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Things to Do in Andalucia

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Alhambra (Alhambra de Granada)
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219 Tours and Activities
The Alhambra is not only Spain’s greatest architectural treasure, but one of the world’s wonders. It might not wow you right up front like a Taj Mahal or a Great Pyramid, but soon enough that austere exterior reveals a wonderland of musical fountains, cunningly devised gardens and finely carved palaces. Its construction was begun in the 11th century on the red hill known as Assabika, which overlooks Granada. The Alcazaba fortress was the first structure to be built, followed by the royal palace and residence of members of the court.
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Generalife Gardens
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The Generalife was built as a summer palace for the Muslim emirs, a place of retreat where they could kick back with their harems and take some time away from the world. Its charming gardens – undoubtedly the highlight of the Generalife - are still a prime place to do just that. Generalife Gardens are designed for tranquility, with everywhere the trickle of running water cooling the senses. Tall cypresses frame pathways, fountains play in arches over long pools, streams flow down staircases, flowers and flowering trees cast their scent, and hedges enclose serene little lawns. The sultana’s garden, with its ancient cypress trunk, was where one sultan’s wife trysted with her lover (and was caught, precipitating bloodshed – hard to believe as you stand in this artful paradise).
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Palace of Charles V (Palacio de Carlos V)
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The Palace of Charles V is a carefully designed statement of triumph and prestige. By building a royal residence in the heart of a conquered Muslim citadel, Charles honored his grandparents, the Catholic Monarchs, and celebrated the victory of Christianity over Islam. The palace is in the Roman style, with a circular building set in a square. It was begun in 1526. Work on it was abandoned for 15 years during Granada's Moorish uprising, and abandoned again in 1637, leaving the palace unfinished and roofless. Finally, in 1923, a plan was designed to rescue and complete it.
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Royal Alcázar of Seville (Real Alcázar de Sevilla)
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The Reales Alcazáres, often just called the Alcázar or Royal Alcázar Palace, started off life as a fort, but various generations of rulers transformed it, building palaces, halls, courtyards and the adjoining gardens. Although it's far smaller than the Alhambra, it has the same kind of impact. It too is World Heritage listed. Actually, it's hardly surprising that the Alcázar recalls the Alhambra; some of the Alhambra's most prominent architects worked on it. Their masterpiece is probably the Patio de las Doncellas with its delicate arches, garden and reflecting pool. The Alcázar is associated with many colorful figures, most notably Pedro I (often called Pedro the Cruel), who ordered much of the Alcázar's construction. The rainwater tanks underneath the building are named for one of his victims, a beauty whom he pursued so ruthlessly that she disfigured herself with burning oil and became a nun. Not least of the Alcázar's pleasures are its gardens with their palms, pools and pavilio
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Mezquita (Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba)
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Originally the site of the Christian Visigoth Church San Vicente, Córdoba’s Mezquita -- or Grand Mosque -- stands as the city's most proud monument and one of the most exquisite Islamic structures in the western world.

Its initial origins date back to the year 600 and, following the Islamic conquest in the 8th century, the site of the Visigoth church was actually split between Christians and Muslims for a time. Ultimately, it was bought out by the governor of al-Andalus, with the construction of the Islamic mosque beginning in 785 by Muslim emir Abdurrahman I.

Since then, the structure has evolved right along with Spanish history. A minaret was added, and the building was enlarged, reaching its final size in 987. Then, when Kind Ferdinand conquered Córdoba during the Reconquista in 1236, the structure was consecrated as a Christian Cathedral.

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Triana
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Just across the Isabel II Bridge, and squished between two parallel branches of the Guadalquivir River, you'll find Seville's Triana District. Originally founded as a Roman colony, this neighborhood -- like the rest of the city – has also been ruled by both Muslims and Christians. Over time it has served as a key strategic position as the last line of defense before invaders reached Seville's western walls. Traditionally, it has also been home to an eclectic mix of residents, from sailors and bullfighters to potters and flamenco dancers – all especially proud of their Triana heritage.

You can still see what endures of the barrio's eccentric personality in today's Triana. While visiting the neighborhood, keep an eye out for the few remaining (and culturally protected) corrales, which traditionally served as communal homes for the district's many Romani people.

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Seville Cathedral (Catedral de Santa María de la Sede)
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When the designers of the Seville Cathedral set out to build a new church on the site of the city's old mosque, they didn't hold back. They wanted the best of the best, excess of excess, and they got it. Building of this new cathedral 'like no other' began in the 1400s and wasn't completed until the 1500s. It's still the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world, and the third-largest church. It has 80 chapels. And oh, what's inside those chapels! Gold...and more gold; priceless works of art by the likes of Goya and Murillo; stained glass; and, it's said, the remains of Christopher Columbus. Next to the cathedral is the Giralda Tower, once the minaret of the mosque that made way for the cathedral, now a bell tower. Climb the steep ramps, designed for horses and riders, to the very top for incomparable views of Seville and its cathedral.
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Santa Cruz
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Whitewashed buildings, maze-like streets, and courtyards lined with orange trees: No place really defines Seville charm quite like the streets of the Santa Cruz district. As the city's former judería, or Jewish quarter, it is home to many of Seville's top sights, from the grand cathedral with its minaret-turned-tower (called the Giralda) to the Real Alcázar and its fountain-dotted gardens.

The neighborhood dates back to when Ferdinand III of Castile took Seville from Muslim rule, and the city's Jewish residents began to live in what is now El Barrio de Santa Cruz. After the Jews were expelled from Spain in 1492, however, the district fell into disrepair, until it was finally revived in the 18th century.

Apart from appreciating the district's history and seeing the main sights, perhaps the best thing you can do during a visit to Santa Cruz is to simply get lost in the barrio's streets.

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Inquisition Museum (Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge)
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In Seville’s Triana neighborhood, near the banks of the Guadalquivir River, the Castillo San Jorge was the headquarters of the Spanish Inquisition from 1481 to 1785. The 12th century castle was demolished in the 19th century to make room for a market and today the underground ruins of the castle are home to the Inquisition Museum.

Founded in 2009, the museum chronicles the religious purges that took place during one of the darkest periods of Spanish history. Visitors will learn about how the Inquisition occurred, from accusations and inquiries to detentions and torture, as well as about daily life in the castle for both prisoners and jailers. However, no devices of torture are displayed. Drawings show suspects wearing pointed caps and tunics marked with an X, and maps show the other major Inquisition-related sites in Seville.

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More Things to Do in Andalucia

Malaga Alcazaba

Malaga Alcazaba

66 Tours and Activities

If you’re in Malaga, chances are you’ve not missed the town’s citadel towering in the center of the city. Known as the Alcazaba de Malaga, and built around the middle of the 11th century to act as a palace to the region’s governors, today the Alcazaba receives visitors year-round and is noted for its impressive gardens and panoramic views of both the city and the sea.

La Alcazaba was built atop the vestiges of an old Roman fortress, and the proof of this is most evident in the Puerta de las Columnas gate (gate of the columns). Its name, in fact, refers and pays homage to the pre-existing roman structure used to help build the palace as it stands today. This gate and another lay before visitors on their way up to the structure which is actually two distinct architectural pieces: Alcazaba itself, and Gibralfaro Castle. Inside, you’ll see some of the noted gardens, fountains and towers in traditional Moorish design before entering the main lobby of the palace.

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Baños Árabes (Arab Baths)

Baños Árabes (Arab Baths)

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A hallmark of Granada’s Moorish tradition is its use of water – fountains, pools, trickling streams, and of course the Baños Árabes (Arabic baths). Although it might not reach quite the glorious heights of the Sultan’s own bath (Blind musicians! Dancing girls!), Granada’s Aljibe de San Miguel Arab Baths (San Miguel Hammam) is still a great way to relax after a tough day on the tapas. A soothing color scheme in yellow and blue, the waft of essential oils, chunky adobe pillars and seven pools with different temperatures will put you in a heavenly state of calm. If any stress lingers, choose some scented oils and treat yourself to an optional massage.
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Hammam Al Andalus Granada

Hammam Al Andalus Granada

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Located at the foot of the Alhambra, and just past Santa Ana Church, sits the tranquil Hammam Al Andalus Granada. This is where after a long day of padding through the Alhambra’s gardens, palace and fortress, you’ll want to rest your tired feet and relax your muscles – just as Granada’s Moors did so long ago.

The Moors didn’t do so precisely in this building, though, which only dates back to the 13th or 14th century. It is believed, however, that this is in fact the site of previous Muslim baths, given its location near the former mosque (now the Santa Ana Church), as well as the water cisterns discovered below the land. What happened to those ancient baths? At the time of the Reconquista, when Granada became occupied by the Christians, it is likely that—along with many other Muslim traditions and sites—these original baths ceased to continue.

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Torre del Oro

Torre del Oro

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Just steps away from the Alcázar, and perched upon the Guadalquivir River, stands one of Seville's most un-missable monuments from the past, the Torre del Oro, or Golden Tower.

The 12-sided tower dates back to the Almohad Dynasty, when it was constructed in the 13th century. The theories behind the name's origin vary: Some say it came from the tower's once gold-tiled exterior, others say that it was due to it being a drop-off and storage point for gold delivery from the New World, and still others believe the title is simply a result of the landmark's golden-hued reflection on the river.

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Seville Church of Santa Ana (Iglesia de Santa Ana)

Seville Church of Santa Ana (Iglesia de Santa Ana)

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The Church of Santa Ana is the oldest church in Seville. Located in the Triana neighborhood, the 13th-century church is home to impressive sculptures, paintings, jewelry and religious processional items, many of which are displayed throughout the interior chapels. Master Castilian stonemasons and Muslim master builders worked on the church, whose remarkable interior features columns topped by corbels decorated with castles, vine leaves, lions and human heads. Admire a conglomeration of architecture with a step inside the originally Gothic church and its Baroque-style reconstruction, added after an earthquake in the 17th century.

You can visit the church as part of a guided bike tour of Seville's highlights, which includes stops at San Jorge Castle and the Jewish Quarter, as well as souvenir photos.

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Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs (Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos)

Alcazar of the Christian Monarchs (Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos)

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Córdoba doesn't just have a Grand Mosque, but also a palace: the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos. Once the site of a Visigoth fortress, it was ultimately rebuilt to house the caliphs of Córdoba, before being taken over by the Christians. Once in their hands, the palace was famously home to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabel for eight years during the Spanish Inquisition. During that time, it was even visited by Christopher Columbus, who came to explain plans for his westward journey to the Catholic Kings.

The palace has gone through various rounds of re-buildings and modifications, with today's structure maintaining little of the Moorish one that stood before it. Even so, the present-day Alcázar still has a Moorish flavor, given the Múdejar style of design and architecture implemented under King Alfonso XI.

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Plaza de España

Plaza de España

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The Plaza de España is a magnificently proportioned semi-circular space designed for the Ibero-American World's Fair of 1929. It's edged by buildings and tile patterns that blend a Deco sensibility with traditional techniques. If it looks familiar, it may be because you've seen it acting as a backdrop in Star Wars II: Attack of the Clones. At the Plaza's center is an impressive fountain, and edging the buildings are little moats that you cross over elegant bridges. Next to the Plaza is the Maria Luisa Park, with its orange trees and formal gardens. These days the buildings in the Plaza are used by the government.
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Albaicín

Albaicín

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The Albaicin (also spelled Albayzin or Albaycin) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets still have a medieval feel. With its white buildings and deep-gardened mansions spilling down the hill, the Albaicin is beautiful in itself, but what makes it particularly stunning is its views of the Alhambra. (The views of the Albaicin from the Alhambra enhance that experience as well!) There's a viewing point by the church of St. Nicolas that offers particularly good Alhambra vistas.

The Albaicin was heritage-listed in 1984. Its name may have derived from settlers fleeing the Christian invasion of the town Baeza, or it may derive from an Arabic phrase meaning 'quarter of the falconers.' Despite the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it survived as a Muslim quarter for some decades, and you can still see the remains of Islamic bathhouses, mansions and fountains.

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Mirador de San Nicolás

Mirador de San Nicolás

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The biggest draw of Granada’s UNESCO-listed Albaycin quarter is the hilltop Mirador de San Nicolás, a small raised plaza that lies in front of the San Nicolás Church. This is the city’s most renowned lookout point, from where the magnificent panoramic views span the city center, the distant Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rio Darro canyon and, most famously, the grand Alhambra palace.

The small public square is a lively place to be at all times of the day, with a handful of craftsmen setting up shop along the paving stones and a roster of street musicians and flamenco dancers on hand to entertain visitors. The most atmospheric time to arrive is at dusk, when crowds of locals and tourists turn out to watch the sunset over the palace grounds, before adjourning to the restaurants and teashops of nearby Elvira Street.

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Plaza de la Merced

Plaza de la Merced

40 Tours and Activities

Picasso’s birthplace is located on the elegant Plaza de la Merced barely 200 yards (180 m) from the awesome Museo Picasso Malaga, which holds over 150 of his artworks. Standing at the end of Calle Alcazabilla, the sweeping square is dominated by an obelisk honoring General Torrijos, an aristocratic revolutionary who fought against French invasion of Spain and was publically executed here for his pains in 1831.

This bourgeois, tree-fringed piazza was once site of Málaga’s main produce market and is today lined with smart, shuttered and balconied townhouses, cafés and top-end restaurants. It lies at the very heart of the city and each night locals gather here to promenade and chat in the tapas bars. The last Sunday of the month sees Málaga’s main craft market held in the square, where local delicacies such as Serrano ham and tortilla are also on sale.

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Triana Bridge (Puente de Isabel II)

Triana Bridge (Puente de Isabel II)

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Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro)

Gibralfaro Castle (Castillo de Gibralfaro)

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The Castillo de Gibralfaro sits high above the seaside port of Malaga and can easily be seen by any traveller meandering about the city. It shares its history (and in fact, its very rudiments) with an adjoining archaeological treasure, the Malaga Alcazaba, also known for its stunning views and panoramic vistas.

Built in the early 10th century by Abd-al-Rahman III, this Malagan icon is situated on a hill which begins part of the Montes de Malaga mountain range. Another Muslim king, Yusef the First (also known as the Sultan of Granada) enlarged the castle at the beginning of the 14th century and added the double wall down to the Alcazaba that you see today. The castle is famous for its prominence in the landscape, but also for its history. Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella once levied a 3-month siege on the Castillo de Gibralfaro. This notable battle was the first time gunpowder was used on both fighting sides in all of recorded Western history.

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Seville Bullring (Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla)

Seville Bullring (Plaza de Toros de la Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla)

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Seville's bullring - or the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza de Cabellería de Sevilla, to give it its due - is the oldest in Spain. It was here that the corrida, or bullfight, moved from horseback to foot, and many of the cherished theatrical traditions of the matador evolved. The building was completed in the late 18th century and is a yellow-and-white baroque beauty. It's easy to imagine Bizet's Carmen meeting her passionate end here. During the Feria de Abril, a week-long celebration of all things Seville, the season's most prestigious fights are held. Every afternoon, crowds pack the Plaza de Toros (or 'the Cathedral' as the locals call it) to see man take on bull.
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Oasys MiniHollywood

Oasys MiniHollywood

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Just because you’re in Spain doesn’t mean that your experience need be limited to all things Spanish: Oasys Mini Hollywood transports its visitors straight to the good old Wild West. Originally just a movie set – used for films such as The Good, the Bad and the Ugly — the cowboy-style town is now a theme park, complete with daily mock shoot-outs, a can-can performance at the saloon, and much more.

Indeed, the park goes beyond just the Wild West fun, and also offers a proper zoo, which boasts more than 800 animals of 200 different species that range from lions to giraffes, tigers and iguanas. A trip to the zoo can also include a very kid-friendly parrot show as well. Meanwhile, if the Spanish temperatures at Oasys get too warm, take advantage of the park’s water zone and its two pools. Finally, if you get hungry, plan to fuel-up at the park’s well-priced buffet.
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