Often overshadowed by its neighbouring cities, Almería has the benefit of fewer crowds and plenty of unique attractions of its own to offer. Founded in the 10th century by the Arabs, Almería traces its origins right back to prehistoric times. Known mostly for its stunning beaches, it makes for a perfect getaway from Marbella, (it’s approx. 2.5 hrs from Marbella), that could combine city and cultural exploration with frequent trips to the stunning, uncrowded beaches.
A couple of things that are good to know before you visit: Tapas are free in Almería, so on arrival order your first caña and enjoy some tapas, completely gratis!
It’s the second-warmest city on the continent (first place goes to Seville), with annual temperatures never going below 19C. And a temperature below freezing has never been recorded in Almeria.
Article by Victoria Wood
The Alcazaba of Almería is a sprawling village of a structure. The original layout featured the mosque itself, picturesque gardens and fountain, shops within one enclosure (built in the tenth century), and in the second held the accommodation for the Muslim ruler of the time, plus their guards and servants in the form of a grand palace. A third section, added around 500 years later under Catholic rule, brought about the defensive tower and further residences. The fortress sits majestically atop its own hill overlooking the old city centre and spans an impressive 1,430 metres of walled perimeter making it Spain’s second largest Muslim construction, the first being the Alhambra Palace in Granada.
The Cathedral, located in the self-named plaza in the old town, features a monumental façade and is the only combined defensive and religious monument in the whole of Andalucía. Constructed in the early 1520s, taking around 40 years to complete, the structure passed through both Renaissance and Gothic periods resulting in an iconic blend of the two styles. The fortress style turrets and buttresses were designed to defend the city from frequent attacks by the Berbers and Moors.
The magnificence of the Gothic interior gives the cathedral a high standing with its soaring arches, naves, chapels, sacristy, and choir stalls as well as the Neoclassical cloister, main altar, and temple. There are some outstanding paintings, such as the Anunciacion by Alonso Cano and Murillo’s Concepcion Inmaculada as well as the impressive Sacristia Mayor. If you look along the eastern wall you will come across a carving of the sun, which has since become the emblem of the Almería Province.
The hammam in Almería is famously built in a restored vault beneath one of the city’s oldest plazas. Here the bathing techniques as practiced by the Romans and the Greeks are recreated as you submerge in candlelit baths of varying temperatures, have a massage, or float in the saltwater pools. There are two saunas as well as an outdoor pool overlooking the rooftops of the city. You can even take a bath immersed in the grapes of the Ribera del Duero or try out local delicacies and treatments using local produce.
CALLE DE LAS TIENDAS
This aptly named street – The street of shops – will not disappoint the avid shopper and at the same time offers a smattering of culture and history. It may have lost its original position as the main street in the city for trade, but the pedestrianized strip still holds value in boasting century-old shops, the original souvenir shop El Valenciano for example, which houses authentic objet d’art for sale from around the city. Many of the traditional stores have changed their purpose to become tapas bars, which gives the street a whole new bustling vibe and people-watching reference point.
Almería is one of the few Spanish cities that still boast unspoilt, relatively untouched pristine beaches. The golden sands of the Levante coastline – the name derives from the strong ‘levante’ winds that frequent the southern coast of Spain. Try Playas Carolina, Pozo del Esparto or las Ventanicas, or de Monsul, for some of the finest in the area. Most beaches are served by their own chiringuito, so refreshments are often available on site.
DESIERTO DE TABERNAS
You may think that ‘spaghetti westerns’ were so-called due to having been filmed in Italy, but the wild-wild west’s film location of choice was often right here in the south of Spain. Almería boasts the only desert in the whole of Europe and so provides unequalled landscaping for such productions. Since the 50s, it has been used as a filming location for such cult productions as “Cleopatra” with Elizabeth Taylor, “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” and, more recently, Ridley Scott’s “Exodus: Gods and Kings”. At only a half an hour drive from the city, the desert is easy to explore – just take the A92 motorway north from Almería to see where Spain meets Hollywood! It also hosts an annual Almería Western Film festival, not to be missed by the fans of the genre.
CABO DE GATA
Taking another half an hour drive, this time east of the city, you’ll come across the natural park of Cabo de Gata – Níjar. Home to Spain’s largest volcanic rock formation, this area boasts a 1.5km strip of protected coastline to explore. Try renting out kayaks or stand-up-paddle boards for the best view and take your own time to venture along the rocky coast, which is otherwise inaccessible. Popular trips include La Fabriquilla to Arrecife de las Sireñas and excursions off Las Negras.