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Discovering Andalucía – Past present and future set in stone

Discovering Andalucía – Past present and future set in stone

January 25, 2018

From looming brick Moorish fortresses to white villages, Andalucía boasts a wide range of architecture, reflecting its rich history.


The Alhambra Palace, one of Andalucia's most visited attractions

The architecture of Andalucia’s towns reflect its character, from the modest to the grand, from poor to decadent.


The architecture of Andalucia means the past still echoes in the present. With the variety of cultures that have called the region home, it is little wonder they all wanted to leave their mark. The most prominent residents are the Christians and the Moors whose influences are not only felt in religious structures, but also in symbols of power, conflict and everyday life.

The ‘Pueblos Blancos’ or White Towns of Andalucia are a collection of towns and villages in the northern parts of Cadiz and Málaga. The winding lanes of the White Towns have a distinct Arabic influence; the houses constructed to provide the most protection from the hot sun, with tiled or terraced roofs, and often an interior courtyard area.

“Once you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all”, is not a phrase to be used in reference to the ‘Pueblos Blancos’ or white towns of Andalucía. It is true that the narrow Arabic streets and appearance of the houses are consistent between towns, but each one has something special, different from its neighbour, making them all worth a visit.

Ronda in southern Andalucia, close to the Costa del Sol

Spanning the Tajo Gorge, Ronda’s “Puente Nuevo” bridge

The white towns can be found all over Andalucia, from Málaga to Cadiz and everywhere in between. Casares, for example, is a spectacular town, perched precariously on the side of a hill with a Moorish fortress sitting above it, while Villanueva de la Concepcion sits beneath El Torcal, a natural rock formation that offers views down to the coast. The white towns scattered throughout the region each have their own special character, and something different to offer the curious traveler.

Muslim influence in the architecture of Andalucía is also evident in the fortresses which remain in the area to this day. Moorish buildings such as Granada’s Alhambra, and the Cathedral-Mosque in Cordoba are considered to be amongst the greatest architectural works in the area. Any places labeled ‘must see’ by tourist guides are often so-called because of a certain piece or style of architecture. The Puente Nuevo (New Bridge) which spans the Tajo Gorge, is an impressive structure, and makes the town of Ronda an important stop on the tourist trail.

Similarly, Granada’s architecture; the Alhambra fortress and Nazrid Palaces left by the Arab conquerors, their view on a collection of whitewashed buildings, and the city’s cathedral, all deserve to be visited by the curious traveler, keen to gain an insight into what makes Andalucía so special and unique. The grand structures of the Alhambra and the narrow streets of the outlying towns provide a fantastic contrast that shows the different faces of Andalucía. On one hand you have the rulers, the rich and powerful, and on the other, there are the villagers, farmers and fishermen, that lived only to survive.

This is a stark contrast to other areas on the coast such as Marbella and Puerto Banus which, through tourism and foreign investment, have become centres of luxury and excess, their glistening, modern ports are full of multi-million pound leisure boats, and the wide beach front promenades lined with designer boutiques and cocktail bars.

Historic locations

Scratch the surface of any town in Andalucía and there is an abundance of history waiting to be discovered. Málaga, for example has important sites from two major civilisations sitting side by side. The ancient Roman theatre lies in the shadow of the Moorish Alcazaba and Gibralfaro castle. Don’t forget that around the corner lies Málaga Cathedral, which is modern in comparison, with construction taking place between 1528 and 1782. Within a very small area it is possible to see three excellent examples of architecture from over 2,000 years of Andalusian history. The Cathedral itself is built on the ruins of the Arab mosque that stood until the reconquest of Iberia by the Catholic monarchs.

There are also Roman remains in Antequera, north of Málaga, and in the provinces of Cadiz and Seville, which were also important cities for the ancient civilisations that lived in Andalucía, such as the Romans, Moors, Phoenicians and Christians.

Modern day

Málaga’s recently built Muelle Uno port in a very modern style is a suggestion of what the future holds for Andalucía. The emphasis on modernising and catering to the needs of the international tourism market is clear to see, as this industry is very important to the economy of Andalucía, and it is little wonder with the riches it has to offer, on the coast and inland.