10 Best Places to Visit in Southern Spain beyond Costa del Sol
A guide to southern Spain: where to go in southern Spain, what to see in southern Spain and what to do in southern Spain
BEST OF ANDALUCIA: BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTHERN SPAIN
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You are thinking of visiting the south of Spain and now you are wondering where to go in southern Spain?
Are you thinking of passionate flamenco, spectacular bullfighting, joyous fiestas, majestic Sierra Nevada, picturesque white villages, glorious Moorish heritage, delicious tapas, sweet sherry wine, recharging sunshine, stunning sandy beaches of the southern coast of Spain, elegant Andalusian horses … ?!
Yes, that’s all Andalusia! And Andalusia is one of the best Spain destinations.
Want to see the best of Andalusia? Want to visit the best destinations in the south of Spain? Want to experience true Andalusia?
Visiting the next 10 most beautiful places in southern Spain grants the best experience of authentic southern Spain.
The next 10 places in Andalusia cover not only southern Spain cities but also famous white villages (pueblos blancos). Undoubtedly, Seville, Granada, Malaga, and Cadiz are some of the most beautiful cities to visit in Spain. But traditional Andalusian white villages are must-sees in Spain too.
After reading this post you won’t question anymore what to see in Spain and where to go in Spain. The answer will be obvious.
1o best places to visit in Southern Spain:
You can’t travel to southern Spain and not visit Seville.
Royal Seville is the capital of Andalusia, a top tourist destination in Andalusia and a must-see in southern Spain.
Seville is one of the most famous cities in Spain and the best Spanish cities overall. But above all, Seville is one of the most beautiful towns and romantic cities in the World. Seville represents a sublime mix of Andalusian, Islamic, Gypsy and Jewish cultures with an aristocratic vibe.
Seville is the hometown of the world’s largest Gothic cathedral – the Seville Cathedral and the seat of one of the most extravagant royal palaces in the World – the Alcázar of Seville.
To feel the spirit of royal Seville means to visit Real Alcazar Palace and Gardens, to climb graceful Giralda tower of Seville Cathedral for splendid views of Seville, to walk magnificent Plaza de Espana, take a break in captivating Parque de Maria Luisa, and in the evening to head to vibrant neighborhood of Triana for toothsome Andalusian tapas, and watch the best flamenco in Seville.
But the best time to visit Seville and to see Seville in all its glory is during two events: Semana Santa (Holy Week) and Feria de Abril (Seville Fair).
During the Holy Week spectacular religious processions go through Seville for a week, and during Feria de Abril Seville celebrates the joy of life by socializing, dancing, eating and drinking for seven days.
Best things to do in Seville:
– visit Real Alcazar Palace and Gardens (lately especially famous as a filming location of the Game of Thrones);
– check out Seville Cathedral, the tomb of Cristopher Colombus and climb Giralda tower (a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Seville);
– stroll old Jewish quarter of Barrio Santa Cruz;
– visit Church of the Savior;
– admire Plaza de Espana and Parque de Maria Luisa;
– go up to Metropol Parasol, also called “Las Setas”, the largest wooden structure in the world for sunset views of Seville;
– have tapas in the vibrant neighborhood of Triana;
– visit Bullfighting Museum;
– witness world-renewed processions during Holy Week in Seville;
– attend Feria de Abril (the Seville Fair), a week-long event of dancing, drinking, eating and socializing that takes place two weeks after Holy Week.
Where to stay in Seville:
- MID-RANGE: Welldone Metropol, Welldone Antiquarium, Puerta Catedral Indias Lofts, Suites Murillo Catedral, Sevilla Central Suites Apartamentos Puerta Jerez
- UPSCALE: Hotel Ateneo Sevilla, Palacio Bucarelli, Hotel Gravina 51, Slow Suites Setas, Hotel Casa Del Poeta
Seville is aristocratic, but Granada is arty.
You might easily fall in love with the grandeur of Seville, but you can also end madly in love with the bohemian spirit of Granada.
Arty and bohemian Granada is located in Darro Valley in the foothill of legendary Sierra Nevada.
Granada was the last bastion of the Arab caliphate. It is home to the Moorish masterpiece of Alhambra Palace and Generalife Gardens.
Although the Alhambra Palace is the most visited site in Spain, Granada is not only about the Alhambra. Granada is also celebrated old Arabic quarter of Albayzin, popular caves of the gypsy quarter of Sacromonte, charming narrow cobbled streets, cozy Andalusian tapas bars and much more!
Needless to say, Granada is not only one of the best places to visit in south of Spain. It is also one of the best cities in Spain to visit!!
Best things to do in Granada Spain:
– visit Alhambra and Generalife Gardens;
– stroll Carrera del Darro, the main cobbled-stone street in Granada along the Darro River;
– walk around the old Arabic quarter of Albayzin;
– watch the sunset from Plaza de San Nicolás in Albayzin;
– enjoy authentic flamenco show in gypsy quarter of Sacromonte;
– visit Granada Cathedral and Royal Chapel;
– have some free tapas in Granada (yes, tapas are free in Granada!);
– pamper yourself with a spa treatment at Hammam Al Andalus;
– have aromatic tea with Moorish pastries in one of Granada’s famous teterías (teahouses);
– hike Sierra Nevada National Park
Where to stay in Granada:
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Inglaterra, Apartamentos Turísticos San Pedro, Eurostars Catedral, Palacio Cabrera – Lillo, Suite Balcón de Granada, The Gran Vía Balconies
- UPSCALE: Shine Alcaiceria, Petit Palais 1829, Palacio Cabrera – Lillo, Luxury Alhambra Penthouse Collection, Piso en calle Recogidas (Centro), Casa Miravalle Apartamentos Darro
Historic Cordoba was the capital of Moorish Spain.
Today Cordoba is one of the most beautiful towns in southern Spain. In fact, Cordoba is a historic gem in Andalusia with a romantic vibe.
Cordoba is one of the top Andalusia destinations!
Cordoba is the home of world-renowned Mezquita-Catedral, a must-see in Spain. When you see La Mezquita, the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cordoba, you have to be in awe of it. Medieval Cordoba was praised for religious tolerance between Muslims, Jews, and Christians.
Today Cordoba is also well-known for elegant Roman mosaics, bewitching Arab courtyards with stunning fountains filled with exotic flowers, trees, and aromatic plants.
Wandering Juderia, the Old Jewish quarter in Cordoba and admiring patios along Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers) in Juderia is a special delight. Visiting Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos palace with gardens and walking historical Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir river means going back to medieval times in a glimpse of an eye.
But, the best time to visit Cordoba is May when Fiesta de Los Patios, the annual Courtyard Festival happens. During the festival, Cordobese patios filled with blooming geraniums are open to the public, while streets in Cordoba are all filled with flowers’ scents.
Cordoba should be on any list of cities to visit in Spain!
Things to do in Cordoba:
– visit La Mezquita, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Cordoba;
– wander Juderia, the Old Jewish quarter in Cordoba;
– admire patios along Calleja de las Flores (Alley of the Flowers) in Juderia;
– see Alcazar de Los Reyes Cristianos palace with gardens;
– walk historical Roman Bridge over the Guadalquivir river;
– enjoy in classic Andaluz plates (don’t forget to try salmorejo!);
– in May visit Fiesta de Los Patios, the annual Courtyard Festival, and Contest when Cordobese patios filled with geraniums are open to the public and when streets in Cordoba are full of blossom and scents.
Where to stay in Cordoba:
- MID-RANGE: Hospedería del Atalia, Urban Vida Alcázar, La Boutique Puerta Osario, Hacienda Posada de Vallina
- UPSCALE: Las Casas de la Judería de Córdoba, Hotel Madinat, Patios del Orfebre, Hospes Palacio del Bailio, Casa el Reloj
Cadiz is a marvelous Andalusian city on the Atlantic ocean with a breathtaking seafront promenade.
Cadiz is the oldest city in Spain. But, above all Cadiz is one of the most beautiful south of Spain cities.
Cadiz is one of the best places to visit in Southern Spain for great seafood, pretty beaches, and friendly people. For history buffs, let’s say that Cadiz was founded by Phoenicians 3.000 years ago and is the oldest continuously inhabited city in Western Europe. Worth mentioning as well, the first constitution of Spain called La Pepa was established in Cadiz in the 19th century.
Cadiz in Andalusia is best known for the great seafood and some of the best European urban beaches. Cadiz is one of the best beach towns in southern Spain. Check out La Caleta beach, Santa Maria Del Mar beach, or La Victoria beach in Cadiz and you will find out some of the best beaches in southern Spain.
To be in Cadiz means to enjoy long walks along Cadiz seafront, to indulge great Spanish seafood in traditional Andalusian taverns or hang out with locals at the central market (Mercado Central) while tasting fresh local food.
Things to do in Cadiz:
– stroll Cadiz seafront promenade and admire great views of Cadiz and the Atlantic ocean;
– walk Plaza de San Juan de Dios, the main square in Cadiz;
– visit Cadiz Cathedral built in Baroque and Neoclassical style;
– taste traditional Spanish food at Mercado Central (the central market in Cadiz);
– enjoy extraordinary tasty Spanish seafood tapas;
– visit San Sebastian Castle (a UNESCO site) and Santa Catalina Castle;
– stroll Barrio El Pópulo, Cadiz oldest quarter;
– take a break in Genoves Park, the largest public garden in the city;
– take a walk to beautiful Alameda Apodaca park;
– see Monument to the Constitution of 1812 at Plaza de España in Cadiz;
– take a sunbath or swim on La Caleta beach, Santa Maria Del Mar beach, or La Victoria beach
Where to stay in Cadiz:
Jerez is the heart and the essence of Andalusia.
Jerez de la Frontera is the birthplace of flamenco and the hometown of Andalusian horses and sherry wine. Yes, this is the place were sensual and passionate flamenco music was born and were noble Andalusian horses are bred.
Jerez is the perfect place to indulge in an authentic sherry wine and some extraordinary mouthwatering tapas bites in old sherry stores called ‘tabancos’ where wines go directly from the barrels to your glass. Take ‘ruta de tabancos‘ for authentic sherry experience! Jerez is one of the best places to visit in Spain in May when Feria del Caballo, the annual fair of flamenco, sherry wine and Andalusian horses takes place.
Unquestionably, Jerez is one of the most authentic cities in southern Spain and one of the unique places to visit in Spain.
Things to do in Jerez:
– take a wine tour in Jerez;
– visit Alcazar the Jerez, the Moorish fortress;
– take a peek into the life of Spanish aristocracy at Palacio del Virrey Laserna;
– watch a 90-min show of Andalusian horses at the Fundación Real Escuela Andaluza del Arte Ecuestre;
– attend Feria de Jerez (also known as Feria del Caballo), the annual fair of sherry wine and horses in May.
Where to stay in Jerez de la Frontera:
- BUDGET: Vivian’s Guest House, Backpackers Jerez, Pensión San Andrés I, Alojamiento Hipatia en Pleno Casco Historico
- UPSCALE: Villa Jerez, Hotel Casa Palacio María Luisa, Eurostars Asta Regia Jerez, Casa Palacio Jerezana
Ronda is the most spectacular and dramatic Andalusian town sitting on the cliff above the El Tajo gorge.
Ronda is the birthplace of bullfighting with the Plaza de Toro, the oldest bullring in Spain. Ronda is one of the most picturesque towns in Andalusia and one of those unforgettable must-see places in Spain. Impressive Puente Nuevo bridge over the gorge and Banos Arabes, one of the best-preserved Arab Baths in Andalusia, are sites not to be missed in Ronda.
Ronda has been especially loved by writers, artists and alike. Just to say, Ernest Hemingway and Alexander Dumas praised the beauty of Ronda.
I strongly recommend to check out Ronda by yourself on your southern Spain vacation!
Things to do in Ronda Spain:
– visit the 18th century Puente Nuevo bridge;
– walk stunning terraces of Jardines De Cuenca for stunning views of the gorge and the bridge;
– visit Plaza Del Toros, the oldest bullring in Spain;
– take a wine tour on the wine routes to visit some of the vineyards and to taste amazing Andalusian wines;
– visit Banos Arabes, the Arab baths.
Where to stay in Ronda:
- MID-RANGE: Catalonia Ronda, La Perla Blanca – Couples Retreat, La Colegiata De Ronda, Apartamentos Turísticos Espinel, Cortijo LA Organic
- UPSCALE: Parador de Ronda, Hotel La Fuente de la Higuera, Hotel Soho Boutique Palacio San Gabriel, Casa Palacio Villa Zambra, Museo B Casco Historico
Iznajar is an unspoiled, traditional whitewashed and red-roofed hilltop village in Cordoba Province in Andalucia.
It is one of the most beautiful villages in Southern Spain with gorgeous views of 32 km long Iznajar lake, the largest lake in Andalucia. Even more, Iznajar is an entrance to Sierras Subbeticas Natural Park. If you want to see a genuine whitewashed and off the beaten track Andalusian village, you should unquestionably put Iznajar on your itinerary. Especially if you are an outdoor lover. You can swim, sail and do some other water sports on Valdearenas Beach on the Iznajar lake.
Things to do in Iznajar in southern Spain:
– stroll picturesque narrow streets of Iznajar;
– visit the old Moorish castle in Iznajar;
– visit Iglesia de Santiago, the 15th -16th-century church;
– enjoy swimming and watersports in the lake
Where to stay in Iznajar:
8. ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA
Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most beautiful traditional Pueblos Blancos (white towns) in southern Spain sitting on a huge plateau with typical Andalusian narrow and steep streets.
Along with Ronda, Arcos de la Frontera is one of the most dramatically situated towns in Andalusia. And it is only a short drive from Ronda too. This fairy-tale hilltop town offers one of the best views of the awe-inspiring Andalusian countryside.
Things to do in Arcos de la Frontera:
– head to Plaza de Cabildo square to start your visit of Arcos;
– go the castle of Arcos built in the 11th century by the Moors;
– enjoy Arcos’s narrow streets with numerous wonderful patios and stunning balconies;
– visit Church of San Pedro;
– see San Miguel cultural hall;
– head to Mirador of the new rock (a great lookout point);
– visit Casa del Conde del Aguila built in the late Gotic and Mudejar style.
Where to stay in Arcos de la Frontera:
- MID-RANGE: Hotel Posada de las Cuevas, Casa Campana, La Casa de Bovedas Charming Inn, La Casa Grande, Hotel Los Olivos
Ubrique is a remote traditional Andalusian white town (pueblo banco) in the valley of Rio Ubrique between two natural parks: Grazalema Natural Park and Los Alcornocales Natural Park.
If you are after authentic pueblo blanco in a supreme natural setting, you should head to Ubrique. Visitors of Ubrique probably would never guess, but this rather sleepy and utterly beautiful Andalusian town is world-renowned for the leather industry supplying Hermes, Chanel, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and other world’s top designers.
Malaga is the capital of Costa del Sol and the birthplace of Pablo Picasso.
Malaga proudly holds more than 30 museums, among which Museo Pablo Picasso is probably best known. For striking views of Malaga, you should head to the 11th-century Gibralfaro Castle and Moorish fortress of Alcazaba. But if you want to make the most of your holidays in Malaga, then you should treat yourself in one of numerous Michelin star restaurants, traditional tapas bars, and upscale cocktail bars in Malaga.
Costa del Sol is about the sparkling sun, vibrant beaches and world-known flavorsome food from Spain. And Malaga, the capital of Costa del Sol proves it the best. Undoubtedly, Malaga is one of the best Spain vacation spots and one of the best cities in Spain for leisure and pleasure as it is one of the most beautiful beach cities in Spain.
Things to do in Malaga:
– visit Alcazaba, the Moorish palace form the 11th century;
– visit La Manquita, Malaga’s Cathedral;
– see Theatro Romano (Roman Theatre);
– admire Picasso’s work at the Museo Picasso (Picasso Museum);
– check out Picasso Museo Casa Natal;
– taste fresh food at Mercado Ataranzas (Ataranzas Market);
– take a tapas tour in Malaga;
– enjoy traditional Araba baths at Hammam al Andalus;
– swim at Playa Malaguetta (Malaga Beach);
– do some sightseeing in Malaga by bus;
– take a day trip to Gibraltar
Where to stay in Malaga
- BUDGET: The Lights Hostel, Alcazaba Premium Hostel, Oasis Backpackers’ Hostel Malaga, Malaga Stop Hostel AB
- MID-RANGE: Malaga Premium Hotel, Soho Boutique Museo, Hotel Malaga Picasso, Hotel Sercotel Málaga, La Casa Azul B&B + Apartments
- UPSCALE: Vincci Selección Posada del Patio, Hotel Palacete de Alamos, Gran Hotel Miramar, Molina Lario, Barceló Malaga
RECOMMENDED READ – ANDALUCIA TRAVEL GUIDES
MAP OF BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN SOUTHERN SPAIN
Southern Spain map: Best places in Southern Spain to see
The best way to visit all these places in Andalucia is to take a road trip. If you are interested in how to visit them all in one trip, you should read: The Ultimate Southern Spain Itinerary
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