11 Must-Visit Islamic Historical Sites In Spain

By Arwa Munnaverali | 02, Nov, 2018
11 Must-Visit Islamic Historical Sites In Spain

There are a few things that unquestionably and quintessentially create an image of a country, and Spain has done wonders when it comes to its diverse culture, food, and people along with having a long list of breathtaking phenomena that are firmly instilled into Spain's DNA.

Along with other attractions in Spain, one of the major contributing factors for Spain to be the way it is today is due to its rich overflowing Islamic culture, past and present, consisting of grandiose palaces, mosques built and constructed over the eras and monuments which brim with Spanish décor, leaving the country to be an enormous artistic and architectonic heritage site.

Spain is an absolutely beautiful country to explore and no one should miss the chance to discover the Islamic history in Spain! So here's a guide to a Muslim-friendly vacation in Spain, listing 11 of the Most Historical Islamic Hot Spots to Visit when planning your next trip to Spain:

1. Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo

Influenced by the French Gothic style of the 13th century, The Primate Cathedral of Saint Mary of Toledo is a Roman Catholic Church in Toledo, Spain.

Before it was a cathedral, the main mosque of the city of Toledo was erected in its location. However, you can still see the remnant of the minaret that the muezzin made use of for the call to prayer back in the days.

Some historians point out that the prayer hall of the mosque matches with the design of the five naves of the existing cathedral; the Sahn would correspond with a division of the existing cloister and the chapel of Saint Peter and the minaret with the bell tower.

The marble shafts that deck the outer sector of the choir is a revamped version of an old Muslim edifice, and the entwined arches of caliphate fashion in the triforium of the key chapel and of the ambulatory coincide with the Muslim structure custom of Cordoba.

Getting There

To get to Toledo and to this spot your best bet would be to catch the AVE fast train from Madrid which will take you 30 minutes while a bus or a car will take you 1 hour.
 

Address: Calle Cardenal Cisneros, 1, 45002 Toledo, Spain
Museum Opening Hours: 10AM to 6.30PM (Mon-Sat)
                                        2PM to 6.30PM (Sun & Designated Days)
                                        Closed on Jan 1, Dec 25 & Days of Celebration 
                                        (Refer here for more info on Opening Hours)
Museum Ticket Price: € 12.50 (Complete Tour)
                                   € 10 (Museums)
                                   (Refer here for more info on Ticket Prices)
Contact: (+34) 925 22 22 41
Website: www.catedralprimada.es

2. Madinat al Zahra

Placed on the western outskirts of Córdoba, Spain, Madinat al Zahra also known as Medina Azahara and the "the shining city" is the remains of a huge, fortified Moorish palace-city constructed by Abd-ar-Rahman III.

Built on acres and acres of land, a striking part of Madinat al-Zahra is without doubt Abd al-Rahman III's Hall where tourists enter subsequently, after passing all the way through a terrace which dominates the remains of the mosque. Being a setting for rare occasions, the beautification of this hall is of showy luxury.

People visiting will be able to view quite a few remarkable places such as the Edificio Basilical Superior, which was used as offices for many state officials as well as Casa de Yafar, the residence of the Caliph's prime minister.

Getting There

The tourism office currently schedules a bus to leave at 10.15AM or 5PM for €7. Do keep in mind that there are no local buses traveling to the Madinat, but you can take a taxi to the location and then request the museum staff to hail a taxi for you when you need to head back to Cordoba city center.

If you happen to be traveling by car, there are sufficient parking lots available. The visitors' center is positioned at the bottom of the hill and there will be regular shuttle buses that will transport you to the entrance.

Taking a taxi from central Cordoba would cost you about €14 each way. A bus will have to be taken from the museum grounds to the actual archaeological ruins, which costs €2.10 for the return journey. The Madinat itself entails a lot of walking, first downhill then back uphill, so it would be challenging for someone who might have mobility problems.

Address: Carretera de Palma del Río, km. 5, 5, 140 71 Cordoue
Opening Hours: January 1 to March 31
                         9AM to 6PM (Tue-Sat)
                         9AM to 3PM (Sun & Public Holidays)
                         Closed on Mondays
                          April 1 to June 30
                         9AM to 9PM (Tue-Sat)
                         9AM to 3PM (Sun & Public Holidays)
                         Closed on Mondays
                         July 1 to September 15
                         9AM to 3PM (Tue-Sat)
                         9AM to 3PM (Sun & Public Holidays)
                         Closed on Mondays
                         September 16 to December 31
                         9AM to 6PM (Tue-Sat)
                         9AM to 3PM (Sun & Public Holidays)
                         Closed on Mondays
Ticket Price: Join a group in Cordoba
                     €26 (3hr Guided Tour) | €25 (1hr 30min Night Tour)
                     Join a group in Medina Azahara
                     €18 (2hr Guided Tour) | €15 (1hr 30min Night Tour)
                    (Refer here for more information)
Contact: (+34) 699 34 11 42
Website: www.medinaazahara.org

Halal Restaurants Nearby

3. Cordoba Mosque at Mezquita

Built in the 16th century, The Great Mosque of Cordoba is acknowledged for its architecture which symbolizes Muslims' influence and control in the West back in the years.

Initially, Abd al-Rahman purchased half of the Cathedral to enable the Muslim community to perform their prayers. Subsequently, he then obtained the other half to build a new mosque. Later, a cathedral was built right in the middle of the mosque, hence the name ‘Mezquita-Catedral'.

Upon arrival at the Cordoba Mosque tourists witness the many distinct and bold arches, known as the horseshoe arch, which was the first Muslim arch adaptation used in the Umayyad Great Mosque of Damascus.

The building is most known for its arcaded hypostyle hall, with 856 columns of jasper, onyx, marble, granite, and porphyry. The construction is viewed as one of the most skilled monuments of Moorish architecture.

The Great Mosque of Córdoba held a place of importance amongst the Islamic community for three centuries. It served as a significant Prayer hall for one's own devotion.

If you ever plan on visiting the mosque, an ideal timing would be during the morning hours as it tends to get crowded with tourists and worshipers from 11AM to 3PM.

Getting There

Cordoba has a distance of 400 km from Madrid with a traveling time of about 1hr and 45 minutes via the AVE train. Cordoba's modern train station is located in Avenida de America, at the northern end of the central district. To get to the old town and the Mezquita, you can hop on a taxi (about €6) or just walk the 25-minute distance (head along Avenida de America and turn right on to Avenida del Gran Capitan).

Address: Calle Cardenal Herrero, 1, 14003 Córdoba, Spain
Opening Hours: 8.30AM to 11.30AM | 3PM to 7PM (Mon-Sat)
Ticket Price: €10 (Mosque-Cathedral)
                    €2 (Bell Tower)
                    €18 (The Soul of Cordoba | Night Visit)
                    (Refer here for Reduced Prices)
Contact: +34 957 47 05 12
Website: mezquita-catedraldecordoba.es

Halal Restaurants Nearby

4. Alcazar

A royal palace in Seville, Spain, Alcazar was built for the Christian King Peter of Castile back in 913 by Castilian Christians on the position of an Abbadid Muslim residential fortress which was ruined after the Christian invasion of Seville. The higher levels of the Alcázar are still lived in by the royal family. It is the oldest royal palace still made use of in Europe, and was registered in 1987 by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

The highlight of the castle is its intricate carvings inscribed into the stonewalls and the lush gardens with fruit trees, horticultural produce and a broad selection of aromatic flowers. The garden orchards not only provided food for the palace residents but had the artistic function of bringing delight to the eyes. Water was ever in attendance in the form of jets, irrigation channels, pools, runnels, and ponds.

Tourists that are tired of wandering around the palace are given the option of partaking in activities and events held there which are planned by the Royal Alcazar Board of Patronage and the Town Hall.

Getting There

The tram or also known as the 'tranvia' goes south from Plaza Nueva (the center of the city) and has four stops, covering an overall distance of 1.4km. After departing from Plaza Nueva, it goes down Avenida de la Constitucion passing the Cathedral, stopping at the Archivo de Indias (next to Alcazar Palace), San Fernando (where Puerta Jerez Metro station is), the Prado de San Sebastian (Metro station), and lastly stops at San Bernardo train station (Metro station), where you can catch a Cercanias train. It operates from 6AM to 1.30AM.

You can purchase a ticket for €1.20 at any station. A more cost-effective selection is the combined bus/tram rechargeable pass, Tarjeta Multiuso.

Address: Patio de Banderas, s / n. 41004 - Sevilla
Opening Hours: October till March
                         9.30AM to 5PM (Mon-Sun)
                          April till September
                         9.30AM to 7PM (Mon-Sun)
Ticket Price: €1 (General Visit)
                    €5.50 (Visit Alcazar + High Real Room)
                    €11.50 (Visit Alcazar + Real High Room + Audioguide)
                    €14 (Theatrical Nightly Tours)
                    (Refer here for more ticket options)
Contact: (+34) 954 50 23 24
Website: www.alcazarsevilla.org

Halal Restaurants Nearby

  • Alcázar halal restaurante

5. Castillo Arabe

Stated a National Monument in 1931 and positioned on the "Cerro de las Torres", Castillo Arab was built by the Arabs dating back to the Phoenician and Roman period. It is an enclosed space with a pointed horseshoe arch.

Situated at the bottom of the hill, what was left over fort was intensely protected by Muslims according to history. According to legend, there are tales where historians speak of how Emir Muhammad IX locked up his daughters in the fort.

To receive full benefit of the monument, do visit the ancient Muslim Bridge before mountaineering up the Castillo Arabe to realize the valor of Muslims defensive schemes along with appreciating the breath-taking view as you walk the ruins of this fort and ponder over the history of the Castillo Arabe, which dated back from the 12th century onwards.

Getting There

Malaga is well-known for their Bike Taxis (Trixis). Trixis is a quick way to see Malaga City. You are entirely covered, so a bike taxi is decent for an all-weather travel option as well as a transport system to this location which happens to be in Malaga as well. Prices are set at €9 per person, but they differ according to how far you go and which company you book it through.

Tourists visiting Castillo Arabe can also get there via the local train named Alhameda which is located on the Explanada de la Estacion near the CAC museum.

Malaga also has a two-line metro system that goes from the center to the west and south-west of the city, starting from Maria Zambrano.

You can even utilize the local bus service network to connect you to areas around the city center.

Address: Calle Castillo Málaga
Opening Hours: 10AM to 6PM (Sat-Sun, Festive Days)
Ticket Price: Free admission
Contact: (+34) 95 249 55 77
Website: www.andalucia.org/en

6. Alhambra Palace

Located in Granada, Andalusia, Spain, The Alhambra or also known as "a pearl set in emeralds" is a palace and fortress and is deemed as one of Spain's chief tourist attractions, portraying the country's most noteworthy and well-known Islamic architecture.

It was initially constructed as a small fortress in AD 889 on the remnants of Roman fortifications and rebuilt in the mid-13th century by the Nasrid emir Mohammed ben Al-Ahmar of the Emirate of Granada. It was transformed into a royal fort in 1333 by Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada. The castle was set as a military fortress due to its tactical position, overlooking the complete city.

The Alhambra is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the muse for several songs and stories.

The adornment consists of Arabic inscriptions that are emblazoned into geometrical molds. Tile mosaics with intricate mathematical patterns are principally used as paneling for the lower part.

Apart from its historical reference, there are a vast amount of different sites to see – ranging from the Alcazaba and the palaces, the Hall of the Boat, the building of the Baths, Patio of the Lions, to the Comares Room and the Justice Gate.

Pro Tip: Due to the overcrowding of tourists for the period of the peak summer season, it would be advisable to book the tours and tickets beforehand to avoid disappointment. Ideally, it would be best to visit during winter to steer clear of the crowds.

Don't forget to beat the hydration with a bottle of water for your travels! Do bear in mind that you must clearly state to your ticket vendor as to what time you favor to go on your tour. Punctuality is a must as late arrival will not be tolerated.

Getting There

You can take the red minibus Alhambra Bus C3, which departs every 10 minutes from the Plaza Nueva to the Alhambra. The stop where you need to watch out for is called 'Generalife'.

A ticket is €1.20 and can be bought directly on the bus itself. If you plan to stay in Granada for a few extra days and will be traveling by bus seven or more times, it would be a wise option investing on a Travel Card called Bonobus, which will make your traveling expenses more economical.

From the hub of Granada, a taxi would cost around €6 to €8. From the bus station in Granada, it would be approximately €10 to €12

The cars are not permitted to come into the Alhambra but there is a parking next to the monument. The fee is approximately €2.50/hour.

Address: C/ SAN ANTON, 72, Ed. Real Centre, 1º Izquierda - LOCAL 39. 18005 Granada Spain
Opening Hours: April 1 to October 14
                         Day Visit | 8.30AM to 8PM (Mon-Sun)
                         Night Visit | 10PM to 11.30PM (Tue-Sat)
                         October 15 to March 31
                         Day Visit | 8.30AM to 6PM (Mon-Sun)
                         Night Visit | 8PM to 9.30PM (Fri-Sat)
Entrance Ticket Price: €14 (Refer here for more ticket options)
Contact: (+34) 902 88 80 01 (Local Spain Contact) | +34 958 926 031 (International Contact)
Website: www.alhambra.org

Halal Restaurants Nearby

  • Puerta de Syria
  • Kabab King No 1 / Kebab Granada

7. The Viana Palace

Fan of architecture and interior designing? The Viana Palace should be your next go-to spot!

Constructed in the 15th century and home to Marquiasate of Villasica, this noble home, will enable tourists to gain first hand knowledge and experience of what a traditional home of aristocrats looks like.

The interior being exquisite and unlike anything other, radiates how life was back in the day, allowing you to feel like you have transported yourself back in time!

Another plus point would be that this spot is not always brimming with tourists compared to the other landmarks around Spain, so it is more convenient to navigate yourself more peacefully.

It has a library with more than seven thousand volumes and collections of Flemish and Goyesque tapestries; silverware Cordoba; carpets; 17th-century furniture; porcelain etc.

One of its grand attractions is its 12 good-looking courtyards, all connected as one, decorated with a vast variety of flora.

Getting There

Along with being one of the cheapest options, the bus is the preferred mode of transport by most people in Córdoba and to this spot. The price of a ticket is €1.30 (one-way) but if you need to travel by bus often, I suggest you buy a Bonobús pass in order to save money.

Address: Plaza de don Gome, 2 14001 Córdoba
Opening Hours: Winter Season (September 1 onwards)
                         10AM to 7PM (Tue-Sat)
                         10AM to 3PM (Sun)
                         Closed on Mondays
                         10AM to 7PM (October 12)
                         11AM to 8PM (October 19 - October 28)
                         Summer Season (July & August)
                         9AM to 3PM (Tue-Sun)
                         Closed on Mondays
Ticket Price: €8 (Full Visit) | €5 (Patio-only Visit)
                    Free (Wednesdays from 2PM to 5PM)
                    (Refer here for more information)
Contact: (+34) 957 49 67 41
Website: www.palaciodeviana.com

Halal Restaurants Nearby

  • Alhambra
  • Halal Moroccan Food
  • Restaurante "Bocaito Andalusí Halal"
  • Alzahra

8. Mezquita del Cristo de la (Mosque of Christ of the Light)

Being a former mosque in Toledo, Spain, Mezquita del Cristo de la Luz existed in the city in the Moorish period. The construction was then known as Mezquita Bab-al-Mardum, deriving its name from the city gate Bab al-Mardum. Having dated back from the 10th century, it's a standard Moorish monument to stand still till today.

Keep a watch out for the Arabic writings on the south-west end that showcases the history of how the mosque changed over time. The antique building is an interesting mix of cultures. The pillars and horseshoe arches outline nine different sections, each contributing intricate geometrical designs.

Getting There

A train and bus station is within a 2km radius of the Mosque. Tourists can even get a rental car on hire or a taxi for those travelling from Madrid to Toledo.

The bus, which is more cost effective than the train, has a cost of about 5 Euros each way and takes an hour and a half to go between Madrid and Toledo. Buses depart every half an hour from Plaza Eliptica to the south of Madrid.

By Train: Toledo ave Station

The high-speed train from Madrid to Toledo takes off from Atocha, Madrid's major train station. Trains depart each hour or half hour in the morning and every hour in the evening, requiring you to utilize only a maximum of thirty minutes.

Address: Calle Cristo de la Luz, 22, 45003 Toledo
Opening Hours: March 1 to October 15
                         10AM to 6.45PM (Daily)
                          October 16 to February 28
                         10AM to 5.45PM (Daily)
                         Closed on January 1 and December 25
                         Closes at 1PM on December 24 and December 31
Ticket Price: €2.80
                    €9 (Tourist Bracelet)
                    (Refer here for more ticket options)
Contact: (+34) 925 254 191
Email: mezquitaermitacristodelaluz@gmail.com
Website: www.toledomonumental.com

9. Cathedral of Seville - Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral

Having an area of 11,520 m², The Cathedral of Seville, or more publicly known as Santa Maria de la Sede Cathedral was and still is one of the largest gothic cathedrals in the world.

It was the principal city of the Umayyad Caliphate from the 8th to the 13th centuries until when Seville was captured by the Christians in the 12th century, they decided to utilize the mosque as a church.

The construction workers conserved a few features from the antique mosque such as the mosque's sahn, which is, the quad for ablutions that is recognized today as the Patio de los Naranjos. It consists of a fountain and orange trees. Not forgetting the most well-known Minaret, which was changed into a bell tower named as La Giralda.

Cathedral Organ

The inside has the longest nave of any cathedral in Spain. The innermost nave ascends to a height of 42 meters. In the heart of the cathedral, the most evident features are the grand boxlike choir loft, which takes up the mid segment of the nave and the vast Gothic retablo of engraved scenes from the life of Christ. This altarpiece was the work of Pierre Dancart, a craftsman who accomplished this masterpiece single-handedly.

Considering how tourists have so much foot action to put into if they wish to cover the vast area, it would be advisable to carry along some snacks as well as water to stay hydrated (Don't forget those comfortable shoes! Slippers and sandals would be a definite no-no)

Getting There

You can get to the Cathedral of Seville (Catedral de Sevilla) by Bus, Metro or Train. Following are the lines and routes that have stops nearby.

Metro: L1

Train: C4

Bus: 21, 37, C1, C4

Address: Avenida de la Constitución, s/n, 41004 Sevilla, Spain
Opening Hours: 11AM to 3.30PM (Mon)
                         11AM to 5PM (Tue-Sat)
                         2.30PM to 6PM (Sun)
                         July & August (Except July 17 & 25)
                         10.30AM to 4PM (Mon)
                         10.30AM to 6PM (Tue-Sat)
                         2PM to 7PM (Sun)
                         Closed on January 1, 6 and December 25
                         (Refer here for more information)
Ticket Price: €9 (Cathedral, Giralda & Salvador)
                    €15 (Cathedral's Roofs)
                    €12 | With a min. of 10 people in the tour (Huella de lo Sagrado)
                    €4 (Only El Savador)
*Entrance to the Cathedral & Giralda on Mondays are free
(Refer here for more ticket options)
Contact: (+34) 902 09 96 92
Website: www.catedraldesevilla.es

10. Calahorra Tower

Deriving from the Islamic origin, The Calahorra Tower is a gate in the historic center of Córdoba, Spain. Initially built by the Moors and afterward re-instated by King Enrique II in 1369, an additional tower was added to the gate to unite the older two.

Tourists can witness the renowned tale of the Christians, Muslims, and Jews living in good-natured tranquillity at the time of the reign during the adventure through the tower.

The monumental treasure placed right now was formerly used as a defense boundary from attacks. It was then transformed to a prison and a girls' school.

The museum conserves artifacts that display the livelihoods of three different religions in the form of documents and pictures, enabling tourists to peek a glance into lifestyles of that era.

Getting There

Tourists have the option of utilizing the railway method, via Cordoba Railway Station, or the bus via Estación de autobuses interurbanos de córdoba for traveling purposes which is within a 2 km radius of the attraction.

Address: Calahorra Tower, Puente Romano s / n, 14009 - Córdoba (Spain)
Opening Hours: Winter Season (October 1 to April 30)
                         10AM to 6PM (Mon-Sun)
                          Summer Season (May 1 to September 30)
                         10AM to 2PM | 4.30PM to 8.30PM (Mon-Sun)
Ticket Price: €4.50
                    (Refer here for more ticket options)
Contact: +34 957 293 929
Website: www.torrecalahorra.es

11. La Madraza Granada

Founded in 1349 by the Nasrid monarch Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, The Madrasah of Granada is a mosque/school in Granada, Andalusia, Spain. The subjects taught were theology, law medicine, astronomy, logic, mathematics, geometry, and mechanics.

The building was impressive like the other works of Yusuf I, Sultan of Granada, with a white marble access, the remains which are now displayed in the Archaeological Museum of Granada.

The façade of the 18th-century building was bedecked with inscriptions of poetry and philosophy. The mihrab derives from the 14th century.

The construction, which is under the ownership to the University of Granada, underwent a widespread of archeological excavations in 2006–2007 later on re-opening to the public in 2011.

Getting There

As a substitute to the AVE, there are also inexpensive RENFE trains, such us the Lanzaderas to Seville and Malaga (for around €15 to €20) or the Altaria and the Alivia trains heading to Granada (2 hours 30 minutes) and Madrid (2 hours 30 minutes). You can refer to the Renfe for schedules, prices, and tickets.

If you are heading to this spot from a far-off location in Spain you can arrive by air. Granada has an airport positioned 12km west of the city. Frequent buses travel from Seville, Málaga, Madrid, and Cordoba as well.

The bus station is placed about 2 miles from the city center. It takes not more than 10 minutes by bus (local bus SN1, €1.20 one way), or 30 min if you choose walking to get to the train station.

Driving in Granada is an absolute nightmare that is best avoided at all costs. The central district is chaos due to its narrow, one-way streets and is restricted to buses, taxis, and scooters.

Address: Espacio V Centenario, Avda. Madrid, s / n, 18071 Granada - Spain
Opening Hours: 10.30AM to 1PM (Mon-Sun)
Website: lamadraza.ugr.es

Halal Restaurants Nearby

  • Halal Butcher: Carnicería Albaicin - Calderería Vieja 16, Albaicin
  • Churreria Desi - Acera del Darro and Calle Palencia 20, Zaidin
  • Halal Tapas - Om Khalsoum on Calle Jardines

Some overall guidelines to follow:

During the months of June-August, summer hits Spain, attracting crowds of tourists into the country. It's best not to go during these months due to the scorching climate and the inflationary accommodation prices and tour dates.

If you choose summer for your travels in Spain then it would be time to pull out those light and airy cotton clothes along with a couple of loose jeans and a good pair of shoes as you will have a lot of walking to do!

The ideal time to visit would be during the months of spring and autumn, March-April/October-November, as the mild weather is easier to deal with (let's not forget the lesser crowds too!)

Due to the months of winter (November – February) being off-season months, many of the tours and sites close operations.

If you do plan to visit during these months it would be ideal to check availability beforehand. In the case of clothing, due to obvious reasons jackets, raincoats, shoes and plenty of warm clothing is a must, unless you happen to be a fan of frostbite.

Transport Guide: Ways to get around Spain by Air, Rail and Road

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