Posted February 17, 2010 by Amy Westervelt
Known for its striking mix of Spanish and Islamic architecture and its vibrant flamenco, Andalusia is one of the most interesting regions to visit in all of Western Europe. As luck would have it, it's also one of the most reasonably priced. The region's three major cities—Seville, Granada, and Malaga—are all worth a visit, but to quickly experience the juxtaposition of cultures and architecture that make Andalusia wonderful, head for Granada and its Alhambra.
Alhambra: Built in the ninth century, the Alhambra is an Islamic palace that once housed Muslim kings and their courtiers. Although its architecture is predominantly Arabic, the Alhambra was changed a bit when the city was lost to Christian invaders. Holy Roman Emperor Charles V rebuilt portions of the palace in a Renaissance style in 1527. Today, you can tour the Alhambra's beautiful, manicured gardens, ancient courtyards, and palaces, but you must book well in advance to ensure you get both a ticket and a good deal (€12).
Al-Andalus (this website is in Spanish only): Late-night happy hours and street parties are common in Granada, but the city's Islamic heritage and proximity to Morocco has also given rise to a number of charming Moroccan teahouses. Located in El Albaicin, Granada's "Muslim Quarter," the Al-Andalus (4 Calle Caldereria Vieja) is just such a place. Nip in on a cool night for delicious Moroccan mint tea and an Arabic pastry.
Santa Isabel la Real (this website is in Spanish only): Thanks to its prime location in the charming old El Albaicin district, buses to the Alhambra stop directly in front of the quaint little Santa Isabel la Real hotel. Many of the town's other sights can be reached on foot. Situated around an interior courtyard like most old Spanish homes, the Santa Isabel has rooms on the small side, but they're absolutely darling, with crisp, white hand-embroidered linens and lovely carved windows that let in plenty of light. Rooms start at €85 per night.
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(Photo: Turismo Granada)