Andalucia has some of the most interesting cities in Europe. Visitors come to enjoy their culture and history and to experience the unique lifestyle provided by the Spanish, whose conviction that life is meant to be lived to the full is apparent in every street.
Málaga has long been relegated as a non-entity on the tourist must see list. However, those already familiar with its charms describe a busy, Spanish city with a wealth of delights to discover.
Its varied history is clearly visible in different monuments. One can almost hear the roar of the crowd and the clash of weapons when visiting the Roman Theatre or imagine Moors cooling off in the fountains of the Moorish Castle.
Málaga probably derives its name from the Phoenician word for salt – Malac and indeed its original settlers of 3000 years ago used the harbour to salt fish. Relics from this time can be viewed in the archaeological museum. One of the last Moorish cities to fall to the Christian invaders in the 15th century, Málaga has a spectacular cathedral dating from this time and a stunning 16th century palace.
Málaga’s most famous son is, of course, Pablo Picasso. The recently opened Picasso Museum is essential viewing for visitors to the city.
Excellent restaurants and tapas bars are to be found among the streets of the old town and at night Málaga becomes a lively hub of activity with venues for all tastes.
Shopping opportunities are abundant in Málaga from those to be had in quaint boutiques to those in the most expansive commercial centres. Málaga Central Market should not be missed.
Horticulturists will enjoy the botanical gardens and parks which are a pleasant feature of the city.
According to legend, Sevilla was founded by Hercules and its origins are linked with the Tartessian civilisation.
Lying on the banks of the Guadalquivir River, Sevilla is one of the largest historical centres in Europe. Visitors can enjoy the minaret of La Giralda, climb the Giralda Tower in the Cathedral for fabulous views of the city, wander the stunning gardens of Alcázar Palace, visit the Casa de Pilatos, the Town Hall, the Archive of the Indies (where the historical records of the American continent are kept), the Fine Arts Museum, plus numerous convents, churches and palaces.
Even more than for its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is famous for being a joyous town. It is the largest city in Southern Spain and the home of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro.
Sevilla conjures images of passion. Men on fine, stamping horses and women twirling their brilliantly coloured gypsy dresses go hand in hand with romance and drama. Recently, Sevilla has been described as a ‘woman’s city’, perhaps because of its beauty and safe streets.
Sevilla has some of the most beautiful city parks in Europe, as well as numerous plazas and open spaces where you can happily people watch for hours. For a leisurely stroll, wander along the river bank from the bridge to Triana, the old gypsy quarter, where you can buy gorgeous ceramic tiles.
Sevilla is great for going out due to the huge variety of venues in a small area. You can easily visit four or five completely different bars without walking more than ten minutes between any of them. Don’t miss out on some of the superb tapas available. Follow the lead of the locals and try a different dish in every bar.
The city of Granada is most well known as the home of the Alhambra and as one of the few places left in Spain where one receives free tapas when ordering a drink! It is the gateway to Sierra Nevada where, in the winter months, locals and tourists flock to the slopes to enjoy winter sports.
Known as Ilbyr by the native tribes who originally settled here, Granada derives its current name from the Arabs who invaded in the 8th century and has been home to numerous settlers during its turbulent history, finally being the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492.
The Alhambra, which sits in the foothills of Sierra Nevada and looks over the city, is arguably the most spectacular of Europe’s historical monuments. It is made up of a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th century. At its centre stands the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Described as a brilliant jewel, it is top of the must see list for many visitors to Andalucia.
Do be aware that to guarantee access, tickets should be booked at least one day in advance as entry is limited in order to protect the monument. Allow at least three hours for your visit.
Tickets can be booked in any BBVA bank, by phoning 902 224 460 or on the internet. Access to the Palace Nazaries is strictly limited to the time allocated with your ticket. Leave plenty of time to ensure that you are able to make your slot. Pre-booked tickets must be collected from the Western Entrance which involves a long walk from the city. Alternatively hop on a number 32 bus which will drop you off by the ticket office.
Other notable places of interest to be found in the city are the Cathedral, which houses the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand, the Christian invaders, lie buried and Sacromonte Hill, which overlooks the city from the North and is famous for its cave dwellings. It was once the home of Granada's large gypsy community.
On the hill, facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish Kasbah called the Albaicin, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens. The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the palace.
The City of Córdoba has Roman origins but is better known for its Moorish inhabitants. In the tenth century it was the western capital of the Islamic Empire.
In Roman times, its position as the highest navigable point of the Guadalquivir River meant that Córdoba became a port city of great importance and the mighty bridge “El Puente Romano” dates from this time.
Work began on the great mosque – Mezquita, during the city’s finest hour as capital of the Moorish kingdom. After several centuries of enlargements this mosque became one of the largest in all of Islam. When the city was conquered by the Christians in 1236, the new rulers were so awed by its beauty that they left it standing, building their cathedral in the midst of its rows of arches and columns and thus creating the extraordinary church-mosque we see today. When the mosque was used for Moslem prayer, all nineteen naves were open to the courtyard allowing the rows of interior columns to appear forest-like with brilliant shafts of sunlight filtering through the trees.
Today, the city is typically Andalucian, with lots of atmosphere, narrow streets, small shops, a fabulous choice of restaurants and bars and numerous places of interest to visit.
Notable on the tourist trail are the city walls and the Episcopal Palace now a museum of religious art. Photographers ahould not miss the opportunity to capture the delights of the “Calle de las Flores” or street of flowers.