Who better for us to explore Southern Spain with than Jess Rule from Escape Button, a visually stunning travel and fashion blog that focuses on the ways in which travel influences personal style? Stylist and photographer Jess, documents the moments in life where architecture and culture inspire her wardrobe choices and we were delighted to have our Medina | Architectural Inspiration scarf feature in her gorgeous photographic travel diary. This beautifully curated blog offers a practical guide to planning stylish escapes – read on to plan your trip to the culturally rich Andalusian region of Spain.
“Southern Spain feels like it’s a world away from the bustling capital that is Barcelona. Known for its sandy beaches and undulating hills the region of Andalusia carves out the perfect road trip route. On a recent trip to Spain, my husband and I picked up a hire car in Granada and endeavored to explore the Pueblos Blancos (white villages) that are dotted along Spain’s rugged coastline. What we found was a mix of quaint dwellings tucked into the mountainside and dominant palaces showcasing the best of Moorish architecture. Here’s what you can expect from a trip throughout Southern Spain.” Jess Rule – Escape Button
Granada is easily accessible by plane from Barcelona and Madrid, making it a great place to start your trip from. Its cobblestone streets and towering monuments strike the perfect balance between old world charm and big-city attractions. At sunset, every balcony and rooftop becomes the best place in town to enjoy an afternoon vino.
Most bars in Granada serve complimentary tapas with your drinks, making it easy to sample a lot of new dishes. For lunch and dinner Plaza de la Romanilla is a great place to start. Its smaller size compared to nearby plazas makes it a favourite amongst locals. Try El Deseo for their courtyard setting and mix of Italian and Spanish cuisine.
Things to do
Spend a day amongst beautiful architecture, interiors, flowers and sweeping views at Alhambra Palace. Despite its popularity the crowds do not detract from the beauty of these grounds.
Take an olive oil and wine tasting tour with Olive Oil Tours. You will spend a few hours in a sundrenched town outside of Granada, exploring the local olive groves.
Walk through the narrow alleyways near Plaza de la Romanilla to reveal the grand façade of Granada’s Cathedral in front of you. The structure towers over most of the neighbouring buildings so there’s a good chance you’ll be able to see it from your accommodation too.
“Southern Spain feels like it’s a world away from the bustling capital that is Barcelona. Known for its sandy beaches and undulating hills the region of Andalusia carves out the perfect road trip route.
Frigiliana is one of those hidden gems you kind of want to keep to yourself! It’s only 15 minutes away from the beach in Nerja where most tourists flock to for an extended summer. You’ll be greatly rewarded for heading off the coastal route though, greeted with a whitewashed town perched along the mountainside.
El Lagar, the first stop on your way up the hill, is a cute little deli serving cheese, charcuterie, Muscat wine and cold beer. It can be enjoyed on the wine barrels outside in your own time.
Restaurante El Jardin is a more formal dining option with a beautifully romantic terrace setting. The menu infuses Middle Eastern flavours with fresh local produce. Think prawns crusted in za’atar and chorizo served with olive humus.
For the highest view in town head to Restaurante El Mirador where tapas is served under sun umbrellas and the mosaic bar occupies the highest street.
Things to do
Frigiliana is a sleepy little town so there’s plenty of time to live like a local and wander through the narrow streets. Aside from admiring the decorated houses, days are best spent going from point to point, sampling food and sipping sangria along the way.
If you’re keen to get some salt-water therapy make the short drive to Nerja beach where you will find thatched cabanas on the sand.
For a unique experience head the opposite way, further into the hills to the old town of El Acebuchal. The food at El Acebuchal Bar and Restaurant is hearty and packed full of local produce. Every dish is cooked by a local family who rebuilt the village after its destruction during the Spanish Civil War.
The drive from Frigiliana to Ronda is worth the trip in itself. The road winds spectacularly through mountain ranges with a whole host of tiny white villages along the way. Once you’re in Ronda it’s all about taking in the breathtaking views from bars, restaurants and gardens on either side of the central bridge.
In Ronda, desserts are the order of the day with patisseries and nougat shops wafting a sugary smell through the streets. In the savoury department, there’s no shortage of specialty delis with a huge selection of meats and cheeses. Most things aren’t labeled but tasting and asking questions are all part of the buying experience.
My favourite lunch in Ronda was at Restaurant Goyesca, sitting outside in the courtyard. Here we tried their baked goat’s cheese salad with balsamic and walnuts which started my goat’s cheese obsession throughout Spain.
In the center of town you will find more modern dining options with sleek wine bars attracting young locals. Two spots that I had my eye on were Drinks & Co and El Almacén, which are conveniently located next to each other.
Once you’re in Ronda it’s all about taking in the breathtaking views from bars, restaurants and gardens on either side of the central bridge.
Things to do
Walk towards Puente Viejo for a view over the historic quarter, old church and Arab baths. On the way you’ll find the gardens of La Casa Del Rey Moro, a layered oasis with mosaic tiles and a tunnel through to the river.
Watch the sun set behind the mountains with a view of Puente Nuevo (New Bridge). The grand structure extends 120 meters deep into the river chasm below. You can access a great vantage point from Plaza de María Auxiliadora which will take you most of the way down the valley.
Seville is the capital of the Andalusia region and home to a long list of historic monuments and architectural feats. It provides a taste of everything that Spain has to offer, from quaint tapas bars and produce markets to gothic cathedrals and grand palaces.
You can’t go far in Seville without walking past a gelato shop. It’s the perfect treat during a hot walk and a great excuse to indulge. On weekends a food market sets up along Avenue Paseo de Cristina, providing a range of indulgent Spanish dishes and beverages. My pick was the patatas bravas plate, washed down with a mojito.
For an atmospheric dining experience head to Baratillo where the walls tell stories of Seville’s bullfighting history and décor is salvaged from old city buildings.
If you’re not ready to head home the perfect spot for post-dinner drinks lies around the corner at Bar Postiguillo. This 18th century fish market with Roman columns throughout has been transformed into an eclectic and inviting bar.
Things to do
Seville Cathedral and Alcazar Palace are two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in central Seville. The former is the largest gothic cathedral in the world and a must-see for door lovers, with fifteen opulent doors lining its façade. Alcazar Palace is a fantastic example of Moorish architecture with intricate archways framing its courtyards. If you missed out on tickets to the Alhambra in Granada this would be the best alternative palace to explore.
Head to one of Seville’s vantage points like Metropol Parasol or Torre del Oro for a view over the tree lined streets and canal. The colourful left bank of the canal can also be enjoyed from an ornate bridge called Puente de Isabel II.
Hire a bike or jump on a horse and carriage to explore the huge gardens and fountains of Plaza de España. If you work up a thirst along the way there’s a bar on site to cool you down.
You can’t go far in Seville without walking past a gelato shop. It’s the perfect treat during a hot walk and a great excuse to indulge.
During our trip we stayed in various Airbnb apartments. Unlike a hotel these private listings generally allow you to stay in the historic quarter of town and away from major tourist traps. We also made sure to choose a room with a balcony or rooftop terrace which meant we were never short of a good view. I would absolutely recommend turning to Airbnb for accommodation in the smaller towns where hotel choices are very limited.
Throughout the region you’ll find plenty of beautiful handicrafts that make great mementos and gifts. My favourites to look out for are straw baskets, leather satchels, espadrilles and ceramic tapas bowls. After seeing the prices (I’m talking straw baskets for 4 euro) you’ll want to leave a bit of room in your suitcase.
What to pack
Sturdy (but stylish) sandals are a must for navigating the cobblestone streets in Spain. Off the shoulder pieces are made for the coast and of course ruffles are right at home in the land of the Flamenco Dancer. In the cooler months, tops with bell or flared sleeves will be enough coverage during the day and of course don’t forget a scarf for those cooler evenings and church visits.