Southern Spain is at least partly defined by layers of different cultures, which is a foolproof recipe for some pretty exceptional architecture. Crumbling Roman ruins set the stage for intricate Moorish palaces, further refined over the centuries. And on top of this comes a sprinkling of extraordinary pleasure gardens.

These visions of paradise can now be found tucked away in bustling Spanish cities, and the best of them survive and thrive to this day in the beautiful Andalucía region. From tiled mazes to tiered royal estates, here are some of the sexiest gardens the area has to offer.

Generalife Gardens, Alhambra, Granada

Generalife Gardens, Alhambra, Granada
The luscious Generalife Gardens / Image: Adobe Stock

Cover star of every Granada tourist brochure, the Alhambra has achieved famed status thanks to its fortified golden turrets set against a backdrop of sombre Sierra Nevada peaks. Perhaps the most special thing about these terraced gardens is the stories hidden within the courtyard walls. In the Patio del Ciprés de la Sultana, beside the dried-up trunk of a centuries-old cypress tree, illicit meetings between the sultan’s wife and a knight from the Abencerrajes family took place – or so the story goes. Not the most faithful of tales, but given the scenic setting, still rather romantic.

Best time to visit: spring is best for fuller blooms and fewer crowds.

Calle Real, 18009 Granada, Spain
alhambra-patronato.es/en

Book flights to Granada Book holidays to Granada

La Concepción Botanical Garden, Málaga

La Concepción Botanical Garden, Málaga
Views to remember from La Concepción Botanical Garden / Image: Adobe Stock

In this botanical paradise you’ll be forgiven for thinking you’ve stepped into a tropical jungle. Developed in the mid 1800s by the Marquis of Casa Loring, it’s an artistic maze of plants that’s been lovingly curated. One side is styled on an English landscaped garden, complete with wisteria gazebo and a romantic round temple overlooking the city of Málaga. On the other, one of Europe’s few collections of subtropical plants – think lofty palms and crisscrossing bamboo stems.

Best time to visit: witness the wisteria bloom in late March/early April.

Camino del Jardín Botánico, 3, 29014 Malaga, Spain
laconcepcion.malaga.eu/en

Book flights to Málaga Book holidays to Málaga

Carmen de los Mártires, Granada

Carmen de los Mártires, Granada
A very fine fountain at Carmen de los Mártires / Image: Adobe Stock

Granada’s carmens are traditional houses with enclosed gardens (sometimes even with orchards), often featuring high urban walls that barely conceal overflowing, idyllic vegetation. Carmen de los Mártires isn’t anything like these conventional offerings. Instead, it’s a vast collection of gardens in various European styles: French, English and Spanish. The first of these is like a mini (but still magnifique) version of the gardens of Versailles, featuring ponds flanked by mythological gods and a medieval lakeside tower guarded by black swans. You’ll even see peacocks, swaggering around the courtyards. Accept their superiority and enjoy these extensive grounds like centuries-worth of visitors before you.

When to visit: autumn months for spectacular colours, but without skimping on sunshine.

Paseo de los Mártires, 18009 Granada, Spain
andalucia.org/en/granada-cultural-tourism-carmen-de-los-martires

Book flights to Granada Book holidays to Granada

Casa de Pilatos Gardens, Seville

Casa de Pilatos Gardens, Seville
Blue skies over Casa de Pilatos / Image: Casa de Pilatos Gardens

Inspired by Pontius Pilate’s pad in Jerusalem, this 16th-century Andalusian palace is also a dreamy example of Italian Renaissance-influenced design, and comes with perfectly manicured gardens and patios overlooked by Roman-style balconies. Wander between busts of haughty Roman emperors and handsome Greek gods, while geometric hedges and globe-shaped trees surround a bubbling central fountain. Traditional Arabic decorative elements combined with the swanky, marble arched columns of Rome create a perfectly plush backdrop for the foliage.

When to visit: head there in summer for an all-round Mediterranean experience with fewer tourists than other sites in Seville.

Plaza de Pilatos, 1, 41003 Sevilla, Spain
fundacionmedinaceli.org/monumentos/pilatos/index.aspx

Book flights to Seville Book holidays to Seville

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos Gardens, Córdoba

Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos Gardens, Córdoba
The ridiculously pretty gardens and fountains of Alcázar de los Reyes Cristianos / Image: Adobe Stock

It can be argued that the most enthralling part of Córdoba’s iconic fortress is, in fact, its gardens. The reason Isabella I of Castile would spend hours wandering outside the palace walls is immediately evident as you take a stroll beneath the towering palms. The queen herself has since been immortalised in statue form, her stone eyes watching over roses spilling out from ceramic bowls. But it’s not just flowers she gets an eyeful of, as the citrus trees, gracefully leaping jets of water and cuboid hedges are all just as charming. 

When to visit: there are multiple free entry days throughout the year. Check online for specific dates. 

Calle de las Caballerizas Reales, 14004 Córdoba, Spain
alcazardelosreyescristianos.cordoba.es

Book flights to Spain Book holidays to Andalucía

Alcázar Gardens, Seville

Alcázar Gardens, Seville
The Estanque de Mercurio at Alcázar Gardens / Image: Real Alcázar de Sevilla

Immortalised in Game of Thrones (and prior to that, by centuries of royal dynasties), the alluring gardens of Real Alcázar are more than fit for monarchy. Fragrant orchards arranged in geometric configurations mirror the tiles that line water features. Every visit is also supplemented with the background tinkling of fountains big and small. When you’re done soaking up the serene ambience, find a tour guide if you fancy delving into all that rich history.

When to visit: the Alcázar is often busy in spring and summer months, but autumn and winter are just as excellent – and less hot. 

Patio de Banderas, Casco Antiguo, 41004 Sevilla
alcazarsevilla.org

Book flights to Seville Book holidays to Seville