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Seeing the Best of Seville in a Day

Staying in a villa on the Costa del Sol offers the perfect opportunity to see the best of the Andalucian cities like Seville and Granada, as they can easily be reached in a day.

Thanks to the excellent Andalucia road network it’s perfectly possible to spend a day in Seville while staying on the coast.  To get the most out of your trip you will want to know the best things to do, so here are five must-sees for visiting Seville in a day.

Our Top Tips For a Day in Seville

Seville is the quintessential Andalusian city where fine monuments, haunting flamenco and fragrant orange blossom come together to make it one of Spain’s most romantic cities. The capital of Andalucia and home to the regional government, Seville is a bustling metropolis with a long list of cultural and leisure attractions.

Divided by the winding Guadalquivir River, Seville has a skyline is dominated by the Moorish Giralda tower (the city’s symbol) and the ultra-modern Pelli Tower (Andalusia’s tallest building). Seville is somewhere to take your time over as you soak up the atmosphere in the Santa Cruz and Triana districts, stroll along the river or explore the Arenal, home to the world’s most famous bullring La Maestranza.

It’s worth dedicating a couple of days to this lively city if you can, and we would be happy to assist with arranging “A Spoily Sleepover” in the city with our private guides. But if you only have a day to spend in the city, here are five unmissable things to do in Seville.

Alcazar

This Moorish-style palace is Seville’s answer to the Alhambra in Granada. The fine rooms and patios were commissioned by Pedro I, the Christian king who reigned in this part of Andalusian during the 14th century. The craftsmanship is on a par with the Alhambra since the building was done by Moorish workers based in Granada. Admire the delicate stucco and decorative tiling throughout as well as the characteristic keyhole arches and courtyards.

Highlights in the Mudejar masterpiece – still used by the Spanish royal family as a residence – include the intricate Patio de las Doncellas, sumptuous Sala de los Embajadores where ambassadors were received and the antique and tapestry-packed Royal Chambers. The gardens are a treat for the senses with bougainvillea, orange blossom and fountains at every turn.

Cathedral

Visit Seville in a day

The Iconic Giralda Tower in Seville

Everything about Seville’s Cathedral is big -it’s the largest in Spain and the third largest in the world. Started in the early 15th century, it’s also the world’s largest Gothic building. This giant ochre structure was built on top of the Moorish mosque, completely demolished except for the minaret.

Inside this vast place of worship, admire the main chapel whose altarpiece is the largest in the world, the monument to Christopher Columbus (it contains some of his remains – the whereabouts of the others is much debated), the Royal Chapel with the tombs of several monarchs and the Orange Tree Patio whose central fountains were originally used for ablutions by worshippers at the mosque.

Next, climb the minaret, the original 12th Moorish tower with its later additions of 24 bells and the weather vane in the form of a bronze statue of Faith. Known as the Giraldillo (small turning object), the vane gave its name to the Giralda Tower, the city’s most famous landmark. The ascent to the top is unusually via ramps, built to allow soldiers on horseback to climb the tower. The panoramic views of Seville are well worth the climb and give you a good idea of the city’s layout.

Santa Cruz

This corner of the city is a maze of alleyways, squares and whitewashed houses. Lose yourself as you wander round the narrow streets, pausing to admire the typically Andalusian wrought-iron grills and flower-filled balconies, dip into the curio-packed antique shops or enjoy a fino sherry and tapa at one of the outdoor cafés.

If you have time, visit the Casa de Pilatos (so-called because the 16th mansion is supposedly modelled on Pontius Pilate’s house in Jerusalem) with its exceptional Andalusian tiles, Renaissance architecture and lovely patio.

Santa Cruz is also home to a must for flamenco fans – the Flamenco Museum where displays explain the background and art behind Spain’s best-known music. Shows and classes are also held here.

Parque de Maria Luisa

This lovely park brings some welcome respite from Seville’s hustle and bustle. If you don’t fancy exploring the park on foot, hire a horse and carriage to take you round. Small cafés provide perfect stops for refreshment.

The park, a mixture of formal gardens and parkland, was redesigned for the 1929 World Fair (Seville also hosted the event in 1992) and houses several pavilions including the magnificent Plaza de España. Here, each of Spain’s provinces is represented in a tiled mosaic and you can hire a rowing boat to sail along the small canal.

Hotel Alfonso XIII

Hotels reach a new dimension at this emblematic venue, built also for the 1929 World Fair in the Mudejar style. Walk through the doors and you leave the busy city behind and enter a slice of history, but, although the essence is traditional, a recent head-to-toe renovation means all mod cons are available too. The central glass and brick courtyard is perhaps the architectural highlight and perfect for enjoying a leisurely cocktail after a day’s sightseeing.

Visit the Hotel Alfonso XIII on a day in Seville

The Hotel Alfonso XIII is a highlight in Seville

Spanish Summer Holiday Reading

Perhaps one of the best things about taking a villa break in the Summer is the chance to indulge in a couple of good books in a way that we rarely have time for during the rest of the year.

Our good friend Molly has kindly shared a couple of her top recommendations for this year’s Spanish summer reading list.  We would love to hear what you think of these books so please do leave us a comment if you have read them.

Three Novels set in Spain

1. Voices of Angels by Hannah M Davies

Andalucia novels

The Cabo de Gata in Andalucia, setting for the novel “Voices of Angels”

The main character of this novel, Lizzie is an English schoolgirl, misunderstood by her classmates. Having a bit of a schoolgirl crisis she flies out to Spain to spend the summer holidays away from it all. Her stay is with her Expat grandmother who lives in the countryside of Andalusia.

As I live in Andalusia I was curious to read this debut novel written by Hannah M Davis. It is quite a while since I was hooked on a book. After the first ten pages I couldn’t put it down. I already wanted to know what was going to happen next.

This story has a great balance of romance, mystery and drama. Soon after the opening page of the novel we discover that Lizzie has a unique gift. She can see when people are going to die. We experience the emotions that she goes through as we witness what this psychic power has in store for her.

As different plots in the story unfold, the tale becomes quicker moving and intense. The main characters of Lizzie, Rafa and Ariadne are well developed and you feel an involvement as a reader. I was satisfied with the description of Andalusia that the author depicts. The hills around Malaga, the beaches of Cabo de Gata and the characters in Andalusia really are true to life. I could even relate to some of the situations in the story. Even the hot summer sun and dust thrown up along the olive grove dirt tracks can almost be felt as you are turning the pages.

If you want a short intriguing novel and love Spain this is for you.

2. The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas  (Spanish title Tiempo entre Costuras)

Spanish summer reading, The Seamstress by Maria Duenas

The Seamstress by Maria Dueñas – Perfect Spanish Summer Reading

This novel is about a young woman, who is swept off her feet by a handsome man.

Set in Madrid, the main character´s hometown, it turns out that he is not as wonderful as she first thought. Although the tale begins in Madrid, it has many twists and turns and soon leads us to Tetuan, Morocco.

She ends up in Morocco alone and penniless. The war is raging in Madrid preventing her return. In the novel there are many interesting characters, providing depth and richness to the story.

As well as the trials and tribulations the protagonist experiences, the political situation in Spain at the time provides a dramatic backdrop to this captivating novel. (We are taken through streets of Tangiers, Tetuan, Lisbon and Madrid with wonderful descriptions, the destroyed and desolate city of Madrid is also a feature towards the end of the book.

The novel has romance, mystery and intrigue as well as historic references to some of the key characters in Spain at the time.

3. The City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur

Novel set in Seville, Andalucia; City of Sorrows

Spanish Summer Reading: The City of Sorrows by Susan Nadathur

This recently released novel had me intrigued from the first page. How could a young Indian student, a wealthy Andalusian business man and a local gypsy who works as horse trainer be connected? The story begins in India but swiftly moves to Spain and is set in beautiful Seville.

The story begins with Rajiv a young Indian who defies his father when trying to set up an arranged marriage in his local village and leaves for other opportunities in Spain. Initially his adjustment to Andalusia is difficult but he soon fits into the lifestyle and makes friends.

Andres, a more complex character seems to have it all, from a wealthy family, he works with his father and is often aggressive towards his family and colleagues. As the novel moves forward his rage intensifies at the same time as we learn more of his past.

Diego, a gypsy living in a neighbourhood on the edge of Seville seems to have the world against him. Nothing seems to be going his way. We see a happy family man distraught with grief give into a darker life that he previously led at the stables.

The three stories are carefully intertwined by the author and will have you turning the pages quickly to discover each characters path. With the descriptions of Triana and the traditional Easter processions in Seville it really makes a captivating and intense read.

 

Reviews by Molly Sears-Piccavey

Molly Sears-Piccavey has lived in Spain since 1998, initially in Barcelona, but now lives in Granada. Working in Communication and PR, she uses her spare time to read books, she is a also a busy Blogger and a frenetic twitterer. Molly speaks fluent Spanish and English as well as some French and Catalan.

Have you read any of these books, or have a recommendation of your own to share? Leave a comment below

 

costa del sol white villages

Exploring the White Villages behind the Costa del Sol

To really get to know Andalucia it’s often best to head away from the crowds and instead seek out the quiet solace of village life. This is the perfect accompaniment to a relaxing villa break here in Spain.

In “Los Pueblos Blancos” you can escape the daily grind, and take a step back in time to a place where gentle fountains animate quaint town squares, and the slow pace of life is often interrupted only by children kicking around a ball, or by the town’s old folk enjoying animated debates at their favourite bench.

When you choose to spend a villa holiday on the Costa del Sol you can find a surprising number of charming sleepy villages within easy reach, just waiting to be explored. Here is a quick run through of some of our favourite white villages in Andalucia:

Casares

Casares is fifteen kilometres inland of Estepona, to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a. It is perched on the side of a mountain close to the Sierra Crestellina national park, approximately a twenty five minute drive from Estepona.

It is a breathtaking village which has been described as ‘sugar cubes’ on the side of the mountain and looks particularly stunning when lit up at night with the blue/green street lights. The best view is from the approach into Casares so be sure to take the time to stop and take in the sights before you get there.

Casares has a spectacular 12th century Moorish castle, several churches and chapels, each one as beautiful as the previous one, a visitor centre, fountain and is close to the Baths of La Hedionda which are Roman baths and sulphur springs said to have been used to cure a skin infection of Julius Caesar! It is known as the ‘Hanging Village’ due to its precarious location on the Cliffside. There are many great restaurants and tapas bars and lots of village shops to explore, if you are lucky you will see some eagles soaring above the cliffs around Casares.

As well as the national festivals such as of Andalucí­a day on the 28th of February, the Easter festivities and the Three Kings parades on the evening of the 5th of January, Casares has its annual feria in the second half of July and a second feria in the first week of August so it’s a great time to visit around then.

Frigiliana

Frigiliana is to the east of Mšlaga and only a ten minute drive from the coastal town of Nerja in the area of  Andalucí­a known as the Axarquia.

Voted most beautiful village in of Andalucí­a for several years running, the village’s cobbled streets gently wind up through the beautifully maintained white houses of the old town, splashes of colour wherever you look from the balconies and doorsteps full of beautifully kept flowers. The houses are painted every year and it is traditionally the women of the village who carry out this work.

Frigiliana has a great infrastructure including many shops, bars and fabulous restaurants, several hotels and a working molasses factory right in the centre of town. The streets are hilly here and there are beautiful mosaic covered steps leading to the tiny narrow residential streets from the main road.

The very famous Frigiliana festival, Festival de las Tres Culturas, is celebrated at the end of August each year, drawing crowds of hundreds to watch the fabulous concerts and many other festivities. There are also other fiestas throughout the year including Saint Sebastian day in January, the patron saint of Frigiliana. The day of the cross is in May each year and the annual Frigiliana feria is in June.

Gaucin

North of Casares, also to the west of Marbella, in the Mšlaga province of of Andalucí­a, is the white village of Gaucin. It is approximately nineteen km from Casares and a thirty minute drive from the coast.

Gaucin is around 600 metres above sea level in the Sierra del Hacho and has great views over Gibraltar and Morocco. It is surrounded by cork forests and because of this the local shops sell many items made from cork to tourists. The surrounding mountains provide a fabulous backdrop to the pretty white village, with contrasting colour from the wild poppies, orchids, olive groves and almond blossom.

At the very top of the village is a medieval castle, Castillo del Aguila or Eagle’s castle, where you can see eagles over the mountains as the name suggests. It is a sleepy, laid back town with a few similarly laid back bars and restaurants serving the traditional fayre of the area. The narrow winding streets of Gaucin have always been an inspiration for artists and photographers and there is a large artistic community here.

Among the many festivals of Gaucin, of particular note are the release of two bulls on Easter Sunday which are left to run around the village and chased by the more adventurous or crazy villagers. The annual feria is in August, around the fourth, and involves three days of live music, eating, drinking and dancing.

Iznšjar

Located north of the Costa del Sol in the Cordoba province of Andalucí­a is the beautiful town of Iznšjar. It is around one hour drive from Mšlaga and one hour from Granada.

Iznšjar has a unique location overlooking the Embalse de Iznšjar which is the largest lake in of Andalucí­a and has a lovely clean, sandy beach which is very popular in the summer months with whole families arriving in their cars, driving straight onto the beach, unpacking gazebos and tables and spending the day there swimming, sunbathing and eating. The village is nestled on a rocky outcrop with amazing views of the lake below. It is dominated by a majestic Moorish castle which is sadly in ruins but is lovely to walk to and the views from there are spectacular.

The village offers bars, restaurants and a lakeside hotel as well as a municipal museum. On the lake you can go fishing, learn to sail and you can rent out pedalos and kayaks from the campsite right on the beach. The lake is clean and safe to swim in and there are several beach bars to shelter from the sun in the hot afternoons.

The local festivals of Iznšjar include a fabulous carnival, with parades and dressing up, in February. The patron saint of Iznšjar, San Marco, has a special day on the 25th of April where the whole town heads off for picnics in the countryside. The feria is around the 7th of September every year and usually lasts for three days and includes a candlelight procession through the town.

Jimena

Jimena de la Frontera is in the province of Cadiz in Andalucí­a, it is about a thirty minute drive west of Gaucin and directly north of La Linea and the border of Gibraltar.

The village is surrounded by the Alcornocales Natural Park and is overlooked by a Moorish castle which was built around 750 A.D. It has been occupied since prehistoric times and here you can see cave paintings, at the archaeological site of La Laja Alta, which are the only examples of maritime cave paintings from the Bronze Age in Spain.

Transport links make Jimena easily accessible from all directions and the road and rail network is much improved in recent years. There are several beautiful churches and other buildings to visit. Other activities in the area include bike riding, horse riding and hill walking due to the proximity of the beautiful Natural Park.

As well as the national festivals of Spain, Jimena has several of its own throughout the year. The Carnival with parades of floats is in February, the agricultural fair is in the second week of May every year. There is an annual music festival in the second week of July and the Jimena feria is generally in the first week of September.

Mijas

Mijas pueblo (village) is a short twenty minute drive from Mšlaga airport in the Mšlaga province and is only fifteen minutes from the coast at La Cala de Mijas and Fuengirola.

Mijas is situated in the Sierra de Mijas mountains and is surrounded by beautiful pine forests. It has the best of both worlds with its white village charm, winding cobbled streets, breathtaking views and close proximity to the sea. If bullfighting is your thing, Mijas has its own bull ring which is still in use and is also used for horse displays. There is an auditorium which is used for concerts throughout the summer and there are also two museums to visit.

As well as being close to the coast, Mijas has its own fabulous infrastructure which includes shops and a wide and varied range of restaurants, all the usual supermarkets and other food shops and, perhaps best of all a chocolate factory!

Special festivals in Mijas include Mijas International day which is a multicultural festival giving people from all over the world the opportunity to tell others about their culture and lifestyle, it is usually held in the first week in May. San Juan is celebrated on the night of the 23rd of June and is the celebration of the longest night of the year with festivities including dancing and fireworks. 

Ronda

Ronda is in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a and is a one hour twenty minute drive from the airport at Mšlaga. It is situated north and inland of Marbella and Estepona.

The village of Ronda is third only to Seville and Granada in the most visited places in Andalucí­a. It is famous all over the world for being perched on the edge of the El Tajo gorge and offers fabulous views and countless photo opportunities. It is the modern birthplace of bullfighting and its bullring ‘Plaza de Torros’ is now a museum and attracts many thousands of visitors each year.

Ronda is accessible by road and rail, the drive to the village from the coast or from further inland is quite spectacular.  There are two tourist offices here and a whole host of fabulous shops selling traditional, and not so traditional, Spanish crafts and other goods.

The ‘Fiesta de la Virgen de la Paz’ is the celebration of the patron Saint of Ronda and is held on the 24th of January every year.  The feria is around the 20th of May and the main events of the year are held in the first week in September with the International Folklore Music and Dancing Festival and other festivities.

Viñuela

Viñuela is another white village in the Mšlaga province of Andalucí­a. It is inland of Velez Mšlaga, to the east of Mšlaga city, and is approximately fifty minutes from Mšlaga airport.

The stunning village of La Viñuela is set in the breathtaking landscape of the Axarquia and situated next to the man made reservoir of Lake Viñuela which provides the majority of drinking water for the local area. There are many luxury villas nestled in the hills with beautiful views over the lake and the lake itself boasts pretty beaches and non motorized water sports for all. There are picnic areas and barbecue areas all around the lake and the surrounding pine forests provide shade and a peaceful atmosphere for visitors.

La Viñuela was named after the local grape vines from which a delicious sweet wine is still produced today. The town is also famous for its local olive oil which is of particularly good quality. There are many arts and craft shops here including basket making and leather goods. There are also archeological sites in the village dating back to prehistoric, Roman and medieval times.

In May in La Viñuela there is a pilgrimage from the village to the hamlets of Los Gomez and Los Romanes for the Romeria which is a traditional gypsy festival. The annual feria is in mid July and there are three more ferias locally in early August, mid August and mid September.

Our readers would love to hear about your favourite white villages to visit from the Costa del Sol, just leave your comments below.

If you love the idea of exploring authentic Andalucia, then here are our top villa recommendations from our Andalusia Collection