Eating out in Seville is approached with the same laid-back simplicity that characterises the city's approach to life in general. Local cuisine ranges from honest, uncomplicated traditional dishes to inventive new tastes; foodies will find mouth-wateringly delicious surprises around every corner.
Like the architectural and historical roots of the Andalusian region, cuisine in Seville is a blend of Mediterranean and Moorish traditions. Main ingredients include olive oil, garlic and wine, but a strong Muslim influence has infused recipes with a bit of mint, a pinch of spice or fragrant citrus, and almond elements.
Many visitors are surprised to learn that the city lays claim to Spain's most well-known culinary legacy: tapas. These small, bite-sized portions make for light and delicious meals and cater perfectly to a culture that believes whole-heartedly in the value of good conversation. Some regional favourites include jamón Iberico de bellota (acorn-fed Iberian ham), espinacas con garbanzos (spinach with chickpeas), cazón en adobo (fried dog fish) and carrillada de cerdo (pork cheeks).
Though tapas used to be complimentary alongside a nip of sherry or a glass of wine, these days visitors will be hard-pressed to find a restaurant simply 'giving away' the traditional side of jamon (cured ham) or the odd bowl of acietunas (olives). Still, sampling one of the 4,000 odd tapas bars in Seville is a must.
Visitors can also dine at traditional abacerías (tiny grocery stores that often serve gourmet products such as wine, cheese and charcuterie); restaurants that serve regional classics such as the flavourful rabo de toro (bull's tail stew) and cochinillo asado (roast suckling pig); or establishments that create some of Spain's most modern, artistically-heightened dishes.
Travellers should ask about the menu del dia (menu of the day) over lunchtime; this normally includes a choice of soup or salad, a main course and a dessert, and often proves a delicious and economic way to move through Seville. Foreigners should bear in mind that the Spanish eat late, and that most restaurants only open at 8pm. Locals will filter in between 9pm and 11pm.
Seville has everything from small, speciality shops to big, overbearing department stores. The area around Plaza Neuve is prime territory for anything chic and stylish, and the pedestrian thoroughfares of Calle Tetuan and Calle de las Sierpes are cluttered with opportunities to purchase some smart Spanish clothes or pay top dollar for haute couture.
Tourists shopping in Seville may also be interested in scooping up a few items more aptly aligned with local culture. Ceramics and Andalusian linen and shawls make great Seville souvenirs and are in no short supply. Visitors can take a trip across the Guadalquivir River to the traditional tile-making area of Triana; a handful of shops and functioning workshops sell beautifully crafted tiles and in some cases it's possible to watch the craftsman shape their wares. Many of the beautiful azulejos (ceramic tiles) adorning local churches, houses and tapas bars are still sculpted there today. If visitors don't feel like trooping so far, the area around the Reales Alcazares and the Barrio Santa Cruz also houses a healthy supply of shops selling hand-painted ceramics and embroidered blankets and scarves.
Most shops in Seville are open from 10am to 2pm and then from 5pm to 8pm during the week; from 10am to 2pm on Saturday; and are closed on Sundays. The larger stores often stay open all day. Most places accept all major credit cards.
Seville may be pegged as the slightly sleepy southern cousin of Madrid and Barcelona, but there is still a decent local nightlife. Between the bohemian tastes of the university students and the affinity for the arts held by the more sophisticated Sevillianos, there is a wide assortment of Andalusian activities after dark.
A great way to start an evening is by blazing a tapas trail. A wide selection of dingy dives and smoother, more stylish spaces crowd around the cobblestone streets of Barrio Santa Cruz and the area around the Catedral de Seville. Travellers should simply look for the iconic leg of jamon (cured ham) hanging from the ceiling and pop in for a quick bite, an easy chat and a cold Cruzcampo (Seville's local beer).
When visitors can't stomach any more sample-sized portions, they can head to either Plaza Alfalfa or Calle Betis for a bit of bar-hopping. During Seville's sultry summer nights, sipping a sherry alongside the Guadalquivir River is also an intoxicating way to kick-off the evening.
Most Seviallanos only leave home around 11.30pm, at which point they start the night with a stiff drink and a shot. Partygoers drain their drinks and head to the nightclubs around 1am, where it's possible to party until 10am the next morning.
For those with a calmer, more cultural appetite, the nightlife in Seville can be just as satiating. Flamenco, a passionate mix of dance, music and singing with roots reaching into Andalusia's Roma (gypsy) communities, is a firm favourite and must-see in the city. There are plenty of venues with regular tablao (performances); the Triana district caters to locals while options in Santa Cruz are more tourist-friendly, often offering a traditional Andalusian meal alongside the performance. Seville's opera house, Teatro de la Maestranza, attracts iconic celebrities and features big-name shows; occasionally jazz and classical concerts also take place.