Southern Spanish cities are some of the country's most famous. This is because of the rich history of Andalucia - stretching from Roman to Moorish to Christian rule - and the cities depict theses influences beautifully. Touring around the cities of Andalucia is not only a cultural treat, it can be a gastronomic one, too. If you decide to travel in July and August perhaps try to get city hotel with pools as the heat, especially in the inland cities, can be overwhelming.
1. The best cities of Andalucia - Malaga
Residing on the Costa del Sol, Malaga is a main port and therefore quite an open, cosmopolitan city. Largely 19th-century buildings make up the historic centre but it is built on Roman foundations. Traces of this can be seen under the Picasso Museum and the Roman Amphitheatre. Also, on the Plaza de la Aduana (just across the road from the Roman amphitheatre) there is the Museum of Malaga where all archaeological finds from the area are displayed. From here you can make your way up to the Alcazaba and the Gibralfaro Castle. The 11th-century Alcazaba sits above the Roman amphitheatre and is one of the best preserved fortresses in Spain. The Gibralfaro Castle dates from 929AD and commands incredible views out to sea and over the city. If art's your thing, then the Picasso Museum and the Thyssen Museum (Museo Carmen Thyssen) will be right up your street. Picasso was born in Malaga so the museum holds a unique selection of his work.
2. The best cities of Andalucia - Granada
If Malaga is the outward-looking, thrusting city of the coast then Granada is the whimsical, poetic city of the mountains. Granada is a romantic city where the past still somehow seems present. It's a village within a city, as the area of the Albayzin sits opposite the Alhambra Palace (one of the most important Moorish structures in Spain) looking longingly to its fortified protector. The streets are narrow in the Albayzin, the houses are whitewashed and the squares often open up to spectacular views of the Alhambra. Down in the 'new town' the cathedral is impressive and there are wonderful squares such the Plaza Bib-Rambla and Paseo de los Tristes which are ideal for having a drink and a free tapas (tapas is free with every drink in Granada).
3. The best cities of Andalucia - Seville
The capital of Andalucia and Southern Spain is Seville - and it doesn't disappoint. It truly is beautiful: the Santa Cruz area is captivating, La Macarena has a real Spanish hustle and bustle to it and La Triana (on the other side of the river) is great for tapas and getting a neighbourhood feel. Plaza Alfalfa is lovely to have a cake and a cup of coffee, and leading from here there are lots of boutique shops and eateries. As for sights... well, Seville is jam-packed. The Cathedral (Catedral de Santa Maria de la Sede) is the largest gothic construction and third largest church in the world. The church is capped by the Giralda, a Moorish prayer tower built to mimic the minaret of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh in 1184. After the Christians conquered Seville in 1248 the mosque was converted into a church. Another incredible attraction in Seville is the Alcazar, the entrance of which is next to the Cathedral. The Alcazar was built as a Moorish fortress, but now is a Royal Palace and is still in use today. Exquisitely beautiful and ornate with Moorish design flourishes like heavily carved gold domes and lush gardens, it's truly a treat to visit.
4. The best cities of Andalucia - Cordoba
In 766 Cordoba was made the capital of Al Andaluz. It was the intellectual centre, was said to be the most populated city in the world and was an incredibly important city right the way through to 1031 with many educational buildings, advances and wealth in the city. In the 10th century, the Mezquita was constructed to be the Grand Mosque of the city. This is still standing today and certainly worth a visit, as when Cordoba was re-conquered a Renaissance cathedral was built inside the Mosque. It's incredible to see the fusion of two very different architectural styles under one roof, and it depicts the history of the time perfectly. The oldest quarter of the city is called the Juderia and is one of the prettiest areas (although can be very touristy, too). The Alcazar in Cordoba was heavily restored in a Baroque style, has extensive gardens and a bathhouse as part of its appeal.
The list above is far from the only cities in Andalucia - others of note are Jaen, Cadiz and Almeria - but these four offer the visitor the most cultural, historic and beautiful sites to explore.
Like our pick of where to go in the south of Spain? If you want to get more inspiration for your road trip of Andalucia, see our selection of the best white villages.