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Posts from the ‘Markets’ Category

Seville | Christmas in Seville

christmas market ayuntamientoArtisan market and City Hall lights

Yes, it’s that time of year again. And as the weather closes in and the shops fill up with too many people, maybe you should be thinking about doing Christmas somewhere else this year. Like Seville.

So why Seville? Well, for a start, it’s warmer. It’s not exactly beach weather, but it is one of the warmest places in Europe at this time of year. It’s also one of the most welcoming and festive, and whether you’re a resident or visitor there’s always something to see or do. In some ways it’s quite like many other cities. From early December the city lights up, with Christmas lights in all the major squares and thoroughfairs. The shopping districts are crowded, too, especially in the evenings, and the singers of Christmas carols are out and about, adding to the general hustle and bustle. Fresh roasted chestnuts are a big thing here as well, and you can see the sellers with their little charcoal stoves on handcarts on every street corner, providing a little something to overcome the gentle nip in the air.

belenBelén (nativity scene) in the Arqillo de San Francisco

Some things are just that little bit different, though. One thing you’ll notice is the popularity of Nativity Scenes, called Belens (Bethlehems). Not only does almost everyone have one at home, they’ll also queue for hours to see the best public ones, which can be impressive. Check out the ones in the Cathedral, beside the Ayuntamiento, outside Corte Inglés and in the Cajasol building in Plaza San Francisco.

setas marketLa Magia de Navidad

Perhaps because of the relatively mild, light evenings of southern Spain Christmas Fayres and markets are also a big thing in Seville. The annual Artesan market in Plaza Nueva and the Belen market next to the Cathedral are good for unusual presents, but there also the “Magia de Navidad” fayres around the Metropol Parasol and in the Alameda de Hercules, complete with donkey and rides, and fairground rides for the kids, as well as the stalls selling jewellery, leather goods and fast food. These last right through the holiday period to January 6, just before the children head back to school.

157-IMG_20131208_152238All the fun of the fair

Perhaps the biggest difference of all, though, is that in Spain, the day for giving presents is not Christmas day (although it’s becoming more common these days), but Epiphany (January 6). This is, after all, the day when the three Wise Kings – Los Reyes Magos, Caspar, Melchior and Baltazar – brought their presents of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. The day before there is a big parade through the streets, the Cabalgata de los Reyes, with the kings and their assistants on floats throwing sweets to the children. It’s one of the year’s most popular events and draws huge crowds.

Christmas Eve (La Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are for the family, and on Christmas Eve even the bars and restaurants are closed so that staff can enjoy the traditional Christmas Eve family meal at home.

151-IMG_20131208_153512Anyone for a ride?

Other holiday season traditions include the Day of the Innocent Saints (December 28), the Spanish equivalent of April Fools Day, and the eating of twelve grapes while the bells chime for New Year. Finishing them before the bells stop brings good luck for the next year.

Whatever your requirements there’s still time to book a holiday apartment with us over the Christmas and New Year holiday.

Seville | El Centro

Often overlooked for the more obvious tourist neighbourhoods around the Cathedral, El Centro, the commercial hub and main shopping area of Seville, has a surprising amount to offer the visitor. It starts with the shopping, of course. Seville’s two main shopping streets, Sierpes and Tetuan-Velazquez run parallel from La Campana (the bell) to Plaza San Francisco and Plaza Nueva. They tend to be dominated by international names these days, but Sierpes still has a number of “Sevillano” shops like Juan Foronda, where you can pick up a nice handmade fan or shawl, and SohoBenita around the Metropol Parasol is the up and coming area for trendy boutiques. At weekends browse the street markets in Plaza del Duque or Plaza de la Magdalena. And of course there are always lots of shoe shops.

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The limits of El Centro are set in a rough triangle by three of the city’s most important buildings (after the Cathedral and Alcázar). The splendid and ornately carved (on one side) edifice with plazas to either side at the end of the Avenida de la Constitución is the Casa Consistoriales, which houses the ayuntamiento (city council). The original casa was built in the early 16th century along the outside wall of the Franciscan friary, which occupied what is now the Plaza Nueva, and gave its name to Plaza San Francisco. The archway at the end of the building was originally the entrance to the friary. When the friary was demolished in 1840 to create the new square a new facade and main entrance were built. The sculptures by the archway include the figures of Hercules and Julius Caesar, the “founders” of the city.

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To the west of El Centro is the Museo de Bellas Artes (Fine Arts Museum). This is one of the most important collections of (mainly) classical age art in Spain, housed in the lovely old Merced convent. Outside is one of those pretty plazas that Seville is so good at, where you can relax in the shade of a pair of enormous fig trees. It also has a local art market on Sundays. Buy a painting, put it in your attic, and who knows – in a few hundred years your descendants might suddenly become very rich indeed.

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To the east is Seville’s contribution to modern architecture, the Metropol Parasols, the world’s largest manmade wooden structure. Completed four years ago, after a long period of gestation (the old Encarnación market that stood here before was demolished in 1973), there was a lot of controversy about both the design and the cost of its construction, but now it’s done it’s one of my favourite places in Seville. Come here during the day to visit the market and the Roman ruins in the basement, and take the lift up to the walkways on top for a bird’s eye view of the city. Come after dark to see it lit up like a scene from Close Encounters.

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Other things to see in El Centro include the Motilla Palace (you won’t find it in the guidebooks as it’s still a private residence, but it’s the Italian style palace with the tower on the corner just down from the Parasols), the elegant Baco 2 and the Casa de la Memoria just across the street, the Casa Palacio of Lebrija and the El Salvador church. This was built on the site of the old Grand Mosque (and the Roman basilica before that), and still has original Moorish archways and minaret (now the belltower).

Veoapartments have a wide range of apartments in this central neighbourhood that cater to all budgets and numbers, and give you an excellent central base to explore the historic centre of the city.

Malaga | A Postcard from Malaga

 

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Hi Mum, Hi Dad

Well, here we are in sunny Spain (yes, even at this time of year, though it can be a bit chilly in the mornings), and having a whale of a time. I was a little worried it might feel like an out of season beach resort, but it’s not like that at all. Lots of things to do here. There is a beach, of course, but we haven’t actually been hanging out there, though yesterday we took a long walk out along the coast road to the old fishing villages for a fab seafood lunch. Looks like St Tropez or one of those places, palm trees all the way along and little bars on the beach. There’s even a rather dilapidated almost Victorian bathing resort place that has a kind of rustic charm – tres romantique.

First morning, though, we went up to the old castle at the top of the hill to enjoy the view over the city. It was a bit of a climb up – should have taken Luke’s advice and taken a bus or a taxi, but it added a certain relish to the cold beer we had when we got there. And you really can see everything from up there, from the bullring to the harbour, the Cathedral – and lots of gardens. And the sea, of course. My first time on the Med! Hard to believe I’m really here.

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Afterwards we went down to the Alcazaba. That’s the old palace and fortress where the Moorish rulers used to live. It’s half the 1001 nights and half, well, a fortress. Towers and walls and whatnot.

In the evening I had my wicked way and we did some shopping in Larios, the main street in the old part of town. Not John’s favourite thing, but I didn’t spend too long or max out the credit card. Picked up a nice pair of shoes and a gorgeous handbag though, so felt I’d had a stab at it. And today he gets to get his own back and drag me round the Automobile Museum. But he still has to take me somewhere nice for dinner afterwards. Plenty to choose from, the food scene here is much more lively and varied than I expected.

What else? We’ve done quite a lot of just wandering around. Found some weird street art and the Roman amphitheatre, and an amazing old bar like a labyrinth. I still want to go to the harbour and have a drink looking across the water.

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Our apartment is really cute, and has everything we need, and feels much freer than staying in a hotel. And there’s one of those great fresh food markets just five minutes away. I’ve never seen so much fish and seafood in one place.

Well, that’s about it for now. The holiday seems to have gone really fast, but I’ve a feeling we’ll be back.

See you soon

Lots of hugs and kisses

Jenny

Seville | El Arenal neighbourhood

The Arenal neighbourhood of Seville is the southwestern part of the old centre, between the Avenida de la Constitución that runs in front of the Cathedral, and the River Guadalquivir. Its name is derived from the Spanish word for sand (arena), in this case the sand of the bullring, which is in this neighbourhood.

arenal (1)inside the Maestranza bullring

Crossing the Avenida at the corner of the cathedral takes you from the tourist district of Seville into an area with a quite different character. It was created by the extension of the city walls in the 10th century, some of which can still be seen around the Torre del Oro and the Torre del Plata (the gold and silver towers). During Seville’s golden age after the discovery of America it was the port area of the city, and even today it’s still a largely residential area. It was here that the treasures of the New World were unloaded, and from here that voyages of trade and discovery set sail.

arenal (4)Plaza del Cabildo

For the sightseer the main things of interest cluster around the southern end of the neighbourhood. Start at the Plaza del Cabildo, which is reached by a short passageway directly opposite the main door of the Cathedral. It’s normally a quiet place, away from the busy main avenue, with a section of the old wall, a fountain, and a semi-circle of shops and apartments with splendid frescos along the eaves. On Sunday mornings there’s a little collectors’ market selling stamps, coins and other items. Look out for a little shop called El Torno, where they sell cakes and pastries made in the local convents. The name derives from the turntable that separated the nuns from the buyers of their goods.

arenal (5)the Atarazanas

From there go through the Postigo del Aceite, the oil gate, into the riverside area. This is one of the few remaining city gates, and still has a little chapel just inside where you can give thanks or pray for good fortune as you enter or leave the city. To the right is a little artesan market for your souvenir shopping, and to the left are the Atarazanas, the 13th century dockyards. They’re not open to the public at the moment, but you can look in through one of the windows to see the visually stunning effect of its arched naves. If you’re lucky you may see storks nesting on the chimney above the building, something that always gives me a lift. Follow the building round and you’ll come to La Hospital de la Caridad, the charity hospital founded by Miguel de Mañara (sometimes said to be the model for Don Juan, though this is almost certainly not true). It’s still a working charity hospital but the splendid Baroque chapel is open to the public.

torre del oroTorre del Oro

Down by the river is one of Seville’s most famous and iconic buildings, the Torre del Oro, built in the early 13th century to protect the then Moorish city from the approaching Christians. In the 19th century it survived a couple of proposals for its demolition. It now houses a small naval museum with old maps and prints and model ships. You can also climb to the top for a view along the river, and to imagine what the area was like when it was the most important port in Europe.

arenal (2)Bullring Museum

A little further along the river is the bullring, one of the two oldest in Spain. Bullfights (to the death) are still held here during the April fair and in September. Even if you choose (like me, I have to admit) not to see a fight, it’s still worth taking a guided tour to experience the atmosphere of the arena.

Nowadays one of the Arenal’s great pleasures is its profusion of excellent tapas bars, many of them, such as the Bodeguita Romero, Casa Morales or Casa Moreno, retaining their traditional ambience and cuisine, making it a great alternative to the more touristy Santa Cruz for a proper tapeo. For tapas with a more modern touch try La Brunilda. Also pay a visit to the Arenal market to see how the locals shop and buy a few supplies.

arenal (3)Entrance to the Arenal Market

Last but not least there are several places where you can see flamenco. For a show try the Arenal Tablao in Calle Rodo. For something less formal pay a visit to Casa Matías on Calle Arfe (contrary to your expectations it’s not open late at night – go between 7 – 10 pm for impromptu flamenco).

El Arenal’s location close to, but not in, the main monumental area, makes it a great neighbourhood to rent an apartment for your stay at a reasonable price.

Take our virtual tour of the El Arenal barrio.

Seville | The Macarena Neighbourhood

No, we’re not talking about the 1990s dance craze (though there’s a loose connection), or about the football stadium in Rio de Janeiro (it’s not even spelt that way). We’re talking about the neighbourhood of La Macarena that forms the northeast quarter of the historic centre of Seville in Spain. A largely residential area away from the main monuments – the Cathedral and Alcázar Palace – and its more touristy neighbour the Santa Cruz, the Macarena’s working class roots (it is said to have once been the poorest slum in Spain) give it an authentic local atmosphere with plenty to see and do.

macarena (2)La Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena

The name itself is thought to come either from Macarius, a wealthy Roman said to have owned a lot of land in the area, or more probably from Bab-al-Makrin, the Moorish name for the Macarena city gate that still stands at the northern end of San Luis street, next to the longest surviving section of the mediaeval city wall that was built to enclose the new northern extension of the city in the 11th century.

The Macarena’s greatest claim to fame is probably the statue of La Virgen de la Esperanza de la Macarena, the Virgin of Hope, the most popular of the statues of the Virgin that take part in the city’s Semana Santa (Holy Week) processions. She was created in the late 17th century, probably by the famous sculptor Pedro Roldán and/or his daughter Luisa, and is the patroness of bullfighters. Even today, her appearance in the pre-dawn hours of Good Friday draws huge crowds onto the streets. She can normally be seen in the Basilica of Macarena, beside the city gate.

macarena (1)the Macarena Gate

La Macarena is also home to the city’s oldest provisions market, on Calle Feria, and to the oldest street market in Europe, El Jueves, the Thursday market. This antiques/second-hand/bric-a-brac market got its charter in the 13th century, and is still a fun place to come and look for a bargain, or just to feel the vibe. The provisions market, mentioned by Cervantes, moved off the street into its current quarters next to the Omnium Sanctorum church in the 18th century. Come here for all that fresh fish and fruit and veg, and the little bars around the outside, especially La Cantina, which serves the freshest seafood tapas in Seville. Behind the market, in the Palacio Algaba, you can also find Seville’s Mudejar Centre, a small museum that celebrates the culture and achievements of the city’s Moorish period. Worth a visit to find out how the past has influenced the present.mercado feria entrance to the Feria Market

One of my favourite things to so, here as in other parts of Seville, is just to wander around the neighbourhood streets, and see what you stumble across. For me, surprise treats have included some of the artesan workshops, particularly Rompemoldes, the old San Luis church, the Garden of the Moorish king, and the faded splendour of the Pumarejo Palace. Rent one of our apartments in the neighbourhood as abase and just go exploring this whole other Seville.