We tend to choose cities when taking short breaks and have previously visited some stunning places, Barcelona, Seville, however, Granada proved more than I was expecting. Before our visit, I didn’t know the first thing about it other than it was somewhere in Andalucía and it shared a name with a TV broadcaster (ignorant I know). To be honest, I thought it was all cathedrals and monasteries, which to an extent is true and of course, the Alhambra. Then, we visited…
Granada a former Moorish stronghold imbues Islamic traditions, it was the last Muslim city that fell to the Christians in 1492, so an old city with hints at ghosts of a different past but today, there is also a large student population, lending a youthful ambience and vibrancy.
Upon arrival, we walked in the historic cathedral district hidden within a maze of pedestrianised streets and witnessed the Moorish influence first-hand. The Cathedral is as large and impressive as any in Spain. We saw the Royal Chapel that contains the tombs of Queen Isabel and King Ferdinand from the early 16th century and wandered through what for me was a favourite part of the city the ´Alcaiceria´ (old silk market) Here we browsed the craftworks on sale that include ceramics, marquetry, leather goods, glass lampshades, jewellery and lots more. Many shops sell the same items, but don’t be shy to haggle. There are plenty of places to stop for refreshments many having a truly Moorish feel as well as smell, from those puffing on a hookah.
We sauntering up to the bustling El Mirador de San Nicolas the place to go to enjoy fantastic views of the Alhambra – the flashing of cameras is relentless. It is worth climbing the slopes at the end of the day to watch the sunset and see the Alhambra dyed orange.
Of course, the highlight of our trip was a visit to the Alhambra Palace dating back to the 11th century and taking its name from the Arabic for ‘red castle’. The fortress set against the majestic backdrop of the Sierra Nevada is like nothing I had ever imagined even in the furthest corners of my mind.
Upon entering, we discovered a combination of perfect harmony, equal parts elegance and austerity. The Arabic architecture, the intricately carved details, blends naturally with the trickle of water, which is everywhere. With so much to entice from the soothing pathways, impeccably maintained hedges and pools to the centuries-old walls, turrets and views overlooking Granada, it challenges your visual senses with its rich colours, smells and sounds. During our visit, we crossed patios and rooms exquisitely decorated and full of symbolism, every inch of decoration has meaning.
It is impossible to capture in words the wonderland that is the Alhambra. Be it enough to know that people come from all over the world to enjoy this fascinating attraction and are not disappointed.
That night it became evident that nightlife is a big draw. We could have watched flamenco, a different style to that offered in Seville as there are small flamenco taverns dotted around the city, but as we needed to eat, we took a tapas tour through some of Granada’s lively squares.
Following previous blogs on our travels thorugh Spain we chose to stay at the Parador de Granada, a former monastery built by the Catholic Monarchs and the gardens and fountains evoke a past in which the Arab and the Christian intermingled. The hotel is enchanting, in keeping with the magic exuded by every corner of the city.
So that’s it – we ate, we explored, and if I haven’t made it clear already we fell in love with Granada. You could say that it has it all, interesting monuments, the rolling foothills of the Sierra Nevada lined with colourful buildings and filled with equally colourful people, the fusion of international cultures and cuisine. Put quite simply, Granada is enchanting! Would I recommend it? Absolutely and we will certainly return.