Tapas isn’t a stereotype in Seville, it’s a way of life. Shared with friends and surrounded by orange blossom, it's one of the best things to do in Seville. Let my years spent living in the city guide you towards finding the best tapas in Seville, through top restaurants and hidden tapas bars.
When it comes to finding the best tapas in Seville, it's almost a local pastime.
People eat out a lot, here, and tapas is definitely not for tourists. You’d be hard pressed to stumble for more than about 100 metres without finding a place that serves up a plate of sliced jamon washed down with cerveza. While fine dining options definitely do exist, the more common way to eat is to share a few dishes of tapas with friends, often while standing at the bar.
The anti-smoking legislation has cleaned up the bars, but their rich Andalusian character remains. Just make sure to avoid the places right by the cathedral and La Giralda, as that's where the low value tourist fare lives.
Instead, enjoy some of the best tapas in Seville at these cool spots.
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Casa Manolo León ushers you into a stately private home complete with chandeliers, tiled fountains and some of the most succulent pork in Seville. It’s one of the few places where you can sit down for a full three course meal, plus coffee, in the quieter part of town.
For a glimmering view of the Guadalquivir River and the Torre del Oro – or tower of gold – step into the classy Restaurante Abades Triana in Triana. Expect a beautifully turned out menu of caviar, tuna tartare and bacalao (salted cod.)
Forget the name, the Pizzeria San Marco serves plenty of traditional Spanish dishes in the atmospheric setting of underground Arabic baths. Tom Cruise and Cameron Diaz dined here by these exposed-brick walls while filming the not so critically acclaimed film Knight and Day. Oh, and the name’s not totally redundant, they do serve pizza as well...
Eating and drinking while out on the town form such an integral part of life in Seville that it’s sometimes difficult to differentiate between “restaurants” and “bars.” Most self-respecting bars have their own tapas menus and most “tapas bars” expect you to sit, chat and drink
For a fast paced, full-flavoured selection of tapas, head to Los Coloniales. It’s just a few blocks from the cathedral yet a world away from the mediocre tourist traps. Be prepared to queue and be prepared to jostle your way to the bar, but once you have, your tastebuds will thank you. Try the tabla of local salmorejo with diced jamon or even the tapas of quail eggs. Los Coloniales is busy for a reason.
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Relative newcomer Vinela awaits with a fresh and funky approach. Forget jamon and smoky dark spaces, Vinela is clean and bright with a sparse yet flavoursome menu.
Al Aljibe on the edge of the laid back Plaza Alameda offers a leafy retreat from the hectic streets. Try salmon ceviche or paprika prawns served beneath the shade of the restaurant’s signature orange tree. A peaceful place to while away the hours.
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To get well and truly off the beaten track, head to Eslava, a narrow corridor of a restaurant decked out in sky blue colours that actually do reflect the colour of the sky in Seville. Almost always packed, ask for the parcels of blue cheese and pork ribs that come in a delicious honey sauce.
Start with a relaxing stop at the bar come tapas spot Azotea. Azotea has taken on several forms across the city, but its newest – and smallest – bar brims with creative cool. Choose from steak tartare tapas or even wasabi-flavoured platters to stave off hunger while you take a closer look at its interesting wine list.
El Rincóncillo is more of an institution by now than a bar. It’s the oldest tapas bar in Seville, dating right the way back to 1860, though the building itself goes back even further. It was built in 1670 - and the décor looks that way too. Full of glazed tiles and jamon, both tourists and locals, it’s a sight not to be missed on a bar crawl of Seville.
Through the eyes of an outsider, the site of a pig’s leg strung up and hung from the ceiling or else fixed into a metal vice for slicing may seem unusual. Yet in Andalusia, jamon is more even than a staple dish – it’s almost a matter of regional pride.
The rest of Spain acknowledges that the best jamon in the world, never mind just in Spain, comes from the farms of Andalusia. In particular, it’s the small town of Jabugo that’s singled out for praise, where free range black pigs feast on an acorn-only diet. Jamon produced in this way attracts the highest prices and earns itself a place on the country’s Christmas menu.
If your first taste of jamon takes place in a crowded tourist trap, you may wonder what all the fuss is about. But forget the cardboard claptrap and make sure you check out the real thing which has a meltingly soft texture. Just be careful how much you eat, it still costs a lot per bite.
While some of the best restaurants in Seville are experimenting with the traditional dishes, many are not. Plus, it pays to know the traditions before you want to change them!
Here's a quick guide to what you can expect to see on the menu in tapas bars across Seville.
Forget any image you may have of the sickly sweet red drink your gran had at Christmas, sherry in Seville is a serious affair. Served crisp, cool and white in its short-stemmed long glass, this bitter aperitif is Andalusia’s signature drink. While Cruzcampo still ranks as the most popular beer, you’ll find fino sherry (as it’s called around here) almost everywhere you look.
It’s served with green olives and a few plates of tapas. It lurks at the side of the stage during live music performances. Hotel bars love it but its story reaches further than the tapas bars of Seville.
Sherry comes from mangling the word Jerez, a region in western Andalusia where sherry is made. One town in particular, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, has a particularly celebrated sherry: manzanilla. Light, dry and slightly salty, it’s certainly an acquired taste – but once acquired it’s the sort of thing you’ll appreciate more and more.
Hi, I'm Abi, a doctor turned writer who's worked with Lonely Planet, the BBC, UNESCO and more. Let's travel more and think more. Find out more.
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