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As the premier historical destination in Spain, Granada lives up to its reputation in large part because of its former place at the heart of the last Moorish stronghold in the country.

Located in the eastern part of Andalucia, Granada lies nestled at the foot of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and is within 60 miles or so (100km) of the Mediterranean coast, but it is very much removed from the influence of the sea in all respects including trade and climate. Without the sea's moderating influence, temperatures here soar to 40 degrees at the height of summer and plummet to freezing in the winter.

Wherever tourists visit first after alighting from cheap flights to Granada, history is writ large. As a Muslim stronghold that fell to a Catholic conquest only in 1492, the old regime is represented by the Alhambra, a palace of staggering beauty that was once the seat of local power and remains one of the world's finest examples of Islamic architecture. Floodlit by night, the Alhambra always stands out from its hillside perch above the town.

The stunning Alhambra is one of the main tourist attractions in the country and many visitors book flights to Spain to explore the stunning site. Be sure to take your time going through the sprawling Alhambra. It may have begun as a mere fort during the ninth century but it was then expanded during the subsequent 500 years of Moorish rule, creating an intricate and elaborate shrine to a culture and way of life that is no more. The Moors are not the only people to have occupied the area. Prior to their arrival, the province of Granada was settled by Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Greeks, who, in turn, gave way to the Romans. All have left their mark on this remarkable place.

Sharing the same hill as the Alhambra is the Generalife summer palace that takes tranquility to another level with its intricate network of lush gardens intermingled with ponds and punctuated by fountains.

Nearby, you will find the Albaicín, the formerly Moor quarter of Granada, featuring narrow streets hiding tiny teashops serving sweets that continue to bear the Arabic influence.

Mixing with all of its history and lightening the mood of the place is the presence of some 50,000 students studying at the local university. Their presence helps neutralise the ever-present tourists and ensures that Granada continues to function as a living town as opposed to a full-time attraction. This is something many of the town's visitors are doubtless grateful for as they look to settle down after a busy but tiring day of sightseeing.

In addition to the architecture, Granada's mixed heritage has also influenced the town's cuisine and it is better for the variety produced by the added spice. Meat dishes take on a new life when augmented by a yoghurt and saffron sauce while meat couscous delicacies are made all the more flavourful with the help of honey and almonds.

The tapas bars teeming with a mixture of locals and tourists serve traditional fare that can be washed down with a drink of your choice though the Granadian clientele often chooses verano, a sweet combination of lemonade and red wine.

Whatever your tipple be sure to check our travel guide to Granada and Spain before you travel.