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Things to Do in Andalucia

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Museo Picasso Málaga
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31 Tours and Activities

It stands to good reason that there would be a museum of the great Picasso in Andalucia’s Malaga: this is where the painter, draughtsman, and sculptor was born, after all. Located only 200 yards from the Plaza de la Merced, Picasso’s actual birthplace, the Museo Picasso Malaga holds over 150 works of the famous Picasso on permanent display and presents new rotating exhibits year-round.

Picasso was revolutionary in his time for co-founding the Cubist movement and for the wide variety of artistic styles he helped explore. And while his most well-known works are typically referred to his period paintings, Picasso worked across a variety of mediums. Sketchbooks from his early years where he focused on realism, a variety of cubist ceramic pieces, and some intricate engravings are on permanent display at the Museo Picasso Malaga, and many of these pieces were personal gifts from his living descendants.

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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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Inquisition Museum (Museo Del Castillo De San Jorge)
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26 Tours and Activities

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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Alcaicería
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A maze of narrow streets running between Plaza Nueva and Plaza Bib-Rambla in the historic Arabic quarter of Granada, the Alcaicería was once a lively Arab bazaar and the center of the city’s Muslim silk exchange. Sadly, the original gated bazaar was almost entirely destroyed by a fire back in 1843 and today the restored shops occupy a much smaller space, dotted around Calle Alcaiceria, in the shadows of the Cathedral of Granada.

Despite it’s pared down size, the Alcaicería is still one of Granada’s most atmospheric areas, with a plethora of traditional craft and souvenir stores crammed with ceramics, silver jewelry, and alpaca knitwear, and stalls hawking an array of exotic spices, silks and incense. Wandering around the markets is an experience in itself, but with vendors happy to barter for goods, it’s also a great place to pick up some bargains. Look out for local specialties like fajalauza (hand painted ceramics) and granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps).

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Plaza Bib Rambla
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Also known as the Plaza de las Flores (Square of Flowers), the pedestrianized Bib Rambla is an elegant and ancient square at the epicenter of Granada’s bustling and late-night street scene Central to the plaza is a 17th-century marble fountain featuring Neptune supported by four giants, and to the northeast, the bell tower of Granada’s imposing Spanish Renaissance cathedral peers over townhouse façades decorated with wrought-iron balconies and arcaded doorways.

The piazza was used for bullfights in Moorish times, and a labyrinthine silk souk grew up in Alcaicería just to the east, of which only a few remnants now remain among the souvenir stores. But following the Christian re-conquest of Granada by King Ferdinand V and Queen Isabella I in 1492, it became the center of purges of Islamic literature as well as autos-de-féenforcing Muslims to convert to Christianity.

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Hammam Al Ándalus Málaga
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Centuries ago, when Spain was under Muslim rule, Arab baths could be found in locations throughout the south. These hammams are said to have served as places of purification, hygiene and relaxation. Though few remain, you can still get a feel—in more ways than one—for what these tranquil getaways were like by experiencing the Hammam Al Andalus in Malaga.

Located in a historic building just off Martyers Square and next to an old Mudejar-towered church, this hammam—or Arab bath—features Moorish-inspired architecture. Think details such as horseshoe-shaped arches, colorful tiled walls, and ethereal lighting created by star-shaped skylights in the overhead dome. As is tradition, the Hammam Al Andalus has cold, warm and hot baths, as well as a steam room, and rest room, where you can relax and sip on traditional mint tea. Lasting 1.5 hours, the sessions allow guests to experience the various pools when not enjoying their massage.

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La Caleta Beach
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Given that Cadiz is almost entirely surrounded by water, the desire to hit thebeach is bound to strike you at some point. When this happens, your go-to destination will be La Caleta, the only proper beach in old town. It’s an isolated shoreline that cozies up along the western side of the city, nestled inside a natural harbor once used by the Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Romans.

Though it’s Cadiz’s shortest sandy shore, it ticks all the beach boxes, offering soft golden sands and calm waters, as well as amenities including lifeguards and showers. Perhaps best of all is that the beach is western facing, which means it’s the perfect spot in town to catch a dreamy Spanish sunset. While there, spy some of La Caleta’s notable sights, including the impossible-to-miss crescent-shaped Balneario de Nuestra Señora de la Palma y del Real, a 1920s spa whose gazebo-tipped arms reach out across the shore.

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La Malagueta Bullring (Plaza de Toros de La Malagueta)
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Málaga’s beautiful and Neo-Mudejar La Malagueta bullring was built in 1874 by Spanish architect Joaquín Rucoba and is today privately owned by wealthy entrepreneur and former president of Málaga Football Club, Fernando Puche Doña. The arcaded stadium has capacity for 14,000 spectators, stables and training grounds for the horses, corrals for the bulls and even a mini-hospital.

The tiny but fascinating Museo Taurino Antonio Ordoñez – dedicated to one of Spain’s best-loved matadors, who was born in nearby Ronda – provides an insight into the history of bullfighting and displays some sparkly bullfighters’ costumes (traje de luces – literally ‘suit of lights’) and swishy red capes (muletas). A memorial to Ordoñez stands outside.

There are daily bullfights during Semana Santa (Easter Week) and the Feria Taurina (Bullfighting Festival) throughout July and August.

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More Things to Do in Andalucia

Pablo Picasso Birthplace Museum (Museo Casa Natal de Picasso)

Pablo Picasso Birthplace Museum (Museo Casa Natal de Picasso)

12 Tours and Activities

Picasso’s life in Spain spanned nearly all of the country’s corners, from the northwestern region of Galicia to big-city Barcelona, and, of course, Andalucia, where he was born in 1881. Indeed, it is in Malaga at the now-titled Casa Natal Picasso — Picasso’s former family home, located in the heart of Malaga’s old town — where he spent his first, and perhaps most formative years.

Today, you can visit the artist’s childhood house, which is now the headquarters for the Fundación Picasso, a foundation that studies and promotes the artist’s work. The museum features more than 4,000 pieces by some 200 artists, including Picasso, as well as other contemporary artists. It also houses a variety of objects related to Picasso’s childhood, family, and his connection to Spain and the south.

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Pilate's House (La Casa de Pilatos)

Pilate's House (La Casa de Pilatos)

8 Tours and Activities

La Casa de Pilatos, or the House of Pilate, is surrounded by uncertain legends. The building was certainly finished by the Marquis of Tarifa after his return from a Grand Tour of Europe and the Holy Land in the mid-16th century, and the Italian Renaissance elements show his infatuation with what he'd seen.

But the Pilate reference? Some say the house is a copy of a ruined palace, supposedly Pilate's, that the Marquis saw in the Holy Land. Others talk of a correlation between the original Pilate house's proximity to Golgotha, the site of Christ's death, and the proximity of the Marquis' house to a local chapel.

La Casa de Pilatos has a grand Imperial air, with ancient statues, elaborate tiles, a courtyard fountain and elaborate ceilings. Its mix of Mudéjar and Italian Renaissance elements was to prove massively influential.

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El Pópulo

El Pópulo

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To truly soak up the magic of Cadiz, plan to explore its oldest neighborhood, El Populo. The barrio dates back to the 13th century, and gets its name from an image of the virgin that once stood vigil above one of El Populo’s gates. It read “ora pro populo,” meaning “pray for the village.”

The grand Cadiz Cathedral, which rises high above the city skyline with its golden-hued dome, dominates El Populo. There are other sights to see here, too, such as City Hall, the almost-hidden Roman theater, and a handful of famous arches (or gates), one of which includes the aforementioned Arco del Populo. Perhaps one of El Populo’s most beloved sights, however, is simply its tiny tangle of streets that will have you happily lost, and certainly never far from the sea.

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San Jeronimo Monastery (Monasterio de San Jerónimo)

San Jeronimo Monastery (Monasterio de San Jerónimo)

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The great Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel founded the Monasterio de San Jerónimo in the 16th century. They tried situating it in Santa Fe, but the monks were so tortured by mosquitoes that they had to move them to the present site.

. Built by Diego de Siloé, this monastery is hardly austere: it’s a heavily ornamented riot of gilding, carving and celestially-hued painting.

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La Viña

La Viña

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Get to know the essence of Cadiz during a wander through one of its most beloved old quarter neighborhoods, La Viña. The name, which means “the vine,” was inspired by its previous life when it served as land for vineyards. That was, of course, before buildings cropped up to accommodate the city’s population, which grew due to increasing trade with the Americas in the 18th century.

Since its vineyard days, this area has been known as a fishermen neighborhood given its easy access to the sea via La Caleta Beach. It should come as no surprise, then, that this is the ideal place in town to sample some of Cadiz’s best seafood, particularly pescaito frito, a dish of fried local fish for which Southern Spain is famous. Apart from tapas hopping — particularly along the main drag Calle de la Palma — La Viña is also ripe with flamenco bars, and is the epicenter of Carnival celebrations, arguably the city’s most important festival.

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Carmen Thyssen Museum (Museo Carmen Thyssen)

Carmen Thyssen Museum (Museo Carmen Thyssen)

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Though the majority of the Thyssen- Bornemisza family collection resides in their namesake museum in Madrid, Carmen Cervera (formally Baroness Thyssen-Bornemisza), an avid art collector, decided to open her own galleries in Malaga. Situated in its galleries is perhaps the finest visual representation of Andalucian art, featuring noted artists ranging from Sorolla to Zuburán and Ezquerra, and spanning the 13th to 20th centuries.

The museum, which opened in 2011, is partially located in a 16th-century baroque palace—el Palacio de Villalón—a site worth seeing in its own right. In fact, the palace and its art aren’t even the most historic items here: when undergoing construction for the museum, Roman ruins were discovered below. It is in the building’s old chapel where you’ll find the “Old Masters” collection, a display of works by the collection’s most prized artists.</ /p>

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Cartuja Monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja)

Cartuja Monastery (Monasterio de la Cartuja)

6 Tours and Activities

The church of the Monasterio de la Cartuja is where Spanish late-Baroque hits its lavish heights. It was begun in the 16th century and building continued for another three centuries; it was never completed.

The Carthusian monks that lived in the Monasterio de la Cartuja lived a humble life. They practiced silence, ate simple vegetarian fare and spent their time praying, studying, working and making rosary beads from rose petals (you can still buy these from the souvenir shop). But their low-key lifestyle must have been made up for by the wild profusion of their surroundings.

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