To step on San Sebastian’s hexagonal street tiles is to fall in love. This small city on the northern coast of Spain has something for everyone – a picturesque port and brownstone Belle Epoque buildings, three lovely beaches, and some of the best food in the world.
San Sebastian was placed on the tourism map over a century ago by the Spanish Royal Family. The Regent Queen Maria Cristina favoured it as a summer getaway, and, as a result, it blossomed with Belle Epoque architecture and wealthy visitors from the beginning of the 20th century.
Now, in the 21st century, the city calls itself home to a new kind of star: Michelin. San Sebastian is constantly at the top of the world’s list of the most Michelin stars per person. The town’s bars, however, vie for hungry diners’ attention: their countertops are lined with pintxos, more elaborate versions of Spanish tapas, which originated in San Sebastian.
1. Go for Pintxos in The Old Town
In San Sebastian, food comes first. The pintxo is to San Sebastian what the Eiffel Tower is to Paris, so be sure to come hungry to best experience this city’s main attraction.
Every other storefront in the Old Town of San Sebastián is a restaurant or pintxo bar, so enjoy hopping from bar to bar to try world-famous miniature bites. Each spot has a speciality: start off simple with a perfect white vinegar anchovy atop a slice of bread at Txepetxa (C/ de la Pescadería, 5). Move across the street for some molecular gastronomy-inspired bites at Zeruko (C/ de la Pescadería), where a favourite is a smoking piece of cod served with a parsley cream shooter. Then head to 31st August Street, which has an overwhelming culinary offering.
By this time, you’re probably ready for some meat, so take your pick between Txuleta (Plaza de la Trinidad, 2) and Gandarias (31 de Agosto Kalea, 23), both well-known for their steak pintxos.
Finish off your night of feasting at Atari Gastroteka (Calle Mayor, 18), which has an extensive dessert pintxo menu as well as picture-perfect examples of the town’s honorary digestif: a gin and tonic the size of a fishbowl.
Top Tip: Eat pintxos like the locals: one pintxo and one drink per bar, then move on. You should pay on your way out the door, not before.
2. Arzak Restaurant
In a city with 17 Michelin stars, one for every 10,000 inhabitants, tasting the constellation becomes a high-ranking item on the to-do list. Arzak Restaurant, which holds three of the 17, is the best spot to start a dive into the starred cuisine.
Juan Mari Arzak took the restaurant over from his family more than 40 years ago, and quickly morphed it from a run-of-the-mill, if respected, traditional dining spot into a white tablecloth establishment intent on refining and pushing Basque cuisine to its limits.
The tasting menu is ever changing, but features some perennial favourites such as the foie “cromlech”, a crunchy-creamy tribute to the ancient stone monuments found across the Basque Country. Most nights Juan Mari or his daughter Elena is out on the floor of the restaurant, greeting and chatting with diners.
Top Tip: Ask to see the R&D laboratory. If you’re lucky, that will get you a tour through the bodega, where the chef makes his own sloe liquor, or patxaran, and also a peek into the room where all the dishes are created by a team of investigative chefs.
Hours: 1:30–3pm and 8:45–10:30pm; Closed Sunday/Monday
Address: Alcalde J. Elosegi Hiribidea, 273. Phone: +34 943 27 84 65. Arzak.es
3. Monte Igeldo Theme Park
The perfect place to take in the city’s beautiful views is atop Mount Igeldo, located on the west side of San Sebastian, rising up from the water at a steep, nearly 90-degree angle. Perfect for the sweeping views of the entire city, yes. But, as they say, it’s about the journey, not the destination, and Igeldo is no different.
To reach the peak, the best option is a 107-year-old funicular, a picturesque cable car that drops you off at the viewing point. Continue walking and you’ll stumble upon another feature frozen in time: the amusement park.
Both adults and children find this park impossibly charming; the rides have passed into vintage territory and riding the tiny roller coaster feels like hurtling back into the 1930s.
Hours: Weekends, 11am–2pm and 3:30–8pm
Phone: +34 943 21 35 25. Monteigueldo.es
4. Wine Cellar at Rekondo
On your way down from the theme park, don’t miss a stop at one of Europe’s top wine cellars. A small stone house about halfway down the mountain is home to Rekondo, a restaurant serving traditional Basque dishes in an elegant setting.
Reserve a table on the terrace – if the weather permits – and be sure to leaf carefully through their 250-page wine menu. The beauty of dining at Rekondo is pairing each dish with a once-in-a-lifetime glass of wine, like a Rioja from 1964.
Top Tip: The sommelier Martín will be on hand to help you choose between rare vintages, and if you catch him on a slow day, you can ask to see the wine cellar, which The Wall Street Journal called one of the top five in Europe.
Hours: 1–3:30PM, 8:30–11:30PM, Closed Tuesday/Wednesday
Address: Paseo de Igeldo, 57. Phone: +34 943 21 29 07. Rekondo.com
5. Naval Museum
Untzi Museoa, San Sebastian’s naval museum, falls under that quirky category of tiny museum passion projects. Wandering through the port, it’s easy to stumble upon this building, which is stuffed to the brim with information on ships, Basque whalers, naval charts, art pieces and other valuables.
Temporary exhibitions are often charming, super-specific looks at the Basque naval past.
Top Tip: Entry is free on Thursdays.
Hours: 10am–2pm, 4–7pm; Closed Mondays
Address: Del Muelle Ibilbidea, 24. Phone: +34 943 43 00 51. Untzimuseoa.eus
6. La Perla
La Perla spa is a saviour on one of San Sebastian’s numerous rainy days. The spa and sports centre has an enviable location, in the centre of La Concha beach. The centre is outfitted with a state-of-the-art gym, with daily cardio and spin classes, as well as a massage area with an ample menu.
The best part about La Perla, however, is the spa circuit. Sign up on a rainy day and enjoy the various circuit rooms, hydro massage pools, and saunas, some of them with views of La Concha bay.
Address: Paseo de La Concha, s/n, Edificio La Perla 20007. Phone: +34 943 45 88 56. La-perla.net
7. Strolling the Shopping District
San Sebastian is a Belle Epoque city, and vestiges of its turn-of-the-century glamour remain. One of the best things to do in San Sebastian is stroll its pedestrian shopping district’s wide streets, window shopping until, inevitably, you are drawn into one of the posh boutiques.
The Avenida de la Libertad is lined with big-box stores, but just off of it you will find lovely boutiques like Maje, a women’s fashion shop, or Ayestaran, a shoe shop with lots of history. Be sure to leave no street unstrolled, as some of the city’s gems are hiding away on less attractive side streets, like Loreak Mendian, a boutique with high-end modern Basque fashion.
8. Mimo San Sebastian Cooking Class
The basement of the one of the city’s most emblematic buildings used to house a spa; the pool was paved over a few years ago to make way for a luxury cooking school, further testament to the city’s culinary prowess.
Mimo San Sebastian now offers unique culinary experiences every day, from a food tour ranked among the world’s top 10 to daily cooking experiences, classes that transition into wine-soaked lunches around its enormous wooden table.
The classes are perfect for both kitchen aficionados and those just looking for things to do when it rains – the chefs are full of anecdotes about the local cuisine and you’ll likely leave with a few new pintxo-eating companions.
Hours: Daily cooking classes, 10:30am.
Address: Calle Okendo 1, 20004. Phone: +34 943 42 11 43. Sansebastian.mimofood.com
9. Peine del Viento
Basque art leans toward the manual: handicrafts and sculptures, made from durable, rugged elements such as wood and steel. Eduardo Chillida is the local art darling, and one of his most famous works is on permanent display – where else? – on the edge of the city, where ocean meets rocky cliff.
Put into place in 1977, it features Chillida’s signature curved metal figures, dotting a terrace designed to capture the sea’s force as waves crash the shore. These impossibly heavy structures float in the air, literally “combing the wind”, as their name suggests.
During high tide, holes in the ground become blowholes that direct a powerful burst of sea spray into the air – nature’s force made tangible.
Hours: Open 24 hours
Address: Eduardo Chillida Pasealekua, s/n, 20008
10. Isla Santa Clara
In the middle of La Concha bay, Santa Clara Island sits like a peacock preening its feathers, ready for a close-up whether for Instagram or a postcard. The island is small but dramatic, with steep cliffs with a picture-perfect white lighthouse on top.
Santa Clara has never been inhabited, save as a quarantine centre briefly during times of the plague, but in summer it comes alive as a playground for beach-goers. You can reach the island any time of the year by swimming, and during summer a boat goes back and forth every half hour.
Pack a picnic and set up on one of the stone tables, and enjoy the view of San Sebastian from the outside in.
11. Buen Pastor
Buen Pastor is San Sebastian’s only true cathedral. In the very centre of town and surrounded by stores and bars, it makes for a nice sightseeing break in between shopping. The 1897 neo-Gothic structure has a 75-metre high spire, visible throughout the city, which is quite useful for orienting yourself.
The cathedral is still in regular use by locals, but visitors can pop in to admire the work of architect Manuel de Echave, constructed with sandstone from the nearby Mount Igeldo.
Hours: 8am – 12pm and 5pm – 8pm
Address: Plaza del Buen Pastor, s/n, 20005
Telephone: +34 943 464 516
There are a couple of things easily lost in translation to visitors to San Sebastian. One of them is the official language: Basque. An ancient tongue unrelated to modern Romance and Latin languages, it is still widely spoken in the Basque Country and in San Sebastian.
No one expects a visitor to be fluent; however, learning one word will get you a long way with locals. Try ‘kaixo’, pronounced KIGH-show. It means hello, and is a fine way to greet everyone from shopkeepers to bartenders.
WHEN TO VISIT
Choosing the right time to visit San Sebastian is far from an exact science. The locals’ favourite refrain in reference to weather is “there’s a reason it’s green”: in one word, rain. The best months to visit are May and September for those who are seeking sunshine. Summer months are also usually sunny, although there always seems to be one month that gets bogged down by summer tempests.
The end of September marks the San Sebastian International Film Festival, a fun, glitzy gathering of stars in one of Europe’s most important cinematic dates. For those unafraid of a bit of rain, the winter months hold some of the city’s most exciting festivals, such as San Sebastian Day (January 20), when locals dress up as cooks and soldiers, the famed dining societies are open to anyone, and the streets are filled with the sound of music and drums.
Like our picks of what to see and do in San Sebastian? For more northern Spain travel inspiration, check out our guide to Santander.
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(As of Sept 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.
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.
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.
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[post_content] => There's an awful lot of Andalucia. Stretched out over 87,000km² it's made up of eight separate provinces - each with its own historic cities, landscapes and sights to see.
But after many hours discussing everything it has to offer, we've come up with what we think is the definitive guide to the best things to do in Andalucia. Here goes...
1. Visit the Alcazar & its enchanting Gardens
This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most outstanding examples of Mudéjar architecture in the whole of Spain.
An active royal palace, it's swathed in gorgeous, sprawling gardens full of swaying palms and tinkling fountains.
Address: Patio de Banderas, s/n, 41004 Sevilla. Alcazarsevilla.org
2. Climb La Giralda & Get a Bird's-eye View of seville
This iconic minaret turned bell tower has changed with the city over the course of its eight century-long life.
Ramps rather than steps lead most of the way up (so that the muezzin could ride his horse up to call the faithful to prayer). From the top, you're rewarded with a view out over beautiful Seville.
Address: Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla
3. See Columbus's Tomb in Seville Cathedral
Sheer enormity aside, there's so much to see inside the world's largest Gothic cathedral. There are artworks by Murillo and Goya, the largest and richest altarpiece in the world, a beautiful orange tree-filled courtyard, a stuffed crocodile (really!) and the tomb of Christopher Columbus.
The legend goes that its original planners said: “Let’s build a church so beautiful and so majestic that those who see it finished will think us mad”. We wonder if you'll agree.
Address: Av. de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla. Catedraldesevilla.es
4. Go Boating in Plaza de España
Built in the 1920s, this highly decorative, Renaissance/Baroque Revivalist plaza makes for the perfect photo opportunity in Seville.
Putting the camera aside for a moment, between it, an ornamental boating lake and the surrounding leafy Maria Luisa Park, it's a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
5. get lost in Santa Cruz
The most attractive quarter of Seville - making it quite possibly Andalucia's most beautiful neighbourhood - the barrio
of Santa Cruz is the history-packed old Jewish quarter of the city.
It obviously gets more than its fair share of tourists, so head there at daybreak. Then you can have it all to yourself, and see the sunrise wake each of its squares and fountains. Magical.
6. experience Flamenco at Tablao El Arenal
Opened over 40 years ago by the dancer Curro Vélez, Tablao El Arenal is one of the best places to experience flamenco in Seville.
To get the most out of flamenco we always recommend hiring a guide: this UNESCO protected art form is incredibly complex, and newcomers always benefit from a little bit of explanation.
Address: Calle Rodo, 7, 41001 Sevilla. +34 954 21 64 92. Tablaoelarenal.com
7. taste the finest Spanish Cuisine at Abantal
The interiors and the food compete with each other for attention at this chic and contemporary Michelin star restaurant.
In terms of choice, you can opt for the 'Daily Chef' or 'Grand Daily Chef' tasting menus. Just make sure you book first.
Address: Calle Alcalde José de la Bandera, 7, y 9, 41003 Sevilla. +34 954 54 00 00. Abantalrestaurante.es
8. Relax in Arabic Baths
An entire building given over to the concept of sheer relaxation through water, this is another level entirely of spa experience. There are whole rooms of pools of different temperatures, along with massages and treatments.
Don't miss the rooftop pool: sip Cava, nibble fresh fruit and take in the views of the Cathedral. Stunning.
Address: Calle Aire, 15, 41004 Sevilla. +34 955 01 00 24. Beaire.com
9. Visit Roman Spain at Italica
This dramatic ruined Roman city just outside Seville was the birthplace of the emperors Trajan and Hadrian.
With its huge amphitheatre, extensive temple and remarkable mosaic floors, it's one of the most fascinating historic sites in southern Spain.
Address: Av. Extremadura, 2, 41970 Santiponce, Sevilla. +34 955 62 22 66.
10. Travel back through time - Alcazaba & Gibralfaro
It's a journey through Spanish history. Start at the Roman amphitheatre ruins, then make your way through the Moorish Alcazaba fortress, and finish at the Gibralfaro castle overlooking the sea.
Address: Calle Alcazabilla, 29015 Málaga. Malagaturismo.com
11. Drink Like an Andalucian at Antigua Casa de Guardia
Stand at the bar and sample some of the most delicious sweet and dry fortified wines from the barrels at Malaga's oldest tavern.
Address: Alameda Principal, 18, 29005 Málaga. +34 952 21 46 80. Antiguacasadeguardia.com
12. Admire Ronda from the Bottom of the Gorge
This town of Ronda
is all about its dramatic position, and the vantage point it provides to the surrounding landscapes.
Take the walk from Mirador de María Auxiliadora to the bottom of the gorge. Here you get some of the best views of the mind-blowing bridge (pictured above), which took more than three decades to build and has a small prison cell at its heart.
13. See the (second)Oldest Bullring in Spain
Andalucia's oldest bullring might be in Seville, but if you're a Hemingway fan, the Plaza de Toros is a must. Ronda’s matadors inspired many of his stories, including Death in the Afternoon.
Address: Calle Virgen de la Paz, 15, 29400 Ronda, Málaga. Rmcr.org
14. Pay Homage to Pablo Picasso at The Picasso Museum
Malaga was, famously, the birthplace of Pablo Picasso, and this museum holds a very personal collection of works by the artist.
If you've got more than a passing interest in modern art, it's simply a must-do while in the city.
Address: Palacio de Buenavista, Calle San Agustín, 8, 29015 Málaga. Museopicassomalaga.org
15. Stargazing at El Torcal Astronomical Observatory
Having watched the sunset among the weird and wonderful natural rock formations of El Torcal, head to the observatory to enjoy one of its frequent evening explorations of our galaxy.
Check the website for up-and-coming events.
Address: Carretera de acceso MA-9016, km 3,5 desde la A-7075, Junto al Centro de Visitantes "Torcal Alto", 29200 Antequera, Málaga. +34 600 70 37 00. Astrotorcal.es
16. Eat like a Local – Beach-side Espeto de Sardinas
Any self-respecting malagueño
chiringuito – or typical beach bar – will serve you up a plate of espeto de sardinas.
This simple dish consists of freshly caught sardines, normally cooked over a fire on a spit, in a large, sand-filled fishing boat. Crusted in salt, they're delicious with a squeeze of lemon and a cold beer.
17. Walk the Caminito del Rey
While it may not be the death-defying scramble it once was, the Caminito del Rey still has plenty to recommend it.
This award-winning 8km hike includes a cliff-face clinging walkway, pinned 100m above the gorge of El Chorro.
Address: Barriada Conde de Guadalhorce, s/n, 29550 Ardales, Málaga. +34 902 78 73 25. Caminitodelrey.info
18. Be awe-struck by The Alhambra
Take a trip back to Spain’s Moorish past marvelling at the splendours of the Alhambra Palace and see why it has had such an impact on architecture, art, music and literature, through the ages.
A joint UNESCO World Heritage site with the Generalife gardens and the Albayzin, it's Andalucia's most captivating monument.
Address: Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada. Alhambra-patronato.es
19. sit & Reflect in the Generalife
Wander through these gorgeous Moorish gardens with fountains and fantastic views of the Albayzin area of Granada, find a shady spot and take in the peace.
Address: Calle Real de la Alhambra, s/n, 18009 Granada. Alhambra-patronato.es
20. Watch a sierra Sunset from the mirador de san nicolás
Head to the Albayzin’s Mirador de San Nicolás to watch the sunset over the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada. Then take a walk through the labyrinth of the old town to stop at tapas bars, sip on some cervezas and enjoy your (free) tapas.
Address: Calle Mirador de San Nicolás, 18010, Granada.
21. Visit Carmen de la Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta
Most carmens (a house surrounded by walled gardens that's typical of the Albayzin neighbourhood of Granada) are private residences and only accessible only through guided tours (if at all). However, one is open to the public - Carmen de la Fundación Rodríguez-Acosta.
The dream-like strangeness in the architecture of the house and gardens of the once private house of the artist Rodríguez-Acosta - now a museum - are only surpassed by the medieval Alhambran escape tunnels he converted into a labyrinth; eccentric beauty at its best.
Address: Callejón Niño del Royo, 8, 18009 Granada. +34 958 22 74 97. Fundacionrodriguezacosta.com
22. Ski in the Sierra Nevada National Park
During winter and early spring months you could be skiing down the mountain in the morning and having sundowners on the beach in the evening at Europe’s southernmost ski resort.
Address: Andalucía Plaza, 18196 Pradollano, Granada. Sierranevada.es
23. spot the WATCHTOWERS OF CADIZ
The skyline of the ancient port city of Cadiz is dotted with watchtowers. Used by merchants and traders to watch as their boats came in after long and risky Atlantic crossings, there are 126 in total that come in five different shapes.
Torre Tavira is one of these watch towers, and the 360-degree views from the top can be experienced in fascinating detail via a camera obscura
Address: Calle Marqués del Real Tesoro, 10, 11001 Cádiz. +34 956 21 29 10. Torretavira.com
24. Bolonia Beach & Baelo Claudia
Stretching 4km along the gorgeous Cadiz coastline, the golden-sanded beach
of Bolonia rises up dramatically to a huge sand dune - great to climb up and roll down - at its western end.
Gazing out to sea, just a short distance back from the beach is Baelo Claudia, one of Andalucia’s best preserved Roman sites.
Address: Ensenada de Bolonia, s/n, 11380 Cádiz. +34 956 10 67 97.
25. go Kite Surfing in Tarifa
Whether you're an experienced kitesurfer or a rank beginner, head to one of the many schools offering lessons and make use of Tarifa’s famous combination of fabulous beaches and strong winds. Surf’s up!
26. Get a taste of Village life
There are countless white-washed villages in Andalucia
, and many of them are utterly picturesque and charming. Cadiz, though, has two particularly good examples: Vejer de la Frontera and Setenil de las Bodegas.
While the former is lovely, the latter is... unusual. After marvelling at the jaw-dropping houses, directly built into the rock walls and caves of its gorge, make sure you stop and try some of its famous chorizo at one of the village bars.
27. Los Alcornocales Natural Park
Grab a picnic, jump in the car and wind your way through this national park. After taking in the spectacular scenery, find your spot in the shade of Spain’s largest cork forest.
Address: Carretera A-2228 Alcalá de los Gazules - Benalup Casas Viejas, Alcalá de los Gazules, km. 1, 11180
28. Whale Watching in the straits of gibraltar
The Gibraltar Straits are a famous migration route for many dolphins and whales, so hop on one of many tour boats operating and scan the horizon for those arching fins.
Visit the town of Tarifa and there are a few whale watching boats that head out daily from the port.
29.watch the sunset over Playa La Caleta
The fact that Cadiz is one of the oldest cities in Europe is probably reason enough for a visit.
Watching from the Playa La Caleta as the sun sinks slowly into the Atlantic in a blaze of reds and oranges definitely seals the deal.
30. Restaurante El Faro de Cadiz
After listening to the applause as the sun drops into the ocean at Caleta Beach, it’s a three-minute walk to Restaurante El Faro de Cadiz.
If you can’t get a seat in the formal restaurant, politely push your way through the crowds to the standing tapas bar and order some seafood.
Address: Calle San Félix, 15, 11002 Cádiz. +34 956 21 10 68. Elfarodecadiz.com
31. Beach Horse Racing at sanlucar
This rather unusual event takes place every year in August in the lovely town of Sanlucar de Barrameda. A horse race where riders hurtle along a 1,800m stretch of beach, it's a wonderful cultural experience.
More information: Sanlucar-de-barrameda.com/beach-horse-racing
32. The Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art
Book a show at one of the world’s most respected classical riding academies and watch Andalusian horses dance an equestrian ballet.
Address: Av. Duque de Abrantes, 11407 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz. +34 956 92 25 80. Realescuela.org
33. understand sherry aT Bodegas Tradicion
Make your way to the beautiful city of Jerez de la Frontera. Literally translated, Jerez means sherry. So when in Jerez, and all that...
Having rescued some of the oldest ageing and bottling methods, Bodegas Tradicion tours combine the wine tasting with a viewing of their excellent collection of art.
Address: Calle Cordobeses, 3, 11408 Jerez de la Frontera, Cádiz. +34 956 16 86 28. Bodegastradicion.es
34. Wonder at a Church inside a Mosque - The Mezquita
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this Catholic cathedral was built within a pre-existing mosque.
It's home to several gems of Moorish architecture including a prayer room containing more than 850 arched columns and the portal of the Mihrab, to name just a couple.
Address: Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba. Monday – Saturday: 10:00 – 19:00 & Sunday: 08:30 – 11:30, 15:30 – 19:00. Mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es
35. See Cordoba at Night
Start at the Roman Bridge of Cordoba - for views of the Mezquita lit up against the night sky - before heading in to explore the city, its food and architecture under cover of darkness.
Address: Av. del Alcázar, s/n, 14003 Córdoba
36. Fiesta of the Patios in Cordoba
Every May for two weeks the private courtyards of Cordoba are thrown open to the public and visitors are delighted by dazzling displays of flowers.
Cordoba was given the award for Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO back in 2012 for this heart-warming fiesta.
More information: Turismodecordoba.org
37. Fall of MOORISH Spain - Medina Azahara
Back in the 10th century Medina Azahara was built to be the administrative centre of Andalucia. Unfortunately in the early 11th century, it got burnt to the ground during a period of civil unrest.
Just outside Cordoba, the romantic ruins of the palace and mosque still remain today, a dusty memory of a once great civilisation.
Address: Ctra. Palma del Río, km 5.5, 14005 Córdoba. 957 10 36 37. Museosdeandalucia.es
38. explore ubeda & Baeza
A long way from the well-worn tourist trail, the neighbouring towns of Ubeda and Baeza share joint UNESCO World Heritage Site status.
They're home to countless fine examples of Renaissance architecture, including the Vázquez de Molina Square, the Palace of Marqués de Mancera, the Hospital of Santiago and the Plaza del Pópulo.
Addresses: Palace of Marqués de Mancera: Calle María Soledad Torres Acosta, 1, 23400 Úbeda, Jaén; Hospital of Santiago: Calle Obispo Cobos, 28, 23400 Úbeda, Jaén; Plaza del Pópulo: Plaza de los Leones, 4, 23440 Baeza, Jaén
39. hike the Cerrada de Elías
Stretching 22km in total, this walk runs through lush green valleys and shady canyons full of babbling rapids and waterfalls. In the Sierras de Cazorla, Segura y Las Villas Natural Park, it takes in some of the most stunning countryside in Andalucia.
Address: 23476 La Iruela, Jaén
40. Wonder at the 11th-Century Alcazaba
From perfectly preserved citadels in the towns and cities to lonely piles of crumbling rocks in the middle of nowhere, southern Spain isn’t short of a Moorish castle or two.
Almeria’s 11th-century Alcazaba, though, is the biggest of the bunch and, rising above the city in a series of impressive battlements and towers, one of the very best.
Address: Calle Almanzor, s/n, 04002 Almería. +34 600 14 29 82.
41. see some ancient geological features at Níjar Natural Park
Tucked away in the region's southeasternmost corner, the largest protected coastal area in Andalucia is part of UNESCO's Global Geoparks Network.
The spectacular Playa de Mónsul and Isleta del Moro (above) are home to vast volcanic rock formations, wide sandy beaches, salt marshes, sea grass beds and coral reefs.
Address: 04118 Níjar, Almería.
42. get your cowboy on at Mini Hollywood
This immersive American Western theme park was originally a set built for Sergio Leone’s For a Few Dollars More and used again for the Clint Eastwood classic The Good, The Bad and the Ugly.
A great family day out, it's ideal for kids (of the small and not so small variety) to get their cowboy on and yee-haw their way through the Western-themed saloon, shops and scenarios.
Address: Carretera Nacional 340A, km 464, 04200 Tabernas, Almería. +34 950 335 335. Oasysparquetematico.com
43. Tabernas Desert
Whether by foot or by horseback, a trek through Europe’s only true desert - an amazing arid and lunar nature reserve - is breathtaking.
44. hit the columbus trail
Discover key historical sites linked to Christopher Columbus as he planned his epic voyage to the Americas – including life-size replicas of his ships.
Addresses: Paraje de La Rábida, s/n, 21819 Palos de la Frontera, Huelva; Diseminado de la Rábida, s/n, 21819 Palos de la Frontera, Huelva. Monasteriodelarabida.com
45. go wild in Doñana National Park
Covering a whopping 530-odd kilometres, this UNESCO World Heritage Site - and the largest nature reserve in Europe - is one of Spain’s great wildernesses.
Explore the marshy wetlands in this birdwatchers' paradise - by foot, by horse or by 4x4 - and seek out endangered species such the Iberian Lynx and the Spanish Imperial Eagle.
Address: A-483, Km.38,7, 21760, Almonte, Huelva. +34 959439629.
46. Gruta de las Maravillas
More great hiking and walking but underground this time. Escape the heat in Spain’s oldest public cave system including sights such as the Emerald Lake.
Address: Calle Pozo de la Nieve, s/n, 21200 Aracena, Huelva. 34 663 93 78 76. Open daily: 10:00 - 13:30, 15:00 - 18:00
47. dine at Azabache
An award-winning restaurant with a very simple philosophy: let the seasonal produce speak for itself.
This one-time tapas bar serves up a range of classic Andalucian dishes - but done very, very well. Expect lots of fresh seafood hauled straight off the dock that morning.
Address: Calle Vázquez López, 22, 21001 Huelva. +34 959 25 75 28. Restauranteazabache.com
48. Experience a Feria
Nothing says 'Andalucia' quite like a feria. And if you're in the region during the height of summer, then the chances are there'll be one on somewhere.
These local fairs are a colourful explosion of partying, flamenco dresses, horses, dancing, music and fun fairs. Find out the best time to visit
, and see our list of ferias.
49. just... Sit in a square
A Spanish plaza is all about soaking up the atmosphere - people-watching, sun-taking, reading and chatting. Order a glass or two of wine and linger; let the buskers come and go, and just enjoy being in the moment.
Some of our favourite squares in Andalucia include: Plaza Duquesa de Parcent in Ronda; Plaza la Candelaria in Cadiz; Plaza de los Naranjos in Marbella; Plaza de la Corredera in Cordoba; Plaza de Doña Elvira in Seville; Plaza de la Merced in Malaga; and Plaza de Bib-Rambla in Granada.
50. Learn about Spanish ham & OLIVE OIL
No matter where you are in Andalucia you can sign up to a culinary day that specialises in two of the region's greatest gastronomic achievements: ham and olive oil.
Here you'll learn all about jamon from Huelva, and taste your way through Spain’s largest olive oil producing region, Jaen. (Of the 100 extra virgin olive oils included in EVOOLEUM’s official 2020 guide, no fewer than 81 were from Spain - with the winner hailing from the Jaén region.)
Like our pick of the best things to do in Andalucia? If you book a villa with The Luxury Villa Collection, we'd be delighted to help you plan your trip around them.
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(As of Sept 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…
There's an awful lot of Andalucia. Stretched out over 87,000km² it's made up of eight separate provinces - each with its own historic cities, landscapes and sights to see.
But after many hours…