Sick of the Costa del Sol? Get drunk on culture in Seville and Cordoba instead
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If you want a real Spanish adventure, swap playgrounds like Marbella and Malaga for the real Andalusia one summer and enjoy a holiday you might actually remember. The perks of Spanish beach resorts (pick some three-letter words starting with ‘s’) hardly need description. After spending four-days visiting Seville and Cordoba, I’m afraid it’s almost an insult – to Spain, to Andalusia, to BBC Three documentaries – that the Costa del Sol remains one of Spain’s hottest student travel destinations. Why not take a year out – or even just a few days – from what is basically a warmer Blackpool and travel two hours north to Seville? There party strips fade into medieval streets, pub crawls become cathedral crawls and ‘the religion’ is genuinely 'religion'. Ambling about Spain’s fourth city, high on history, I felt immersed in its imperial culture. You could have sworn that the age of bullfighting and flamenco, flourishing architecture and agriculture (stone mixes with shrubbery in the myriad plazas) was still alive. Seville, after all, is the Andalusian capital; the centre of the soul of Spain. Passion is the operative word in a region with more churches than clubs – although, boasting the hottest summers in Europe, it offers plenty for worshippers of the sun and the Son. The city is sprawled around La Catedral de Santa María de la Sede, the largest cathedral in the world and a serious must-see. It isn’t just the size, but what they have done with it; 80 chapels each practically glowing with exquisite quirks in a testament to the wealth of fifteenth-century Spain (super-coloniser Christopher Columbus is buried there). Conquer the 33 storeys of Seville Cathedral’s Giralda bell tower for a panorama of the city’s baroque buildings, adorned with roof gardens, and the intricate alleys making up the old town. Alternatively, I preferred the view at the modern, mushroom-shaped Metropol Parasol platform: go there at night to see the cathedral lit up from a distance, plus there’s a lift. The rest is less compulsory, but leave enough time to explore Barrio Santa Cruz and see the rich detail of red, yellow and cappuccino-coloured houses. Whilst there’s a fine line between shabby chic and plain shabby, Seville’s old Jewish quarter is pristine. I was equally impressed by the Alcázar palace, home of the alarmingly-named King Pedro the Cruel in the 1360s – perfect for fans of gold ceilings and Game of Thrones (filmed there in Season Five) – as well as the monumental arches of the Plaza de España. Continue along the River Guadalquivir to Cordoba – a more petite, maybe prettier, unofficial sister city to Seville – and be instantly struck by one of Andalusia’s most famous sights. Not the spectacle of Brits misbehaving in ‘Marbs’, but the imposing cathedral.
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