Photo by Noemí Galera  –  Link

Road trip through Mediterranean Spain

Road trip
14 days
1,385 miles

Our Spain road trip starts in Barcelona

This epic Spanish road trip starts in the Catalan capital - Barcelona. If you've arrived with your own car, our advice is to park it up for a few days at the nearest underground car park as you won't be needing it around town. If you plan to hire a car, don't bother picking one up until day 3. While there is ample parking around the city, much like most of Spain, getting around on foot or using the relatively cheap metro system is a lot more convenient and relaxing.

Having checked into your hotel and dropped your bags off, it's time to go see what this crazy (in a good way) city has to offer, so head on down towards the Plaça de Catalunya at the top end of Las Ramblas. If you're staying some way out, hop on the metro and head for the Catalunya stop on Line 1 (red) or Urquinaona on Line 4 (orange).

Las Ramblas & the Gothic Quarter

The two streets and the wide promenade in-between are the true heart of Barcelona. Street artists line the street eager to do a caricature of your face alongside street dancers, human statues and various other forms of entertainment. Walk down halfway down Las Ramblas until you get to the Liceu metro station and turn left into the Gothic Quarter. This is an ancient part of the city which forms the main part of the Old Town along with el Raval the other side of Las Ramblas.

One of the first things you'll see is the Barcelona Cathedral. This majestic dark stone structure is a beautiful example of fine Gothic architecture and seems to be off the tourist radar making the visit that much more peaceful.

Port Vell and La Barceloneta

As you wander around the twisting streets of the area, head towards the sea and with any luck you'll get to Port Vell. This marina used to be the busiest trade port of the region and today serves as a yacht harbour.

Here you'll see a large brick building which houses the Museu d'Història de Catalunya and you should definitely go and see what's inside as this museum gives a somewhat unique perspective on the region's continuing fight for independence and the history of the region's relationship with other parts of Spain. For a spot of late lunch just before you go into the museum, you can't do much better than walk into the small Barceloneta district right behind the building. Here you'll find a large number of bars and restaurants with all manner of Catalan tapas on offer.

Don't miss out on Barcelona's fabulous dining scene and pick from a multitude of outstanding restaurants dotted around the city for your dinner. The majority of these are located within walking distance of Las Ramblas with a few further afield. If you fancy some fish and a romantic table in the cool evening sea breeze then return to Port Vell and pick one of the dozen restaurants serving the freshest seafood in town.

Museu d'Història de Catalunya

Spend a day in Barcelona

Your second day in Barcelona is perfect for a stroll around town taking in some of Gaudi's most famous sights. The key sights are relatively close to each other and there is a great deal to see along the way, so we'd recommend walking although the metro is easily available if you're feeling lazy.

Begin the morning in style and find a traditional café on your way to Passeig de Gràcia. As you make your way through town, you will notice that most street crossings in Barcelona form octagonal squares and these are the best place to equip yourself with some bakery produce and fresh orange juice. If you're staying near Las Ramblas, you can indulge yourself in one of the famous crêperies.

Casa Milà

The first stop on your route will be the Casa Milà on Passeig de Gràcia. This infamous apartment building was designed and built by Gaudi. Just as impressive on the inside as the outside, it's worth going in to see the layout of the skeleton-like structure and get a good view of Barcelona from the wavy rooftop.

Casa Milà (La Pedrera)

La Sagrada Familia

Once you're back outside, head down Carrer de Provença. Keep going in a straight line over the Avinguda Diagonal and you will very soon see the Sagrada Familia. This truly unique Gothic Cathedral is still under construction with decades' worth of work yet to be completed, but nevertheless, this is one of the most staggering Cathedrals you will ever see. The amount of detail on the facades is astonishing and everything from the interior decoration to columns, towers and the naves is unlike any other in the world. It's worth sitting down in one of the nearby coffee shops for a moment or two to take in the magnificent sight and do a spot of people watching as busloads of camera-clad tourists are unloaded from an endless stream of buses.

La Sagrada Família

Park Güell

Your next stop is the infamous Park Güell which is just a short walk up the Carrer de Sardenya. This relatively small and uniquely bizarre green park is free to enter so be prepared for crowds if you plan to visit over the weekend. Everything from the asymmetrical houses by the main entrance through to a large pagoda inside and everything in-between was born in the mysterious depths of Gaudi's brain. Indeed, he used to live in one of the houses on the Park's grounds and frequently relaxed here himself.

Your lunch options are fairly broad as a number of great restaurants can be found on the streets all around the Park. Alternatively, you can learn from the locals and stock up with some local Iberico ham, light bread, some olives, cheese and whatever else your heart desires and have a picnic in the warm sunshine somewhere within the park.

Park Güell

Mount Montjuïc

As the afternoon passes by and dusk approaches, it's time to head over to the last sight of the day - Mount Montjuïc right across the other side of town. The walk will take about an hour and a half although the metro option is fairly straight-forward with a direct line from the Lesseps stop nearby to Poble-sec at the foot of the Montjuïc Park. Be sure to climb to the top of the hill where a number of monuments built for the Olympics are dotted around the green park. The views over the city of Barcelona are to die for and you can spend a few minutes figuring out where you've walked and finding your hotel roof.

On your way down, make sure you pass the Montjuïc Fountain and stop by to watch a water and light display which takes place every half an hour starting from 19:00 - it's worth it. Note that the shows don't happen Monday to Wednesday, so plan your route accordingly. By the end of the display you will be ready for a hard-earned spot of relaxation before freshening up and heading out to town for a hearty steak.

Day 3

Drive from Barcelona to Valencia via Montserrat

The first thing to do in the morning after having sorted out your breakfast is to get yourself into a car. This is a road trip after all so wheels are required! Get your car out from the underground car park or collect your pre-booked hire car from one of the offices around town. Once you've loaded your luggage and set up the navigator, drive inland to the Montserrat Monastery.

This secluded establishment is perched atop a picturesque mountain in-between two peaks and is unbelievably beautiful. Home to Benedictine Monks, you will see stunning interior decorations and a number of highly prized religious relics. You have a choice of driving up the mountain and parking close to the Monastery or parking at the bottom and taking the train. The train provides great views down the mountain and of the Monastery itself, so that's our preferred option. Beware that if you choose to park at the top, you will still have to walk a fair bit uphill to get to the monastery.

Road from Barcelona to Valencia

The drive to Valencia is a fairly long one and the main road is a toll road which will take you there in around 3 and a half hours. If you want to stop for lunch along the way, your best bet is to stop in Tarragona soon after you get to the coast on your way south. The majority of other towns along the route are fairly uninteresting with a score of high-rise hotels lining the shore and a distinct lack of restaurants and views. Tarragona, however, is an ancient city rich in history in culture. A decent range of restaurants in the town centre will offer plenty of choice before jumping back on the AP-7 on your way to Valencia.

As you arrive in Valencia, you will notice that the city's Old Town is strikingly different to the rest of the city that has built up around it. The city centre is confined by a river to the west and a long green park that also used to be a riverbed before the river was diverted in the fifties. As with most Spanish cities, vast numbers of affordable underground car parks are provided, so find one near your hotel and dump the car for two days as you won't be needing it for getting around.

Spending a day in Valencia Old Town

With only one full day to be spent in Valencia, you really ought to get yourself out of bed at a reasonable hour and head into town for some traditional Valencian breakfast. Make your way towards the Mercado Central in the heart of the city and stop in a cafe along the way for a couple of churros (traditional doughnut-like food) and a coffee or a large glass of blood orange juice.

The town of Valencia is miraculously unpopular with tourists. Compared to most other Spanish cities, you will rarely see a tour guide leading a stampede of visitors observing the world around them through a camera lens. The only ones who make it this far away from Granada and Barcelona can typically be found in a queue outside the Oceanogràfic first thing in the morning which is exactly why the best time to go is later on in the day.

Valencia's historic centre

Valencia is one of the most beautiful old Spanish cities. Its Old Town is full of narrow streets criss-crossing through a mix of architecture from across the centuries. The market is one of the oldest in the country and sells a wide range of predominantly edible produce. Our top tip is to try the dozens of varieties of ham and stock up with your favourite along with any other snacks of your choosing for a picnic later on in the day.

Once you've purchased everything you want and are ready to move on, exit onto the Plaça del Merkat and pay a visit to the Lonja de la Seda across the street. This old building functioned as a Silk Exchange and the free entry is a definite bonus. There is little inside other than the beautifully decorated walls, floors, ceilings and carved columns and it is fascinating to see the sheer difference between the two historic trading hubs only yards away from each other.

To round off the morning, walk the short distance towards the Valencia Cathedral. This beautiful and to a degree austere structure can be tricky to find as unlike most cities, the Cathedral is closely surrounded by buildings on all sides making it hard to find in the Old Town maze. The Cathedral is known for holding the most likely true Holy Grail - the cup from which Jesus drank at the Last Supper. make sure you pay the €2 to climb up the Cathedral's tower as the views that open up over the city and the busy harbour are truly stunning. It's quite a walk to the top, so make sure you've done your stretches before racing up the 205 steep steps to the top.

Mercado Central

La Lonja de la Seda

Valencia Cathedral

Jardín del Turia

The Cathedral is only a stone's throw away from the Jardín del Turia. This vast green belt around Valencia's Old Town used to be a river until the source was diverted following a flood in 1957. Today this park has everything from a roller skating park to football pitches and large chess sets. This is presactly (we love this made up word) why you bought the picnic ingredients at the market earlier on in the day.

The gentle walk down to the Ciutat de les Arts i les Ciències will take you around 45 minutes, so you'll be able to pick the best spot for lunch on your way. The great combination of the park's chilled out vibe away from the humdrum of the city and the smouldering Valencian sunshine will make for a great meal alfresco.

Oceanogràfic

The Oceanarium is located on a large and relatively new site called the City of Arts and Sciences. The entrance is easy to miss as it is relatively small with almost the entire structure buried beneath the ground. Tickets are expensive, but well worth it as this is one of the best and largest marine parks in the world. One of the highlights is a long tunnel through a tank with various species of shark swimming alongside swarms of multicoloured fish. Dolphin shows are held regularly, so check what the schedule is when purchasing your ticket. Closing times vary, with 18:00 during the winter and as late as 24:00 during the summer months.

Once you've haddock a whale of a time it's time to find a plaice for dinner (just couldn't resist the op-perch-tuna-ty for a fish pun). Your best bet is to head back into town and go towards the Plaza del Ayuntamiento. There is a very broad selection of restaurants in that part of the Old Town with a large number of them specializing in fish which you absolutely must try given that it's the local speciality.

Oceanogràfic

Day 5
ValenciaGranada
327 miles

Driving across the Sierra Nevada to Granada

The drive down from Valencia to Granada is almost a mini road trip in itself and involves following the coast south to Alicante before heading west and going over the snowy peaks of Sierra Nevada to Granada on the other side. This sounds like an ominous route with dangerous mountain passes aplenty which will take you all day. The truth, however, is the complete opposite. Once you leave Benidorm in your rear view mirror (we're not pretentious, but it's really not worth stopping for), and head past Murcia, you will suddenly notice the eery silence. Given that the next 70 odd miles are pretty much an empty desert on a mountain plateau, nobody other than you seems keen to drive along this route.

This complete absence of other people is perfect for a relaxing drive in some of Spain's most fantastic scenery. Contrary to any fears you may have had, the road is straight and great for driving. The snow-covered mountain peaks form a gorgeous backdrop and all you have to beware are the occasional crazy Spaniard trying to break the world speed record on his way to Andalucia. Now we obviously do not condone speeding, but you're guaranteed to be pleasantly surprised by how quickly you get to Granada - just be careful to slow down for the two speed cameras on the way which are clearly signposted by three separate signs each indicating exactly how many metres separate you from a €400 speeding ticket.

We know that you might have already had more picnics on this trip than you did over the course of the last decade, but we promise that this is the last time we suggest having one. Every now and then you'll come across a rest area by the side of the road which often coincides with a Mirador - a great view of some beautiful landscape. Take your pick of the pit stops and park up to have your lunch at one of the wooden tables designated exactly for this purpose.

Arriving in Granada can be a little complicated if your navigation doesn't work well with narrow one-way streets. Parking garages are widely available and you'll probably find that your hotel will be able to securely park your car for you at a significantly cheaper price than any of the neighbouring multistoreys. Get your bags out, give them your keys and enjoy the evening in this awe-inspiring city. We recommend a walk around the compact town centre towards Plaza de las Pasiegas. Here you will find a quaint and unassuming little restaurant offering a number of quirky dishes. Try the crunchy pankaces made with tiny prawns.

Day 6

Visiting the Alhambra

Who said that you can't mix culture with a road trip? Spain has culture in abundance so you simply can't ignore it! The Alhambra is one of Spain's most famous tourist attractions and the majority of your day will be spent visiting the various sites around this old Moorish palace complex. Be sure to book your tickets in advance (see the Alhambra page for details) as during peak season the limited daily allowance can be sold out for weeks ahead.

There are buses that can take you to the Alhambra entrance, but the walk up the hill is not strenuous and will make for a pleasant 20-minute stroll. Equip yourself with a gigantonormous ice cream on the corner of Plaza Santa Ana with flavours ranging from marshmallow to kiwi fruit and head up the Cuesta de Goméres through the park at the foot of the Alhambra walls.

Once you've made your way to the Alhambra's main entrance at the far side of the complex, head right past the queue of ticket hopefuls to one of the yellow machines, insert the card used in pre-booking and walk straight in with your freshly printed tickets. Pay attention to the time you selected for entering the Nasrid Palaces and be there around 25 minutes before this time to join the queue. Other than that, take your time to take in the various sights and take pictures of the Sierra Nevada mountains and the sprawl of Granada beneath you from the Alcazaba at the front of the fortress.

Spend your time relaxing in the evening. If you want a taste of typical local food, head for Calle Navas right in the centre of the Old Town. This narrow street is home to dozens of small family-owned restaurants serving all mannner of Andalucian and general Spanish cuisine. The tables in the street are great as the cool breeze and night sky will are a perfect compliment to your bottle of Rioja.

The Alhambra

Day 7

Exploring Granada's Old Town

Your second day in the city can be spent wandering around the medieval streets and seeing more of the 'real' Granada. There are a number of distinct areas with the west part predominantly devoted to typical high street shops. The area around the Cathedral has a large number of restaurants - so study the menus on your way around to pick out your evening meal.

The north side of the Cathedral has a large spice stall offering every spice you've ever heard of and then some - this can be an attraction in its own right! Once you're done smelling the various beens and roots, visit the Cathedral itself and the adjacent Capilla Real. These grand buildings are an archetypal example of southern Spanish church buildings - rich in history with elements of the Moorish muslim faith making their way into traditional European architecture.

Once you've done your sightseeing, head up the Calle Reyes Católicos towards Plaza Santa Ana - the town's main square directly beneath the Alhambra's walls. Pay attention to one of the city's highlights - the green man traffic light at all pedestrian crossings. This green man is like no other with a very unique moonwalk impression indicating when it's safe to cross the road.

Granada Cathedral

Capilla Real

Albayzín

Walking through the Albayzín

From Plaza Santa Ana, walk past the Church onto the Carrera del Darro. This stret runs next to one of Granada's rivers which is home to a large feline colony which you can spot roaming through the shrubs. A little further along is a small square to your right with a few restaurants which offer a great opportunity for lunch. With stunning views all around, get yourself the fritto misto - a selection of various fish and seafood in batter.

The Albayzín is the quarter that runs uphill from this street on the opposite bank to the Alhambra. Take your time to wander this ancient part of Granada and check out the vast number of small artesan shops selling anything from unusual metal work to traditional Moorish clothing. If you head all the way to the top, the Mirador de San Nicholas is a great place to see the city of Granada and take some stunning shots of the Alhambra.

Day 8
GranadaMalaga
135 miles

Driving from Granada to Malaga

Once you have retrieved your car after breakfast, it is time to plough on with the road trip and make the short journey towards Malaga. Once again, you will find mostly empty roads until you get close to the costas. You will know you're close to the city once the road suddenly dives down at a steep angle and lush green vegetation appears in the place of the arid rocky landscape.

As you descend towards the sea, you'll notice that the weather on the coast is a mild in comparison to the hot inland Andalucia. If you don't notice this the first time round, you definitely will when you visit Cordoba. As you're passing right through Malaga, you might as well stop and have a wander. The two forts overlooking the city are the best place for a quick break. The Alcazaba is the best preserved Moorish fort in Spain and feels like the Alhambra's little cousin. The Castillo de Gibralfaro is set slightly higher and also offers brilliant views of the city and the Costa del Sol.

Spend a few hours in the city of Malaga itself. This historic settlement is worth seeing in its own right with cobbled streets and countless restaurants surrounding the Malaga Cathedral. With tourists often passing Malaga by in favour of the Costa del Sol's many other attractions, take advantage and have your lunch overlooking the marina with the sun directly above your table.

The white village of Benahavis

Getting to Benahavis is relatively straight-forward. There are two main roads running along the coast - the toll road AP-7 and the free A-7. The free road is more than good enough and takes a much more scenic route along the coast which we would highly recommend for going up and down the costa. It also benefits from frequent exits allowing you to stop along the way when you see a spot you like the look of.

The village of Benahavis is set in the Sierra de las Nieves mountains rising up from Marbella. With only a 10-minute drive separating you from the beach, you benefit from staying in the culinary capital of the Costa del Sol away from the huge package holiday hotels built on top of each other in the large resorts down below. The peace and tranquility will make for an enjoyable few evenings and the choice of great food will make you want to come back time and again.

Day 9
Malaga
173 miles

Drive along the Costa del Sol to Nerja

Day 9 is perfect for seeing what the Costa del Sol is all about. After a late lie-in, get in the car, put your windows down (and roof if you've got a convertible) and head down towards the sea. Turn east along the coast and make your way past Malaga to the town of Nerja. This beautiful town takes a prime spot on the Andalucian coast and is steeped in history dating back to pre-roman times.

One of the main sights is a set of caves discovered in 1959. These natural caves were home to some early humans and neanderthals with skeletal remains found throughout the linked caverns. Only part of the system is available to tourists with a display of the archaelogical finds inside ranging from natural rock formations to prehistoric fossils and paintings.

The town itself exhudes charm from every stone and offers great views of the coastline from the elevated Balcon de Europa - a viewing platform built on top of the Nerja cliffs. Two old cannons standing here remind you of the town's historical past and the benches are a great place to enjoy a morning ice cream.

Marbella's Old Town

A late lunch is a good idea in Andalucia as dinner is traditionally eaten late on in the evening. It's therefore a good idea to hop back in the car and make the return trip down the costa to Marbella. This famous resort is well-known for its beaches and countless hotels, but the Old Town is great for a midday stroll. Park up underneath Paseo de la Alameda and cross the road to get into the historic part of town. There is a broad selection of restaurants with tables on every square, so take your pick and have some lunch here. A number of shops sell everything from furs (no, really) to beach accessories.

Puerto Banus

After having passed through Marbella, it's time to head to Puerto Banus only minutes away up the coast. This is Costa del Sol's playground of the rich with ridiculously expensive yachts matched with an equally elaborate display of supercars parked next to them. Restaurants and shops here will sting your wallet and the parking charges are insane. Your best option is to head out along the N-340 and rejoin the main road that goes along the coast. Turn off at the first exit and turn around at the rounadbout heading back into Marbella. As you come off back onto the N-340, take the first turning right onto a narrow lane running towards the sea, then turn right once more. You can park your car here for free for as long as you like and have access to one of the best beaches in the area with a great beach bar.

Puerto Banus is a mere 200 metres away, so you can stroll along at your leisure to have a closer look at how the other half live and inspect the exotic automobiles. Spend the afternoon and early evening relaxing on the beach with the odd cocktail thrown in before making the 10-minute trip back up into the seclusion of Benahavis. To complete the day''s road trip, freshen up and make your way through the narrow streets to select your restaurant for dinner from the dozens vying for your attention. Note that with many visitors coming from resorts up and down the coast, going later can mean a less busy and more relaxed atmosphere.

Day 10
Malaga
96 miles

Driving to Casares

Today shall be the day of the Mirador. This spanish word encompasses everything we like about driving up into the Andalucian mountains as there are frequent labelled roadside stops allowing you to take in the magical views.

You could break tradition and set off before having breakfast to get down to Estepona. This relatively quiet resort town has a number of cafés and bars on the seafront where you can pause and indulge in a couple of waffles covered in chocolate sauce. Be sure to fill up the car before heading off the main road and up towards Casares as petrol stations off the coast are few and far between.

You will love Casares from the moment you first see the town as you turn around the mountain. The neat white houses with brown roofs are dazzling and there is something distinctly special that makes Casares stand out from the other 'white villages' dotted around Andalucia.

Park your car up and head towards Plaza de España which is the focal point of this small community. To get some great views, make your way up the narrow street next to the Virgin del Rosario Chapel and keep heading uphill until you reach an old fort at the top. If you walk a bit further along, you will come to a viewing platform set above a sheer cliff face from where you are likely to see a number of falcons and kestrels up close and personal. In addition, the views over the town below are picture-perfect.

See the Ronda bridge

Once you've got your snaps and feel that you've seen all there is to see in Casares, it's time to hop back in the car and make your way further inland to the majestic town of Ronda. This unique Andalucian town is placed on top of two plateaus with sheer rock cliffs down to a river valley below. The scenery is spectacular from every angle and the town itself is a real marvel too.

Parking can be troublesome, so grab any spot you see once you get near the centre. Large underground car parks are available further out, but are a fair walk from the centre. The main attraction of the city is the Puente Nuevo - the newest and most striking of the town's three bridges across the Guadalevín gorge. This unbelievably beautiful structure took 42 years to complete and is one of Spain's most famous sights. The view that opens up from the top of the bridge is impossible to describe and pictures do not do it justice - it's just one of those places that you have to see for yourself.

Once you've gotten over the quiet gurgle of the river below and the amazing views, it's time to pay attention to the rest of the historic town and there's definitely a lot to see. The ancient cobbled streets are home to a number of museums and a bullfighting ring which you can visit. In addition, there are a number of restaurants which would be perfect for a late lunch. A few restaurants on the south side have rooftop or terrace seats with views over the gorge and the bridge which can make your meal a lot more romantic.

Once you feel the need to get back and relax by the pool through the late afternoon, it's a comfortable drive along a stunning road through the mountains which comes out almost directly at Benahavis. Your last night on the costa ought to be celebrated with a couple of cocktails and a fantabulous dinner in the calming sea breeze.

Day 11
MalagaSeville
211 miles

Road trip – Spain's south west corner

Driving from Benahavis to Gibraltar is fairly straight-forward until you get to the narrow streets of La Linea de la Conceptión on the Spanish side of the border. Here, you will undoubtedly join a huge queue waiting to enter. Many people choose to park up and walk in, but with the main part of town fairly far down, we'd recommend waiting in the queue which moves along swiftly enough and driving through. Make sure that your passports allow you visa-free entry to Gibraltar as it is outside the Schengen zone.

There are two distinct parts to Gibraltar and you can choose how to split up your morning. The main town is a throwback to England of a few decades ago which is a very unique cultural experience. You will notice a lot of expensive cars and shops selling watches and jewellery for the wealthy beneficiaries of Gibraltar's favourable tax system. The town itself however is more shabby chic than flamboyant complete with red phone boxes dotted around.

For the more adventurous types, the Rock is a popular destination with a cable lift taking you to the top to explore this large park. At the top you'll find the remains of an ancient Moorish castle with a series of linked tunnels below called the Galleries. Look out for enterprising monkeys which populate the area and are particularly keen on anything shiny they can get their hands on.

The ancient city of Cadiz

On your way up to Seville, you absolutely must stop off at Cadiz. This radiant city is the oldest in modern Europe with history going far back into pre-roman times. The main part of the city is located on a thin strip of land stretching out to see with a stunning yellow stone Old Town centred around a Cathedral. Oddly enough, Cadiz attracts virtually no tourists whatsoever, so you are free to roam at your own leisure and visit some genuine Andalucian shops and cafés without having to distinguish them from tourist traps.

You absolutely must visit the Cathedral and climb up the tower to get a great view over the town and surrounding water. The Panorama from the top of the Poniente will leave you breathless and give you the opportunity to plan your route towards the Santa Catalina castle. The walk is along a narrow route coming off the beach and heading several hundred metres into the sea towards the fort built to protect the city from English attacks. While you can't enter the venue which is used for social events and concerts, the walk itself is a great way to chill out in the cool of the Atlantic waves, get a great view of the city and have a swim in the locals' favourite relaxation spot.

The final stint to Seville will take you just over an hour and you should comfortably arrive in time to unpack, find a place to park your car and scour the surroundings for a great restaurant. We would highly recommend finding Calle Mesón del Moro for some of the best restaurants in town although beware that some of these may be fully booked on Friday & Saturday nights.

Day 12

Plaza de España

Seville is a large and very beautiful city. Its grand architecture and wide streets are more reminiscent of major European capitals than Andalucia, but it is definitely one of the most gorgeous places in Spain. There is a lot to see around town, so get yourself out of bed at reasonable o'clock and head down to Plaza de España. This vast open space was built in the 1920s in the middle of the Parque de María Luisa in time for the 1929 World Fair.

The large exposition building is now chiefly used for Governmental functions, but you can still go up the grand stairs for a better view of the square and picture taking. The square itself is a semi-circle with fountains in the centre of a large paved area. The perimeter of the Renaissance-style square is lined with Province Alcoves named after each of Spain's regions complete with a mosaic depiction of each province.

Seville's Alcazar

The Alcazar is probably Seville's best-known attraction famed for its unique fusion of Moorish and Christian architecture. Originally built as a mudejar fort, it has been converted into a Royal Palace and comes complete with stunning internal courtyards, romantic baths and grandiose apartments. Along with the Jardines Reales Alcazares gardens around the back, this palace is guaranteed to leave you speechless.

Seville Cathedral

Last but not least on your long excursion around the city is the Seville Cathedral. Only a few yards away from the Alcazar, you might want to have a spot of lunch before going inside for which we would recommend crossing to the other side of the Cathedral square and stocking up on traditional local black squid paella on Calle Argote de Molina.

The cathedral itself is a masterful example of Spanish gothic architecture and is the third largest church building in the world. The interior's opulence has traditionally been a symbol of the wealth and power of the Catholic church, so you simply must go in and take in the sight for yourself. Note that much of the altar and surrounding parts were completely rebuilt at the turn of the 20th century after the main dome collapsed in the 1888 earthquake, but despite this, the Cathedral remains staggeringly beautiful.

The Cathedral's main tower – the Giralda – is a converted Mosque Minaret which explains its unusual look and construction. This symbolic tower rises to 105 metres above the ground and is the best spot to have a look at the city of Seville from a dizzy height. Much like many other medieval Spanish cities, the tower is the tallest accessible spot in the heart of the Old Town and the views more than justify the climb to the top.

Day 13
SevilleCordoba
178 miles

Drive from Seville to Cordoba

On we go with the last leg of our Spain road trip. If you thought that Seville is hot during the summer months, wait until you get to Cordoba. The city boasts Europe's hottest summer climate and you will feel it hitting you square in the face as you get out of your air-conditioned car after the short trip east from Seville. The city centre is fairly compact, so your best bet is to drive towards Avenida de la República Argentina/Paseo de la Victoria and park on the street.

Mezquita de Cordoba

This unique cathedral is one of the most staggering you will ever see. Built on the site of a grand Moorish mosque, La Mezquita defied tradition and incorporated much of the Mosque's design into the Cathedral structure as the city functioned with two religions living side by side for centuries. The very centre of the Mosque was transformed into a cathedral nave and an altar and this unique mix of religions and cultures make the Mezquita one of the most surreal sights in the world.

Mezquita Cathedral

Walking around the center Cordoba

The ancient city of Cordoba is surprisingly unlike any of the other major cities in Andalucia. The ancient Moorish influences are considerably more evident with very narrow streets lined in low-rise buildings and shops sprawling out outside at times looking more like northern Africa than Spain. Be sure to pass through the Jewish Quarter with beautiful white-washed houses set out in an impossible maze.

Cordoba used to be Europe's biggest city in the early medieval period and was Spain's capital during the days of the Roman Empire and this vast historical importance means there are dozens of sights and museums dotted around town. Many of these focus on archaeology although there are other culture-based ones such as the Casa de Sefarad in the Jewish Quarter portraying the life of the Jewish community in the city throughout history.

Spend your last evening in Seville

At the end of your day out, hop back into the car and return to Seville for the last night of your road trip - Spain has been well and truly conquered. If you feel like treating yourself, Seville has plenty of outstanding restaurants. If you fancy some traditional local cuisine, look no further than the Eslava in San Lorenzo with the town's best choice of tapas. For something a little bit more exotic, try the Az-Zait - the food here is fantastic, but it is also one of the more pricey options around.

Day 14

The end of your Spain road trip

The last day of your stay is likely to be cut short by the need to get to the airport or get started on your drive back home. If you've hired your car in Barcelona, all major car hire firms have depots right by the airport, so make your way straight there. If you have a bit of time to kill before leaving, make sure you go and wander through Calle San Pablo and the surrounding streets for a bit of shopping and some great cafes. If you head to the Puente de Isabel II, you'll get some good views of the river and the Isla Magica Theme Park to the north. Cross the bridge and check out the large market on the right for a great choice of cured meats and other traditional produce to bring home with you to remind you of your lazy trip along Spain's Mediterranean coast!

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