Christmas in Andalucia
Andalucia's rich diversity reaps many rewards for travellers who choose to go there for a festive break.
The Spanish region of Andalucia is a great location for a Christmas break, with its rich history, beautiful countryside and bustling coastline.
A winter break in the sunny southern Spanish region can provide a perfect antidote to the winter blues, with Christmas celebrations in full swing and a host of events taking place.
Flights to the south of Spain are easy to find and it is possible to fly into Malaga, rent a car and drive up to Seville or fly directly into the city on one of the growing number of services from the UK. Plenty of companies offer organised holidays to Andalucia, often centred around Seville and Granada, over the Christmas period.
Wandering around one of the sunniest cities in Europe in the middle of winter made us feel we were a long way from the grey drizzle and chill of home. Seville is a charming place to walk around, with the river snaking through its centre and some stunning Spanish and Moorish architecture, particularly the tenth century Alcazar Palace, the Giralda Tower and the vast Catedral.
Seville is a great city for shopping and we spent a day wandering around the city, browsing the shops and strolling along the river, stopping for tapas and glasses of rioja when we needed a rest. Do not miss the fabulous embroidered Spanish shawls, intricately painted pottery and colourful fans of the Calle Sierpes, one of the city's most stylish streets.
Although it is a busy, brash, lively holiday resort, Malaga is also a city and has a more cultural side. We managed to attend a classical music concert, pay a visit to the excellent Museo Picasso and explore the Old Town, as well as enjoying all the tourist amenities the city has to offer.
Malaga is surrounded by some very pretty countryside and some top class golf courses and we spent a very pleasant day driving around the rolling plains, stopping to play nine holes at one of the courses near the coast.
Food in Andalucia is particularly good and, if you are staying in the major tourist centres along the Costa del Sol, abandon the burgers and fried chicken in favour of authentic Andalucian cuisine, particularly the delicious tapas dishes and fresh seafood.
Christmas Day in Spain is not celebrated in the same way as it is in the UK, with gifts exchanged on Epiphany to mark the coming of the Three Kings to Bethlehem and Christmas dinner eaten well after midnight. The cities in Andalucia come alive during the festive season, with lights, Christmas trees, nativity scenes, carols and cultural events galore.
Although the south of Spain does not reach its summer highs during December, it is still relatively warm and bright and we were delighted to be able to take a stroll in sun on Christmas morning wearing nothing more than light jackets.