Ah, who would ever want to leave sunny Sevilla? I know you're thinking that. It's hard to tear oneself away from such a sultry city filled to the brim with stunning UNESCO sites, museums, and adorable cobbled neighborhoods. If you're visiting Seville, here's my guide to spending a perfect 3 days there.
But Seville's location makes it a perfect base for day trips. And Andalucia's idyllic white pueblos beckon, rather insistently. So eventually, I ventured forth to explore what Andalucia had to offer. And it was amazing, one of my favorite geographical cures to date.
Here are my recommendations for the best day and weekend trips from Seville. The farthest afield you'll go is 2 hours. But consider staying overnight. Many of these places are achingly romantic and best experienced as a long weekend.
I haven't included Granada on my list. I loved Granada dearly. But it's just too far afield for a productive day trip and deserves several days in its own right.
If you must day trip to Granda, just to see the mighty Alhambra, be sure to book tickets months in advance and consider a private tour and transfer. Many of the towns listed below would be the perfect place to stop if you're driving from Seville to Granada.
Less than a half hour from Seville lie the Roman ruins of Italica. The Romans founded Italica in 206 B.C. It's reputedly the birthplace of three Roman Emperors -- Hadrian, Trajan, and Theodosius.
The amphitheater once held 25,000 people, and was the third largest in the Roman Empire. Italica is now the modern day Santiponce. To safeguard the ruins, Santipoce has applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.
In the hit HBO show Game of Thrones, Italica serves as the dragon pit of Kings Landing, which was basically a stable for the Targaryen dragons. You can book a Game of Thrones tour from Seville.
It's the site of a famous scene from the Season 7 finale. There, the heads of the major Westerosi houses meet to negotiate how to combat the Army of the Dead, the approaching White Walkers. In season 8, the ruling lords once again gather at Italica to decide the fate of Jon and Tyrion, as well as elect Bran the Broken as the next king of Westeros.
But Osuna itself was beyond adorable, a charming white pueblo village with a rich architectural and cultural heritage. There's row upon row of white stucco homes and streets dotted with orange trees. Osuna's a vertitable art gallery, with all its Renaissance and Baroque churches.
UNESCO lists Osuna's main drag, the Calle San Pedro, as the second most beautiful street in Europe. Osuna was declared a Historic-Artistic site in 1967.
the main drag in Osuna Spain, deserted on a February day
interior arcaded Renaissance patio of the University of Osuna
me enjoying the views over Osuna on a quiet Sunday in February
Ronda is the third most visited town in Andalucia. And there's a a reason -- it's beyond dramatic. Ronda is perched on a mountainous gash carved by the Río Guadalevín. Ronda is synonymous with its dramatic 18th century bridge, the Puente Nuevo.
The famed bridge connects the old and newish parts of the town over the 328 feet El Tajo gorge. There's a staircase leading to the floor of the gorge, for a different viewing perspective.
Ronda is also famed as the birthplace of bullfighting. The city’s Plaza de Toros is one of Ronda’s most popular attractions, thanks to its beautiful architecture. It's different than Osuna's bullring. It's ringed with double rows of columns, lending it a Neo-Classical look.
If you want to delve more deeply into Spain's bullfighting culture, head to the Museum of Bullfighting. You'll even find some sketches depicting the "art" (not sport) of bullfighting by Francisco Goya, the renowned Spanish artist.
Aside from the bridge, Ronda itself is beautiful -- plenty of cozy town squares, cobblestone alleys, balconies everywhere, and lovely architecture. You can visit the Mondragón Palace and the Arabic Baths, if you're feeling ambitious.
Ronda is best experienced as more than a day trip. By day, it's crowded with day trippers. But by night, the crowds subside and you can reclaim the pretty village. Check into the Hotel San Gabriel for a weekend and nibble some nouveau tapas at Traga Tapas.
Getting there: Ronda is a fairly long day trip. It's a 1:45 drive from Seville and really warrants a more dedicated stay. Ronda is not well connected via train or bus. The 2.5 hour bus ride leaves from Prado de San Sebastian Bus Station.
the pretty mountain village of Grazalema
4. Grazalema & Zahara de la Sierra
Grazalema is a pretty mountain village of Roma origin, located at the foot of the Penon Grande in the valley of Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park. It's completely different than Osuna or Ronda, more wild. It's known as the wettest part of Spain.
The beautifully situated village is splashed with whitewashed homes and surrounded by olive trees. I was there in February, so there was even a sprinkling of snow. I paused in the main square, the Plaza de España, which is lined with bars and restaurants, for a late lunch.
pretty white pueblos in Zahara de la Sierra
Depending on time, you can also visit Zahara de la Sierra, right next door to Grazalema. Like Grazalema, it's streets are white, immaculate, and fairly deserted. You can climb up to the Arabic Tower of Tribute, though the pathway isn't for the timid. The tower itself is nothing special, but the views are epic.
Getting there: You really need a car for this trip. It's approximately 1:45-2:00 hours each way from Seville.
Calle Don Infante in Antequera, leading down to the Plaza San Sebastián and its central fountain
5. Antequera, the "Florence of Andalucia"
Like Osuna, Antequera surprised me. I came to inspect the UNESCO dolmens, a fairly new site just listed in 2016. But I absolutely fell in love with the Spanish-Baroque town, fittingly dubbed the "Florence of Andalusia." And, unlike Ronda, I had the place mostly to myself, which was a singular joy.
If you're day tripping, there's a lot to do. Park your car on the outskirts of town and walk up Calle Don Infante. Antequera boasts an impressive Moorish fortress-alcazaba, a lovely Renaissance church, and a stunning medieval and baroque historical core. You'll have an eyeful of swoonful scenery.
Antequera's Renaissance Church, the Real Colegiata de Santa Maria
Antequera's ancient megaliths/dolmens are outside the old town. You'll see signs. The dolmens date from the Bronze Age and are among the oldest things on the planet. They are essentially Spain's Stonehenge.
The dolmens are ancient burial grounds that were declared a UNESCO site in 2016. They're one of the most remarkable engineering and architectural works of European prehistory and an important example of European Megalthism.
I took the train to Cordoba for the day and just loved the exotic stone paved city. It's a natural film set, just so beautiful. Cordoba has an authentic Spanish vibe with fewer tourists than Seville. The town definitely deserves more than one day and I wish I could've lingered longer. Still, I saw quite a bit in the 9+ hours I was there.
Most people come just for Cordoba's #1 site: the Mezquita, the Mosque-Cathedral of Cordoba. Dating from the 10th century, it's a UNESCO site and one of the world's most well-preserved Islamic buildings.
the Mezquita, Cordoba's stunning mosque-cathedral
In the 16th century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella converted the mosque into a cathedral, calling it the Cathedral of Our Lady of Assumption. I expected the combination to be discordant and perplexing. But I found it a fascinating place, a snapshot of the sophisticated dual culture that once existed in Spain.
You walk in from a courtyard of orange trees through the Porta de las Palmas. You're immediately in a forest of candy cane horseshoe arches. A highlight is the Mihrab, or high altar, in a mosque.
The Renaissance cathedral is built right in the center, sharing marble and space with the Islamic arches. The vaulted ceilings are stunning. Be sure to go up the bell tower for spectacular views of the city. You buy tickets for the tower for €2 at a separate ticket booth below the bell tower.
forest of red and white arches inside the Mezquita
But there's much more to Cordoba than the Mezquita. Just downhill from the Mezquita is the Guadalquivir River. Stroll across the stunning Roman Bridge, both a UNESCO site and a Game of Thrones filming location.
Amble around the narrow streets of the charming old Jewish Quarter. Skip the Instagram popular Calleja de las Flores, or just stroll by. It's overrated and crammed with tourists. There are beautiful flowers and patios everywhere in Cordoba.
Go into the Jewish synagogue. Say hello to the nearby statue of Maimonides, an influential medieval Jewish philosopher. Visit the beautiful Alcazar de los Reyes Cristianos. This Alcazar can't hold a candle to Seville's UNESCO-listed Royal Alcazar, but I thought it was still worth a visit.
Getting there: Cordoba is only 45 minutes by high-speed AVE train from Seville. The old town is a short 15-20 minute walk form the train station. Or, it's a 1:40 drive.
Romantic Carmona is a gem of an Andalusian town. It's an ancient Roman fortified city loaded with ancient Roman ruins and three Moorish fortresses. You enter via the 9th century splendid Puerta de Sevilla, or Seville Gate, and are surrounded by noble palaces and majestic churches.
Carmona's must see sites are the 15th century Church of Santa María la Mayor, the Alcázar de la Puerta de Sevilla, the Church of San Pedro, and the Plaza San Fernando in Carmona's historic center. Climb the Torre del Oro at the Alcazar for stunning views.
reflecting pool in the alcazar of Carmona Spain
Roman Necropolis in Carmona
When you're done wandering through the incredibly picturesque old town, head to
the Roman burial ground, Necrópolis Romana, which is a must see site in Carmona. Many of the tombs were built right into the rock and you can even enter some. It's only open until 3:00 pm, so keep that in mind on your day trip explorations.
Getting there: 30 minute drive. Or take a local bus from the Prado de San Sebastian bus station in Seville, which is a 40 minute ride. You could technically combine Carmona with Cordoba (some tours do), but it would be a very long and rushed day.
8. Arcos de la Frontera: Queen of Andalucia's White Pueblo
While there are dozens of gorgeous white pueblos in Andalucia, Arcos de la Frontera is considered the gateway to the "Pueblos Blancos." It's also one of the most beautiful, like a white ship on a verdant sea.
Don't drive into the city if you're visiting by car. The old town streets are impossibly narrow, one way, and may morph into stairways. The houses are scrupulously blanched perfection, devoid of decoration.
As you can tell from its high perch, Arcos was a key defensive spot in the time of the Moorish-Christian conflict. The ''de la Frontera'' nomenclature indicates that Arcos (and other white pueblos) once marked the frontiers of Christian territory.
the bell tower of San Pedro Church in Arcos de la Frontera
Arcos' main square, the the Plaza de Cabildo, used to double as a bullring. Take a look at the 15th century magic circle with constellations embedded in the stone pavement. This was the spot where priest-exorcists would cleanse babies of evil spirits before their baptisms.
Be sure to visit the 15th century Church of Santa Maria and the towering Church of San Pedro, a fixture on the town’s landscape. If you're feeling dauntless, you can ask permission to climb the ladder to the rooftop of San Pedro. I also had a lovely lunch at La Carcel.
Getting there: 1:20 drive from Seville or 1:45 via bus or train each way. Arcos is a good stop on the way to Ronda, if you're not just day tripping.
If you're craving a restorative view of the sea, sparkling Cadiz fits the bill beautifully. It's an underrated Andalusian town, located on a thin peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Cadiz is an old port city, one of the oldest in Europe. With its rich history and beautiful coastal vibe, Cadiz makes a unique and lovely day excursion from Seville. And, with so much to see and do, it's an ideal place for a leisurely weekend break.
Stop in first at the tourist office and collect a map for the free walking routes through Cadiz. There are 4 thematic routes taking approximately an hour each. Each route is replicated on the sidewalk and color coded.
Cadiz was home to legendary civilizations, including the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, and Moors. You'll see evidence of each society as you take the walking tours.
Visit Cadiz Cathedral, where you can climb to the top of the tower for panoramic views of the city. Walk to the Plaza San Antonio to view the lovely architecture flanking the square and inspect the Church of San Antonio with its twin towers. In the Plaza de San Juan de Dios, you'll see the majestic Town Hall.
Getting there: Cadiz is a 1:25 drive from Seville or 1:30 by train. If driving, park at the underground parking garage near Cadiz port or at a metered parking spot on the ring road outside the old town.
10. Jerez de la Frontera, Sherry Capital of Andalucia
Just a few miles from the Atlantic, Jerez de la Frontera isn't as gorgeous as its cohort Arcos de la Frontera. But nonetheless the gracious Jerez de la Frontera is worth visiting. Jerez is known as the capital of vino (for its sherry wine) and for its dancing horses.
While strolling the old Moorish quarter, be sure to tour the beautiful Cathedral of San Salvador, the Alcazar, and the Santa Dominga Convent. If you want to sample the sherry wines (too sweet for me), try Bodega Luis Perez or Bodega Lustau. If you don't like sherry, you can explore the Archaeological Museum.
the Gothic Charterhouse of Jerez de la Frontera
the Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera
Jerez also boasts the Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art. Several times a week you can take in a the famous Jerez horse show, also aptly referred to as a "ballet." It's best to book tickets online in advance. If you start early, it's possible (though not advisable) to see both Arcos and Jerez in one day.
Getting there: If you have a car, you can drive from Seville to Jerez in 1 hour+ via the AP-4. Parking is available at the Plaza del Arenal. By train, Jerez is 1 hour+ trip from the Santa Justa Station.
If you'd liked to day trip from Seville, pin it for later.