To celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday, I flew to Spain to meet her and my sisters for a family road trip in Andalusia.
This region of Spain was under Moorish rule for a long time and their legacy is best seen in the monuments of Cordoba, Seville and Granada. Being an avid visitor of UNESCO World Heritage sites, I always had these three cities on my radar. Spain is, after all, the the third country with the most sites in the world.
First stop: Cordoba
For my first taste of Andalusia, we started strong by visiting the fascinating Mezquita. The history of the region truly shows here. The place started as a church, was then divided between Muslims and Christians, to becoming a Mosque and back to a cathedral. The architects through the times have adapted the structure to fit the religion and you can find features from both.
Our next sight that day was the chapel of San Bartolome. This tiny place is seldom visited and I was happy about that. It gave me enough time to admire the tile work.
The next day, we went to see the Alcazar and the nearby stables. We enjoyed walking in the gardens of the Alcazar and the mosaics in the old chapel.
In my family, we like horses so when we found out we could see the famous Andalusian horses training for the evening show, we didn’t hesitate. the stables are located right next to the Alcazar and we saw the them from one of the towers.
My recommendations for a meal in Cordoba
- select from the hundredds of different tapas at Bodegas Mezquita
- indulge in some pretty special hummus and other sefarad treats at Casa Mazal
- sample cuisines from different corners of the world at Mercado Victoria
Second stop: Seville, the capital of Andalusia
In my head, Seville was a cute city with white walls, cobbled streets and orange trees bathed in the hot sun. Well, I don’t know if it’s global warming and all that but I had to buy an umbrella to explore the capital of Andalusia. An umbrella!
For our first day, we focused our efforts on the cathedral and its bell tower or Giralda. The cathedral is huge (the third largest in the world) and this is where you can find the tomb of Christopher Columbus. In Seville, the Catholic Church wanted to impress and they employed every resource they had to do so. You can most definitely see this in the retable, an impressive gold carving.
Here again, the church became a mosque at some point and went back to being a church once the Moorish rule ended. The Giralda used to be the minaret of the mosque and was transformed into the bell tower after the Reconquista.
We also went poster hunting. I’m not sure why but Seville has a fascination for old school posters. I saw them first while eating tapas in Las Teresas and then I found this little poster shop where I bought a replica of a 1934 poster. It will go great in my new house in London.
To start our second day in Seville, we decided to head to the Plaza de Espana, where the sun finally decided to shine.
We then moved onto the Real Alcazar, the jewel of the city. As you can imagine this place saw a lot of history and rulers. All the rulers added their own touches and the final result is simply stunning. There is a lot to see in the Real Alcazar and for the fans of Game of Thrones, you’ll be pleased to know that the place was used as a location to film the scenes in Dorne.
We finished the day by going towards the river, taking in the sights of Torre del Oro and the Plaza de Toros.
My recommendations for a meal in Seville
- Go for fresh juices and breakfast at Jester
- For hanging hams and dusty bottles of Rioja head to Las Teresas
- The best fried fish and churros can be found at Freiduria Puerta De La Carne
- Enjoy modern Spanish food at restaurant La Azotea
- Great tapas and drinks at Bar Alfalfa
- If you’ve had enough of iberico ham and are in serious need of pizza/pasta, go to San Marco
- The most instagrammable meal is at El Pinton
Last stop: Granada
I had high hopes for Granada and it didn’t disappoint. It’s the city of Andalusia where I felt the influence of the Muslim history the most.
Quick tip: If you’re travelling to Granada, you’re most probably planning on visiting the Alhambra so make sure to book your tickets in advance or you’ll really be disappointed.
Once we got to Granada from Seville, we decided to visit smaller sights such as the San Jeronimo monastery and to wander in the narrow streets of the Albaicin.
Our tickets for the Alhambra were for 1pm so we decided to visit the cathedral and royal chapel in the morning.
We then headed to the Alhambra taking the shuttle from the centre of town.
The Alhambra is a huge complex mainly made of a few palaces and a fortress. the location couldn’t be more stunning. The fortress is built on a hill with the snowy summits of Sierra Nevada in the background. My favourite things to see were:
- The Nasrid Palaces
- The Generalife Palace
And to end what was a wonderful day, we walk in the Albaicin to reach the mirador of San Nicolas to admire the sun setting on the Alhambra.
My recommendations for a meal in Granada
- For the best iberico ham you’ll ever have, go to Bodegas Castaneda
- Enjoy a drink watching the sun setting on the Alhambra at El Balcon de San Nicolas
- When you’ve spent hours in the Alhambra and you’re starving, have a quick bite at the cafeteria of the Parador de Granada
- Breakfast with a view at Lio
- For a great Moroccon couscous go to Marrakech restaurant