Granada in southern Spain is a wonderful city-break destination and a visit to the Alhambra is a “must”.
Anyone who has been watching Monty Don’s “Paradise Gardens” series on television will have been treated to a feast of Islamic gardens in Europe and further afield. The first programme in the series opened with a feature on the Alhambra. The film showing Monty visiting these amazing gardens will surely have whetted the public’s appetite to visit the city and explore the Alhambra themselves.
The Alhambra is a majestic complex of palaces and irrigated gardens lying in the hills on the outskirts of Granada. In the 8th Century the Moors from North Africa conquered the Iberian peninsula and occupied it until the fall of Granada in 1492. The Nasrid dynasty rose to power in the 13th Century and the Nasrid Emirs were responsible for building the Alhambra as we know it today. The area became a fortress-palace complex with magnificent buildings and gardens. The main themes of the gardens are water and shade, and they were primarily intended for rest, contemplation and relaxation. Courtyards, paths, fountains and watercourses are common features, as they are in many Islamic gardens and they possess a strikingly simple beauty.
The Alhambra covers a vast area but can still get very crowded, despite ticket numbers being tightly controlled. The best time to visit is in the spring, when the crowds are not too large, days are sunny and bright and the smell of orange blossom fills the air. I visited the Alhambra a few years ago in the month of February when the crowds were not too large but the gardens were still beautiful. I would love to see the gardens again in late spring though!
It is now easier than ever to visit Granada as the budget airline Easyjet now operates direct flights from both London Gatwick and Manchester to Granada . Alternatively, there are flights from most UK airports to Malaga, from where it is possible to catch a coach to Granada. Granada also combines extremely well with other Andalusian cities such as Seville, Cordoba and Cadiz as well as Malaga for the many people who are always looking for a longer multi-centre holiday.
Granada’s magnificent Alhambra has so much to offer the visitor that it surely ought to be on everyone’s “bucket list”.