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Discover Andalusia: The Best Places To Visit In Southern Spain

Southern Spain’s Andalucia region is often overlooked in favor of popular destinations like Barcelona and Madrid, but this treasure trove of cultural riches has a unique charm all its own. The blend of traditional European and Islamic influences is evident in the architecture, a result of the Moorish occupation that lasted from approximately 700 to 1300 AD, with exact dates varying by city. One of the most striking features of Andalucian architecture is the Mudéjar style, which emerged during this period of Islamic rule. Visitors will be captivated by the region’s stunning UNESCO World Heritage sites, quaint towns, and relaxing beaches, making it a must-see for anyone traveling to southern Spain.

Best Cities in Southern Spain

In the southern region of Spain, known as Andalusia, lies a treasure trove of vibrant cities, each boasting its own unique character, rich history, and captivating energy. From Seville’s grandeur to Granada’s mystique, Málaga’s cosmopolitan charm, and Córdoba’s ancient allure, every city in this region is a must-visit destination for any traveler seeking an unforgettable experience.


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Seville, the capital city of Andalucia, is an enchanting destination that effortlessly blends vibrant colors with Mudeljar influences. The city’s buildings are adorned with tiled mosaics and arched doorways, while tapas bars serve some of the best Andalusian cuisine in town.One of Seville’s most iconic attractions is the Real Alcazar, a royal palace steeped in history dating back to the 1200s. As you wander through its grand courtyards and beautiful archways, you’ll be surrounded by colorful mosaics on every surface.The Plaza de España, built for the Ibero-American Fair in 1929, is another must-visit spot. This breathtaking square boasts a curved building lined with a colonnade, bridges crossing a canal, towers at each end, and stunning blue, white, and yellow tiled mosaics throughout. The tiled alcoves dedicated to different regions of Spain are particularly charming.Other notable attractions include the majestic Cathedral and La Giralda Bell Tower (built on a former mosque), the iconic Torre del Oro standing proudly along the Guadalquivir River, and the expansive Maria Luisa Park.Visits to private palaces like Casa de Pilatos and Palacio de las Dueñas offer a glimpse into Seville’s wealthy and historic past. During Holy Week, the city comes alive with the traditional celebration of Santa Semana. Witness the processionals as ‘penitents’ take to the streets with bands, floats, and elaborate costumes to commemorate the Passion of Christ – an unforgettable cultural experience.


Granada, one of Andalucia’s most storied cities, boasts an unparalleled treasure from the Moorish era – the Alhambra, a UNESCO World Heritage site that draws in millions of visitors each year. This breathtaking complex comprises multiple palaces, a military fortress, lush gardens, and a medieval village. The Moors built it in the 13th century, leaving their mark on the city until the Christian conquest in the 16th century. Amidst this rich history lies the crowning jewel: the Nasrid Palaces. Wander through room after room of resplendent stucco sculptures adorning walls and ceilings, complemented by intricately patterned tiles and columns galore. The Moorish architecture is nothing short of opulent, rivaling any European palace I’ve had the pleasure to behold.

Granada’s reputation extends far beyond Alhambra’s grandeur, however. The Albaicin neighborhood, a historic all-white enclave perched on a hill opposite Alhambra, takes center stage for its meandering cobbled streets and sunset vistas that never fail to mesmerize. Just as captivating is Sacromonte, another ancient white neighborhood, where the winding streets and cave houses carved into cliffs evoke the mystical origins of Flamenco dancing. Today, visitors can still catch a cave flamenco show in Sacromonte, immersing themselves in Granada’s storied past.


Cadiz, a city with a rich history, proudly claims the title of oldest standing city in all of Europe. This esteemed port city has been shaped by the influences of Phoenician, Roman, Moorish, and Spanish cultures, weaving together a tapestry of architectural, cultural, and artistic heritage.

Visitors can delve into this storied past by exploring iconic landmarks like the Cádiz Cathedral, the ancient Roman Theater, and the imposing Castillo de San Sebastián. Additionally, the Torre Tavira watchtower, coastal promenade, and picturesque beaches along the Mediterranean coast offer a wealth of experiences to be savored.

Cadiz’s architectural landscape is characterized by beautifully whitewashed buildings, charming plazas, and proximity to an array of waterfront activities. The city’s culinary scene is equally impressive, with an abundance of fresh seafood options available. Furthermore, Cadiz holds significance as the birthplace of Spain’s first constitution in 1812.

For those fortunate enough to visit in February, Cadiz hosts one of Spain’s largest and most vibrant Carnival celebrations. This festive atmosphere adds to the city’s allure, making it a must-visit destination for anyone seeking to experience the authentic spirit of this historic port city.


Malaga, a Mediterranean gem situated on Spain’s Costa del Sol, seamlessly blends historic charm with beachside allure. As one of southern Spain’s most beloved coastal towns, it has long captivated visitors with its unique blend of old-world intrigue and sun-kissed appeal.

Among Malaga’s top attractions is the Alcazaba, a majestic Moorish palace that stands as a testament to the city’s rich history. Unlike many other palaces in the region, the Alcazaba boasts a semi-ruined grandeur, its brick and stone façade exuding an air of romance and mystique.

Within its imposing walls, you’ll discover labyrinthine passages, hidden courtyards, and sweeping views that will leave you enchanted. The complex’s many nooks and crannies are waiting to be explored.

No visit would be complete without venturing up to the Castillo de Gibralfaro, a military fortress perched atop a hill overlooking the city. This ancient stronghold is steeped in history and offers breathtaking vistas of Malaga’s sun-drenched landscape.

The massive Cathedral of Malaga, too, is an absolute must-see. Its imposing façade and storied past make it a standout attraction in this already historic city.

Malaga holds another claim to fame: it’s the birthplace and childhood home of Picasso, the renowned artist. The Picasso Museum, situated just steps from Old Town, offers a fascinating glimpse into his artistic evolution over the years – even for those who may not be ardent fans of his work.

Finally, Malagueta Beach, a long stretch of sand flanking Old Town, is a popular spot to soak up the sun and enjoy the sea views. And just beyond the city’s limits, you’ll find more beautiful beaches waiting to be discovered.


Cordoba, a small city with a distinct charm, is a personal favorite among all Spanish cities. The town’s essence is defined by two primary attractions: its breathtaking patios in the Jewish quarter, adorned with vibrant flowers, and the awe-inspiring Mezquita Mosque-Cathedral. The latter, built in 987, was once the second-largest mosque in the Islamic world. Today, it remains a marvel due to its unique red and white striped arches that fill the interior.Fortunately, when Christians conquered the region, they left the Mezquita largely untouched, incorporating only a few Catholic elements to transform it into a cathedral. This ancient site is an absolute must-visit in southern Spain.Beyond the Mezquita, Cordoba is renowned for its picturesque patios – privately owned courtyards hidden within buildings that their owners meticulously decorate with colorful flowers, often suspended blue flower pots along the walls and incorporating features like staircases, fountains, wells, and ladders into the design. These intimate spaces can be explored throughout the year, but the Patio Festival in May is a great time to visit, as over 50 patios are open to the public and residents go all out in decorating for the festival.Other notable attractions include the Roman Bridge, dating back to the 1st century AD; the synagogue, one of only three remaining synagogues in Spain; the charming Calleja de las Flores flower alleyway; and the Palace of the Christian Monarchs, a lovely palace with beautiful gardens.


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In southern Spain, the city of Ronda may be small in size, but its architectural treasures are awe-inspiring. The Puente Nuevo, a colossal bridge standing at 98 meters (321 feet) tall, is the crowning jewel of Andalucia. Spanning the El Tajo gorge, this iconic landmark separates the Old Town and the New Town of Ronda, which are built on the cliffs above the gorge. This imposing structure is the must-see attraction in town, offering multiple vantage points from above and below. Visitors can walk down into the gorge to appreciate its grandeur from a different perspective. I firmly believe that Ronda is well worth visiting solely for this architectural marvel – it’s truly breathtaking.

Best Villages to Visit in Southern Spain

Southern Spain’s picturesque villages, known as “pueblos blancos,” stand out for their uniform white facades, giving them a distinctive charm and making for breathtaking vistas. The Route of the Pueblos Blancos is a coveted road trip route that allows visitors to experience the essence of this region. A visit to Andalucia would be incomplete without exploring at least a few of these captivating villages.


Frigiliana’s picturesque charm is undeniable, earning it a reputation as one of Spain’s most beautiful towns. The village’s serene atmosphere is characterized by pristine whitewashed houses, vibrant window and door frames, and lush greenery spilling out onto the cobblestone streets. The unique stone patterns on the lanes add to Frigiliana’s charm, solidifying its status as a top destination in southern Spain.Panoramic viewpoints scattered throughout the town offer breathtaking views of the village, the valley below, and the sparkling Mediterranean Sea – just seven kilometers away from the coast. Visitors can explore the historic San Antonio de Padua parish, marvel at the ancient Fuente Vieja fountain, stroll through the tranquil Santa Fiora botanical garden, and ascend to the Castle of Frigiliana ruins for a bird’s-eye view of the town.Frigiliana also boasts a rare sugar mill producing sugar cane honey in Europe. While the mill itself is not open to visitors, the adjacent shop offers a taste of this unique sweetener, which boasts a more robust flavor than molasses due to its minimal processing. This distinct sugar cane honey is just one of Frigiliana’s many treasures waiting to be discovered.

Setenil de las Bodegas

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Setenil de las Bodegas, a town like no other, boasts a fascinating history as a troglodyte village, with homes carved into the surrounding cliff walls. While there are other cave houses scattered throughout the world – Granada being a notable example – it’s Setenil’s unique geography that sets it apart. The cliffs not only form the foundation of the town but also wrap around and beneath its streets, creating an otherworldly ambiance.

Wandering through the village is a must-do, as you stumble upon charming, picturesque spots hidden beneath massive rocky overhangs. These natural tunnels add to the town’s whimsical charm, making Setenil de las Bodegas a top destination in southern Spain. As an added bonus, the town offers multiple viewpoints and quaint churches to explore, making it an easy day trip from Seville.


Olvera, a quaint white village in southern Spain, often flies under the radar of tourists. However, this charming town boasts an array of intriguing attractions that warrant exploration. The first notable feature is its distinctive skyline, where the town’s buildings sit flatly on the plain and the imposing Cathedral of Olvera rises majestically from a small hill, dominating the scene. Next to the cathedral stands the Castillo Arabe, an ancient castle perched on yet another hill, with a unique design that seamlessly merges with the rock contours, resulting in an irregular shape. The historic Barrio de la Villa, nestled behind the cathedral, is a must-visit. This picturesque neighborhood was once home to the Muslims and features narrow lanes lined with flowers, beautifully decorated doorsteps, and a serene atmosphere. Furthermore, visitors can pick up the Via Verde de la Sierra at the town’s edge, a scenic 36-kilometer greenway for cycling or walking (though popular among bikers). Rentals are available in town, allowing you to explore the numerous aqueducts and tunnels along the path, taking in the breathtaking views.


Jaen defies categorization as one of Andalucia’s white villages, instead boasting a medieval aesthetic with limited Islamic influence characteristic of other cities in the region. What sets Jaen apart is its reputation as the olive oil capital of Spain. As the world’s largest producer and exporter of olive oil, Spain’s Iberian landscape is dotted with olive trees stretching as far as the eye can see.

Visitors to Jaen can immerse themselves in the city’s rich olive oil heritage by taking a tour of the numerous mills scattered throughout the area. The town also boasts an impressive array of cultural attractions, including the colossal Cathedral of Jaen, the Arab baths, and the imposing Villardompardo Palace.

Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez de la Frontera, situated just an hour from Seville, is a treasure trove of unique experiences. The Royal Andalusian School, renowned worldwide, hosts mesmerizing horse ballets, where the elegant Andalusian breed horses perform in harmony with traditional Spanish music and riders clad in historical attire. This equestrian art form is an unforgettable experience, offering a glimpse into southern Spain’s rich cultural heritage.Beyond its equestrian wonders, Jerez de la Frontera is situated in the heart of Spanish wine country, boasting numerous wine cellars that invite visitors to discover the art of sherry wine production and sample various varieties. As the birthplace of this iconic wine, Jerez proudly showcases its expertise and passion for viticulture.Jerez de la Frontera is also hailed as one of the cradles of Flamenco dancing, making it a must-visit destination for aficionados of this passionate art form. The city’s many parks, gardens, and historical sites, such as the 11th-century Alcázar of Jerez de la Frontera, a Moorish fortress, offer a serene backdrop to explore and absorb the city’s rich history.


Marbella, nestled on Spain’s Mediterranean coast, exudes opulence and charm. This luxurious resort town boasts breathtaking beaches, with golden sands giving way to crystal-clear waters. The two most sought-after shores are Playa de la Fontanilla and Playa de Nagueles, offering a perfect blend of relaxation and adventure opportunities like snorkeling or jet skiing.Beyond its stunning coastline, Marbella’s old town is a treasure trove of beauty, with whitewashed buildings adorned with vibrant flower pots in a classic southern Spain style. However, the town’s true focus lies in luxury, catering to high-end visitors seeking upscale experiences. Expect to find lavish shopping options, world-class golfing, rejuvenating spas, Michelin-starred restaurants, and an array of yachts docked in port. When night falls, Marbella transforms into a vibrant hub of nightlife, hosting an international film festival that draws attention from around the globe.

Caminito del Rey

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The Caminito del Rey, nestled in the mountainous countryside of southern Spain, is not a village but rather a thrilling hiking trail that winds its way through a scenic gorge. The journey begins with a wooden walkway suspended precariously along the side of towering cliffs, where the base of the canyon comes alive with the gentle flow of a blue-green river. As you navigate the path, the scenery shifts dramatically – at times, the walkway hugs the mountain face, while other sections bring you closer to the ground as the canyon opens up in a majestic display. The pièce de résistance is the suspension bridge that connects the final stretch of this one-way downhill hike, which can be completed in just a few hours. This effortless adventure makes for an excellent day trip from Malaga, offering breathtaking vistas and an unforgettable experience.

Plan a Trip To Southern Spain!

Andalusia is a treasure trove of rich culture, stunning landscapes, and captivating history. This southern Spanish region is renowned for its mouthwatering cuisine, awe-inspiring historical sites, charming architecture, and breathtaking vistas along the Costa del Sol. From there, you can explore numerous other destinations that would take an eternity to cover in this blog post alone. The list of things to do in Andalusia is endless! While Barcelona and Madrid are undoubtedly must-visit cities in Spain, I highly recommend carving out some time for at least a few of these charming cities or villages. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed; the region’s unique allure will leave you just as enchanted as it did me.