When thinking about which part of Europe we have yet paid less attention on, we saw that we haven’t been to the Spanish mainland except for Barcelona yet. As this country has a lot more to offer, we decided to travel there for our November vacation. What we planned was a little road trip for ten days, but see yourself:
Our first stop was the city of Málaga in Andalusia. We arrived at the airport here and stayed at the Dulces Dream Boutique Hostel in the city center. It was in the perfect location as it wasn’t far from the last trains stop from the airport and it was perfectly in the center of Málaga so you can walk everywhere and don’t need to rely on public transport.
The city has a lot to offer, it is great for sightseeing, chilling out at the beach and shopping. We liked the old town where you find a lot of cafés, restaurants and bars to spend some time at during day and night.
We used the two days here for sightseeing, went through the beautiful park at Paseo de los Curas which is an oasis especially on hot days in summer and explored the port where you find a nice promenade with modern shops and restaurants. We had dinner here once as you have a great view onto the illuminated city and the port and there is a lot of different local and international food served here, so everyone will find something delicious. From here it is not far to the beach (which was quite empty in November, even if the weather was good) and the bullfighting arena. The beach promenade invites for some sports as it is not only a popular place for running but also because there are public gym machines available here.
On the way back from the beach to the city you pass by the hill where the Alcazaba and Gibralforo castle are located. Gibralforo is the one on the top. As the entry fee is quite cheap (I actually don’t rember exactly how much but it were only a few Euros) we decided to visit both of them and be sure, the walk up to Gibralforo is worth climbing up all the way. You have a great view onto the city and the interior of the castles is perfectly neat, intricate and beautifully planted. We liked it a lot but check it out:
Another landmark in the city is the Cathedral of the Incarnation. As you see in the panorama it is the largest and most massive building in the city center. It’s just impressive as you walk around it and admire the architecture of a time so long ago (it was built between 1528 and 1728).
After the sightseeing we also did some shopping, especially in the area around Calle Molina Lario, Calle Marqués de Larios and Calle Granada. But for sure we also did some dining and bar hopping and these have been our favorites:
- Burgers: The Good Burger (Tripadvisor)
- Tapas: Hierbabuena (Tripadvisor)
- Breakfast: Brunchit Organic (Tripadvisor)
- Drinks and snacks: Morrisseys irish Pub (Tripadvisor)
- Cuevas de Nerja
On the third day of our trip we took a rental car to go to Granada. On the way there you can visit the impressive Cuevas de Nerja, a huge series of caverns near the city of Nerja. The only way to get in there is to take a tour. It is not too expensive, 10 EUR per adult. On their homepage www.cuevadenerja.es it says you have to book tickets online but it wasn’t a problem to buy some on site when we were there. Maybe during high the summer season you should consider to buy tickets in advance. There are tours every 30 minutes and except for July and August when the last access is at 5:30pm, the last tour starts at 3:00pm (as of January 2017).
We were lucky to have one of the last tours at 2:30pm and really loved it. The cave is huge, you get a lot of explanations about the discovery and the history of the caves in different languages (you get an Audio Guide for the tour, it definitely includes Spanish, English and German). It definitely is worth the price, even if it is not possible to see the real cave paintings as they cannot illuminate them as they would be damaged by that.
It is hard to describe the impressive interior of the cave, you should just check it out and visit it!
From the Cuevas de Nerja we drove on to our destination Granada. As in most bigger cities it is also hard to find a place to park your car here. We stayed at the Hotel GIT Alcover which had a great value and a good location in the city center. The only possibility to park your car here was an underground car park near the hotel which was 18 EUR per day. Nonetheless we had a good stay in Granada.
The city center does not have as many sights and shops as the bigger cities on our trip, but there are a lot of good restaurants and bars here where you can spend your time. Anyways the most important sight in the city is the Alhambra. It is a palace and fortress built by the Emir of Granada in the 13th century on the ruins of a small fortress. Before we visited it we walked through the big surrounding park and the gardens of the Palace of Generalife. Even if the weather wasn’t good that day (a little cloudy, a bit of rain) it was a great visit. We visited different buildings within the Alhambra (pay attention to what ticket you buy, some tickets do only include specific buildings, so you should check out which ones you’d like to see before), walked through the corridors of the Alcazaba and enjoyed the view over the city.
As it became a little cold we went back down to the city again, had some kebab and decided to have some drinks later on as we only had this day in the city and wanted to experience the nightlife a little.
A great thing is, that you get some tapas with every round of drinks you order, so you have some snacks on the table from time to time, just perfect. Here are our favorite places from this night:
The next stop on our route was Valencia for three nights. We left Granada after breakfast and drove more than 500 km that day but we enjoyed it, the landscape was interesting, starting from the rugged surrounding of Granada to the green coast around Valencia.
On arrival we checked into the SH Abashiri Hotel. Positive was the parking, as it didn’t cost anything in the surrounding residential areas, unfortunately the room was worn out. But hey, it was cheap and we would stay here for only two nights anyways.
It was possible to take the bus to the city center, but we decided to walk about 20 minutes. As you see we are light on our feet as we get around by foot as much as possible during our trips.
After exploring the city center a bit on the evening after arrival, we decided to visit L’Oceanogràfic the next day. On the way here we passed the Pavelló Municipal Font de San Lluís, the basketball arena of Valencia where you can watch home games of Valencia BC playing in the Spanish ACB League and on European competitions.
L’Oceanogràfic is an aquarium park divided into different parts that show you the natural habitat of the animals and fishes. It is really beautiful and definitely worth a visit, if you like aquariums, dolphinariums, amphibians and water birds, this is the place for you to go to in Valencia. You can get more info on the park and tickets on https://www.oceanografic.org/en/
For sure after our visit we didn’t miss out on exploring the rest of the surrounding Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciènces (City of Arts and Science) which are also home to L’Hemisfèric (planetarium, laserium and IMAX Cinema), El Museu de les Ciéncies Príncipe Felipe (Science Museum), El Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía (Arts Museum) and the famous El Ponte de L’Assut de L’Or (bridge). During the good weather we had that day it was awesome to walk through the buildings and the ponts around them. The beautiful design and architecture of the buildings are just a landmark of the city and something we never saw before. Just great!
From here on, right next to the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciènces, we walked through the Jardins del Tùria, a huge park in an old river bed. There are a lot of people here during good weather but it didn’t feel crowded at all. The park is just great to relax on some of the meadows, you can also have a picnic here or do some sports (running, biking or skating for example). We really enjoyed the walk through it, it’s a highlight.
There are nice sights and buildings in the city center as well, such as the cathedral and the city hall, unfortunately we only had this one full day here, which was to short and made us put Valencia on the list of cities where we definitely want to go back to one day.
In the evening we checked out the gastronomical part of the city and here are our favorites:
- Drinks in the city center: La Casa Blanca (Tripadvisor)
- Cheap American Style snacks and drinks: Red Cup Bar (Tripadvisor)
- Tapas and international dishes in cozy atmosphere: Caravan Bar (Tripadvisor)
After leaving Valencia we drove on to Madrid. Let us tell you, if you don’t need a car, try to get here by train or bus. Not because of the traffic (except for if it’s your first time driving in a big city), but parking. We didn’t find anything below 22€ per day in the surrounding of our hotel.
We stayed at the Acta Madfor Hotel, a really good one, right opposite of Príncipe Pío Metro and Train Station and near the Palacio Real. We had three comfortable nights here.
We explored the city a lot in these two days and these were our favorite place:
The Parque del Buen Retiro is a beautiful park through which you can walk for hours. The Monumento a Alfonso XXII is built right next to a big pond where you can rent boats to paddle around on it. A popular couple activity.
You also find the Crystal Palace in the park, a beautiful building made of glass and metal. It has been built to house exotic plants and is used for art exhibits today. When we were there they had a sound installation which was really interesting to listen to in a building that is surrounded by autumnally colored plants.
Not far from here at the Atocha metro- and train station you also find a big palm garden inside the old waiting hall, definitely worth a visit, too!
If you are interested in the history of the city and arts, you should definitely visit the Palacio Real with the Catedral Santa María La Real Almudena next to it, the Plaza Mayor and some of the numerous museums in the city, such as the Prado Museum or the Reina Sofía Museum. The Museo de Historia de Madrid in the old town is also recommendable and it has free admission.
If you like sports, Madrid has a lot to offer, too! Real Madrid and Atlético Madrid are some of the best European Soccer teams, both playing in the Spanish La Liga and in European competitions. The famous Santiago Bernabéu Stadium is located in the northern part of the city center. Basketball also is pretty popular, Real Madrid and CB Estudiantes are playing at the Palacio de Deportes. Cycling and Tennis are other sports with annual events in the city.
Shopping should not be forgotten: the city center around the Plaza de la Puerta del Sol with its heraldic animal statue of the Bear eating from a strawberry tree is a huge pedestrian area with a lot of shops. There are also several decentral shopping malls and streets at some train stations for example, but this is by far the largest number of shops here.
Not to forget, our culinary highlights:
- Churros: Los Alpes (Tripadvisor)
- Italian cuisine: Oven Mozzarella Bar (Tripadvisor)
- Local Specialties: Mercado de San Miguel (Tripadvisor)
- Drinks and Snacks: El Kiosko (Tripadvisor)
As Córdoba must not be missed on an Andalusia trip, it was our last stop on the way back to Malaga for one night. We stayed at the NH Córdoba Califa, great value and central location.
For sure we visited the famous Mezquita de Córdoba. It is not expensive to get in, it’s 10 EUR per person which are definitely worth it. The patio, called Court of Oranges is accessible for free, but you need a ticket to visit the inside of the Mosque. And it is just amazing. The Columns around in the halls around the central cathedral building are impressive and beautiful at the same time. It was built as a Catholic Church around the year 600, than used by both, Christians and Muslims in the 700s until it was used as a mosque until the Reconquista in 1236 since when it is used as a Catholic Church again. You can see these changes, there are different parts in the building where both religions have been practiced and some parts that have been built especially for each. It’s hard to describe this impressive piece of architecture and history, you just need to make a stop here!
We also went over the Roman Bridge through the tower of Calahorra right next to the Mezquita.
Unfortunately we only had this one night here, for sure there would’ve been some more things to discover, but our schedule was tight unfortunately.
So here are some gastronomical locations we can recommend:
- Italian Cuisine: Taberna Los Califas (Tripadvisor)
- Reasonably priced drinks and tapas: De Tapas (Tripadvisor)
- Breakfast: Omundo de Alicia (Tripadvisor)
As this was our last stop, we returned to Málaga the next day where we returned the rental car and flew back home from.
This trip was definitely great, there was a lot to see, experience and taste everywhere we went. People have always been friendly and helpful, even if it can’t hurt to speak some basic Spanish as not everyone is good at English here, but if you only speak English it shouldn’t be a problem either.
Be sure that you need cash sometimes even if Credit Card payment is accepted almost everywhere. Some places such as the Mezquita in Córdoba only accept cash payment for entry fees.
As already told, only one hotel was a little worn down, see where we stayed:
- Málaga: Dulces Dreams Boutique Hostel (Tripadvisor) –cozy, not too expensive, great location and good café with friendly staff in house, unfortunately not too quiet
- Granada: Hotel GIT Alcover (Tripadvisor) good budget hotel with spacious and modern rooms in a central location, breakfast is really basic but cheap, parking in the surrounding is expensive
- Valencia: SH Abashiri (Tripadvisor) worn down rooms, not 100% clean, free parking in the surrounding, wouldn’t recommend to stay here
- Madrid: Hotel Acta Madfor (Tripadvisor) comfortable and modern rooms, central location, cozy and calm chill out area and roof terrace, parking in the surrounding is expensive
- Córdoba: NH Córdoba Califa (Tripadvisor) comfortable room, great value and central location
How to get to Málaga?
Málaga (AGP) has the largest airport in Andalusia so it is easiest to start your journey here. From within Europe a lot of big Airlines and Low Cost Carriers such as Norwegian Air Shuttle, Vueling and Ryanair offer non-stop flights to Málaga from many different cities.
If you’re coming from other continents, it might be best for you to fly in on:
Aeroflot (through Moscow), Finnair (through Helsinki), Iberia (through Madrid), KLM (through Amsterdam), Lufthansa (through Frankfurt or Munich), Delta Airlines (through New York) or Swiss (through Zurich) for example.
Thank you for reading, we hope we were able to give you some interesting insight into our trip
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