STROLLING around the centre of Seville is like stepping into a postcard. I ease beneath those Seville orange trees as horses and their carriages clip-clop across the cobbles, while the unmistakable Giralda tower vaults above a cathedral (by local reckoning the world’s largest) that could house a football stadium. But the real joy in Seville is no sterile postcard, rather a living, breathing city filled with the spice of the Moors and a taste of the Americas; home of both flamenco and tapas.

Legend has it that Hercules founded Seville. Of course he didn’t, but this is a city with ancient roots back to the Tartessians in the 8th century. The Phoenicians and Carthaginians breezed through, as did Roman emperors Adriano and Trajano, born by the banks of Seville’s Guadalquivir.

This river brought the city’s golden age after Columbus’s visit when trade with the Americas brought exotic influences and the great wealth that forged the grandeur of Spain’s fourth-largest city.

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The one huge influence we’ve missed, of course, are the Moors. Their richness dominated Seville for centuries and indeed the Giralda was once part of their great Almohad Mosque where the cathedral now stands. The Alcazares Palace? It may have played host to Spanish kings, but it is

Moorish in origin too. Seville is constantly two cities in one – architecturally, spiritually and culturally.

My base in Seville is ideal. The Corral del Rey (booked through is a 17-room boutique bolthole in a 17th-century palace just around the corner from the cathedral. It’s like a microcosm of Seville: Roman marble columns and Tarifa stone floors shine, while the cool atrium echoes a Moroccan riad.

My room is palatial, like staying in a museum exhibit awash with antiques and art. The rooftop terrace offers not only a day bed, but a bar with a view of the cathedral.

It is tempting to spend all my time flitting through the old quarters on the north bank of the river, popping into wee shops and bars that are more 19th-century than 21st, but that would be to miss out on Triana. And that would be a travesty as the real home of flamenco lies across the river.

The clubs and bars here run the gamut from slick geared-towards-tourists shows, right through to wee dive bars with a flamenco performer belting out their stuff as the locals sip on their sherry. I find the middle ground thanks to Seville native Rocio at my hotel. The club she books is one that she would take friends to and it is spot on.

Also spot on is tapas in Seville. It was here that this global foodie phenomenon first took hold when the “tapa”, or lid, was used to ward flies off drinks. Some bars became known for popping a snack on the lid, each bar with their own touch. And so tapas was born.

To delve back to those embryonic days, El Rinconcillo is the place.

They have been serving expertly carved jamon serrano with a crisp fino sherry here since before Bonnie Prince Charlie was born – since 1670.

At the other end of the tapas scale is Cotidiano. I dine on my last night, dragging myself away from the old-school tapas bars that chalk up what you’ve eaten on their wooden bars. This “fusion” tapas restaurant excels with real culinary creation.

Beef cannelloni is elevated with a Pedro Ximenez sherry sauce, sushi Seville-style brings Japan to Andalucia and Manchego is sent into overdrive spiced with truffle. Cotidiano is a breath of fresh air and a reminder that Seville doesn’t rest on its laurels.

Seville knows what can happen if you grow complacent. Its golden age ebbed away when Cadiz outdid Seville as the main port in Andalucia for trade with the Americas. Seville has striven to reinvent itself many times since.

In the 20th century, its famous Semana Santa religious festival was joined by the global Exposition in 1929. Then it was the turn of Expo 92, which saw a whole island in the river reborn in 1992 – you can pop down there today and check out its positive legacy.

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One dramatically successful legacy of Expo 92 was the arrival of the high-speed train network at the purpose-built Santa Justa station. It has proven a game changer, connecting Madrid like never before. And marrying Andalucia’s cities in a new way.

I am typing this aboard the express train to Malaga, a city known to many Scots as just somewhere you fly into to get to the Costa del Sol.

As I’ll share with you next week, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso and one of Europe’s oldest cities offers so, so much more. Hasta luego.

British Airways ( fly to Seville via London. Tourist information