Have you heard the one about the Northern European tourists who decided to come to Seville in July and August, proceeded to march around the streets in the baking 40 degree afternoon heat before passing out in a sweaty, sodden mess? Doesn’t sound much like a jolly jape, does it? That’s because it’s not. Seville in summer is to be treated with the uttermost respect and is not for the faint hearted (I mean literally, if you have a heart complaint, best come in March or April).
So if you want to stay out of Accident and Emergency and spare a few Euros for an already cash-strapped Spanish Health Service, follow my annually updated guide to surviving summer in Seville.
1. Become a night owl
Please, please, please put any silly idea of doing anything, be it everyday chores or touristy stuff, out of your pretty heads between the hours of 12pm and 8pm. I know that’s practically a whole day, but that’s just how things roll in these parts. If you head out on to the normally bustling Alameda during these no-man’s hours, you’ll be greeted by only the hardiest of cerveza drinkers (insert alcoholics here), and maybe some passing tumbleweed.
Anyone who has any sense (and air conditioning) will conserve their energies until the streets have started to cool down, which can be as late as 9 or 10pm. Long siestas are of course obligatory, which will leave you fresh and ready to enjoy the hopefully cooler summer nights.
The powers that be in the city understand this, and lay on a whole season of cultural events to entertain the folk who for what ever reason haven’t abandoned ship and headed off to the beach. The picturesque gardens of the Cartuja monastery this year play host to the unfortunately named ‘Pop Caac’, a series of live concerts featuring a host of pop, indie and electronic groups, including the Leeds’ finest, The Wedding Present in August.
El Parque Alamillo also puts on concerts and activities throughout the summer with Monday night being open air cinema, Tuesdays – up and coming groups, Wednesdays – Magicians, Thursdays – flamenco, Fridays rock, Saturdays – copla and Sundays – stuff for kids.
If you want something a little more civilised then check out the ‘Noches en los Jardines del Real Alcázar starting in June. The music covers many musical genres from the city’s eponymous Flamenco to Baroque, classical, world music and jazz. The setting is enchanting, and is a chance to visit the stunning gardens while basking in the melee of exotic aromas such as jasmine and lady of the night, all again at a very reasonable 6 Euros or 7 Euros if bought on Internet. At the time of writing they have yet to announce this year’s schedule.
The Centro de Iniciativas Culturales de la Universidad de Sevilla (CICUS) also get in on the act with their summer programme of music and open air cinema, which has a cooler, hipster vibe.
Plus more open air film is available in the enormous courtyard of the atmospheric Diputatión buildings, but make sure to go on Sunday evenings when films are shown in original version or face putting up with some dubbing barbarity.
2. River life
In a Seville summer the River Guadalquivir becomes a place where those that haven’t made it to the beach can fool themselves into forgetting that they live in what is affectionately known as the ‘frying pan of the world’. Those of you who have followed my blog from the start or who live on Spanish shores will be familiar with the term ‘Pijo’, which is roughly translated as preppy or sloany, and from what I can tell a lot of the bars by the river tend to be a natural habitat for this variant of the local population. But don’t let this deter you, there are some stunning spots where you can sip on your ice cold beer or overpriced Mojito, while staring across at the beautifully lit Giralda or Golden Tower. Head to any of the bars on Calle Betis in Triana, or if you fancy a bit tropical greenery with your cocktail, Puerta de Cuba seems to hit the spot.
3. Raise the Roof
I know they say heat rises, but in Seville in summer life happens on ‘azoteas’ which is the Spanish for roof terraces and any hotel worth its salt will have one, as will most apartment blocks and even municipal buildings.
If you’re a tourist you’re in luck, because hopefully if you’ve been prudent enough to check into a hotel with a pool, you’ll be able to lounge around under a sombrilla, while drinking something wet and ice cold. I’ve heard of some locals booking into a hotel if they’re stuck in Seville for the weekend, just so they can join in the poolside activities, because for some reason, elsewhere in Seville, public open air pools are decidedly thin on the ground. But if you don´t happen to be a patron of the hotel, you can still drink in their terrace bars, and the city’s slightly pretentious jewel in the crown is the decidedly hip, EME hotel, whose roof terrace is within spitting distance of the cathedral. You pay for the privilege in the bar prices, but the EME isn´t the only hotel with a roof terrace in town, you could also try Casa Romana, Terraza Puerta Catedral or Espacio Azahar if you want something a little more low key.
Many of the city’s cultural activities happen on multitude of roof terraces. Keep an eye on the Myplayz to see what events they’ve got going using Seville’s private roof terraces.
4. The Moors weren’t stupid you know
Before I came to Seville I had no idea how ingrained in the fabric of the city the Moorish influence was. It was after all part of the Al Andaluz kingdom for 500 years, and the city’s architecture remains the most noticeable reminder of this time.
The Moors were big on water features, through which they created their own little gardens of paradise, and the gardens of the Royal Alcazar Palace are testament to this. You can spend hours mooching around from one shady corner to the next, reading a book or imagining the city’s pre-christian history. If it’s too hot to visit during the day, you can check out the night time visits which also include a guided tour, with theatrical enactments representing historical events that happened within the palace walls.
Or, while we’re on the topic of water and Moorish times, you could head to the Arab Baths. I know this sounds slightly counter intuitive, why on a dehydration inducing, boiling hot day, would you choose to hang out in the some steam baths? But seriously, it’s an option to consider. Firstly because it’s one of the most relaxing places I’ve ever visited – think padding in hushed tones before immersing yourself in a bath of scented water – and more importantly inside you can forget about the hellish heat that awaits you upon leaving. There is also a roof top terrace complete with infinity pool and juice bar.
5. Hang out with the locals
Sometimes though on a hot summer night, rather than being entertained on a terrace, you just want to find a cool breeze and quench your thirst with your cold beverage of choice. Last year everyone seemed to hang out at Lonja de Feria, the collection of tapas bars with outside tables at the back of Feria Fish Market, where you can get a tapa and a drink for 3 Euros. Or if you really want to mingle with the locals ‘La Pastora’ has a huge garden for big groups and specialises in local favourites such as fried fish or cold tapas like ensaladilla or patatas aliñadas. Just bear in mind that prices are based on weight, so if you have a large tapa, you get a large bill.
Bar La Pastora. C/ Muñoz León, open 8.30pm – 1.30am
So there you have it. With this, you will survive the heat, remain hydrated or should I say lubricated and be culturally enriched. Result!
6. Go to the Beach
Having lived in London, a city not known for its long summer or hot summer days, it’s strange looking back and considering just how many public open air swimming pools there were. In Seville there are exactly none, zero, buggar all. I don’t know why, but it’s bizarre to say the least. What do most people do then? Clear out the city and head to either the coasts of Cadiz or Huelva.
But this year an artificial beach with sand and swimming pools has been created near the Muelle de las Delicias next to the Aquarium. Called imaginatively ‘Sevilla Beach’ , it is open from midday until 1am. Entry is free unless you take part in any of the sports activities which are extra, plus there are regular live music concerts.
I haven’t been. So I can’t say more than that. But would love to hear from anyone that has.
Here’s a delightful promotional video I’ve found on YouTube to give you an idea of what to expect. Check out the slick voiceover. Enjoy.