Here is an overview of what the Andalusian eating culture is about, how it began and how you could have an immersive, fun experience of the Sevillian culture.
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What is Tapa or Tapas?
Tapa (singular) or Tapas (plural) is a derivative of the verb “tapar” in Spanish which means “to cover” or “top.” However, when you visit Spain, this term is used to describe a style of food or a style of dining where you are served with small portions of dishes. An appetizer of sorts. Though it is meant as an appetizer, tapas can also be a complete meal given the wide selection it offers and when eaten combined.
You are likely to find “tapas” in Central American countries and in Mexico. In Central America, these snacks are known as “bocas” and in Mexico, they are referred to as “botanas.”
Origin of Tapas
In Andalusia, tapas were traditionally served in bodegas, a tavern like business that offered meals and rooms to travellers. The innkeepers would serve a thin slice of bread or meat with the Andalusian sweet sherry. The sliced meat or bread was used to cover the glasses of sherry to prevent fruit flies flutter over the glass. The meat used was usually ham or chorizo which were salty. Over the years, business owners throughout Spain created a variety of tapas to go with their sherry as well as wine.
There are also other tales with a royal twist associated with tapas tradition in Spain.
One tale goes that King Alfonso X of Castile, after recovering from illness by eating small portions of food with wine, ordered that the taverns should serve wine along with a small portion of food. A more popular tale is one associated with King Alfonso XIII. The king is said to have stopped by a tavern in an Andalusian city, Cadiz. He ordered a cup of wine. The waiter brought the wine with a cover of thinly sliced ham. The king ate the ham, drank the wine and ordered for more ‘tapa.’
…. and “tapa” became part of Spanish dining culture.
Tapas in Seville
Tapas in Seville is best experienced with red wine, Caña (beer, a little less than half a pint) or manzanilla sherry, an Andalusian speciality. The small portions of dishes are eaten with more of a nibbling attitude, in relaxed and unhurried way along with lots of chatter and laughter – like a true Spaniard!
Very much like the passeggiata in Italy, tapas eating is an important social ritual with unwritten rules and dining etiquette. Tapas eating is more like a social meeting of friends and family. They gather, glasses clink and clank amidst laughter and eating.
Tapas dining may go into hours as you are on the move from one bar to another. Dishes can be ordered several times to suit. You try one or two dishes in your first bar, then you go to another and order a few more.
Lunchtime tapas eating typically starts at about 1:30 pm till 3:00 pm while evening tapas dining starts from 7:30 pm to 10:30 pm. However, times may vary as Seville caters for tourists and you are highly likely to find spaces at whatever time you choose to tapas in Seville.
The assortment of dishes can be anything from marinated olives, to pieces of meat, served with or without cheese. Dishes could also include roasted peppers and few nuts in a dish. For a few Euros, you get to taste some of the tastiest foods in Europe such as fresh seafood and delightful deep-fried options. Popular tapa dishes are croquettes and patata brava. The Sevillanos make great croquettes! The best ones to try are salmon croquettes and croquettes de jamon.
How to experience Tapas in Seville
Tapas bars are dotted everywhere throughout Seville but barrio Santa Cruz is highly recommended for some of the very best ones if you are staying in the historic core of Seville. If you wish to venture a little out of the historic centre, then head to Triana for an authentic experience.
1 | Tapas in Seville: Exploring independently
The best tapas bars are usually surrounded by other tapas bars, making “tapas hopping” fun. The key to selecting a good tapas in Seville is to look for a bar that has a lot of people, even at low season. With a high turnover of people, means a high turnover of food and you get to taste fresher tapas. Prior booking at a tapas bar is not always necessary as people are always coming and going, unless you are dining at the high-end restaurants such as Baco or SEIS in Seville.
Once you’ve found your tapas bar, find yourself a cosy spot. Order a glass of wine, Caña or manzanilla sherry while you peruse the menu. You could try different drinks in each bar as you “tapas hop.”
2 | Join a Guided Tour: Fun evening of Tapas in Seville
There are several guided tours that focus on tapas eating or food in Seville generally. You may want to experience the top rated guided tour on tapas, taverns and history of Seville or the flamenco and tapas night. Both make for timeless experiences.
For more tours on tapas in Seville, look up these recommended four.
Guided tours of historic Seville
This option gives you skip-the-line access with a guided tour of the Cathedral and Giralda. Check availability >>
A perfect choice if you wish to explore more in a day. Visit Seville Cathedral along with the iconic Real Alcazar with a tour guide who will ensure you know all there is about these two monuments. Check availability >>