Seville is the hottest city in continental Europe, and in summer, temperatures nudge 40°C most days, making it virtually impossible to do much exploring. Spring is the best time of year to visit the Andalusian capital, when its parks are in bloom and the city holds its great annual fair, the Feria de Abril.
For anyone curious about the controversial spectacle of bullfighting, there are few better places to be than Seville in spring. Every year for its great Feria de Abril (the most exclusive annual party in southern Spain), the city kickstarts the bullfighting season with a series of prestigious fights in its historic plaza de toros. This is a great time to experience this centuries-old tradition, as you’ll get to see the world’s top matadors performing. You’ll also be sitting amongst an audience that is known to be the most demanding in Spain – and for good reason. In Seville, the bullfight is watched in studious silence, with applause (and jeering) meted out only when truly deserved by either matador or bull, creating an ambience of great intensity and drama. Best of all, if you buy one of the cheaper seats in the sun (sol, as opposed to more expensive ones in the shade, or sombra) you won’t be uncomfortably hot, as you would be in the summer months.
If you’re planning a visit to Andalusia in the spring, make sure you coincide your trip with the Feria de Abril, the city’s legendary fiesta, which takes place two weeks after Easter (so if Easter is late, the April Fair might be in May). This week-long party is regarded among locals as the most important feria in Andalusia, and it has left its humble 19th-century cattle-market beginnings long behind. Its sanded fairground – or recinto – now hosts over 1,000 individual marquees, or casetas, every year; run by local charities, businesses and collectives, these casetas are where the locals dance and drink until the small hours of the morning, every night for a week. Although the vast majority of the marquees are private and require an invitation for entry, there are several public casetas which are just as much fun. If you want to experience this great feria, book your accommodation months in advance, as prices soar closer to the time.
In the summer months, the heat makes wandering around Seville’s beautiful old neighbourhoods virtually impossible. Spring is the perfect time to explore Triana, the city’s former Gypsy quarter. Sitting on the other side of the river from the historic city centre, this pretty barrio is steeped in flamenco and bullfighting: indeed, many great flamenco artists and bullfighters have come from its attractive yellow and white-fronted houses, decorated with the tile mosaics for which Triana is also famous. The sweet-scented geraniums and jasmine flowers with which many of of these houses are adorned are in bloom during spring, making it a lovely place to stroll. And if you fancy refreshment, duck into one of the traditional tapas bars that abound in Triana: kitted out with the mandatory mounted bulls’ heads, bullfighting posters and pictures of a weeping Virgin Mary, these bars offer wonderful local dishes, such as pork in whisky sauce or stewed bull’s tail, at low prices.
It was into Santa Cruz that Ferdinand III banished the city’s Jewish population when he took Seville from the Moors in 1248; and brutal though the King undoubtedly was, one can’t help feeling, wandering around this maze of winding, cobbled streets, that there could have been worse places in which to be confined. As with Triana, spring is the best time to explore this enchanting barrio, because in summer you’ll be occupied with avoiding the brutal heat. Particularly attractive is Plaza Alfaro, home to an absurdly romantic building that apparently inspired the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliet, and the “Water Alleyway” (Calle Agua), which runs alongside the walls of the Alcazar Palace. Santa Cruz is a great place to experience flamenco, with the superb Museo Baile Flamenco (Flamenco Dance Museum) offering a fascinating exposition of the art’s complex history, and nightly shows featuring some of Andalusia’s top performers.
There’s no shortage of riverside bars in Seville, but the best way to enjoy a spring afternoon in the Andalusian capital is to indulge in a little botellón (“street drinking”) on the banks of the Guadalquivir. Simply head to the supermarket, stock up on a liquid picnic, set up camp down by the Guadalquivir, and let the afternoon or evening play out. A particularly refreshing drink for a warm spring day in Seville is rebujito, a delicious mix of manzanilla sherry and lemonade that is also the signature beverage of the Feria de Abril. Enjoying a few of these down by the river is an unbeatable way to avoid the ferocious heat and big crowds of the city centre, where other visitors less wise than yourself will be traipsing around the historical monuments in temperatures of 35°C or more.
In preparation for Seville’s hosting of the Ibero-American Expo of 1929, the southern part of the city received a costly facelift. At the heart of this redevelopment was the Maria Luisa Park, a botanical garden and the Andalusian capital’s largest and most attractive area of greenery. It is a beautiful place to stroll in spring, when the park’s many species of plants and flowers are in bloom and when the local residents – doves, parrots, ducks and swans– are most on display. Stretching along the banks of the Guadalquivir, its half-mile of shaded walkways, tiled fountains, ponds and tropical foliage is also home to one of the city’s most notable examples of Neo-Mudéjar architecture, the Mudéjar Pavillion, in which the Museum of Popular Arts and Traditions of Seville can be found.
The architectural stars of the Ibero-American project were the colourful buildings of the Plaza de España, built in 1928 for the following year’s Expo. This vast, half-moon-shaped building showcases the blend of Neo-Moorish and Renaissance Revival styles that is distinctive of many structures in Seville, and the vast square that it overlooks is one of the most attractive public spaces in the city. Surrounding the square is a moat on which you can paddle about on hired rowing boats: a great way to spend a spring afternoon in the Andalusian capital.