A holiday to Spain is the perfect remedy whatever the time of year, whether it’s to escape the post-Christmas blues, avoid a spring slump or to side-step the unpredictability of the Great British Summer. Spanish getaways provide so much; amazing food, vibrant culture and of course, that all important sunshine. Over twice the size of the UK, so much of the Spanish mainland is packed with history, landmarks and welcoming communities. To write about the whole country here would be an impossible task, so instead we’ve chosen to focus on the region of Andalusia (Andalucia in Spanish) in southern Spain.
Previously home to Moorish settlers, this region is architecturally quite different to the major metropolitan hubs of Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia. With a large Muslim influence and the fact that Africa is just across the water, everything here looks a little different, while the culture is also dissimilar to many other places in Spain. And it’s always nice to visit somewhere a little different, right?
The largest city in the region and also the most-visited, Seville has a population of 689,434 and is found right on the scenic Guadalquivir River. Starting with the eye candy, there are three UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the city waiting to be captured by your skilled photographic abilities. Firstly, and perhaps the most famous, is the Alcazar Royal Palace. Originally built in the 10th century, it was restored and altered into a royal palace in the 14th century. There are a range of architectural styles on show here, with separate Moorish, Gothic, Mudejar and Renaissance influences clearly visible.
Seville Cathedral is a gorgeous church that was completed in the 16th century and is still used for regular services today. Rounding off the UNESCO trio is the Archivo General de Indias, another 16th-century property which houses around 80 million pages of documents and maps from the Spanish empire.
Have you really been to Seville if you haven’t sampled an authentic Seville orange straight from a tree? Well yes, because nobody eats them from the tree as they are decidedly sour. More than 14,000 Seville oranges, or bitter oranges, adorn the streets in Seville, and these little fruity fellas are used to make marmalade and the local tipple of orange wine (vino de naranja), which should actually be sipped like scotch rather than drank as wine.
Always held up in the same vein as Seville’s Alcazar, the Alhambra in Granada is a similar Moorish palace, though it’s less restored and more rustic than its counterpart. Simply stunning, this sight is the quintessential Granadan landmark, while the vast Generalife Gardens are also worth a visit, either at day time or night. Tickets are generally sold out months in advance, so ensure you book early. However, a small selection of tickets are often released at a couple of days’ notice, so be sure to keep checking if you have no luck in pre-booking.
Outside of this, the small neighbourhoods of Sacromonte and Albaicín are great places to visit when you fancy a walk. Up an incline into the mountains, these gypsy convents are the home of flamenco and offer truly spectacular views of the city.
One of the best things to do in the city is to visit it’s many bars/eateries, sit on an outdoor table and order a cana, otherwise known as a small beer, which comes with an accompanying miniature meal, known singularly as a tapa. From small burgers to mini-paella, it’s an amazing custom upheld in almost all of the city’s establishments. A personal favourite of ours is Taberna El Aviso, which offers great meaty dishes and even lets you know the order of tapas for the night, meaning you know how many beers you have to drink before you get them sweet prawns (gambas).
Often seen as a sister city to Granada, Córdoba is a city known for its patios. So much so, that it has a two-week festival dedicated to them at the start of May each year. Even though you may have missed it this year, just like fine wine it gets better with age, so make a note. Starting with a parade known as the ‘Battle of the Flowers’, the festival allows visitors into previously closed homes to view their stunning patios. And even if you do miss El Festival de los Patios, the architectural choice is so ingrained in the city that a number of bars and restaurants showcase some amazing patios all year round, so don’t fret.
The coastal towns in Málaga are popular places to visit for those wanting both beaches and nightlife, while its Old Quarter has architecture reminiscent of that already mentioned in Seville and Granada. The city centre is alive with flower sellers offering white jasmine, while the main commercial street of Calle Marqués de Larios is a pedestrianised wonder for shopaholics. Thrill-seekers will revel in El Caminito del Rey (the King’s pathway), a walkway pinned along a narrow gorge way up in the heights, offering great photo-ops and lots of adrenalin.
An inland town in the Malaga province, the picturesque Ronda is a town of two halves. Split by a vast gorge, the old town is on one side and the newer part where the commercial area is. The surrounding countryside and views from the bridge make for truly unbeatable holiday snaps. Puente Nuevo Bridge inspired Ernest Hemingway to write ‘For Whom The Bell Tolls’, and it certainly isn’t surprising when you see it in person. Ronda’s Plaza de Toros has a museum which displays different aspects of bullfighting, providing an in-depth insight.
While by no means a completely exhaustive list, we hope that this blog has stoked suitable interest in visiting this majestic region. We also hope that it won’t leave you too distraught when you turn away from the computer and look out the window.More From the Same Author