Don’t visit Granada if you know nothing about Moorish culture and you’re not passionate about history. Granada is all about its past! Just like a ghost who haunts places with mysteries still unsolved, the past of Granada is still reigning over the city. It’s true that today’s Granada has put on the clothes of cosmopolitanism and modern elegance. However, it can never part with its past and a certain dark, complicated attitude toward the world.
Granada is going to be nothing like you’re expecting it to be, regardless of your impression of it. It’s surprising and spectacular, dark and contradictory, enigmatic and hard to conquer. After all, it’s a city of crossroads, the place where North Africa meets Europa, and where Romans and Moors have deeply rooted their existence.
Discover the legendary Moorish palace
The streets are open-air museums for graffiti works of art, the bars invite visitors to learn flamenco dances, while the restaurants lure them in with free tapas. There are plenty to do here, but only if you’re open to discovering its traditions and history. You will fall in love with Granada, and this feeling will definitely catch you by surprise!
The city’s Moorish roots are best illustrated by the marvelous, breathtaking and unique palace of Alhambra, a must see for every visitor. The Moors made Granada the greatest city in Andalucia in the 14th century. Alhambra was their greatest statement of power, ingenuity and wealth. Its name, which translates as “The Red Castle”, is inspired by the red-brown bricks used to build the exterior walls.
Having the imposing peaks of the Sierra Nevada as backdrop, the Alhambra stands tall and proud above the steep gorge of the River Darro. It looks down on people, and still tells Moorish stories, trying to regain its lost power. The visit includes four must see and explore areas. The Alcazaba is the oldest section, a fortress with towers dating back to the 13th century. Palacios Nazaríes is the beautiful central palace complex, while Palacios de Carlos V is a souvenir left behind by Emperor Charles V. He built this royal residence as a symbol of the triumph of Christianity over Islam. The last section is Generalife, a place dedicated to resting and gardening, divided into terraces and housing four vegetable gardens.
Walk the streets and climb the mountains
The main reason many tourists come to Granada is to visit Alhambra, but they should also take the time to stroll the streets of Albaicín. It is situated on the opposite hill to the Red Castle, being the oldest area of Granada, as well as its historical Arabic district. Narrow streets and beautiful views await here.
Return downtown, and visit the Capilla Real, the burial place of the famous King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Admire the Granada Cathedral that dazzles with its white and gold interior and reflects the wealth of the old Spanish kingdom. The cathedral, a beautiful example of Spanish Renaissance style, dates to the 16th century and it was built under the reign of Queen Isabella.
Don’t say no to riding a bike on the scenic country roads that await along the outskirts of the city. If you’re into hiking, the Sierra Nevada mountains will be the perfect day trip destination for you. This is the highest mountain range in Europe, so be prepared for exceptional views. You can book a guided tour to get there, or just adventure by yourself, following the marked tracks. If you can spend a night here, it’s even better!
Relax in Arab baths and eat as many tapas as you can
For moments of relaxation just soak into a hammam, also known as an Arab bath house. Here you will find some of the best baths in the country, modern spa centers that recreate the ambiance of Moorish baths. If you want to see how the Arab baths actually looked like, visit the Banuelo, situated at the base of the Alhambra. Here you will find the ruins of a historical Arab bath that dates back to the 11th century.
Want to capture fantastic views of the Alhambra? You will have to go at the Paseo de los Tristes, situated along the River Darro. The name of the road translates as “Passage of the Mourners”, and there is a good reason behind it. Funeral processions used to pass along this route a long time ago.
But, let’s cheer up the atmosphere with a flamenco show and some delicious tapas, both a must during a trip to Granada.
Yes, Granada is not at all as sunny and joyful as its neighbor, Seville, but it’s definitely much more fascinating and mysterious. There are riddles without answers here, unveiled mysteries, and so many myths that it will be hard to separate legends from the truth. And that is why you will want to return to Granada!