If you see only one town in Spain, it should be GRANADA. For here, extraordinarily well preserved and in a tremendous natural setting, stands the Alhambra – the most exciting, sensual and romantic of all European monuments. It was the palace fortress of the Nasrid sultans, rulers of the last Spanish Moorish kingdom, and in its construction Moorish art reached a spectacular and serene climax. But the building seems to go further than this, revealing something of the whole brilliance and spirit of Moorish life and culture. There’s a haunting passage in Jan Morris’ book, Spain, which the palace embodies:
“Life itself, which was seen elsewhere in Europe as a kind of probationary preparation for death, was interpreted [by the Moors] as something glorious in itself, to be ennobled by learning and enlivened by every kind of pleasure.”
Built on the slopes of three hills, the rest of the city basks in the Alhambra’s reflected glory. Because the Moorish influence here was so ruthlessly extinguished following capitulation to the Catholic monarchs Fernando and Isabel, Granada tends to be more sober in character and austere in its architecture than Andalucía’s other provincial capitals. Many visitors, once they’ve viewed the Alhambra, are too jaded or can’t be fussed to take in the city’s other sights, which is a pity, for Granada has much to offer. The hill-top Albaicín, the former Moorish town, is a fascinating quarter full of narrow alleyways and small squares, and a great place for an hour’s stroll. Not far away, too, is the cathedral with the gem of the Capilla Real attached to it, the final resting place of the Catholic monarchs who ended Moorish rule in Spain. Add in an archeological museum, Moorish baths and some fine churches, including a spectacular La Cartuja monastery, and you have more than enough to start you thinking about extending your stay.