Seville is a 2,000 year-old city steeped in rich history and proud tradition. It is the capital of Spain’s Andalusia region and the hottest city in Western Europe. It’s also ridiculously beautiful. My partner is from there so we go back at least once a year, and every time we visit, I am blown away by its vibrant colours, magnificently bathed in sharp Andalusian sunlight. My favourite things – little details that bring out a childish delight in me – are the orange trees and the ceramic tile street signs.
From an outsider’s perspective Sevillians seem more than a little obsessed with their city, but rightfully so. Life revolves around Seville’s own traditions and rituals, such as the Semana Santa and the Feria de Abril, during which various communities get together to worship, celebrate, eat, drink, dance and laugh. Togetherness is favoured over individualism – and there is a lot of eating of tapas and drinking of Cruzcampo involved. It’s not always easy for outsiders to penetrate the nuances and idiosyncrasies of Sevillian culture, which might leave one thinking that the city is annoyingly set in its ways. I admit, it took me a while to let go of my frustrations and relax into its rhythms. One of the things I used to believe about Seville was that it wasn’t the kind of city to easily embrace progressive, liberal ideas. Maybe to an extent this is true, but on my last visit there I was pleasantly surprised to see a thriving new eco-living scene.
I’ve put together this mini-guide of a few of my favourite ethical places to shop and eat in Seville.
Alhacena a Granel (Calle Relator, 50)
Bulk buying, particularly dried goods like beans and grains, is still quite common in Spain. You can go to a market and scoop your desired amount of kidney beans into a bag and pay per kilogram. But what has changed since “the good old days” of our grandparents and great-grandparents is that nowadays the market vendor will give you a plastic bag into which to decant your provisions. From an environmental point of view this is hardly any different from buying pre-packed food in the supermarket. Enter Alhacena a Granel. When you walk into this tiny shop, you know you’re in a place that has been created with love and consideration of community and environment. The name translates to “Bulk Pantry” and a pantry it is. Its charm is in its size – a tiny room that, if filled with more than three customers, forces strangers to brush shoulders. Shuffling around its wooden floor, stepping around sacks of beans and flour while the shopkeeper moves a step ladder from place to place to fetch things, there is a sense of informal hospitality, something quintessentially Andalusian.
I was drawn to their selection of loose-leaf teas and couldn’t resist buying some matcha, and moruno and Darjeeling teas. The owner provides recycled paper bags but welcomes customers who bring their own containers.
Verde Moscú (Calle Ortiz de Zúñiga, 5)
This sleek, minimalistic boutique is home to a carefully curated collection of mid-range conscious clothing and accessories. The shop stocks garments by ethical brands such as Armedangels, PeopleTree, Tiralahilacha, Thinking Mu, Veja and more. Behind the till, a lush, vertical wall garden adds to the serene atmosphere. In any other shop this would have looked simply like an interior decorating choice or a greenwashy gimmick but here it is a quiet reminder of why ethics in fashion matter. I read somewhere that the shop’s founders named it Verde Moscú – which means ‘Green Moscow’ – as a hopeful metaphor for the current state of the world. A polluted, grey city like Moscow – the antithesis to nature – might still someday be transformed into a green haven. Nature can still win. Wander Women, in their review of Verde Moscú mentioned that the name of the shop has since taken on a whole new meaning to its owners: if Moscow-green were a colour, it would be their own unique shade of green – their own green contribution. I love that.
Ropero (Calle Feria, 37)
Like any good vintage shop, Ropero’s racks and shelves are crowded with an eclectic mix of vintage goodies. From Levi’s jeans to evening dresses to bags, this small, cheerful store has a little bit of everything for everyone. Unlike some vintage shops I frequent in London, this one is decently priced. I walked away with an oversized colourful spring jacket for 20 Euro. Worth a visit if you love vintage.
Veganitessen (Calle Pastor y Landero, 0 S/N (Mercado del Arenal)
Inside a classic covered market, this vegan café-restaurant wears its values on its sleeve. A chalkboard sign on the counter reads, “We are against the exploitation of animals. Don’t consume animals here, or products derived from their exploitation.” The vibe is friendly and welcoming, and there is a good selection of food. In a meat loving city like Seville, one might assume that trying to run a vegan restaurant is a little risky, but the bustle at Veganitessen proves that there is definitely a growing interest in cruelty-free eating. Unlike another organic and vegan restaurant we tried (Organic’s by Gaia), the food here was delicious and fresh. The vegan tortilla de patatas (that’s right – no eggs!) went down brilliantly with an Andalusian craft beer.
Bien y Bio (Calle Regina, 18)
Bien y Bio is located near Las Setas in the centre of Seville and has a generous offering of organic and natural cosmetics. They have everything from haircare to sun screen, make-up, bamboo toothbrushes and baby products. Although in no way revolutionary on the zero waste front (pretty much everything is in plastic bottles), Bien y Bio is a conveniently-located alternative to conventional drugstores and supermarkets. They have an impressive range of products, all of which are either organic, vegan or not tested on animals.
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