I’ve always been a little obsessed with Andalusia, the southern region of Spain. Everything from the enchanting name to the historical cultural influence of the ancient Moors fascinates me. As an Arab with a passion for Spanish culture, Andalusia was the perfect destination for me to travel solo – to experience the music, food, and architectural fusion of two cultures that are near and dear to my heart.
Although I spent a week here, it was by no means enough. I could easily have spent a whole month exploring – I still want to marvel at the Pueblos Blancos (White Hill Towns), taste the olives of Jaén, and hike through the caves of Nerja. Maybe a couple of months would be sufficient.
However, if you only have a week, you can still see plenty of highlights by spending 3 days in Granada, 2 days in Cordoba and 2 days in Seville. Without further ado: the solo traveler guide to Andalusia!
Day 1-3: Granada
The most economical way to get to Granada is via Madrid. Since I have little faith in my foreign driving abilities, the bus and Blablacar were my preferred modes of transportation between cities. They’re both great options if you’re on a budget too.
Fly into Madrid International Airport the day before, and if you’re a masochist like me, take the 5-hour overnight bus from Madrid to Granada and arrive by 7 am. Sleep as much as possible to avoid jetlag!
Out of the places I stayed in all three cities, the accommodation at Nest Style Granada* was my favorite. The room was huge, had a ton of amenities and great service, all at a really low price – fantastic if you’re on a budget. The location was amazing as well.
Catch some zzz’s at your hotel or, alternatively, grab a seat at Cafeteria Alhambra for a leisurely breakfast. Spend the afternoon exploring Plaza Bib-Rambla, a meeting square with tons of restaurants, and the place where the largest book burning in Europe was once held. Be sure to check out the nearby Alcaiceria, a small alley market selling accessories and souvenirs. Don’t miss the Granada Cathedral and Royal Chapel – although I didn’t go inside as I was a bit tired of churches, the architecture is rumored to be exquisite
When in Andalusia, prepare to enjoy everything at a leisurely pace. Get up and have breakfast in time to make it to the 11 am Downtown and Albaicin free walking tour: a walk covering both the downtown Granada area as well as the Albaicin. It has a bit of an overlap with the Sacramonte tour, but gives an excellent overview of the most important must-see areas.
Snag a 3-course menu del dia (menu of the day) for lunch and, if you’re feeling tired, partake in the famous afternoon siesta – most places will be closed for a couple of hours anyway.
Spend your afternoon meandering through the streets of the Albaicin and stop at the Bañuelo and Casa de Zafra to brush up on your knowledge of ancient Moorish architecture and customs. The Bañuelo is small, traditional Arab bath in Albaicin. If you don’t have time to see it, don’t fret – similar ones can be found at The Alhambra. For a peek into an ancient Moorish house, Casa de Zafra offers a view of one which was owned by a prominent rich family before the Inquisition. It now serves as a cultural center, offering historical and cultural context for the Albaicin neighborhood.
Book ahead for your spot at the intimate Le Chien Andalou: the BEST place for traditional, local Flamenco, located inside a cave. Tickets are between 8-10 euro, and they run several shows every evening. If you’re lucky, you might spot some impromptu Flamenco street performances near Plaza Nueva as well.
End the evening with some nighttime tapas – the options are endless.
As soon as you know that you’re going to Granada, buy your tickets to The Alhambra. If you come to Granada to see one thing, The Alhambra better be it. Dedicate a half-day (or at least a few hours) to see this grand palace-fortress, as it is truly a stunning masterpiece. Be sure to buy your tickets to the Nasrid Palaces as far ahead as possible, as they tend to run out due to timed entries. I managed to score the last afternoon ticket of the day when I bought it 3 weeks in advance…I was definitely lucky that I was traveling solo.
After a relaxing breakfast and some window-shopping, trek up the hill to the Alhambra and spend the afternoon there. It is by far the most amazing piece of architecture I’ve seen to date – truly a work of art.
Make your way back to town for an evening dinner of tapas, then wander around the non-touristy part of Granada – the area near the university. There is a ton of street art and plenty of interesting-looking cafes and bars. You can always eat dinner around here and stay for a nightcap, but chances are you’ll be exhausted from your day. You’ll still need to pack for the next day’s trip to Cordoba though!
Day 4-5: Cordoba
Take the 3-hour bus or a Blablacar and arrive in the early afternoon. Cordoba is quite small, so if you want to spend some extra time in Granada and arrive late afternoon / early evening, you can do that as well.
I stayed at the small, budget-friendly Pension el Portillo* in the old town. It’s a traditional guesthouse, located close to most cool attractions and restaurants. Despite the heat the rooms were very cool, although they didn’t have AC (just a fan).
Spend your afternoon at the beautiful Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba, known as La Mezquita. It is, as one friend described it, a cathedral jammed into a mosque. With mind-blowing architecture and clearly visible Muslim and Christian elements, it’s essentially a visual representation of the bloody history of the Moors in Cordoba. This is a site not to be missed.
If you’re visiting in the summer, you’ll be due for a siesta at this point. Cordoba is one of the hottest cities in Andalusia, so everyone partakes in a siesta – with the exception of some tourists. For the rest of the evening, wander through the city, stopping at Plaza de Las Tendillas (the main square), Puerta de Almodovar, the Zoco Artisan Market, and Puerta del Puente.
For dinner, eat at the amazing Garum 2.1, a well-known bistro and tapas bar with award-winning food items (or so they said). Try the two Cordoban specialties: salmojero (basically a creamy gazpacho) and rabo del toro (oxtail).
Enjoy the rest of Cordoba at a relaxed pace. After breakfast, head over to the Alcazar, the king’s former Cordoban palace, and stroll around the well-kept gardens and beautiful fountains. Once you’ve had your fill of the gardens, stop somewhere for lunch and enjoy more Andalusian specialties such as salpicon de pulpo (octopus ceviche) and boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar).
After lunch, head over to Puente Romano (the bridge) for some people-watching and cross the Rio Guadalquivir to the Torre de la Calahorra. At the Torre, brush up on your history of Andalusia and see how religious harmony helped shape the history of southern Spain.
Cross the bridge once again (unless you’re inclined to explore the ‘modern’ city), and climb up Puerta del Puente for rooftop views of the whole city – an excellent spot for photos! Walk through the cobblestone pathways to the only synagogue left in Andalusia – you might be surprised to find Moorish architecture here as well.
Now, you’re long overdue for a siesta / break. Back to the hotel for some zzz’s and packing before dinner. Despite their lack of tapas, I highly recommended Taberna Luque for dinner – bring a hearty appetite! Take a nighttime walk through the city – the air is fresh and people are walking about – before heading back for bed. You’re off to Seville the next day!
Day 6-7: Seville
You can always take the two-hour bus, but, as most of us are on a budget, why not save some money and cut your transportation time short by taking a BlaBlaCar instead? Not only did I have a say in my pickup location, but I made some friends this way too! Arrive in Seville by early afternoon.
I recommend Hispano Luz Confort Guesthouse.* While the accommodation is basic, the location can’t be beaten – it’s located within walking distance of many of the most popular attractions in Seville.
After checking in, walk across the plaza to the Seville Cathedral for impressive and ostentatious décor. Don’t miss the beautiful views from the Giralda Tower! Be sure to avoid the gypsies offering rosemary near the entrance though – it’s a tourist trap to get you to pay to have your fortune told.
By this point, you’ll likely be starving. For a spectacular meal filled with Andalusian specialties, an excellent choice is Bar Estrella. Try: crujiente de berenjenas (fried eggplant with honey), espinacas caseras con garbanzos (cooked spinach with garbanzo), and pimiento piquillo relleno de bacalao (peppers stuffed with cod).
Walk off your hearty meal at the Alcazar of Seville (where the last season of Game of Thrones was shot)! Get inspired by the intricate interior and fountain-filled gardens. Next, check out the Royal Bullring of Seville. You can only explore it with their guided tour, but you’ll appreciate it more that way; the history and current practices are quite fascinating!
People watch and marvel at the architectural beauty that is Metropol Parasol, aka Las Setas. Skip paying for views of the city here (you already saw the view from La Giralda) and once you’ve had your fill, head to dinner.
If you’re looking for a locals tapas bar, then get yourself to Ovejas Negras for some Spanish-fusion: I recommend the risotto, bruschetta, and octopus. This is an excellent place to end your evening (or begin it, if you’re a night owl)!
Wake up early to make the most of your last day in Andalusia. After breakfast, take a long walk through the maze-like neighborhoods to get to the colorful Basilica de la Macarena.
Once you get yourself back to the main part of Seville, get lost in the quaint old Jewish neighborhood of Santa Cruz, composed of a winding set of white buildings and alleys. Continue your walk to the beautiful Jardines de Murillo. These gardens used to be part of the queen’s palace in Seville (separate from the king’s palace, of course). They’re located around the corner from the University of Seville, which used to be a large tobacco factory back in the day.
For lunch, I suggest Mercado Lonja del Barranco, a large food market serving all sorts of cuisine – I recommend the salmorejo sampler from La Salmoreteca.
After lunch, figure out a way to get yourself to the old 1992 Seville world expo site. Most tourists miss this area, but it’s interesting and unique to explore the “modern ruins” of Seville. Plus, you get to see a plethora of global architecture within a couple of miles…not something you see every day!
Next, head over to the grand Plaza de España and Maria Louisa Park. Plaza de España is huge, with beautiful plaques depicting culturally significant drawings for each city in Spain. It’s easily one of my favorite spots in Seville.
To end your day, cross the bridge to Triana – a typical Seville neighborhood located on the river walk. Triana is distinct with its different-colored buildings, decorated with numerous plaques honoring Spanish saints. Watch the sunset over the Guadalquivir River before enjoying a filling dinner at one of many nearby restaurants.
Head back to the hotel once you’re done for the day. Catch a morning flight from Seville airport to Madrid and shed tears of sadness that you’re leaving Spain. I recommend using Momondo to find an inexpensive domestic flight.
Note: If you have an extra day to your itinerary, I recommend an extra day in Seville or 24 hours in Malaga.
Have you ever been to Andalusia? Which cities would you add to this list for a return trip? Share in the comments below!