The 11 most beautiful monuments in Andalusia

« More beautiful than the most beautiful days » said Jules Verne, evoking his Andalusian belle. And he was right. Here are 11 of the most beautiful monuments to see in Andalusia.

The art of living and the essence of Spain are rooted in Andalusian traditions. Flamenco dancers, bullfighters, small white villages, jasmine-studded alleyways, olive groves as far as the eye can see: Andalusia’s power of attraction shines through.

Its towns and villages are filled with charming squares, crowned with ivory-walled houses and emblazoned baroque facades. You’ll find ornate fountains, a church and a bar. Time stands still in the coolness of a patio and around famous tapas.

In addition to its hip, flamboyant, old-fashioned lifestyle, Andalusia is home to some of Spain’s most incredible monuments. In its provinces, from Cadiz to Cordoba, via Granada, Málaga and Seville: a tour of the region’s finest architectural treasures. Here are the 11 most beautiful monuments to see in Andalusia.

1. Granada’s Alhambra

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Granada is considered one of Spain’s most beautiful cities. It enjoys an exceptional geographical location, with the immaculate peaks of the Sierra Blanca as a backdrop. It faces the Albayzon, an ancient Arab city classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, adjoins troglodyte houses hosting flamenco shows and is the world capital of tapas.

While its riches are many, it is undoubtedly its majestic Alhambra that makes its reputation. The Alhambra is also known as the « red castle » because of its ochre color. It is one of the most beautiful Arab palaces in the world. Its refined decor and architectural finesse are matched by the beauty of its gardens.

The tour begins by passing through grandiose gates, as if entering a marvellous world. It continues from palace to palace. Their architecture is breathtakingly well finished. These royal refuges boast numerous gilded rooms,azulejo bases, crenellated towers, pierced wooden domes and exquisite courtyards. A feast for the eyes.

2. Cordoba’s mosque-cathedral

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The beautiful, tranquil city of Cordoba is home to the finest architectural example of Hispano-Muslim civilization. This is undoubtedly the mosque-cathedral, listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Mezquita Catedral towers over the maze of alleys, exquisite patios, flower balconies and palaces in the heart of Cordoba. Its architecture is unique in the world, with a beauty that words can barely convey. Here, Christian and Muslim faiths intertwine to create a setting as original as it is sumptuous.

During your visit, you’ll pass through a forest of endlessly curving columns and arches, carpets of Byzantine mosaics, a spectacular Baroque choir and a stunning Renaissance dome.

3. Seville’s Royal Alcazar

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Seville’s Real Alcazar palace boasts an architectural diversity unlike anywhere else in Spain. Hence its title as one of Andalusia’s most beautiful monuments.

Since the 20th century, this palatial complex has been embellished in a variety of styles. Its core is a masterpiece of Mudéjar art, built by craftsmen from Granada (hence a certain resemblance to Granada’s Alhambra). The complex boasts many outstanding landmarks: the Hall of Justice and the Courtyard of Plaster, the Palace of Peter the Cruel, the Gothic Palace or Salons of Charles V, numerous patios and tiered gardens.

4. Seville’s Giralda

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Seville, between hills and riverbanks, unfolds like an immense labyrinth of winding streets dominated by La Giralda. This legendary tower, symbol of the ancient Almohad mosque, lends an air of medina to a city as theatrical, festive and exhilarating as it is beautiful. The Giralda’s elegant silhouette is made of brick.

This former mosque was originally topped by three golden balls. These were replaced by bells and a mythical statue of Christianity. Today, this masterpiece of Almohad art is the only one to combine simplicity and craftsmanship so well. At the foot of La Giralda, behind a door as monumental as it is photogenic, you’ll find the Patio de nos Naranjos: a square shaded by orange trees.

5. Plaza de España, Seville

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Seville is home to many of Andalusia’s most beautiful monuments. Surrounding the Parque de Maria Luisa, you’ll find the immense Plaza de España, a semicircle two hundred meters in diameter. Sevillian architect Animal Gonzales built this square using theazulejo technique. This ensemble is divided by a canal, itself spanned by delightful little bridges.

The Plaza de España is surrounded by long arcaded galleries framed by two huge towers. Climb up to the first-floor gallery, decorated withazulejos and artesonados ceilings, and discover the many niches illustrating the history of the Andalusian provinces.

6. Seville Cathedral

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A church so big that those who see it think its builders are mad. Such was the ambition of the architects who built the cathedral in 1401. The monumental edifice took the place of the original mosque and rivals all the wonders of the Christian world. In fact, it is the third largest cathedral in the world after St Peter’s in the Vatican and St Paul’s in London.

Its Spanish Gothic-Renaissance style has survived for hundreds of years. Outside, the more modern portals of St. Christopher, the Prince and the Assumption harmonize with the thousand-year-old ensemble. Inside, stone, stained glass, scrupulous ornamentation and wrought iron dominate. The vaults blaze. The chapels house the coffins of illustrious individuals.

7. Alcazaba de Málaga

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Opening onto the waters of the Mediterranean Sea, Málaga boasts an historic past that is still evident in its old quarters. A lively city, Málaga boasts a large port, elegant promenades, tasteful villas and, of course, one of Andalusia’s most beautiful monuments.

This is the Alcazaba, built in 1040 on a hill overlooking the city. It was designed as both a fortress and a palace. To this day, it remains one of the most important Muslim military constructions. To visit the Alcabaza, a path climbs up from the town center, offering memorable views. The pleasant walk is dotted with fortified gates, some of which are decorated with Roman columns and capitals.

After the Christ Tower, you enter the first enclosure and gardens. This is followed by a second enclosure housing the palace, courtyards and a magnificent panorama of Málaga below.

8. New Ronda bridge

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Perched on a rocky plateau, the town of Ronda overlooks the breathtaking Tajo Gorge. Strolling through its cobbled streets, you’ll discover an architectural heritage of unparalleled richness, with a mix of Muslim buildings, churches, palaces and even some of the most harmonious and ancient bullrings in Spain.

Travelers come here to stroll between the heart of the Ciudad, the Arab town dotted with picturesque alleyways, and the shopping suburb. To link the two? The New Bridge(Puerto Nuevo by its Spanish name): one of Andalusia’s finest landmarks. Built between 1751 and 1793, the new bridge links the two sides of the Tajo, offering walkers a breathtaking view of the Guadiaro valley.

9. Almería Alcazaba

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Set against the elongated, arid desert mountains and the azure sea, Almería stands out from the other towns mentioned above. It is best known for its fortress, or Alcazaba, which dominates the city and the entire bay. It enjoys a privileged location and was originally erected to protect the city before becoming a Moorish palace.

The cistern stands in the first enclosure, surrounded by beautiful gardens. The wall of the watchtower, topped by a wall-belfry, separates the first enclosure from the second. The latter contains the palatial city, of which historians have preserved a few buildings. The third wall had a purely defensive role. Take the time to stroll along its wall walk and enjoy the remarkable views over Almería and its port.

Below, don’t miss the La Chanca district, with its colorfully painted troglodyte houses.

10. Cadiz Cathedral

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Nestled on the island of Léon, Cadiz lies at the heart of a coastline of lagoons, beaches and salt marshes. On arrival, you pass through a built-up area bristling with apartment blocks and criss-crossed by wide avenues. Once past the Puerta de Tierra, you discover the medieval quarter and the baroque city.

Straddling the del Populo district, embodying the main medieval town, and the Santa Maria district, a 15th-century suburb, lies one of Andalusia’s finest monuments: the Catedral de Cadiz. Construction began in 1722, in a refined Baroque style. It was not completed until 1853. Its neoclassical façade is an interplay of concave and convex surfaces, embellished by two towers and small temples. The interior is bathed in cyclopean dimensions and enjoys a surprising luminosity.

11. Plaza Vazquez de Molina de Úbeda

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At the gateway to Andalusia, the province of Jaén has occupied a strategic position since Antiquity. Proof of this are the remains of Phoenician, Greek and Carthaginian colonies, as well as the architectural and cultural imprint of five centuries of Muslim domination.

This province is home to the last of our eleven most beautiful monuments in Andalusia: the Plaza Vazquez de Molina in the aforementioned town of Úbeda. Like Baeza, Úbeda has been declared a Unesco World Heritage Site.

The Plaza Vazquez de Molina is an ancient Moorish stronghold that’s full of architectural treasures. It overlooks fertile valleys, vast olive groves and the river. The square is uniquely harmonious, transporting visitors to another era. It’s crowned by dazzling buildings: church, palace, prison and rich houses.

Its Renaissance brilliance and gilded stonework reach perfection in the Plaza Vazquez de Molina and in the Chapelle del Salvador, the city’s landmark. This chapel is one of the most striking examples of religious art in Andalusia during the Renaissance. This pantheon dazzles with its facade rich in statues, sculptures and flame-shaped buttresses. Inside, you’ll find a nave with a blue vault swept in gold, as well as the Sacristy with its mix of pagan images.