The Allure of Granada is Calling
Set in a spectacularly stunning location, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains lies the Andalucían city of Granada often regarded as ‘España profunda’; deepest Spain. Indeed, here rustic Mediterranean architecture and beautiful natural scenery bask in the glow of the sunlight while deep-rooted customs, including tapas and flamenco, continue to flourish. Yet at the same time, the city’s distinct Moorish heritage provides an exotic edge and the large student population adds a lively and youthful feel. All in all, the quintessential and quirky combine to create a very unique city.
The Land of a Thousand Castles
Despite its modest size there’s plenty to admire and lots to do in Granada. The most popular activity here, however, seems to be exploring the abundance of magnificent architecture on display. While Roman, Medieval, Gothic and Renaissance examples can all be found throughout the city, it is the Moorish architecture, specifically the majestic Alhambra palace, the last home of the Nasrid dynasty, that Granada is most renowned for.
This grand fortress, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, sits on the red hill of Sabika, overshadowing the rest of the city. The spectacular series of well-preserved palaces include the famous Palacois Nazaries, dubbed “the most brilliant Islamic building in Europe” and the delightful Generalife summer palace with its stunning fountain and garden. However, within the main palace complex there is also a host of other smaller, albeit still interesting, palaces and royal buildings such as the renaissance style Palacio de Carlos V, which amongst the many Moorish structures adds a little diversity.
On the hilltops opposite the great palace lies the old whitewashed Moorish town of Albaicín, also a UNESCO site. This charming little place with its many winding alleyways and quaint squares is the perfect area for a relaxed afternoon or evening stroll. Here you can also find the beautiful Moorish inspired gardens of the Carmen de la Victoria, which offer stunning views of Alhambra yet in a tranquil setting away from the other more crowded sights. Head here in the evening for a truly unforgettable sunset over the Alhambra. Close by to Albaicín is the Granada Cathedral and the adjoining Capilla Real, the final resting place of the catholic monarchs who ended Moorish rule in Spain. In addition to its historical significance the opulent and impressive exterior and interior designs make it well worth a visit.
Other architectural delights in Granada include La Cartuja Monastery, a former royal residence offering an exquisite example of Spanish Baroque architecture, plus an array of pretty churches, which include the Basilica San Juan de Díos, Colegiata del Salvador and the Iglesia de Santa Ana.
To see an edgier, more modern side of the city head to the bustling area around the University, where colourful graffiti and bohemian shisha bars contrast heavily from the grandeurs of Alhambra. The energy from the students brings the place alive and this is definitely one of the best spots in town for nightlife.
Luxury Fit for a Nasrid Sultan
In keeping with the grandeur of Alhambra, Granada boasts a number of luxury boutique hotels where you can relax in style and splendor during your stay. The 15th-centruy Casa Morisca Hotel with its Alhambra style layout, 14 rooms arranged around an ornamential patio and fountain, and Hotel Casa del Capitel del Nazari a Renaissance style palace, offer just two fine examples of the plush accommodation available.
For more relaxation, and a truly unique spa experience, visit the lavish Hammam Al Ándalus Moorish Baths. Relax in the hot and cold waters or steam rooms whilst taking in the exuberant Moroccan décor and sipping mint tea. There’s also a comprehensive list of available treatments should you wish to indulge further.
Although a bold claim, it’s true that Granada offers one of the best eating experiences in all of Spain, so after a hard day’s sightseeing there’s simply nothing better to do than head to one of the city’s many cafes and restaurants.
While the city’s rich history is reflected in the variety ofculinary styles and flavours available and you can find anything from fresh seafood to sensual Moroccan dishes, it is, of course, rich and tasty authentic tapas that Granada does best. And luckily, this is one of the only places left in Spain, which still holds true to the tradition of free complimentary tapas, which can be anything from a few slices of manchego to a plate full of Iberico ham, bread and olives. Soak up all the city has to offer and venture to any of the tapas bars along the Paseo de los Tristes, along the River Darro which looks onto Alhambra. Simply, order a cerveza and wait for your free appetisers to arrive while the moon rises over the Moorish palace. You may even be lucky enough to catch a flamenco performance!