Andalusia is a warm and welcoming region, full of historical masterpieces, good food and wild dancing.
Here come my tips to make the most of a week‘s vacation there.
Where to go in one week
The must-see places in Andalusia are Seville, Granada and Cordoba. You won’t really have time for more in a week. I don’t recommend Jerez de la Frontera, unless it’s for the Moto GP or you’re a fan of Sherry and Malaga. Instead, it is worth a quick stop in the so-called white villages.
Our program was:
– Seville (3 nights)
– White villages (Zahara, Setenil, Ronda, Setenil)
– Granada (2 nights)
– Cordoba (2 nights)
– Jerez de la Frontera
Things to know before you go
We rented a car at Seville airport. We used it to travel between cities. On the spot we moved on foot. Parking in the center of Seville is complicated, we left the car in a free area on Avenida Kansas city.
Rooms in Spanish hotels are often tiny. In Seville it is better to have a hotel near the center. In Cordoba we found a good airbnb right outside the walls.
Food, music & monuments
Andalusian cuisine is good and cheap. Unfortunately you don’en if you don’t eat well everywhere, so I will tell you the best dishes I had and where. To quench my thirst and relax from the heat I loved drinking tinto de verano (red wine with lemonade). Flamenco is an institution here, we saw various dances in the streets and a general lively atmosphere.
To avoid unnecessary queues, book the most important monuments well in advance. Only the Mesquita-Cathedral of Cordoba is not bookable.
When to go
Andalusia is very hot. Best time to go in early spring or autumn. We stayed in late April and during the day we had around 25 degrees celsius. Granada is cooler, especially in the evening.
1. Seville (3 nights)
We landed in the evening so my first memory is the fried fish eaten at Frieduria de la carne, a take away that makes mostly fish, with tables outside. The cod is excellent, a little too much vinegar on the small fishes, a little too spicy the fish bites. But I recommend it (as an alternative try Frieduria La Isla).
We started our visit by heading south to one of the most beautiful squares I have ever seen: plaza d’Espaňa. An oval structure, surrounded by a canal and half by a baroque building, where you can find free flamenco lessons. Amazing.
If you want to go a little further south, go to the plaza de America within Maria Luisa park and have a drink (perhaps a tinto de verano).
One of Andalusia‘s wonder (a name of Arab origin) is the presence of many historical places from the Muslim period (8th-16th century). In Seville, going up towards the center, you find a Arabic-Andalusian fortress, the royal Alcazar. Inside stands a courtyard and a garden that were sets of some episodes of Game of Thrones (for the fans, it was Dorne).
In the centre, the attractions are the Giralda tower and the Cathedral, which has a stunning golden altar and a beautiful garden of orange trees. By the way, Seville is full of decorative orange trees, somehow likewise they do in Sorrento with lemon trees.
If you want to have a non-tutistic breakfast go to El Picadero a small and uncomfortable bar and take a tostada de pringa, a kind of toasted sandwich filled withpaprika flavored blend of minced and roasted meat. Not good looking, but tasted good.
For a quick lunch you have some tapas at Flor de taranzo, it has a little retro charm and you eat fairly. For dinner there are various options north of the center, in the Alfalfa district, but I found no palce where I wanted and I was disappointed of what I had. Instead, I really enjoyed La Bartola whose tapas and rationes – which are meant to be the middle size between tapa and course, but usually are a generous portion in Andalusia – are very good. I especially liked the grilled small cuttlefish (chipirones).
A strange place to go for a drink is El Garlochí, a cocktail bar with a nice counter, but decorated like a church. Very kitsch!
In the north side there is the Macarena district, not particularly interesting, except if you want a photo with the arch.
Some other places to see: the gold tower, the San Telmo palace (from outside), the church of Santa Maria Magdalena.
If you are interested in flamenco, you can go to a show at casa de la guitarra or casa del flamenco, it seems they are well done but for a more authentic experience I recommend you go to a bar in the Triana district. Behind the cathedral you will easily find someone performing on the street.
2. The white villages
Leaving early in the morning from Seville towards Granada, we stopped in some villages, known as the pueblos blancos (white villages – the name derives from the color of the houses). It took about eight hours considering all the stops and lunch.
Zahara de la sierra is a beautiful seen from afar, the village itself is nice and from under the citadel there is a beautiful view on the valley.
Grazalema‘s only point of interest is the main sqaure with the old church.
Ronda is the most famous of these villages. The main attraction is puente nuevo (the new bridge) that you must absolutely see from below the village – it is not easy to understand how, there is a steep cobbled street after the bridge on the right -, pity only for tugly building (a hotel) which ruins the scenery. From the city you can instead enjoy the view of the gorge (el tajo) on which the city is built.Ronda is also very important for bullfighting, if you want to see a plaza de toros in Andalusia I recommend this.
The last and most original stage was in Setenil de Las Bodegas, a village literally built in a mountain. Stop for a walk with your head up.
3. Granada (2 nights)
The city of Granada is located on the high ground compared to the rest of the region, this makes it a little less warm, especially in the evening. Getting around on foot is more tiring due to the constant ups and downs.
The big attraction is the famous Alhambra, the UNESCO site citadel that was the last outpost of Islam in Spain (the sultan surrendered in 1492).
The complex is very large, there are many buildings and gardens. Everything has been renovated, so they don’t look exactly like they used to, but it is really beautiful. First thing you will find is the Alcazaba, the defensive fortified area.
The Nasrid palaces stand out with its beautiful courtyards and rooms with the charm of Arab architecture.
On the same tour you will find yourself crossing a bridge and finding yourself on a hill overlooking the Alhamabra, and you will walk through the Generalife gardens, which are very beautiful although not authentic.
If you want to have the best view of the city and the Alhambra and are not afraid of the climb (a piece can be done by bus) go to the San Nicolás viewpoint.
It is a bit crowded, but afterwards you can grab a local dessert from the ice cream maker under the square, the pionono de Santa Fé, an interesting pastry with a pudding filling.
Granada is also famous for its gypsies who live in the caves of Sacromonte. Here in the evening there are many flamenco shows. Personally we did not go – it is a little complicated to reach – also because we saw a wonderful outdoor performance in plaza nueva.
Other things to visit include the Cathedral, the royal chapel (there was a lot of queue and we did not visit it). Nearby is the alcaiceria – the bazaar – which is nothing special.
In Granada I found my favorite restaurant in Andalusia, and beyond. It is the Kiosko Las Titas, which has a beautiful garden. The portions are huge, so take only “raciones” (the plato is also enough to divide into two). The cured meats de bellota are outstanding (i.e from pigs reared only with acorns), artichokes and anchovies are excellent, mixed fry is also good. And they offer great value for money.
If you look for some life in the evening, head to the Plaza de Bib-Rambla.
4. Córdoba (2 nights)
We had a great time in Cordoba. We came just during the week of the May crosses. The festival is held in the first week of the month, and is characterized by beautiful floral creations on which stands a red flower cross.
There was a festive atmosphere on the streets. In the evening we saw a flamenco show on a stage in plaza de las tendillas and I remember with great pleasure a group of people who spontaneously danced outside a bar near puerta del puente.
The oldtown is within the walls and well preserved. The narrow streets allow you to have more shade during the day, a very welcome trick. Stroll around, you will find some very beautiful views.
The reason for the tourists to come is the Mezquita-Cathedral, a unique monument in the world, a large mosque inside which they built a church.
The arches of the columns are the most fascinating element.
You can’t miss the Alcazar of the Christian kings for its beautiful garden.
The Roman bridge and the gate are beautiful; in my opinion the remains of the synagogue and the church of the holy grace are less interesting.
Cordoba’s iconic dish of Cordoba is samorejo, a soup not as world famous as gaspacho. It is an orange-colored cold tomato and stale bread soup topped with hard-boiled eggs cut into wedges and diced serrano ham.
Another specialty is mazamorra, again a cold soup with garlic, almonds, apples and raisins hydrated in sherry. The fried cuttlefish cut into strips (shaped like churros actually) which I hade at Casa Rubio was also very good.
For some live music I recommend a few places around plaza de tendrillas, e.g. at Cafè Malaga they play jazz.
Do not miss the most enjoyable experience of the trip and go to the Hammam al Andalus (book well in advance) for a massage and a bath in the hammam. Architecture-wise it’s amazing and the service is excellent and at a good price, best go there in the evening to cleanse and relax after the day.
Bonus. Moto GP at Jerez de la Frontera
We hadn’t planned on a stop in Jerez, but as a stroke of luck we received the passes for the paddock of the Moto GP whose qualifiers were on the very day we were leaving. I’m no biker, but it was fun to see the big bikes racing and admire by close the official Moto GP Ducati.
We stopped quickly in downtown Jerez (completely deserted, they were all at the circuit!), and we learned soon that the only attraction is sherry wine (in Spanish jerez precisely). I’ve tried several ones, but frankly I don’t like it.
That’s all about my week in Andalucia!
Do you feel like going? Leave a comment.