ANDALUCIA’S GOLDEN TRIANGLE – SEVILLE, CORDOBA & GRANADA
If you’re looking for a holiday visiting three stunning, historic, very different cities, come to Andalucia: majestic Seville, intimate Cordoba and spectacular Granada – each has its own perfectly preserved Mudejar gems which are recognised by UNESCO, as well as many other delights for you to discover. The best thing is that they’re only a few hours’ drive from each other. Hire a car, visit Andalucia’s Golden Triangle then finish up in Malaga and hit the beach for the perfect end to your holiday.
Since the Romans first arrived, Seville has been one of the most important cities on the Iberian peninsula. The Moors ruled for centuries, but the city’s greatest Moorish architectural masterpiece dates from after they left: the Alcazar. Nearby, the largest Christian Cathedral in the world is crowned by a tower, the Giralda, originally built by the Moors for their mosque.
Today, Seville is best known for its tapas scene, and two major festivals which both take place in spring: solemn Semana Santa (Holy Week) and joyous Feria de Abril (the April fair). For more contemporary city life, the Alameda is a haven of bars, always buzzing, while Soho Benita has independent galleries and shops offering creative courses.
A little over an hour’s drive north-east of Seville by motorway (or AVE high-speed train) is Cordoba. Here, you won’t want to miss the Mezquita is one of the most famous buildings in the world, and was originally one of the most important mosques in the world – appropriately, for Cordoba was then the capital of the Arab kingdom of Al-Andalus. Cordoba was known for its poets and philosophers, a seat of learning and cultural diversity. After the reconquest by the Catholic Kings, a cathedral was built over the mosque.
In terms of other reasons to visit, the Alcazar (palace-fortress) and its gardens, and the Roman Bridge, as well as Cordoba’s major festival takes place in May – the Patios competition, when you can visit 50 flower-filled private courtyards around the city which are festooned with blooming pots and climbing plants. Cordoba has more of an intimate feel than the other two cities, thanks to a historic centre with many low-rise houses on windy cobbled streets.
Head south-east towards the coast along windy picturesque roads (or take a regional train), past Jaen province, and you arrive in Granada City. When you say the name, and the most people think of the Alhambra. This spectacular sand-coloured complex of Moorish palaces sits atop a mountain looking over the city. Visiting the Alhambra, with its maze of pools and patios, is a must for everyone once in their life – if not more. Granada also has one of the best-preserved Moorish quarters: the Albaicin, with its carmens- hillside town houses with walled gardens. In this city, every drink comes with a free tapa, so eating out takes on a delightful element of surprise.
In winter, you’re close to the Sierra Nevada – the snow-topped mountains visible behind the Alhambra – which is Europe’s most southerly winter sports area, and plays host to many international skiing and snowboarding events; while the coast is just an hour away to the south.
Only appreciated in recent years for its cultural wealth, Malaga has more museums than any other city in Andalucia, if not Spain. Choose from Picasso, cars, wine or archaeology. It is also (still) the capital of the Costa del Sol, making it the perfect base from which to visit Andalucia’s Golden Triangle of Seville, Granada and Cordoba in a hire car, and then kick back with some lazy days on the beach.
Malaga has an excellent high-speed train service to Seville, and thence to Cordoba, but there’s no train from Malaga to Granada until spring 2018.