Choose from 106 Fun Things to Do in Andalucia
The Albaicin (also spelled Albayzin or Albaycin) is Granada's old Muslim quarter, and its steep twisting streets still have a medieval feel. With its white buildings and deep-gardened mansions spilling down the hill, the Albaicin is beautiful in itself, but what makes it particularly stunning is its views of the Alhambra. (The views of the Albaicin from the Alhambra enhance that experience as well!) There's a viewing point by the church of St. Nicolas that offers particularly good Alhambra vistas.
The Albaicin was heritage-listed in 1984. Its name may have derived from settlers fleeing the Christian invasion of the town Baeza, or it may derive from an Arabic phrase meaning 'quarter of the falconers.' Despite the Christian conquest of the city in 1492, it survived as a Muslim quarter for some decades, and you can still see the remains of Islamic bathhouses, mansions and fountains.
Buses 31 and 32 from Plaza Nueva will take you on a circular route around the Albaicin. They run roughly every 10 minutes.
Situated side by side, the Cathedral and the Royal Chapel (Capilla Real) together make an impressive monument to the power of Christian monarchs. The cathedral was begun in the early 16th century, and even though it didn’t achieve its full intended glory (it lacks, for instance, two immense planned towers), it’s still an impressive feat of Gothic-Renaissance magnificence. There are paintings by Ribera and El Greco and, in the main chapel, carvings of Ferdinand and Isabel kneeling in prayer.
The Royal Chapel is built in the Isabelline style, a flamboyant version of Gothic, and was finished in 1517. Ferdinand and Isabel, who commissioned the chapel as their mausoleum, died before its completion, so their remains had to be housed elsewhere for a time before moving to the chapel. They rest there today beneath their marble monuments, along with several of their relatives.
As well as paying tribute to the remains of the famous monarchs, you can gaze on their belongings in the Sacristy Museum, which contains the queen’s devotional paintings, jewelery box and crown, and the king’s sword.
These days, the neighborhood, which sits within the city's historic quarter, is especially known for its residents' passion for bullfighting and also religion. Their faithfulness is evident in the abundance of Arenal brotherhoods, whose devotion can be seen during Holy Week each year, when Seville’s Catholicism comes to life in colorful processions that take over the city streets.
Within El Arenal you’ll also find some of the Seville's most notable sights, such as the 13th-century Torre del Oro, erected as a watch tower under Muslim rule; the royal shipyards of the Real Atarazanas; and the Plaza de Toros de la Real Maestranza, the second-most important bullring in Spain after the one located in Madrid.
Built in the early 10th century by Abd-al-Rahman III, this Malagan icon is situated on a hill which begins part of the Montes de Malaga mountain range. Another Muslim king, Yusef the First (also known as the Sultan of Granada) enlarged the castle at the beginning of the 14th century and added the double wall down to the Alcazaba that you see today.
The castle is famous for its prominence in the landscape, but also for its history. Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella once levied a 3-month siege on the Castillo de Gibralfaro. This notable battle was the first time gunpowder was used on both fighting sides in all of recorded Western history. For these reasons, and due to national admiration and pride, the Castillo de Gibralfaro is well known throughout Andalucia as a symbol in both the Malaga city and province’s seal and flag.
Remember that the Castillo de Gibralfaro sits atop a hill. The whole route takes approximately 20 minutes to walk down, so a shuttle bus runs wary passengers to the top. Look for it outside the front gate of the enveloping Alcazaba. Admittance is 2 Euro. As with most museums in Spain, it is closed on Mondays.
- The Giralda Tower is a must-see for photographers and first-time visitors to Seville.
- Wear comfortable shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces, and be prepared to climb up fairly steep ramps.
- Don’t forget to bring sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat for enjoying the sunny observation platform.
- While parts of the cathedral of Seville are accessible to wheelchair users, the tower is not.
Despite it’s pared down size, the Alcaicería is still one of Granada’s most atmospheric areas, with a plethora of traditional craft and souvenir stores crammed with ceramics, silver jewelry, and alpaca knitwear, and stalls hawking an array of exotic spices, silks and incense. Wandering around the markets is an experience in itself, but with vendors happy to barter for goods, it’s also a great place to pick up some bargains. Look out for local specialties like fajalauza (hand painted ceramics), granadino farolas (stained-glass lamps) and taracea items (traditional wooden goods).
- The Generalife Gardens are a must-visit for all first-time visitors to Granada.
- Wear comfortable shoes and be prepared to do quite a bit of walking.
- Don’t forget to bring sun protection, as southern Spain can get very hot.
- Strollers are not permitted on the grounds of the Generalife, so plan to bring a baby carrier if needed.
- The Generalife Gardens are mostly wheelchair accessible, and there are modified tours that cater to—and include—wheelchairs.
The building itself dates back to the 16th century, when it was constructed as a mansion by a viceroy from the Indies. Since then, the structure has been transformed into a hammam – the type of Arab bath once so common in Spain's south -- transporting you to another time with its tranquil pools, hypnotic music, and historical setting of brick-vaulted ceilings dimly lit by Moroccan-style lanterns.
During your two-hour visit, you'll be able to alternate between Aire de Sevilla's pools, of which there are several. Wash away the day's heat and wallow in relaxation while taking dips in the cool-, warm- and hot-water baths. Then, you can find bliss in the sauna, or while relaxing in other baths too, such as the jacuzzi jet-filled hydrotherapy pool or the buoyancy-boosting salt-water one. At some point during your visit, you'll be whisked away for your massage (the length and type of which is based on the package you purchase), before returning to the pools for more time to unwind.
The chief attraction of the Basilica Macarena is La Macarena, or "the Virgin of Hope," a 17th century wooden sculpture of Christ's mother mourning his death (complete with tears). She's the patron saint of bullfighters, friend to gypsies and star of the Semana Santa parade held in Seville every Easter.
When she passes by in the parade, songs are sung to her beauty and rose petals strewn in her path. In a small museum adjoining the basilica, you can see some of the Virgin's parade array, along with bullfighting relics.
The Basilica Macarena can be reached by taking Line 3 to the Macarena stop, or taking the C2 or C3 bus.
- The Alcazar is a must-see for first-time visitors to Andalucia.
- Remember to bring water and sunscreen, as some areas of the palace have very little shade.
- Wear comfortable shoes, and dress in layers, as conditions within the palace can vary.
- Give yourself two to three hours to explore the palace complex.