Spanish: La Alhambra de Granada
Official Website: Alhambra Palace
If you only have time to visit one place of historic and cultural interest during your time in the south of Spain, make sure it is to the Alhambra Palace in Granada. The origins of the Alhambra can be traced back to the year 889 when it was little more than a small fortress under Moorish rule. The magnificence of the Nasrid Palaces that we see today dates back to the 13th century when Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar undertook their construction. This palace-fortress came under Christian rule after the the Reyes Católicos took control of Granada in 1492 resulting in the construction of the Palace of Charles V within the grounds of the Alhambra. Incredibly, the whole complex fell into disrepair for centuries until being effectively ‘re-discovered’ in the 19th century when work on its restoration began. Today it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Spain’s most important tourist attractions.
Spanish: La Mezquita Catedral de Cordoba
Official Website: Mezquita
The Mezquita is a stunning example of Islamic Art which is an essential place to visit for anyone going to Andalucía. The original building which appeared on this site was the Catholic Basilica of San Vicente which was constructed by the Visigoths. After the Moors took control of Spain the church was shared between Christians and Muslims until the year 784 when Abd al-Rahman I bought the Christian sector and began construction of Great Mosque of Córdoba. Today the building retains much of its Moorish design whilst serving as the Cathedral of Córdoba.
Spanish: Basílica de la Sagrada Família
Official Website: Sagrada Familia
If you only do one thing in Barcelona you must visit Gaudi’s La Sagrada Família which is certainly his most famous work and recognised as a symbol of Barcelona worldwide. Work on this Moderniste cathedral was started by Gaudi in 1883 and he continued to work obsessively on the project until his death in 1926 (he was hit by a tram in Girona). Many of Gaudi’s building plans were destroyed during the Spanish Civil War leading to an ongoing debate as to how his masterpiece should progress. The intended completion date for the Sagrada Familia is 2026 to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Gaudí’s death.
Spanish: El Museo Guggenheim Bilbao
Official Website: Guggenheim Bilbao
Region: Basque Country
Designed by Canadian-American architect Frank Gehry, the locating of this prestigious museum in the economically depressed city of Bilbao in northern Spain helped completely revitalize the region. The Guggenheim opened its doors in 1997 with a permanent exhibition and the promise of frequently changing temporary ones yet for most visitors it is the stunning contemporary design in titanium which is the main attraction for the vast number of visitors who now visit the city from all over the world.
Spanish: Teatro-Museo Dalí
Official Website: Dalí Museum
Salvador Dalí (1904-1989) was a well-known surrealist painter from Figueres in Catalonia. He spent many years of his life working from his home in the beautiful coastal village of Cadaqués. The Dalí Theatre and Museum was built by the city council of Figueres to honour their most famous son. It is home to some of the artist’s most famous works and is a popular day excursion for many visitors to nearby Girona and from Barcelona.
Spanish: San Lorenzo de El Escorial
Official Website: El Escorial