Arts and Culture

Adventures in Andalucia: Discover the Beauty of Southern Spain

Filed Under: Sightseeing
Reuters/Marcelo Del Pozo

Andalucia is Spain's most southerly region and the home of many iconic Spanish experiences. Bullfighting, tapas and flamenco all have their roots in Andalucian culture, and the festivals in this region are some of Spain's noisiest and most colorful. Make sure to partake in these adventures on your next trip to this beautiful region.

See a Bullfight
Bullfighting has deep roots in the Spanish culture. The contests were popular in ancient Rome, but were fully developed by the Moors from North Africa who overran Andalucia in A.D. 711. These contests developed from ritualistic occasions to fantastic spectator sports, often coinciding with festivals and feasts. Today bullfighting is big business in Andalucia, with top matadors earning salaries comparable to the nation's top soccer stars and rock idols.

Find out what bullfights will coincide with your trip to Andalucia by viewing the full calendar of ring events. There are also various museums dedicated to bullfighting throughout the country that provide historical background, photographs, costumes and other memorabilia. Check out the bullfighting museums at these locations: Cordoba, Ronda, Los Palacios, Puerto de Santa Maria and Estepona.

Taste Tapas in Seville
Seville is the region's capital and biggest city, rolling together everything that is classic Andalucia -- narrow, winding lanes and romantic hidden plazas, cozy wine and tapas bars and stunning scenery.

Enjoying tapas in Seville is a culinary must, like ordering cafe au lait and a croissant in Paris. Most Sevillanos start their evenings on the town with an "Ir de tapeo," or tapas crawl. At some bars, you order at the bar and collect the tapa yourself; at others, you can enjoy table service for a small fee. There are literally hundreds of tapas bars in Seville, but make sure you taste the menus at Alfalfa, Calles Mateas Gago, Santa Maria la Blanca and San Eloy.

Dance the Flamenco
Flamenco is the traditional song and dance of the gypsies of Andalucia. A new generation of flamenco performers have revived the dance's popularity in Spain and abroad. There are 2 main ways to enjoy the dance in Andalucia: a "tablao," which is a performance mostly aimed at tourists; and the pena flamenca, which offers a more authentic side of the art.

The tablao often entails a tour of town's nightlife and then a traditional flamenco performance to which you can add drinks and tapas. The pena flamenca is an artistic performance that most consider to be more authentic. There are penas available in most towns and cities, and they don't come with drinks or dinner.

Attend a Festival
One of the best ways to experience a country's spirit and culture is through its festivals and feast days. Over 3,000 fiestas are celebrated annually in Andaluciaa, including fairs, pilgrimages, carnivals and religious processions.

Two of the country's most celebrated occur in Seville: Semana Santa, or Holy Week, and Feria de Abril, or the Spring Fair.

Holy Week is a more reverent festival with processions that feature floats and religious idols. Those carrying the floats recognize that it is an honor, and often walk barefoot in an expression of extreme penitence. It's a truly spiritual experience marked with tradition and faith.

Two weeks after Semana Santa is the Spring Fair, a joyous celebration marked by serious dancing, drinking, eating and late-night partying. Remember, it's a marathon, not a sprint, so you'll want to pace yourself so you're able to enjoy the full week's worth of merriment.

Appreciate Architecture and Art
Many of Spain's most beautiful buildings can be found in Andalucia. By exploring the architecture, you'll revisit medieval Islamic Spain as wellas cathedrals, palaces and castles. No visit to Spain would be complete without a stroll through one of the country's many Museo Picassos,.

Alhambra is an architectural marvel with gilded decor and lush gardens. The palace was once the residence of the Muslim rulers of Grenada and their court, but now is open daily so that tourists may wander its vast and luxurious courtyards. The name, Alhambra comes from the Arabic meaning "crimson castle," and at sunset and sunrise that is exactly how this palace appears. At night, starlight turns this gleaming castle silver -- it truly is stunning no matter what time of day. To appreciate the organic and structural exquisiteness of Alhambra, book a tour that will take you deep inside one of the most visited attractions in the world.

The Mezquita, or mosque, of Cordoba, is a marvel of Islamic architecture. The Mezquita can be visited throughout the year for an entrance fee of 6 euros. The architecture is innovative and inspiring, featuring columns and arches made of brick and stone. It calls to mind a balance of sand and sun, desert and forest. Leading into the mosque, the classic Islamic ablutions courtyard features fragrant orange trees and elegant fountains.

Pablo Picasso was born in Malaga and the Museo Picasso here is the heart of the city. In addition to exploring the museum, you can visit the Casa Natal, the birthplace of Picasso. There are exhibit rooms open here and the short distance between the museum and Casa Natal makes for an enjoyable artful afternoon.

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