Carmen de Los Martires is a 19th-century construction made up of a palace building and vast gardens; a French Baroque garden with a large pond, which has a statue of Neptune in the center and is surrounded by other statues that symbolize the four seasons; an English-style garden, the Palmeras Garden, with a three-tier fountain and irregular squares of hedge and with palm trees; the Spanish Garden, removed in 1960; the Paisajista Garden; the Lake – an irrigation pond that the vegetation tries to hide, making it look like a real lake, surrounded by two islets – the smallest for ducks and swans, the largest is a garden with hedges and a stone jetty with fake medieval ruins; the Nasrid Patio, built in 1944, which imitates the typical elements of Nasrid gardens; the wood-maze that served to join up the gardens.
From April 1 to October 14
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Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 am. to 20:00 pm.
From October 15 to March 31
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Endless beaches to stroll along, hidden coves, white villages that appear like a mirage in the middle of the mountains, historical landmarks with centuries of culture, afternoons spent shopping and evenings dining by the sea. These are the main ingredients of this region of Andalusia, where the mountain and the Mediterranean sea combine to create idyllic landscapes.
The birthplace of geniuses such as painter Pablo Picasso, it is well worth discovering the revamped city of Málaga, exploring the local culture of nearby towns and villages, and enjoying the exclusive restaurants.
A journey along the sunny coast
On a car journey of around 180 kilometres, it is possible to discover at a gentle pace some of the loveliest places in the coastal area. One essential stopping point is the capital of the province, which in recent years has invested heavily in a culture which, in addition to the Picasso Route, offers an interesting variety of museums: Pompidou Centre, Carmen Thyssen Museum, the Collection of the Russian Museum…
It is lovely to take a stroll around this increasingly fashionable city and discover how the Alcazaba, the Castle of Gibralfaro and the Cathedral blend in with alternative urban art neighborhoods such as Soho, with terraces where you can enjoy brunch, or with streets like the Calle Larios for those who love to shop.
The pleasant temperatures all year round and our happy and friendly people will make you feel at home
Other coastal tourist spots with beaches where you can relax are Nerja, Torremolinos, Benalmádena, Fuengirola, Estepona and Marbella. This last location and the nearby Puerto Banús are ideal places to find haute couture brands, prestigious restaurants and beach clubs where you can lay back on a Balinese bed and watch the sun set.
For travelers looking to recharge their batteries or disconnect, there are luxury accommodation options with nutrition programs or boats to hire in the marinas.
Slow travel through the interior
The Costa del Sol seduces visitors with its cliffs, beaches, and coves and also surprises them with its stunning interior, home to villages of whitewashed houses with narrow, winding streets adorned with flowers and which conserve centuries-old traditions. They are built in the middle of the mountain range and discovering them means fully disconnecting in the heart of nature.
Among the most beautiful of these villages are Frigilana and its charming old quarter, Antequera and its stunning prehistoric dolmens, and Rondaand its mythical bridge over the cliff which, in their day, captured the hearts of figures such as Hemingway, Orson Welles -whose ashes are buried here- and Rike.
In addition to visiting these villages, we recommend a visit to some of the region’s wineries and attending a wine tasting, admiring the landscapes along the Caminito del Rey path or visiting nature reserves such as the Sierra de las Nieves or Sierra de Grazalema, staying in a centuries-old traditional Andalusian farmhouse or a rural house that offers massages and natural therapies, relaxing at historical spas such as the one in Tolox or the Carratraca thermal baths, and of course sampling the local cuisine with its unmistakable rural flavours.
Discovering La Axarquía
Almost constant sunshine and warm water beaches. Delicious fish, pretty hotels and great nightlife – this and much more awaits you on the well-known Costa del Sol in Malaga. But you will also find an unparalleled paradise close to the Costa del Sol: La Axarquía.
La Axarquía is the region of Malaga with the greatest number of municipalities, towns and villages which have kept all their flavour and traditional character. Steep narrow streets, barred windows with colourful pots and geraniums. Towns of Moorish origin that still preserve their secluded squares and fountains, with viewpoints overlooking the mountains.
La Axarquía, a place filled with light and colour with a uniquely varied landscape: mountains, valleys, cliffs and coast. Labyrinths of olive trees, almond trees and vines, which fill the mountain landscape with life. Valleys sheltering fertile plains of fruit trees and vegetables around the river Vélez. Lemon and orange groves that surround the villages up to the foot of the mountain range.
Thanks to the local products from land and sea, La Axarquía boasts a rich cuisine, dishes cooked with traditional recipes and with the utmost care. From the Sierra you can make out the coast, landscapes dotted with cliffs and coves, watchtowers and beaches.
View of the village of Nerja View of the village of Nerja
Cómpeta, Casares, Frigiliana, Nerja… a total of 31 beautiful Mudejar villages, each with its own charm. La Axarquía can be found in the Nature Park of the Tejeda, Almijara and Alhama Mountains, where you can go hiking. From here you can start various routes such, for example, up to the top of La Maroma, the highest peak in La Axarquía at 2,068 metres, or enjoy the variety of recreational areas in an exceptional setting.
To familiarise yourself with its traditions and customs, you can take various routes: the Mudejar Route, the Sun and Avocado Route, the Oil and Mountains Route, the Sun and Wine Route or the Raisin Route.
In one of the towns of La Axarquía, Nerja, you will find one of the most visited natural monuments in Spain: the caves of Nerja. You can also visit places as curious as Baños de Vilo Spa, which came to be considered one of the most important in Andalusia in the 18th and 19th centuries. Peaceful villages where you can experience the traditions, ancient skills, and local festivals, surrounded by the charm of Andalusia.
It required a powerful personality to maintain and assert the integrity of al-Andalus: it came in the figure of Abd al-Rahman III (ruled 912-961), the most dominant of all the Umayyad rulers of al-Andalus. Under him, and his son al-Hakam II, and the vizier al-Mansur (de facto ruler under Hisham II), al-Andalus reached the pinnacle of its power, with its influence extending beyond the Pyrenees and well into North Africa.
Abd al-Rahman III (b. 889-d. 961)
Abd al-Rahman succeeded his grandfather, Abdullah ibn Muhammad, as emir at the age of 23, his father having been murdered at Ibn Muhammad’s orders as a result of palace intrigue. (Abd al-Rahman would in turn himself order one of his sons beheaded in his presence; such were the vagaries and severity of palace politics.)
Despite being the greatest Umayyad ruler of al-Andalus, Abd al-Rahman III’s immediate pedigree was almost as much Christian as it was Moorish, since both he and his father were sons of Christian princesses from Navarra
** This, in fact, made Abd al-Rahman distant
cousin to some Christian princes, e.g. Sancho
el Craso, king of León, who even went to
Córdoba to seek the help of Abd al-Rahman
in 958 after having been deposed! .
And physically Abd al-Rahman didn’t fit the Moorish mould: he had fair skin, blue eyes and reddish hair, which he used to dye black in order to look more Arabic. He was also a fluent speaker of the early Spanish spoken in those days.
Abd al-Rahman III’s greatest success was to impose his presence on al-Andalus and unite it as it had never been before. By sheer force of personality he reined in dissidents, placed trusted men in control of restless areas and directed his country’s energies against his enemies.
In North Africa a new threat surfaced in the form of the Fatimids, a Muslim state whose leaders claimed to be direct descendants of the Prophet through his daughter Fátima. Having established their capital on the North African coast (in modern Tunisia) in 910, they posed a challenge to Umayyad (i.e. Córdoba’s) influence in the Maghreb (North West Africa).
In reply, Abd al-Rahman strengthened his navy, and set up or reinforced naval bases along the Mediterranean coast of al-Andalus. He also established outposts in the Maghreb and cultivated friendship with the Berber tribes of the region. The Fatimid threat remained until they transferred their capital to Egypt, and founded Cairo in 969/70. Quite possibly in response to the Fatimid challenge, Abd al-Rahman III declared himself “Caliph,” i.e. successor to Muhammad, in 929, a move that confirmed at the same time what had been the de facto independence of Córdoba from the Abbasid caliphate of Baghdad for almost 200 years.
At the same time that he attended to the Fatimid challenge, Abd al-Rahman occupied himself with suppressing rebellion within al-Andalus. In the south, he inherited the insurgence of Ibn Hafsun, an apostate who rallied support from other dissidents and claimed control over a large area of western Andalusia from his mountain stronghold, Bobastro, deep in the Sierra de Ronda.
Ibn Hafsun died undefeated in 917 and the revolt was continued by his sons until their defeat in 927. Abd al-Rahman got a measure of personal, if belated revenge, by having Ibn Hafsun’s remains exhumed and strung up in Córdoba between the bodies of his sons.
The chronicler Ibn Hayyan (born in Córdoba in 978) later described the scene with some relish: “Al-Nasir (the throne name of Abd al-Rahman) ordered his vile corpse to be brought out of its burial place, and his filthy and impure limbs to be carried to … the Gate in Córdoba, and hung up there on the highest of tall stakes … between the stakes of his two sons who had been crucified there before him….” (Melville & Ubaydli 35).
Al-Andalus. Here called Caliphate of Cordoba, i.e. post 929.
The situation in the north was somewhat different in that Abd al-Rahman was faced both with continuing incursions by various Christian kingdoms and with dubious loyalty from Muslim governors along the border.
A policy of raids (razzias) against Christians sometimes found Abd al-Rahman facing rebel Muslims who had allied themselves with his enemies, e.g. the joint forces of the kingdoms of León and Navarra in the battle of Simancas in 939 (in which Abd al-Rahman not only suffered a heavy defeat but also lost a precious copy of the Qur’an belonging to him; it was also the last battle that he personally headed).
Nevertheless, the defeat at Simancas was a temporary setback, and raids into Christian lands continued, but now headed by his generals. Expeditions of this kind were not unusual under his predecessors, but under Abd al-Rahman they acquired greater significance since by the 10th century the Christians had made considerable territorial gains, especially towards the west where they had repopulated a large part of the Duero valley.
And yet the Moorish raids were just that, raids rather than attempts at conquest. Religion was not a major factor in these razzias, although there were indications of religious overtones in, e. g., the comments of Abd al-Rahman’s historian that his lord was a “warrior in a holy cause” (Fletcher 58), or in the common perception in the Muslim world that Spain was “the land of the jihad” (Fletcher 61).
The Muslim raids served several functions, not the least of which were the rewards of plunder, by means of which state treasury could be replenished. In addition, the ransom of captives was always a lucrative business, and northern women were highly prized for the harems.
The raids could also serve to punish Christian leaders (e.g. García, King of Navarre) for breaking agreements, at the same time that they provided military experience for Berbers and other newcomers to the army (e.g. mercenaries, volunteers, slaves).
Finally, the regular appearance of loyal soldiers crossing border areas was a salutary reminder of Abd al-Rahman’s presence and power, and provided a useful check on the activities of ambitious local governors.
The rise of Al-Andalus in the Iberian Peninsula (Hispania)
In the year 711 Muslim forces, following the orders of the governor of Africa, Musa ibn Nusayr, and under the command of Tariq ibn Ziyad, crossed the straits of Gibraltar and defeated the army of the Visigothic king Roderic somewhere inland from Tarifa. In the following year, Musa himself led an army across the straits and took over command of the conquest.
The rapid advance of the Muslims throughout the Iberian Peninsula (modern Spain & Portugal) was impressive. By 720 almost all the territory was under their control, with the exception of a thin strip along the north coast, roughly equivalent to Asturias and Cantabria.
Whether the Muslims intended to stay is not clear, but undoubtedly the large fertile areas they saw were a significant factor in their decision to remain. In addition, the invasion was a useful means of channeling the energies of the recently conquered and converted Berbers of the Maghreb (Northwest Africa) with the promise of booty, slaves and lands.
Run by governors acting for the Umayyad Caliph in Damascus (Syria), the peninsula’s fortunes were initially tied to the interests of the Middle East. . After the conquest of the peninsula, governors followed thick and fast, the first being Musa’s son, Abd al-Aziz, soon decapitated in Seville accused of trying to usurp power and declare himself ruler.
The Arabs brought with them tribal quarrels inherited from the Middle East while the Berbers felt treated as second-class citizens by the Arabs. The Berber grievances were not without cause. When land was confiscated from those who had opposed the invading armies, the Arabs amassed the best property, e.g. along the Guadalquivir, Guadiana and Ebro river valleys, and the fertile coastal areas. The Berbers had to make do with the rest, mainly mountainous areas around Granada, the hostile Duero valley and damp Galicia in the north west, and the Pyrenees in the north east.
A Berber rebellion in 740 resulted in a civil war.
At this moment, the history of Al-Andalus or Muslim Spain witnessed an important event, the arrival of Abd al-Rahman
by 750, a rival dynasty, the Abbasids (who claimed descent from the Prophet via his daughter Fátima and his murdered son-in-law Ali), succeeded in overthrowing the Umayyads and shortly after removed the caliphate to Baghdad. The whole process was a bloody affair and the Umayyad royal family decimated in the purge. Only one member, 20-year old Abd al-Rahman, escaped. He made his way across North Africa, eventually arriving in Spain in 756.
Quickly he gathered support from among the pro-Umayyad factions there, and within a few months had deposed the governor of al-Andalus, entrenched himself in Córdoba and declared himself emir. The Umayyads may have lost everything in the Middle East, but under Abd al-Rahman, a new Umayyad dynasty was born in Spain that would largely set its own political independence of the Caliphate of Baghdad.
Abd al-Rahman I: Emir of Al-Andalus 756-788
Abd al-Rahman ruled for 32 years, spending much of the time putting down revolts within his realm and consolidating his power. When he arrived in 756, Muslim control had already contracted from the heady days of the invasion, especially in the northwest, thanks to Christian resistance.
Abd al-Rahman’s determination to impose his rule was constantly challenged by these local rulers, and also by Abbasid support from Baghdad. However, he gradually put down revolts one by one, and when the occasion merited it was not above coming to terms with Christian opposition. By the early 770s, Abd al-Rahman controlled all but the Ebro valley.
In 785 Abd al-Rahman build a great Masjid in Cordoba. It was a large and striking house of worship befitting both his illustrious heritage and his authority in al-Andalus.
The great Cordoba Mosque was a powerful statement to the still considerable Christian community -called the Mozarabs-, that Islam was there to stay. As a tribute to his lost home in Siria, Abd al-Rahman ordered to orientate the qibla wall -that always directs the faithful towards Mecca when praying- facing Damascus. This way when praying, he would symbolically be paying homage to his Umayyad heritage.
Another building was a more personal and nostalgic reminder of Abd al-Rahman’s Syrian past. It was the beautiful palace of Rusafa, built on the hillside overlooking the city (where today stands the Parador of Arruzafa).
T the palace was surrounded by a beautiful garden. Here Abd al-Rahman spent most of his last years tending his plants and especially his palm trees, planted so it is believed by the emir himself. A short poem, written by Abd al-Rahman is a poignant summary of his nostalgia:
A palm tree stands in the middle of Rusafa,/ Born in the West, far from the land of palms./ I said to it: How like me you are, far away and in exile,/ In long separation from family and friends./ You have sprung from the soil in which you are a stranger;/ And I, like you, am far from home.
Abd al-Rahman died in Cordoba in 788, passing the reins of power to his designated heir, a younger son, Hisham.
Seville has something for everyone. From its great Moorish and Catholic monuments to its historic bullring, and from great tapas bars to enchanting old neighbourhoods and giant wooden mushrooms, these are the top 20 attractions for you to seek out while you’re in the Andalusian capital.
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Royal Alcazar Palace
Along with the cathedral, Seville’s key architectural attraction is the Royal Alcázar Palace. Work on this great palace complex began in the 10th century, when the Umayyads built a Moorish fortress attached to the Roman city walls, but it was not until the 12th century that the first royal palace was built on the site, by the then-ruling Almohad Dynasty. Additions and renovations continued on and off until the 19th century, resulting in a structure that showcases a mix of Moorish, Renaissance and Mudéjar architecture, with the latter being particularly notable in the Mudéjar Palace. The upper floors of the Alcázar are the Spanish royal family’s Seville residence, making it Europe’s oldest continually used royal palace. Real Alcázar de Sevilla, Patio de Banderas, s/n, Seville, Spain, +34 954 50 23 24
Seville’s greatest Catholic monument amazes with its sheer size: it is the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. Construction of this sprawling Gothic complex, which houses 80 chapels and has the longest central nave in Spain, began in 1401 on the site of the city’s former mosque. Work continued for over 100 years, and in 1507 the cathedral was finally completed, having spectacularly succeeded in fulfilling the design team’s aim to make something ‘so beautiful and so magnificent that those who see it will think we are mad’.
Catedral de Sevilla, Av. de la Constitución, Seville, Spain, +34 902 09 96 92
Giralda Bell Tower
All that remains of Seville’s great mosque is part of its minaret, which is now the cathedral’s Giralda bell tower, another of Seville’s key architectural attractions. The minaret, which was built during the Almohad period, was originally topped with giant copper globes, but these fell off in an earthquake in 1365. The ruling conquistadors, perhaps interpreting their removal as a hint from the universe, decided to replace them with a Christian cross and bell tower. Except for the final section, which features stairs, the route to the top (for stunning views) is via ramps – supposedly so it can be reached by horseback, although it’s unclear whether this means you have to buy two tickets or just one.
Casa de Pilatos
This beautiful 15th–16th-century mansion is one of central Seville’s hidden treasures, and its exquisite gardens, though smaller in scale, match anything you’ll see in the Alcázar. Begun by the wealthy conquistador and Mayor of Andalucia, Pedro Enriquez de Quiñones, in the late 1400s, Casa de Pilatos is another of Seville’s classic Mudéjar structures, built around a central courtyard in the traditional Andalusian style. Its name – Pilate’s House – was bestowed (hopefully with a touch of mockery) after Quiñones’ son Fadrique traveled to Jerusalem in 1519 and returned overflowing with enthusiasm for the Holy Land. The palace’s undeniable good looks have earned it a starring role in two films: 1962’s Lawrence of Arabia and 2010’s Knight and Day.
Casa de Pilatos, 1 Plaza de Pilatos, Seville, Spain, +34 954 22 52 98
Seville’s Real Maestranza bullring is one of the most attractive and important plazas in Spain. Construction began in 1761 on the site of the city’s old rectangular plaza de Toros and was finally completed in 1881. Particularly attractive is the Prince’s Gate (the main entrance), the ornate black iron gates of which are the work of Pedro Roldan, and which were originally the property of a convent. Being carried through these on the shoulders of fellow matadors and the public is a mark of great triumph, and one of the highest honors attainable by a matador in Spain. The Maestranza’s excellent museum explores the history of bullfighting, and daily tours of the arena are available.
Plaza de Toros de Sevilla, 12 Paseo de Cristóbal Colón, Seville, Spain, +34 954 22 45 77
The audience that packs out Seville’s stately 18th-century bullring every time there is a bullfight is known to be the most demanding in Spain – and for good reason. Often, a kind of party atmosphere prevails in the stands during a bullfight: Spaniards turn up in big groups with picnic baskets crammed full of beer and sandwiches and make a social occasion of it, which can make concentrating on events in the ring difficult. In Seville, however, the bullfight is watched in studious silence, with applause and jeering meted out only when truly deserved. This makes for an ambiance of great intensity and drama and, if you choose to experience it for yourself, a truly unforgettable afternoon. The best time to see a bullfight here is during Seville’s annual April fair, more on which below.
One of Seville’s Mudejar classics is the Plaza de España, a stunning development built-in 1928 in preparation for Seville’s hosting of the Ibero-American Exposition of 1929. The half-moon-shaped building is fronted by a moat and borders on a plaza with a beautiful fountain at its center; it showcases a striking mix of Mudéjar and Renaissance styles, with splashes of Art Deco to be seen on the colorful façades. Boating can be enjoyed on the moat, which is spanned by four bridges representing the ancient kingdoms of Spain.
Seville’s impressive Archive of the Indies
Seville’s impressive Archive of the Indies | Sandra Vallaure/Flickr
Documenting the Golden Age of the Spanish Empire that followed Christopher Columbus’s exploration of the Americas in 1492 is Seville’s Archive of the Indies, a must-see for history boffins. These UNESCO-protected 16th-century buildings house some 80 million documents relating to the Spanish Empire of the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries, a period when Seville was the empire’s most important city. If you think that sounds like a little too much reading for one afternoon, fear not: as well as the beautiful old books and the palatial buildings themselves, other sights here include a 17th-century cannon, maps charting the entire Spanish Empire and several paintings by Goya.
Al Aljibe is one of the best tapas bars on the Alameda de Hercules, Seville’s trendiest and most popular nightspot. The restaurant boasts a romantic and secluded first-floor terrace overlooking the Alameda, as well as an exclusive rooftop patio with just a few tables. Bear in mind that only full plates or “raciones” are served on the rooftop seating area, although ordering bigger portions of Aljibe’s incredible food won’t be a problem. Customers rave about the ox burger, the fried cod with vegetables and the duck and brandy paté. Inside, there is seating spread over two floors, but it’s always worth reserving a table, especially in the evenings. Aljibe’s location and food have made it one of the most popular high-class tapas places in town.
If a tapas restaurant on the Alameda de Hercules is having to turn customers away of an evening, that’s a sign it’s doing something pretty special. This is the case with La Mata 24, a classy establishment that is often packed to capacity after 9pm. The style is pan-Mediterranean rather than Spanish, and all the dishes are prepared with an inventiveness that can be lacking in Seville’s more traditional tapas restaurants. The wine list and service are highly recommended, and the bar hosts regular exhibitions of work by local and non-local artists, making it a must if you’re hanging out in this lively part of Seville.
Triana is Seville’s former Gypsy quarter and one of the city’s most distinctive attractions. From its pretty, myth-laden streets have come some of the most influential bullfighters of the last couple of centuries, including the legendary Juan Belmonte, one of the greatest matadors in the history of bullfighting. Its colourful, quaint streets are lined with old-style tapas bars, the walls of which are often plastered with faded bullfighting posters, photos of flamenco artists and weeping Virgin Marys. It is also known for its locally made ceramics, which adorn the walls of its old, whitewashed houses, and one of Seville’s best and most lively markets, the Mercado de Triana.
Bar Bodega Santa Cruz
This lively tavern is one of the best in central Seville and is a great place to start your exploration of the romantic, intriguing neighborhood of Santa Cruz. Owing to the scarcity of outside seating, it always seems as if a spontaneous street party is going on outside, with eaters and drinkers taking over the pavement in front of the bar. The food and drink offering is traditional, with a range of wines and sherries available, as well as excellent tapas at about €2 a pop. It’s particularly good for an early evening stop-off when the atmosphere is joyfully chaotic. Bodega Santa Cruz, 1A Calle Rodrigo Caro, Seville, Spain, +34 954 21 16 94
Surrounding the central plaza on which Seville’s mighty cathedral squats is the charming old Jewish neighborhood of Santa Cruz, one of Andalusia’s most iconic barrios. This was the neighborhood into which Ferdinand III confined the city’s Jewish population when he took the city from the Moors in 1248; nowadays, it’s the heart of historic Seville and the first place many tourists head to. In this maze of narrow cobbled streets and achingly romantic squares are to be found some of the city’s best tapas bars and flamenco joints, but just to wander around Santa Cruz (almost certainly getting lost, if it’s your first time) is an experience in itself.
Slightly surly service is the price to pay for enjoying sweet wines, sherry and tapas in this local institution. La Bodega is well established on the tourist route in Santa Cruz but Sevillanos love it too, piling in in huge groups from about 2 pm for lunch and about 9pm for dinner. These are the best times to head to La Bodega for a glass of the signature manzanilla (old barrels are scattered around the place) and a plate of their excellent tapas, either crammed in amongst Sevillanos at the bar or, if you’re lucky, at one of the tables.
Romeo and Juliet Balcony
Winding along beside the Alcázar in the heart of Santa Cruz is a narrow, shaded alleyway called Calle Agua, named after a mini-aqueduct that used to run along the top of the Moorish palace’s walls. This mysterious path brings you out onto the absurdly romantic Plaza Alfaro, always busy with tourists pointing their cameras upwards and snapping away at the building said to have inspired the balcony scene in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Whether this tale is apocryphal or not, it’s easy to imagine a latter-day Romeo scaling the beautiful facade to reach the object of his desire.
Feria de Abril
The Feria de Abril, Seville’s legendary fiesta, takes place two weeks after Easter and is one of Andalusia’s biggest fairs. This week-long party has left its humble 19th -century cattle-market beginnings long behind, and its sanded fairground – or recinto – now hosts over 1,000 individual marquees, or casetas, every year. Run by local charities, businesses and collectives, these casetas are where the locals dance and drink until the small hours of the morning, every night for a week. Although the vast majority of the marquees are private and require an invitation for entry, there are several public casetas which are just as much fun. If you’re planning a visit to Seville in spring, make sure you plan it to coincide with this annual extravaganza.
Las Setas de Sevilla, Pl de la Encarnación, s/n, Seville, Spain, 0034 954 56 15 12
Situated underneath the vast canopies of Seville’s Setas on the popular Plaza de la Encarnación is Los Alcazares, one of the best tapas joints in central Seville. From its small, traditional bar room or outside terrace you can watch life unfold on the busy plaza while sipping on a cold beer or sweet manzanilla. Alcazares is popular with tourists, but the old-fashioned décor (think bullfighting and fiesta posters) and its popularity with nearby office workers who stop in for a quick tapas and beer at lunchtime mean it doesn’t feel touristy.
Here we resumed all the information you may need about Barcelona’s largest shopping centres, you’ll read about the centres and what you can find inside.
Barcelona is a beautiful city that offers such a great number of places to explore, where you can never really go short on things to see and do. But we totally get that all of us after exploring the cultural side of a city, need some time for shopping: to find something for ourselves, our relatives and friends back home.
You can find some unique handmade pieces in the little boutique shops of the old town or head to Passeig de Gracia and pass by its variety of designer shops. But sometimes, especially during the hot summer months, it is just easier to go to a shopping mall and find everything you need at once.
And what’s great about Barcelona is that the city has so many great shopping malls, that wherever you go, your shopping experience will be very enjoyable and, for sure, very successful.
So, if you wonder how to spend your Sunday or you need just a place to do some shopping, one of this malls for shopping will surely be what you were searching about.
When you first see the Las Arenas building you will never tell that it is a shopping mall. From the outside it looks like a historical monument, because it is one of them.
The building itself dates back to 1900. Back in the days, it was a bullfighting arena (you see where the name comes from), and later it was reconstructed and redesigned into a commercial center in 2011.
Today it is one of the coolest malls you can visit: apart from a great number of shops spread into three levels of the center, you can find a cinema, a gym, numerous restaurants and even a Rock Museum.
But its real treasure is the located in Plaza España on the 5th floor circular terrace with a 360 degrees panoramic view. In fact, there is a glass elevator that will take you to the viewing platform for €1.
If you are not ready to pay to get to the top, you can come up easily using the escalators inside the mall.
Shops: Monday to Saturday 10:00 – 22:00 (June to September). Monday to Saturday 09:00 – 21:00 (October to May). Restaurants: Sunday to Thursday 10:00 – 1:00 / Friday, Saturday and holidays 10:00 – 3:00.
Address: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 373-385 | View Map
2. El Corte Ingles
El Corte Ingles shopping center is one of the first things that you see in Barcelona when you get off the Aerobus at Plaza Catalunya on your very first day.
This center is one of many from the chain located throughout Barcelona, and the biggest of them.
It is the Spanish equivalent for Macy’s and one of the best places to go for the designer clothes, accessories and cosmetics in Barcelona.
If you are not keen on spending many hours on shopping or need a place where all your family members or friends can find what they are looking for without having to split up and going to different shops, this shopping center is your best choice.
Inside the El Corte Ingles you will find everything you may possibly need: perfumes, cosmetics, jewelry, women’s and men’s fashion, a travel agency, children fashion, shoes, furniture and electronics, books, toys and much more.
At the ninth and the very last floor of the center there is a restaurant and café La Rotonda. There is also a supermarket and a little food court downstairs.
The Diagonal Mar shopping centre is one of the biggest in Barcelona, offering about 200 shops where everyone can find something they look for. It is located at the very end of the Diagonal Avenue, where it meets the Mediterranean sea, in the Sant Martí district.
You can visit Diagonal Mar after spending a day at the beach, that is only 5 minutes away from the mall.
Apart from a great variety of international and Spanish brands, there is a big Alcampo supermarket, cinema (in Spanish), several restaurants on the outside terrace and a food court on the upper floor of the mall.
Right next to the Diagonal Mar shopping centre you can find the Parc de la Diagonal Mar, which is the second biggest park in Barcelona.
Maremagnum shopping area is located at the very end of a wooden pier of the Port Vell of Barcelona. Its building has a very distinctive and interesting design. Its mirrored entrance will not let you pass by without taking a selfie!
The shopping precinct offers numerous shops for fashion, home ware and other kinds of goods.
Getting there is the easiest thing: you just walk down Las Ramblas all the way from Plaza Catalunya and follow the crowd through the pier.
You will not have a more enjoyable and romantic walk, especially if you do it during the sunset.
Here you have the beautiful Rambla de Mar just before reaching the mall:
Maremagnum is located right next to the building of the Aquarium de Barcelona, which is highly recommended for a visit if you are in Barcelona with kids.
There are several restaurants and cafes, some of them offering big terraces with incredible views of the port of Barcelona.
You will love the variety of places for the best seafood in town and the choice of lounge bars to spend a nice evening at. Apart from shops and places to eat, you will find a cinema in Spanish.
The Glories shopping center would never make it to this list if it wasn’t for the latest reconstruction of it, that started back in 2015 and finished in November on 2017. This marketplace, located in the Plaza de las Glòries in Barcelona, wasn’t always as good as it is now.
It took 2 years to turn it into one of the best centers to go for shopping in Barcelona.
As a result of this transformation, it has gained many more shops, attractions and restaurants, and has incorporated sculptures and entrance signs made by Javier Mariscal.
The best thing about Glories is that a big part of it is outdoors, and to get from one shop to another, you sometimes need to take a very enjoyable walk through its “streets”.
There are all kinds of shops to explore, cinema (in Spanish), gym, Carrefour hypermarket, numerous restaurants, food court, etc.
Gran Via 2 is the only commercial center located in the Montjuic area of Barcelona. You can find it on the Gran Via street. It offers 3 floors filled with a variety of major brand name shops, about 20 restaurants, a cinema and a Carrefour hypermarket.
The only problem that its location has is that the closest metro station is the Plaza Espanya one, otherwise it can be reached by bus, car or the Renfe Cercanias train. It is a great option for those city visitors who are staying in that area, attend events taking place at Fira Gran Via, or passing by on their way from IKEA, located just nearby.
La Maquinista is the only open-air shopping complex in Barcelona. It is also one of the largest in Catalonia.
It is like a little shopping town, thanks to its open spaces with avenues, squares and porches.
You get to stay outside most of the time you spend there, and at the end of the day you don’t want to leave.
There are some shops and restaurants that you can only find in La Maquinista. Also, there is a cinema (in Spanish) and other leisure activities.
It is located in the neighbourhood of Buen Pastor, in the district of San Andrés, next to the Trinidad junction, the main north and northwest entrance to Barcelona, that connects the motorways directly with the roundabouts that surround the city.
Furthermore you can easily reach it by car, and is no challenge for those coming by public means of transport. You need to take the red L1 metro line and get off at Sant Andreu metro station.
The ride will not take you more than 20 minutes. Then you simply have to walk around 10 minutes, and your day is sorted.
This 10,000 m2 outlet center is a great shopping destination if you are looking for your favorite brands but want to find something for a reduced price. The brands that you can find range from fashion and sports brands to cosmetics and homeware. After having done your shopping, you can relax in one of the restaurants or take a walk.
La Roca Village is located just 40 minutes from the center of Barcelona in a quiet area of the Vallès region, near the beaches of Maresme and the Costa Brava.
It offers more than 130 luxury boutiques of national and international fashion and homeware brands with discounts of up to 60%.
The center is very popular all-year-round, because apart from all the amazing shops you can visit a variety of restaurants and cafes and services.
It is a great option if you have a car.
It can be a bit hard to get there if you go by public transport but totally worth it in the end. To conclude, it is a perfect place if you want to have a great day shopping far from the bustle of the city center of Barcelona.
Opening hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 – 21:00.
Address: La Roca Village, s/n, 08430 Santa Agnès de Malanyanes | View Map
Since this one is really close to Costa Brava Beaches,
we recommend you to have a look on our guide!
Spain has a long and colourful history, having first been conquered by the Roman Empire until the Middle Ages, when in the 8th century, Spain became a part of the ever-expanding Umayyad Caliphate. Although later, in the 15th century, Imperialism invaded Spain, followed by the wars for liberalization in the 18th century, leading to the Spanish civil war and finally establishing Spain as a Democracy.
This Islamic reign by the Muslim Moors in the Iberian Peninsula indelibly left its mark on modern-day Spain, resulting in the Spanish kingdom being dotted with some of the most beautiful mosques with an awe-inspiring architecture of that era. Thus, for the Muslim traveller on a holiday in Spain, some of the world’s most amazing Mosques await you. In fact, visiting these wonderous Spanish Mosques must be on the ‘to-do’ list for any Halal trip to Spain.
So, review these renowned Mosques, and locate them on your mobile, to experience a prayer place which has been standing for over a thousand years!
The Great Mosque of Córdoba
The Great Mosque of Córdoba located in the Spanish region of Andalusia was originally a small Christian Visigoth church. When the Moor Muslim’s came to rule Spain, Abd al-Rahman I ordered the construction of the Great Mosque in 784. This Mosque was further expanded by later Muslim rulers. This Mosque of Córdoba was important to the Islamic community of al-Andalus for three centuries. In 1236, Córdoba was converted to a Roman Catholic church. Since the early 21st century the Spanish Muslims have been lobbying the Roman Catholic church to allow them to pray at this site, but have however to date been denied permission.
In its heyday, the Great Mosque of Córdoba was used as the main place for prayer, it was also a hall for teaching Islam and the site for Sharia Law cases.
Architecture and Design
The architectural design of the Great Mosque of Córdoba is inspired by the Great Mosque of Damascus, the Dome of the Rock and the Aachen Cathedral. Architects also incorporate Roman columns of Gothic structure and others sent from different regions of Iberia as gifts. The Columns, arches and other decorative aspects of the Mosque were incorporated with ivory, jasper, porphyry, gold, silver, copper, and brass. Mosaics and azulejos were also incorporated in the design of the Mosque. The walls were also decorated with Quranic inscriptions. The mihrab of the Mosque was considered an architectural masterpiece with its geometric and flowing designs of plants.
However, when Córdoba was conquered by King Ferdinand III of Castile, the centre of the Great Mosque was converted into a Catholic cathedral. As time passed other Christian features were added such chapels and a nave. The minaret of the Mosque was also converted to the bell tower.
It is reported that Abd al-Rahman I is buried under the site of the Mosque.
Abd al-Rahman I initially named the Mosque ‘Aljama Mosque’ in honour of his wife.
The Great Mosque of Córdoba was added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites as a part of the Historic Center of Córdoba in 1984.
Although Muslims are not allowed to pray at this Mosque, it is a must visit with its amazing architecture and remarkable historical significance.
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday – 10:00 am to 06:00 pm | Sunday and Religious Festive Days – 9:00 am to 10:30 am and 02:00 pm to 06:00 pm.
Tickets: Guided Tours – 40 € per person and free for children under 8 years old | Tours without a Guide – 10 € per person, 5 € for children between 10-14 years old and free for children under 10 years old.
Click here for more information about The Mosque of Córdoba
Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz has remained nearly unchanged since its construction in 999 and is the only remaining former Moorish Mosque in the city of Toledo, Spain. Originally named the Mezquita Bab-al-Mardum, it is located near the Puerta del Sol, a city gate of Toledo, Spain, built in the late 14th century.
Architecture and Design
This Mosque was built over a Visigoth church measuring approximately 8m X 8m with four columns dividing the interior into nine parts. The designs in each of these nine parts are unique and follow Islamic design concepts. This Mosque, which was converted to a chapel in 1186, is constructed of brick and small stones. The overall architectural design and formation is a blend of Moorish style and local building techniques. However, much of its influence can be attributed to the caliphate in Córdoba and the Great Mosque of Córdoba.
After the conversion of the Mosque to a church, the qibla wall and mihrab were lost when an apse was built in the Mudejar architecture style. Today, this building also features many Christian themed decorations and murals of Christ and other figures.
Today, this building functions as a church. However, Muslim travellers will get a feel the Mosque that it was, especially with the inscription in Kufic script on the facade of the building that reveals the details of the Mosque’s origin.
Opening Hours: Monday to Sunday 10:00 am – 06:45 pm (March 1st to October 15th) | 10:00 – 05:45 pm (October 16th to February 28th).
Tickets: General – 2.80 € | Accredited Groups – 2.40 € | Free for under the age of 11.
Click here for more information about The Mosque of Cristo de la Luz
The Mosque of Almonaster la Real
This Mosque was built in the 10th century from the origins of a Visigoth basilica of the 5th century. Hailed as one of the few surviving Spanish rural Mosques, it is an oddly shaped building made of brick and stone. This Mosque sits on top of a hill within the castle overlooking the village of Almonaster la Real in the province of Huelva, Spain. This beautifully preserved Mosque was converted to a church as Islamic rule changed to Christian rule. Over the centuries this Mosque has gone through numerous changes, but its Islamic features have been retained while new Christian elements were added on.
Architecture and Design
This Mosque was built during the reign of Abd al-Rahman III. It is trapezoidal in shape and has three parts – the prayer hall, the courtyard of ablutions, and the minaret tower. The prayer hall has five small naves. The central nave is covered by a half-sphere dome and brick arches. The courtyard of ablutions is built-into the facade of the rock. Most of the minaret has been built over due to the additions made over the years. The Mihrab, however, still stands, but has over the years lost its paint, and only the brick and stone remain today.
16 undated tombs were found in the oration room of the Mosque.
The Mosque of Almonaster la Real is the focus of the annual ‘Jornadas de Cultura Islamica’ which takes place in the town of in Almonaster la Real in the month of October.
Despite the changes over the years, the building retains its ‘Moorish character’ to date. It was declared a National Monument in 1931 and was further renovated between 1970 and 1973. The Mosque of Almonaster la Real is a must-visit place while on your Halal trip to Spain.
Opening Hours: Every day from 09.00 am to 08.30 pm.
Tickets: Entrance is free.
Click here for more information about The Mosque of Mezquita de Almonaster La Real
MOSQUE at Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera
Picture Credit – www.flickriver.com
The Mosque within the Alcazar of Jerez de la Frontera in the is the Cadiz province of Spain is the only remaining one in the region from the original 18 Mosques. It was built in the 11th century but was converted to a church in the 13th century when the Christians conquered the region. The entire Fortress was designated as a world heritage site in 1931.
Opening Hours: Monday to Friday 09:30 am – 02:30 pm (October 1st to June 30th) | Monday to Friday 09:30 am – 05:30 pm (July 1st to September 30th) | Saturday and Sunday 09:30 am – 02:30 pm
Tickets: General – 5 € | Groups – 4 €
Click here for more information about Mezquita de Jerez
Other Former MOSQUES of Spain
Apart from the above famous historic Mosques of Spain, there are much more Mosques or Mezquita (as known in Spanish) which can be visited. While many have been converted to churches or put to other uses today, the architecture and splendour still remain. So, while holidaying in Spain and visiting these regions/cities, take the time to visit these magnificent mosques in Spain.
Mezquita de las Tornerías | Toledo, Spain
Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral (also known as Seville Cathedral) | Seville, Spain
Modern Mosques in Spain
For those Muslim travellers are looking for Mosques with the express purpose of prayer, these modern Mosques of Spain are your answer. A quick search on Google Maps should give you its location.
Click here for more information about King Abdul Aziz Mosque
Sakina has over 10 years of experience in the field of corporate communications; having worked for a leading Annual Report Production House dealing with top corporates of Sri Lanka and overseas, and later as the Group Communications Specialist for a Sri Lankan conglomerate for their overseas plantations business. She is well-versed in the production process of annual reports, sustainability reports, corporate videos and other corporate communication media. She also has experience in Social Media Marketing and works to increase and improve social media presence of corporates and small niche market businesses. Today, she works as a freelance writer and undertakes consultations on corporate communications and social media related projects. She enjoys writing for blogs on topics of interest.
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Funerary Monuments of Puerta Gallegos
Studied during several excavation campaigns in the 1990s, the Funerary Monuments of Puerta Gallegos are two of the most significant examples of monumental funerary architecture in Roman Córdoba, both for its size, 13 m. diameter, as for the architectonic type in which they can be classified. They are located on both sides of the Roman road connecting the city since Republican times, the so-called Corduba-Hispalis, on the right bank of the river Guadalquivir. This road forked in two; one of them was Camino Viejo de Almodóvar (Old Road to Almodóvar), which was one of the most important burial areas in the city.
It was in Augustus’s times when the first Funerary Monument was built, consisting of anustrinum (where the cremation of the corpse was made) and an area of funerary placement separated from the former by a low wall, thus forming a complex that has interesting similarities to those of other cities in Bética, such as Baelo Claudia. We should probably date in this time the paving of the road with puddingstone, now a clear extension of the main street in the city with an orientation east-west, the Decumanus Maximus. This must be understood taking into account the urban planning of the area, together with the building of a bridge and the embellishment of the gates of the city.
In times of Emperor Tiberio, this process of building monuments got to its peak with the construction of two cylindrical funerary monuments with identical size but different function. The northern one, which has a better conservation state, was erected respecting the previous burial, which suggests a familiar relationship between the users of both complexes. It also maintains its individual character, whereas the southern one seems to have been conceived as a collective burial probably for the remains of the relatives of that buried in the first building.
As for its type, we can highlight its direct Italian tradition, although there are exact parallels in the funerary architecture in Hispania. Their shape resemble other monuments located in Carmona, Alcalá de Guadaira, Mérida and maybe Les Gunyoles (Tarragona). The spreading of this kind of cylindrical monument can be explained through the importance of the mausoleum of Emperor Augustus himself. Thus, the existence of these magnificent buildings is just another proof of the fact that Roman Córdoba was a clear reflection of the capital itself, Rome, in the middle of a process of ideological and iconographic transmission, which was unique in the rest of Hispania.
This type of building seems to be related to the ordo equester, one of the most important sectors of Roman society. We must also remember the privileged location of the funerary monuments, very close to the road, thus being part of the “image of the city”, which emphasizes the special importance they had in the society of Roman Córdoba.
The constructive techniques show the continuous use of traditional techniques in the Patrician architecture, such as the use of the opus quadratum or the “mine stone”, but at the same time, new trends in Roman architecture were imported, such as the opus caementicium and the massive use of marble.
Although it may be difficult to understand, the funerary monuments did not last long, as at the end of the 2nd century AD, the funerary area was literally invaded by domestic and commercial buildings that belonged to one of the neighbourhoods that had appeared outside the walls of the city while the road mentioned was removed and elevated.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be Roman Córdoba, choosing one of our guided tours.
The first news mentioning possible remains in the area go back to 1922, when, due to a reform in the railway system, Joaquín María de Navascués found the cryptoportico – of which up to 18 metres of its inside silting were excavated – and one of the buildings related to it, whose pavement was preserved at that moment.
Years later (1955), Samuel de los Santos Gener, after collecting data related to possible archaeological remains in the area, found a series of structures during the urban reforms in the “Colonia de la Paz” and the old tanks belonging to the oil company CAMPSA.
However, the recent history of the Palace of Maximianus Herculeus starts in spring of 1991, when the underground works of the railway were carried out to build the new train station. They unveiled and destroyed part of the site. After reporting this, there were a series of excavation campaigns that showed the spectacular character of the monument, although this did not prevent the works from continuing.
Nowadays, the remains preserved (a third of the whole complex), has remained in History as a dark episode of the archaeology in Córdoba and Andalusia, as a clear example of apathy from the responsible institutions and the precarious protectionist policy of the archaeological heritage from Córdoba.
The following excavation campaigns carried out since 1991 up to now have unveiled a large monumental complex built between the end of the 3rd century AD and the beginning of the 4th century AD. The interpretations about the monument go from an episcopal centre promoted by Osio or a late-Imperial Palatial Complex; the latter is more commonly accepted among the scientific community. It was commissioned as a palace and headquarters of tetrarch Emperor Maximianus Herculeus between 296 and 297 AD in his pacifying campaign in the south of Hispania and north of Africa. This complex became the official headquarters of the Emperor in order to control more effectively the Roman West. It was located outside the walls of the city, around 600 metres from the northwestern angle of the walled area, reusing a suburban villa from early-Imperial times.
The palatial complex, 400 metres long and 200 metres wide, is displayed around a semicircular cryptoportico, with the shape of a 109-metre-diameter exedra, and an underground gallery. A series of skylights, alternated among them, provided the inside with light.
The rest of the buildings are located around it, and they could be accessed through an arcade gallery with columns. At the head of the cryptoportico and in hits main axis, we can see the main building, the aula central, with a basilical floor crowned by an apse. This place was chosen for the Imperial receptions. In the north of the Aula central the termas were located, with a private character only reserved for the Emperor and his closest acquaintances, which have been excavated and identified part of their rooms.
Located on both sides of the main building, and arranged around the semicircular portico, two buildings with identical morphological features were built. The best preserved one, located in the north, keeps part of its pavement, made with geometrical and vegetable mosaics. As it is close to the aula central, they could have been used as reception buildings for the senior officials of the Imperal administration of the court itself.
Likewise, in the northern and southern ends of the cryptoportico buildings with similiar floor were located, Northern Trichora and Southern Trichora respectively. Their floor consists of two parallel walls defining three longitudinal naves, and an outside appearance of a polyapse (three at the end and two on one side). The northern trichora was reused in Late Antiquity as a Christian cult centre, interpreted as the supposed basilica of martyr San Acisclo.
Finally, the Palace of Maximianus Herculeus is completed with a series of rooms located further from the political centre of the Palatium, which have been interpreted as the Emperor’s private houses.
A great part of the complex was reused in Visigothic time as a Christian cult temple, and later, in Islamic times, the space was occupied by one of the northwestern suburbs of Qurtuba.
If you are not sure what to do in Córdoba, we recommend you visit Roman Córdoba hiring one of our guided tours.
Since the arrival of Islam as a religion in the 7th century C.E., Gardens have been described as a
metaphor of Paradise or al-janna (the garden). Every time heaven is mentioned in the holy book of
Quヴげaﾐ, there is a description of flowing water and fruit bearing trees, signifying their importance to
man. The reward for good deeds according to the Quヴげaﾐ is a place of shaded trees, flowing water,
gardens with sweet fruits (bostan) and fragrant flowers (gulistan).
As the religion evolved in a desert climate, Water became the main resource to conserve and utilise
in the most optimum way possible.
The Quヴげaﾐ gives 8 different names which Muslim theologians
take to be 8 different levels or stages of Paradise.
a. Jannatu-al-khuld (al-furqan, 25:15), can be called as
さGaヴdeﾐ of eteヴﾐit┞ざ1 oヴ さthe Gaヴdeﾐ of Iﾏﾏoヴtalit┞ざ2
b. Darul-as-salam (al-aﾐaﾏ, ヶ:ヱヲΑぶ, Iaﾐ He Ialled as さthe
AHode of PeaIeざ
c. Darul-al-Qaヴaヴ ふal Muげﾏiﾐ, ヴヰ:ヴヲぶ, Iaﾐ He Ialled as さthe
Gaヴdeﾐざ oヴ さThe Gaヴdeﾐ of Blissざ
d. Jannatu-al-adn (al-Baヴaげah, Γ:Αヲ-Αンぶ, Iaﾐ He Ialled as さthe
Gaヴdeﾐ of Edeﾐざ oヴ さthe Gaヴdeﾐ of E┗eヴlastiﾐg Blissざ
e. Jannatu-al-Maげ┘a ふal-“ajdah, ンヲ:ヱΓぶ, Iaﾐ He Ialled as さthe
gaヴdeﾐ of ‘etヴeatざ oヴ さthe Gaヴdeﾐ of HospitaHle hoﾏesざ
f. Jannatu-al-nain (al-Maidah, 5:70), can be called as
さPaヴadiseざ oヴ さHea┗eﾐざ
g. Illiyin (al-tatfif, 83:18), can be called as the same.
h. Jannatu-al-Firdaus (al-kahf, ヱΒ:ヱヰΑぶ, Iaﾐ He Ialled as さthe
Gaヴdeﾐ of Paヴadiseざ
The above translations indicate that Paradise, in all levels is a
Some quotes from Quヴげaﾐ, indicating water and plants as the main
source of our well-being:
And He is the One Who sends down water from the sky.
Then by means of this (rain) We bring forth vegetation of
every kind out of which We produce green (foliage) from
which We bring forth clustered grain packed one over the
other, clusters of date-palm hanging low from its spathe
and gardens of grapes, olives and (also) pomegranates
(which from many aspects look) alike but (in products,
tastes and effects) are unlike. Look at the fruit of the tree
when it bears fruit, and (also observe) when it ripens.
Verily in these are Signs for those who believe.
The Muslims inherited practical and intellectual knowledge from the Roman past, the built landscape on which they now inhabited; they learned also from their diverse brethren, for these were areas populated by Byzantine Christians, Jews, Copts, and adherents of various polytheistic religions such as Zoroastrianism and Judaism.
However, while human cultural practices changed with the advent of Islam, many aspects of the land itself did not, for the climate of the Mediterranean rim has not changed significantly in the past 2000 years.
In Arabia, at the time of coming of Islam in the 7th century, a
garden was conceived as a walled orchard or vineyard, and was
irrigated by a channel of water or a well.
Islam absorbed the already well established Persian tradition of
hunting parks and royal pleasure gardens and invested them with
a new spiritual vision. It was through this vision, as portrayed in
the Quヴげaﾐ, that Islamic gardens were born. The first Muslims
came from the deserts and towns of Arabia and Syria.
The pleasurable aspect of Islamic gardens- the sensory delight of
sight, sound, scent and refreshing spray were balanced with their
ability to yield useful fruits and to display the process by which
fertility was transformed into profit.
The Umayyad Palace at Rusafa, in Syria is the earliest example of
char-bagh, where a raised pavilion stood at the intersection of the
walkways in an irregular garden enclosure.
Thereafter, the quadripartite plan spread across the Islamic world,
from Spain and Morocco to Afghanistan, culminating in the great
gardens of Timurid and Safavid Iran and Mughal India.
A Paradise Garden was based on the classic Char-bagh design, in
which the garden was divided into 4 parts by water channels; the
4 water channels being the 4 rivers of paradise, as described in
Islam. Plantation of fruit trees and roses and other flowers lay in
geometrically arranged beds below the level of flanking pathways,
making irrigation simple and also giving a sensation of walking on
a carpet of flowers.
さafter such fruit trees as Lemons, Oranges and Palm trees, comes
the legumes and Cotton and finally, the aromatic herbs, with
Coriander, Sesame, Cumin, and Saffron being mentioned, as well
as soﾏe oヴﾐaﾏeﾐtal plaﾐtsざ1
Experiments involving horticultural techniques were specially
developed in the area of Seville in the so-called Al-sharaf. This was
an elevated table land with surface of approximately 1650 km2
which was bordered with water. Its soil was made with sand
mixed with lime and local layers of clay and it was highly fertile.
The area which was occupied by about 800-2000 villages was
cultivated by a dense population working for wealthy families,
who hired agronomists and agriculturalists to improve cultivation
techniques and production.
Experiments involving horticultural techniques were specially
developed in the area of Seville in the so-called Al-sharaf. This was
an elevated table land with surface of approximately 1650 km2
which was bordered with water. Its soil was made with sand
mixed with lime and local layers of clay and it was highly fertile.
The area which was occupied by about 800-2000 villages was
cultivated by a dense population working for wealthy families,
who hired agronomists and agriculturalists to improve cultivation
techniques and production.
A lush garden with fountain and shade giving trees and the gentle
green everywhere as depicted in the kind of Char-bagh in
miniature, there may be room for many plants and flowers, but,
there is always water, usually a small fountain or a small pool in
the centre with possibly one palm tree and a few pots.
The houses were often quite high, with 4-stories or more and a
flat roof on which one can sleep on hot summer nights, the
windows opening up into the courtyard, a miniature Paradise
Corduba, that is, Roman Córdoba, was founded by General Claudio Marcelo between the years 169 BC and 152 BC, and he settled, as we will see in the section dedicated to urban planning, opposite the part of river Guadalquivir where it is no longer navigable. The settlement had an undoubtedly excellent strategic situation, as it was a platform through which the land could be accessed in times of conquest. During the first years, the Romans lived together with the native population that was already established in villages near the city, but they gradually disappeared.
The new city, located on the highest hill of the current city, was from the beginning capital of the province of the Hispania Ulterior (Hispania “The Far”), which shows the importance Córdoba has had since ancient times. As time went by, a new period of conflicts started in Rome, triggered by the civil wars between Caesar and Pompey’s sons, which finished with the end of the Roman Republic. The city supported Pompey, the losing side; therefore the reprisal soon arrived, and Córdoba, with more than 20,000 inhabitants at the time, was severely punished, and a long period of recession started.
With the arrival of Emperor Augustus to power, things started to change, as he settled in Roman Córdoba a great number of veterans who had taken part in the northern wars, and he gave them numerous portions of land. But the most important thing is that, at this time, and despite his political records, Augustus granted the city the status of Colonia Patricia, the highest rank a city of the Roman Empire could have (also Carthago Nova, Tarraco or Astigi had it in Hispania).
Along the 1st century AD, Corduba experienced numerous transformations caused by this change of status: the walled perimeter was extended until River Betis (current Guadalquivir) and an embellishment and monumental process started, imitating the models brought from Rome, such as the remodelling of the primitive forum, which was extended following the example of the Forum of Augustus in Rome. The Provincial Forum was also built, located in the Altos de Santa Ana, or the Port Centre, located in the vicinity of the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs. The currently known as Roman Bridge was erected, entering the city from the south, or the first aqueduct, which guaranteed a permanent water supply.
Due to the close relationship between Corduba and the Emperor, it is not surprising that he was worshipped here from the beginning. The Temple on Claudio Marcelo Street proves this. The building of this complex, as a public square, which centralised official activities– according to Desiderio Vaquerizo– was conceived as a tribute for the Emperor and his family, and it was dedicated to his cult.
Together with the building of monuments and the improvement of the infrastructures, we need to add the great development of civil architecture, as many domus (houses) and insulae (blocks) appreared gathered in neighbourhoods. On the other hand, we cannot forget the monumental character of the funerary landscape, which, according to experts, could be compared to that of the capital of the Empire. Located along the first kilometres next to the roads leaving Roman Córdoba, the best preserved example is the Mausoleum of Puerta Gallegos, which will be explained in detail later on.
Corduba’s splendor continued until the first crisis of the 3rd century; new public buildings were no longer built, and they also stopped the supply of quality material, thus workshops were in crisis and, consequently, some spaces were reused and the houses became older due to the lack of new constructions. All this led to the loss of the capital status of the province.
This whole decadent scene was counteracted by the building of one of the greatest projects witnessed by the city, the Palace of Emperor Maximianus Herculeus. The palace was erected in order to accommodate the Emperor during his stay in Córdoba, who was in the middle of a pacifying campaign in the south of Hispania and the north of Africa.
Next, we have prepared a brief analysis of the urban evolution of the city. Shortly afterward, as we have done before, we have organized a short tour around the most significant monuments preserved.
If you wish to know Roman Córdoba (Corduba – Colonia Patricia) do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours
The Roman Temple is located in the junction between Claudio Marcelo and Capitulares Streets, and its back limit is María Cristina Street. The ownership of the space where the site is belongs to the Council of Córdoba and the old town hall was also located there.
Popularly known as Roman Temple of Claudio Marcelo, this area of Córdoba could have been created between the 1st and 2nd century AD, like the provincial forum of the Colonia Patricia, a title the city was granted during the Roman domination. This is what can be suggested both by the appearance and the parallels of the best known building, the great hexastyle temple (six columns at the front of the portico), as well as its eastern location, and in its axis, the oriental circus. Both buildings were arranged in different heights, making the most of the natural slope of the land in this point, partially outside the wall. In order to do that, a great terrace was built over which the temple was erected. The great volume of land was held by a system consisting of buttresses in a zip or fan shape known as anterides. The difference in height between the temple and the circus contributed to the hypothesis, still believed, that there was an intermediate terrace that could have been used as an urban connection between both buildings.
The building of the Roman Temple started with the levelling of all the structures belonging to previous phases. This project contemplated the building of the square and the temple in its centre, as well as the modification of the urban planning around and the obvious works of infrastructure, among them, the construction of an aqueduct, the Aqua Nova Domitiana Augusta, which supplied this magistrates’ complex with water.
The complex started to be built in times of Emperor Claudio (41-54 AD), although it was not finished until Domiciano’s mandate (81-96 AD), when water supply started. It experienced some modifications in the 2nd century AD, which seems to coincide with the change in location of the colonial forum, which was transferred to the area of the current Convent of Santa Ana.
The materials used in the building of the Roman Temple were varied. Over a base of opus caementicium countless blocks of local calcarenite were arranged; the most outstanding elements, like columns and capitals, were carved in white marble, whereas the higher space was paved with violet nodulose limestone, also from the area. This higher space is the best known and the one we can visit, whereas we have little information about the configuration of the other two platforms or terraces, mainly due to the fact that nowadays they are under modern and contemporary buildings. The scarce epigraphy preserved up to now in the vicinity contrasts with the varied sculptural pieces which have been documented so far, which are very incomplete but they provide with important information about the decoration the complex could have had. The magnificent temple, whose columns of the portico can be seen today restored by Félix Hernández, had six of them at its front and ten on the sides, and it was one of the biggest in the city.
If you are wondering what to visit in Córdoba, a good option would be Roman Córdoba, choosing one of our guided tours.
Of all the monuments preserved in our city, it is probably the Synagogue of Córdoba the one with the lowest dissemination. However, in this section we will try to prove that it is a very important building, from an artistic, historical, social and political point of view. It is the only example of these characteristics preserved in Andalusia up to our days, with outstanding inscriptions which place the building at the vanguard of this type of constructions in our country.
There are numerous historical moments of which the Synagogue of Córdoba has been a distinguished witness, such as the expulsion of the Jews, which had a great influence in the building becoming a hospital, more specifically a Rabies Hospital. It later became a chapel, where the shoemakers of the city had their guild. It was finally used as a preschool until a series of inscriptions were found in 1884, which led to a thorough process of restoration.
These inscriptions were studied by the academic Rafael Romero Barros, father of the famous painter from Córdoba Julio Romero de Torres. A year later, in 1885, the Synagogue of Córdoba was declared National Monument. At that time the building belonged to the Church, and the Bishop donated it to the State, although it was not until 1981 when it was registered as such by Manuel Nieto Cumplido, current archivist of the Mosque-Cathedral, and at the time, Cultural Representative of the Province, who registered the building as property of the State in 1981.
Nowadays, probably due to its location in the Jewish quarter, and therefore, next to the most important monuments in the city, the Synagogue of Córdoba is one of the most visited places by tourists. Besides, this building, along with the Mosque or the Alcázar of the Christian Monarchs, shows the cultural diversity of our city, a clear example of the coexistence among the different civilizations that have lived in Córdoba.
Next, we have prepared a brief analysis about the stay of the Jews in our city, dedicating another special chapter to the Synagogue, their temple. Later, we will carry out a small research of the building paying special attention to its stylistic features. Next, we will comment the different inscriptions found in the complex and, finally, we will show a photo gallery with the aim of completing the information as best as possible.
If you wish to know the Synagogue of Córdoba do not hesitate to hire one of our guided tours. We are experts in the interpretation of the historical heritage from Córdoba. If you have chosen to do sightseeing in Córdoba, choose a high quality option, choose ArtenCórdoba
Also known as Donostia-San Sebastián, the city of San Sebastián stretches across an area of over 60 square kilometres and is home to a population of nearly 200,000 inhabitants. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Spain due to the numerous events and festivals that are celebrated in the city. Noteworthy cultural events and festivals include San Sebastián Day, Semana Grande/Aste Nagusia, Basque Week, Santa Ageda Bezpera, Caldereros, Santo Tomas and Olentzero. Most of these festivals have been celebrated by locals for well over a hundred years.
In terms of history, San Sebastián has a lot to offer. The first traces of people in San Sebastián date back to pre-historic times – around 24,000 to 22,000 BC – when artefacts such as stone knives were discovered. There is also a lot of history during the periods of the Ancient Age, Middle Age and Modern Age.
San Sebastián also boasts some of the best beaches in the country and attracts surfers from around the world. In addition to its pristine beaches, other key attractions in San Sebastián include the El paseo Nuevo, La Catedral del Buen Pastor, La parte vieja, El Peine del Viento, El Monte Igueldo, El Monte Urgull, El Aquarium, El Museo de San Telmo, Palacio Miramar and Ayuntamiento de San Sebastián. The city itself is divided into the Old Town (Parte Vieja), Gros, Centro and Aiete.
The San Sebastián Airport is the main airport serving the city of San Sebastián. The small airport is located in municipality of Hondarribia – about 20 kilometres away from the main city centre – and serves domestic flights, especially to Madrid. The other airports that are in relatively close proximity to San Sebastián are the Biarritz Airport (located 50 kilometres away in France), the Bilbao Airport (located 100 kilometres away) and the Vitoria Airport (located 114 kilometres away).
Though access to Halal food and Halal restaurants within San Sebastián city itself is somewhat limited, a number of Halal restaurants are available in the near-by cities of Bilbao and Vitoria. Doner Kebab Lal Ali is a popular Halal-certified fast food chain and offers several outlets scattered across Basque Country. Bienvenidos and Kashy Doner Kebab are two other popular Halal restaurants in Basque Country.
A few mosques are located in the city of San Sebastián. Masjid De Renteria is amongst the well-known mosques in the area and is located at Gipuzkoa, Errenteria. Locals in the area would be more than glad to offer directions on how to get to the nearest mosque.
Things to Do and See in San Sebastián
El paseo NuevoLa Catedral del Buen PastorLa parte viejaEl Peine del VientoEl Monte IgueldoEl Monte UrgullEl AquariumEl Museo de San TelmoPalacio MiramarAyuntamiento de San Sebastián
The Costa del Sol’s bastion of bling is, like most towns along this stretch of coast, a two-sided coin. Standing centre stage in the tourist showroom is the ‘Golden Mile’, a conspicuously extravagant collection of star-studded clubs, shiny restaurants and expensive hotels stretching as far as Puerto Banús, the flashiest marina on the coast, where black-tinted Mercs slide along a quay populated by luxury yachts.
But Marbella has other, less ostentatious attractions. Its natural setting is magnificent, sheltered by the beautiful Sierra Blanca mountains, while its surprisingly attractive casco antiguo (old town) is replete with narrow lanes and well-tended flower boxes.
Long before Marbella starting luring golfers, zillionaires and retired Latin American dictators, it was home to Phoenicians, Visigoths, Romans and Moors. One of the joys of a visit to the modern city is trying to root out their legacy.
By the hand of local experts discover epic places even locals don’t know about!
We have included in this tour the must-visit attractions, that you won’t want to miss when visiting Spain.
Learn all about Spain history, traditions, amazing gastronomy and world-famous festivities. And discover the Mediterranean relaxed lifestyle. Spaniards are known as some of the most friendly inhabitants in Europe 🙂
Explore Barcelona medieval Gothic quarters, see the Gothic Cathedral dated on the 13th century, the Roman walls, the Jewish quarters, the prestigious school where master painters as Picasso and Dali studied, among many other spots!
Feel the city vibe of the most iconic street in Barcelona, La Rambla, a large boulevard which runs from the Plaça Catalunya to the seafront full of cafés, shops and famous “La Boquería” the traditional food market.
During this tour your hands will be busy (not only eating the delicious Spanish “Tapas”) but with our offer of handicrafts workshops. You may want to become a traditional shoemaker (Espadrilles shoes) at the city center. Or you may prefer to show your skills as a mosaic artist following the Modernist architecture Gaudi’s style known as “Trencadis”.
Walk the Passeig de Gracia towards your guide to discover the Catalan Modernism, a very unique architectural style based on Nature and dated on late 19th century.
See famous Casa Batló, rich in curves, natural forms and a reptile-like tile façade has earned it the nickname of House of the Dragon.
La Pedrera and Sagrada Familia church, all designed by the genius of local architect Antoni Gaudí. The church has been under construction for over 100 years and isn’t expected to be completed for at least another 20 years.
The following optional tours are available for a surcharge. Please contact us for further information:
Sail a vessel experience departing from Barcelona’s harbor.
Andalusia, Southern Spain
Escape the big city to the inspiring sights of Andalusia in Southern Spain. Explore Andalusia’s most iconic cities: Seville, Cordoba & Granada and visit of the most important Islamic heritage of Spain: the Alhambra of Granada and Cordoba Mosque-Cathedral.
Travel to Cordoba by fast speed train through the landscapes of Don Quixote, small towns and fields of olive trees.
Discover a city with one of the richest histories in Spain. Cordoba’s most famous monument is its great Mosque-Cathedral – Between 10th until 13th centuries this Masjid was one of the grandest and most important mosques in Al Andalus. When the city was reclaimed by Christians, the building was converted into a church.
A walk over most streets in the old quarter will take you past several beautiful decorated building facades, the Calleja de las Flores is the most spectacular.
Explore the Juderia old Jewish quarters and see the synagogue dated from the 14th century, it is one of the finest examples of Mudejar architecture in Cordoba like many of the city’s key historical places.
Experience the lively food market in our foodie tour where your local host will show you the key ingredients of Andalusian cuisine (famous extra virgin olive oil is essential, taste it)
Learn how to prepare traditional dishes attending a Spanish cooking class. In the menu features seafood rice, spanish omellete, Salmorejo (veggie soup).
Travel to the capital of Andalusia by fast speed train.
Did you know? Legend says Seville was founded 3,000 years ago by the mythological hero Hercules!
Sightseeing with a local guide many of the city’s highlights such as the Golden Tower ( a 13th century watchtower over the Guadalquivir river), the cathedral and the Giralda Tower besides (it was the Mosque minaret, built during the Almohad period), the Catholic kings Royal Alcazar and the colourful Plaza de España build in 1929 in a eclectic style (mix of neo-Mudejar, Reinassence and even Art Deco) for the Ibero-American Exhibition.
Walk along one the harming streets surrounding the Seville’s cathedral. It is Santa Cruz, one of the most iconic districts of Seville and the old Jewish neighborhood.
Flamenco is a dance truly unique and it was born here in Andalusia. If you fancy, you can learn the basic steps with our teacher and his guitar player at Seville. If you prefer an outdoor activity, explore the city from a kayak on the Guadalquivir river!
Travel to Granada by coach (easiest way to get there as there is no direct train)
Rising above the modern lower town, the Alhambra and the Albaycín, situated on two adjacent hills, form the medieval part of Granada. To the east of the Alhambra fortress and residence are the magnificent gardens of the Generalife
Visit the palatine city of the Alhambra, the former rural residence of the emirs who ruled this part of Spain in the 13th and 14th centuries. It is the best example of Nasrid art and the only preserved palatine city of the Islamic period is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Described by the ancients poets as a “pearl set in emeralds.” is dated in the 9th century.
Relax at Carmen de Los Martires, just besides Alhambra complex, one of the city’s most attractive green spaces.
Alhambra stands on a hill separated by the river Darro to the hill where was built the Albayzín district, the best-preserved illustration of a Hispano-Muslim city.
Walk the Albaicin charming little streets to see the whitewashed houses and jasmine-scented squares. To reach the top of Albaicin, you will require a good amount of energy but the views of the Alhambra and the Sierra Nevada mountains from its most popular square, the Mirador San Nicolás, are some of the best in the city.
Granada is also known for the amazing street art and the great “tapas” (small appetizers) bars. We offer two thematics tours available for those interested.
Add On Experiences in Granada
Spanish dishes Cooking Class
Lunch or dinner with starter, two courses, dessert and drink in a house cave with a spectacular view over the Alhambra complex.
Graffiti Art Tour
Walking tour to learn about the art scene of Granada, dig into the hip hop and
graffiti culture. The pieces of the famous painter “Niño de las Pinturas” will fascinate
Foodie Tapas Tour
Discover 5 nice places where try food you wouldn’t have discovered by yourself
with our foodie’s host!
The following UNESCO World Heritage Sites can be seen or visited on this vacation:
See the works of Antoni Gaudi in Barcelona
Visit the Alhambra and Generalife (Granada)
See the Cathedral in Seville
Explore the Albayzin quarter
BARCELONA Guided walking tour to the Gothic Quarters, guided walking tour the Modernism & Gaudi, shoemaker or ceramic workshop, train ticket to Cordoba
CORDOBA Guided walking tour, visit the Mosque of the Caliphs, Food Market experience and cooking class, train ticket to Seville
SEVILLE Guided walking tour, flamenco class or kayak the river, bus ticket to Granada
GRANADA Guided visit of the Alhambra complex and Albayzin district
MADRID Welcome dinner; guided sightseeing, visit the Prado Museum
explore Madrid’s colorful fusion of cultures
Miss the crowds and skip the lines booking in advance your entrance tickets to major attractions such as the Alhambra Palaces, when booking this tour.