Basking in year-round sunshine, Andalucía shows off some classic Spanish scenes. Think fiery flamenco, Moorish architecture and whitewashed mountain villages, all waiting to show off real deal Spain.
Many of us have dipped a toe into the Costa del Sol’s sun-soaked sands and playful seaside resorts. But to call yourself an Andalucía aficionado, there are some cultural musts you simply have to tick off first…
Going grand in Granada
When it comes to wow factor, Granada’s world-famous Alhambra has it in spades. This ravishing royal residence sits in the shadow of the sky-piercing Sierra Nevada mountains. Part palace, part fortress, here you can expect a mix of robust ramparts and delicate gardens wrapping bubbling fountains and glass-like pools.
Weave among its ornate ochre arches and you could easily imagine the Moorish princes of the past sashaying about the place. Inside is just as impressive thanks to a fine finish of colourful tiles and intricate wood carvings that are so detailed they look like lace. Pre-book tickets though, as this palace is popular all year round.
Say hola to Seville
Nowhere is quite as Spanish – or as sultry – as Seville. Famous for its passion for flamenco, this is the city to catch a guitar-strumming performance in action. It’s such an important part of Andalucían culture that it even carries the UNESCO stamp of approval. Head to the scenic Santa Cruz neighbourhood and you’ll be spoilt for choice with intimate little bars dishing up nightly shows.
Santa Cruz is where you’ll find another of the city’s UNESCO showpieces – the Royal Alcázar. The beautiful burnt-orange arcades make it one of the prettiest palaces in Spain. This 11th-century example of ornamental Mudéjar architecture is still in use today, but it’s still open to the public for tours.
And you can’t say you’ve have a true taste of Seville until you’ve tried the local oranges – they’re just bursting with Spanish sunshine.
Cordoba’s crown jewel
Often hailed as the “Jewel of Cordoba”, Mezquite – or Great Mosque of Cordoba – is a mosque-cathedral complex that has to be seen to be believed. The great Abd al-Rahman III wanted to show off the city’s status as the centre of culture and art with this celebratory structure back in the 10th century. And show off he did…
There’s a film set feel here due the sheer size and scale for starters. And then there are the sunlit courtyards overflowing with orange trees, row upon row of striped arches and marble pillars, plus the Mihrab prayer room decked out top to toe in glittering gold mosaics. Grand doesn’t even begin to cover it. Thanks to years of divide and conquer between Moorish and Christian rulers, you’ll spot other styles too, from Renaissance touches to Gothic details.
Malaga’s many museums
The art scene in Malaga is booming and there are more than 30 museums to explore. It’s no wonder given that this pretty port city is the birthplace of none other than Picasso (explore the Foundation where he was born, along with a collection of his work, on Plaza de la Merced). Museum-wise, there feels like there’s nearly one for everything, from fashion, wine and cars to glass, traditions and music!
But if modern art’s more up your street, stick the CAC Malaga on your to-do list. Inside this vast old warehouse is a collection of more than 400 pieces from the 1950s onwards. And swing by Centre Pompidou, an extension of the famous Paris gallery – you can’t miss its multi-coloured cube entrance.
Ancient Arab flavours in Almeria
Almeria’s star attraction is without doubt its mighty Alcazaba – a close second to Granada’s Alhambra as Spain’s largest Arab fortress. This imposing, 10th-century castle stands guard over the golden-stone city from its hilltop home. It’s even starred in TV’s Game of Thrones as the capital of Dorne, the House Martell’s stomping ground, not to mention films like Conan the Barbarian and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
After walking along the walls to soak up the sky-high panoramas, put your feet up Spanish style, under the shade of a leafy palm in one of the gardens.
Posted: 20th Apr 2019.