Spain in winter: a chance to explore the south’s historic cities

Spain in winter: a chance to explore the south’s historic cities

If a Spanish summer is all about sun, sea and sand (in other words, the beaches), winter in Spain offers the opportunity to explore the country’s many fascinating cities, especially those in Andalucia that become semi-unbearable ovens in the summer months.

Temperatures in Cordoba and Seville regularly top 40℃ in July and August, but sunny winter days with temperatures around 15-18℃ make exploring the cities’ many treasures a lot more palatable. We’ve listed some of our favourite things to see in the storied towns of the South to give you some ideas for a winter trip to Spain.

We’ve focused on the history here, but of course the clement weather of southern Spain in winter also makes it a great place to slow down and unwind, enjoying a cold beer and a selection of tapas in the just-right midday sun while those at home freeze under a Beast from the East.

Spain in winter: where to go

Cordoba

Home base for the Moorish kings that ruled Spain for 300 years, and the biggest Roman city in Spain, Cordoba might no longer command attention on the world stage, but it was once a major political and financial powerhouse. This is seen most clearly at the stunning Mezquita (mosque), a landmark building in world architecture.

Standing proud in the city center, with the Jewish and Moorish quarters built around it, the Mezquita is that rare phenomenon – a building that truly takes your breath away. The striped interior arches seemed to come straight from an MC Escher drawing, while the intricately detailed tiered ceiling domes (intended to represent the vault of heaven) can hold your attention for hours.

Aside from the mosque, Cordoba is a town of winding streets and charming shaded patios, often filled with flowers. The locals are very proud of their patios – there’s even an annual competition that has been going to 100 years, held in May.

Seville

Spain’s only river port – and once the landing point for all the riches that the Spanish carried back from South America – Seville is a small city with a very grand personality. It holds a special place in Spanish cultural identity as the home of flamenco – and this reputation for fiery passion has inspired many artists over the years. Bizet’s Carmen, Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, and Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro were all set here, and fictional lothario Don Juan also hailed from Seville.

The city has embraced its place in the artistic canon with self-guided opera walks that take in  Carmen’s cigar factory (now part of the University of Seville) and there are several “Barber of Seville” barber shops around town.

What really makes the town special is the incredibly well preserved centre, where the grand Alcázar palace, hulking huge gothic cathedral (the third largest church in the world) and impressive Archive of the Indies are just a few of the historic buildings that connect over 1,000 years of history to the present day.

The walls of the cathedral incorporate blocks of Roman stone as well as a Moorish minaret-cum-belltower (whose twin can be found in Marrakesh), while the opulent tomb of Christopher Columbus inside the church reminds visitors of Spain’s Golden Age, when it seemed that the wealth pouring in from the New World would never end.