When you have 4 weeks to spend in Spain

…why not spend most of that in Andalusia?

Hi! We’re not really beach people, at least, not in the dead heat of July/August in southern Spain. So when our friend visited for four weeks, we cooked up these ideas:

A sample itinerary

Madrid
Córdoba
Almodóvar
Granada
Arcos de la Frontera
Rota
El Puerto de Santa María
Jerez de la Frontera
Cádiz
San Lucar

If you’ll be in Spain for a while and want easy ideas away from the beach, or if you have a long-term guest and are wondering what to do with them, look no further. Here is a sample itinerary for someone who will be based out of one location in southern Spain but wants leisurely day trips, weekends, and long weekend ideas.

Backstory to this itinerary: Cody, James, Penny, and I had the good fortune of hosting our dear friend, let’s call him David, for four weeks this past summer. David decided to brave the European continent for the first time and bought a round trip ticket for 6 weeks total, doing a marvelous first time job solo-tripping it to the UK, Belgium, and France too.

For the four weeks he was in Spain, though, we navigated the hot summer weather together, trekked so many train and auto routes, had ample Hamilton and Ragtime soundtrack listenings, and generally found places to relax and much Iberico Secreto to eat.

Disclosure: each city listed will have a bunch of other stuff to do, but this itinerary gives you an idea of what you can accomplish over a 4 week vacation 🙂 Here are the major destinations we visited and the activities in each city, mostly all in sunny Andalusia:


 

Madrid

Madrid statue

3 nights, four days. Get there by car, train, or airplane. We stayed at this apartment near the Prado museum. The location couldn’t have been better for access to restaurants, the Pride parade, monuments, and the train station.

Points of interest:

  1. Prado museumExtensive permanent collection and beautiful temporary exhibits. When we went in at first it wasn’t busy..totally calm and easy to peruse. Then, suddenly, it got SO busy. So many visitors at once. Almost chaotic. Corridors that were once open were suddenly blocked off. Docents weren’t letting anyone pass. How oh how were we supposed to get out? It took some doing, but eventually the museum spit us out here:
  2. Royal Botanic gardensPeaceful and humid in the summer. If you enjoy bonzais you can follow a path up to a circular courtyard filled with an exhibit of all of them. (Does anyone else like to imagine tiny communities thriving and building homes under each bonzai, as if each one was its own giant protector? No? Just me?)
  3. Virtual RealityCody and David enjoyed state of the art wireless equipment at an hour long zombie fight.
  4. Bar perusingIs the insult “hipster” almost on its way out (much like its earlier cousin “emo?” ((hey, it’s ok to emote!))) Otherwise, you might call this a hipstery bar, but the atmosphere and the drinks at Salmon Guru were too good. The menu is an actual book and the cocktails are inventive, delicious, and come out in beautiful displays.drink
  5. Hair cutsThe boys got salon quality treatment at their walk-in appointments near the Prado museum and came out looking pretty damn sharp.

 

Córdobafamily kiss cordoba

1 overnight, get here by train or car. We stayed at this 4 star hotel right outside the Alcazar.

Points of interest:

    1. Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos Did you know there’s a night tour option at this beautiful old Mezquita-Catedral (mosque/church)? We (as in me and Cody) were too sleepy to try it, but even during the daylight hours, the Alcazar is otherworldly, majestic, and worth wandering through again and again. Try to catch all the details in one visit, I dare you.
    2. ShoppingPlenty of little shops dedicated to selling you all the touristy and everyday things around the Mezquita-Catedral. But for other shopping, head up from the Alcazar to Primor for all your European, Asian, and U.S. beauty items needs. If you’re used to an Ulta from the U.S., this is the closest you’ll find (minus a rewards system). Along the way, you’ll pass ice cream places and this favorite soap shop of mine filled with many wonderful little bricks of olive oil based soap (among other kinds):
    3. Food. Sit down and eat well at pretty much any place that doesn’t serve your food on paper plates. We had a breakfast of scrambled eggs with potatoes and meat (huevos revueltos) for breakfast one morning and fried aubergines with honey glaze for dinner one night, along with much much baby goat 😥 that meal.
    4. Scary street driving is a likely activity you’ll do if you’re staying in narrow old part of town. After you pass the sign designating narrowing streets, the buildings take on an ominous character, giving the impression that they are in fact growing into the road and that maybe we just caught them at a time before they could be trimmed back. While I hyperventilated in the backseat, David readied himself to bail as soon as he could open his car door, and Cody sat white knuckled at the steering wheel, a friendly local came up and coached us through, “It looks narrow but you can make it. Just put your wheel up a little on the sidewalk.” (The sidewalk was about 6 inches wide)

Almodóvar

castle almo

A 40 minute daytrip from Córdoba by car.

Points of interest:

    1. Castillo de AlmodóvarTour this restored castle’s towers, battlements, courtyards dressed up alongside a couple of campy videos to tell you its history. It’s well maintained and if you’re a Game of Thrones fan, they have a self-guided walking tour guiding you around film sites. They have events there like a monthly medieval banquet. Seems like a little kid would like to see!


GranadaGranada

2 overnights in the Albaicín district. Get there by car, train, or air. Granada was David’s self-proclaimed favorite city in Spain. We stayed in this beautiful and unique apartment spacePoints of interest:

    1. Alhambra and adjoining sitesMassive, confusing, beautiful…get there an hour earlier than you think you need to. The grounds are huge and chances are you’ll get lost and miss your time-slot.Alhambra
    2. Shopping in Albaicín, the old Arab quarter– Lamps, textiles, soaps, leather, silver goods- Take your wallets to the main street, Calle Reyes Catolicos to visit more expensive shops by Spanish artisans, everything from hand-painted fans to beautiful vases20180728_190601
    3. Food:Cacho y Pepe for delicious Italian takeawayFiligrana Delicatessen for delicious Spanish food (the BEST Iberico Secreto we’ve ever had, delicious!)


 

Arcos de la Frontera

Arcos 3

Day trip to a classic example of a pueblo blanco by car.

Points of interest:

    1. Parking Park here to be centrally located and to make that climb up the hill to the old town faster, or park in this neighborhood and get more of an idea (and a workout) of what Arcos is. This second route will take you up two tall staircases, the first leading past the San Miguel cemetery which is worth a respectful visit if you’ve never seen a Spanish cemetery before.
    2. Food Once you’re on the hill, choose your seat at any of the restaurants’ sidewalk space, order a drink and several tapas. While the plates of food keep coming, and enjoy the fact that you are not the driver currently trying to navigate these tiny, snarled streets in a car.
    3. Mirador and Cathedral Walk around or tour the church at the top of the hill, then look out over the vastness that is the Andalusian countryside from a lookout point right on the edge of a cliff.
    4. Buy a hand fan (in Spanish: un abanico) Do yourself a favor and visit this shop to pick out a handmade wooden fans painted by the owners. Listen to the melodious clack clack clack of the fan blades folding together and let the owner help you choose a breezy 10 euro souvenir or 50 euro accessory fit for the opera. Here’s an example of a fan in the 35 euro range:
    5. Buy a straw handbag or hat Now, you have to time it just right to take advantage of this souvenir.After you’ve passed the cathedral and are winding your way around, near an enclosed garden you’ll see a nice old man working in the doorway of his little workshop, just braiding and weaving up some beautiful straw handbags and hats. Makes sure you have cash already on you to purchase right away! With nothing but credit cards and 2 euro coins between us, David and I ran out of time pulling euros out of an ATM at the bottom of the hill and missed his siesta cutoff, so, no handbag or hat for us.


 

RotaRota main pic

Daytrip(s) and dinner by car or ferry.

Points of interest:

  1. Tapas dinners and drinks.
  2. Go anywhere along this street, but Utopia Tapa Restaurant is a nice place to start at.
  3. breakfastLa Silla Azul has a great atmosphere and slightly more expensive but delicious food and fresh squeezed juice
  4. Boardwalk and beachStart at the marina and meander along the walkway, lined with vendors in the summer and beautiful views of the ocean year round.
  5. Castle and cathedralYou can enter the cathedral near the castle but be respectful of worshipers (and think about chipping in a euro donation) and walk around what is now town hall, the castle.
  6. The so-called Gypsy MarketOn Wednesday mornings until 2:00 pm, go to an outdoor market selling olives, nuts, textiles, shoes, and every manner of bric-a-brac.

 

El Puerto de Santa MariaPuerto main

Daytrip(s) and dinners  by car, train, or ferry from the cobble stoned old town to the beachy suburbs.

Points of interest:

  1. Safe Cube Fun diversion on a weeknight at the Bahia Mar mall. They have three scenarios you can play, so we’ll have to go back for the other two. We did Defuse the Bomb this time and it was great!
  2. Tapas or dinner near the river in the old town.Check out La Venencia specifically for dinner and tapas.Check out Da Massimo for gelato or frozen yogurt for dessert.
  3. Cathedral and Castle
  4. Beach walksCoffee and pastries at the chirunguito by our beach
  5. El Paseo mallJuly is the month of rebajos, sales, so might as well check out what’s discounted at the Spanish end of the world.
  6. Brunch- Alongside the ocean in the charming ocean-side neighborhood of Puerto Sherry at Blanco Paloma– Big breakfast sandwiches at Great Day CoffeeScrambled eggs platters at El Barista Coffee Shop in Vista Hermosa

Jerez de la Frontera

Daytrip(s) by car or train.

Points of interest:

    1. Tio PepeBeautiful grounds create a wonderful ambiance

      for this sherry wine and brandy tour. The guided tour takes you around the bodega and offers a range of tastings and tapas at the end.

    2. AlcazarEven if you don’t make it inside, this is a gorgeous old building set in a lovely square next to Tio Pepe. Go inside to see examples of how olive oil was produced and a lovely garden. Bonus: in the summer on Saturday nights there’s a flea market and the rest of the year it’s Sunday during the morning.20180812_152212.jpg
    3. The mall and IKEAIf your visitor has never been to an IKEA before, here’s a surefire way to exhaust them by simply walking them through all three areas. Most department stores only give you access to the tip of the iceberg. With IKEA, you get the whole iceburg. In the words of my friend David, “Good god, there’s more?” If they make it the whole way through without complaining, treat them to a 50 cent hot dog.
    4. Go to the Arab Baths, or Hammam, and take a leisurely dip in their pools hot, cold, and warm pools.
    5. Visit this BEAUTIFUL square, Plaza Esteve, on a summer morning and go buy flamenca shoes and hats at this store nearby.
      jerez


 

Cadiz

Daytrip(s) and dinner are a quick drive or ferry ride away.

Points of interest:

  1. La Cava for a Flamenca showTalented singers, musicians, and dancers will wow you during a 2 hour show while you eat tapas and sip wines and beers. You must try this if you’re in southern Spain!
  2. ShoppingAnother Primor!Outdoor markets in different squares at different times of the year
  3. David also went back on his own for a daytrip via the ferry leaving from El Puerto de Santa Maria, NOT to go inside the Cathedral because there was a big holiday and therefore a big mass that day, but to wander the pretty streets and buy old coins.

San Lucar

Points of interest:

(This is more of a sneaky little suggestion. David wasn’t able to get up in time to make this, but I went without him for my hair cut :))

Go here to explore the square, the castle, and get some cafe and tapas.

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