The Plaza Mayor and the nearby Plaza de Leones is the heart of the town and the point for showing off the stunning Renaissance buildings which surround the renowned cobbled square. Eighteenth century fountains add a calm air to the square as well.
The Plaza Mayor and Plaza de Leones is a mere 10 min walk from Baeza's bus station. Both are clearly signposted.
Baeza is a tiny treasure jewel a mere 30 mins from Jaén buried in the hills of the Cazorla national park. It is crammed full of Renaissance masterpieces and is definitely my second most favourite of Andalucía's sleepy little towns (after Alcalá la Real). The most beautiful sights to see are: Plaza Mayor/Plaza de Leones, Palacio de Jabalquinto and the Cathedral. The best thing is that all of Baeza's great monuments are free to get into (although a tip to the guardian is recommended) and the spectacular views cost nothing!. It is basically a great town to get lost in and absorb it's splendour.
Baeza is situated 28km to the east of Jaén and is served by 14 daily buses from Jaén. There is also the combined train station of Linares-Baeza (14km from Baeza) which is served by frequent trains from Seville, Córdoba and Granada, there is a connecting bus to Baeza for most trains, (except on Sun) or it's 14 euros in a taxi.
Although the majority of natural and historic attractions are outside the town Antequera itself is worth a day trip from Granada or Málaga. The Baroque church of El Carmen has a fine exterior and the views from the ruins of the Alcazaba take in the green and lush Sierra de Ronda.
The locals are really friendly and welcome the few tourists who visit their town. There are plenty of hill walks starting from Antequera and leading to El Chorro gorge and the natural park of El Torcal.
Antequera is one of the most authentic country towns of Andalucía with a comforting village atmosphere.
Antequera lies 55km to the north of Málaga on the main rail line to Granada. There are no buses from either Granada or Málaga to Antequera so you have to take the train from either of these cities. The once daily train from Málaga to Granada stops at Antequera, but 7 trains depart daily from Granada to Seville (calling at Antequera) giving you more time to spend in Antequera.
Córdoba lies 150km to the east of Seville on the NIV motorway to Madrid. 8 buses depart daily from Granada (journey time 2hr 30 min) and 10 buses leave daily from Seville (same journey time). If you can afford it, the AVE express service between Seville and Madrid gets you from Seville to Córdoba in 45 mins, otherwise it's a 1-2 hr journey if you take the 6 daily regional trains. The bus from Granada to Córdoba takes the more scenic route up through the mountains between the two cities.
The 16th century cathedral in Almeria is unique because of its appearance as a fortress built to defend the city against raiding Turkish and North African pirates. Its corner towers once held cannons. The interior is just like the inside of any other cathedral though - but is no less disappointing for that.
Plaza de la Catedral
Entry fee is 2 euros.
Opening hours: Mon-Fri 10am-4.30pm, Sat 10am-1pm
The fortress (or Alcazaba) is a tremendous triumph of Moorish architecture which towers over the once independant kingdom of Almeria. The old city walls can be clearly seen branching across the mountain down to the suburbs of modern Almeria. It is much better than the Alcazaba at Málaga - with three huge walled enclosures, in the second of which are the remains of a mosque. The views down to the coast are amazing.
Plaza de Joaquin Santisteban
Entry is free to EU citizens (passport needed), otherwise 1.50 euros.
Opening hours: Tues-Sun 9am-8.30pm (Oct-March closes 6.30pm)
The archelogical museum in Córdoba has the best examples of Iberian, Roman and Moorish art in Andalucía. The most famous piece is a 12th century bronze stag taken from the ruined Medina Azahara palace situated 7km to the north-west of Córdoba.
Horno del Cristo, Córdoba
Entry is free to EU citizens (passport needed)
Opening hours: Tues 3-8pm, Wed-Sat 9am-8pm and Sun 9am-3pm.
Casi Andalusí is a perfect recreation of a Moorish house with antique furniture and exhibits giving a detailed insight into how they lived. It is a must-see for anyone who is into Moorish history.
C/Judíos in Córdoba's Jewish district
Entry fee is 2.50 euros.
The house is open daily from 10.30am to 7.30pm
The synagogue is unique in itself because it is only one of three which survive in Spain (the other two are in Toledo). Forunately, this synagogue built in 1316 survived the Jewish expulsion of 1492 and so it is a testament to the revered religious mix of Córdoba. It has some fine stucco work and a womens' gallery.
C/Judíos in Córdoba's Jewish district.
Entry is free to EU citizens (passport needed)
Opening hours are Tues-Sat 9.30am-2pm and 3.30-5.30pm.
Cordoba's judería is the former Jewish district of the city which survived destruction after the expulsion of the Moors. Its network of lanes has a more genuine atmospheric quality than the commercialised Barrio de Santa Cruz in Seville. This is thanks to its colourful patios which can be peeked at through the gates of the whitewashed houses. There are a small number of shops selling Moorish pottery and textiles.
Between the mosque and Avenida del Gran Capitán - a 10 min walk from the bus station.
This imposing palace has fine mosiacs excavated from the Roman areas of Córdoba as well as relaxing gardens - a good spot for getting your breath back after seeing the overwhelming delights of the mosque. You wouldn't have thought that it was the site of the Spanish Inquisition between 1428 and 1821!
Ronda de Isasa, Córdoba
(just around the corner from the mosque).
Entrance fee is normally 2 euros - but go on a Friday and it costs nothing to get into the palace.
Opening hours are Tues-Sat 10am-2pm and 5.30pm-7.30pm.
As I was writing my degree dissertation about the Moorish occupation of Spain a visit to one of the most famous mosques in the world was a must for me. It is a visit which I will never forget as the mosque is more beautiful than I could ever imagine. The mosque in Córdoba is a must-see monument in Spain as pictures in brochures just don't do justice to its elegance and innovative design. The red and white horseshoe arches provide an airy feel to the place and allow for intended contemplation and prayer. Don't miss both the Patio de los Naranjos with its cleansing fountains and orange trees blooming underneath the cathedral belfry tower (which you can sometimes climb for views of the mosque and Córdoba) and the mihrab inside the mosque - the marble design of which has been copied throughout Spain and north Africa.
Corregidor, Córdoba - a 15 min walk or bus ride from the bus station which is situated to the north of the city centre. Entrance fee is 6.50 euro.
Opening hours: April-Sept, Mon-Sat 10am-7.30pm, Sun 2-7.30pm. Oct-March, Mon-Sat 10am-5.30pm, Sun 2-6.30pm.
This fine museum has a large and impressive collection of 5th century BC Iberian sculptures along with horseshoe arches taken from excavated Moorish palaces and houses. There is also a square with a tranquil park across the road from the museum.
29 Paseo de la Estación, Jaén
Entrance is free and the museum is open from 3pm-8pm on a Tuesday and from 9am-8pm between Wednesdays and Saturdays. On Sundays it is open between 9am and 3pm.
The Baños Arabes are regarded as amongst the finest Moorish hammams in Spain. It feels light and airy because of its horseshoe arches and brickwork ceilings with their famous star-shaped windows. Admittedly it is sometimes hard to appreciate its beauty because of its neglected and ruined appearance in parts, but on the whole it has been wonderfully restored. It's still a good introduction to Moorish social life and architecture.
Palacio de Villardompardo, C/San Andrés, Jaén
The baths are free to visit and are open from 9am-8pm between Tuesdays and Fridays and from 9.30am-2.30pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
The 17th century Renaissance cathedral in Jaén is the architectural showpiece of the city. It has a dramatic west façade flanked by twin towers. The interior is enormous and has tall Gothic columns supporting an intricately carved vaulted ceiling. The citizens of Jaén are immensely proud of this monument as it was designed by local architect Andrés de Vandelvira. The museum has some well preserved local bishop's clothing and treasured religious artefacts and is worth the 1.80 euro entrance fee.
Plaza San Francisco
The cathedral is free to visit and is open daily from 8.30am-1pm and 5pm-8pm). The museum is open daily from 10am to 1pm.
Jaén is not the most spectacular provincial capital of Andalucía but it does have some beautiful attractions which are worthy of a day trip from nearby Granada or Córdoba. The most inspirational monument is the city's cathedral. There is also the Baños Arabes and the Museo Provincial.
Jaén lies 98km to the north of Granada just off the N323 motorway to Madrid. 12 buses depart daily from Granada. The journey takes 2 hours - look out for the famous olive groves creeping down the mountains alongside the motorway.
The last stronghold of the Moors in Iberia, the Alpujarras is an unspoiled region of hilltop villages spilling down from the Sierra Nevada mountains south of Granada. Up here the mule is still an essential form of transport and tapas are still free when you buy a glass of wine in a village bar. Fabulous area for walking and birdwatching.
We stayed in a lovely, newly reformed holiday let with stunning views in Juvíles, one of the highest and prettiest of the villages, about an hour and a half from Granada city.
This large and attractive market town sits high up in the mountains tucked away behind the tourist traps of the Costa del Sol. Fortunately it has escaped the mass-tourism of nearby Torre del Mar and Fuengirola; for that reason it is a peaceful and friendly town with lots to see and do.
The must see places are the 13th century tower of La Fortaleza - the most prominent remnant of Vélez Málaga's Moorish past which dominates a hill overlooking the town. On a clear day you can see right down the Mediterranean coast towards Málaga in the west and Almería in the east. There are also the numerous churches to see - such as the 15th century Santa María la Mayor church, the church of Señora de la Encarnación and finally San Juan la Baptista.
Don't miss the 16th century Palacio del Marques de Beniel, the Moorish-built walls of the old Arab quarter and the town's two convents - Convento de Jesús and Convento de las Carmelitas with it's eighteenth century paintings.
Vélez Málaga is only 30km east of Málaga itself so it makes for an excellent day trip from there. There is also a tram link running between Torre del Mar (just 4km away) and Vélez. Almost all of the buses which take the slower mountain road between Málaga and Granada rather than the quicker N340 and N232 stop at Vélez Málaga. The journey time from Málaga is approx 40 mins.
This wide pedestrianised boulevard is the focal point of Alcalá la Real where people meet during their evening 'paseos'. It also plays host to the markets and fairs which take place all through the year.
The Paseo de Alamos is a 10 min walk from the bus station and is well signposted. If you get lost just ask the friendly locals.
El Llanillo is the heart and soul of the town with its streets slowly winding up the hill to La Mota castle. Just get lost and seek out its hidden historic gems. Amongst the whitewashed houses with roses around the balconies are nineteenth century architectural wonders such as churches and arcades.
El Llanillo is all of Alcalá la Real! All streets leading off the central square take you into the district.
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