Plaza de Espana, Seville, Andalusia, Spain

The 5 Best Cities to Visit in Andalusia

February 29, 2024

Andalusia is one of the most attractive destinations in Spain. If you’re a first-time visitor to Spain, it’s a good idea to choose Andalusia as your first Spanish destination, because nowhere else will you get to know Spanish culture and lifestyle as deeply as there.

Just some introductory information about Andalusia: it is the most populous and the second-largest autonomous community in Spain. Andalusia is located in the south of the Iberian Peninsula, in southwestern Europe. The region has a rich culture and a strong Spanish identity. Many cultural phenomena that are seen internationally as distinctively Spanish are largely or entirely Andalusian in origin. These include e.g. flamenco, bullfighting and Hispano-Moorish architectural styles.

The history of Andalusia was greatly influenced by medieval Moorish rule. They were later replaced by the Christian Spaniards, who also left a strong mark on the architecture of the region. The cultural and historical diversity that characterizes Andalucia today was formed from the mixture of the two and sometimes from ancient remains. That is why this is such a special part of Spain.

Andalusia has all the characteristics of a Mediterranean destination: a warm climate, beautiful landscapes, a diverse culture including music, architecture and history, world-class gastronomy and, of course, excellent beaches.

If you’re learning Spanish, we also recommend Andalusia, as it has the lowest level of local language use after Madrid.

In addition, Andalusia, being one of the poorest regions in Spain, is the best place to organize a low budget trip within Spain.

So let’s see which are the top 5 cities to visit when in Andalusia:

1. Granada

Granada is the capital city of the province of Granada, in the autonomous community of Andalusia, Spain. Granada is located at the foot of the Sierra Nevada mountains, at the confluence of four rivers, the Darro, the Genil, the Monachil and the Beiro.

It’s known for grand examples of medieval architecture dating to the Moorish occupation, especially the Alhambra. The Alhambra one of the most visited tourist sites in Spain. The Alhambra, a medieval Nasrid citadel and palace, is located in Granada. It is one of the most famous monuments of Islamic architecture. This sprawling hilltop fortress complex encompasses royal palaces, serene patios, and reflecting pools from the Nasrid dynasty, as well as the fountains and orchards of the Generalife gardens.

In Granada you should not only visit the Alhambra itself, but also the viewpoints around the city, such as the Mirador de San Nicolas and the Mirador de Sacromonte. By the way, one of our favorite squares in Granada was the Plaza Larga, which was on the way to the Mirador de San Nicolas. Here you can also find white houses with small and colorful flower pots and decorated with flowers.

Another famous building in Granada is the Granada Cathedral, which is a Renaissance cathedral with a gold and white interior, known for its stained glass domed chapel.

Alternatively, if you are interested, you can travel up to the Sierra Nevada mountain area, which offers excellent mountain views and good hiking opportunities, and is a famous ski resort in winter.

2. Malaga

Malaga is a port city in the south of the autonomous community of Andalusia in Spain, on the Mediterranean coast. It is the capital of the province of Malaga of the same name and the 2nd largest city in Andalusia. It is the centre of the Costa del Sol, or sunny coast, and a popular tourist destination, thanks to its excellent food and wine, mild climate and extremely high number of hours of sunshine. It is also the birthplace of Picasso.

The most famous attractions in Malaga are all in the city centre. There’s the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro, side by side, from where you can get a fantastic view of the city from above.

The largest bullring in Malaga, called Plaza de Toros, was built in 1874 and can accommodate 14,000 spectators. Like other Spanish cities, bullfights are held here on Sunday evenings. There is also a museum in the arena where a matador will introduce you to the world of bullfighting.

Then in the old town is the Cathedral La Manquita, which is an unfinished church similar to the Sagrada Familia.

In the historic centre of Malaga is also the city’s most famous street, the Calle Larios, always full of people passing by the many restaurants and shops. You can buy great products from the shops on the pedestrianized street, or just sit in one of the cafés and watch the people go by, and get a taste of the authentic Spanish lifestyle.

Not far from them you will find the Plaza de la Merced, an important square in the old town of Malaga, a meeting point for entertainment.

In the evening, on P.º del Muelle Uno you can see the productions of local Spanish dancers and enjoy a fantastic Spanish beach dinner with Spanish music playing in the background.

So Malaga is an ideal destination to spend a few days exploring the city and its surroundings, which have so much to offer tourists. If you want to read more about the best places to visit in Malaga, we recommend this “Two Days in Malaga” itinerary.

3. Cordoba

Cordoba is the third largest city in Andalusia and ranks as one of the most visited cities in the region. A real must-see when visiting Andalusia, since Cordoba offers plenty of great things to do for tourists.

Cordoba’s city centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a title it has earned by preserving intact the original Jewish quarter and the world-famous Mezquita (the great mosque) as well as many bridges, gates and churches dating back to Roman times. To see thousands of years of history in Cordoba, walking through the streets of Cordoba is like a real journey through time.

Cordoba is home to one of Spain’s most important and Andalusia’s second most important Arab monument, the former Moorish mosque that was converted into a cathedral and is still known as the Mezquita, or Great Mosque. In the colonnade, the 850 columns of marble, jasper and granite form a unique spectacle in the two-colored striped arches. The Mosque-Cathedral is still one of the largest Christian cathedrals in the world.

It is also worth taking a walk in the Jewish quarter of Cordoba, called Judeira. The Juderia of Cordoba, ‘the Jewish Quarter of Cordoba’, is the area of the Spanish city of Cordoba in which the Jews lived between the 10th and 15th centuries. It is located in the Historic centre of Cordoba, northeast of the Mosque-Cathedral. In Juderia you can see monuments such as the Sinagoga, the Zoco Municipal Market or the Bull-fighting Museum, among others.

In our opinion, the other big attraction besides the Mosque-Cathedral that is a bit underrated is the Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. It is a medieval fortress located in the historic centre of Cordoba, next to the Guadalquivir River and near the Mosque-Cathedral. The fortress was one of the main residences of Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon. The gardens of the building in particular are stunning, with very pleasant walks along the fountains.

During the day or at sunset, it’s worth walking across the Roman bridge of Cordoba, originally built by the Emperor Augustus, but rebuilt by the Moors. The view of the bridge and the old town behind it is fantastic from the banks of the Guadalquivir River.

4. Seville

The beautiful and vibrant Andalusian capital of Seville offers a huge range of cultural, historical and gastronomic delights. It’s the perfect place to spend a few days in Andalusia, with all the charm and warm Mediterranean style that a tourist expects from Spain. It has many attractions, but the most important are the Plaza de Espana, the Torre del Oro, the Real Alcazar, the Cathedral with the Giralda and the Metropol Parasol.

In our personal opinion, Plaza de Espana is the most iconic and spectacular building not only in Seville, but in Spain. The beauty, uniqueness and Mediterranean style of the country is often promoted through photos of the Plaza de Espana. A must for photographers, as the whole square offers fantastic opportunities. Located next to Parque de Maria Luisa, the building was designed to showcase Spain’s role in history, industry and technology. The walls of the semi-circular building on one side of the square are artistically tiled to represent all the provinces of Spain. The buildings are a rare example of regionalist architecture, characterized by the use of local materials. Today it is home to government offices.

The Metropol Parasol, the largest wooden structure in the world, was completed in 2011 in La Encarnacion square in Seville’s old town. The complex is made up of six giant umbrella-shaped structures made of birch wood. Nicknamed Las Setas de la Encarnacion, the structure is home to a market, a museum, a restaurant and an open-air plaza, among other facilities.

The Torre del Oro is a tower constructed in the 13th century on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, which still stands in very good condition. Today, the tower houses a maritime museum that presents the river’s important role in Seville’s history. From the top of the tower, you can enjoy a great view of both the river and the city.

The Cathedral of Seville, built on the site of a Moorish mosque, is still one of the largest cathedrals in Europe. The Gothic cathedral has many artistic and historical treasures. It also houses the coffin of the famous explorer Christopher Columbus. The Giralda Tower, linked to it, is a remnant of the former Muslim mosque and now functions as the bell tower of the cathedral. The lookout at the top of the Giralda is accessed via 35 ramps, which is well worth the effort as it offers a fantastic view of the whole of Seville from the top.

If you travel to Seville, visiting the Real Alcazar of Seville is an absolute must. The Real Alcazar is located near the Cathedral and the Giralda. Built during Seville’s Moorish and Christian periods, the Real Alcazar is a fascinating mix of styles. It is the oldest royal palace still in use. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Definitely worth a few hours as it is a huge complex.

5. Ronda

The city of Ronda is also a famous Andalusian destination. Ronda is located on the edge of the Sierra de Gazalema National Park and in close proximity to the picturesque Sierra de las Nieves. It is a bit difficult to get to because it is surrounded by high mountains on several sides, so you have to take enough time to get there. However, it is a perfect place for a one-day sightseeing trip.

The symbol of the city is the Ponte Nuevo, meaning new bridge in English, which was built in the 18th century. The bridge connects the two main parts of the city, which are divided by the Guadalevin River. Its sight attracts the eye, and luckily we have plenty of opportunities to admire it from different points of the city. From Ponte Nuevo, you can get a wonderful view of the gorge known in Spanish as El Tajo de Ronda.

One of the most beautiful squares in Ronda is the Plaza del Socorro, which is a must-see when in Ronda. By the way, this is where we found one of the easiest places to park. On the road between the bridge and the square you can admire the small restaurants, shops and local specialities of the city. The Bullring of Ronda also gets in the way.

On the other side of the bridge, we think the most spectacular building is the Puerta de Almocabar, an arched stone gate dating to the 13th century. Also along the way are the ruins of the old Alcazaba.

There is a good reason why Ronda is such a popular destination in Andalusia. It offers many good viewpoints, wonderful panoramas and interesting local Andalusian-style buildings.

These are the 5 best cities to visit in Andalusia. If you are interested in more details about the best places to visit in Andalusia, read also our next article. Andalusia is a fantastic destination to get a real insight into Spain. If you have the chance, don’t miss it.

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