Seville is an architectural extravaganza; regal and historic yet simultaneously exuding youth and vibrancy. The same applies to its hotels.
With 30 centuries of Baroque, Renaissance, Moorish and Colonial influence, the long history of Seville is evident wherever you look. Yet, despite being steeped in tradition and duende – a Spanish word loosely translated as having soul – this southern Spanish city also has an increasing number of new and locally run hip hotels showing off a more modern side to the metropolis.
We dug a little deeper into the city’s hotel scene, looking at what you can expect when you stay at one of the city’s oldest hotels, Hotel Alfonso XIII – and one of its newest, Querencia de Sevilla, both a part of the Marriott Collection. Here’s what we found.
WHAT TO PACK
The Old: Hotel Alfonso XIII
This five star hotel, fringed by palm trees is best described as regal – both inside and out. Hardly surprising, considering it was built by its namesake, King Alfonso XIII, nearly 100 years ago. Back then it was considered one of the most prestigious hotels in Spain, and over the last century has hosted royals and celebrities from Sophia Loren to Brad Pitt. Suitably opulent features include crystal chandeliers, Azulejo (ceramic tiles) with frescoes, towering ceilings, sweeping staircases and ornate iron balconies. The unique combination gives the hotel an old-world Andalucían grandeur. Despite the decadence, the mood is still relatively informal, in a way that seems to be both in-keeping – and unique – to southern Spain.
We checked into one of the older, Castilian rooms, where a hefty leather-bound book with the in-room service menu sat upon a colonial desk dotted with black and white photos of how the room looked when it was built, nearly a century ago. Not much has changed. The bathroom still boasts original 1920’s metallic copper and white star tiles (which went straight onto our Pinterest board), while the emperor-size bed, which would dominate most hotel rooms feels decadently proportional alongside the adjacent high ceilings and chandelier. A floor-to-ceiling window opens out onto a Juliet balcony with views of the pool and across the town, and is the perfect place to perch while taking in the ambient outdoor sounds including passing horse and carts.
The Food + Drink
The beautiful Ena Sevilla on the hotel’s outdoor terrace offers a hearty tapas menu – including a typical Andalusian cold tomato soup (which is more creamy than gazpacho), along with everything from tangy ceviche to crisp croquetas. Here you can experience a sherry tasting or, if wine is more your thing, there’s a selection on the menu produced in the Jerez region, just one hour from Seville.
The reel (pun intended) Instagram worthy dining experience however is the colonnaded inner courtyard – Restaurante San Fernando. This glamorous, airy courtyard serves reinterpreted Spanish classics and seasonal specials based mainly on meat and seafood dishes. Don’t miss the melt-in-the-mouth grilled sea bass. Breakfast is also served in the courtyard, from 7am.
The New: Querencia De Sevilla
Set within the former HQ of Banco Andalucía, this brand new hotel has an unrivalled rooftop terrace with stunning 360° vistas across the old part of town and its cathedral. With one of the best views in town, the terrace features a cocktail bar, an informal restaurant, and a rooftop lap pool. Interiors are modern with a nod to local traditions including ceramics in hues of lush green, chic rattan furniture, and bull motifs everywhere – from the wicker bull heads mounted on walls, to the fun contemporary art.
Rooms here are well designed featuring sumptuous beds with fan-shaped headboards. Smart bathrooms continue the vibrant green theme from their ceramic sinks, to the herringbone tiles in the walk-in rain shower. The real ‘wow’ moment though, is the private terrace where you can watch the sunrise over La Giralda Bell Tower to the soundtrack of its delightful chimes, in harmony with surrounding churches (thankfully these bells stop during the night). Soak it all up from the comfortable taupe-coloured, woven rope outdoor chairs, surrounded with lush bushes and plants that protect privacy.
The Food + Drink
Breakfast is an Andalusian buffet at La Maestría, where delicious chopped fresh Spanish tomatoes and olive oil are staples. There’s also an à la carte menu offering fresh eggs, cooked as you like. Dinner is served in the same restaurant and local flavours continue in their traditional Sevillian recipes served with a modern twist, such as the cod loin with a ratatouille featuring aubergines, roast pumpkin and pil-pil. The wine list follows suit with a special nod to local wines, and the hotel works with local wine suppliers.
The Seville To-Do List
For those who want to mix a little shopping with their cultural immersion, there are a number of fashion boutiques to discover in the winding mediaeval streets. Visit Caviar for unique designs, with each style made as a one-off. Laura Moreno offers affordable but cute dresses, while concept store isadora has a great selection of independent designers and stylish knick-knacks.
For a taste of modern architecture head to The Metropol Parasol, an event space designed by Jürgen Mayer using a curved, wooden structure to resemble a mushroom. Make your way to its viewing platform at the top for expansive city views. A sunset cruise is another beautiful way to see the landmarks, from the Guadalquivir River that skirts the edge of the city: hop onto a solar powered boat such as those offered by Guadaluxe to see the sights, including the 12th Century Golden Tower which was once part of the city’s Moorish Walls.
The most impressive landmark however, the Gothic Cathedral, is best explored on foot. This is the largest cathedral in the world and many historically important figures are buried within it, including Christopher Columbus. For something firmly in the land of the living – the traditional Flamenco show at Tablao el Arenal is not to be missed; said to be the best in the world, this is much more than a tourist cliché. Set in a venue that is more like a theatre than a bar there is a silent reverence in the audience when the artists appear on stage. With passionate guitar, rousing heel stamping, and sorrowful vocals, expect an intensely moving and expressive performance of this Spanish musical genre in an almost operatic manner, served straight from the heart of the city from which flamenco was born. Duende indeed.
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