Spain is a big country. Over the past two years we have had the wonderful opportunity to see many of her charms. From the Pyrenees to Barcelona, from Galicia to Madrid. We haven’t seen it all, but we have loved the beauty, hospitality and pace of life in Spain.
I recommend visiting the famous cities such as Barcelona and Madrid – but I also recommend taking the slow tour and indulging in the beautiful smaller and towns, such as in the alluring Andalucia (And-a-loo-THEE-a) region. The rich history, bewitchingl music and dance, sublime scenery and delicious food
make Andalucia one of my favorite regions in Spain. Touring Andalucia is easy and fun.
With a fascinating story that includes Phoenicians, Moors, Romans and Christians – Andalucia is a treasure chest of ancient history, architecture and lore.
We had two weeks for touring Andalucia. We wanted to take our time and languish in the towns. So we didn’t see it all, but here are our recommendations for enjoying and touring Andalucia on your holiday.
Sah- VEE – ya
How to get there – Most people would arrive in Sevilla by plane from one of the major Spanish airports such as Barcelona or Madrid. We recommend starting your tour in Sevilla so arriving by plane is the best
option. We flew from Madrid.
What to do – Sevilla is an absolutely splendid city. If you are short on time, take a Free Walking Tour which will give you a great feel for the city. Don’t miss the Cathedral, Plaza de Espana and our favorite site, the gorgeous, ancient Real Alcazar de Sevilla palace. Book Alcazar tickets online ahead of time. You may still stand in line by doing so, but it will be a MUCH shorter line.
What to eat – Well, tapas are the name of the game in Sevilla, and the Triana neighborhood is the place to go. Here you will enjoy a wide variety of tapas, elbow to elbow with locals. We spent hours eating, drinking and enjoying Triana. Read our tapas blog here.
Hidden Secret – Sevilla is the undisputed Flamenco capital. There are
many options to see live Flamenco shows. We recommend the Flamenco Dance Museum for an authentic and intimate experience.
How to get there – We took the train to Malaga from Sevilla and it was super easy, fast, inexpensive and comfortable. About two hours.
What to do – Malaga is a resplendent mediterranean city. Although
we were here in the winter, it was still beautiful and I can only imagine how lovely it is in other seasons. We did a Free Walking Tour (as usual) and learned about this amazing historic city. The Malaga Cathedral was beautiful. We also enjoyed the Mercado Central de Atarazanas, and highly recommend walking all the way up to Castillo Gibralfaro for the views. It’s a tough hike, but well worth it.
What to eat – Tapas! Yes you will start to see a theme here about tapas. But here in Malaga it’s all about seafood tapas, locally sourced and so fresh and delicious. Our favorite tapas we had were the boquerones (anchovies) at the Mercado Central.
Hidden Secret – The Picasso Museum (Picasso was born in Malaga) is well worth a visit. Even though we have enjoyed Picasso museums in many other European cities, this one was very well done and focused
on smaller works, including sculpture and ceramics, that most people have never seen. Bonus secret is to go down into the basement of the museum to see the 7th century ruins of the ancient Phoenicians that this building is built on top of. Really amazing.
Hidden Secret #2 – if your Free Walking Tour doesn’t take you to Cofradia de los Estudiants, take the time to go there yourself to view two of the cities incredible parade floats. These floats are owned and maintained by one of 47 Brotherhoods in the city. They only come out during the Easter week celebration. They are a marvel.
Grah – NAH – thah
How to get there – we did not go to Granada, and I’m sorry we didn’t. I hadn’t realized how close it is to
Malaga. You can go on a guided bus tour (the best way for a day trip) and it’s a two-hour bus ride. If you want to go on your own, the train takes about three hours.
What to do – a guided tour will take you to the highlights of this ancient Moorish city including Alcazaba, Nasrid Palace, and the Generalife Gardens. With a tour you will have a “skip the line” guarantee.
Hidden Secret – if your day tour gives you some free time, don’t use it to shop because the shops are all the same as in Malaga. Instead wander up the Camino del Sacromonte for spectacular views back to the city and the surrounding beauty.
Technically not in Andalucia.
How to get there – you can take the train to Gibraltar and you can also do a Gibraltar day trip from Malaga. However, we chose to rent a car, and just make a couple of hour stop in Gibraltar on our way to Cadiz.
What to do – I wasn’t frankly very impressed with Gibraltar. And honestly, unless you are hell-bent on
adding it to your “been” list, I would skip it. It felt tired and in need of some serious TLC. As a British territory you need to pass through passport control. We had no problems but in the summer it can get very busy. We walked the 3.5 km to the cable car. The touristy streets are overrun with tourist “crap”. We took the cable car up (30 English pounds – expensive), and it was cloudy so we did not see anything. I imagine on a clear day it would be beautiful – but not sure it’s worth the crowds.
What to eat – since we have been in Spain so long we decided to eat something truly British, and went to a pub and enjoyed a really good fish and chips meal with a pint on the side.
Hidden Secret – had we enjoyed better weather, we would have taken several hours to hike around on top of the rock. The trails looked excellent and I am sure, in the sunshine, the views are grand.
How to get there – We drove from Gibraltar and easily returned our rental car at the Cadiz train station, which was very close to our Airbnb. There are many trains throughout the day to Cadiz from Sevilla,
Malaga and others.
What to do – considered the oldest continually inhabited city in Europe (although some will argue differently, including Sofia Bulgaria), Cadiz is packed with historic sites. Start your visit with a Free Walking Tour. The old town, situated on a point that was once an island, is larger than I expected. It has beautiful architecture and is a living, breathing city, not just a tourist destination. Our favorite sites were the Roman theater, the Cathedral and Bell Tower (definitely worth the climb), the Camera Obscura and the La Caleta beach area bounded by the Castillo des San Sebastian and Castillo de Santa Catalina where we did our morning run each day. Cadiz is not on the Mediterranean sea. Once you pass through the Strait of Gibraltar you are now on the
What to eat – Seafood is the name of the game here in Cadiz. Find your way to Barrio de la Vina where the locals go for tapas and meals. It’s not on most tourist radars, so you’ll find yourself enjoying a very authentic Cadiz experience at any of the wonderful restaurants there.
Hidden Secret – The neighboring village of Jerez (he-RETH) is the sherry capital of Spain (the name sherry is an anglicization of ‘Jerez’). It is an easy day trip from Cadiz on the train, but if you can’t go to Jerez, we recommend Taberna de Manzanilla in Cadiz.
We returned to Sevilla via train from Cadiz for our flight. We really enjoyed this part of Spain and I can imagine how great it is in the
summer too – having spent a month in the Algarve of Portugal which is very close. I hope to return again, and enjoy this fascinating country. It is so full of prodigious history, diverse scenery, spectacular food and friendly and hospital people.
Gracias Andalucia. Gracias Espana. Espero verte de nuevo.