Skip to Content

23 Best Cities in Southern Spain

The ultimate guide to the best cities in Southern Spain.

Southern Spain has established itself as one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe, with people taking trips worldwide.

Not just the sandy beaches and delicious cuisine lure people in. Even those who aren’t the sun-lounging feel the magic pull towards the Spanish south.

Even if you’re far from the busy cities along the coast, where beach-goers crowd the paseo Maritimo during the summer, you’ll always find views of the sea inland.

And this is exactly what makes some of the best cities in southern Spain so exciting – more often than not, you’ll find yourself enjoying the best of two worlds.

A wide view of the city with the park, river, and the beautlful buildings.
Like it? PIN IT!

You, dear reader, support this blog. If you purchase through a link, we earn a small commission. As an Amazon Affiliate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

Pssst…??!! You can’t get enough Southern Spain? Have a look at my other posts:

Top Best Cities in Southern Spain – Our picks

  • Ronda
  • Granada
  • Córdoba
  • Estepona
  • Cadiz
  • Cazorla

1. Malaga

an aerial view of Malaga particularly the bullring surrounded by buildings and the sea

One of the best cities in southern Spain is definitely Malaga – which works out great, seeing as this is where you’ll most likely land.

Malaga airport is just a ten-minute drive from the city center, so whether you’re staying there or further down the coast, be sure to build a visit into your itinerary.

With an unbeatable selection of museums and restaurants, the famous Feria de Malaga in August, and plenty of beaches for you to hit, it’s no wonder it’s one of the best cities in south of Spain.

Related articles: Best Museums in Malaga, Free Things to Do in Malaga, What to Eat in Malaga

Where to stay in Malaga:

2. Ronda

white houses built near a cliff

As one of the most beloved cities in southern Spain, Ronda prides itself on cultural offerings for all types of holidaymakers: from honeymooners to whole families, solo travelers, and groups of friends.

Home to El Tajo, a deep and beautiful gorge dividing the city, you can enjoy some of the most spectacular views in Andalusia from here. 

This truly historic city has maintained its authenticity and makes you feel as though you have traveled back in time.

Once a year—in May, to be exact—you can relive the region’s romantic era during the Ronda Romantica festivities, which involve the whole town in traditional costume.

Surrounded by lush natural parks and wonderful hiking trails, Ronda is also a great choice for those looking to disconnect from it all.

At the end of October, there is the Wine and Chestnut Festival which is part of the best Southern Spain Halloween traditions.

Related articles: Best Hiking Trails near Malaga

Where to stay in Ronda:

3. Marbella

houses or villas by the beach and a view of Marbella's La Concha mountain

Currently, working on your list of places to visit in Spain? There are three fabulous reasons why Marbella should absolutely make the list.

For one, the location is perfect. It’s nestled right between the charming beach town of Estepona, and the sand dunes of Cabopino, one of the best beaches on the coast.

Secondly, it’s a shopper’s and a foodie’s paradise: full of fun little boutiques, innovative restaurants, and funky little cafés.

And thirdly, it’s a great place for celebrity sightings: from the Obamas to Desperate Housewives’ Eva Longoria, they’ve all been here and some have even settled.

Marbella is by far one of the best city in southern Spain.

Related articles: Best Beaches near Malaga, How to Get from Malaga to Marbella, Where to stay in Marbella

Where to stay in Marbella:

4. Seville

Rio Guadalquivir at sunset and Navigation Pavilion

One of the south Spain cities to visit in Spain is, of course, Seville. You cannot possibly boast about having been to Andalusia without visiting its capital. 

This is the perfect place for those who love the big city life and to spend their day out sightseeing and learning about culture making it the best place to live in southern Spain.

If you’ve always wanted to catch an authentic Flamenco show and learn more about the style Andalusia is known for, namely, Sevillanas, here’s your chance. 

It’s also a real mecca for pop-culture fans. Thanks to the city’s idyllic backdrop, TV series and movies such as Game of Thrones and Star Wars have been shot here.

Related articles: Easter in Seville, What to eat in Seville, Things to do in Seville, Best Family Hotels in Seville

Where to stay in Seville:

5. Granada

view of the ancient arabic fortress of Alhambra in Granada during sunset

Any list of cool cities to visit in Andalusia, not including Granada, was obviously put together by someone who doesn’t have the first clue about the best cities in southern Spain.

Granada is truly one of a kind, a perfect fusion of Spanish and Arab elements present not only in the city’s remarkable architecture (Alhambra, Generalife, Albayzín) but its shops and cuisine.

This is one of those dream places to go – whether you’re looking for a cultural or culinary fix, a shopping spree, or a dive into nature via the Sierra Nevada and El Negratin.

It’s also a great location from which to commence on a little road trip to the best towns in southern Spain, like up towards Cazorla, Jaén, and Úbeda or down towards Malaga, Estepona, and Tarifa.

Related articles: Things to do in Granada, Where to eat in Granada, Things to do in Sierra Nevada

Where to stay in Granada:

6. Jerez de la Frontera

Jerez de la frontera Cathedral with towers and arches and 3 circular windows

A top city to visit in Spain, especially if you’re a fan of Sherry and Formula 1, is Jerez de la Frontera, just a half-hour drive from Cadiz.

We highly recommend spending a night here, so you can truly aprovechar from what this city has to offer – and trust us when we say this is one for the travel bucket list.

Why? Because here you will get a real insight into the traditional bodegas and their Sherry, as well as the art of Flamenco, the city being recognized as the Andalusian Centre of Flamenco.

If you are a fan of horses, you will also want to visit the prestigious Royal Andalusian School of Equestrian Art to catch a marvelous show and come face to face with a Carthusian horse.

Related articles: Things to do in Jerez

Where to stay in Jerez:

7. Córdoba

view of the Puente Romano de Córdoba in Spain

For many, a very particular vision pops to mind when they think of southern Spain cities: hidden courtyards and patios full of potted plants decorating the walls and floors.

If you’re a plant-nut longing to see some of the most beautiful courtyards in the best cities in southern Spain, then you can’t go wrong with starting your journey in Córdoba.

Head there in May for the Feria de Los Patios for the ultimate showcase of plant-rich patios, then spend the rest of your stay exploring the Alcazar, the Mosque-Cathedral of Malaga, and more.

And for one last kick of flowery delights, head to the old town and walk through the Calleja de las Flores – a street full of flowers, prettier than you could have ever imagined.

Related articles: Things to do in Cordoba, What to eat in Cordoba, Where to eat in Cordoba

Where to stay in Córdoba:

8. Cádiz

a view of Plaza de San Juan de Dios filled with palm trees and a white building at the back with street lights turned on during the night

It’s not just that Cádiz happens to be one of the best cities in the south of Spain – it’s also one of the most attractive regions of Andalusia, and its incredible light is only one of many reasons why.

The city itself, in all its historic glory, is one of the most iconic places in the south of Spain, especially when it comes to the annual carnival celebrations.

El Carnaval de Cádiz is known all over Spain – it stands at the center of this celebration, the way the city of Köln does in Germany.

The region is also extremely popular among surfers and other water sports enthusiasts with its sandy beaches, strong winds, and the Atlantic Ocean.

Related articles: Things to do on Cadiz, Spain, Best Natural Parks near Malaga, How to get from Malaga to Cadiz.

Where to stay in Cádiz:

9. Estepona

an empty street in Estepona lined with houses with flower pots decorated on the wall

Looking for a fun city to visit? Then check out Estepona, a small little city located between San Pedro and Casares, the white mountain village famous for its views and homemade wine.

Estepona is a real beach town with great chiringuitos such as Palm Beach, and further outside of town, Sonora. 

Having undergone a bit of a facelift in recent years, it is now home to some amazing street art gracing multiple-story buildings, the Orquidario, and hundreds of potted plants.

Though the city’s aesthetic is still typically Andalusian, the general vibe here is quite international, being one of many coastal tourist places that turns tourists into residents.

Related articles: Things to do in Estepona, Best Beaches near Malaga

Where to stay in Estepona:

10. Nerja

Nerja seaside with a concrete walkway on the side and a line of white houses by the beach and a view of white houses perched on a mountain

The Costa del Sol is full of lovely little towns and cities that beg to be visited for a day or two – or even a whole week.

Nerja is the kind of city you will happily spend a week holidaying in because it offers the perfect medley of vacation classics: the best beaches, a fantastic location, and lots of great restaurants.

What more could you want? How about mysterious caves? Or a big, open plaza atop the Balcon de Europa with meditative views over the Mediterranean Sea? It’s all right here in Nerja.

Related articles: How to get from Malaga to Nerja, Things to do In Nerja

Where to stay in Nerja:

11. Frigiliana

a view of the white houses in frigiliana with flowers and plants on the forefront

When people discuss the Spanish pueblos de encanto, there’s one that will always come up in the conversation: Frigiliana. 

Frigiliana, Spain is a typical white village in the mountains of Malaga, encompassed by the natural park Sierras de Almijara, Tejeda y Alhama.

With views of the Mediterranean Sea and just a short drive from Nerja, where there are plenty of beaches for lounging, swimming, or water sports, Frigiliana is a perfect holiday spot.

It’s totally one of the towns in southern Spain you should not miss visiting!

Related articles: Best Day Trips From Malaga

Where to stay in Frigiliana:

12. Almeria

aerial view of Almeria filled with white houses by the beach and mountains

Almeria, along the Mediterranean coast of Andalusia, stands out as one of the best cities in south Spain. 

This picturesque city boasts a rich history dating back centuries, evident in its charming Moorish architecture, historic fortresses, and winding streets. 

What truly sets Almeria apart is its stunning natural beauty, with rugged mountains framing the city to the north and the glistening Mediterranean Sea stretching out to the south. 

Visitors to Almeria can explore the imposing Alcazaba offering breathtaking views of the city and coastline, or wander through the winding alleyways of the historic old town.

The surrounding countryside beckons with opportunities for hiking, horseback riding, and birdwatching in the nearby Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park. 

Related articles: Things to do in Almeria, Best Beaches in Cabo de Gata, Almeria, Spain – 3 Day Itinerary

Where to stay in Almeria:

Underrated Cities in Southern Spain

Chances are you will have heard of most of the cities we listed for you above. But don’t forget there are more cities in south of Spain to visit, some of which are rather underrated.

Here are a few gems you should definitely make the time for!

13. Villanueva de la Concepción

an aerial view of Villanueva de la Concepción, a small town filled with houses surrounded by  plantation with mountains at the far end

If you’ve been hiking El Torcal for the entire day, you’ll be happy to know that there is a nice little city awaiting you at the foot of this national park: Villanueva de la Concepción.

Here, you can replenish your energies with a menu del dia or a little tapa and a cold glass of cerveza before making your way back to your hotel in the evening.

Related articles: Best Hiking Trails near Malaga

Where to stay in Villanueva de la Concepción:

14. La Herradura 

a view of a seaside town - La Herradura with houses by the beach and a mountain at the back

One of the best places to visit in Spain – especially if you’re a fan of nice beaches – is La Herradura, the shore 70km west of Malaga named after its horseshoe shape.

Plan your trip around La Virgen del Carmen – the Queen of the Sea – which sees fleets of little fisher boats lighting up the Mediterranean at night, as they carry her statue out into the sea.

Where to stay in La Herradura:

15. Archidona

a top view of the white town Archidona with pink trees on the forefront on a dark cloudy day

After exploring some of Andalusia’s fun cities to visit, take a break in Archidona, where you can walk the wetlands of Las Lagunas de Archidona.

If you’re up for it, you could also take on the hike up towards el monte de los enamorados.

Related articles: Best Day Trips From Malaga

Where to stay in Archidona:

16. Bubión

a view of Bubión white town with houses perched on the lower side of the mountain

The Alpujarras region in the mountains of Granada is an absolute must when holidaying in Andalusia, especially during the spring and fall seasons, when you truly get to appreciate the environment.

This is where you’ll find Bubión, one of the three villages – the others being Capileira and Pampaneira – declared a Conjunto Historico Artistico due to their artistic and historical heritage.

Where to stay in Bubíon:

17. Priego de Córdoba

Priego de Cordoba at night with lights of buildings turn on

There are so many natural springs around Priego de Córdoba that it has been dubbed the “City of the Water.” But it could just as well have been named the “City of Olives.”

As it turns out, the olive oil you’ll taste here is unlike any other oil you’ve tasted before – it has even been given its own denominational label.

For a taste of the prize-winning oil, be sure to take a bottle of Venta del Barón home as a tasty souvenir. It was named the best olive oil in the world for three consecutive years.

Where to stay in Priego de Córdoba:

18. Cazorla

Cazorla a white town filled with white houses by the foot of the mountain with a castle perched atop and mountains at the back

Without a doubt, one of the best cities in southern Spain is Cazorla – a fairytale-esque place at the foot of the Sierra de Cazorla, a magical mountain and forest environment.

This is the place you should head to if you’re in need of some time away in nature or to play GeoCaching with friends.

Where to stay in Cazorla:

19. Almuñécar

an aerial view of the city of Almuñécar filled with buildings and a beach on the side on a bright day

If you’re headed to Granada on a weekend trip, don’t forget to make a stop in Almuñecar – especially if you want to get some beach time in before getting lost in the Alhambra.

Almuñecar is known for its lovely beaches, charming old town, and many tapas bars, so be sure to treat yourself to this beach city vibe for an afternoon.

Where to stay in Almuñecar:

20. Tarifa

The beach at Tarifa on a summer day in August with the kitesurfers out.

Another city in southern Spain you should not miss is Tarifa, the southernmost city where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Atlantic Ocean, Tarifa.

It is a vibrant and eclectic city renowned for its laid-back atmosphere, stunning beaches, and world-class wind and kite surfing conditions. 

With a backdrop of the majestic Sierra de Grazalema Natural Park and the iconic Strait of Gibraltar, Tarifa offers a unique blend of natural beauty and cultural charm. 

Tarifa is a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts, offering an array of activities such as surfing, kite surfing, horseback riding, hiking, and whale-watching excursions in the Strait. 

The city’s beaches, including Playa de los Lances and Playa de Valdevaqueros, are renowned for their pristine sands and crystal-clear waters, making them ideal for swimming and water sports. 

In the evenings, Tarifa comes alive with bustling tapas bars, seafood restaurants, and live music venues to immerse themselves in the city’s vibrant nightlife scene.

Related articles: Things to do in Tarifa, Spain

Where to stay in Tarifa:

21. Jaen

a view of an old castle, church, and sky in Jaen

In the heart of Andalusia, Jaén stands as a city steeped in history, culture, and natural beauty. 

Jaén’s crowning jewel is its stunning cathedral, an architectural masterpiece adorned with intricate carvings and magnificent artworks.

While the imposing Alcazar de Jaén offers panoramic views of the surrounding countryside and cityscape.

Beyond its historical landmarks, Jaén is also celebrated for its picturesque olive groves, which carpet the surrounding hillsides and produce some of the finest olive oil in the world. 

The nearby Sierra de Cazorla Natural Park offers opportunities for hiking, birdwatching, and outdoor adventure amidst rugged mountains, pristine rivers, and lush forests.

Related articles: Things to do in Jaen, Jaen, Spain – 3 Day Itinerary

Where to stay in Jaen:

22. Huelva

Hermitage del Rocio, Huelva, walls painted in white with orangey roofs and plenty of windows and doors

Located on the southwestern coast of Spain, Huelva is a city with a rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning natural surroundings. 

Nestled between the Atlantic Ocean and the Guadiana River, Huelva boasts beautiful beaches, picturesque landscapes, and a diverse range of attractions for visitors to explore. 

The city’s historic center is a charming mix of Moorish and Renaissance architecture, with highlights including the Cathedral of Huelva and the iconic Casa Colón.

One of Huelva’s most significant claims to fame is its connection to the historic voyage of Christopher Columbus, as it was from here that he set sail on his journey to the Americas in 1492. 

Additionally, Huelva’s coastline is dotted with beautiful beaches, such as Playa de Mazagón and Playa de Punta Umbría, where visitors can relax, swim, and soak up the sun.

Related articles: Things to do in Huelva, Huelva, Spain – 3 Day Itinerary

Where to stay in Huelva:

23. Ubeda

a large old building with a lot of windows and palm trees in front of it

Úbeda is a city of enchanting beauty, renowned for its well-preserved Renaissance architecture and rich cultural heritage. 

Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site along with its sister city, Baeza, Úbeda is a treasure trove of architectural wonders. 

Some of the city’s most iconic landmarks are the Palacio de las Cadenas and Santa María de los Reales Alcázares Cathedral.

Úbeda is also a haven for art lovers and history enthusiasts, with numerous museums and galleries showcasing works by renowned artists such as Francisco de Zurbarán and Luis de Morales. 

Visitors can delve into the city’s rich history at the Centro de Interpretación Olivar y Aceite or wander through the picturesque streets of the Jewish Quarter. 

Additionally, foodies will delight in Úbeda’s vibrant culinary scene, with traditional Andalusian eateries offering a tantalizing array of local specialties, from hearty stews to delectable pastries.

Where to stay in Ubeda:


What to eat in Southern Spain

a closeup of tapas lined in a bar

Spain’s cuisine is already a thing in and of itself. When it comes to traditional Andalusia cuisine, though, every food lover out there heavy breathes.

Indeed, the combination of extraordinarily fresh ingredients, Moorish, Sephardic, and Phoenician influences, as well as the vast diversity, put Andalusian cuisine among the best in Europe.

You can’t get by holidaying in some of the best cities in southern Spain, without trying some true culinary classics including:


Short Cultural Background of Southern Spain

a road sign saying Andalucia surrounded by tall grass and a mountain at the back

There truly is no best time of year to visit Spain – especially the south. 

When the people of most European countries are getting out their winter parkas, the people of Andalusia are just about ready to trade their t-shirt for a hoodie, their sun hat for a scarf.

Though most people associate Spain with summer holidays, there are plenty of reasons to visit the colorful cities in Andalusia during the spring, autumn, or winter season too.

If you’re worried this might make you miss out on all the fiestas the Spanish are famous for, no need – there are plenty of festivos on the cultural agenda all year round.

There’s the Ronda Romantica feria in May, for example – a reenactment of Malaga’s romantic period set against the backdrop of the dramatic mountain city of Ronda.

If you’re planning a trip to Southern cities in Spain, you might also want to come in January, when the children excitedly await the reyes magos, the three kings, who bring their Christmas presents.

As you can see there is always a good excuse for a trip to Spain – whether you’re looking for culinary discoveries, mountain adventures, or beach vibes – you can find it here in the south.

And if you are planning to visit Andalucia in winter, know that this might be the best time to do it since the weather is just perfect and the cities are not crowded.

P.S. We put a map of southern Spain below to help you out!


Map of Best Cities in Southern Spain

Map of Best Cities in Southern Spain

Short FAQ about the best Cities in Southern Spain

What is the most southern city in Spain?

The most southern city in Spain would be Tarifa. Tarifa is the ultimate surfer’s paradise on the coast of Cádiz.

When should I visit southern Spain?

There’s never really a bad time to visit southern Spain! Just keep in mind you’ll usually get some rain during the Easter season, and scorching temperatures between July and August.

Where are the white towns in Spain?

There are many white towns in Spain. In Andalusia you will find Frigiliana in the Malaga region, and Casares and Manilva near Estepona.

What are the most famous places in southern Spain?

Popular and best places to visit in southern Spain include the Alhambra in Granada, the Mezquita in Cordoba, Seville’s Cathedral and Alcázar, the Caminito del Rey in Malaga, Plaza de España in Seville, the Costa del Sol, Ronda, Gibraltar, Cadiz, and the Sierra Nevada.

What are large southern Spanish cities?

Some of the largest cities in Southern Spain include Seville, Malaga, Granada, Cordoba, Cadiz, and Almeria.



Stacy

Thursday 19th of January 2023

Hello Paulina, I'm slowly falling in love with Spain, i never knew it to be so beautifull, i've read your article but what do you mean by white towns, i'm from the Netherlands and my ancestors originated partly from Spain, Portugal, Ireland and Italy. Thank you for shining your light for us on your truly beautifull country.

Paulina

Monday 23rd of January 2023

Hi dear, thank you for your beautiful words. I am referring to the white villages (towns) in South of Spain. Have a look at them here: https://visitsouthernspain.com/white-villages-in-andalucia/