CREATIVE HUBS: SEVILLE
In the first of a new series of posts exploring rising creative cities, SUITCASE Magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Kate Hamilton finds the beat in Seville.
As the birthplace of tapas and flamenco, it doesn’t get much more quintessentially Spanish than Seville. Visitors to the city spend days wandering between citrus trees, tiled palaces and wine bars, and when dinner comes to an end in the early hours of the morning, you’ll find it’s totally acceptable to take a horse and cart home.
Seville’s traditional beat may hold fast, but there is also a new energy at play in the city’s winding cobbled streets. Today old-school bodegas are meeting a new breed of bar, restaurant and hotel, featuring creative mixology, experimental recipes and boutique designs. Corral Del Rey, a 13-room hotel opened by brothers Anthony and Patrick Reid, excels on both sides of the coin. While marble Roman pillars, Mudéjar doors and antique Moroccan mirrors are a nod to the hotel’s history as a 17th-century mansion, a picturesque plunge pool and sleek restaurant give a throroughly modern flavour.
A cosmopolitan crowd is driving much of this change that runs through Seville. The city’s’ exposure to tourism brings with it a steady influx of international ideas, and significant amounts of young Sevillanos travelled aboard in search of work during the financial crisis, returning home with more outward-facing values. The retail area of Soho Benita was named after the creativity of Soho in New York and London, and is home to a number of cafés and independent stores, including Delimbo, a ten-year-old gallery and concept store selling streetwear and design magazines. Delimbo’s owner Seleka Rafa says that while he’s seen an increase in independent businesses in recent years, these projects are often met with resistance from traditional establishments.
Opposition to change might be frustrating for some, but it also means protection. Seville is not in danger of changing so quickly that it become unrecognisable, and the creative enterprises that have gained traction in recent years feel integrated with the city’s history and traditions. The Alameda neighbourhood is a good example of this – until 15 years ago it was a seedy spot favoured by drug dealers and prostitutes, but today the tree-lined stretch is home to some of the city’s liveliest bars and restaurants. At heart Seville remains a traditional city, but one that is beginning to improvise on its steady flamenco beat.
WHERE TO STAY
The Mercer Hotel
This brand-new boutique is located smack-bang in the middle of the city’s historic centre, with 12 rooms in a building that dates back to the 19th century. It also has a buzzing cocktail bar, in-house restaurant and a rooftop pool for the scorching summer months.
Corral del Rey
Tucked behind a set of Moorish wooden doors, this 13-room hotel is the creation of entrepreneurial and design-savvy brothers Patrick and Anthony Reid. A calm palette of sandstones and greys is paired with intricate Moroccan mirrors, beamed ceilings and oak-panelled floors.
Fontecruz Sevilla Seises
Located in Santa Cruz and housed in a 15th-century building that was formerly a palace, this 42-room hotel has contemporary rooms, an orange tree-lined patio and an enticing rooftop pool. It is also just footsteps away from La Giralda cathedral, Alázar Palace and some of the city’s best-loved tapas bars.
“A hotel for people who don’t like hotels” is how Charlotte Scott has described the Spanish estate that she lovingly renovated almost four decades ago. Each of the 20 rooms here are individually decorated and known simply by their colour.
WHAT TO SEE
Located just over the Guadalquivir River, Triana is famous for the production of azulejos, the colourful ceramic tiles that adorn many of Seville’s buildings. The pastel-coloured Calle Betis is home to a string of bars and clubs, while the newly renovated market offers a wealth of fresh produce.
Located just a few streets from the city’s iconic Metropol Parasol, this enclave is a hub for Seville’s creative scene. In particular, the ten-year-old Delimbo Gallery, which exhibits contemporary art and sells streetwear labels, is a refreshing insight into countercultural movements.
La Casa de Pilatos
This 15th-century palace was the former home of the ducal Medinacelli family until three years ago. Today the doors have been flung open to welcome visitors to its sweet-scented gardens, Mudéjar-style courtyards and perfectly preserved rooms.
WHERE TO EAT AND DRINK
The rumoured birthplace of tapas, there are literally hundreds of bars flogging house wine with tasty plates all over the city. Keep it traditional with El Rinconcillo, Bar Alfalfa and Bar Manolo, or go for a contemporary twist at Sal Gorda and Ovejas Negras.
Ask any foodie for a round-up of places to eat in Seville and this vibrant eatery will be on their list. A daily changing menu, which encourages sharing, is scribbled in alternating colours on a large chalkboard.
La Alameda de Hercules
The bleak history of this neighbourhood has been all but forgotten. Today the tree-lined promenade is filled with lively bars, casual eateries and clubs. Grab a drink at Mano de Santo or Gigante Bar before dancing at Kafka.
Words and pictures by Kate Hamilton