Category Archives: winter

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 | Veoapartment Christmas video 2013

In future projects we will be working with Cecilia Villanueva to give a face and voice to our videos. For starters, we have just done a Christmas themed video in the Avenida de la Constitución in Seville, between the city hall and the Cathedral. The voice was recorded in the street, with the tram, police cars, and bicycles passing, and packed with people. Great job Cecilia!

You can also see Cecilia in the preview of the movie La Isla Mínima with Sevilliano director Alberto Rodriguez.

Christmas in Andalucia

There are many aspects of Christmas in Andalucia that are similar to those in other areas of Europe. The Christmas lights go on, the shops fill up with traditional goodies, and a lot of people eat and drink too much. But, of course, there is often a little Spanish twist to them.

christmas lights

The traditional date for the start of festivities in Andalucia is December 8, the day of the Immaculate Conception, but as in many other places these days, in practice the season seems to start earlier every year. In Andalucia there is a big tradition of Christmas markets and fairs to supplement your Christmas shopping, with donkey and camel rides, stalls selling cheap (and sometimes not so cheap) gifts and decorations, and sweets and hot dogs to keep you going.

An even bigger Christmas tradition is the Belen (Bethlehem). Almost every house has at least a modest version of the Nativity Scene, but there are also many more elaborate public ones, especially in department stores and churches, and a market that specialises in the models for making them.

Christmas Eve (Noche Buena) and Christmas Day (Navidad) are family days, especially Christmas Eve, which is the night for a big family dinner, turkey and truffles being traditional, and even the bars are closed, although some will open again after midnight. If you’re a visitor having your own apartment rather than a hotel will be a big plus at this time, as you can cook your own Christmas dinner.


New Year’s is celebrated with fireworks, and by the eating of twelve grapes as midnight strikes. Eating them in time brings good luck, and nowadays you can buy the grapes already peeled and stoned to make sure.

The end of the Christmas season is Epiphany (January 6). In Andalucia the night of January 5 is when Los Reyes Magos – the Magic Kings travel round the world on their camels to bring children their presents. Earlier in the evening most cities and towns have a big procession in which the kings and their assistants throw sweets to the crowd. For children it’s the biggest event of the year. At Epiphany everyone eats roscónes, a large doughnut shaped cake. Inside there is a coin and a dry bean. Whoever finds the coin is “king” for the day; whoever finds the bean has to pay for next year’s roscón.

Recipe | Fabada Asturiana

This is another of those traditional Spanish bean stews that are so perfect for keeping you warm on a winter’s day. This one originated in the northern province of Asturias, but is now naturalised throughout Spain and also southern France. The basic ingredient is the large white beans known in Spain as fabes, cooked with pork belly, morcilla (blood sausage) and chorizo, which you can also find pre-packaged as “preparado de fabada” in most supermarkets.


The result is a really tasty and filling dish that works well as a snack, starter, or main meal.

  • 1 kilo alubias blancas (large white beans)
  • 100 grams each: tocina, chorizo and morcilla
  • 200 grams chopped bacon (optional)
  • 2 tsp pimentón piquante (hot smoked paprika)
  • 1 tbsp black peppercorns
  • salt to taste (I used about 3-4 tsp)
  • 6 cloves garlic (peeled and chopped)
  • 1 medium onion (diced)

Soak the beans in cold water overnight, then rinse well and place in large stewing pot. Cover with cold water (about an inch or so over), add the tocina, chorizo and morcilla. Add salt, peppercorns and paprika, mix well, then bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, lower heat to a simmer and then start skimming off the sludge that rises to the top. Stir very occasionally, just enough so it doesn’t stick, otherwise the beans will break up. Add more water if required. Cooking time may vary, somewhere between 1-1.5 hours, until the beans are cooked through but still firm.

While the beans are cooking, sautée the onion and garlic until translucent, then add the bacon (if desired) and continue cooking until everything is nicely browned. When the beans are almost done remove the tocina, chorizo and tocina, cut them into small slices and return them to the pot. Then add the cooked onions, garlic and bacon. Give it a quick stir, add a bit more water if you need it, and simmer another 10 minutes.

If you’d like to learn how to make Fabada Asturiana or any other typical Spanish dish then we recommend Travel & Cuisine who will create a custom made cooking experience for you.

And if you are more interested in learning how to shop for yourself like a local so you can make your own fabulous meals in your holiday apartment, check out Azahar Sevilla’s Market & Tapas Tour.

Lentil and Chorizo Stew

With winter on the way and temperatures set to plummet even here in Southern Spain, it’s time to haul out the recipe books and cook up some of those good old-fashioned stick-to-your-ribs winter warmers that your mother used to make.

In Spain, that means cocina de cuchara, or dishes eaten with a spoon, and first and foremost of these are the potajes (the word potage still exists in English), which are bean stews, usually cooked with added meat and vegetables. Cheap, filling, tasty and nutritious (4 out of 4) these stews of lentils, alubias or garbanzos, very common and traditional in Spain, deserve to be much more popular than they are in some northern parts of Europe.

Below is one of our favourite recipes for a lentil and chorizo potage, a variant of a recipe you can find in Janet Mendel’s Cooking in Spain. It’s easy to make, even for novice cooks, and gives a minimum of 4 servings.

1/2 kilo quick cooking brown lentils
2 litres boiling water
400 grams longhaniza rojo sausages (or chorizo)
1 head of garlic cloves, peeled & sliced lengthwise in half
1 large onion, chopped
2 italian green peppers, chopped
100 grams sliced roasted red peppers (from a jar)
2 carrots, chopped
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp each of sea salt, black pepper, cumin and pimentón dulce (La Chinata is best)
olive oil

Cook the sausages in a large saucepan, then chop up and put aside, reserving some of the juices from the pan. Sauté the onions, peppers and garlic in a bit of olive oil until onions are translucent. Set aside.

In a large pot add the lentils to boiling salted water and stir well. Then add the carrots, tomatoes, sautéed veg, sausage and spices. Mix well, cover and simmer on low heat for about an hour and a half, stirring frequently. Add the reserved pan juices for extra flavour if desired. Yum!