For most of us visiting Andalucia, we’ll fly into Malaga airport, then travel on to whichever coastal resort we’re staying at and not venture too far away for the entire trip.
This means that some of the best places in Andalucia go unvisited by the majority of tourists. We all know Marbella, Fuengirola and Torremolinos, but how many can say they’ve been to Granada, Seville or Cordoba? … Thought not.
So sit back, put your feet up and let us take you on a virtual tour through these incredible Andalusian cities.
For those who have heard of Granada, or been there for that matter, chances are the Alhambra Palace played the main part. This stunning monument was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984. It is without doubt Granada’s most emblematic monument and one of the most visited tourist attractions in Spain. It consists of a defensive zone, the Alcazaba, together with others of a residential and formal state character, the Nasrid Palaces and, lastly, the palace, gardens and orchards of the Generalife.
As mentioned, many visitors head to Granada unsure what to expect apart from the Alhambra. What you actually find is a gritty, compelling city set at the base of the Sierra Nevada mountains where serene Islamic architecture and Arab flavored street life go hand in hand with monumental churches, old school tapas bars and counterculture graffiti art.
EATING OUT IN GRANADA
The gastronomy of Granada represents the tradition of Arab-Andalusian cuisine. On one hand the Arab heritage is evident in the use of spices and the secondly, the wide variety of raw materials, determined by the great differences of geography and climate in different regions of Granada.
Regional dishes of Granada are beans with ham, a pot of San Anton, the Sacromonte omelette, Andalusian gazpacho with garlic and the grilled sardines on the beaches of the Tropical Coast.
Typical dishes from the Alpujarras are patatas a lo pobre – slowly fried potatoes with olive oil with peppers and eggs, the plato alpujarreno (fried potatoes with onion and peppers, ham, fried egg and sausage), Alpujarras crumbs and puchero a la gitanilla (Gypsy stew).
Personally, we’ve stayed in Granada and highly recommend La Cueva de 1900, we’d go there simply for their incredible bread and olive oil, never mind the meat platter for two, excellent service and chilled out vibe! Just a personal preference there …
WHERE TO STAY IN GRANADA
Granada offers good quality accommodation to suit all budgets. These places to stay are mainly located in quiet areas but never far from the main monuments and attractions of Granada.
Located on one of the main central thoroughfares, Barceló Carmen sits in the bustling heart of the city. Guest rooms have all the swish, contemporary feel you’d expect of an upmarket hotel chain, with some upper floors overlooking the Alhambra. But it’s the fabulous rooftop terrace where you’ll find the best views, together with a snazzy pool and bar perfect for sunny summer afternoons.
VINCCI ALBAYZIN HOTEL
With soaring Moorish architecture, elegant red brick arches and crystal chandeliers, the grand patio of this hotel makes for a handsome centrepiece. This is where you’ll also find the excellent restaurant, Acequia, a popular dining spot for Granadan gourmands. Arabian motifs continue throughout – subtly so in the smartly neutral finish of the guest rooms – infusing the property with the cultural heritage of the city.
When it comes to exhibiting the Moorish past of the city, few hotels can match the splendour of Casa Morisca. Wonderfully restored from the original 15th-century residence, the property combines coffered ceilings, intricate plasterwork and ancient timber to enchanting effect. Guest rooms are equally eye-pleasing, while the setting under the shadow of the mighty Alhambra only adds to the magic.
There is also a plethora of stylish hostels and student accommodation that is worth checking out.
SHOPPING IN GRANADA
The Andalusian shopping scene is iconic, and Granada definitely boasts one of the best when it comes to local boutiques. With so many places to go shopping in Granada, it may seem hard to find authentic, local alternatives to big-name brands. While the popular brands are famous for a reason, nothing beats shopping at a small boutique and supporting local designers and artisans.
While it may seem like a bit of a hike from the city center, serious fashion lovers should definitely make the trek out to Cuca Boutique. A must when it comes to boutique shopping in Granada, this adorable little shop has a decidedly vintage vibe.
Trendy pieces with spectacular attention to detail steal the show at Hécate. Many of the stylish clothes and accessories here are exclusive to the store, meaning you’ll be hard-pressed to find anyone else wearing the same thing. With everything from work wardrobe staples to festive party outfits, this is one of the best options for boutique shopping in Granada when it comes to variety.
Looking for a flamenco-inspired getup to commemorate your time in Granada? Step away from the cheaply made dresses in the souvenir shops and head to El Rocío, widely regarded by granadinos as one of the best places to buy flamenco dresses and accessories in the city. Pick up an outfit here for Granada’s weeklong fair in June and you’ll fit right in among the stylish Andalusian women.
If there’s anything else you want to know about this magnificent city, which is so much more than just the Alhambra, there’s plenty of websites that can provide detailed information, we certainly recommend making this at least a day out.
Moving on, let’s now take a look at Córdoba.
The 5th largest city in Andalucia and capital of its’ province, Córdoba is home to notable examples of Moorish architecture such as The Mezquita-Catedral, which was named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984 and is now a cathedral. The UNESCO status has since been expanded to encompass the whole historic center of Córdoba, Medina-Azahara and Festival de los Patios. Córdoba actually has more World Heritage Sites than anywhere in the world, with the grand total of four. Much of this architecture, such as the Alcázar and the Roman bridge has been reworked or reconstructed over time.
Córdoba is also ideal for those seeking heat, as the area has the highest summer temperatures in both Spain and Europe, with average high temperatures around 37°C (99°F) in July and August. If this sounds too unbearable to you, it’s maybe best to visit around April/May or October.
So, what to do when you’re there? Read on to find out!
EATING OUT IN CÓRDOBA
Córdoba is rich with history and a distinctive gastronomic taste. Its cuisine has clear roots in Andalusian history, and is linked with traditional Arab, Moorish and Moroccan flavors and spices. Below are just a few examples of the high class cuisine you can enjoy in this beautiful city.
Bodegas Mezquita is a classic Córdoban bar that offers a varied selection of traditional tapas. It also features an in-house deli which is worth a visit. The interior of Bodegas Mezquita consists of whitewashed walls hung with old photos. You will find typical Córdoban tapas here, include slow-braised oxtail, classical gazpacho soup, tuna and orange salad and creamy potato tortilla. Bodegas Mezquita is a perfect place for everyone, whether you are looking for a full meal or just want to relax from sightseeing while sipping on a glass of beer or wine.
Located inside a hotel in Córdoba’s Jewish district, El Churrasco is a contemporary classic. The name of the restaurant simply translates as ‘grilled meat’, which is what it is most famous for. It was opened in the 1970s by Rafael Carillo and still remains one of the most visited restaurants in Córdoba. El Churrasco offers delicious charcoal-grilled Iberian pork accompanied by two Arab style red and green pepper sauces, a delicious meal if ever there was one!
La Regadera has been ranked as the number one restaurant in Córdoba. The menu offers traditional Spanish cuisine with international elements. Almost all plates, like the Córdoban ‘salmorejo‘, could be easily shared between two people, as they come in large servings. The interior presents a rather unusual yet captivating choice for an elegant restaurant like this, the décor features watering cans dotted across the venue. Wine aficionados in particular should pay a visit, you will find a great number of carefully chosen wines that are served by the glass.
WHERE TO STAY IN CÓRDOBA
With all the ruins plus a charming old Jewish Quarter to explore and even a few hiking spots out of town, Córdoba is a playground for curious travelers. Thankfully, you’ll find a lot of excellent accommodation in town, from the rustic and homely to the sparkling and high-end.
AYRE HOTEL CÓRDOBA
The Ayre Hotel Córdoba may not be what you’re looking for if you want a central hotel, but if you’re not looking to be in the center of the hustle and bustle, then this could be the one for you. Besides, two bus stops – both just a stone’s throw from the hotel – makes it simple to get into the center anyway.
As far as what you get at this hotel, the rooms are spacious and refined yet relaxed, boasting marble-floored bathrooms. There’s a garden, complete with tables and chairs to soak up the sun and enjoy a drink, plus a refreshing pool. Fans of hiking should also check out the Cuesta Del Reventón trail nearby.
HOTEL CÓRDOBA CENTER
Complete with a café, Mediterranean restaurant, piano bar, rooftop terrace, outdoor pool and a whole lot more in terms of amenities, Hotel Córdoba Center is a good place for those who like a lot of things to do at their hotel.
The rooms here are also decidedly sophisticated, with simple design and dark wood furniture; but it all comes at a relatively affordable price. In terms of location, you’ll find this hotel a few minutes’ walk away from a bus stop, as well as within a 10-minute walk of the nearest train station.
Sights nearby include the beautiful baroque façade of Palace de La Merced and the gardens next door, Jardines de la Merced, which are perfect for a leisurely stroll.
Set within the sprawling Jardines de la Victoria, Eurostars Palace is a stylish, design-led hotel, where the cool factor starts before you even walk through the door. The building in which this 5-star hotel is housed is all glass and rusted iron, making for a distinctive landmark in the city.
The rooms are minimalist, whitewashed and sumptuous places to rest your head at night, while amenities include an on-site piano bar, sophisticated restaurant and even a charming terrace café. A short walk to the old Jewish Quarter of Córdoba, Eurostars Palace is well placed to soak up some history – including the Roman Bridge, which isn’t too far from here either.
SHOPPING IN CÓRDOBA
Córdoba has plenty to offer the serious shopper, from large department stores and supermarkets to small speciality shops. In terms of souvenir shopping, this Andalucian city is perhaps best known for its silverware.
The main area for shopping in Cordoba is around the Plaza de las Tendillas, with a particularly good selection of shops being found on the Conde de Gondomar, the Ronda de los Tejares and the Ronda de los Tejares. This is the main commercial area of the city and the best place to shop for clothes, accessories and so on. El Corte Inglés, the well-known Spanish department store, also has a branch in Cordoba.
The city’s artisan jewelry workshops are considered to turn out quality pieces. Likewise, its handcrafted leather work is renowned throughout the world. Ceramics, flamenco gear, ornate fans and any number of ‘sombrero Córdobes’ and guitars are also on sale in the city.
If you are around for the summer sales in Córdoba, you may be able to find a bargain or two. The sales run from July to August. In the winter, many goods are discounted from mid-January until the end of February. Below are just a few shops that are ideal for mementos of your visit.
ARTESANÍA AL ANDALUS
One of the best gift shops in this busy and vibrant neighborhood of Córdoba is Artesanía Al Andalus, situated on the main street that winds away to the west of the cathedral. Traditional Andalusian pottery is the main draw here, alongside jewelry and ornaments bearing both Spanish and Arabic designs and paintings (many by local artists) of famous Córdoba sights –including, of course, renderings of the extraordinary Mosque-Cathedral. The gifts and souvenirs available in this classy little shop are a little pricier than those in the many cheap and cheerful streets stalls by which it’s surrounded, but if you want something a little bit special to remember your stay in Córdoba, Artesanía fits the bill.
MERCADILLO EL ARENAL
There are few better ways to show that you’ve really dug under the surface of a city than taking home something bought at one of its local markets. If you’re going to be in Córdoba on a Sunday, then the El Arenal market is a must visit for a truly authentic souvenir. Ranged along Calle de El Infierno, noisy vendors sell locally made jewelry, pottery and leather goods from some of the markets’ 240 plus stalls, whilst at others you can buy famous Andalusian foodstuffs such as high quality olive oils, wines and of course the delicious cured hams. Friends and family back home will be in little doubt where you’ve been if, upon arriving back from Córdoba, you walk in the door with a leg of jamón slung over your shoulder.
Another great place to head for consumable souvenirs and also for a wander around and a round of tapas is Mercado Victoria. Popular with the locals as well as tourists, this smart covered market is full of gourmet food stalls at which you can buy high end cheeses, cured meats, wines and olive oils as a memento of your time in Córdoba. Mercado Victoria is also where Córdobese foodies head to buy daily essentials and to exchange gossip, making for a lively atmosphere as you shop. When you’ve had enough of shopping, join them in the various posh tapas outlets for a cold Victoria beer and a tasty tapa.
In short, Córdoba is a fantastic place to visit, regardless of whether you live here or are simply on holiday. Highly recommended, just remember that intense summer heat!
Seville is the capital of its’ namesake province and is also the capital and largest city of the Spanish autonomous community of Andalusia.
It is situated on the lower reaches of the River Guadalquivir and enjoys a typical Mediterranean climate, basically it’s normally stiflingly hot and dry in the summer and pleasant in the winter.
Despite the fact it’s not actually too far from the coast, Seville is rarely visited by tourists and we feel it really should be!
So, let us try and tempt you …
EATING OUT IN SEVILLE
The food scene in Seville is simply unrivaled.
The self-proclaimed tapas capital of the world has so much to offer a food lover, you could live here for years and still have more to discover. From traditional abacerías (tiny grocery stores that often serve wine, cheese, and charcuterie), to traditional tapas bars, to some of Spain’s most inventive and modern cuisine, Seville is a city with a bit of everything and rarely disappoints. The prices are low, the quality is high, and as long as you know where to go and what to order, you can’t really go wrong. Check out a small selection of eateries below.
One of the city’s best spots for more modern tapas, La Azotea has multiple locations but you can’t go far wrong if you stick to their original bar on Calle Jesús del Gran Poder. The menu is constantly changing depending on the season, and you can instantly tell there is true passion in the kitchen. It’s always worth eating in the bar area where you can always order tapas portions with ease as well as see a bit behind the scenes, if that’s your thing of course.
BAR LAS GOLONDRINAS
Hidden away in Triana’s ceramics district, the classic spot is known for its delicious and simple tapas, including marinated vegetables such as radishes, carrots, and peppers. For hot plates try the punta de solomillo (grilled pork skewered atop bread) and their chipirones a la plancha (grilled cuttlefish). The mushrooms with alioli are also delicious!
A classic Seville restaurant and tapas bar, and one of the first in the city to add a modern touch to their menu. Owner Enrique and his son Javier are almost always there to greet you, and the service is outstanding! The plates offered here are inventive, and often touch on Andalusias’ Moorish past. If available, their lamb and date skewer (pincho de cordero con dátiles) and ajo blanco soup are both excellent choices.
Known to many as the best tapas bar in Seville, this tiny classic bar has kept their prices very low and the quality high. You can reserve a table, which is recommended because it gets packed. They do great seafood, especially coquinas (tiny clams) and fried ortiguillas (sea anemone). Basically, it’s worth going to…
WHERE TO STAY IN SEVILLE
Seville is a city that excites the senses. Exquisite architecture, rich history, delicious tapas, and fantastic flamenco – the Andalusian capital really has it all (almost)! But not all of the city’s neighborhoods, or barrios, have a lot to offer visitors, which is why we’ve made a small selection of where to stay during your time in this beautiful city, whether you’re a party animal, culture vulture, history buff or fearless foodie!
BLACK SWAN HOSTEL
Black Swan Hostel is one of the favorite hostels in Seville. Located in the center of El Arenal, this hostel is a short walk to the city’s top attractions, which is why it’s highly recommended as the best hostel in Seville.
It has a relaxing garden patio, rooftop terrace and spacious rooms with balconies. These are a mixture of private rooms and dormitories, ideal for students. There is also a full kitchen, common room, city views and Wi-Fi. A complete all rounder.
SANTA CRUZ HOUSE RESTORATION
This 500-year old beauty of a house is one of our favorite Airbnb places in Seville. It has three stories and is full of Spanish history and character. The room is your own private area, but the whole house is yours to explore and enjoy. Sit in the courtyard garden and enjoy your tea or coffee while listening to the trickle of the fountain. Enjoy a restful bath after a long day exploring the town. Cook a meal in the rustic style, well-equipped kitchen. Take in the beautiful sunshine and orange-blossom-scented air of Seville on the rooftop terrace. From the house, you are a short walk to the major sights, such as Catedral de Sevilla (4 min walk), Jardines de Murillo (4 min), Museo del Baile Flamenco (6 min), Iglesia del Salvador (9 min), and many others.
EXE SEVILLA MACARENA
Exe Sevilla Macarena is an awesome four star hotel located in the center of Seville, close to all the bars, clubs, restaurants and shops. This hotel has an amazing rooftop pool, an on-site restaurant and a terrace with spectacular views. The rooms are comfortable, spacious and incredibly relaxing. Located opposite the Macarena Basilica, Hotel Sevilla Macarena faces Seville’s ancient city walls, the ideal place for everyone, especially history lovers! Put simply though, it’s just a great place to stay in Seville.
SHOPPING IN SEVILLE
Seville is home to sprawling local produce markets and Andalusian artisans. If you’re looking for souvenirs to bring back home, Seville is the best place to stock up on local products. For the latest in fashion, Seville is also packed with the usual shopping chains and boutiques.
The heart of Seville’s shopping district is Calle Sierpes and the streets running parallel, Calle Velazquez Tetúan and Calle Cuna. Here you’ll find a vast array of both traditional and designer shops. Waft yourself silly with all types of traditional fans at Dizal, or lose time looking over the antique clocks at Enrique Sanchis.
Depending on what are you looking for, you will find the perfect areas to meet all your expectations: you can relax delve in an open- air markets, find out a special souvenir in the popular artisan shops in Arenal quarter or go shopping around in chain stores and El Corte Inglés.
Being one of the largest cities in Spain, there’s simply far too much to pick out just a few options, so best to just go and take the plunge, or do some research beforehand!
So there we are. A guide to some of the best cities in Andalucia that really are not visited as much as they should be in our view.
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