Sun-Washed, Moorish Seville, where Don Juan smirked and Carmen swirled, has always relished its role as Spain's fun central. During the spring festivals, seemingly all of Madrid packs into high-speed trains for the two-and-a-half-hour trip southwest to the sherry-soaked Andalusian capital. Seville's irrepressibly operatic spirit lives on in the grandiose religious processions, in neighborhood plazas shaded by orange trees, at flamenco haunts and bars crowded with bullfighters straight out of central casting. But these days, style seekers can also ensconce themselves in a boutique hotel, dine on cutting-edge food or graze on designer tapas. From morning to night, from the trendy to the traditional, here's a guide to Seville's best hotels, restaurants, tapas bars and beyond.
Where to Stay
Casa Imperial is the Andalusia of dreams: splashes of ochre and cobalt against a sea of whitewash, cool arcaded patios that beckon with sounds of trickling water. Since 1996, when an affable German hotelier, Jochen Knie, acquired and refurbished this sixteenth-century palace, Imperial has been the insider's darling. Some of the 25 color-soaked guest rooms retain the original coffered ceilings; others boast Art Deco pieces from Knie's antiquing expeditions and have private terraces or minipatios (29 Imperial; 011-34-95-450-03-00; doubles from $140). In the past, snickering staff and guest quarters somber enough for the Grand Inquisitor made a stay at Alfonso XIII as enticing as a night on the rack. But Westin, which now manages this opulent 1929 Neo-Moorish grande dame, has changed all that: Bellhops are smiling, rooms have gotten facelifts, and the extravagantly tiled hallways gleam (2 San Fernando; 011-34-95-491-70-00; doubles from $360). A scion of the Gonzales Byass sherry family, the Anglophilic owner of the new Casa No. 7 is fond of afternoon tea, Jack Russell terriers, British antiques and autographed photographs of royalty. There are no minibars or TVs in the dozen rooms, but there's plenty of sherry and stiff-upper-lip chitchat in the robin's egg blue salon. The folks at Tatler were sufficiently smitten to grace it with the magazine's award for best small hotel of 2001 (7 Virgenes; 011-34-95-422-15-81; doubles from $160). The search for a perfectly situated, inexpensive B&B ends at Amadeus, which opened this year on a narrow lane in the evocative Santa Cruz quarter. The lovable owner is a classical music fanatic, which explains the grand piano and soundproof practice rooms for visiting virtuosos. Some smaller rooms are a bit penitentiary, but ask for something muy grande when you book and you'll be more than comfortable--even if awakened by strains of Albéniz or Liszt (6 Farnesio; 011-34-95-450-14-43; doubles from $65).
Where to Eat
With its whimsical decor--imagine dining inside an oversize striped Kate Spade bag--and postmodern riffs on Andalusian recipes, the brand-new La Gastroteca brings a Barcelona-style swagger to Seville. Two young chefs (alumni of La Alquería, a Ferran Adrià-owned restaurant near Seville) deconstruct a rustic tomato soup into quivery squares of tomato terrine drizzled with mint vinaigrette(Hacienda Benazuza, 6 Espartinas; 011-34-95-434-096). The WPA-meets-school-poster mural of vegetables is your clue as to what to order at Los Cuevas, a weathered taberna where the rustic vegetable dishes are good enough for the Duchess of Alba. A pitcher of Seville's definitive gazpacho awaits on the granite counter; the fried eggplant is lighter than lace (1 Virgen de las Huertas; 011-34-95-427-80-42). After pausing for a fino sherry at Barbiana's raucous bar, local businessmen claim a table at one of the no-nonsense dining rooms hung with endearingly ghastly landscapes. Here, deals are sealed between mouthfuls of pristine seafood from the nearby fishing ports of Cádiz and Sanlúcar de Barrameda: coquinas, tiny clams in a garlicky broth, and a formidable fideo marinara, a vermicelli "paella" studded with fish and clams (11 Albareda; 011-34-95-421-12-39). Bodeguita A. Romero is mainly known as a new-wave tapas bar, with nibbles so thrilling you'll want to commit to a sit-down lunch. Capers are as big and juicy as grapes, plates are draped with translucent slices of bacalao, and sea urchin caviar is heaped on bread. Don't even think of leaving without trying the pringá--an Andalusian sloppy joe (16 Gamazo; 011-34-95-421-05-85).