One Thousand and One Nights: The 5 Most Beautiful Buildings and Places in Andalusia.

August 26, 2018

Visit the Mezquita of Cordoba, Andalusia
The beautiful Mezquita of Cordoba

The cold water is shooting out of the shower and over my toes. 107 degrees shows the flashing green sign at the pharmacy. I want to run there and see if they have a pair of new feet on offer. Because mine are, unfortunately, junk. We are in Seville, the last place of our three-week road trip through Andalusia. Actually, we just wanted to take a short ride through the old town in the morning. But then it was so beautiful that we accidentally mackerelled for six hours over hunchbacked cobblestone.

 

My head explodes with chessboard-like church towers, colourful facades and ornate tiles. In addition to breathtaking nature, Andalusia also has wonderful architecture and old towns, where the alleys are so narrow that you have to fold in both side mirrors to be able to drive through with short-term heart rhythm disturbances. After the five most beautiful natural wonders, I now introduce you to the five most fantastic places and buildings that you absolutely must have seen here. Between never-ending arches, shining bridges and a city that is completely blue. Of course with tips and tricks to make everything work!

1. The Alhambra of Granada

Alhambra Granada, Tickets
One of the most famous parts of Alhambra
I'm clicking on the website of the Alhambra like a madman. Any IT guy would have killed me. As soon as the tickets for August are for sale, I'm buying them. Because the attraction is one of the most popular sights of Spain. Especially in the summer months there are usually long queues in front of the ticket office - and sometimes they don't even have tickets left. So make sure to check back online a few weeks or months in advance. Best at alhambra-patronato.es, because there are several sites that sell tickets, and some only offer guided tours or expensive packages, neither of which is necessary. I ordered the Alhambra General Ticket for $16 [August 2018].
This will give you access into everything you need to see - including the Alcazabar and the Nasrid Palaces, which you mustn't miss! Because the Nasrid Palaces are so crowded, you will need to choose a time to visit them. If you come later, there will be no admission - so just be typically German and on time. I recommend an early time in the morning, because even in the high season it is still quite empty and the atmosphere is particularly beautiful. We had booked for 10.30 am and it was absolutely pleasant.
Alhambra, Granada, Andalusia, Spain, lonelyroadlover
Beautiful architecture everywhere

The Alhambra is a Moorish fortress. It was first mentioned in documents in the 9th century. It lies on a mountain and covers an area of about 1.506.947 square feet. Pretty chic and almost as big as my apartment at home. The huge gardens smell of flowers and herbs, the hedges are cut into onion-shaped arches and the cobblestone pavement reflects in the sun. But all this is nothing compared to what opens up behind the walls of Nasrid Palaces. Ornaments as fine as golden hair, arches out of "One Thousand and One Nights", fountains pouring over marble and domes disappearing like crystal caves in the heights of stone ceilings. Sometimes I look up and think I'm right under the starry sky. Sometimes I get dizzy from the twisted columns that frame an entire courtyard and I almost slip out and fall into an artistic water channel because I forget to look straight ahead. You can schedule a visit to the Alhambra for at least three hours.

Later you have a great view of the fortress and the roofs of Granada from Mirador de San Nicholas (especially in the evening).

2. The Puente Nuevo of Ronda

Puente Nuevo in Ronda at night, Andalusia, blog lonelyroadlover
Puente Nuevo in Ronda at night

As the night pushes towards the horizon and the sun shifts over the edge of the sky, the orange headlights on Puente Nuevo in Ronda slowly light up. Like a gateway to another world, the bridge shines between the 400-feet-high rock walls of the El Tajo gorge. The Puente Nuevo, the "New Bridge", is not as new as it might sound, but was built between 1751 and 1793. So the project took almost as long as the construction of the Elbphilharmonie in Germany (just a German joke, because building the Elbphilharmonie took much more time and money than expected until everyone was laughing about it).

 

The bridge consists of three arches and connects the new Old Town of Ronda with the totally old Old Town. Both districts are very beautiful. You have a great view of the bridge from Mirador de Cuenca as well as from a dusty hiking trail, which starts at Plaza de Maria Auxiliadora. It is marked with the encouraging words "Real Rist of Death" - which sounds a bit more dramatic than it was at the end. Just in time for sunset, the bridge and a part of the valley are illuminated from both sides and seem to glow like a candle in silence. Meanwhile, a waterfall rushes down towards the Old Bridge and is swallowed by the turquoise Rio Guadalevin. You do not have to pay entrance fees at any of the points mentioned.



3. The Mosque–Cathedral (Mezquita) of Córdoba

Mezquita of Córdoba, Andalusia
Endless columns inside of the Mezquita of Córdoba
The red-white striped arches seem to get lost in infinity. Every time I pass one, a new line comes up. The Mezquita of Córdoba is mystical. Its construction, its history, its atmosphere. A mosque-cathedral. A cathedral-mosque. First Roman, then Muslim, then Christian. While in one of the halls an oversized, golden monstrance shines next to a Jesus figure, an artistic dome with Arabic letters vaults right next to it. Again and again the respective rulers removed parts of the 247.500 square feet (!) large building, rebuilt or supplemented them. The result is a unique, inter-religious architectural style that makes the Mezquita one of the most impressive and largest religious buildings in the world.

856 columns stand asymmetrically in the middle of the hall, connected by coloured arches. I want to spread my arms and walk between them like a child. It's a feeling like curtains are opening and stars are raining down.
Dome in the Mezquita od Cordoba, architecture in Andalusia
A gigantic arch in the islamic part of the Mosque-Cathedral

Next to the large hall with its arches there is the Mihrab with a horseshoe arch so richly decorated with mosaics that it seems to be the entrance to a fairytale castle of gold and diamonds. If you look up here, you will see a dome that is so gigantically beautiful that it seems as if all this were not real.

 

The Mezquita has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984. You can easily spend two hours inside of the building. A great thing is that you don't need to make an online reservation, because you can simply go to the ticket office and buy a ticket for $12 [August 2018] without being overrun. Of course it is advisable to be there as early as possible to enjoy an undisturbed atmosphere. Also the park in the inner courtyard with its small fountains and palm trees is very beautiful. Above all it's shady, if you come stumbling somewhat tiredly out of the cathedral-mosque mosque-cathedral. The dress code in the building is quite loose, even if the signs at the cash desk say otherwise. When I stood in top, shorts and flip-flops in front of the entrance and inconveniently took my scarf out of my backpack to cover my shoulders, the security man just laughed, waved and indicated a bikini with a grin. However, a woman with her back cut out wide had to wrap herself up a bit. Tripods are unfortunately not allowed in the Mezquita!

4. The Blue Village Júzcar

Júzcar, Andalusia, Spain, blue village
Júzcar - completely blue, truly everything

From Marbella to Ronda, you climb the mountain roads carved into vertical rock faces, curve by curve. Somewhere the sea is still shining, disappearing behind pines. I have to brake again because it's getting a little hairpinny. Between the two cities are numerous small mountain villages. White as snow they shimmer between the desiccated and massive mountain landscapes. Andalusia is known for this. But one city falls out of the frame like a flamingo. A blue one. It is the municipality of Júzcar with about 200 inhabitants.

 

Even from far away the houses glow like the sky. All of them. Because of the world premiere of the movie "The Smurfs" on June 16 in 2011. Sounds crazy, doesn't it? The village has simply decided to paint all facades. 1400 gallons of paint were used, organized by Sony Pictures. Even the town hall and the church turned blue. After that, the majority of the population voted to leave it as it is, which has attracted about 80,000 tourists a year since then. Also me. I am more interested in the architecture and the exciting play of colours with blue stairs, towers and railings than in the film. Nevertheless we see smurf figures and drawings of the characters on the walls everywhere. Well, I don't really need that, because it looks more or less childish and kind of ridiculous. But when you look beyond that, it's just fascinating to walk through the narrow streets as if you were in an oversized swimming pool.

There is no entrance fee and it is better to park you car at the small road leading into the village, because inside of the city there is nearly no parking space.

5. The Old Town of Seville

The Old Town of Seville, visit Seville, cathedrals
One of the beautiful churches in the Old Town of Seville
White panels of fabric flutter in the wind above the high and narrow alleys, while the morning sun shines through them and thin rays touch the cobblestone pavement. At the end of the street there is a so called "bell gable", shining in bright red. Most church towers in Andalusia do have arches in which the bells are mounted in a freely swinging and visible manner. There are many of these beautiful, artistic buildings in the Old Town of Seville. But also checkerboard-like roofs, domes, battlements and colourful tiles. The historical centre is one of the most beautiful of Andalusia, because everything is so winding and yet spacious and there is a new, fascinating building on every corner, which could be the result of a romantic painting. The Old Town of Seville is one of the largest in Europe. That's why your feet will fall off quickly when you're there. Because of the great heat in August with around 110 degrees we set off at half past 8 in the morning and walked for more than six hours without really noticing it. Well, except for the pain in our feet.
Plaza de Espana, Seville, Andalusia, sights in Andalusia
The beautiful colors of Plaza de Espana
Even if I can really recommend the whole Old Zown, Plaza de Espana is of course a real highlight. But the place is not really old! It was built in 1929 for the Ibero-American exhibition - by more than a thousand workers. Orange-coloured buildings stand around a huge area in a semicircle with a beautiful fountain. Absolutely fascinating are the painted ceramics and tiles that adorn the banisters and bridges. The entire square measures 540.000 square feet and could be seen in Star Wars Episode II, as Alex knows well as a recognized Star Wars fan. But the famous Cathedral of Seville and the Alcázar are also buildings that you should not miss on your tour of the Old Town. After that, throw away the city map and simply walk around and be amazed! For me, the Old Town of Seville was one of the most beautiful, historic districts I have ever seen. Not evenbecause of certain buildings, but rather because of the large mass of stunningly colourful, decorated and artistic architecture that I have rarely experienced in suchnumber.
Do you prefer nature? Then take a look at my five natural wonders of Andalusia, where you can find more information about magical excursions to crazy hiking trails, deserts and hidden beaches.
If you have any questions about details of the most beautiful places and buildings, don't hesitate to write a comment, an email or a message on Facebook or Instagram.
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