Photo Credit: Francisco Colinet
Taking a walk in Seville is really a true pleasure. Its neighborhoods with narrow streets, in the historic core of the city, fountains, churches and bridges, in parks, at every step Seville delights you. For all its important monuments and fascinating history, Seville is universally famous for being a joyous town. While the Sevillians are known for their wit and sparkle, the city itself is striking for its vitality. It is the largest town in Southern Spain, the city of Carmen, Don Juan and Figaro.
The Sevillians are great actors and put on an extraordinary performance at their annual Fería de Abril, a week-long party of drink, food and dance which takes place day and night in more than a thousand especially mounted tents. But above all it allows the men to parade on their fine horses and the women to dance in brilliantly coloured gypsy dresses.
The neighborhood of Santa Cruz
It is a historic center of Seville, full of traces of the Arab and Jewish culture. Small, narrow and uneven streets give the impression of Medina of obscure luxury, appearing at the typical terraces of Seville. In this flower neighborhood, where you are refreshed by fountains, can be found the most important historical heritage of Seville: the Cathedral with the Giralda.
The second very important monument of the Alcazar, whose fortification began in 884. Alcazar is known as the oldest royal palace in Europe, and is entered in the heritage of humanity. It is a collection of palaces built in the Islamic period of Seville.
Although it seems strange, but it is not related with the name of the mother of God Macarena. The neighborhood extends from the north of Seville, from the Guadalquivir River to the San Lazaro and the cemetery of San Fernando. This is one of the most densely populated neighborhoods, where churches, bars, coffee shops of all kinds are mixed. The gate of the Basilica Hermandad Macarena was once the entrance to the city. It is still possible to see the remains of the walls from the 12th century, also present in the Alcazar.
The neighborhood of Triana
On the other side of the river Guadalquivir, paved streets reveal a different Seville because of its way of life different from the classical Seville. Historically it is the old village of sailors from where the ships departed for America. Aromas and odors of cuisine, ceramics we encounter everywhere reminds you where you are, and tapas of fried fish are not anywhere as good as here.
The parks of Seville
Some parks of Seville are surprisingly old. First of all, made by the Arab concept of beauty, they have been changed in the period of Don Pedro I and then rehabilitated and maintained by the city structures. Some are made to decorate the World Exhibition of 1992 held in the capital of Andalusia, such as is the case with the Park del Alamillo.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 210 km / 2:40 hours by car]
Despite being Andalusia's fastest-growing town, Ronda retains much of its historic charm, particularly its old town. It was taken over by the Catholic kings in 1485, although it was the last bastion of the Kingdom of Granada. The city was developed in the 16th and 18th centuries. Ronda is famous for its dramatic escarpments and views, and for the deep El Tajo gorge that carries the rio Guadalevín through its centre. Visitors make a beeline for the 18th century Puente Nuevo 'new' bridge, which straddles the 100m chasm below, for its unparalleled views out over the Serranía de Ronda mountains.
Photo Credit: Nick Kenrick
Most of the monuments are located in Rondas old-town "La Ciudad", which is an excellent starting point to visit the city. The "New Bridge" (Puente Nuevo) connects the new part of the city with the oldest neighbourhood which are separated by the deep impressive gorge. After 40 years of construction the bridge was finished in the late 18th century.
The cobbled alley to the Mondragón leads naturally on to Ronda's loveliest public space, the leafy Plaza Duquesa de Parcent, which boasts a convent, two churches, including the toytown belltower of the iglesia Santa Maria de Mayor, and the handsome arched ayuntamiento (council) building. The Church of Santa Maria la Mayor was once built in the middle of the 15th century but not finished until the early 17th century. This is why the church combines two architectural styles - the Gothic and Baroque.
Nearby calle Armiñan leads down to the spacious plaza of the traditional workers' barrio, San Francisco, with excellent bars and restaurants. Back from the Mondragón, the Plaza del Campillo overlooks steps that zigzag down to a dramatic eye-level through the Puente Nuevo.
Crossing the narrow winding streets of the old town towards the New Bridge to enjoy some breathtaking views before you take a few more steps to the Plaza de toros (bullring) which is the most traditional of the country and the oldest of the world, built in 1785 in the neoclassical style, with baroque facade.
If you stay more than one day in Ronda, do not forget to visit the cave Pileta located in Benaoján, approx. 20 km from Ronda. It is rich in motives and drawings from the Paleolithic period (up to 20 000 years before Christ).
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 63 km / 1:10 hours by car]
It is easy to understand why Malaga City is dubbed the Capital of the Costa del Sol. Once considered the poor cousin of Andalusia’s Capital city, Seville, it now competes successfully for attention, thanks to its profusion of quirky museums, pedestrianised shopping centre, innovative restaurants and stylish hotels, many featuring trendy rooftop terraces with bar, pool and stunning views.
Malaga has more museums than any other city in Andalusia - at least it counts over 30! Learn more about Malaga through its wine at the Wine Museum, its social history and customs, from the collection of 19th century paintings at the new Carmen Thyssen museum, and its famous local personalities, such as the painter Felix Revello del Toro. For more art and design delights, you can visit the museums of contemporary art, archaeology or glass…
As well as homage to the great Picasso, other great historic monuments include the imposing Baroque Cathedral, popularly known as "La Manquita" (One Armed Woman), and the newly restored Roman theatre. High on the hill above the city is the Parador (state-run hotel), which is situated in the Gibralfaro, a Moorish castle of great historical importance.
Although there has been a certain amount of destruction in Malaga over the centuries, especially during the Spanish Civil War, there is still plenty of proof of the Moorish occupation. Today you can visit the Moorish Alcazaba fortress, dating back to 1065, which also now features a very interesting archaeological museum.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 60 km / 50 minutes by car]
The white villages
The whitewashed villages of Andalusia are impressive historical monuments in themselves, and their people still live according to age-old traditions, inherited from their Iberian, Roman and Moorish forefathers.
Many of the villages near the coast have become fashionable resorts, while still conserving their ancient charm, whereas others, lost in the highlands of Andalusia, remain rough and ready olive-farming towns, with a special appeal for the adventurous travellers. Most Andalusian towns once were fortresses along the ever-fluctuating frontier between the Christian and Moorish realms. Their names are still remembering those times: "Jerez de la Frontera", "Arcos de la Frontera", "Morón de la Frontera"...
Arcos de la Frontera
Arcos de la Frontera is called as the gateway to the white villages. The white houses are built impressively along the edge of a steep cliff. The village is influenced by the Moorish architecture and offers besides a fortress some beautiful churches such as the Basílica de Santa Maria de la Asunción. Enjoy the regional cuisine and if you are here for Easter, pass by to watch the processions of the brotherhoods through the old town. The oldest brotherhood has its origin in the 15th century.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 170 km / 2 hours by car]
Up in the Natural Park of the Sierra de Grazalema you can find this beautiful mountain village. Enjoy a walk through the narrow streets, passing quiet little squares while having views to the surrounding mountains in the distance. For the nature lovers among you it is the perfect place for a hike or even for bird-watching or fishing.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 89 km / 1:40 hours by car]
Photo Credit: Bob Tilden
Zahara de la Sierra
A little bit further of Grazalema, and only 55 km to Arcos de la Frontera, in the heart of the Sierra de Grazalema and at the foot of the Sierra de Jaral you will reach Zahara de la Sierra. The village is set right in the hillside and the Moorish castle offers you some impressive views over the countryside and the turquoise water reservoir, Zahara-el Gastor.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 96 km / 1:40 hours by car]
Photo Credit: Wolfgang Manousek
Photo Credit: Nicolas Rénac
Granada was first settled by native tribes in the prehistoric period, and was known as Ilbyr. When the Romans colonised southern Spain, they built their own city here and called it Illibris. The Arabs, invading the peninsula in the 8th century, gave it its current name of Granada. It was the last Muslim city to fall to the Christians in 1492, at the hands of Queen Isabel of Castile and her husband Ferdinand of Aragon.
One of the most brilliant jewels of universal architecture is the Alhambra, a series of palaces and gardens built under the Nazari Dynasty in the 14th century. At the centre of the Alhambra stands the massive Palace of Charles V, an outstanding example of Spanish Renaissance architecture. Other major Christian monuments found in the city are the Cathedral, including the Royal Chapel where Isabel and Ferdinand lie buried, the Monastery of La Cartuja and many churches built by Moorish craftsmen after the Reconquest, in Granada's unique "mudéjar" style.
The hill facing the Alhambra is the old Moorish casbah or "medina", called the Albaicin, a fascinating labyrinth of narrow streets and whitewashed houses with secluded inner gardens, known as "cármenes". The Plaza de San Nicolas, at the highest point of the Albaicin, is famous for its magnificent view of the Moorish palace.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 210 km / 1:40 hours by car]
Photo Credit: Hernán Piñera
Ten kilometres of white sandy beaches, unspoilt countryside and some of the best windsurfing conditions in Europe have established Tarifa as a true surfers paradise. Just 11 km across the Straits of Gibraltar at its narrowest point, this most southern tip of Europe where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, enjoys spectacular views of the Rif mountains of Africa across the water.
Tarifas' wild coastline attracts surfers and nature lovers alike. Just as famous for its birdwatching as its surfing, there are endless opportunities to explore the rolling countryside. Horse-riding, hang-gliding, kite-surfing, rock-climbing and diving, to name just a few.
In Tarifa town you can see for example the Jerez Gate, Church of San Mateo in Calle de los Azogues, Castle of Guzman the Bueno, The Municipal Museum, Miramar Gardens, La Alameda.
Next to the Alameda is the old fishing port. It has never been developed but it is interesting for a stroll. To the west walk or drive (take care the wind blown sand is sometimes deep) down the causeway called Muelle de Rivera towards the island, Isla de las Palomas. You are now at the south west tip of Spain and only a few feet separate the sea and ocean.
There are plenty of little tapas bars in the old town just to the east of the Alameda. Outside the Jerez Gate on the main street called Batalla del Salado (leading north out of the town) you'll find the surf shops and trendy clothes shops.
[Distance from Marbella: approx. 100 km / 1:15 hours by car]
Photo Credit: José Antonio Cartelle
Cadiz is the oldest city in Europe. Still largely free of mass tourism, the holiday destination offers a fortified old town with magnificent buildings and towers from the 17th and 18th centuries, beautiful beaches, famous events such as the Carnival and unspoilt nature in the hinterland.
The Cathedral of Cadiz
The cathedral is a good point of orientation if you have lost your way in the old town. And the plaza with its impressive sandstone facade invites you to take a coffee break. The church, which is based on the Renaissance church of Granada, was begun in 1720, but was not completed until 1830.
Iglesia de Santa Cruz
The Church Iglesia de Santa Cruz is located in the district of El Populo, not far from the cathedral. On this site there was already an older building, on whose foundations the asymmetrical church was built in the 13th century. After several destructions, the church was rebuilt in the 16th century, extended with chapels and decorated. It contains Gothic and Baroque elements. Until the inauguration of the new cathedral in 1838, it was the Cathedral of Cádiz.