The southern part of Spain is made up of the autonomous community of Andalusia, one of the most visited regions of the country due to its fascinating past that refers to the Moorish nation, former residents of the Iberian Peninsula.
Its three large cities – Cordoba, Seville and Granada – reveal the presence of this people through the architectural style of the palaces, gardens and mosques, which mix with synagogues and Catholic churches.
The region of Andalusia also boasts fantastic beaches, medieval villages, ecological reserves and the possibility of, from an hour’s boat trip, exploring Morocco on the African continent.
Check out the tips of this fantastic region, inspired by the Guide The Traveler Mediterranean Mediterranean, from the publisher The Traveler.
Capital of Andalusia and fourth largest Spanish city, Seville, with a little more than 700 thousand inhabitants, cut from north to south by the river Guadalquivir, is famous for partying. Its history is of a wealth as little is seen equal: it was point of connection between the New and the Old World during century XVI, once it had the monopoly of the commerce with America.
It is worth knowing the city on foot; many of the attractions are in the vicinity of the grand Cathedral of Seville (photo above). The church impresses with its size, its mixture of Christian and Muslim elements and the precious interior decoration that make it one of the most fantastic cathedrals in Spain.
When visiting the cathedral, do not miss the Patio de los Naranjos, a garden space inside the architectural complex, and the La Giralda Tower, which offers a beautiful view of Seville.
Next to the cathedral are the Reales Alcázares and the Plaza de España. The first, which was the lease of Game of Thrones is a sumptuous palace that began to be built by the Arabs and became a great example of Mudejar art (Hispanic-Muslim style). Already the second site is a beautiful and wide square with a semicircular building, a canal, some bridges and panels of tiles that present the Spanish provinces.
Also to be missed in Seville is to enjoy the bridges, many of them with bold architecture, visit the Museum of Fine Arts, rich collection, stroll through Barrio de Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter, and impress with Casa de Pilatos, 16th century.
One of the most important cities of Andalusia, Cordoba, with 316 thousand inhabitants, is the most significant reminder of the Christian Reconquest.
For two centuries, it was the capital of al-Andalus, Moorish territory in the Iberian Peninsula that left its cultural legacy on the streets. Sliced by the Guadalquivir River, it preserves typical narrow streets and houses with wooded patios – where a shade is all you will want in the summer.
Cordoba’s biggest attraction is the Mezquita-Cathedral of Cordoba, which was built in the 8th century, being the first Muslim monument erected in the West, and blending Roman, Gothic, Byzantine and Persian elements, making it one of the most of Spain.
700 meters from the mosque is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, a palace built in 1328 that served as a residence for the Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabel for eight years. Its Arab towers, gardens and baths are lovely. Also nearby is the Judería, a fascinating Jewish area with narrow streets and secular houses.
The Museo de Bellas Artes, the Synagogue and Torre de la Calahorra are also important points of Cordoba, but really, it is a must to enjoy a night of Flamenco, the Tablao El Cardenal being a traditional place.
Just 10 kilometers from Cordoba, you reach Medina Al-Zahra, an originally Arab city that, although today is in ruins, still boasts some buildings, such as aqueducts, bridges and the mosque.
Perhaps the most “Moorish” city of Spain, Granada, with 240,000 inhabitants, has its past marked by the presence of important Arab dynasties.
Being in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, it transforms with the cold. No wonder, it has a great ski resort and is one of the unusual destinations to visit in the European winter.
Spectacular architectural ensemble, located in Granada, is the La Alhambra: fortified complex which includes the Alcazaba (fort), Alcázar (palace), Generalife (summer palace and gardens) and the wall. Impressed by size, historical significance, wealth of information and strong marks of Islamic art and architecture. The site makes elaborate use of the Darro River, part of it channeled into the complex, supplying fountains, ponds, canals and water mirrors.
Old Moorish area, Albaicín stands on a hill facing the Alhambra and the ideal there is to get lost in the narrow alleys – which houses buildings of Muslim and Renaissance style – and the alleys that wind the neighborhoods.
Sacromonte is a former stronghold of gypsies full of rock formations that allowed the gypsies to build their houses as if they were caves, inside the stones.
Also worthy of mention are the Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum, El Bañuelo, formerly a Arab bathing place, and the modern Cultural Center Caja Granada Memoria de Andalucía.
Today with 570 thousand inhabitants, the second most populous city of Andalusia, Malaga is one of the oldest European urban centers, founded by Phoenicians in 770 BC.
It conserves important constructions of diverse people that settled there and left their artistic marks, concentrated in the historical center. Pablo Picasso’s birthplace, Malaga also exhibits a pulsating artistic vein, with important museums and intense cultural programming.
Among the main attractions are the ruins of the Roman Theater, built in the 1st century BC, the well-preserved Alcazaba, 11th century Moorish fortress that houses palaces, courtyards and an archaeological museum, and the Castillo de Gibralfaro, at the top of the homonymous hill. From this last place, you have the most impressive views of Malaga, including the bullring La Malagueta.
The Cathedral and the Basilica of Santa Maria de la Victoria are the great ecclesiastical highlights of Malaga, and the Picasso, Picasso’s Christmas House and Carmen Thyssen, the artistic ones. Main gateway to the Costa del Sol, a coastal region covering 150 kilometers of luxurious resorts, Malaga is a delightful destination for the sometimes scorching Andalusian summer. Who wants a very different program can go to Júzcar: 123 kilometers from Malaga and one of the ten colorful cities around the world, the village is totally painted blue, characteristic of a Hollywood marketing move.
When to go to Andalusia
Southern Spain has a continental Mediterranean climate that makes tourism possible all year round. The summer is warm and dry, the winter is mild, and spring and autumn are mild temperatures and irregular rains. Those who do not like a lot of heat, however, should avoid visiting Andalusia in July and August, as temperatures can reach torrid 40 ° C in some cities. With such heat, the beaches are a great choice, so, of course, summer coincides with the high season in Andalusia and, at that time, you may have to compete in the sand with thousands of tourists and Spaniards.