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A weekend in Sevilla 

Sevilla has everything going for it as a city break destination. Thereís more historical interest than you could hope for, the climate is superb (if rather too hot in July and August), and itís probably one of the best destinations for Tapas, ideally washed down with some fino sherry.

Itís the most important city in the south of Spain, with some 700 000 inhabitants. Itís an exciting place, with a vibrant, joy-filled and slightly untamed atmosphere. If you want to get the best out of Seville, you need to adjust your timings to fit in with the locals. Take a lunchtime nap, and donít even think about going out to eat in the evening before 9.30 pm. Restaurants only start getting busy by about 10 pm: make a booking for 8 and youíll be eating alone, or with just a few other tourists. 

We visited in June, when you can expect cloudless skies and temperatures at least in the high 20s. Try to avoid July and August unless you have a tolerance of furnace-like temperatures. The flip side is that temperatures at night, when youíll presumably be wandering around quite a bit, are very comfortable. It all adds to the special atmosphere here. 


A view over the rooftops from the Giralda tower. The famous bullring can be seen in the distance

For the wine lover, one of the key draws is that Sevilla is possibly the best place to appreciate fino sherry, a brilliant accompaniment to the local tapas cuisine. Crisp, dry, nutty and best very fresh, when you drink fino here you understand why it is such a good food wine. Itís a bit lost in the UK as an apertif, sipped self-consciously out of funny shaped glasses. You donít want to be self-conscious with fino, and Sevilla doesnít allow you to be self conscious about anything.

Four things not to be missed:

Real AlcŠzar de Sevilla
The royal palace is sensational. Built in the 10th century for Sevillaís Muslim rulers, but later taken over by Christians in the 13th century. Itís been tweaked and adapted since a number of times, making it hard to understand but adding to its appeal. The architecture is enthralling and the gardens are laid out beautifully.
Cathedral
Itís enormous. Architecturally, perhaps not the prettiest in the world, but certainly one of the biggest (third in the league table of big cathedrals behind St Peterís and St Paulís). Completed in 1507 on the site of a former mosque. Stuck on to the side of it rather awkwardly is the Giralda. This was the minaret of the mosque and visually is much more appealing Ė it was built, mainly of brick, at the end of the 12th century, but the top bit was added in the 16th century. Do climb the Giralda for some spectacular views.

The gardens of the AlcŠzar

Barrio de Santa Cruz
Sevillaís medieval Jewish quarter is a maze of narrow streets oozing Latin character. This is the place to wander in the evenings, soaking up the atmosphere and stopping for some Tapas and fino sherry. Donít bother with a streetmap; just follow your nose Ė you soon get a sense for where things are and it can be quite fun getting lost here.

Modesto
On the edge of the Barrio, Modesto is a rather unassuming-looking restaurant. The tables outside are a good place to stop for some tapas, but the rather cramped upstairs room is a great place for authentic, unpretentious-yet-serious Andalusian cuisine. Mainly a locals-only haunt, this was recommended to me by a Spanish wine critic, and it was so good I went there twice in three days. It's not expensive. (calle Cano y Cueto 5, phone 95 411 68 11) 

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