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Which Spanish costas are the best for culture?

15 January 2016 ( 09 February 2017 )

From ancient castles to modern art museums, the Spanish Costas offer a rich cultural experience alongside their sun-kissed beaches. We rundown three Spanish Costas that offer something particularly special.

The skyline of Malaga, Spain
The skyline of Malaga, Spain

One way or another, Spain will find a way to surprise you. Who knows what it will be? 

A particularly fine wine perhaps, the elaborate interior of a rural church, the shimmer of moonlight across a mountain lake: there are chance meetings with beauty all over this amazing country.

Travellers will find many of the country’s finest landmarks and cultural sites around the coast of the mainland – the famous Spanish Costas. 

Along with laidback beaches, the sun-kissed Costas are brimming with everything from ancient castles to modern art museums. 

Whether your main priority is sunshine, the beach, culture, cuisine or landscapes, we have a wide range of popular holidays and tours that combine the lot.

Here is a rundown of the three Spanish Costas that we think offer something particularly special in terms of culture.

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Costa de la Luz

Southern Spain is home to some of the most renowned beaches in the country, and you will find many on the Costa de la Luz. Dig a little deeper and you will discover cities with stories that span centuries.

Seville is a city of diverse historical influences and keen eyed travellers will be able to piece together the city’s story through architectural landmarks. 

One of the key players in this story is the 16th century cathedral, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. 

It is also the final resting place of Christopher Columbus. Exploring its vaults, chambers, sculptures and stained glass is a magical experience.

Travel to nearby Jerez, home to the famous dancing horses. These purebred Spanish horses have a history in the country dating back 3,000 years. 

Watching these majestic animals move to the beat of traditional Spanish music is an enthralling, moving symbol of Andalusia.

Jerez is also the home of sherry and the perfect place to enjoy a glass or two and a cellar tour. You’ll find that local food is often cooked in sherry too – delicious!

The city of Cadiz has a long history, stretching back millennia to the Phoenicians. Both Columbus and Magellan set sail from here on their famous voyages, so its maritime heritage is strong. 

Among the oldest and most historic structures in Cadiz is the partially excavated Roman theatre, which dates back to the 1st century BC. 

From a later period, but no less interesting, is Cadiz Cathedral, with its striking yellow dome – a baroque spectacle full of religious treasures.

The wider region of Andalucía is thought to be the birthplace of Flamenco music and dancing. Scholars trace the evolution of Flamenco back to the confluence of Jewish, Gypsy and Moorish dance styles during the Spanish Inquisition. 

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Costa del Sol

The Costa del Sol has been welcoming British tourists to its lively resorts, beaches and towns for decades. But, make no mistake, this isn’t just one giant holiday resort! 

There are points of interest interspersed throughout this dazzling region and they’re not hard to find.

In Malaga travellers with knowledge of art history won’t be surprised to find a museum dedicated to Picasso. This Malaga man always wanted to have his work exhibited in the city in which he was born in 1881. 

The collection here charts eight decades of the great master’s art covering a wide range of styles, techniques and materials.

Malaga is also home to the charming Glass and Crystal Museum. This privately owned building is furnished like a stately home and contains glass from Phoenician times (as far back as 6th century BC) right up to the present day.

Be sure to visit the Moorish fortress and ruins at Alcazaba, overlooking Malaga and the ocean. The conspicuous military style of this fortress makes it one of the most important landmarks of its type in Spain.

Of course, the most famous Moorish Palace of them all is only a day trip away from the Costa del Sol, in Granada. 

The UNESCO World Heritage Sites at Alhambra are among the most popular cultural attractions in Spain. 

An ornate 14th century Moorish Palace and the oldest surviving examples of Moorish gardens anywhere in the world are well worth the visit. The city’s old town was immortalised by the poet Lorca, himself a cultural icon.

Costa Brava

The Costa Brava is sometimes called the ‘Wild Coast’ because of its rugged natural beauty. This scenic part of Spain has inspired many famous artists and the main city in the area, Barcelona, is a thriving cultural centre.

Barcelona is one of our most popular holiday destinations and it rarely disappoints. The capital of Catalonia has fashion, architecture, history, a beach and a cosmopolitan verve to rival any city in the world.

The buildings and sculptural works of Antoni Gaudi are a particular highlight – La Sagrada Familia and Park Güell – are firm favourites. 

The city’s most famous street, La Rambla, has everything from grand theatres to traditional street stalls. Indeed simply walking down La Rambla will give you an atmospheric buzz.

For an insight into one of the world’s best football clubs take a visit to Camp Nou, the home of the Barcelona team. History and silverware abound in this iconic stadium and the museum provides some legendary stories. 

Why not visit Barcelona on a fascinating train journey across Spain?

It is well worth getting off the beaten track in the Costa Brava, since you’ll find a host of pretty medieval towns and villages. Highlights include Regencós, Port Lligat, Figueres and Púbol.

It’s hard not to be fascinated by the area’s enduring relationship with surrealist artist Salvador Dali. 

The landscapes here remind one implicitly of Dali’s strange images and there are a number of attractions you can visit associated with the artist. Of particular interest is the Dali Theatre-Museum in Figueres, the largest surrealistic object in the world.

Explore Spain’s cultural heritage with Saga on a tour or cruise of the Costas – or just stay and relax in handpicked hotel accommodation on your travels. It is easy to get from the UK to Spain’s coastline for short breaks or longer holidays.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.