Anniversary Adventures in Andalucía

{A Whitewashed Village in Andalucía, Spain}

This July 1st, Fabian and I will be celebrating our fifth wedding anniversary and we are planning a trip to Spain to commemorate the occasion. My readers were so helpful in giving us tips for our London trip last year, that I just knew I would have to ask you for advice on Spain this year! Although Fabian has not been to Spain, I spent two weeks there in June of 2008. I spent time in Madrid, Salamanca, Segovia, and Avila. All of those cities are gorgeous and have so much to offer, but this time, we want to head south to Andalucía, the birthplace of everything we think of as Spanish.

{The Gorgeous Alhambra in Granada}

As usual, I am in charge of planning the vacation and though our trips are usually filled to the brim with sightseeing and museum visits, this time we’d like to adopt the “slow travel” style. While we plan to visit the major sights in Granada and Seville like the Alhambra and Alcázar, we mostly want to revel in the beauty of the surroundings, have some tapas, and enjoy the culture and a week away from the usual hustle and bustle of our lives. Fabian’s only request is to keep the plane travel to a minimum once we are in Spain. So, this is where I need your advice. We will have about a week to travel and definitely want to spend time in Granada and Seville, but I am unsure about the order in which to see things.

{Madrid’s Gran Vía}

1. Should we include Madrid in the trip at all? I’ve been there and really enjoyed it. Would it be worthwhile to fly into Madrid and then take a train down to Seville?

{A Charming Street lined with Orange Trees in Seville}

2. Would it be best to split our time evenly between Granada and Seville or should we base ourselves out of one city and do an overnight stay in the other?

{Arcos de la Frontera}

3. Are there any other places in the region of Andalucía that we should not miss?

corral del rey
{Corral del Rey Hotel, Granada}

4. Do you have any specific recommendations for hotels, restaurants, or sites that you wouldn’t mind sharing?

{Seville’s Beautiful Cathedral and Giralda Tower}

5. If we were to visit Madrid, Granada, and Seville, do you think it would be worth it to have to pick up and switch hotels every two or three days? I don’t think I would mind so much, especially if we were able to experience more places, but Fabian would prefer to keep the travel to a minimum once we are in Spain. I think he just wants to relax!

I would appreciate any tips or advice you are willing to share! It is always so nice to hear about other people’s travel experiences. ¡Mil gracias!
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  1. We did nights in both Granada and Seville last September. I recommend splitting your time even though I hate hotel hopping too. Granada was more relaxing to me, a little rougher but totally charming. The palace at the Alhambra is probably the most amazing thing I have ever seen. I think I tried to book the hotel you pictured from Granada but they were full. Hotel Santa Isabel was a fantastic stay, it’s built into a beautiful old house with open courtyard in the middle. Seville felt more high energy to me with streets lined with shops and almost too many good tapas bars (we almost never sat down to a full proper meal). I couldn’t say which one I would have wanted to reduce down to a day trip. Sounds like an amazing week!

  2. Cordoba is lovely and would be a great day trip from Seville. My sister spent a semester there in college and we flew into Madrid (it was far cheaper than flying to Seville) and took the train from there to Cordoba. I imagine it would be just as easy to take the train from Madrid to Seville.

  3. I know I’m crashing your plans somehow but I really think you shouldn’t miss Cordoba and the Mezquita, it’s real pretty and the city is very charming. I did a week in Andalucia some years ago and had a lovely time, I do remember though that the packing and unpacking was a bit tiring but it is worth it.
    By the way, I’m not a big fan of Madrid but you should definitely go to Barcelona (maybe not this time) but do not miss it 😉 its my city, what would I say!
    Anyhow, I’m sure it’s going to be a great trip and a great way to celebrate!

  4. About 10 years ago I went to Madrid then took an overnight train to Seville. Personally, I was very disappointed with Seville. And the overnight train was… cramped. I thought Madrid was great, though.

  5. What a wonderful trip you’re planning! I’m so excited for you both (and a little jealous!). Never been to Spain myself but heard wonderful things about Seville and Granada — also I hear Barcelona shouldn’t be missed but I’m not sure if that’s feasible given your schedule.

  6. Sounds so fun. Spain is one of my favorite places in the World. That’s where my husband and I spent our honeymoon. I haven’t been to Andalucia. Good Luck with your plans…


  7. Oh my gosh, how I loved Sevilla and Granada!! I highly recommend splitting your time and take the train from Sevilla to Granada. We were there a few years ago and it was so wonderful (especially for the architecturally obsessed!). In my opinion, you could really get away with spending 1-2 nights in Granada, 2-3 nights in Sevilla, maybe a daytrip to Cordoba to see the Mezquita. I would also recommend hoping a cheap flight (we found one for $50!) to Barcelona for 2 nights. It’s one of my favorite cities in the world. I seriously think I could live there. Madrid was nice, but Barcelona was amazing.

  8. My husband and I lived in Madrid for 2 years right after we got married-actually the day after our honeymoon we moved for his job. Whenever we would have people come and visit us we would go to Sevilla and Granada. A hotel in Granada I would recommend is the Casa Morisca. It’s got a great view of the Alhambra Palace and is not super expensive (we loved the Parador that was next door to the Alhambra but could not afford it). We splurged and got the mirador suite at the top with the most amazing view and the ceiling was ornately carved. The rooms were modest but nicely decorated and the house has tons of history so that made it attractive to me. We were so thrilled with our stay that we went back 2 other times with friends and family. Seriously you can’t beat the location. In Sevilla I stayed with my sister at the Alfonso XIII but it is pricey and she used points. It was a very pretty hotel but I didnt think it was worth all the money- would have been fine to just admire the lobby and have a drink! We also stayed at a small hotel called the Casa Del Maestro in Sevilla. This was a cute little place well situated but the rooms are not big but it didnt bother us. We stayed in a room that had a huge framed suzani over the bed so it inspired me to purchase one of my own when we moved back to ATL. Breakfast was really delicious- fresh crushed tomatoes on crusty bread with olive oil and fresh squeezed juice! YUM. There are all sorts of places like this in Sevilla-charming little hotels that have real soul. We stuck to the ones we had good experiences with and were loyal patrons to them. Cordoba was pretty but only really needed for a 1 night trip. The Mezquita and Alcazar are the 2 main attractions. We stayed at a big hotel there as we didn’t know where to stay- NH Amistad. It was fine and in a good location. Madrid will always have a special spot for us so of course I love it but can understand why people say to go to Barcelona. Madrid was a great place to live and there are tons of wonderful restaurants there so let me know if you need any recommendations. Be sure and sample lots of Rioja wine, it’s so affordable and the quality is wonderful! Sorry for the long post!!

  9. my husband and i did some traveling in spain in june 2006. we flew to madrid (i had been there already, but wanted to see it with my husband), visited a few days, then rented a car to drive to seville. it was a little scary trying to navigate the streets of seville, but it made the experience more of an adventure. we spent two nights in seville, then went to granada for another couple of days. both cities are unbelievable. i highly recommend touring the alhambra in the late afternoon/early evening. it was peaceful and less scorching than mid-morning/midday. we drove from granada to nerja on the coast for a few days of beach. nerja is a mainly british community , but very cute and a nice break from the city. lots of great streets to wander and delicious seafood paella. a little touristy, but not terribly obnoxious. i will try to dig up more details. it was a lot of driving, but we saw and experienced so much. such a beautiful, special place!

  10. I took a similar trip a few years ago and drove from Malaga to Granada and Sevilla. For hotels, try Hotel Simon in Sevilla- it was gorgeous and very reasonably priced at the time. As for other places to see, I highly recommend going to Malaga and the Costa del Sol- it’s a couple hours by car from Granada and definitely worth it!

  11. Gee, where to begin. My husband is from Andalucia. He’s telling me to keep Sevilla as your main city and travel by car to La Sierra de Cadiz. La Sierra is a line of white towns (like pictured above in your post) that you can visit in one day. While you’re driving through towns like Arcos, Grazalema, El Bosque, and Ronda you can see the beautiful country side. If you can STAY A NIGHT IN ESTEPONA or the pricier Marbella, you’ll love it. Then go back towards the coast to Cadiz and make a stop in Jerez de la Frontera to try to see the pure Andalusian horses at Real Academia de Equestre. Try to set up a Sherry wine tasting prior to reaching Jerez at the bodegas like Sandeman, Osborne, or Gonzalez Byass. Then head back to Seville.

    ** My husband said, people will try to ask you to go to Gibraltar, he said it’s no big deal.

    On another day a good trip would be to set up a one day tour of Jabugo, it’s in Huelva. The provence directly west of Sevilla. This is where the best Spanish ham (Pata Negra =black hoof) comes from. YUMMY.

    I hope you enjoy your trip, keep us posted on your plans.

    All the best,

  12. don’t miss barcelona! i know it’s on the other side of the country, but barcelona is the city you can’t miss! you have fast train (ave) from madrid to barcelona and many low cost airlines that connect the two cities. barcelona is so amazing, architecture, sea, it’s the most beautiful city i have ever seen. so, if you have time, do include it in your trip.
    you could also take a day trip to toledo, also a must visit. it’s a unesco world heritage site, you can take the train from madrid.

  13. so amazing. we studied spanish history my junior year of high school and i’ve been wanting to see the alhambra ever since. i unfortunately have on advice as i’ve only ever been to barcelona, but have an amazing time! can’t wait to see pictures.


  14. Oh, another tip…reserve your tickets for the Alhambra in advance!

    Also, we stayed at the hotel Casa Morisca as well and the location and price can’t be beat. However, don’t get a room with a view of the interior courtyard…not nearly as nice as the other rooms. We were disappointed and wanted to upgrade but they were full. Great little hotel otherwise!

  15. Ahh, I’m so jealous! My study abroad was in Madrid- I LOVE it there and wish I could go back to live all the time. I visited Seville and Granada while living there and both are amazing cities! I think that if you moved every three days it would not be bad, but then again keep in mind that the time change could get you. It is really easy to get anywhere in Spain from Madrid so if you fly there and then travel to Seville or Granada it might be easier. Either way I am so jealous, can you pack me in your suitcase? 🙂

  16. I hope to do a similar trip soon. I have never been to Grenada or Seville but hope to be able to return to Spain soon.

    The trip you’re planning sounds great but I would include Madrid and I second those who have suggested Barcelona. Even if its not this trip you should definitely get to Barcelona at one point – I totally fell in love with it.

  17. Thanks for all of the great suggestions so far, everyone! Please keep ’em coming!

    So, I think we may have eliminated Madrid from our list from now. Everyone has me so excited about Barcelona, that i think we might go there instead if we decide to throw one of the larger cities into the mix. I liked Madrid, but didn’t fall in love with it like I have with other cities and you all have made Barcelona sound so enticing. I really appreciate your advice!

  18. If you visit the coast, best places to stay are Puerto Banus, Marbella or Sotogrande. Puerto and Marbella are very upmarket, lots of chic shops and nice restaurants. Sotogrande is much smaller, lovely, no, amazing restaurants! interesting mix of shops, albeit not many. You also get a beautiful view of the rock (Gibralter). No need to visit the place itself. But a lovely view. The white villages are a must also, Ronda, Gaucin, Casares to name but a few. Oh so many places to see but maybe not enough time?

  19. We spent two weeks in Spain this summer and I fell in love with Sevilla. It’s my personal fave out of Madrid, Barcelona, Córdoba, Granada, and Málaga.

    I was only in Madrid for a day and it was the first day feeling super sick, so that could’ve blurred my reviews as well. : (

    I’m so excited for you.