The Generalife gardens provide a calm retreat, with the exquisite Moorish architecture of the Alhambra as a backdrop(ALAMY)
Spain’s hilltop Moorish marvel
A graceful clash of cultures awaits in Granada. World renowned for the Alhambra palace and gardens, the city is also the resting place of the most famous Catholic monarchs, Isabella I of Castile and Ferdinand II of Aragon, who united the Spanish kingdoms.
Most visitors come to lap up the sensational Moorish architecture and history, but Granada’s delectable food scene, and its access to superb hiking in the summer and skiing in winter, make it worth more than a day trip. It’s also close enough to the south Andalusian coast to be an unmissable excursion from beach resorts.
A visit to the Alhambra calls for some planning. Tickets must be bought in advance, and timeslots are allocated for the breathtaking 14th-century Palacios Nazaríes, its soaring arches and wall and ceiling decorations rich in ornate detail. Other enticing areas include halls, towers and the Generalife gardens, studded with calming pools. Consider visiting the Alhambra at night, when it is beautifully illuminated and – a key attraction in sweltering summer months – a little cooler.
The Alhambra, with its backdrop of verdant hills and the Sierra Nevada range, is supremely easy on the eye. Enjoy superb panoramas of the hilltop complex while exploring the Albayzín district just to the north. With its steep-sided streets, the city’s archaeological museum and the Baños Árabes El Bañuelo – an atmospheric Moorish bathhouse – the Albayzín is a destination in itself. In the city centre you’ll also find Granada’s mighty cathedral and the Capilla Real (Royal Chapel) housing Isabella and Ferdinand’s marble tombs alongside impressive artworks and other treasures from their reign.
You’ll work up an appetite touring Granada. Most bars provide a free tapa snack with each drink – an extra enticement to join locals for an early evening aperitivo.
IF YOU LIKE THIS...
• A short journey from Madrid is Toledo, its winding medieval streets awash with Moorish and Jewish influences and graced by a profusion of palaces and convents.
• For sensational Islamic architecture – and a symphony of noise and colour in the Djemaa El Fna plaza – head to Marrakesh, Morocco. ■