Looking for the best things to do in Andalusia, Spain?
We spent two blissful weeks touring Andalusia, Spain’s spectacular southern province, and loved every moment. There is so much to see and do in Andalusia that you could easily spend a lot more time here.
But if you don’t have a lot of time in Andalusia, you can still see the very best sights in just a few days.
Andalusia is one of the best road trips in Spain you can do, but here we tell you how to visit these five top sights without a car.
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With its historic cities and charming white villages, Andalusia is a fabulous destination in Spain. You will love the tasty tapas and the flamboyant flamenco. And the rich history, culture, art, and architecture can’t be beat!
But even in this land filled with travel treasures, a few gems stand out. In just three days, you can experience the top 5 things to do in Andalusia. Read on for details!
THE 5 Unmissable Sights IN ANDALUSIA
Seville, Granada, and Córdoba are the three major cities in Andalusia you have to visit. In these cities, you will find some amazing monuments. And loads of history.
And in just three days, you can see the best sights they have to offer collectively: the five most stunning monuments in all of Andalusia.
You can do this trip independently from Madrid. Or you can do it using public transport. Or you can opt for a guided tour. Whichever way you choose to visit, don’t miss the opportunity to see the best of Andalusia!
#1 Explore the Alhambra of Granada
Without a doubt, the Alhambra of Granada is the crown jewel monument to visit in Andalusia. Indeed, it was a story about this beautiful palace-fortress complex that first sparked my interest in visiting Andalusia.
If you are looking for the best things to do in Andalusia, definitely put the Alhambra at the top of your list.
WHY THE ALHAMBRA SHOULD BE AT THE TOP OF YOUR ANDALUSIA WISH-LIST
First, you will love the stunning location. It sits on a hilltop surrounded by forests. The Sierra Nevada form a dramatic backdrop, creating the perfect picture postcard.
Second, its beauty will have you exclaiming in wonder. The Alhambra was transformed in the 14th century into a magnificent architectural complex by Granada’s Moorish rulers.
And finally, you’ll be checking off a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Allow several hours to explore the Alhambra and the Generalife Gardens. We spent six hours here, and could easily have spent a few more.
We splurged on a private tour of the Alhambra and felt it was well worth the money. Our guide was fabulous!
Book a guided tour of the Alhambra. Your experience will be vastly enhanced: a tour with a local guide will ensure you miss nothing of import, and will take you through the complex efficiently if you have limited time.
If you do not want a tour, read up as much as you can beforehand. Then wander the complex, with an audio guide for on-the-spot context and guidance.
WHAT TO SEE AT THE ALHAMBRA
Take the time to view and appreciate the gorgeous arabesque detailing and calligraphy that adorn the walls of the palaces. The lacy arches and the beautiful patterns are jaw-dropping beautiful.
Do not miss the Court of the Lions, with the beautiful Fountain of the Lions, or the courtyard with the reflecting pool. From many parts of the Alhambra, including the fortress, you get panoramic views of the city of Granada.
Your final view of the Alhambra should be from the Mirador de San Nicolas. The Mirador is located in the Albayzin on the hill opposite the Alhambra. Visit in the evening, when the rays of the setting sun light up the ochre-amber walls of “The Red One.”
If you can, stay until it gets dark and the Alhambra is lit. This is a scene you will carry with you forever.
The best time to visit the Alhambra is in the spring, when flowering trees and wisteria are in bloom in the gardens, and temperatures are pleasant.
Advance ticket purchases are an absolute must, to avoid disappointment. Also, you need to enter the Nasrid Palaces during the time slot indicated on your ticket.
There is a cap on daily visitors and leaving availability to chance on the day of your visit is very risky. But if you go to book and find that tickets are sold out on the day you want to visit, you may still have options.
If you go: Alhambra of Granada, Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada, Spain
#2 Admire the Royal Alcazar of Seville
Also part of a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Real Alcázar de Sevilla is one of the top five monuments to visit in southern Spain. It definitely deserves a spot in your list of the best things to do in Andalusia!
Getting to Seville from Madrid is a breeze, so once you’ve exhausted all the beautiful places to see in Madrid, add on the trip to Andalusia to see all the best monuments in Spain’s southern province.
Seville’s Alcazar is a gorgeous example of the Mudéjar architectural style, with its mix of Christian and Moorish elements. Many of the most ornate parts of the complex were built under the Castile rulers. A part of the complex still serves as a royal residence.
The Alcazar is the most popular place to visit in Seville, so book a guided tour for a hassle-free experience, and to learn about the landmark sight as you walk through it.
You can also book a combined tour of the Royal Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, and La Giralda, the bell tower of the cathedral. The tour is an excellent value.
What to See at the Royal Alcazar of Seville
From the majestic entrance with its tiled lion to its many beautiful rooms and courtyards, you will be captivated by the beauty of the Alcazar of Seville. Don’t miss the stunning Courtyard of the Maidens, with its many arches, central pool, and orange trees.
Other must-see rooms in the complex are the Salón de los Tapices, with massive tapestries adorning the walls, and the ornate Ambassadors’ Room. Also note the beautiful azulejos (decorative tiles) everywhere.
The gardens are gorgeous, with a large orangerie and many flower beds enclosed by formal hedges. There are beautiful pools and fountains, and lovely architectural elements, some adorned with fragrant jasmine or climbing roses.
Allow at least three to four hours to tour the Alcazar and its gardens. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the fragrance of citrus blossom and jasmine waft about you in the gardens and the days are pleasant.
If you do not want to join a tour, be sure to purchase skip-the-line tickets to the Alcazar in advance!
If you visit: Royal Alcazar of Seville, Patio de Banderas, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
#3 Be Awed by the Grandeur of the Seville Cathedral
Next on your list of the most amazing things to do in Seville (and Andalusia!) should be a visit to the magnificent Cathedral of Saint Mary of the See in Seville.
The Seville Cathedral is part of the city’s UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is the third largest church in the world, and the world’s largest Gothic Church.
After the Reconquista, the mosque that stood in this location was converted to a church. But eventually, the existing structure was destroyed and a new, grand church was built in its place.
The builders wanted the new church to be the best, most magnificent church in the world. And I think they succeeded in their mission!
The exterior of the cathedral, with its Gothic spires, is grand. It stands in the middle of the historic center and you can’t help but stare at it in awe each time you walk by. The interior is just as stunning, with lots of religious art, a long nave, and the glitzy Capilla Mayor.
After you explore the interior, walk out on to the beautiful Courtyard of the Orange Trees. Then climb to the top of the Giralda, the bell tower of the cathedral, for great views over the city.
Allow about 1.5 to 2 hours. If you make the climb to the top of the Giralda, allow for at least two hours in total.
Want to visit on your own? Buy skip-the-line tickets to the Seville Cathedral and La Giralda!
If you go: Seville Cathedral, Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
#4 Marvel at the Majestic Plaza de España in Seville
The Plaza of Spain in Seville was built in 1928 for the Ibero-American Expo of 1929. Looking at it, you would not think that it is a young building: it looks like it has been standing there forever.
The Plaza of Spain is a mix of Renaissance Revival and Moorish Revival architecture, and it is one of the largest and most majestic plazas in all of Europe.
Anchored by buildings that run around one end in a half-moon shape, with tall towers at each end, the plaza makes for a fun walk from end to end.
A huge fountain makes a splash in the center of the plaza, and a moat runs around the rim. You can boat on the water, enjoying the Spanish sun.
You can also walk around and admire the architecture. Or people watch. Or browse the stalls set up by vendors hawking fans, art, and other souvenirs.
Don’t miss the beautiful tiled displays, one from each province of Spain. With lovely colors and intricate designs, the displays make beautiful backdrops for photos!
Allow two to three hours.
If you go: Plaza de España, Av de Isabel la Católica, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
#5 Be Captivated by the Beauty of the Mezquita de Córdoba
The Great Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba rounds out the list of the 5 most amazing sights in Andalusia. It is considered one of the greatest examples of Moorish architecture.
So amazing is the interior that after the Christians reconquered Cordoba, they built their cathedral in the middle of the mosque rather than tear it down.
The story of the building of the mosque is fascinating. So large was the scale of the endeavor that it vitalized the economy of the entire city.
The Emir of Cordoba moved into the city so he could personally supervise the construction. And materials were sourced from all over the surrounding area.
As you walk into the huge main hall, be prepared to be awe-struck by the enormous number of columns, topped by candy-cane double horseshoe arches.
After you’ve taken in the big picture, walk around and admire the exquisite detail and workmanship of individual areas. The main prayer niche, called the mihrab, will amaze you with its rich gilding and ornate art.
The Renaissance cathedral in the middle is gorgeous as well. It is very ornate, with lots of gilding and rich design.
Allow about three hours.
A guided tour is a great way to experience the stunning Mezquita. A knowledgeable guide will impart a lot of information and make sure you do not miss something of import!
Want to explore on your own? Buy skip-the-line tickets to the Mezquita of Cordoba!
If you visit: Mezquita de Córdoba, Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Spain
A Sample Itinerary from Madrid and Back
You can visit Seville and Cordoba on day trips from Madrid.
Andalusia lends itself beautifully to a road trip: in fact, it is one of the most beautiful road trips you can do in Spain. So if you have a car, you can cover these top sights on a short road trip from Madrid.
You can also cover these five stunning monuments on a 3-day trip from Madrid using public transport. Here is a sample itinerary!
Day 1: MADRID TO CORDOBA
Take the high-speed train from Madrid to Córdoba. The journey is about two hours. Plan on arriving in the early afternoon. Take a taxi from the train station to the Mezquita and back to the station after you are done.
Take a high speed train from Córdoba to Seville, arriving late in the evening. This journey is about one hour. Check into accommodation in the historic center, close to the sights you will want to cover in Seville.
DAY 2: SEVILLE
Spend the day exploring the Royal Alcazar, the Seville Cathedral, and the Plaza of Spain. Spend the night in Seville but plan on taking an early morning bus (or train) to Granada.
DAY 3: GRANADA
The train ride to Granada takes 2.5 hours and the bus ride to Granada takes about three hours. After you check into your hotel, spend the rest of the day exploring the Alhambra and the Generalife.
Take a taxi from the Alhambra to the Mirador de San Nicolas to view the Alhambra at sunset or after dark. Spend the night in Granada.
DAY 4: GRANADA TO MADRID
Take an early train from Granada back to Madrid. This journey takes about 3 hours and 20 minutes on a high speed train.
The high speed trains in Spain are excellent for getting from one city to another in a jiffy. We splurged on first class, but they are comfortable regardless of which class you choose. Buy tickets here. You’ll pay less if you book tickets in advance.
For an easier experience booking train tickets for travel within Spain, try Omio. The website is in English and we have had no issues getting US credit cards accepted.
Visiting Barcelona and eager to squeeze in a short visit to Andalusia? A high speed train can get you from Barcelona to Seville in 5.5 hours, or you can take an inexpensive flight, which will get you to Seville in under 2 hours.
When to Visit Andalusia
Visit Andalusia in the spring, when daytime temperatures are pleasant and the smell of citrus blossom is everywhere.
Late fall or winter are your next best options. Seville in winter is a joy, with lower crowds (and prices!). You will find Christmas festivities all over Andalusia in December.
Summers get very hot in Andalusia and you won’t want to be walking around and exploring in the heat of the Spanish summer sun.
Planning a longer visit to Andalusia? Check out some of our other articles, plus our two-week Andalusia itinerary! If you are thinking about a trip to Spain, we have a round-up of the most beautiful places to visit in Spain.
- The Best Things to Do in Granada: A 3-Day Guide
- The Best Things to Do in Malaga
- The Best Things to Do in Cordoba
- The Best Things to Do in Seville: A 3-Day Guide
- The Best Things to Do in Ronda, Spain, in One Day!
- The Ultimate 1-Day in Seville Itinerary
- Visiting Seville’s Royal Alcazar
- Granada or Seville: Which City Should You Visit?
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