Andalusia Love: Amazing Virtual Tours of Southern Spain
Here's my armchair travel guide to sun-kissed Andalusia Spain. In this wanderlusty guide, you'll find the best virtual tours of Andalusia's must see landmarks and museums. Through the magic of vicarious travel you can now be instantly transported to sunny southern Spain without leaving your home. Or even your bed (no judgment).
Andalusia is a visual feast -- a seductive mix of Mudéjar palaces, ornate Baroque churches, magnificent architecture, and natural wonders. There's a romance to it. And, besides, in Andalusia, tapas is life. I can subscribe to that lifestyle.
If you can't travel to Andalusia for whatever reason, virtual travel is a splendid option. You just need to access the right resources. In this virtual travel guide to Andalusia, I'll point you to curated tours and exhibits, 360 degree panoramic tours, and videos to allow you to explore Andalusia's must see cultural landmarks online from home.
The Best Virtual Tours of Andalusia Spain: How To Travel To Southern Spain From Home
Let's scratch that itch for Spain and tour Spain's finest cultural treasures. For an overview of the history of Andalusia, read this.
1. The Alhambra, Granada
The Alhambra is the world's last and greatest Moorish fortress. The Alhambra sits on a stunning piece of real estate – a high, mountainous location on Sabika Hill with sweeping views over the city of Granada and the surrounding countryside.
The Alhambra became a UNESCO site in 1984. There are four must see sites: the Nasrid Palace, Charle's V Palace, the Alcazaba, and the Generalife Gardens. The Nasrid Palace is the over the top ornate highlight, with its incredibly beautiful Moorish ceilings and ornate plasterwork.
You can take a virtual tour of the Alhambra on Google Arts & Culture. The official Alhambra website offers an impressive 3D virtual tour of the entire site. You can take another virtual tour here and listen to a YouTube documentary video here. Here's my complete guide to discovering the Alhambra.
2. Granada Cathedral, Granada
Granada Cathedral is a massive Renaissance-Baroque affair. It’s the second largest cathedral in Spain after Seville Cathedral and the fourth largest cathedral in the world. It was built by Queen Isabella after the conquest of Granada. Construction began in 1518, but it took over 180 years to complete.
Like Antoni Gaudí’s Sagrada Familia in northern Spain, the cathedral isn’t yet finished. It’s a bit lopsided. Only one of the planned two 80 meter towers were ever completed. Even that tower had to be lowered, when the Gothic foundations couldn’t sustain its heavy weight.
You can take a virtual tour of Granada Cathedral on YouTube here.
3. The Royal Alcazar, Seville
The Royal Alcazar is the best site in Seville and my favorite spot in southern Spain. It's a breathtaking 10th century palace that King Pedro the Cruel gave a 14th century Mudéjar facelift. Inside, the highlights are the Hall of the Ambassadors, the Courtyard of the Maidens, the Courtyard of the Dolls, and the Hall of Tapestries in the Gothic Palace.
The crown jewel of the Alcazar is the sumptuous Mudéjar Palace of King Pedro, built around the iconic Maiden's Courtyard with a long reflecting pool. The Ambassador’s Hall, or Throne Room, is the big showstopper. It’s nicknamed the "Half Orange" Room, in honor of its gilded cedar domed ceiling.
Outside, there's a series of verdant lush gardens. The Baths of Maria De Padilla were built for King Pedro's mistress. The baths are a Game of Thrones filming location, a place where the Sand Snakes plot.
You can take a virtual tour of the Royal Alcazar on Google Arts & Culture. Or take a YouTube tour of the site. Here's my complete guide to visiting the Royal
4. Plaza de Espana, Seville
The Plaza de Espana is one of the famous architectural landmarks in Seville. It stands out in a city already overflowing with beautiful architecture.
The plaza was built for the Ibero-American World Fair of 1929, where Spanish speaking countries enjoyed a year long mutual admiration festival. The park's highlight is the Spanish Pavilion, the sweeping half circle structure with rose gold brick buildings.
Designed in an Art Deco style with some Moorish touches, the Plaza has the expected Spanish flair -- lots of color and lavish embellishment. The tiles show historical scenes and maps from the 49 provinces of Spain arranged in alphabetical order.
5. Mosque-Cathedral of Córdoba, Cordoba
Dating from the 10th century, Cordoba's Mosque-Cathedral, locally called the Mezquita, is a magnificent UNESCO site and one of the world's most well- preserved Islamic buildings.
In the 16th century, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella converted the Mezquita into a cathedral. It's a a snapshot of the sophisticated dual culture that once existed in southern Spain. Inside, the Mezquita is an eye catching forest of candy cane horseshoe arches.
Highlights of the Mezquita are the Mihrab (or high altar in a mosque), the Visigoth mosaics and ruins, the Royal Chapel, and the central golden altar. Newly restored, the Christian altar makes it easy to forget you're in a former mosque.
You can take a virtual 360 tour of the Mezquita here. You can read in detail about the building on the official website, which also has beautiful photos. Or take this virtual tour via YouTube.
6. Roman Bridge, Cordoba
The first thing you will see when approaching historic Cordoba is its handsome Roman Bridge with 16 undulating arches. The sandstone bridge, now traffic free, is part of Cordoba's UNESCO classification. It spans the mud-brown Guadalquivir River.
The Roman Bridge was built in the 1st century B.C., and so is of Augustian vintage. It formed part of the ancient Via Augusta, which ran from Girona to Cadiz. Most of the current structures date from an 8th century Moorish reconstruction. It has 16 arches supported by irregular semi-cylindrical buttresses.
You can take a virtual tour of the elegant bridge here and see super-sized photos of the bridge here.
7. Seville Cathedral, Seville
Seville Cathedral is a massive Gothic affair. It's the largest cathedral in the world.
In 1402, after vanquishing the Moors in the Reconquista, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella began buiding a Gothic style cathedral. They wanted a showy display of Seville’s wealth, power, and influence.
The sheer scale of the building is intimidating. There are 15 doors on the cathedral’s four facades and each one features a unique relief or carving. The nave is the longest in the world.
The Cathedral houses the tomb of Christopher Columbus. It's also home to La Giralda, or the bell tower, which dates from 1184. It's the symbol of Seville and the oldest part of the cathedral complex. It was originally constructed as the minaret of the Almohad Mosque that previously stood here.
You can take an interactive 3D virtual tour of Seville cathedral here. Or check out the online information on Google Arts & Culture here.
8. Dolmens of Antequera, Antequera
Antequera is known as the "Florence of Andalusia." The white pueblo town has a stunning medieval and Baroque historical core. But its main claim to fame is its UNESCO-listed megaliths, one of the oldest things on the planet.
The UNESCO site comprises three monuments: the Menga dolmen, the Viera dolmen, and the Tholos of El Romeral dolmen. They were built during the Neolithic, Bronze, and Copper Ages out of large stone blocks. The rocks form chambers with linteled roofs or false cupolas. They resemble caves and almost blend into the landscape.
The dolmens' purpose is mysterious and is still unclear to archaeologists. They're commonly associated with prehistoric communities of farmers and ranchers. They were probably used as burial chambers, temples, and places for ceremonies.
You can take a 3D virtual tour of the dolmens on Google Arts & Culture. And you can take virtual tours of the dolmens of Menga, El Romeral, and Viera. Here's my complete guide to the dolmens of Antequera. And my guide to the town of Antequera itself, which I just loved.
9. New Bridge, Ronda | Puente Nuevo
Ronda is a pretty Andalusian town perched on a mountainous gash carved by the Río Guadalevín. Ronda is synonymous with its dramatic 18th century bridge, the Puente Nuevo. The bridge connects the two parts of the town over the 328 feet El Tajo gorge.
The Punta Nuevo was built from 1751 to 1793, when the old bridge collapsed after just 6 years. You can even enter the structure of the bridge itself via the New Bridge Interpretive Center. But the views of the bridge are better from the outside than the inside.
You can take a virtual YouTube tour of the famed bridge here.
10. Nerja Caves, Nerja
Nerja is a lovely town on the Costa del Sol. Just north of the town lie the Nerja Caves. Discovered by accident in 1959 when someone fell through a hole, the caves are a major attraction in southern Spain. The two acre cave complex is home to many natural wonders.
The caves' most striking feature is the world's tallest stalactite in the Cataclysm Hall. It's 33 meters high. Paintings from the Stone Age were also discovered in the caves, making the caves a Spanish Heritage site in 1985.
There's a video about the Nerja Caves on the Nerja Tourism site. And Nerja Caves has just launched a Google Street View virtual tour where you can see 360 degree high definition images of the caves.
11. Almeria Alcazaba | Alcazaba of Almería
The Alcazaba of Almeria was built in the 10th century by Caliph And-al-Rhaman III. It's a formidable military fortification with fantastic crenelated battlements.
The Alcazaba is the largest Moorish fortress in Spain and parts were modeled after the Alhambra. Almeria was once an enormously important trading city in Andalusia. The saying went: "When Almeria was Almeria, Granada was but its farm."
You can take a virtual tour of the mighty fortress here.
12. Ruins of Italica | Conjunto Arqueológico de Itálica
The Romans founded Italica in 206 B.C. It's reputedly the birthplace of three Roman Emperors -- Hadrian, Trajan, and Theodosius. Now, Italica is a large Roman archaeological site outside Seville.
The amphitheater once held 25,000 people, and was the third largest in the Roman Empire. Italica is now in modern day Santiponce. To safeguard the ruins, Santiponce has applied for UNESCO World Heritage status.
You can take a virtual tour of the ruins on Google Arts & Culture. Via Google Street View, you can explore Italica up close.