Amazing Things to See and Do in Almería, Spain

Almería | © horrapics/Flickrs
Almería | © horrapics/Flickrs
Photo of Mark Nayler
15 July 2021

In the shadow of the imposing Alcazaba fortress, Almería is far less crowded than neighbouring Andalusian cities – but still packs a punch with its Gothic cathedral, ancient baths and tapas restaurants. Here are the most diverting attractions in this southern Spanish city.

Almería, capital of the easternmost part of Andalusia, is the only city in Europe with a hot desert climate – perhaps not that surprising, given that it neighbours the continent’s only actual desert. Here’s our pick of the top things to see and do in a city often overshadowed by Andalusia’s Big Four (Granada, Málaga, Seville and Córdoba), including a visit to the only defensive cathedral in southern Spain and kayaking off the country’s largest volcanic rock formation.

Visit the Alcazaba

Mosque
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La Alcasaba de Almeria and cityscape, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
© RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
Like all such structures in Andalusia, Almería’s Alcazaba (or fortress) is not so much a single building as a miniature town. Begun in 955 on the orders of the region’s Muslim ruler, Abd ar-Rahman III, it originally consisted of two separate enclosures – one with shops, a mosque, gardens and a fountain, and a second consisting of a palace for the rulers, their guards and servants. After their reconquest of the city in 1489, Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella added a third section, consisting of a defensive tower and residential quarters.

Marvel at the Cathedral of Almería

Cathedral, Church
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Cathedral of Almería
© Jerónimo Alba / Alamy Stock Photo
Almería’s 16th-century cathedral is the only structure of its kind in Andalusia that served a defensive as well as a religious purpose. Construction began in 1524, two years after an earthquake destroyed an earlier church, and lasted until 1564, resulting in a blend of Renaissance and Gothic styles. The structure’s chunky turrets and buttresses, normally absent from Spanish cathedrals, were designed to keep out Berber pirates and rebelling Moors, both of which frequently attacked the city during the 16th century.

Soak inside the Aire de Almería

Spa, Historical Landmark
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Housed in restored vaults beneath one of Almería’s oldest squares, Aire’s hammam recreates Roman, Greek and Ottoman bathing experiences. Soak in candlelit tubs of varying temperatures (hot, tepid and cold), float in salt water and steam in two saunas of differing intensities, before finishing off with a massage. There’s also a rooftop pool with views over Almería and a wine bath, in which you’re submerged in Ribera del Duero red grapes. Other packages include tasting menus, wine and cheese and olive oil treatments.

Shop on the Calle de las Tiendas

Architectural Landmark
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The “shopping street” branches off the northern end of the Paseo de Almería in the Old Town. In addition to its modern clothing and shoe outlets, two of its most venerable tenants are still standing – El Valenciano, an eye-catching curiosity and souvenir shop founded in the 19th century, and Amalia, a kiosk-sized bar with a small terrace. Its speciality tipple is the Americano, a concoction of hot milk, sugar and kola nut liquor, named after the American actors who are said to have requested it while filming here in the 1960s.

Sunbathe on Levante beaches

Natural Feature
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Playa Carolina
© Ian Dagnall / Alamy Stock Photo
Almería’s Levante coastline takes its name from the strong winds that frequently buffet Spain’s southern coast. It is home to some of the region’s most unspoilt beaches. They’re scattered throughout the provinces of Pulpí, Cuevas del Almanzora, Garrucha, Mojácar and Carboneras (from north to south). Most are coves of fine sand flanked by dramatic cliffs, often served by a sole chiringuito (a bar selling drinks and tapas). Playa Carolina, Playa Pozo del Esparto and Playa de las Ventanicas are among the best.

Peruse photography at the Centro Andaluz de Fotografía

Museum
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In a 16th-century building that once housed Almería’s Lyceum, the Andalusian Centre of Photography showcases works by leading Spanish and international artists. It was founded in 1992, in order to continue the legacy of Almería’s Imagina project. Launched in 1900, during celebrations of the fifth centenary of Europeans’ landing in the Americas, this pioneering initiative saw some of the world’s finest photographers showcasing their work in the city.

Drive to the Tabernas Desert

Natural Feature
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Palm trees in the Tabernas Desert
© Alessandra Sarti / imageBROKER / Alamy Stock Photo
Europe’s only desert is situated a half-hour drive north from Almería, just east of the snowy peaks of the Sierra Nevada. The 280sqkm (110sqmi) of scrublands were the film location for Sergio Leone’s classic 1960s Westerns starring Clint Eastwood. To explore, head north from Almería on the A92 motorway, which runs through the middle of the entire desert.

Tuck into tapas at Jovellanos 16

Restaurant, Spanish
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Even on a street lined with tapas joints, this one manages to stand out. With every beer, wine or soft drink you order, you’re entitled to a free tapa of your choice, but you can also request extra dishes for a small charge. The menu consists of Spanish staples such as croquetas and pinchos (mini skewers of pork or chicken), some contemporary presentations of tuna and octopus and plenty of veggie options. There’s not much space, so arrive early to secure a table.

Go kayaking in Cabo de Gata

Park
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Las Negras town, Cabo de Gata, Almeria, Andalusia, Spain
© inigoarza / RooM the Agency / Alamy Stock Photo
Situated a half-hour drive east of Almería, the Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park is Andalusia’s largest protected coastal area and home to Spain’s biggest volcanic rock formation. The best way to explore its protected, 1.5km (1mi) marine strip is on a guided kayaking excursion. You’ll visit otherwise inaccessible areas of the rocky shores. Popular trips focus on the coastline between La Fabriquilla and Arrecife de las Sireñas, and the waters off the fishing village of Las Negras.
These recommendations were updated on July 15, 2021 to keep your travel plans fresh.

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