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29 Most Beautiful Towns and Cities in Southern Spain

If you are wondering if Southern Spain is worth visiting, you’re in the right place. Southern Spain has some of the most beautiful and unique cities and towns in Spain. Although Seville is the main place you’ve probably heard of, there are other less explored cities with so much to discover.

Andalusia has seven UNESCO World Heritage Sites, sandy and crystal blue sea beaches, amazing culinary experiences as well as events and festivals.

Cities in Southern Spain

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The Most Beautiful Cities in Southern Spain

Almeria

things to do in Almeria city

One of the least explored cities in Andalusia, Almeria is the perfect place for you if you like discovering hidden gems and avoiding tourist crowds.

You may wonder why it isn’t as visited as other cities such as Seville or Granada, and the reason isn’t that the city doesn’t have many things to do. 

There are plenty of things to do in Almeria, especially nature-related activities. 

One of Almeria’s main highlights is the Cabo de Gata-Nijar Natural Park, the biggest protected nature reserve on the Mediterranean coast. 

It’s the perfect place to visit beautiful beaches and mountains as well as dunes and a wide variety of flora. Although you can explore the natural park on foot, bike and horseback are other options if you want a different experience. 

In the centre of the city, you’ll find the beautiful Alcazaba, the second largest Muslim fortress-palace in Andalusia. It’s very interesting walking through this fortress and learning about its history.

However, the most impressive part is the amazing views of the city and port you get from the top of the castle walls.

Another unique place that you won’t find anywhere else in Andalusia is the desert, Desierto Tabernas

The desert is about 30 kilometres from the city, and it’s worth visiting. In there you’ll find sand dunes, unique flora and fauna and Mini Hollywood, a Spanish Western-styled theme park. You’ll feel like you’re in a cowboy film! You can access the desert by car or by booking a day tour.

📌 Related blog: 18 Incredible Things To Do In Almeria In Two Days

  • Mojácar. Best for exploring historical and cultural buildings such as the beautiful whitewashed Moorish old town. 
  • Roquetas De Mar. Best for spending the day at the two incredible beaches: Serena and La Bajadilla. 

How to get to Almeria

The closest airport is Almeria airport which is 8 kilometres from the city. If you can’t find a flight to this airport, you can check other nearby airports like Granada (GRX) or Malaga (AGP).

Cadiz

historical buildings in Cadiz Spain

Located on the southwest coast of Andalusia, Cadiz is a must-see destination that is unique on its own – historical buildings, beautiful beaches and a charming port.

If you’re asking yourself “Is Cadiz worth visiting? It’s a hundred per cent worth it.

One of the things you must know is that it’s one of the oldest cities in Western Europe, so if you’re passionate about history, Cadiz is your place.

Cadiz’s main highlight is the cathedral which has been reformed many times and this is reflected in the architecture – a mix of Baroque and Neoclassic. If you’d like to visit the cathedral, there is an entrance fee of 6 euros, but this one includes access to other parts such as the cathedral museum and tower.

You can’t leave Cadiz without visiting the cathedral! From the tower, you get the most beautiful panoramic views of the city.

If you’re after a beach day, Playa La Caleta is the best beach in the city. It isn’t only about how picturesque the beach is, but the atmosphere. Many residents choose this beach to relax, meet friends and family and, of course, enjoy the sun and sea.

Lastly, I can’t forget to mention Cadiz’s food! If you’re crazy about seafood and fish, this city is a paradise for you – fresh crabs, oysters, prawns, tuna, cuttlefish, you name it. Most tapas bars in Cadiz will serve you the best and freshest ingredients. 

Any foodie must visit Mercado Central de Cadiz, Cadiz’s market where you can enjoy “Rincón Gastronómico”, a spot where you can taste the best ingredients in the city.

  • El Puerto de Santa María. Best for visiting natural spaces such as The Bahía de Cádiz Natural Park which has impressive natural features to observe and photograph as well as water activities such as canoeing and scuba diving.
  • Setenil de las Bodegas. Best for discovering a unique town on the border with Malaga. Some of the buildings in this town were built under caves that were created from the water of the river.
  • Tarifa. Best for its beaches which are a meeting point for surfers. 
  • Vejer de la Frontera. Best for exploring whitewashed and narrow winding streets as well as enjoying delicious wine and food in their bars and restaurants.
Setenil de las bodegas whitewashed town in cadiz

How to get to Cadiz

The nearest two airports are Jerez airport (XRY) and Seville airport (SVQ). To get from Jerez airport to Cadiz, you can get the train which takes about 45 minutes, and it’s probably one of the easiest ways to get to Cadiz.

If you can’t find direct flights to Jerez airport and you opt for Seville’s airport, there is not a direct way to get to Cadiz, apart from hiring a taxi which is extremely expensive. 

Your best option is to get from Seville’s airport to Seville and then take a coach to Cadiz. Seville to Cadiz coach trips takes about 1 hour and 45 minutes.

Travelling within Spain? Cadiz isn’t the most accessible city by public transport from all the different parts of Spain, so the best and easiest way to get there is by car.

Getting around the city is simple, most places are walkable, however, a different and fun way to visit the city is by doing a bike tour.

Cordoba

mosque-cathedral in cordoba

Despite being less popular than Seville and Granada, Cordoba is a romantic city to visit – beautiful Moorish architecture, narrow alleys filled with independent and souvenir shops, and incredible patios.

When visiting Cordoba, you can’t miss the Mosque-cathedral, a unique building that reflects the Moorish period under Christian rules. Although it’s a picturesque monument, the double arches are the most photographed. 

This UNESCO World Heritage Site complex also includes The Court of Oranges Trees (Patio de Los Naranjos) as well as a bell tower with incredible panoramic city views.

Apart from the mosque, you’ll find other historical and cultural monuments that are worth visiting and exploring. Some of these include Alcázar de Los Reyes Cristianos, an impressive royal palace and the Roman Bridge of Cordoba.

If you happen to be in Cordoba during the month of May, you’ll be lucky to access for free the courtyards and patios of houses in the old quarter as it’s the courtyards festival of Cordoba.

During this time of the year, every patio is carefully decorated with a different variety of plants and flowers such as red geraniums. This is something you can’t definitely experience anywhere else in Andalusia.

📌 Related blog post: Unmissable Things To Do In Cordoba

  • Baena. Best for exploring historical heritage features including the Cerro de Minguillar, an interesting archaeological site.
  • Montilla. Best for wine tasting tours as it has some of the best grapes in the area.
  • Rute. Best for delicious cuisine and mouth-watering desserts. If you’re visiting Cordoba during the Christmas period, you can’t miss the impressive Chocolate Nativity Scene in the factory of Galleros Artesanos in Rute.

How to get to Cordoba

Cordoba has its own airport, Cordoba Airport, but you need to be aware that you may not find a direct flight or a flight from your destination. Most people fly to Seville Airport and then get a coach or train from Seville city centre.

The train from Seville to Cordoba is a rapid way to get to Cordoba as it only takes 45 minutes.

Granada

inside the alhambra in granada

Granada is unique in its own way. If you’ve heard of Granada before, you probably know about the Alhambra, the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Site in Spain.

This impressive palace and fortress are visited by millions of international tourists every year and there’s no doubt why it attracts so many people. It’s an architectural gem!

No matter what area of the Alhambra you’re visiting, you’ll be surprised by its delicate and detailed Nasrid architecture. As you walk through the complex, you’ll also find beautiful patios and gardens where you can relax and explore.

One of the most popular areas in the Alhambra is the Court of the Lions (el Patio de Los Leones), a courtyard surrounded by outstanding marble columns. In the centre, you’ll find the fountain of lions which has twelve lions in white marble.

Although it’s worth visiting Granada just for the Alhambra, the city has other great things to offer too – from authentic culinary experiences to skiing and exploring Sierra Nevada where you’ll find Spain’s highest mountain in the Iberian Peninsula.

The most popular day trip from Granada is Sierra Nevada, especially during the winter season, but there are other great towns and villages that are less explored. Some of these include:

  • Almuñecar. Best for a day trip to the coast side.
  • Alpurraja. Best for exploring the whitewashed towns near Sierra Nevada and visiting Spain’s highest village, Trevélez. 
  • Lanjarón. Best for a spa day and disconnecting from the buzzing of the city.

How to get to Granada

If you’re coming from abroad, Granada Airport is the closest as it’s only 15 kilometres away from the city.

However, it isn’t always easy to find international flights to Granada, so your second best option is Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport, which is the second closest airport to Granada. It takes about 90 minutes to drive from Malaga to Granada.

If travelling from another Andalusian city, you may want to check coaches as they’re the most affordable choice. 

Although you can also travel to Granada by train, it isn’t the best option as the train journeys often take long, and they are more expensive than other transport too.

Jaen

Tower in jaen spain

Jaen is the most overlooked city in Andalusia, but its unique historical centre and UNESCO towns are worth visiting.

Jaen Cathedral is the first building you must add to your list. It’s considered one of the finest cathedrals in Spain and an inspiration for many Latin American religious buildings. 

Another place you can’t miss is the ancient Arab baths. These 10th century Arab Baths are located beneath the Palace of Villardompardo. You’ll be impressed by how well preserved they are and how their use changed over the years.

Last but not least, the Old Jewish Quarter of Jaen (La Judería de Jaén), also known as Barrio de Santa Cruz, has been considered a historical landmark. Walking in its alleys is an experience.

If you have any spare time, you may want to visit Parque de la Concordia. This park is a great place to relax. The park includes a lovely pond with ducks, gardens, fountains and several monuments across the park. 

Jaen is also a great destination for hikers. Here you can find hiking trails for all levels and visit the beautiful Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park.

  • Baeza. Best for a day trip packed with history, culture and monumental attractions.
  • Ubeda. Best for visiting Renaissance palaces and churches.

How to get to Jaen

Jaen doesn’t have an airport, therefore, if you’re coming from abroad, you need to fly to Granada (GRX) which is the closest, just 65 kilometres away. Other nearby airports include Malaga (AGP) and Almeria (LEI).

The easiest cities in Southern Spain to travel to Jaen are Malaga and Granada. You can get an ALSA coach from Granada which takes about 1 hour and 15 minutes or a train from Malaga to Jaen which takes around 4 hours and 30 minutes.

Malaga

Roman Theatre view Malaga

If you’re up for a mixture of beaches, mountains and culture, Malaga and Costa del Sol need to be on your travel list. Although Costa del Sol is mainly well-known for its incredible beaches, there are many cultural activities you don’t want to miss. 

If you’re visiting only the capital, Malaga, La Alcazaba is a must-see attraction – a fortress-palace that was built during the Moorish period in the south of Spain.

Walking through La Alcazaba is truly a unique experience in which you’ll contemplate beautiful patios decorated with jasmines and roses as well as small fountains and impressive Nasrid architecture that you can also find in La Alhambra in Granada.

Last but not least, the panoramic views from this palace and Gibralfaro are out of this world, even better during the sunrise or sunset.

The city has also plenty of museums such as the Picasso Museum Malaga, Carmen Thyssen Museum and Centre Pompidou Malaga among others.

Many tourists make the mistake of spending a few days in Malaga or visiting it briefly as they head to other popular Andalusian destinations such as Seville. Nevertheless, if you have time, I recommend staying in Malaga for longer.

Although you can visit the main attractions in two days, exploring the towns and villages around Malaga is definitely worth it. You’ll discover charming white villages, beautiful beaches, authentic local dishes and other hidden gems.

📌 Related post: 19 Best Free Things to do in Malaga You Can’t Miss

When visiting Malaga, you may want to explore the beautiful towns and villages you can find across Costa del Sol. The best thing about visiting these towns is that they’re closer to each other which makes them easier to visit and do a road trip across Costa del Sol.

Although each town has its unique touch, here is a short list of those you can’t really miss:

  • Benalmadena. Best for tourist attractions for families and beach holidays.
  • Nerja. Best for crystal blue beaches, water activities and visiting its famous caves.
  • Marbella. Best for a luxury stay and restaurants. If Marbella doesn’t suit your budget, you can always have a look at San Pedro de Alcántara which is slightly cheaper but still close to Marbella.
  • Mijas Pueblo. Best for exploring a whitewashed village and spectacular views of the coast.

How to get to Malaga

Málaga-Costa del Sol Airport (AGP) is among the five biggest airports in Spain, so it has many international flights all year round and it gets very busy during the summer months.

Travelling from the airport to Malaga city centre is very easy as it’s only 8 kilometres and you have numerous transport options to get you there (taxi, train, coach, etc.)

If you’re in another Andalusian city, you may want to check coaches as they are often affordable and comfortable. 

Alternatively, if you’re in another county of Spain or a European destination, it’s likely to find train tickets. These aren’t as affordable as coaches but they often save you time.

Seville

plaza de espana in seville spain

Seville, the capital of Andalusia, is a must-see destination on your road trip to Southern Spain. It’s one of the best places to visit in Southern Spain!

It’s also the largest city in the county which means you won’t have enough time to see and do all the activities you can do in Seville in one day.

The main attraction in Seville is the cathedral, which is the biggest Gothic cathedral in the world and it has been recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. Inside the cathedral, you can explore all the unique parts including the Giralda Tower and the orange tree courtyard.

Seville’s second historical landmark is Plaza de España which is situated in Parque de María Luisa (Maria Luisa Park), it’s one of the most beautiful squares in Spain. The square was built for the Ibero-American exhibition of 1929 by the architect Aníbal González.

The plaza is about 50,000 square metres, and you’ll find a wide range of beautiful features – towers, bridges, a small canal, tiles, etc. Walking through Plaza de España is a unique experience. All along the wall by the canal, you’ll find 48 small spots with benches, one for each province of Spain.

Spanish tourists love taking photos of themselves with friends and or family on the bench that belongs to their province. In addition to these regional references, the four bridges represent the ancient kingdoms of Spain: Castille, Aragon, Navarre and Leon.

Other popular activities in the plaza are riding horses and renting a small boat to row in the canal.

Another way to explore the city is by booking a cruise through the Guadalquivir river.

a view of the guadalquivir river in seville
  • Carmona. Best for a day trip full of cultural activities including impressive city walls, viewpoints and monuments.
  • Écija. Best for exploring churches as it’s one of the towns with more churches in Seville. Among the most famous churches you’ll find Iglesia de San Juan, Iglesia de Santa María and Iglesia de Santiago. 
  • Estepa. Best for trying some of the best Christmas sweets in Spain – polvorones, mantecados and alfajores.
  • Osuna. Best for exploring historical and cultural buildings. This town is well-known for its appearance in the Game of Thrones series.

How to get to Seville

The nearest airport to Seville is Sevilla Airport (SVQ), but you can also fly to other nearby airports such as Jerez (XRY) and Malaga (AGP).

The journey from Sevilla Airport to the centre of Seville is about 15 minutes by car or taxi, and 35 by bus.

If you plan to travel to Seville by train from any other Spanish city, you’ll be happy to know that it has a good railway connection, especially from Cordoba, Madrid, Barcelona and Zaragoza.

If travelling by car, Seville has a good network of highways, and it isn’t only easy to travel from other Spanish destinations but to Portugal too.

5 General tips about visiting Andalucia

1) Visit Andalucia in late spring or autumn

The best time to visit and explore Andalusia is late spring and early autumn as most cities in Southern Spain can reach 40 degrees or more in the summer. During those times, you’ll also find fewer crowds and milder temperatures.

If you’re visiting Andalusia during the summer, my biggest advice is to explore coastal cities such as Malaga, Cadiz, and Almeria. Not only can you relax at the beach but do water sports and visit monuments in the late afternoon.

On top of this, travelling during the summer to these cities is a great way to immerse yourself in the culture as there are more events and a lively atmosphere.

Marbella floral street

2) Rent a car 

The best way to visit all these cities is by renting a car and going on a road trip. Although public transport isn’t bad at all, you won’t get the opportunity to visit all the hidden gems and be in control of how much time you want to spend in a place since you’ll rely on timetables. 

3) Experience flamenco 

Immersing in the culture is the most rewarding thing about travelling. Flamenco music is part of Andalusia’s culture, and you can see these across the cities in Southern Spain, but Seville is indeed the best place to attend a flamenco concert or class if you love dancing.

If you believe that flamenco isn’t your thing, then check out fairs and festivals in the destinations you’re visiting. Although most of these festivals are held in late spring and summer, you may find one.

4) Explore the small towns and villages

Every city in Southern Spain has something to offer, and although some cities are more popular than others, if you’re looking for the most authentic experiences, you’ll find those in the small towns and villages around these main cities.

They are charming in their own way – whitewashed buildings, historical landmarks, hidden beaches, etc.

seafront promenade fuengirola

5) Avoid eating at restaurants near tourist attractions

If you’re after delicious and authentic tapas or Andalusian dishes, avoid eating at restaurants near tourist attractions as these don’t always serve food that locals would eat. These restaurants often have their menu in multiple languages and are more expensive than normal.

The best way to find good tapas bars and restaurants is by asking the locals. They’ll tell you the best spots to enjoy local dishes.


As you can see there are many reasons to visit Andalusia – its UNESCO World Heritage Site buildings, its culture, its delicious food, its unique white towns and some of Spain’s most beautiful landscapes.

On top of this, each of these cities in Southern Spain has something different to offer.

Have I convinced you to visit some of these Southern Spain destinations? Let me know in the comments below!

If you have any questions, email me at cristina[at]mylittleworldoftravelling.com or on Instagram. I’d be very happy to help you plan your Andalusia road trip itinerary and tell you more hidden gems.

Safe adventures!

Cristina xx

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Top things to check before visiting Andalusia

  • If you’re flying to Andalusia, have a look at Skyscanner for the best flight prices.
  • Are you looking for the best accommodation in Andalusia? Check out Booking.com
  • Book authentic experiences and excursions with Get Your Guide.
  • Rent a car to travel with ease around Andalusia.
  • Don’t forget to get travel insurance for your trip.

Frequently asked questions about travelling in Andalucia

What cities are found in Andalucia?

Andalusia has eight provinces: Almeria, Cadiz, Cordoba, Granada, Huelva, Jaen, Malaga and Seville.

What is Andalucia famous for?

Andalucia is famous for many different reasons, but some of the most popular aspects are flamenco, festivals, delicious tapas, beautiful beaches and impressive historical landmarks.

Is Southern Spain worth visiting?

Southern Spain is one of the most beautiful and diverse regions in the country. It has something for everyone and its culture will make you want to come back.

Which is better Granada or Malaga?

There is no better or worse, both cities have different things to offer. If you’re after beautiful beaches, Malaga and Costa del Sol are for you, however, if you prefer historical landmarks, Granada has La Alhambra, one of the most beautiful UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Spain.

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12 Comments

  1. I would love to visit any of them, they all look beautiful!

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I hope you visit some of these places one day 🙂

  2. Oh I have them all on my bucket list. These places are super picturesque and I cannot wait to be able to explore them. I would also rent a car I agree its easier to include some random stops along the way.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      It’s great to hear that! They all are worth visiting.

  3. I love Andalusia, we just finished a road trip through Spain and it was one of my favorite regions. We mostly prioritized nature, but we managed to make it to Jaen (total hidden gem, I agree!), Malaga, and Cordoba. Looks like I need to go back to visit to see more of these beautiful towns and cities in Southern Spain. I really want to go to Cadiz.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I am so happy to hear you love my county! Andalusia has so many things to offer, and yes, nature is incredible too. I need to revisit Cadiz as well 🙂

  4. Jaen? You are right that it is overlooked, I never heard of it. Thank you for the info. The other ones are truly gorgeous places.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      I am happy you have discovered a new place!

  5. A perfect post for when we get to reschedule our trip to Spain. I love all of the day trips, tips on renting cars and where to eat, as well as all of your inspiring photos that just make me want to travel all the more.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you!! I hope you can visit Spain soon.

  6. I just wanted to thank you for your incredibly helpful and interesting blog posts. I found your blog whilst looking for things to do in Harrogate, but ended up getting lost reading the numerous Andalucian posts. Keep up the brilliant work.

    1. Cristina Reina says:

      Thank you, Dale. I am very happy to hear that, and I highly appreciate comments like yours.

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