Andalusia is one of the most beautiful regions in Spain and the world. I have been learning Spanish for the past year and a half and Andalusia has been coming up a lot in my lessons.
Therefore, when I was planning our 3 month-long Europe trip, I knew that I had to make a trip down south to Andalusia in Spain.
If you’re planning to make a trip down to Andalusia, you cannot miss any of the places listed here!
Where is Andalusia
Before we begin, we’ll first have to answer the question of where and what is Andalusia.
The Andalusia autonomous community is a region in Southern Spain. The region consists of many popular cities such as Seville and Granada. As the southernmost spot of the Iberian peninsula, it also has the sunniest and mildest winter of the entire European continent.
Andalusia is characterised by its famous Moorish architecture which is heavily influenced by the Muslims who conquered the region between the 8th and 15th centuries. This is in stark contrast to the rest of Spain and Europe.
The Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral is located in the southern Spanish city of Cordoba. This is one of the most famous architecture in the region, together with the Palace of Alhambra.
The rationale for its unique name stems from the fact that it went through several changes in its purpose over the past thousands of years. According to history, the Cathedral-Mosque was originally a Christian church that was shared between the Muslims and the Christians of the city.
However, in 785, the building was fully converted into a Mosque when Abdul ar-Rahman started his new Emirate in Al-Andalus.
It remained as a mosque for the next several hundred years until 1236 when Cordoba was conquered by the Castillians. As a result, it was then converted into a cathedral for the new Christian occupiers.
Each ruler of the compound expanded it in their own ways. This resulted in the unique mix of architecture when you’re visiting the Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral. While walking through the colourful columns of the building, there’ll be awkward mixes of Islamic and Christian influences.
How to get the tickets for the Mosque-Cathedral Cordoba
You can purchase the tickets for the Mosque-Cathedral Cordoba via their official website here.
The general ticket costs 13.00€ (US$14.13). Before checking out, you can also choose to get a digital audio guide for an extra 3.50€ (US$3.81). You’ll have to choose the time for your visit and the staff are very strict about it.
I purchased my tickets on the day of my visit and luckily there was a lot of availability. It also wasn’t incredibly crowded with visitors during my visit.
Palace of Alhambra, Granada
The Palace of Alhambra is the crown jewel of the Andalusia region. Most people who know Andalusia probably know it because of the Palace of Alhambra. After visiting the palace in person, I believe it rightfully deserves its fame.
Construction for the palace first started in 1238 by the first Nasrid emir when the Andalusia region was occupied by the Muslims. The UNESCO World Heritage Site has undergone several modifications to reach the grandeur it has now.
Before visiting Alhambra, I’d highly recommend visitors visit the Mirador de San Nicholás or the Mirador de San Michael for a bird’s eye view of the palace. It gives you a scale of how prominent the palace is in the city.
How to get the tickets for the Palace of Alhambra
Make sure to make a reservation for the ticket to the Alhambra online several days before your actual visit as the tickets run out quickly. You can purchase the tickets online here via the attraction’s official site.
Each Alhambra General ticket costs 19.09€ (US$20.76). The general ticket includes a visit to most attractions in the palace such as the Alcazaba, Generalife and Nasrid Palace. You’ll need to select a fixed visit schedule to the Nasrid Palace when purchasing the ticket, but most other locations are flexible.
Alternatively, if you want to be more hands-free and have everything pre-planned before your trip, you can sign up for a guided tour through Viator.
As part of the general ticket to the Alhambra, you’ll get a chance to head to the Alcazaba of the Palace. This is, in my opinion, the highlight of my visit to the palace.
Once you complete the short trek up the watch tower, you’ll be rewarded with the most spectacular view of the city of Granada. You’ll also get to see the Sierra Nevada mountain range in the background on a clear day.
If you’re visiting the Spanish Andalusia region, the Alhambra is a must-visit. I’d recommend spending at least 3 hours within the compounds of the Palace, exploring it’s every nook and cranny.
Alcazaba and Gibralfaro, Malaga
The Alcazaba of Malaga is a popular fortress, located in the coastal city of Malaga. This is one of the most prominent and well-preserved fortresses in the Andalusia region.
Construction of the Alcazaba of Malaga started in the 11th century during the Islamic occupation. This thousand-year-old architecture has stood well to the test of time!
As you make the short hike up to Gibralfaro hill, you’ll be treated to a panoramic view of Malaga city. The hike from the Alcazaba to the top of Gibralfaro hill can take a total of 30 minutes.
Remember to bring sun protection and sufficient water as the weather can get really hot!
The Rock, Gibraltar
Technically Gibraltar isn’t considered part of Andalusia. It’s not even part of Spain as it’s an overseas territory of the UK. I’ve decided to include it in this list as it’s located at the southern tip of the region and can be easily included as part of a wider trip.
The Rock of Gibraltar is easily the most identifiable feature of the overseas terrority, spanning almost its entire surface. If you’re ever in Gibraltar, do not miss heading up the top of the rock! Up in the observatories, you’ll be treated with a complete 360 view of the entire terrority.
How do I get to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar?
There are multiple ways one can head to the top of the Rock of Gibraltar.
The most common and popular way is to take the Cable Car. It costs £18 (US$22) for a return and an additional £16 (US$19.81) for the nature reserve pass. This is by far the most convenient and fast way to get up and down the Rock. However, I did not manage to take the cable car during my visit as it was Christmas Eve and the Cable Car closed early. Therefore, do check the official websites for their opening hours before making your trip there.
Another option is to hike up the Rock. This is the most economical way as it’s completely free (but you’ll still have to pay £16 (US$19.81) for the nature reserve pass). The hike itself took about an hour from the bottom to the top but there were some really steep portions. I’d only recommend this option to anyone who is moderately fit.
Lastly, you can choose to book a private car that takes you to the top of the Rock. While this is the most expensive option, I personally do not think it’s the most convenient option either. When I was there, I noticed that a lot of cars were held up at the top because of the narrow roads. The road up was also not the smoothest.
Royal Alcazar, Seville
As the capital city of the Andalusia region, you’ll definitely not miss Seville when planning your trip to the region. Seville is typically the gateway city for most visitors to the region.
While you’re here, be sure to check out the Royal Alcazar of Seville! As with most places in the region, the Royal Alcazar used to be the main residence of the Islamic rulers initially which later became the palace of the Christian rulers when they took over. Therefore, you’ll see many Islamic and Christian influences throughout the Alcazar.
When visiting the Alcazar of Seville, remember to scan the QR code at the entrance for a free audio guide.
The famous courtyards of Andalusia are heavily Islamic-inspired.
As part of your ticket, you can visit the countless gardens surrounding the palace. They are very well-maintained and incredibly beautiful.
Where to stay in Seville
When I was in Seville, I stayed extensively in Ibis Styles Seville City Santa Justa. While it is not the most convenient property to most of the attractions in the city, it was comfortable enough for me to work while I was in the city.
Plaza de España, Seville
Before you end your trip to Andalusia, check out the Plaza de España which is located right beside the Alcazar of Seville.
The Plaza de España is a public plaza built for the 1929 Ibero-American exposition.
Throughout the parameters of Plaza, you will see many murals depicting the stories of each region of Spain. You can spend an entire day just looking at the colourful and beautiful murals here!