Weekend in . . . Seville
Charly Wilder succumbs to the extravagant architecture and drama of the Andalusian capital
The Metropol Parasol in Seville houses a museum, bars and restaurants. Photograph: James Rajotte/The New York Times
El Garlochi, a velvet-draped haunt, is done up entirely in lavish church kitsch – brass candelabras, Madonna shrines, plastic funeral bouquets, oil portraits of weeping saints. Photograph: James Rajotte/The New York Times
Legs of cured ham hang on the walls of the bar at Las Columnas in Seville. Photograph: James Rajotte/The New York Times
You don’t have to spend long in Seville to see why so many operas have been set there. A sense of drama pervades the Andalusian capital, from its Moorish royal palaces and extravagant Catholic festivals to the way the strum of a guitar tends to send a whole room into syncopated clapping. Maybe it’s this penchant for pomp that keeps the city dynamic. At contemporary-minded shops, restaurants and arts spaces that continue to open among Seville’s tangle of narrow stone alleyways, a friendly localism seems to rule the day.
1 Under the Grid
Seville has been home to several high-profile architectural projects in the past decade, but none has got more attention than the Metropol Parasol, an immense mushroom-like gridded structure designed by German architect Jürgen Mayer-Hermann that hovers over Plaza de La Encarnación in the old quarter. It was completed in 2011 after considerable public controversy over design, location, delays and cost overruns. The structure includes an archaeological museum, bars, restaurants and a balcony with a panoramic view of the city centre – a great place to get one’s bearings.
2 Double Vintage
Youth unemployment may be sky-high in Seville, but many of the city’s most interesting new openings cater to its younger residents. Red House Art & Food, a combination bar, restaurant, performance space and gallery, opened in a former storage facility in late 2012. There, the city’s gainfully unemployed sip espressos on mid-century sofas and read under retro-futuristic, 1960s light fixtures, all of which are for sale.
Down the street, Wabi Sabi, a smartly curated shop and gallery opened by the Seville-born graphic designer María López Vergara in November 2011, takes a more upmarket approach to repurposing. You’ll find everything from lamps made from vintage soda bottles and collage works by local artists to a 1920s French Art Deco table carved from oak root for €2,100.
3 Tapas Crawl
In Seville, dinner is rarely a single-setting affair; a meal can stretch all the way across town and well past midnight. Begin at Casa Morales, a dusky, time-honoured tapas joint in business since 1850, for a dish of salchicha al vino blanco, sausage cooked in white wine to juicy perfection (€2 for a tapas portion). Immense haunches of Serrano ham hang from the ceiling, and sardonic, battle-scarred barmen siphon wine from wooden barrels built into the wall.
Next, head for Bodeguita Romero for a succulent pringá montadito, a toasted mini baguette sandwich of slow-cooked beef, chicken and sausage (€2.50 for a tapas portion).
Finish at atmospheric Las Columnas, where your order is scrawled in chalk on the bar in front of you, and a convivial local-tourist mix washes down pinchito kebabs and manchego cheese with cold glasses of Cruzcampo beer under the columns that are its namesake. About €6 for a beer and snack.
4 Floats and Highballs
No Spanish city does Catholicism with quite as much gusto as Seville. During Semana Santa, or Holy Week, which began this year on April 13th, leading up to Easter, hundreds of thousands of believers flock here to witness the famous processions of pasos – floats bearing lifelike wooden sculptures depicting the Passion in all its rapturous detail – that take place throughout the city.