In the first part of our Spain review, we’ve introduced you to the outstanding marvels of the country’s north. Now it’s time to have a closer look at southern Spanish regions to get a clear image of the whole county’s stunning legacy and to ease your planning a trip to Spain. So let’s dive into a different side of Spain, full of no less surprises!
Though such destinations as Madrid and Barcelona are considered to be Spanish classics, the country’s south offers plenty of incredible places that can impress you even more! The sun-kissed Spanish south is all about ancient ruins, Moorish palaces, beautiful coastlines, and mesmerizing sounds of passionate flamenco. Sounds inspiring, huh? Let’s have a look at the best cities in southern Spain worth being discovered.
The Allure of Orange Groves and Valencia Beaches
One of the largest and most vibrant Spanish destinations, beautiful Valencia is the land of colors and contrasts. As a rule, Valencia is associated worldwide with the famous local football team Valencia FC, as well as the golden coastline, bright festivities, and endless love to delicious food and siesta. Although today’s Valencia is a dynamic modern hub, its centuries-old history and traditions make the city a nice starting point of your Spanish south exploration.
In fact, the main lure of Valencia hides in the cozy streets of its Old Town and the treasures of the Arabic reign. Ready the take a glimpse into Valencia history and find out why the Moors called this port city a paradise on the earth?
A traditional Valencia walking tour usually starts from the ancient heart of the city full of grandiose medieval buildings that will immerse you into the authentic city's atmosphere.
Witness the Gothic-style edifice of the Valencia Silk Exchange, La Lonja de la Seda, then make your way to the Central Market, the best place to get the real taste of the city.
After grabbing a snack, don’t miss the chance to admire the beauty of the 13th-century Valencia Cathedral and see the landmark square, Plaza de la Virgen, housing a nice fountain and a gorgeous basilica.
However, Valencia is obviously not only about ancient architecture and traditions. To enjoy the spirit of contemporary art, head to the City of Art and Science, the futuristic complex in Valencia boasting five cultural spots that will broaden your horizons in all areas.
A huge aquarium L'Oceanogràfic, the Science Museum of Prince Felipe, the opera house Palau de les Artes Reina Sofia, a modern cinema Hemisfèric, and a multifunctional art space L'Àgora will definitely amaze you from both inside and outside.
In case you’ve satisfied your appetite regarding the marvelous attractions in Valencia, it is high time to pay attention to your gastronomic whims that Valencia can cover in full.
The assortment in Valencia restaurants is so rich that you’ll never want to leave this Mediterranean hub!
Did you know that it was actually Valencia where the authentic dish Spanish paella was “born”? Moreover, the local gastronomy is incredibly rich in great seafood and various vegetable dishes. Isn’t it one more reason to plan a Valencia getaway?
Glorious Andalusia: The Successor of the Great Arabic Empire
The southernmost and the second largest region of Spain, passionate Andalusia is just a mind-blowing cocktail of several cultures, spiced up with explosive Spanish temper and hot, African-like weather. Bizarre mosaics, multi-colored tiles, tasteful architecture, and beautiful Moorish-style ornate, decorating the edifices of Andalusian cities, make the region join the list of top destinations in Spain.
Starting a conversation about the most special destinations in Andalusia, we should mention its unparalleled capital, Seville.
According to the legend, this enchanting city was founded by the ancient hero Hercules and still remains a famous gem of the entire country.
In fact, Seville will become a real hit for the fans of the Game of Thrones as the city houses the gorgeous Real Alcázar, a fancy Moorish palace featured in this world-known TV series. Excited to visit the Water Gardens in the fictional Kingdom of Dorne?
Speaking of less cinematized but no less beautiful structures, you should definitely see the iconic Plaza de España and the gothic Cathedral of Seville with La Giralda, a huge bell tower, graciously dominating the city.
To continue your travel around fabulous Andalusia, head to Granada. Merging the past and the present, the appearance of Granada amazingly blends traditions of different cultures, creating a harmonious ensemble of winding streets, splendid palaces, and mighty fortresses.
Probably the most recognizable landmark is the lush Arabian palace of Alhambra. This striking UNESCO-listed complex is, indeed, an unmissable sight for those wishing to get a better understanding of the local culture.
Apart from that, we strongly recommend setting foot into Albaicín, the historic district of Granada providing dramatic views and perfectly transmitting the spirit of the Arabic reign.
Still can’t get enough of the glorious Arabian legacy?
Then you have no other choice than making your way to magnificent Cordoba, one more great example of well-preserved Islamic architecture. Delve into the exceptional atmosphere of the fantastic Mosque of Cordoba, which offers great photo opportunities, being a symbol of the golden Muslim age and featuring a myriad of bizarre ornate vaults.
Another essential sight, you should include in your Cordoba trip is the Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos, the iconic place where Christopher Columbus firstly shared his expedition goals with the king.
In case you want to couple your Andalusia exploration with sunbathing and relaxing on the seashore, there are two more southern Spain cities worth your close attention. Those, interested in the art of the genius Pablo Picasso, you will appreciate staying in Malaga, the birthplace of the outstanding artist.
In addition to Picasso legacy, Malaga will enchant you with its wonderful Cathedral. Considered as the main gem of Renaissance of Andalusia, the majestic edifice was under construction for more than 250 years and embodies the mix of architectural styles existing in Europe of different epochs.
The last but not the least Andalusian point obligatory for visiting is the most ancient Spanish town, Cadiz. The brilliant port simply dazzles travelers with its tiny whitewashed and pastel houses, lovely promenades, and the crystal-clear emerald waters washing its bays. Have a walk around the romantic quarters, pop into the Roman theatre, explore the Cathedral of Santa Cruz and the Church of St. Catalina to fall for this small paradise forever.
The Unique Vibe of Spain Islands
After exploring the mainland, you may refine your south journey by setting off on a trip to the appetizing Spanish islands, Balearic or Canary. Different in their flavor, both archipelagos have something in store to add to your Spanish vacation.
Set off the east coast of Spain to the stunning Balearic Islands, including such famous Mediterranean resorts as Mallorca, Menorca, and Ibiza.
Postcard-like towns and villages, an impressive number of entertainment and nightlife options, fabulous clean beaches, warm tender sea, and simply mind-blowing sunsets stand among the main reasons why travelers consider a vacation on the Balearic Islands quite tempting.
Apart from beautiful nature, the islands don’t lack some historical background as well. Explore the gothic castle of Bellver, the former residence of the King James II of Mallorca, as well as get amazed by visiting such natural sights as fairytale Drach Caves and the picturesque Cap of Formentor. In Menorca see Naveta of Es Tudons, a remarkable megalithic tomb, to make your Balearic trip complete.
A more, let’s say, exotic travel option is making your way to the marvelous Canary Islands. Located in the Atlantic Ocean, actually closer to the African continent than to Spain, the islands are often called the land of endless spring as thanks to the unique location, the archipelago boasts warm mild weather all year round.
Being a real natural marvel, the volcanic Canary Islands, such as Tenerife and Gran Canaria, have something you don’t expect.
Immerse into the extraterrestrial landscapes of dramatic mountains and lush subtropical forests of natural parks, the outline of looming volcanoes and excellent golden, and even black, sandy beaches.
In case you are fond of active leisure and lifestyle, you will be pleased to find out that the place is favorable for doing a wide range of sports activities.
Conquer the oceanic wave on a surfboard, catch the Atlantic wind while enjoying windsurfing or try something with less adrenaline but same joy as boat rides, golf, and mountain hikes.
Bonus Opportunities for Your Southern Spain Trip
If you think that we’ve already covered all the best places to vacation in Spain, we are glad to reassure you as we still haven’t mentioned some Spanish territories in Gibraltar. You may be surprised but Spain has its own territories on another continent! Excited?
Yes, the north coast of Africa hides two small yet prominent historic Spanish spots, the autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla. Not such touristy by the standards of the rest of Spain, these two cities are extremely interesting in the context of medieval buildings and historic origins which means that Ceuta and Melilla can become a nice addition to both, your Spanish travel or a Morocco exploration. So why not to get two counties in your itinerary instead of one?
To finalize, Spain is such a multifaceted and unique destination that it certainly deserves to be a part of your Southern Europe travel history. Of course, it is all up to you, whether you strive to discover the legacy of the famed artists or the heritage of the glorious Arabic reign, challenge yourself by covering the route of St. James or get inspired by the lunar landscapes of the Canary Islands - we hope that our review will help you to come up with fresh travel ideas and inspire you to discover Spain from different sides!