ANDALUSIA ROAD TRIP: SEVILLA, SPAIN & BEYOND
With its unsurpassed beauty and rich cultural heritage, it should be no surprise that over two million visitors a year take trips to Seville, Spain. Vivacious and sensual, Seville is as quintessentially Mediterranean as it gets. From its lively festivals to its gorgeous architecture, the fiery heart of Andalusia could keep you entertained for days, but the region holds many more Mediterranean gems amid its breathtaking scenery.
This region stretches across the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula and has played host to innumerable empires, from the Romans to the Moors. Its whitewashed villages and rich cultural traditions of bullfighting, tapas, and flamenco dancing have risen to the height of Spanish heritage and permeate every foreigner's image of the Spanish countryside. A simple tour of Seville might prove a worthy introduction to this scenic region, but to get the most out of Andalusia's incredible history and passionate people, you'll need to branch out from the package tour.
ANDALUSIA ROAD TRIP DAY 1: SEVILLA
SEVILLA EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS:
With the comfort and convenience of a private car rental at hand, there's no need to worry about sorting out train schedules and public transportation fares. All you need to do on your Andalusia road trip is figure out what to see in Sevilla, Spain, and practically all first-time tourists will agree - the one site you cannot miss is the Alcázar. Originally a medieval Muslim fortress, later the 15th-century royal court of Fernando and Isabel, the Alcázar is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which attracts countless tourists for its intricate, exotic architecture and storied history. Trips to Sevilla, Spain are also marked by a complex web of religious influences. Sevilla's iconic Gothic cathedral, one of the largest in the world, still shows its Muslim origins in the exquisite minaret La Giralda. Meanwhile, the city's Jewish history lies in the medieval neighborhood of Barrio de Santa Cruz. Its winding streets and verdant plazas are especially popular with couples for their romantic atmosphere. Still wondering what to see in Sevilla, Spain? Andalusia is home to the great tradition of flamenco dance. Learn about the history of this passionate folk art at the Museo del Baile Flamenco, housed in an 18th-century palace, pull up a chair at one of La Carbonería's free performances, or time your visit for the September of an even-numbered year to coincide with the Bienal de Flamenco. The month-long festival breathes exceptional life into an already vibrant city. If your Sevilla, Spain travel plans fall in the spring, you won't miss out on the festival season. View the solemn Easter parades during Semana Santa, or wait a few weeks for the lively Feria de Abril which features music, dance, traditional costumes, and daily bullfights.
SEVILLA RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND NIGHTLIFE:
The shared small plates are known worldwide as tapas is one of Spain's greatest traditions and you can easily cobble together an incredible meal by hopping from bar to bar, filling up on affordable snacks. For an especially authentic night, try the jamón at Mesón Cinco Jotas or a locally made cheese at Extraverde. The riverside district of Triana is particularly packed with rustic watering holes. Sports fans will have the best time at Bar Santa Ana, with its bullfighting décor and friendly, neighborhood bar atmosphere, while foodies will enjoy the plethora of seafood options at Bar Bistec, like grilled fish, cod fritters, and calamari. Wherever you dine, be sure to try a glass of fine sherry. This delicious, fortified wine is a regional specialty, made in Jerez de la Frontera, about an hour south of Sevilla.
SEVILLA HOTELS & LODGING:
For a serious splurge, book a room at Fontecruz Sevilla, a centrally located, terraced oasis with strikingly elegant décor and incredible views of Sevilla's hottest tourist attractions. The Gran Meliá Colón is another luxury option, with a setting that effortlessly blends tradition and modernity. The recently renovated Barceló Renacimiento earns its five-star rating with plush, classically appointed rooms. For budget lodgings, opt for the Hotel Puerta de Sevilla, an inexpensive choice with charming décor, including traditional azulejos tilework.
ANDALUSIA ROAD TRIP DAY 2: MALAGA
MALAGA EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS:
Old meets new in seaside Málaga, a traditional Andalusian port city eager to embrace the 21st century while still retaining its Moorish roots. You'll find even better Islamic ruins as you continue on your Andalusia road trip in Granada and Córdoba, but you can get a glimpse of the medieval sites to come at Málaga's 11th-century palace and fortress Alcazaba, which displays a partially excavated Roman amphitheater and a collection of artifacts at its Museo Arqueológico. The Castillo de Gibralfaro also has ruins and ramparts with spectacular views. Málaga is truly set apart from the rest of Andalusia by its artistic history. The Museo Picasso Málaga displays an extensive collection honoring the painter in his birthplace. Serious cubism fans can continue their tour at the Casa Natal de Picasso, where the 20th-century master lived until moving to the north of Spain at the age of 9. Nature lovers can partake in a trail walk through the Parque Natural de Los Montes de Málaga, a little northeast of the city. Málaga is also the gateway to the Costa del Sol, Spain's answer to the French Riviera, filled with luxurious and sophisticated beach resorts. Get your own shoreline fix at one of the city's fantastic beaches, like Playa de la Malgueta, Playa de Pedregalejo, or Playa del Palo. The city also boasts especially exuberant nightlife and you can party hard at any of the bars near Plaza de la Merced, Plaza Mitjana, and Plaza de Uncibay.
MALAGA RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND NIGHTLIFE:
Satisfy your tapas tooth at the centrally located Uvedoble Taberna. Its minimalist décor still oozes ambience, and the chef churns out unique dishes like foie gras with salted nougat. Dig into fresh dishes like artichoke and goat cheese quiche with basil pesto at El Tapeo de Cervantes, or sample a smorgasbord of Mediterranean fare at Aire Gastrobar. For more creative, contemporary cuisine, try Café de Paris.
MALAGA HOTELS & LODGING:
Málaga's Moroccan influence is front and center at the restored monastery El Riad Andaluz. The Vincci Posada del Patio places sleek, modern luxury within the historic city center. For the most relaxing stay, walk through the tranquil gardens of Cortijo Chico, whose spacious, sunny rooms are a mere 15 kilometers from the city center, or cool off in the rooftop pool at the four-star Salles Hotel Málaga Centro.
ANDALUSIA ROAD TRIP DAY 3: GRANADA
GRANADA EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS:
The longstanding Muslim capital of Granada still clings to the best of Islamic influences. The Alhambra is an internationally recognized icon of Spain's Moorish occupation. Ornate and expansive, this splendid Muslim stronghold attracts thousands of visitors each day. Snap a stunning photo from the Alcazaba's tower, learn the site's history at the museum within Charles V's Palace, enjoy a leisurely stroll through the Generalife Gardens, and wrap up your visit with the exquisite, must-see Palacios Nazaríes. For a particularly special visit to this medieval fortress and palace, join one of its nighttime tours. Nearby, the cobblestone streets of the Albayzín offer prime wandering opportunities. If this Muslim quarter's mansions and walled gardens don't fully strike your fancy, get a breathtaking vista over the whole city at the hilltop viewpoint Mirador de San Nicolas, or dive into a different chapter of Spanish history at Capilla Real, where the legendary king and queen Fernando and Isabel are buried. For authentic shopping, explore the Alcaiceria, a reconstruction of an old Moorish bazaar within the city's narrow one-way streets.
GRANADA RESTAURANTS, BARS, AND NIGHTLIFE:
Eating on the cheap in Granada is remarkably simple as many of the city's bars still cling to the waning tradition of serving a free tapas plate with the purchase of any beer or wine. Calle Navas has particularly good bar hopping opportunities. If you're tired of tapas, Restaurante Arrayanes serves up Moroccan food in a lavish setting, or you can shell out for the uniquely Andalusian fine dining experience at a carmen - restaurant within one of the Albayzín's exquisite walled gardens looking out to the Alhambra (see above). Some especially good carmen choices include the dreamy Carmen Mirador de Aixa, the traditional Carmen de las Tomasas, or the more casual Carmen de Aben Humeya.
GRANADA HOTELS & LODGING:
The plush Moroccan-style rooms of Hotel Casa del Capitel Nazarí will place you in a 16th-century palace without the royal cost. Bed down in a more modern, but still warm and affordable, setting at Vincci Granada. Eurostars Gran Vía lies within a renovated Renaissance façade, but presents an ultramod interior. True luxury seekers will find themselves at home within the graceful arches and charming old-world rooms of the AC Palacio de Santa Paula.
ANDALUSIA ROAD TRIP DAY 4: CORDOBA
CORDOBA EVENTS AND ATTRACTIONS:
Your road trip in Spain ends in the labyrinthine Moorish outpost Córdoba. The central Mosque of Córdoba is a unique microcosm of centuries of architectural evolution. Its arches and pillars reflect Roman and Visigoth influences, while the richly ornamented Mihrab and Torre del Alminar betray its origins as a medieval mosque. Move on to explore other religious sites, like the 13th-century Christian palace Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos, which was the seat of the infamous Spanish Inquisition. Navigate the maze-like streets of the Juderia - the town's Jewish quarter - to find Andalusia's only surviving medieval Sinagoga. Art lovers will find unique and soulful paintings and sculptures at the Museo de Bellas Artes and the Museo Romero de Torres. Need a little R&R? Treat yourself to an aromatherapy massage or a little tea and hookah at the traditional, renovated Arab baths Hammam Baños Árabes. Just outside the city lies the Medina Azahara, a ruined 10th-century Muslim capital, which most visitors shell out several euros to reach on a crowded coach tour. With your private rental car in Spain from Auto Europe, you can access this stunning historical site on your own.