The intertwining of Christian and Islamic influences of Andalucía, coupled with its strategic location as a gateway to Europe and Africa accounts for the rich culture evident in the architecture, cuisine, traditions, and art of the region. Here, we go through the top attractions in the Spanish region of Andalucía. For the first part, we go through the best sights in the busy cities of Seville and Cordoba; and the laid back and quaint towns of Jaen and Almeria.
When in Seville, one will never run out of majestic sights to visit.
One of which is a colossal gothic architecture, the Seville Cathedral. This dates as far back as the 15th century, and is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Real Alcazar is another opulent structure to see, historically a sanctuary for rulers, it is still being used as residence occasionally by the Spanish Royal Family.
Barrio Santa Cruz is a community that used to be a Jewish settlement. It is situated between Seville Cathedral and Real Alcazar, with cobbled alleys, charming houses, and quaint bars and cafes. Two museums can also be found in the neighbourhood, also worth a visit.
A grandiose attraction with fairy tale appeal, Parque de Maria Luisa is a public park with its grounds covered in lush greenery. A romantic place to walk around, take a boat-ride or ride a carriage, to just marvel in its natural and man-made beauty.
A visit to the Museo del Baile Flamenco Sevilla will bring you to a cultural immersion as you witness an important aspect of Andalucían lifestyle through the art of flamenco dancing. You can reserve tickets to a show or if you want to truly experience the culture, maybe book a dance course.
One activity you’d want to see in the streets of Seville is the Semana Santa or the Holy Week. From Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday the streets are closed from traffic as processions portraying the passion of Christ takes place. Solemn activities commemorate the days prior to Christ’s crucifixion and the suffering of the Virgin Mary. Nazarenos parade the streets wearing robes and cone shaped head gear seeking forgiveness for their sins. Quite a display of religiosity, this is one of the things you must witness once in Seville.
The city of Cordoba is just as rich in grand attractions to feast your eyes on.
La Mezquita or the Great Mosque is a UNESCO World Heritage Site built in the 8th century. Originally an Islamic edifice, it was converted to a cathedral by Catholic rulers, which created a somewhat confusing but oddly enchanting aesthetic. Nearby, and walking distance to the Mezquita, is the Callejon de las Flores, with narrow cobblestone streets decorated with flowers in bright colours.
Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos is another hybrid of Moorish and Christian architecture, with a morbid history that involved execution of Christian Martyrs in one of its squares and served as a prison.
The Puente Romano crosses the Guadalquivir River, and is a remnant of the ancient Romans, renovated numerous times, including one substantial makeover during the Moorish rule. Given the long history of immigration this bridge has seen, it is truly a pleasant spectacle. At one end of the Puente Romano, you will see the Torre de la Calahorra, a gate originally built to defend the city from attacks.
If you want to see more art in Cordoba, you can drop by the Museo de Bellas Artes. It was founded in 1844, and now a Cultural Heritage Monument, and houses a substantial collection of Spanish artwork from the 15th century to more contemporary ones.
Dubbed as a hidden gem, Jaen is more laid-back and is not much of a tourist staple, perfect if you want to get away from the crowd. The town is just as interesting as the rest with its share of wonderful spots to catch.
The Jaen Cathedral, an elegant Renaissance structure that stands tall in the town is one spot to drop by when in the vicinity.
The Castillo de Santa Catalina is a castle atop a hill with an impressive view overlooking the city of Jaen, built in the 8th century by the Moors, and has undergone continuous transformation through the centuries.
Another interesting thing to do when in Jaen is to visit one of the many olive plantations. Known as the “World Capital of Olive Oil,” there’s more than 60 million olive trees in Jaen producing the world renown liquid gold. Go on an olive oil tasting quest. There are also some events dedicated to Olive Oil that you can catch.
Ancient Roman Baths, turned into Arab Baths, are also well kept in Jaen’s Villadompardo Palace, and are worth a visit.
The east-most city of Almeria likewise, exudes a silent elegance. With mostly rocky and dry terrain, Almeria maintained its natural beauty, with its beaches and is the sunniest, warmest area in the region.
Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park is the south-easternmost spot of Almeria, a coastal spot that faces the Mediterranean Sea. It has hills, mountains, cliffs, immaculate beaches, and other picturesque spots worth witnessing scattered in a desert climate backdrop. The area features volcanic rock formations, flamingo-filled areas, peaceful Spanish pueblos and tranquil coves and beaches, perfect for frolicking during the summer days.
You can also find in Jaen the La Alcazaba, originally built as a military walled fortress. As with other buildings in Andalucía, it started as an Arab fort which, after centuries, was renovated by Catholic monarchs.
A sequel to this top attractions article is also available, featuring the best places to go to in the coastal cities of Granada, Malaga, Cadiz and Huelva.