or taken away.

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Intestine friendly eats at Estraperlo

6# Experience An Intimate Concert

Seeing live music is a tricky business in Seville. It’s easy to imagine oneself stepping off the plane only to be greeted by a travelling troubadour playing flamenco guitar. But in reality the city’s live music scene rather precariously relies on unlicensed venues which open and close depending on the noise sensitivity of the neighbours. Thank goodness then for music promoters La Matraka who’ve creatively manoeuvred their way round these restrictions, making use of the city’s private spaces to lay on intimate, cultural events. Redetejas, currently in its 3rd year, is a summer season of live music gigs, comedy and theatre across the city’s private roof terraces and recently launched, Myplayz uses the same principle to encourage culture lovers to host their own events in the comfort of their own home or workspace. It’s a bit like Airbnb, but for culture. (For more on this “micro culture revolution” trend check out our feature article).

Bars are sooo over, in Seville it's all about private spaces.
Bars are sooo over, in Seville it’s all about private spaces…

7# Lonja de Feria Food Market

Most major Spanish cities have a traditional food market and if you really want to get up close and personal with some local characters then these lively food emporiums provide an opportunity to do just that – along with tasting some great grub of course. Seville’s Triana Market upped its game a while back by opening some hip bars, thus injecting a nightlife into what was once very much a daytime location. The latest to follow suit is the food market on Calle Feria, a stone’s through away from the Alameda de Hercules. Follow your nose to the far end of the 18th century building and there amongst the fish stalls you’ll find a buzzing tapas bar. There’s something to suit all tastes, not just the fish and seafood lovers amongst us, so expect usual suspects such as giant pans of paella or black squid ink rice, oysters and sushi, plus fish free, handmade croquettes and summer, cold soups like salmorejo, gazpacho and ajoblanco. Thursday to Sunday evenings they lay on live music, usually of a jazz or flamenco bent.

Chilling out on the food market terrace (Photo by Lonja de Feria).
Chilling out on a food market terrace (photo by Lonja de Feria).

This list a bit too hipster for you? Then no worries, we rounded up all of the more conventional attractions this town has to offer in our Seville city break feature, along with tips on the best hotels, restaurants and bars. If on the other hand this post hit the spot exactly, then be sure to drop by our other posts in the Secret Seven series, such as our cool things to do in Athens, hipster hang outs in Rome and some alternative suggestions for Berlin.

Feature photo by Breen Jones.

One thought on “Secret Seven: Seville

  1. Mary, I haven’t been to Seville in 4 years but this post makes me want to return! The organic food and tapas place sounds like my personal heaven. Thanks for sharing these tips!!

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