There are some monuments and neighbourhoods so relevant that they appear on almost every traveller’s bucket list. From The Alhambra to The Royal Alcazar, a visit to these sites is the equivalent of a world Muslim history course.
Whether you’re looking for some travel inspiration or just a refresher on Muslim world history, here are the world’s 10 most beloved monuments and neighbourhoods to immediately add to your bucket list.
10. The Alhambra — Granada
The Alhambra, the complete Arabic form of which was Qalat Al-Hamra is one of the most visited palaces and fortress complex in the world and the best surviving example of Al Andalus architecture in Spain. The stunning Moorish complex looks out over the city through a maze of perfectly-manicured gardens, elaborate architecture and reflecting pools.
Tickets can only be bought from two places: directly from the Alhambra (either from the Alhambra ticket office or the Alhambra shop on Calle Reyes Católicos) or through the Caixa Bank.
IMPORTANT NOTICE: Access to the Nasrid Palaces must be made at the time indicated on the ticket.
9. The Albaicin — Granada
The city’s old Moorish neighbourhood declared a World Heritage Site in 1984. Experience the essence of one of the world’s most visited neighbourhoods on Earth!
The San Nicolas viewpoint offers a breathtaking view of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains, the Mirador is the perfect gateway to see the whole city and its rich repository of Moorish architecture and gorgeous Cármenes (large mansions with walled gardens). Lose yourself in this open-air museum.
8. The Palace of the Dar-al-Horra — Granada
This Nasrid palace was the residence of the Nasrid queen Aixa, located in the Albaicín district was constructed in the 15th century, over the remains of a Zirid palace dating back to the 11th century. It is located on top of what was the al-Qashba Cadima or Old Fortress, the initial nucleus of the Muslim Granada, next to the canvases of the wall of this fortified district. Outside of the Alhambra, Dar Al-Horra is the most telling example of the palatine architecture; its structure and decoration are the characteristics of the Nasrid art and it has been afforded the classification of a monument of cultural importance.
7. Great Mosque of Córdoba — Córdoba
The Great Mosque of Cordoba is one of the oldest structures still standing from the time Muslims ruled Al-Andalus (Muslim Iberia including most of Spain, Portugal, and a small section of Southern France) in the late 8th century. Declared a World Heritage Site in 1984 by UNESCO, its construction started in 784 and had several extensions during the Emirate and the Caliphate of Cordoba. Discover an amazing mixture of architectural styles, constructed over 9 centuries. Standing in the historic centre of Cordoba, the Mosque is one of the most beautiful examples of Muslim art in Spain.
6. Medina Azahara — Córdoba
Medina Azahara or (Medinat al Zahra) is the ruins of a vast, fortified Arab Muslim medieval palace-city built by Abd-ar-Rahman III al-Nasir, Umayyad Caliph of Córdoba, located 8 km from Cordoba, Spain. It was the capital of al-Andalus, or Muslim Spain, as the heart of the administration and government was within its walls. Visiting it is considered essential for all those interested in the Hispanic-Muslim legacy in the city of Cordoba and by extension in Al-Andalus. To conclude your visit, the archaeological site also has a visitor centre which serves as a starting point for the tour. The centre is located underground in the style of an archaeological site and features a collection of exhibits from the most important periods in the history of Medina Azahara. The tour of the visitor centre lasts about one hour and includes audiovisual shows, and continues with a visit to the archaeological site.
5. The Judería or Jewish Quarter – Córdoba
Córdoba’s old Jewish quarter consists of a complex network of little streets full of life and for its jewellery and silversmith shops. The Jewish Quarter is the best-known part of Cordoba’s historic centre, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1984 and is one of the largest in Europe. The entrance gate, La Puerta de Almodovar, has a statue of Seneca who was an intellectual stronghold in the time of Abderramán III and forms part of the western boundary of the Juderia. The Juderia reaches as far as Calle El Rey Heredia to the northeast and the Mosque to the south.
4. The Royal Alcazar – Seville
The Alcázar of Seville is a royal palace in Seville, Andalusia, Spain, originally developed by Moorish Muslim kings. Seville’s UNESCO-listed palace complex is a breathtaking spectacle and the best example of the Mudejar architectural style in Spain, although Islamic, Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements can be found as well. Considered one of the most representative monumental compounds in the city, the country and the Mediterranean culture as a whole. More recently, the Alcázar featured as a location for the Game of Thrones TV series.
3. The Giralda – Seville
The Giralda is the bell tower of the Seville Cathedral in Seville, Spain. Originally built in 1195 as the minaret of the Aljama mosque during the Moorish period, during the reign of the Almohad dynasty with a Renaissance style top subsequently added by Spanish conquistadors after the expulsion of the Muslims. The minaret was the culmination of Almohad architecture and served as a model for those at the dynasty’s imperial capitals of Rabat and Marrakesh. It was used both for calling the faithful to prayer (the traditional function of a minaret) and as an observatory. You can climb up to the bell chamber for a remarkable view of the city, especially the Alcazar and Barrio Santa Cruz, and also a bird’s eye view of the Gothic details of the cathedral’s buttresses and statuary.
2. The Torre del Oro – Seville
The Torre del Oro is a dodecagonal military riverside watchtower in Seville, southern Spain. It was erected in the 13th-century by the Almohad Caliphate in order to control access to Seville via the Guadalquivir river which originally enclosed the city, with 166 towers and 15 gates. During the invasion of the Americas, stories say that the tower was used to house gold plundered from the Mayans and Incas; some say this is where its name originates, rather than from the tiles which covered its outside and flashed in the sun, looking like gold. Today, it hosts a small maritime museum and a rooftop viewing platform.
1. The Judería or Jewish Quarter — Seville
Delve into the frozen-in-time atmosphere of Sevilla’s Jewish Quarter, wandering the labyrinthine mediaeval lanes and flowering courtyards. The Jewish Quarter of Seville is the ultimate place to retrace the footprints of Jewish history in Spain. Considered one of the Biggest Old Jewish Quarters in Europe.
This is the district that the Jews inhabited, from the reconquest of Seville during the 13th century, to their expulsion two centuries later when the Catholic Monarchs began to rule.