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Andalusia in 4 days

14 Mar 2011  My trips around Europe with my husband and young son
3.5 of 5 stars based on 1 vote

May be you live in the UK or somewhere in Europe and your life style allows only short trips to European cities..May be you transit through European cities often during trans-atlantic flights..May be you travel to Europe on business and want to put your weekends to good use.. Look no further. You can enjoy the best of Europe through several 2-6 day long trips.
This list is a description of how we enjoyed the highlights of Andalusia in 4 days and I'm hoping for this to be the first in a series of lists

  • 1. Seville
    Seville, Province of Seville

    Seville is a small and charming town and an ideal base to explore Andalusia, particularly so if you want to sample the highlights in a short duration. It is said to be the 'Frying pan' of Spain so plan your trip between November and March, if you can. In late December, we had sunny and warm days with cold nights. The main sights are all close to each other and hence easy to cover in a day.

    Seville in one day:

    1)Get an early start and get to the Alcazar by about 9.30 AM. It is very similar in terms of decor to Al-Hambra, only more colourful and compact, so easier to look around. The gardens are truly stunning, filled with Orange trees and beautiful pools and fountains. Allow about 3 hours to take in the palace and stroll through the gardens.

    2) The Cathedra and Giralda tower:
    Have lunch in one of the many restaurants around the Alcazar/Cathedra and then head to the cathedral. Now this may not be a popular opinion, but I have been to many great Cathedrals in Europe and I can't say this one is very different - it looks better from outside. Hence if you are a seasoned Europe traveller, you may even skip this one. Unfortunately there is no ticket for the Giralda alone and you need to buy a cathedral ticket. But you can just visit the Giralda. The view from the top of the tower is quite good but it is a steep walk up the tower. If you have mobility issues or would rather wander around the square, you may choose to not enter this monument.
    If you can, come back during dusk to look the Cathedral and Giralda glow under the night lamps.

    3) Torro Del Oro - It is only about 10 minutes walk from the Cathedra and is in a lovely setting by the river. You can walk up and down the bridge and enjoy some great views across the river.

    4)Plaza Espana:
    It is a lovely square with beautiful bridges, a small canal and lovely murals. Great place to chill out with a sandwich and drink in the evening. In the night the fountains are beautifully lit up.

    Now for the night, you can end your day with a Flamenco show. The Casa De la Memoria is highly recommended but it is in an open patio and can be chilly in the winter. We saw a flamenco show in Palacio Andaluz (booked through our hotel) and were pleasantly surprised - it was a stunning performance. But I have heard that quality tends to vary (in this or other establishments). They are staged pieces but very enjoyable nevertheless.

  • 2. Cordoba
    Cordoba, Province of Cordoba

    Cordoba is only a short 45 minutes from Seville by train and easily done as day trip.

    1) Try to get to Cordoba well before noon and head straight to the Mezquita. It is one of a kind and will not fail to impress. Enjoy wandering through the lovely arches of the world's largest mosque and the orange tree filled patio. Allow 2 hours to do justice to this wonderful monument.

    The Jewish quarter (Juderia) located a very short distance from the Mezquita is a very quaint area to walk around. You will walk through narrow streets and colours homes. We found the front doorr left open in many of the houses and could see the famed Andalusian courtyards. We took a buggy ride (many on offer outside the mezquita) to orient ourselves and went back walking to the bits of the town that we found interesting. You can spend a couple of hours wandering around, resting in the charming little squares and checking out white-washed churches tucked into narrow alleys.

    Cordoba is mid-way between Seville and Granada (almost) and on a short Andalusian jaunt, you will save time by heading straight to Granada from Cordoba instead of returning to you base in Seville. We had just packed an overnight bag while setting out from Seville and took the bus to Granada from Cordoba.

  • 3. Granada
    Province of Granada, Andalucia

    Granada is a lovely city (for some reason we thought it was a smaller town than Seville, which it wasn't) and actually worth a couple of nights if you have the time.

    Granada by night:
    We had only one night and didn't want to miss a view of the Alhambra in the night. So directly after checking into our Hotel (located very conveniently in Plaza Nueva) we took the mini-bus to Mirador San Nicholas in the Arab Quarter. And simply sat soaking up the view of the Alhambra. We wanted to preserve our energy for the next day so really didnt check out the rest of the city that night.

    Next day in Granada:
    we had booked the morning slot for the Alhambra and headed straight to the monument at about 9.30 AM. It gave us the much needed space to enjoy atleast some bits of the Alhambra in relative peace before other tourists descended there. If you only have one day, consider booking a 12-12.30 slot for the Nasrid palace. It will allow you plenty of time to (about 3-4 hours) to see the rest of the monument and gardens before the timed entry begins. Make sure you carry some snacks and water (even in winter), wear comfortable walking shoes - there is a lot of walking to be done.
    Enjoy great views of the Albaicin and the mountains from the Alhambra.
    Actually the faded tiles of the Alhambra were less attractive than the Seville alcazar -just my opinion. I even liked the Seville Alcazar gardens better!

    Head back to Plaza Nueva for lunch and then take th mini-bus to one of the several stops in Albacin. You can then walk around at lesiure, may be even check out the cave museum (which we did and it was a nice break for our son).

    We had tea at a nice Moroccon tea house and headed back to Mirador San Nicholas for a sunset view of the Alhambra - made the mistake of timing this too close and the place was swamped. We stuggled to find a free spot to sit and watch the Alhambra. But it was indeed magical. Infact there are great views to be had from many spots in the Albaicin.

    If you have another day in Granada then you can check out the city and its cathedral or even make a trip to the Sierra Nevada. We headed back to Seville for the night.

  • 4. Jerez De La Frontera
    Jerez De La Frontera, Costa de la Luz

    We had some choices on how to spend our final full day and we chose Jerez De La Frontera - primarily for my son as he loves horses and Jerez has one of the world's greatest equestrian schools. It is also a very easy day trip.

    I had booked the equestrian school visit on the net and we took the train to Jerez. It was again a short 1 hour from Seville. We took a tour of the stables, horse carriage museum and the mansions, then spent another hour watching the horses in training. It seemed to us that they treated the horses well and the horses really did dance it was amazing. There are nice gardens in the premises and you can sit in the lawn and relax. It was lunch time by then -we had a very leisurely lunch and headed back to Seville in the late afternoon.

    We then spent the evening resting in the hotel and then a final night stroll and dinner in the Cathedral area.

    The next morning we did some sovenier shopping before heading to the airport

  • 5. Tips and tricks to make the trip enjoyable

    The key to putting time to good use in a short trip and not feeling rushed is all in the planning. During these 4 days we only had one hurried lunch (in a Burger king opposite the Cordoba Mezquita). Otherwise we had time for the good stuff that makes travel enjoyable - eating local cuisine, people watching, flamenco show etc. Admittedly we savoured only the highlights but with a 5 year old, we cannot hope for much more and a lot of people would have done a lot worse in a week or longer.

    1) Book the Alhambra tickets online. Do your research and decide in what order you would like to see the various buildings before it is time for your Nasrid palace entry.

    2) Book as many of the train and bus tickets ahead of the trip on the internet as possible - granted it takes away some flexibility but it does make for good itinerary planning

    3) Pick out the places/monuments that you really want to see and pace yourself.

    4) Get an early start where possible for the attractions that are likely to be crowded. The big crowds appear after about 11 AM.

    5) Be sure to note down opening/closing dates and times. Be aware of the Siesta timing in Spain

    6) Check out Mirable guide for Spain for very good suggestions on restaurants. We even planned which restaurant we will have dinner/lunch and proceeded to locate them with a map.