Andalucia, in the south of Spain, is well known for its Moorish history, and nowhere is that more present than in the city of Granada. Dominated by the Alhambra Palace, it is a city that combines modern Spanish life with amazing history, making it ideal for a weekend break.
What to see
Top of any visitor's list should be the Alhambra, the last stronghold of the Moors in southern Spain, where the Nasrid Emirate reigned for more than 250 years. Set upon a hill above the city, this royal palace and gardens is an absolute must-see in Granada. The palace itself is an astonishing example of opulence, not to mention Moorish art and architecture, and is surrounded by the 'Generalife' gardens, beautiful, tranquil, and with stunning views across the city. Visits are split into two sessions, morning and afternoon, but advance booking is advised, since you'll need to be up early if you want to get ahead of the queues on the day. Night visits are also available on certain days of the week.
To further soak up the city's Moorish influence, head to the Corral del Carbon, a 14th century former Arab inn, now restored to its former glory, and wander through the whitewashed maze of streets in Albaycin, the ancient Arab and Moorish quarter of Granada.
At the other end of the scale, Granada Cathedral is a monument to the Catholic influence, a Renaissance-style masterpiece built during the reign of Queen Isabella. And if you are hiring a car or have time to hop on a bus, head to the Carthusian monastery, about two kilometres from the city centre, featuring a 17th century Baroque church and beautiful cloister.
What to do
With the Alhambra at its centre, Granada is something of a tourist hotspot in Andalucia, but it also boasts a warm and relaxed atmosphere in which to soak up the surroundings, and experience some of the local food and culture.
A short bus journey from the city centre, the Sacromonte caves, where gypsies, bohemians and even Flemish artists made their homes, are well worth a visit. Though they can be a little on the touristy side, a flamenco show in one of the caves is still a fabulous experience.
Within the city itself, grab a little R'n'R at the 'Banuelo', or Arab baths, at the foot of the Alhambra. Cold and hot baths, a steam room, and massage are available within these amazingly well preserved surroundings, which are thought to date back to the 11th century.
And if the tourist trail has left you weary, take a seat in the Plaza Nueva, Granada's oldest square and rest with coffee and churros, or visit Elvira Street nearby to sample the local tapas with a refreshing cold Fino.
Where to stay
Since it welcomes plenty of tourists, Granada is home to plenty of hotels to suit most budgets. Not far from the Alhambra itself, the Carmen de la Alcubilla del Caracol offers rooms from around £100 a night, and the charming boutique El Ladron de Agua is similarly priced, and located just off the Plaza Nueva. But if you're happy to splash the cash, you can't beat a couple of nights at the Parador de Granada, housed in a 15th century convent on the site of the Alhambra. The price tag of £700 and upwards might just be worth it for a little unforgettable luxury.
Have you taken a weekend break in Granada? What would you recommend for those considering a visit? Leave your comments below...