Sunday, January 11, 2015

A Tour of Andalusia: Córdoba, Seville and Granada

Top Row: Córdoba – Mezquita; Bottom Row: Seville, Tile from Casa de Pilatos and Alcázar of Seville
Córdoba – MezquitaCórdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba
Tile from Casa de Pilatos Alcázar of Seville

Overview

Our visit to Cordoba, Seville and Granada was part of 16 day trip that included the three cites and Madrid, where we started and ended. We flew into Madrid and immediately took the train to Cordoba. We spent 6 days on the end of the trip in Madrid. Day 1 for us was Christmas Day.
Days 1 – 3, Cordoba
Days 4 – 7, Seville
Days 8 – 10, Granada
Days 11 – 16, Madrid

For our follow-up tour of Andalusia, see A Second Tour of Andalusia: Ronda, Cádiz, and Algeciras.

Transportation

We took the train between cities; we booked all the tickets through the RENFE site. We took the fast AVE high-speed train on legs we could (Madrid to Cordoba, and Cordoba to Seville). The RENFE site was frustrating to work with because we couldn’t get tickets until a set number of days ahead of the date in question. We were worried about seats selling out around the holidays, so we tried to buy tickets every couple of days until we had them all purchased. You can keep the ticket info on your phone and use that as proof. However, the one time we saw a couple do that, it took some time for them to “get processed”. It’s easier to just print the tickets out ahead of time and bring them to the station, which is what we did.
 

Why This Trip?

Seeing the Alhambra was the impetus for this trip. As we read more about Andalusia, we realized it had to be more than the Alhambra and we added in Cordoba and Seville. Time constraints limited us in terms of visiting other cities. We chose not to rent a car and for this trip we have no regrets because there is so much to see in each city. Renting a car and visiting villages is very appealing, but a different trip for us.
 

Weather

As mentioned above, our Day 1 was December 25th. In all four cities, we experienced sunny weather, cold in the morning (high 30s) and warming up in the afternoon (low 50s). So with a few layers, and hat and gloves (optional), we were good to go.
 

Lodging

We had an Airbnb place booked for each city. In Cordoba, we stayed near the Plaza del Potro; in Seville, we stayed in the Barrio Santa Cruz; in Granada, we stayed in the el Albaicín; and in Madrid, we stayed in the Chueca. All, good choices for us.
 

Tour Guides

We only booked two guides ahead of time (i.e., before getting on the plane). One for Cordoba and one for the Alhambra (in Granada). For Cordoba guide, we knew who we were getting because we picked him specifically. For the Alhambra, we did not know who our guide would be until we met him for our scheduled tour.
With recommendations from our guide in Cordoba, we hooked up with guides in Seville and Madrid, and were glad we did. We highly recommend the guides we used. Here’s their contact info:

Cordoba

Francesco Soriquez, Tour Guide of Sevilla & Andalucía (site: The Magic Of Seville)


Seville

Manuel González Lucenilla – Guia oficial de turismo de Sevilla, (+34) 610 078 655 (manuelguiasevilla@gmail.com)

BajaBikes – we did a private tour with Carlos from atdspain.

Madrid

Federico Garcia Barroso – SpainFred
 

What Sights Did We Book Ahead of Time?

Alhambra: We reserved tickets for the Alhambra and Generalife – Private Guide. Why risk what tickets might be available when you walk up to the ticket window if you know you’ll be there on a specific date? You could visit the Alhambra without the guide. Audio guides were available for rent.

Royal Alcázar of Seville: We had read that lines can get long for this Seville must-see, so we booked ahead. We booked a entry that included a visit to the royal apartments. Let us say from experience, that if you choose to visit the royal apartments and the ticket info says to get their 15 minutes ahead of time, do it. We found out the hard way. We waltzed up with 2 minutes to spare and got a big dose of NO GO as we saw the group we were supposed to be with making their way into the apartments.
Fortunately, we could re-purchase (no, not re-book) for a few hours later. We were lucky, because the tour of the royal apartments fills up quickly.

Aires Banos de Seville: We wanted a hammam experience and thought that because it was the holidays (around the end of December) the availability would not be such that we could just walk in. So, we booked this a few weeks in advance.
 

Eating Suggestions

Here are some places to eat that we thought were good.

Cordoba

Museo de tapas y vinos - Plaza de Potro. The first place we ate, so we have a special place in our hearts for it.

Casa Rubio – same owners as Casa Pepe

Regadera - means “watering can”, theme was garden. Very good.

Taberna Pepe 

Gaudí Judá Leví - a pleasant place on a small plaza to stop for snack or grab morning coffee

Sevilla

Bodeguita A. Romero – we happened to end a tour by the arena and so we stopped here.

Tegja Dulces – purchased cookies here. You need munchies when touring a city, right?

Bar Catalina

Restaurante Becerríta - old school, classy.

La Bulla

Vineria San Telmo – very good

El Rinconcillo - one of the oldest bars in Seville, we had lunch there and ate standing with a barrel for our table and loved every minute of it.

El 3 de Oro – buy churros and chocolate and bring them into Oro.

Granada

Restaurante El Mirador – at Mirador San Nicolas. Refined lunch.

Bar Kiki – at Mirador San Nicolas.

Dulces del Convento de Zafra – chocolate bonbons that coconut wrapped in chocolate.

Jardines de Zoraya - dinner with flamenco show

La Paralla – paella

What Would We Do Differently Next Time?

Assuming the same constraints (train only, no car), we would llow two more days in Seville. One day to go to Italica, which is just s short bus ride outside the city. A second day to go on a bike ride in the country (e.g., see Bicycle Day Tour – Villages of Seville).

Allow one more day in Granada. I felt that we were a bit rushed here. The extra day could be for exploring the city or taking an excursion into the Sierra Nevada mountains.

Photos

Córdoba – Native Sons, left to right, Mainonides (1135/8 – 1204), Averroes (1126 – 1198), Seneca (c. 4 BC – 65 AD). Statues photographed in Córdoba.
MainonidesAverroesSeneca
Córdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba
Córdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of CórdobaCórdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of CórdobaCórdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of CórdobaCórdoba – Mezquita, Mosque – Cathedral of Córdoba
Córdoba - Mezquita – Outside
Córdoba - Mezquita – Outside
Alcázar of Seville


Seville – La Giralda, Plaza de Espana, View from La Giralda

Left: View of Granada Walking Back from the Alhambra; Right: View of the Alhambra from Generalife
View of Granada Walking Back from the AlhambraView of the Alhambra from Generalife

Alhambra. Left: Near the Puerto de Siete Suelos; Right: Nasrid PalaceNear the Puerto de Siete SuelosNasrid Palace

Left: View from the Alhambra to Ermita de San Miguel; Right: View of the Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolas
View from the Alhambra to Ermita de San MiguelView of the Alhambra from Mirador San Nicolas

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