The Complete Guide To Visiting Andalusia

Andalusia is one of the most beautiful and culturally rich regions of Spain. It doesn’t matter what time of year you choose to visit; you’re guaranteed a great trip. Andalusia is bursting at the seams with things to see and do.

Andalusia attracts lovers of history with its castles and old towns, as well as those looking to immerse themselves in nature. From olive groves, vineyards and fields of sunflowers to natural parks and mountain ranges, Andalusia has such a diverse natural offering.

Andalusia is Spain’s most southern region, which means that it experiences year-round sunshine and a favourable climate for exploring. Andalusia is also a much bigger region than many visitors expect. It is bigger than Scotland and more than four times the size of Wales. Which means if you want to scratch the surface of all that this wonderful region has to offer then you’ll need to visit for at least 2 weeks: some tourists even fall in love with the region and end up staying for a live time!

As well as exploring the history, archaeology, architecture, mountains, and beaches of Andalusia, make time to enjoy the delicious food and wine here. From rich sherries to delicious tapas, many of the culinary offerings from the region are world-renowned, and for good reasons.

When Is The Best Time To Visit Andalusia?

If you want perfect weather, then visit Andalusia in the traditional ‘shoulder seasons’ of early spring or late autumn. The weather will be warm, but not so hot that exploring is uncomfortable, and the tourist levels will be lower during this time of year too.

If you can avoid visiting in the summer months of July and August, then do. It can be far too hot for sightseeing (or anything other than laying by a pool!) at this time of year.

Other benefits of choosing to visit Andalusia during the shoulder seasons are that the major monuments are quieter, accommodation is less expensive and there are far fewer tourist groups.

Where Should I Visit In Andalusia?

There are so many beautiful towns and villages, as well as the obvious big-name cities, in Andalusia that it would be impossible to list them all. In fact, it would probably be easier to say there are very few bad places to visit in Andalusia!

But this guide will focus on the cultural delights of the following main destinations:

  • Malaga
  • Granada
  • Cordoba
  • Seville
  • Cadiz
  • Jerez
  • Vejer de la Frontera
  • Tarifa
  • Ronda

But don’t feel you have to be limited just to visiting the towns and cities on our list. If you love to get outdoors, then hiking in the Alpujarras is a great highlight. Foodies should drive up to Sierra de Aracena to eat the best jamón ibérico in Spain.  And the beaches in Cabo de Gata are considered some of the best in the region.

So, take your time: don’t try to see the whole of Andalusia in a week, it wouldn’t be possible! Trust that you’ll be back to explore this beautiful part of the world again and take it at your own pace.

Why not pick just one of 2 spots from this comprehensive list for you first trip?

visiting malaga

Exploring Malaga

Malaga is perhaps the best well known city in Andalusia. It is a wonderfully walkable city, especially if you stay close to the shoreline, and the beaches here are bustling with people, activity, and excitement.

If you want to explore beyond the beaches then from the beach you can walk up Calle Marqués de Larios, which is lined with shops, and one of the most famous streets in Malaga. From here it’s easy to reach the cathedral, which is a focal point for the city.

Another highlight for history buffs is the 11th-century Alcazaba fortress perched on the hilltop or the Roman amphitheatre that sits in the city.

If you want to explore Andalusian food beyond its restaurants, then head to the Atarazanas food market. The food here tastes as incredible as it looks and smells. You’ll eat as you walk, so arrive with your appetite!

One of the highlights of visiting Malaga is the opportunity to follow in the footsteps of Pablo Picasso. One of Spain’s most famous artists, Picasso was born in Malaga. His childhood home has been turned into a museum, and the Picasso Museum in the heart of the city is well worth exploring. 

On the subject of art, if you walk along the Muelle Uno waterfront promenade you’ll find the Centre Pompidou. This is a great spot for modern art lovers, and a great place to get out of the heat if you’re visiting Malaga in the summer.

visiting granada

Exploring Granada

Granada is a city that sits high in the hills of Andalusia meaning that it affords spectacular views of the surrounding Andalusian countryside. We have written before about Spain’s Parador hotels, and the one in Granada is incredibly popular, so if you want to stay here then book well in advance.

Granada is a beautiful city, and one that is incredibly photogenic. Bring your camera when you climb up the narrow streets of the Albayzín, the former Moorish quarter, where the cobbled lanes are flanked by high white walls. If you’re looking for culture and incredible views at the same time, then the Plaza de San Nicolás or the quieter Placeta de Carvajales are the best spots for you.

Perhaps the most well known as iconic attraction in Granada is the Alhambra Palace. If you want to visit you need to book your tickets as soon as possible because they sell out quickly: we have a full guide to booking tickets and other useful tips here.

The Alhambra Palace is a fortress that was created by the sultans of the Nasrid dynasty and forms one of the best examples of Islamic architecture in the world. In sheer numbers this palace receives more visitors per year (over two million) than Germany's Neuschwanstein Castle and France's Palace of Versailes

When you get hungry the Realejo neighbourhood, the former Jewish quarter, is a great place to eat thanks to the sheer number of tapas bars that line the streets here. And it’s worth noting that you’ll usually get a complimentary tapa with every glass of beer or wine when you wander into a bar in Granada.

visiting Cordoba

Exploring Cordoba

Corboda is best known for its Festival de los Patios which takes place in the first 2 weeks of May each year. If you visit in May then you’ll be welcome to wander around patios and terraces that are a riot of beautiful colour. 

But Cordoba is a beautiful city to explore no matter what time of the year your visit. Cordoba is packed full of quaint cobbled streets, and it is surrounded by incredible verdant countryside. Think rolling hills, olive groves and vineyards.

But don’t overlook Cordoba itself. The town is home to beautiful architecture, and the cobbled lanes of the Jewish Quarter are incredibly beautiful. Cordoba is smaller than many of the other destinations on this list, but it’s still packed full of personality. Highlights include the Mezquita, which is a former mosque that has been constructed with Roman, Visigothic, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance and baroque elements and also includes a 16th century cathedral inside. It’s an assault on the senses, but in a good way!

The food in Cordoba shouldn’t be overlooked either: if you’re in the mood to splurge then try Noor. Here chef Paco Morales has gained three Michelin stars for his exquisite dishes that trace the heritage of Andalusian cuisine.

visiting seville

Exploring Seville

Seville is a city steeped in traditional Spanish beauty. Seville is a bright and vibrant city teeming with some of the most beautiful churches in the country, incredible flamenco dancers, and outlandish Arabian-style architecture. It’s youthful and vibrant, making it a great place to explore for active travellers hoping to immerse themselves in the local culture.

Foodies are in luck because Seville chefs are cooking up all sorts of delicacies. Restaurante Eslava is a restaurant that has been hyped up by tourists and locals alike for its traditional Spanish food. People claim it has the best tapas in town. Be prepared to wait in line. This restaurant doesn't take reservations and the wait averages around thirty minutes. Fortunately, you can grab a drink at the bar while you wait, and if you're lucky grab some seats there too.

When you’re ready to explore head to the city’s dominating cathedral then climb the steps of the Giralda, the belltower that was originally a minaret, for panoramic views. The most popular attraction in Seville is the Alcazar which is an extraordinary palace that was created in the 14th century by Mudéjar craftsmen and is still used as a royal residence today. It’s an attraction that’s well worth exploring, and its exterior is the most photographed spot in Seville.

visiting cadiz

Exploring Cadiz

Cadiz is an ancient city that sits on Spain’s Atlantic coast. If you’re in the mood to splurge, then choose a hotel that faces the ocean, and you’ll wake up to incredible views each morning.

Cadiz is a city of 2 halves: old and new. But it is the old part of the city that is most interesting for tourists, and this is where we recommend you spend the most of your time. Cadiz’s old town was founded more than 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians. You’ll find this at the end of a peninsula with narrow, straight streets flanked by stone mansions painted in pastel shades. It’s an incredibly fascinating, and photogenic, spot.

When it’s time to eat there’s nowhere better to be than the Cadiz central market. The food here is visually appealing and, thanks to the town's location, you’ll find an abundance of seafood here. Don’t be afraid to indulge!

visiting jerez

Exploring Jerez

If you know anything about Jerez, then you probably know about its sherry. Jerez sits in the middle of what is known as Spain’s sherry triangle, and this delicious drink is then exported all around the world. This isn’t the sickly sherry your grandmother drank at Christmas: Spanish sherry is delicious and well worth exploring. Take a vineyard tour to taste as many different sherris as possible: this will give you a chance to try both small and large producers.

Aside from the local tipple, Jerez is also known for its dancing horses which you can see at the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. This is the kind of dancing you’ll see horses doing when you attend any of the famous Spanish ferias.

 Take a 10-minute train ride down to El Puerto de Santa María, the seaside town that forms part of the sherry triangle (along with Jerez and Sanlúcar de Barrameda). Get an ice cream – or just drink more sherry with some superb seafood – before taking the ferry across the bay back to Cadiz in the shimmering evening light.

visiting vejer de la frontera

Exploring Vejer de la Frontera

One of the smaller locations to earn a place on our list, Vejer de la Frontera is a picture-perfect hilltop spot with a welcoming people and genuinely exceptional views. The main square in the town is everything you imagine a Spanish town square will be make sure you spend some time here doing nothing, people watching, and joining the locals that will often gather here to gossip and share local news each evening.

Vejer de la Frontera is the perfect place to relax and unwind in the Spanish countryside. But if you want to explore the coast too then the laidback fishing towns of Zahara de los Attunes and Barbate are close by and easy to access. The beaches all along this stretch of the coast are worthy of note for their outstanding beauty. And they aren’t as crowded as the more famous Andalusian beaches either.

visiting tarifa

Exploring Tarifa

Tarifa is a town that sits at the very southernmost tip of Spain. That means that it is here that the Atlantic merges with the Mediterranean, meaning you can swim in two oceans in one place. That’s pretty cool!

Away from the beaches, Tarifa is full of Moorish character. The architecture is definitely heavily inspired by Arabic influences. What you’ll notice is that there is a cool, boho vibe in Tarifa. That’s because the town is a kite and windsurfing hub. That means outdoorsy types will meet plenty of likeminded people. And there are plenty of laidback pavement cafes where you can people watch of catch up with newfound friends with a smoothie or a beer.

visiting Ronda

Exploring Ronda

If you’re visiting Tarifa then you might as well visit Ronda: the towns are located relatively close together! This is a town crammed full of history. Start your day by crossing the Puente Nuevo bridge above the gorge to explore the old town, where the streets are lined with grand mansions and churches. This is a great place to eat or to enjoy a drink in the sunshine. You could also explore the Arab Baths, which date back to the 13th century.

 One of the most famous Spanish pastimes (at least outside of Spain itself) is bull fighting and if you’re interested in learning more about this then Ronda is the place to be.

The bullring here is one of the oldest in Spain and has a museum that charts the history of bullfighting. Check the schedules if bullfighting interests you, so that you can time your visit with a fight. These are not a regular occurrence anymore.