No other part of Spain has this intriguing mix of cross-cultural heritage, art, nature, and passion. If you buy via them, I’ll earn a small commission which helps me to keep this blog running.
On this site, we also write about Murcia region since it’s part of the geographic area too. Due to its geographic location between the north of the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean, Andalusia boasts several microclimates and a wide range of activities and leisure options based on the sea.
Set on the emblematic Guadalquivir river, Seville boasts one of the most impressive Morris and cultural heritage in entire Andalusia. It also used to be one of the richest towns in Spain, as its port was a commercial hub for all the boats arriving from leis Americas.
For me, the best part of Seville is getting lost in its narrow streets and admire the rich heritage of almost every building that you come across in the old city center. Civilians are very proud of their town and will not be afraid to say that Seville BS RNA Maryville, Seville is marvelous.
Several schools are offering introductory courses or restaurants have specialized on flamenco shows joined by a traditional Andalusian meal. Located on the famous Costa del Sol, Malaga is the southernmost large city in Europe.
The town boasts of one of the best climates in Europe all year round and is the birthplace of the legendary Pablo Picasso and actor Antonio Band eras. If you’d like me to describe the vibe of Malaga in comparison to Seville, I think that Seville is all about pride of the Andalusian identity and culture, whereas Malaga has been more “open” to foreign influences due to the long history of its port.
Even though Malaga and its adjacent Costa del Sol are internationally known for its top-quality golf courses and sandy beaches, the port town boasts an impressive cultural heritage such as the Moorish fortress, the Roman theater and many prestigious museums (Thomsen, Picasso Museum, Center Pompadour and many more…). Granada, also known as the Moorish pearl, is an absolute must-go place to visit in Andalusia.
Hardly any other Andalusian town has such a rich and varied cultural heritage as the former capital of the Moorish Landaus empire. Indeed, Granada combines the cultural heritage of the Arab legacy, Jewish influence with Renaissance architectural gems.
This is probably due to the fact that Granada was the last town to be conquered by the Spanish Catholic Kings. The most beautiful part of the Alhambra, the Madrid Royal Palaces, has limited access, so you need to make sure to book your tickets days in advance to visit this gem.
The Albania neighborhood, together with the Generalize gardens and Alhambra, holds the UNESCO heritage label and spreads out on yet another hill of Granada. Nowadays the former cave-houses have been turned into restaurants and bars offering some of the unique Flamenco experiences in town.
Cadiz has the virgin, endless beaches, lush green mountains, vibrant culture and history, sherry, bull breeding, white villages … It was founded 3000 years ago and Cadiz’ role in Spanish history was vital.
When Córdoba was capital of the Umayyad Caliphate, it attracted many intellectuals and cultivated science and knowledge. The almost 1000 pillars inside the mosque, built on a Visigoth cathedral, create the famous Forest of Columns ”.
But Córdoba is not only famous for its Moorish heritage, but also for the Jewish quarter with its narrow streets and white-washed house fronts. Each year the famous Patio Festival is held, during which neighbors decorate them with the most colorful flowers.
You shouldn’t miss the film studios of the Tabernas Desert and the vibe of Almería capital, with its lively terraces, market, and museums. It has become a very popular destination for campers and travelers looking for the “unspoiled” things to see and do in Andalusia.
On the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, also known as Costa de la Luz (Coast of Light), you’ll explore traditional fishermen villages, endless virgin beaches, and typical Mediterranean landscapes. In case you’d like to visit the sites of Columbus’ epic exploration, make sure to visit Palms de la Frontera from where Columbus departed to discover the Americas.
The famous Iberian Bakugo ham comes from the province of Huelva and might be a very interesting day trip to do or to the most important religious site in Andalusia : El Rocco. During summer, the town and the entire province can become incredibly hot, that’s why travelers often opt for the beaches of Costa del Sol.
Jaén is famous for being the home of the coveted Spanish virgin olive oil. Once you enter the province of Jaén, you’ll be surrounded only by olive groves for many kilometers.
The cultural attraction of the province are its capital Jaén with a gorgeous cathedral, the World Heritage site towns of Used and Baez and several castles. Jaén is also a coveted destination for hiking and outdoor lovers as the province boasts 4 natural reserves and a mountain area with a rich fauna with some great things to do in Andalusia, Spain.
Besides the Arabs, Andalusia ’s culture and history has been influenced by the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Romans, the Vandals, Hews and North Iberian's that settled in the area after the Reconquista. Compared to the rest of Spain, Andalusia is a traditionally agricultural region relying strongly on the tourism sector.
The strong identity and the regional pride on Andalusia ’s rich culture including flamenco, Moorish architecture, to some extent, bullfighting, wine production and gastronomy make Andalusia a vibrant destination to visit. Many of the mentioned cultural phenomenons are often perceived as typically Spanish, their origins, however, are entirely Andalusian.
The best time to visit Andalusia, in my humble opinion, is probably in spring and autumn. If you plan to visit in the summer months (June, July, September), I recommend staying along the coast as the Andalusian back-country is one of the hottest regions in Europe.
We also have a nice section on Gibraltar, which although not part of Spain is well worth the trip. Read on to discover places I have seen on my extensive travels through Southern Spain.
Seville : A place like no other, we dare you not to fall in love with the orange tree-lined streets, tapas bars, and beautiful buildings. Get lost in the lovely Albania, and count how many views of the Alhambra you can find.
It’s also the perfect jumping off point for visits to the UNESCO towns of Used and Baez. We’ve listed a few reasons why we think having your own car is the way to go in this region, and our best tips for finding a rental.
A multi-province region spanning the southern part of Spain, Andalusia reaches from the Mediterranean Sea in the east to the Atlantic coast in the west, and from Malaga in the south to Jaén in the north, where Andalusia grazes the borders of Castilla-La Manchu, an autonomous region covering the famous plains of Spain. In winter, the inland provinces of Córdoba, Jaén and Seville can reach 0 °C/32 °F overnight, while the coasts experience milder and more moderate temperatures throughout the year.
Almeria, Cadiz, Córdoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaén, Malaga and Seville are some of Andalusia’s most well-known cities, but they are the names of the provinces, too. But the province of Granada also has skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains, as well as clear-water beaches and a port along the Costa Tropical.
Each Andalusian province and city is full of culture, history, and traditions; there are fabulous ‘bucket list’ monuments and mouthwatering gastronomy; and, of course, plenty of tapas which need to be tasted on any trip to Andalusia. If you love the idea of spending your vacation exploring small, sandy coves, then the most westerly province of Almeria, on the Mediterranean coast, might appeal.
Europe’s driest region, Almeria is also home to the beautiful and little-known Tabernas Desert. If full English breakfasts and long (but crowded) sandy beaches sound more appealing, Malaga and the Costa del Sol will suit you perfectly.
The Atlantic province of Huelva, which borders Portugal, is probably the least-known part of Andalusia, yet is home to the famously delicious (and famously expensive) Data Negro ham, and served as one of Christopher Columbus’ bases while planning his excursions. Probably the biggest challenge in planning a trip to Andalusia is the amount and diversity of attractions: Roman ruins, Moorish castles, small white-washed hill towns, cosmopolitan cities, sunshine, beaches, natural parks, and small wineries and gastronomy are all on the menu for an Andalusia vacation.
Instead, catch views of the river and city from Puerto Isabel II, and then spend your time on some Seville’s many highlights: strolling around the wonderful Plaza de España (one of the many Spanish locations used in Game of Thrones); exploring the different barrios ; and spending a day wandering between tapas bars. You’ll probably want to dedicate one day to the fantastic historic center, which includes the Giraldo tower and its jaw-dropping views, and the UNESCO-listed Alcázar Fortress and Gardens.
The rooms look beautiful, with nice added touches to keep you comfortable, such as slippers and a bathrobe. With a lovely rooftop terrace, and great reviews from past guests, this is another fantastic option.
With a lovely outdoor pool to beat the summer heat, one guest review mentions the fantastic coffee in the mornings…always worth bonus points in my mind! For the Alhambra, book your tickets well in advance so you can see the Madrid Palace, as visits are done by tightly-controlled reservations.
From the Alhambra, wander down the meandering narrow lanes of the picturesque Albania quarter, poking your head into open doorways in search of Carmen, which are pretty flower-filled patios and oh-so-quaint little museums that are open to the public. And be sure to catch a glimpse of the Alhambra from afar at the Mirror de San Nicolás.
Do note that, while the hotel gets exceptional reviews, the restaurant gets mixed comments: worth it once for the ambience, maybe not for the food (vis-à-vis the price). Like Seville, Córdoba is flat and easy to explore, with the River Guadalquivir running through the city.
Beyond the mosque, the narrow streets of the Jewish Quarter form a lovely maze to lose yourself in, and will tempt you to imagine how life used to be. ‘Patios’ are also a highlight in Córdoba: due to the climate, many homes are built around beautiful central courtyards filled with flowers and unique decorations.
A huge range of stalls serving everything from oysters to steaks to sushi will let you taste all sorts of local flavors and tapas. Buy your drink from the bar and head to individual stalls to choose the best -looking morsels.
Featuring a sun terrace, ham mam, hot tub, and sauna on-site, it’s in a quiet and relaxing location, with easy access to everything. Add to that beach bars on the Mediterranean, narrow old-town streets, an unfinished cathedral, one of the best -preserved Alcázar (fortress) in Spain and a lovely Roman amphitheater, and you get a lovely destination that mixes beachside and urban, historic and modern culture.
Stop by the tallest hotel in the city, the Marriott’s AC Hotel Malaga Palacios, for an after-dinner cocktail at the city’s highest rooftop bar, offering wonderful views of the cathedral and Mediterranean. And be sure to visit El Pimps, a traditional bar and Malaga institution, during your stay.
Decor throughout the hotel is bold and beautiful, with strong colors and geometric patterns. With opulent common areas and fresh and elegant rooms, this beachfront hotel is a perfect base in Malaga if you’re looking for a little luxury.
One of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in Spain (and Europe), Cadiz is packed full of history, culture, and gastronomy. With a romantic old town dating back to 1100 BC, Cadiz is a charming and under-visited part of Andalusia.
The 18th century city walls and Castillo San Sebastián, which you might recognize from the James Bond film Die Another Day, are highlights of a visit to Cadiz, as are the regional wineries and many restaurants serving fresh fish and seafood. Past guests appreciate the friendly owner, quiet location, and spacious apartments.
Well located in the city center, the building itself is jaw-droppingly beautiful, with marble columns, large rooms, and comfortable beds. Perched on a hill of the same name, you can visit the ruined castle and visitor center, as well as take a walkway to a huge monumental cross with panoramic views of the city, olive groves stretching into the distance, and a backdrop of the Sierra Marina mountains.
Far less touristy than Córdoba, Granada and Seville, Used and Baez offer lovely historic centers packed-full of sandstone monuments. If you only have time do one, Baez has a quainter and friendlier feel, but Used is more awe-inspiring, with a huge stone-lion-guarded plaza surrounded by fabulous buildings.
*In Spain, parade refers to a luxury hotel in a converted historic building, such as a castle or fortress. If you don’t have a car, you can typically find cheap day rentals through Holiday Autos (that’s the website we usually use).
The rugged scenery and winding mountain roads draw tourists from around the world, many of whom make a day trip from Malaga or Marbella (but also lovely to stay over for a night or two). See the enormous Puerto Nero, the new bridge spanning El Tao between the old and new towns.
Take in the views from the famous Ronda Balcony, visit ancient bull ring, and take your pick of several fascinating museums, including the Bandit Museum (Muse del Bandoleer) and the Ronda Guitar House, which hosts live guitarists nearly every day. The easiest option is visiting Ronda (and sometimes other white villages) as a day trip.
We’d suggest checking out Traveled, the highest town on mainland Spain, and very lovely! Just over the border from Granada in Jaén province, it’s home to La MTA Fortress, the best monument along the Route of Castles and Battles (other than the Alhambra itself).
A t the south of Andalusia lies a long stretch of beautiful coastline, meeting the Atlantic to the west of Gibraltar, and the western part of the Mediterranean (Alboran Sea) to the east. The most famous and popular spots along Andalusia’s Coast include Torremolinos, Benalmadena, Fuengirola and Marbella, as well as the luxury-focused celebrity favorite of Puerto Bands.
If you want to get a little off the beaten path, Era is very busy, too, but still has plenty of charm. Visit the Balcony de Europa (hotel) for great views, and explore the area for tiny coves and a long sandy beach.
If you go in June, The International Festival of Music and Dance hosts live evening concerts in the Alhambra grounds. Tickets sell out quickly, so stay on top of event updates on their website.
You don’t really need to be brave to experience the Camino del Ray, but you must be willing to wear a hairnet and helmet! The Malaga Council has a great website about the walk, with loads of info to help plan.
If you like small, rocky coves then head to the Mediterranean coast of Almeria and the area known as Cab ode Data. The opposite coast of Cadiz offers long, flat sands where, if you choose the right time of year, you can see horse races along the Atlantic beaches during the Singular Horse Racing on Las Pietàs Beach.
While the brightly-colored Spanish ceramics make popular, fun and beautiful gifts and souvenirs, Rachel prefers the more practical partly-glazed and plain brown dishes that can go from oven (or microwave) to the table as a serving dish. In the ‘White Village’ area, especially around Unique, there are many leather factories worth a visit.
If you’re shopping for children, it’s possible to pick up some lovely traditional clothing, such as mini polka dot flamenco dresses and Cordoba flat hats. Check what your home country’s customs and border agency has to say about it before you open your wallet: USA / Canada.
In a region steeped in gastronomic traditions, where olive trees dot the land as far as the eye can see, and unique wines and meats form an integral part of the culture, it’s hard for food-motivated travelers not to get excited about all the foods on offer. While it’s also the most expensive, it’s possible to get a small tasting plate for an affordable price in most tapas bars.
Other great cured meat options include Logo Iberian and Feet, which is similar to Italian Salami. And if that’s not enough, try to time your visit with one of the many Cheese Fairs around the region for a great sampling session.
On weekends and special occasions, or if you have a serious sweet tooth, be sure to try chocolate con churros. Churros are long, thin doughnut sticks that you break up and dunk into sugar and a chocolate sauce.
One final tip : if you’re travelling on a budget, it’s typical in some provinces (including Granada and Jaén) to offer free tapas if you order beer, wine or soft drinks. Similar to the aperitif tradition in parts of Italy, it’s a great way to try different bites without spending too much.
In fact, we’ve added an Andalusia road trip to our 2017 travel wish list, so we can go back to the region and re-visit our favorite spots, as well as check out the places we didn’t get to last time. Many of the hotels in Andalusia are made for road trippers and Europeans taking a driving holiday.
While tours from the main cities of Seville, Granada and Malaga are quite common, they don’t cover everything. We ended up returning it early and switching to a company with unlimited KMS, costing us hundreds of extra dollars.
If you plan on taking the car across the border to Portugal, note you’ll have to arrange that in advance and get some paperwork from the rental company. We’ve done our best to ensure everything is correct and helpful, but expect you to do additional research and check current availability and conditions.