Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to…
Central Spain is filled with castles straight out of Don Quixote, never-ending fields of sunflowers blowing in the breeze, steep snowy peaks, and hot desert landscapes. It goes without saying that Madrid is a must-see city, but some of the small towns around the capital are where you’ll find Spain’s true hidden treasures.
Wander around this medieval city and feel like Cinderella and Hercules all at once. Segovia’s ancient Roman aqueduct stands dramatically in the centre of the city, whilst the fairytale castle is just as breathtaking.
The half-a-mile-long, nearly 29-metre-high aqueduct will make you wonder how the arches’ 250,000 granite blocks have stayed together since the 1st century. The Alcázar, its clean lines rising out of a rocky crag, could be plucked straight from a Disney film. Walk through the city’s cobbled Plaza Mayor for charming shops, traditional restaurants and, of course, the Segovia Cathedral.
Segovia is famous for cochinillo asado, roasted suckling pig, and ponche segoviano, a sweet treat from the region. Try family-run José María Restaurante, just outside Plaza Mayor, for an authentic meal in an impressive setting, or Mesón Don Jimeno for some local fare.
Mesón Don Jimeno, Calle Daoiz, 15 40003 Segovia. Tel: 921 46 63 50
José María Restaurante, Calle Cronista Lecea 11, 40001 Segovia. Tel: 921 461 111. Restaurantejosemaria.com
The famous hanging houses are the main draw of this UNESCO World Heritage Site city. But behind the fortress walls lies an entire city that’s full of well-preserved, medieval buildings waiting to be explored.
The casas colgadas, clinging to cliffs since the 15th century, have been turned into restaurants and a modern art museum. The Museo de Arte Abstracto Español has an unexpected art collection well worth a visit. Cross the Saint Paul bridge over the gorge of the River Huécar and take in the best views of the hanging houses. When you’re back in the city, Gothic-style Cuenca Cathedral is a must-see.
At lunchtime, peek inside a hanging house and taste one of the city’s specialities, roasted lamb, at Mesón Casas Colgadas. Then wander around the Plaza Mayor and sample some Cuenca treats from bakeries like Marisol. Don’t miss alajú, a traditional pastry made with almonds and honey.
Mesón Casas Colgadas, Calle Canonigos 3, 16001 Cuenca, Spain. Tel: 696 21 29 83
Marisol, Calle Diego Jiménez, 4 – bajo, 16004 Cuenca, Spain. Tel: 969 226 559
Toledo is a magnificent melting pot of culture and history. In medieval times, Arab, Jewish and Christian cultures coexisted and came together to make up this stunning city overlooking the River Tajo.
Visit one of the most impressive examples of Gothic architecture and history at the Catedral de Toledo. Get lost in the city’s beautiful winding streets and stumble into the El Transito Synagogue and Sephardic Museum in the Jewish Quarter. Then head across the street to the El Greco Museum to celebrate Spain’s Golden Age artist.
When you’ve worked up an appetite, try Restaurante Adolfo for a little finesse in a 12th-century Jewish house. Or make your way a little outside the city to El Carmen de Montesión for the first Michelin-starred restaurant in Toledo.
Restaurante Adolfo, Calle Hombre de Palo, 7, 45001 Toledo. Tel: 925 227 321. Adolforestaurante.com
El Carmen de Montesión, Urbanización Montesión, Calle Montesión, 107 Toledo, 45004. Tel: 925 22 36 74. Elcarmendemontesion.com
Salamanca is famous for being home to the oldest university in Spain, the 13th-century University of Salamanca. The mixture of architectural styles, along with the city’s special Castilian glow, make the city magical.
Start in the centre of the Plaza Mayor to get a feel for the city’s grandeur. By night, its beaming Baroque architecture lights up and glows down on the people gathered in the square. Be sure to see the Old Cathedral and the New, and don’t miss the Casa de las Conchas and the Convento de San Esteban.
When it’s time to eat, try Victor Gutiérrez in the centre of the city where international cuisine is served in an intimate setting. And don’t forget to try some of Salamanca’s famous jamón ibérico de bellota, ham from pigs fed exclusively on acorns; it’s the best in Spain.
Víctor Gutiérrez, Calle Empedrada 4, 37007 Salamanca. Tel: 923 26 29 73. Restaurantevictorgutierrez.com
Walk through the impressive walls of Ávila and it’s as though you’ve taken a time machine to the 16th century. When the walls are illuminated at night, you’ll feel like you’re in a dream.
The Cathedral of Ávila, the Basilica of San Vicente, and the city’s Plaza Mayor are absolute must-sees. But make sure to take some time to explore the Convento de Santa Teresa and its small museum to understand the city’s religious heritage and connection to the saint.
As you meander through the old city, make sure to peek into pastry shop windows to find yemas de Santa Teresa, a traditional sweet made with egg yolk (you can’t go wrong at La Flor de Castilla). For the best views in town, try El Almacén — especially for dinner when the city’s wall is glowing in the distance. Or try Cinco in the city centre where you’ll find creative dishes as well as the traditional chuletones.
El Almacén, Carretera Salamanca 6, 05002 Avila. Tel: 920 25 44 55
Cinco, Plaza Mosén Rubi, 5, 05001 Ávila. Tel: 920 25 21 04
El Escorial is an elegant town in the mountains of the Madrid region. It’s filled with pretty plazas and charming shops, but the main attraction is the Royal Site of San Lorenzo de El Escorial.
This incredible complex is mostly known for being a monastery, but the massive building has also served as a basilica, royal palace, college, royal pantheon and tomb, library and museum. You can tour the incredible library, eerie tombs, monastery and gardens from Tuesday to Sunday, or just wander around the outside of the awe-inspiring building before heading to lunch.
Try Charoles for a traditional lunch at a classic El Escorial restaurant. Or Amet Studio for an innovative take on local dishes, open during autumn and winter. If you’re looking for regional cuisine any time of year, try Montia.
Charoles, Calle Floridablanca 24, 28200, San Lorenzo de El Escorial. Tel: 91 890 59 75. Charolesrestaurante.com
Amet Studio, Calle Pablo Picasso, 4 – local 3, Urb. Felipe II, 28200. Tel: 664 436 863. Ametstudio.com
Montia, Calle Calvario 4 – San Lorenzo de El Escorial, 28200 Madrid. Tel: 911 33 69 88. Montia.es
Aranjuez is known as the destination of choice for the Spanish royals during their spring and summer holidays. King Felipe II commissioned the Royal Palace and its incredible gardens (over 300 hectares of impeccably planned and manicured green space) in the second half of the 16th century.
You can take a guided tour of the palace to see the royal boudoirs, or marvel at the incredible building, the main square, and the seemingly never-ending gardens from the outside. Find your way to Estanque de los Chinescos inside the Jardín del Príncipe.
Have a picnic of local strawberries and asparagus (the region’s specialties) in the city’s beautiful green spaces or wide open plazas. Or have lunch in a converted villa at Casa José for an elegant meal with a focus on local cuisine.
Casa José, Calle Abastos 32, 28300, Aranjuez. Tel: 91 891 14 88. Casajose.es
Alcalá de Henares
This picturesque town is known for its historic university, being the birthplace of Miguel Cervantes, and serving up large portions of tapas alongside the beers (or other drinks) you order.
Wander through the UNESCO World Heritage Site city centre and see the beautiful Plaza de Cervantes. Then visit Teatro Corral de Comedias for some history and a show at an incredibly well-preserved 16th-century theatre. Check out the stunning facade of the Universidad de Alcalá, or even take a guided tour.
If you’re looking for traditional tapas, try Indalo Tapas for an authentic Alcalá experience, or Restaurante Goya for a classic Mediterranean meal. If you’ve got a sweet tooth, have a rosquilla de Alcalá with your after-lunch coffee.
Indalo Tapas, Calle Libreros, 9, 28801 Alcalá de Henares. Tel: 918 82 44 15. Indalotapas.com
Restaurante Goya, Calle Goya 2, 28807 Alcalá de Henares. Tel: 91 882 60 34. Restaurantegoya.com
Chinchón is a quiet town in the southeast of Madrid. People come to try local specialties like chinchón (anisette, the city’s namesake), regional wines at the end of March, and the garlic harvest in October. The beautiful, circular Plaza Mayor turns into a traditional bullring during the town’s many festivals.
Take a walk through the pretty streets of the old town and buy some of Chinchón’s famous garlic. And when there are no celebrations taking place, the Plaza Mayor is a great place to enjoy a cup of coffee and eat a fresh pastry.
Try La Dulcería de Chinchón for a freshly made, cream-filled donut. For lunch, La Recua del Pelicano is an unassuming place to have a quiet, traditional meal. Drink a shot of local chinchón to digest.
La Dulcería de Chinchón, Plaza Mayor, 1, 28370 Chinchón. Tel: 918 93 52 93
La Recua del Pelicano, Cuesta de Quiñones, 2, 28370 Chinchón. Tel: 918 32 01 29
Manzanares el Real
Found right at the bottom of the rocky, looming Sierra de Guadarrama, Manzanares el Real is the perfect place to start if you want to explore the mountains of the Madrid region. It’s a nice town to visit in its own right too, with the 15th-century New Castle of Manzanares el Real, and the Santillana Reservoir to stroll around.
However, most people come here to access La Pedriza, part of the Sierra de Guadarrama with its incredible finger-like boulders and cliffs to climb, and an enchanting river with beautiful natural pools, like the Charca Verde. Explore other awe-inducing natural rock formations, like Elephant Rock (El Elefante) and Chicken Bridge (El Puente de los Pollos). Visit La Pedriza’s visitors’ centre for more information about hiking trails.
For a simple Spanish meal on a peaceful terrace by the reservoir, try Mesón Los Morales. But your best bet in Manzanares is to pack a picnic, jump in the car and head to La Pedriza for lunch.
Mesón Los Morales, Av. de Madrid, 24, 28410, Manzanares El Real. Tel: 918 53 06 41
Array (  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 139603 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-12-11 09:50:40 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-12-11 09:50:40 [post_content] => Looking to get off the beaten track in Andalucia? We’ve scratched beneath the surface of this exciting, historic area of Spain, asked local experts and come up with a list of little-known things to see and do for our guide to hidden Andalucia...
If the bird's eye view of the inside of the cathedral looks spectacular, then to cap it off you emerge outside with 360-degree rooftop views of Malaga. [email protected]
Visit Malaga Cathedral's Roof
The top tip of Lindsay Gregory, Director of The Luxury Villa Collection: “Stroll around Malaga historic centre, take a hammam at Mammam Al Andalus and finish with cocktails at a rooftop bar.” https://malaga.hammamalandalus.com/en/
RELAX IN A HAMMAM
A rather lovely town with a Moorish fortress complex and no fewer than 30 churches. Don’t miss having tapas in the impressive Plaza de los Escribanos.
Meander in Antequera
Just outside Antequera, these are some of the largest and most complete megalithic structures in Europe. Museosdeandalucia.es
Visit Three 5000-year-old Dolmens
The ruins of a 9th-century church carved out of rock are the highlights of a larger fortified town complex. Anything 9th century and still standing is incredible in our books.
Wonder at a 9TH Century Church – Bobastro
A house with a garden in the Albayzin (the oldest part of Granada city) is known as a Carmen. These Carmens look out towards the Alhambra Palace, often have wooden balconies, plant-filled patios, babbling water features and decorative tiles.
Nose Around the Carmens of Granada's Albayzin
This 17th-century abbey and college comes complete with holy caves/ancient catacombs. The view of Granada alone is worth the walk.
Visit the Abbey of Sacromonte, Granada
This village has stately houses gripping onto the edge of a gorge, cobbled streets and spa credentials. Our top tip is to escape the summer heat in Granada and visit Alhama – it has a unique microclimate where summer nights cool to a comfortable level.
Take a day trip to Alhama de Granada and its Natural Hot Springs
Once part of several fortifications, the castle that sits on this tiny island dates back to the 13th century.
Find Out the Mysteries of the Island of Sancti Petri, San Fernando, Cadiz
This pristine white village, sitting high on a rocky hilltop, really comes into its own at sunrise and dusk. Aside from the dramatic light, there are lovely boutique shops, great restaurants and, during the summer, look out for their candlelight festival.
Experience the Beautiful Light in Vejer de la Frontera
While it's got a great beach with some decent Atlantic surf, it’s the laidback-hip bar vibe in El Palmar that makes it stand out from other stretches of southern Spain's coast.
Surf and Sip in El Palmar
David, chef at De Tako's top tip is, “One of the best ways to experience a country is through its food and an even better way is to enjoy perfectly cooked food is in an incredible setting surrounded by friends". We entirely agree – hire a private chef at your villa for the ultimate in convenience.
HIRE A Private Chef
One of our top hidden foodie treats in Andalucia is delicious Retinto beef from Cadiz. Much is spoken about fried fish, olives and olive oil, jamón ibérico and Sherry but this meaty option is also a real gastro-standout.
Taste Riotinto Beef
Hire a boat and hit the sea - you’ll almost inevitably come across a pod of dolphins in the Mediterranean.
Take to the Sea – Dolphin Watch
This forgotten about 12th-century arched gateway and wall was the main entrance into Seville, and is certainly off the beaten path.
Puerta de Macarena/Walls of Seville
You'll never have experienced a bar like Garlochí, a homage to Easter in Spain. All year round there's incense burning and procession music playing – they call it the cathedral of bars. Don’t miss their signature cocktail: Grenadine, whisky and Cava.
Drink at a Bar Dedicated to Easter in Sevilla
There’s a succession of beautiful waterfalls running over some interesting limestone formations in Sierra Norte de Sevilla Nature Park.
Wild Swimming at Cascadas de Hueznar in Seville Province
Fiona Flores Watson, Telegraph Travel Writer and Seville resident recommends: “The summer outdoor concerts held in the Alcazar Palace… a magical setting for live jazz, flamenco or classical music by moonlight.” Alcazarsevilla.org
SEE LIVE MUSIC IN THE ALCAZAR PALACE
The castle of Castillo de Almodovar del Rio was built in 740. You can join theatrical tours, do some medieval combat training or spooky storytelling. Castillodealmodovar.com
Visit Highgarden, the Tyrell’s House in Game of Thrones
Manni Coe of Toma & Coe Tours' top tip is: “One of the most consistently excellent restaurants I know in Andalucia is located on a little-known street, in the little-known town of Lucena. It's called Tres Culturas and it's also a handy stop off en-route to Cordoba." Tresculturasrestaurante.com
TRAVEL TO EAT AT TRES CULTURAS
In the Sierra de Cazorla natural park this castle was built at the start of the 16th century. A beautiful monument in an even more beautiful part of the world.
Marvel at the Castle of Iruela, Jaen
The colours of autumn over the vast landscape of rural Huelva is the perfect way to disconnect. Local people flock here to experience the change of the season.
Reconnect with Nature and See Autumn in Aracena
This breath-taking beach near the charming village of San Jose feels like another world.
Genoveses beacH in Cabo de Gata, Almeria
A bit of a cheat but do a tour…
Our top 5 are: Most unusual is in Segura de la Sierra in Jaen province: this square bullring is the old courtyard of a castle and was built in the 18th century. Ronda bullring is the second oldest and the biggest. Seville bullring is the oldest; Antequera's is famed for appearing in Madonna’s Take a Bow video; Mijas has spectacular views and is simply charming. Archidona usually erects a bullring inside its eight-sided main square during the summer season. Like this and want to know more about visiting southern Spain? Check out our 50 things to do in Andalucia and our guide to the five best cities to visit in Andalucia [post_title] => Hidden Andalucia [post_excerpt] => [post_status] => publish [comment_status] => open [ping_status] => open [post_password] => [post_name] => hidden-andalucia [to_ping] => [pinged] => [post_modified] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_modified_gmt] => 2021-01-31 15:25:18 [post_content_filtered] => [post_parent] => 0 [guid] => http://theluxuryvillacollection.com/?p=139603 [menu_order] => 0 [post_type] => post [post_mime_type] => [comment_count] => 0 [filter] => raw )  => WP_Post Object ( [ID] => 133379 [post_author] => 5 [post_date] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_date_gmt] => 2020-10-03 15:27:14 [post_content] =>
See Andalucia through its Bullrings
(As of Nov 2020)Since the global pandemic reached our countries in early 2020 there has been restrictions in one way or another on the way we live our lives. With the sheer amount of press on Covid-19 it’s difficult to see the wood from the trees. So we wanted to reach out to our guests and give you a clear idea of what it’s really like to be in southern Spain in 2020. As we become used to Covid-19 not going away we’re getting better at carrying on with our lives but with safety measures in place. Obviously, those who are at high risk may adopt a more stringent approach to their activities but for the rest of us we’re getting out and about responsibly. While we at The Luxury Villa Collection welcomed guests during 2020 we realise that clarity on what it's like in southern Spain is needed.
What restrictions are there in southern Spain?Shops, restaurants, bars, coffee shops, events, museums and art galleries all have capacity limits to ensure social distancing can be adhered to safely. Businesses all have hand sanitizer at the door so customers can clean their hands upon entering and leaving an establishment. As of 25th October there is a curfew between 22.00hrs and 07.00hrs. Further restrictions have been put in place to limit the movement of people outside their municipalities. Face coverings must be worn at all times if over 6 years old, other than:
- People playing sports do not have to wear a mask whilst engaged in the sporting activity.
- Masks do not need to be worn by customers who are eating, drinking, or smoking.
- In the sea or swimming pool.
- In a designated household sunbathing area on the beach.
Do I have to wear a face covering?The use of face coverings is mandatory for anyone over the age of 6 years old at all times unless during one of the points stated above. This includes in all forms of indoor and outdoor public spaces even if social distancing can be applied. For countries that haven’t adopted this measure, face coverings seem a huge inconvenience but what they have allowed people to do is enjoy their holiday as normal with face coverings and social distancing being the only restrictions.
Are restaurants open?Yes, restaurants and cafes are open with limitations place upon their capacity to ensure tables are spaced out enough so customers can remove their face coverings while drinking or eating. Serving staff and chefs must wear masks at all times.
Are Beaches open in Andalucia?Yes. Once on a beach in your own sunbathing area and in the sea you may remove face coverings. The sunbathing areas must be 2 metres apart and social distancing must be adhered to in the sea. Some beaches have allocated sunbathing areas others are flexible but there are personnel checking that people adhere to social distancing rules while enjoying the beach. No distancing is necessary within your family unit. The norms that local governments put in place over summer 2020 worked to great effect and people could enjoy the beaches of the Costa del Sol, Costa de la Luz and Costa Tropical.
Are tourist sights open?Yes. Restrictions on numbers being allowed into famous landmarks, tourist attractions and galleries has meant some sights have never been so quiet. Achieving the perfect photo of the Alhambra Palace or Real Alcazar de Sevilla without other sightseers is actually possible.
Does a face covering need to be worn while driving?When driving alone or with your household no face covering needs to be worn, but if there are passengers or a driver from a different household then everyone must wear a face covering.
What’s the general mood in southern Spain?Summer 2020 saw fewer parties for sure: the dancing all night in a club and watching the sunrise from a buzzing rooftop bar was and is not on the cards at the moment. However, long lunches beside the sea, visiting theme parks, historic sights, galleries and museums, beach days and outdoor activities are all there being enjoyed. It's really business as usual with the some sensible parameters in place. Some of our guests used our villas with entertainment rooms, cinemas, spas and abundance of space to organise private experiences from chefs to talks to spa treatments and live music. Bringing the wonderful Spanish culture into the safety of their private villa.
What is State of Alarm and What Does it Mean?The phrase state of alarm sounds very official and, well, alarming however, it is really just an administration step for the government and helps regional governments put in place restrictions. This phase allows the government (if necessary) to limit the movement of people at specific locations and times, temporary use private industries (such as private hospitals), limit the use of services and ensure the supply of necessary goods and services. In 2020 during Covid19, the state of alarm has meant limiting the movement of people between different provinces and curfews been implemented (from 23.00-06.00hrs). In no circumstances does state of alarm mean visitors aren't permitted to travel back to their home country.
Air travel – Is it safe?So far there has been little evidence of in-flight transmission of coronavirus, but there have been a couple of examples of transmission early on in the pandemic before more stringent controls were in place. Shaun Fitzgerald, Royal Academy of Engineering visiting professor at the University of Cambridge said, aircraft ventilation systems are unique, the “replacement rate” - the number of times a volume of air equivalent to the volume of the cabin is removed each hour - can be four minutes in a aircraft. Compare this to 20 or 30 minutes in an indoor environment on the ground and it’s very brisk. The air filters themselves on aeroplanes are sophisticated and much more effective than filters found in indoor venues on the ground. Most airlines say face coverings are mandatory, limit food and drink services and don’t allow queuing for the toilet. The airports themselves are being diligent ensuring social distancing is in place as well as temperature controls in some. As from October 2020 if traveling from Europe or the UK:
- You must complete a health control form - which includes a HCF - a negative PCR test within 72hrs of your arrival to Spain.