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Seville: Turning up the heat

If Seville's summer days are always scorching, then its nights still sizzle, says Cathy Packe


WHERE?

Seville is the Andalucian capital, and the region's largest and most cosmopolitan city. It spreads along the banks of the Guadalquivir river, although most of the attractions are on the north side, in the Santa Cruz district, which is the city's oldest quarter. Triana, on the south side, is a pleasant place to wander, a mainly residential area with a less frenetic atmosphere than the city centre.

Head for Calle Betis, which runs along the river bank between the Isabel II and San Telmo bridges, and have a drink in the Rio Grande (00 34 954 273 956) or one of the other cafés along this strip. From here there are good views of the old city, as the setting sun glints on the dome of the Torre del Oro. Most of Seville's modern development was inspired by the World Expo held in 1992 on the island of La Cartuja, an area that is now a showcase of modern architecture.

The main tourist office is in the old part of the city, in the Laredo building at Plaza de San Francisco 19 (00 34 954 595 288; www.turismo.sevilla.org). It opens 8am-8pm from Monday to Friday, and 8am-3pm at weekends. Just around the corner from here is Calle Sierpes, one of the city's oldest shopping streets and a good hunting ground for hats, fans or ceramics. Its shops stay open until 8.30pm. The more fashionable stores are in the streets between here and Calle San Pablo, and these stay open until 9pm.

There are plenty of places to stay in Seville, although they can get booked up well in advance of the Holy Week celebrations or the Fair, or Feria, which is held in April. The grandest place in town is the Hotel Alfonso XIII at Calle San Fernando II (00 34 954 917 000; www.westin.com/hotelalfonso), designed and built during the 1920s to be the most luxurious hotel in Europe. It may have challengers to this title, but its location alone, close to Maria Luisa Park, makes it an excellent place to stay. Double rooms start at €500 (£357), singles at €382 (£273), with an extra €20 (£14) for breakfast.

The four-star Hotel Los Seises is a former 16th-century palace, hidden from the bustle of the city at Calle Segovias 6 (00 34 954 229 495; www.husa.es). Double rooms here start at €212 (£151), singles at €167 (£119), and breakfast is €16 (£11). Las Casas de los Mercaderes at Alvarez Quintero 9-13 (00 34 954 225 858; www.casasypalacios.com) is in a shady street close to the centre, and is a good three-star choice. Double rooms start at €140 (£100), singles at €96 (£69), with an extra €13 (£9) for breakfast.

WHY?

Seville is renowned as the hottest city in Spain, and once you have experienced temperatures in the upper 40s it is easy to understand why the Sevillanos prefer not to venture out until it begins to cool down. As a result there is lots to do at night, with restaurants, bars and clubs buzzing until the early hours. This takes some getting used to - but unless you conform to the local habits, the tapas bars can be lonely places much before 9pm; and the crowds don't arrive at the flamenco clubs until much later.

WHAT?

The Cathedral (00 34 954 214 971; www.catedralsevilla.org), with its Giralda tower - once a Moorish minaret - dominates the city and is its greatest attraction. It opens 9.30am-3.30pm from Monday to Saturday, 2.30pm-6pm on Sunday, and admission is €7 (£5), free on Sundays.

The neighbouring Alcazar (00 34 954 502 323; www.patronato-alcazarsevilla.es) is a fascinating complex of patios, palaces and gardens, added to over time and reflecting the city's varied history. It opens 9.30am-7pm from Tuesday to Saturday until the end of September, after which it closes at 5pm; and 9.30am-5pm on Sundays until the end of September, when opening is 9.30am-1.30pm. Admission is €5 (£3.60).

When these attractions have closed, the old city that surrounds them is an attractive place to wander, with its narrow streets and pretty squares. Don't miss out on Calle Mateus Gago if you are in need of a drink; this curving street has a higher concentration of tapas bars than any in the city. Just around the corner at Calle Rodrigo Caro 1 is the Bodega Santa Cruz (00 34 954 213 246), which closes late and conveniently opens up again at 8am to serve breakfast to any late-night stragglers.

Away from the main tourist beat on the island of Cartuja are several other evening attractions. The Andalucian Contemporary Art Centre is at Avenida Americo Vespucio 2 (00 34 955 037 070; www.juntadeandalucia.es/cultura). Founded as a Carthusian monastery, the buildings were used in the 19th century as a ceramics factory, and have now been converted into a centre for permanent and temporary exhibitions of modern art. It opens 10am-9pm from Tuesday to Friday, 11am-9pm Saturday and 10am-3pm Sunday. From the end of September, closing time will be 8pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Admission, which covers the monastery and the museum, costs €3 (£2.15).

A 10-minute walk north from here along the river will take you to the Isla Magica (00 34 902 160 000; www.islamagica.es), a theme park full of rides, shows and games, shops and restaurants. It opens 11am-11pm daily (until midnight on Saturdays) until 11 September, and admission is €22 (£16) for the day, €15.50 (£11) for the evening. Then it opens 11am-9pm at weekends until 1 November, during which time admission is €20 (£14.30) for the day, €14 (£10) for the evening. There are reductions for children.

If all this sounds too energetic, take a cruise along the river, as good a vantage point as any from which to view the city's newest buildings. Boats (00 34 954 561 692; www.crucerostorredeloro.com) leave from in front of the Torre del Oro on Paseo de Cristobal Colon every half hour from 11am until 10pm daily, although services reduce when there are fewer visitors in the city. The hour-long trips cost €14 (£10), and children under 14 travel free.

British Airways, operated by GB Airways, flies to Seville from London Gatwick. For more details visit ba.com

TOP FIVE NIGHTSPOTS

Salvador Rojo at Calle San Fernando 23 (00 34 954 229 725) is one of the best modern restaurants in the city. It serves simple dishes put together from whatever ingredients happen to be in season. It opens 2pm-4.30pm and 9pm-midnight daily, except Sunday.

El Rinconcillo is at Calle Gerona 40 (00 34 954 223 183) and although it has been serving tapas since 1670 - the oldest bar in the city - it is still a place worth seeking out. Hams hang above the bar, and the long wooden counter is used by the barmen to chalk up a running total for each customer.

Flamenco in Seville can too often be aimed at the tourists, but La Carboneria, at Calle Levies 18 (00 34 954 563 755) has the real thing. La Carboneria opens 8pm-3.30am daily, but the crowds don't gather until just before the music starts.

El Corral del Agua at Callejon del Agua 6 (00 34 954 220 714) is a delightful spot, hidden away just outside the walls of the Alcazar on the edge of the Santa Cruz district. Traditional Andalucian dishes, all carefully prepared, are served in an attractive dining room or, better still, in a leafy courtyard that shelters diners from the sun. The restaurant opens noon-4pm and 8pm-midnight daily except Sunday.

Meson Don Raimundo at Argote de Molina 26 (00 34 954 223 355) combines a restaurant with a café and bar. It serves mozarab food - a combination of Arab and Andalucian - and you can expect to find lots of partridge, pheasant and Serrano ham on the menu. The restaurant opens noon-4pm and 7.30pm-midnight daily, and the café and bar opens from noon to midnight daily.

La Antigua Bodeguita is at Plaza del Salvador 6 (00 34 954 561 833) and is everything that a tapas bar is supposed to be: a handy place to pass on the way from here to there, somewhere to stop off for a quick drink and a bite to eat. This is one of the most popular bars in the city, and the only problem is getting inside to order a dish or two of tapas.

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