In the south of Spain, Granada is a lively and engaging city rich in both Christian and Muslim monuments. The most famous, The Alhambra, is one of the finest examples of Arabic architecture in the world. A place to go at any time of the year for culture and night life.
1492. While Christopher Columbus discovered America, Spain’s Catholic Kings reconquered their own kingdom by seizing Granada. The end of eight centuries of Muslim occupation which have left an indelible mark on this Andalusian city full of attractions whose weather allows visits at any time of the year.
[ Practical ]
- Getting there
Transavia.com has three direct flights per week.
Daily Iberia flights via Madrid
The airport is 15 km from the city centre and there is bus service between the two.
Hotel Alhambra Palace
Hotel Best Western Dauro II
Casa de Yanguas
Antiguas Bodegas Castaneda
- Visiting the Alhambra
Only a limited number of visitors are allowed in the Alhambra.
On week-end and during school vacations it’s wise to book tickets ahead of time.
Tel : 0034493492375from any country, 902888001 from Spain
Online bookings : www.alhambra-tickets.es
If tickets are not sold out you can buy it on the spot
- Tour Operators
Donatello, Europauli, Fram, Go Voyages, Marsans, Nouvelles Frontières, Thomas Cook, Voyageurs du Monde.
Allow from 330 € per person for a 3 days / 2 nights week end in a double room with breakfast in a 3-4* hotel.
Spain Tourism Office
43 rue Decamps, 75016 Paris
Tel : 0145038250
Granada Tourism Office
A world of refinement
Illustrating this tumultuous past, its emblematic monument, the Alhambra, rises on a rocky promontory with the snow capped mountains of the Sierra Nevada in the background. A picture postcard scene even more beautiful at the end of the day, when the sunset gives warm colours to its walls. It is this phenomenon that gave this 13th – 14th century edifice, one of the world’s finest example of Arabic architecture, its name, Alhambra meaning “Red Castle”. Once you have passed through its fortified walls, the structure’s medieval look disappears giving way to a succession of flowery gardens, palaces with richly decorated rooms and courtyards refreshed by fountains and pools. A world of refinement which reaches its peak with the Courtyard of the Lions adorned with a fountain carried by twelve felines and surrounded by a gallery made of fine marble columns. This was not enough however for the Sultans who built a hunting and pleasure residence beside their fortress of which only the magnificent Generalife gardens survive, a name meaning the Garden of Eden in Arabic.
A maze of narrow streets
Downhill, the valley of Darro is one of Granada’s most charming neighbourhoods. Old bridges criss-crossing the small river, ancient houses, gothic churches, convents and even Arabic baths create a setting more like a village than a town. No surprise that this area has became an “à la mode” district which people enjoy wandering around in. In particular along the Paseo de los Tristes.
Equally in vogue, the Albaicin is the former medina (Arabic town) and spreads over a hill facing the Alhambra. Still partially protected by the remains of the Muslim fortifications, it’s a maze of paved narrow street lined with bright white buildings. Simple houses, villas with patios or gardens, traditional cafes called teterias where people come to sip a mint tea. Only the churches disturb this otherwise perfectly Eastern setting where it’s nice to stroll around without any specific destination before heading to the San Nicolas belvedere which gives the best view on the Alhambra.
A walk worth extending to the next hill, Sacromonte, where more scattered buildings are surrounded by a sparse vegetation of cactus, prickly pears and aloe. Formerly located outside the city walls, it has an important gypsy community which has lived for centuries in houses half dug in the rocks. The story goes that flamenco was invented here, and you can still catch performances in some of the grottos. But this neighbourhood is changing slowly but surely and become more trendy than in the past; every day more and more artists and foreigners are settling here attracted by the unique environment.
Exploring the city centre, visitors step back in time once more when entering the Alcaiceria, the former souk (Arab market). Made up of narrow alleys crossing at right angles, it no longer sells spices and silk but instead is home to hundreds of souvenir shops. Nearby and more authentic are the Madraza Palace, once a Coranic school, and the Corral del Carbon, a former caravanserai where merchants from all over the world found lodging and storage for their goods.
Baroque and Renaissance buildings
But the Great Mosque has disappeared to leave space to a vast cathedral with five naves built in the 16-17th centuries. Said to be the masterpiece of Spanish Renaissance architecture, it bears a profusion of sculptures and other works of art. This is the resting place of the Catholic Kings, Ferdinand and Isabelle, buried in the crypt and whose memory is honoured in the choir with two superb effigies. Of course, the post-reconquest architectural heritage is not limited to this single monument. The monastery of San Jeronimo, Real Hospedaje and Real Chanceleria are also beautiful Renaissance buildings while the church of San Juan de Dios is a fine Baroque one. As is the Carthusian monastery of La Cartuja whose inside is adorned in an exuberant and overworked way typical of the Churrigueresque style. All these monuments help explain the traditional Granadan proverb “ There is no worst misfortune than being blind in Granada”.
But Granada is also, and for some people, above all, a lively city whose festive spirit is crying out to be enjoyed. For that it’s necessary to wander in the colourful markets, take one’s time on the elegant promenades where the people meet, have a drink or eat tapas in some of the city’s numerous bars and restaurants. All places which have inspired the poet Federico Garcia Lorca. And there is no shortage of places to party and enjoy life. On Plaza Nueva, or around Calle Navas, it feels like it’s the weekend every night.
February 20, 2008