The 29 Most Beautiful Towns and Cities to Visit in Southern Spain

| Maddie Leopardo / Unsplash
Mark Nayler

Southern Spain is home to an unfair share of beautiful towns and cities. Below, we’ve picked a handful of unforgettable destinations that should be on every traveller’s bucket list, from the enchanting capital of Seville to undiscovered gems such as Estepona and Cádiz.

The Most Beautiful Towns and Cities in Andalucia

1. Seville

Historical Landmark

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Joan Oger / Unsplash
Seville is likely to be one of the most romantic and attractive cities you’ll ever experience. The Andalusian capital is made up of some of the most enchanting neighbourhoods in Spain, such as the old Jewish quarter of Santa Cruz and the former gypsy barrio of Triana. Historic monuments include the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, an elegant bullring and a Moorish palace that was featured in Game of Thrones.

2. Granada

Architectural Landmark

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Photo by Jorge Fernandez Salas on Unsplash

Described by the poet and Hispanophile Laurie Lee as “probably the most beautiful and haunting of all Spanish cities,” Granada spills out from in between the lush Darro Valley at the bottom of the Sierra Nevada mountains. Even when compared to the other destinations mentioned here, its charms are unforgettable: walk down the Carrera del Darro or through the old Arabic quarter of Albaicín and you’ll see and feel why. Its star monument is the mighty Alhambra fortress.

3. Ronda

Natural Feature, Historical Landmark

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Perched either side of a 100m (330ft) deep gorge in between two humbling natural parks, Ronda is Andalucia’s most spectacularly located town. Linking up its two halves is Puente Nuevo, a stunning bridge completed in 1793 after four decades of perilous construction. Ronda also has a strong claim to being the birthplace of the Spanish bullfight and is home to some of the best-preserved Arabic baths in Spain. Not for nothing is it the third most-visited destination in Andalucia.

4. Jerez de la Frontera

Architectural Landmark, Historical Landmark

Aerial view of Jerez de la Frontera, España, with a rainbow emerging in the background
inma santiago / Unsplash
Jerez de la Frontera is one of the secret wonders of southern Spain, a city that combines the stateliness of the Andalusian capital with the scruffy charms of Cádiz. It is most famous for its sherry – this is the only place on the planet where the drink can be made – and its beautiful horses, which perform in the spectacular equine ballets staged by the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. And that’s not all: many aficionados say that its gorgeous old town is the true home of flamenco.

5. Cádiz

Architectural Landmark

The city skyline of Cádiz, Spain
Jordi Vich Navarro / Unsplash

From Jerez, it’s just half an hour’s drive to another of Andalucia’s often overlooked destinations. Packed onto a rectangular outcrop of land looking out to the Atlantic, Cádiz has a bohemian, scruffy charm all of its own. Its locals are known throughout Spain for their acerbic, witty sense of humour: to see why, visit during February, when the city holds its famous carnival. Groups of entertainers called chirigotas roam the streets, performing satirical sketches as they go.

6. Córdoba

Architectural Landmark

The Roman Bridge at Córdoba, Spain
Saad Chaudhry / Unsplash

One of the hottest cities in Europe (summer temperatures exceed 40C/104F), Córdoba is home to the stunning Mezquita-Catedral. A vast 10th-century mosque with a 16th-century Renaissance nave built right on top of it, no other single structure speaks so eloquently of the two cultures that have shaped southern Spain. Córdoba is best visited in May, when the gorgeous old town comes alive with the Feria de los Patios (and when the temperatures aren’t too punishing).

7. Estepona

Architectural Landmark

Walking through the narrow streets of Estepona, Spain
Giullianna Balza / Unsplash

Although located on the Costa del Sol – a fabulous stretch of coast that has seen many Spanish villages overtaken by mass tourism – Estepona has lost none of its authentically Andalusian flavour. Its multi-coloured houses, prettily adorned with bright flowers, bring Córdoba to mind; and its spacious beach, Playa de la Rada, is often less crowded than those in nearby Nerja, a much more popular tourist destination. Plaza de las Flores is the old town’s most enchanting space.

8. Málaga

Architectural Landmark

Overview of the city of Malaga when hiking in the mountains
Jonas Denil / Unsplash

In recent years, Picasso’s birthplace has worked hard to turn itself into one of southern Spain’s most culturally dynamic and cosmopolitan cities. It has paid off: Málaga now boasts over 30 museums – the wonderful Museo Pablo Picasso foremost amongst them – along with classy restaurants and cocktail bars and a stunningly renovated port area that’s the envy of other Mediterranean cities. This is all in addition to the hedonist’s paradise that is the old town and an August feria that’s basically a week-long street party.

9. Nerja

Architectural Landmark

Nighttime in the town of Nerja, Spain
Benedict Park / Unsplash
Nerja, at the top of the Costa del Sol, has 10 whole miles of powdery sand beaches. The soft, calm sway of the Mediterranean Sea swells into its renowned caves full of stalactites and artefacts that are tens of thousands of years old. Malaga airport is just 78km from Nerja, between which there are daily trains, buses and taxis. Recommended by Lou Boyd.

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10. Capileira

Market

Clinging to the dramatic foothills of Mount Mulhacén, Capileira is the highest of a three-strong cluster of villages in the Poquira valley, on the Sierra Nevada’s southern edge. It is one of the most popular and beautiful settlements in the Alpujarra area, packed with rustic whitewashed houses and pretty, flower-filled streets.

11. Pampaneira

Market

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Mariano Ferrer / Unsplash

After taking in the delights of Capileira and Bubión, roll downhill for a few minutes to reach Pampaneria. Although the most touristy of the Aplujarra villages, it has lost none of its country charm, with a maze-like network of mysterious lanes weaving between small, flower-covered houses. The gorgeous main square is a great lunch spot.

12. Sierra Nevada

Natural Feature

The resort town of Sierra Nevada itself is found in the centre of the park, an hour’s drive from Granada. It is principally a skiing town and is busiest during the season, from November to May, but is also lovely to visit during the quieter months. Pick a spot on a sunny terrace and soak up the amazing views that unfold in every direction.

13. Lanjaron

Architectural Landmark

The first of the Aplujarra villages that you come to on the road from Granada (a mere half an hour from the city) is Lanjaron, where Spain’s first ever bottled water company was founded (unsurprisingly, it’s called “Lanjaron”). Water is also at the heart of this lovely town’s annual Fiesta del Agua y Jamon, which kicks off on the 23rd June with a giant water fight in the main square.

Trevélez

The highest settlement in the Alpujarras region (at 1,476 metres) is Trevélez, an arrestingly attractive town within trekking distance of Mulhacén’s 3,478-metre summit. As well as being a great start and finish point for conquering mainland Spain’s highest mountain, it’s famous for its superb cured jamons, so order a plate with your post-trek beer.

Bubión

Heading downhill from Capileira on the winding mountain road, you soon arrive in Bubión. This is one of the smallest villages in the Alpujarras and charms with its cosy tapas bars and its lovely old houses, whose chimneys scent the air with woody smoke. You can also enjoy some awesome views of the park’s highest mountains from Bubión.

Mairena

Located just under 50km east of Trevélez, Mairena is one of the most unspoilt of the Alpujarra settlements, where the 40,000-odd residents live in a close-knit, communal way that hasn’t changed for generations. Surrounded by wonderful hiking tracks, it’s truly a place to come if you want to forget about the rest of the world for a while.

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14. Benalmádena Costa

Natural Feature

Tibetanian estupa in Benalmadena, Málaga, Spain
Ramon Albiol / Unsplash

Families love Benalmádena Costa, where even the most restless children will always find something exciting to do. The action centres around those golden sandy beaches, where sunbathers can seek shade in a string of chiringuitos (beach bars) and seafood restaurants when hunger strikes. For more family-friendly outings, see marine life at Selwo Marina, spot wild animals at the Parque de las Palomas or hit the rides at the Tivoli World theme park.

15. Fuengirola

Architectural Landmark

Coastal promenade in Costa del Sol resort town of Fuengirola, Andalusia in Spain on sunny morning.
Lucia P. / Unsplash

Beach lovers can plonk their towels down on a different stretch of sand every day in Fuengirola. Between the Torreblanca neighbourhood and Sohail Castle, you’ll find a glorious 7km (4mi) stretch of beach, with restaurants, bars and shops nearby so that you won’t have to go far if you need extra suntan lotion. Those who get bored easily can also visit one of the town’s diving schools to give scuba diving a go or check out the 10th-century Moorish fortress, Sohail Castle.

16. Marbella

Architectural Landmark

Boats docked in the port of Marbella, Spain
Tom Wheatley / Unsplash

One of the most famous seaside resorts in the world, Marbella is celebrated for its glamorous nightlife, balmy climate, beautiful beaches and cosmopolitan atmosphere. Its glitzy Golden Mile is brimming with trendy nightclubs, luxury hotels and exclusive restaurants where VIPs come to see and be seen. However, Marbella’s delightful Old Town is the real star, with its narrow, cobbled lanes, flower-filled piazzas, tiny shops and independent galleries.

17. Manilva

Architectural Landmark

Though tourists rush past this town on the way to the high-rise hotels and sprawling nightclubs of better-known resorts in Costa del Sol, Manilva is an idyllic small town well worth exploring. Its dazzling white buildings, sleepy harbour and tranquil seafront promenade set the holiday mood, but it’s also home to an excellent archaeological museum, an 18th-century church and the Castillo de la Duquesa, built on the site of a Roman villa, to stop boredom from biting.

18. Mijas

Architectural Landmark

Luscious greenery and whitewashed buildings in the sleepy town of Mijas, Spain
Jakub Uzieblo / Unsplash

This former fishing region began attracting artists and writers in the 1950s and has never looked back. It’s now a serene holiday heaven for tourists in the know who return every year for 12km (7mi) of golden coastline, family-run hotels, spectacular hiking trails and the charming mountain village of Mijas Pueblo. The flat coastal walk to Cabopino is a must-do, stopping along the way for sea dips and drinks from the beach bars.

Torremolinos

Once a traditional Andalusian fishing village, Torremolinos is now a holiday hotspot for anyone who loves to laze on the beach by day and hit the dance floor at night. The cosmopolitan town has 7km (4mi) of sugar-soft sand, a vast choice of hotels and even stunning nearby hills for walking off sore heads the morning after. At night, you’re spoilt for choice, with open-air festivals, chic nightclubs, lively pubs and seafront bars all close at hand.

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19. Mérida

Architectural Landmark

Mérida, Spain
Gunnar Ridderström / Unsplash

Mérida is unquestionably the essential travel destination in the region of Extremadura. It was once the capital of the Roman province of Lusitania, and it is now the capital of Extremadura. Traveling to Mérida means exploring extensive and impressive Roman ruins, which are sprinkled around the town. One of Mérida’s dazzling monuments is the Teatro Romano, or the Roman Theater, built in the 15 BC to seat more than 6,000 spectators.

20. Cáceres

Architectural Landmark

Sunset over the town of Cáceres, Southern Spain
David Gil de la Canal / Unsplash

Known as the magical medieval city in the region of Extremadura, Cáceres will take its visitors to the Middle Ages. The twisted, narrow streets in the Old Town (Ciudad Monumental) climb among the antique mansions and palaces. Most of Cáceres’ best tourist destinations lie in Plaza Mayor (the main square) and inside the 16th-century fortress. Visitors are served with a wide range of historical monuments, such as Torre de Bujaco, Arco de la Estrella, and Palacio de Toledo-Moctezuma.

21. Trujillo

Architectural Landmark

Trujillo is proof that magic happens when we travel to an unexpected place. Structured around Plaza Mayor, Trujillo is filled with a number of churches, castles and manor houses built between the 14th and 16th centuries. Climb the Old Town and find the spectacular, well-preserved Castillo de Trujillo, or the Trujillo Castle. Visitors will be spoiled with the eye-popping views of the Cáceres province.

Guadalupe

Having just over 2,000 inhabitants does not make Guadalupe a lonely small town. In fact, Guadalupe has grown up around one of Spain’s most popular tourist attractions, the incredible Royal Monastery of Santa María de Guadalupe. The Monastery has a huge Mudejar cloister and a three-story Gothic cloister. Several attractive Gothic-style buildings also lie in the village. Visitors are also advised to visit the Plaza Mayor for lively entertainment.

Plasencia

Plasencia is the largest town in the region of Extremadura, filled with ancient buildings and narrow streets. Traveling in Plasencia means noticing a variety of churches as well as the towns’ most popular attraction, the cathedral. The Cathedral of Plasencia is in reality two churches built one onto the other: the 12th-century Romanesque Cathedral and the newer 15th-16th-century cathedral.

Zafra

Known as ‘the little Seville,’ Zafra is a great small town to wander around. Dominated by its 15th-century fortress, visitors can enjoy strolling around in Zafra’s narrow, white streets. Different tapas bars are situated along the streets, where people can savor their meals while watching the world pass by. The former castle, the Parador, is one of the main attractions in Zafra, along with Plaza Grande and Plaza Chica.

Badajoz

Bordering with Portugal in the west, Badajoz is the largest province in Spain. Badajoz enjoyed its peak of power and influence during the Roman Empire, when the Romans made Mérida their capital city. Strolling around the Old Town, visitors can admire the old plazas: Plaza de España, Plaza de San José and La Plaza Alta. Furthermore, tourists can also opt to visit Puente de Las Palmas and the Alcazaba, the must-visit destinations in Badajoz.

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