The mesmerising Alhambra Palace of Spain

Nothing blew me away in my Andalucía road trip like Alhambra palace. My family and I took a day trip to Granada to visit the beautiful palace of Alhambra. The Alhambra started to be built in the year 1238 for the Muslim Emirs and the court of the Nasrid dynasty. It continued to expand throughout the Islamic rule which ended in 1492 with the reconquest by Isabella and Ferdinand, the Catholic rulers. After 1492, portions of the buildings were used by Christian rulers and in 1572, Charles V built the Palace of Charles V. I loved seeing the different combination of the Islamic 14thcentury and Cathloic 16th century architecture as well as the beautiful gardens and fountains. 

I warn you in advance, I visited here in 2013 where my mobile phone camera wasn’t the best (neither were my photography skills) and doesn’t do the place justice – so please mind the quality of these pictures. I just had to include them to give you a sneak peak of what you would see.  

Tickets:

To guarantee your visit to Alhambra will go ahead – you need to book in advance. I cant stress this enough as we saw so many people continually getting turned away as it was full. You can book tickets online on Spain’s Ticketmaster website. If you just want a standard daytime visit to every part of the Alhambra, select ‘Alhambra General’. The time you select when you go into the Nasrid Palaces (the best and busiest part of the complex). You’re free to walk in and out of the other areas at any time within the session your set time falls into: am (8am-2pm) or pm (2pm to 8pm). However, even though my family and I selected the afternoon slow, we arrived early at 11am and we were able to start exploring straight away. 

There are various areas in the palace that you shouldn’t miss – it should take a full day to see the entire complex of the Alhambra.  

Generalife

We went to the Generalife gardens first as its right next to the ticket office. The Generalife was a summer palace for the Nasrid Emir Kings and built in the 14th century. The path leads to and along an elevated edge which gives you the most beautiful panorama across to the city. It just such a dramatic scene of an Arabic castle on a forested hill – its like you’re in a fairy-tale. 

It had stunning colourful flowerbeds, palm trees, water pool and fountains. Be sure to check out the Court of the Water Channel. 

Nasrid Palaces

We then walked over to the Nasrid Palaces. The rooms in this section are probably the most recognised of the Alhambra. My family just walked from room to room in a perpetual state of awe – admiring the intricate details, carvings, elegant pillars, tiles and patterns. The windows here also offers spectacular views over the city to the hills.

There is also the Court of the Lions which is an impressive space with more intricate details and the fountain of the lions in the middle. There are numerous theories as to its symbolism and meaning. 

You can’t mis the Court of the Myrtles which has a large reflecting pool and impressive architectural details. 

Palace of Carlos V

We then ventured into the Palace of Carlos V which was built in a European Renaissance style with a circular patio and surrounded by pillars. This palace also houses the Museum of Fine Arts, which we didn’t bother going inside as the whole place was enough of an attraction itself. 

The Alcazaba

This was our last stop and is essentially a large military fortress. It had the highest viewpoints in the entire Alhambra complex. 

Do you have any questions about travelling to Alhambra that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Handling the Heat: Day Trip to Seville

Being the capital of the Andalucia region, I read online that Seville is one of the country’s most gorgeous places to visit. Okay… I must keep it real with you guys – I really did not agree and think there are much nicer cities to explore in southern Spain. Maybe because it was the last city to visit in our southern Spain road trip and I was comparing it to the other beautiful cities? Or maybe it was because of the summer heat and that Seville is known to be the hottest city in Europe? I have no idea, but i just wasn’t a fan.

HOWEVER – as I always say in this blog, one must judge for themselves before making a decision so here are a few of the cities main attractions you must visit:

Alcazar of Seville

Originally built to serve as a fort in 913, the Royal Palace of Alcazar has gone through many different rulers and historical change. Built by the Moors, it features different architectural styles due to the fact it was built through various time periods i.e. the Moorish, Gothic, Mudejar, Renaissance etc. 

There is a section in the Renaissance part of the Cathedral, where you can see where Columbus stood when asking the king and queen for permission to venture into the New World – pretty cool. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the best things to do in Seville. 

Seville Cathedral

With a whopping 80 chapels, you can’t really miss this enormous cathedral. In fact, Seville Cathedral is considered to be the largest Gothic cathedral of Europe and third largest in the world. The site was built back in the 1400s and once home to a mosque. The cathedral is home to the tomb of Christopher Columbus as well as the colourful Patio de los Naranios – a courtyard filled with orange trees and fountains. 

Giralda Tower

Sitting right next door to the cathedral, the Giralda Tower is one of the most famous symbols of Seville. It was built by the Moorish people and was the minaret to the mosque that once stood there. The tower has no stairs at all and instead there are 34 ramps that lead to the top of the tower. It was made like this so the muezzin (that led the call to prayer) could ride his horse up the tower instead of walking. 

Visit Plaza de Espana

The very, very rare occasions when i do reminisce of Seville, I always remember the Plaza de Espana because it just looked so immense! It was built for the 1929 Ibero-American Exposition and is created around a semi-circle. The plaza also edges onto a canal and is overlooked by a pretty vast curved palace. 

Maria Luisa Park

This park is situated in the massive plaza de espana. It’s a great place to stroll and sunbathe! 

We then ended the day wandering the cobbled streets and eating the best paella!

Do you have any questions about travelling to Seville that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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Going to the biggest fiesta in Malaga!

With its prime location in Costa del Sol, Malaga is a city that mastered the art of self-reinvention instead of being the sleepy port that it was once famous for. As we were based in Marbella, we took a day trip to Malaga, mainly to experience the annual Feria de Malaga, but also to see the city’s exquisite architecture, delicious food and learn about its history. 

If you’re wondering what to do in Malaga, Spain in one day – then this guide is for you! 

Feria de Malaga

The main reason for going to Malaga was to experience the best and biggest fiesta in town. The Festival of Malaga is the ultimate summer fiesta in the province of Andalucía and takes place in the middle of August each year. The festival dates back to 1487 when Catholic Monarchs Fernando II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile triumphally rode into the city to reclaim Malaga as part of Catholic Spain from its Moorish occupants.  We learnt that the Spanish love a good party as it runs for a full seven days and nights.  It kicks off with fireworks and concerts on the beach and then there are energetic daily street parties throughout the city centre. The city comes alive and showcases its vibrant culture in a mix of music, traditional dresses and horses carriages. I loved how the locals dress up in their traditional clothing – especially women walking around in the Flamenco dresses and the men as Vaqueros (Spanish cowboys).

Alcazaba de Malaga

After experiencing some fiesta, we explored the main sites of Malaga. Alcazaba is probably the most well-known tourist attraction of the city. Situated atop some of the city’s highest hills, Alcazaba is a Moorish fortress and palace and was home to the Muslim rulers. It was built in the 11th century atop a former Roman bastion. Whilst walking around, you can see some of the materials used by the Romans, like the columns. I was particularly impressed with how well-preserved and maintained it all was. We walked past courtyards, patios, fountains and beautiful garden. 

It also offers lovely views of Malaga itself from its towers and walls.  

Roman Theatre

After spending so much time on our feet, we decided to do a bit more of a relaxing activity and visit the Roman Theatre, located just below the Alcazaba. Completely free to enter, we viewed the little exhibit in the visitors centre, read the plaques and took a seat within the theatre itself. The Roman Theatre is the oldest site in Malaga and was built in the first century AD by Augustus but was used as a theatre a century later. It was then abandoned for years and was only discovered in 1951, when the building that was built on top was destroyed. Nowadays, many outdoor performances are taking place there. 

Malaga Cathedral 

The cathedral is one of the tallest in Andalucía and can be seen from miles away. It started to be built in the 16th century, on the foundations of the city’s old mosque. The construction lasted for 200 years but then halted due to lack of funding. Consequently, the cathedral was never fully finished and has only one bell tower (two were meant to be built). You can also climb the 200 steps to go up the 87m high tower. We didn’t have time to go up but you can see 360° scenic view from up there.

Gibralfaro Castle 

Another place you must visit in Malaga is the Gibralfaro castle. Its very close to Alcazaba and also offers the best scenic views over the city. The castle was built in the 14th century to protect the Alcazaba. It has a barrack to house soldiers and a lighthouse (Gibal is an Arabic word meaning mountain and Greek word of faro light). On clear days you an even see the Strait of Gibraltar from up there. 

Do you have any questions about travelling to Malaga that I didn’t answer? Be sure to leave them in the comments, and I’ll get back to you as quickly as possible 🙂

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The Controversial Tradition: Bullfighting in Marbella

Bullfighting (“Corrida de Toros”) is another symbol of Spanish culture and has a very ancient history. They are particularly predominant in the south of Spain and during the feria season – August. This was the first time I went to a bullfight because even though I knew it was controversial, I just wanted to see for myself and then judge whether I like it or not. 

It was interesting, yet gruesome. There was something about it that drew me in – like slowing down when you pass a car accident; you shouldn’t look, but you just do – you cant help it! Your curiosity got the best of you. That’s exactly how I felt about it. After watching the bullfight, I think that they are cruel, violent and totally barbaric. BUT, they are a tradition and I do appreciate that it can be seen as an art that takes skill and technique to perform.

If you decide to watch it, I guess my only advise is, just be mentally prepared for what you are about to see. 

The guy who fights the bull is called a torero, and in Spain, they are treated like rock stars. In the ring, they wear the red cape whereas the others would wear magnet and yellow capes (the bulls are colourblind so it makes no difference to them). The torero also wears a traditional outfit called a trade de luces (suit of lights). Its an extremely brightly coloured right capri pants and a top and jacket – covered in gold and frilled. Its topped off with hot pink tights and black flats.

The first step it making the bull run around for a while and then two men on horseback eventually come out. The horse is heavily padded and its eyes are covered so they don’t see the bull.

They then make the bull weaker. The torero enters the ring with his sword and red cape and after doing a few tricks and intricate passes, he kills the bull. The two horses then comes back into the ring and drags the bull out. Its rather horrific and obviously there are more stages in between but i didn’t want to go into detail. By the end of the fight, you would have seen a few bulls being killed.

If the torero performed well, the crowd waves white handkerchiefs. After the fight, people would then go to the local restaurants nearby and eat the bull. Nice :l

Am i glad i went? Yes i am, i think its important to see things for yourself. Would i go again? No thanks.