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The colours worn by southern Spain throughout spring are loud, life-affirming and beautiful. Not only do you have the Andalusian staples of whitewashed old buildings, a dusty yellow-brown countryside and unblemished blue skies, but during April and May, you’ll also be treated to the bright reds, oranges, purples and pinks of flowers in full bloom.
Nowhere are Andalusia’s spring colours more beautifully put on display than in Córdoba during the month of May. The Fiesta de los Patios, as its name suggests, is a two week-long celebration of the flower-filled courtyards of houses in the oldest neighbourhoods. Normally, there are around 50 such spaces to visit every year for free and at the end of the fiesta, Córdoba’s town council awards a prize to the prettiest patio.
Spring sees Andalusia throw itself energetically into its Semana Santa (Easter) celebrations. Every day for a week, the spookily-attired members of religious brotherhoods parade effigies of the Virgin Mary and Jesus throughout the region’s towns and cities, accompanied by brass bands playing sombre music. It’s a spectacle that’s well worth seeing, especially in the major cities (Seville’s is particularly famous).
Most major cities in Andalusia are home to at least one large park in which you can enjoy a shaded stroll or lie about on the grass for a few hours with a book or a picnic. These green spaces are at their most attractive during spring when the trees and flowers are sporting their brightest colours. Three of the best are the elegant Maria Luisa Park in Seville, the romantic Carmen de los Mártires in Granada and Ronda’s dramatically-located Alameda del Tajo.
Exactly two weeks after the end of Semana Santa, Seville launches itself into a week of non-stop partying with its annual Feria de Abril (April Fair). This is the largest of Andalusia’s annual ferias, with about 1,000 casetas (marquee tents) for eating, drinking and dancing located on a sanded fairground on the outskirts of the city’s historic centre. Although most of these are invitation-only, there are several casetas open to the public. Prestigious bullfights are also held during the fair.
If you’re curious about this controversial spectacle, spring is a great time of year to visit Andalusia, as major bullfighting festivals are held in the cities of Seville and Jerez. With line-ups featuring the country’s top toreros and bulls from leading farms, these bullfights can make for unforgettable experiences. You can get a decent ticket for about €20 ($25 USD) and, unlike in the summer, you won’t sweat out your bodyweight sitting in the stands for two hours.
In early May (this year it’s held from the 5th to the 12th), the gorgeous city of Jerez de la Frontera holds one of Andalusia’s best festivals. Although somewhat overshadowed by Seville’s annual blow-out, the Feria del Caballo (Horse Fair) is much more accessible to visitors than the Feria de Abril, as all its casetas are open to the public. Beautiful Andalusian horses carry their elegantly-clad riders around the fairground, giving the festival a charmingly rustic atmosphere.
During the summer months in southern Spain, temperatures frequently exceed 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Farenheit). Unless you venture out at the crack of dawn or after dark, sightseeing can be extremely uncomfortable, especially in crowded city centres. Visiting the region’s major destinations in the spring when temperatures are usually moderate will enable you to better appreciate three of its most famous attractions (see below).
A visit to Granada’s mighty Alhambra fortress—the best preserved medieval structure in Spain—requires at least a couple of hours and a good deal of walking. For that reason, a spring morning is the best time to visit this stunning building. From its exquisite Nasrid palaces to the whitewashed summer palace, or Generalife, the Alhambra amazes with the intricacy of its interiors and the opulence of its gardens.
If you’re in Córdoba for the Feria de los Patios, don’t leave without visiting another of southern Spain’s most iconic monuments. The city’s Mezquita-Catedral, or Mosque-Cathedral is just that: an 8th-century mosque built during Moorish Spain’s apotheosis, with a 16th-century Renaissance cathedral constructed right on top of it (courtesy of Charles V).
One of the three UNESCO-protected gems in Seville (along with the Cathedral and Archive of the Indies), the Real Alcázar is at its most attractive during the spring months. Started in the 10th century by the city’s wealthy Moorish rulers, this spectacular complex of palaces and gardens was altered and added to, on and off, until the 19th century. Spend a spring morning wandering around the Alcázar and you’ll see why it was used as a filming location for Game of Thrones.